Short jolts of cyberpunk from LA

N8NoFace didn’t invent cyberpunk—a term that encompasses a variety of musical styles, including punk, grime, techno, hip-hop, metal, funk, spoken word and electronica—but he has been a pioneer of the style since he first started making music. In the past few years, he has self-released almost a dozen albums, singles and EPs on the usual digital platforms.

“Me and my brother owned a graffiti store in my home town of Tucson,” NoFace said, from his apartment in East Long Beach. “We sold graffiti supplies—spray paint, clothing, and rap CDs, LPs and mixtapes. Graffiti writers would come in, and they’d be into punk and other musical styles. That planted the seed of what I’m doing today.

“I started making hip-hop beats with a cheap drum machine and posting them on MySpace. I didn’t include me rapping, or singing, but I was writing rhymes in my mind to go with the rhythms. My dad was a poet, so I always wrote words to go with my beats.”  

When the beats started picking up ”likes,” NoFace decided he needed an identifying persona. “I wrote under a variety of names at first. I never told my friends it was me. This was back when bands were hoppin’ on MySpace. I’d been making music since I was 17, but I was older than most of the rappers and thought my age would hinder me, so I picked NoFace to hide behind. These days, the kids call me uncle or gramps, and I dig it. 

NoFace started doing solo gigs and gaining a following in Tucson. “A buddy of mine, who moved to LA, said I could make a living if I moved out here, so I did.” 

He got a well-paying job at a plant that manufactured private jets and continued to write songs and make albums. “I didn’t tell anyone at my job that I was a musician, but when I got laid off, I decided to do music full time. I set up a little studio in the closet of my house and kept making albums. The last two, Homicide and Bound To Let You Down, were composed, mixed and produced during various stages of the pandemic. I was also getting sober during that time. 

“It was a difficult process, especially Bound To Let You Down. I was climbing out of rock bottom while I was making that album. My friends who play in live bands had a hard time, but I started doing live streams and, since everyone’s always looking at their phones all the time, they began to notice me.”

Like most of the albums NoFace has done, Bound To Let You Down teems with energy. He crams 19 songs into the album’s 20 minutes, many clocking in at less than a minute, with an in-your-face momentum that makes them impossible to resist. There are no breaks between the tracks, so the album plays like a punk rock opera, with overlapping themes of love, self-destruction and social malaise.  “She Wants Me Clean” has a slow thumping bass line and a hopeless lyric ….“She wants me to change my ways, and I would if I could, but I can’t, so I won’t.” 

Recently, Eyeball Records contacted NoFace about putting out Bound To Let You Down on a vinyl LP. They’re also releasing a Bound To Let You Down Remix EP, with reinventions of seven songs from the album. “When they suggested a remix album, I said, ‘Hell, yes!’ Most of the songs just used my vocals and reinvented the tracks. I did an EP with Eyedress a while back called Don’t Dial 911. It was number one on Spotify, so I liked having him produce the remix of ‘Can’t Take No More.’ I also remixed a few of the tunes myself, usually taking them in the opposite direction of the original. If it’s fast, I make it slow; if it’s noisy, I make it quiet. 

“I’ll be doing most of the songs from the album when I play Eli’s in Oakland. My anxiety goes through the roof just before I go onstage, but I love to play the songs live, just like they are on the album, back-to-back, without a pause between the songs. I go up there with my drum machine and my synthesizer tracks programmed in and let it all go. Since they’re all short, I can do 80 songs in a single set. 

“Some people come up to me and say, ‘Hey man, you have to give them time to breathe for a minute,’ but the songs are about the energy and the vibe. I enjoy short songs. It’s a way to get in and out and say everything I want to say and get everyone into the groove.” 

N8NoFace will be appearing at Eli’s Mile High Club on Saturday, Nov. 19. Doors 8pm. 3629 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland. 510-808-7565. elismilehigh.com. You can find his music at eyeballrecords.org and n8noface.bandcamp.com.

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