Photo: Rascal Post
Nero Returns With New Track "Truth," Announce New Album 'Into The Unknown': "A Bleak Kind Of Prediction On Where Humanity's Headed"
Electronic heroes NERO are back with an evocative new single, "Truth," their first new song in five years and the debut single off their 2024 album 'Into The Unknown.' Listen below and read an exclusive interview with the trio about their new music.
With their first two albums, NERO made two different kinds of statements: now, they’re about to split the difference, and head Into The Unknown.
That’s the title of the electronic trio’s forthcoming album, due out in 2024. “It definitely feels like the album that bridges the two worlds together,” the electronic trio tell GRAMMY.com.
“Quite early on, it felt like we were revisiting some of the heavier elements from [2011’s] Welcome Reality,” they continue, “but there still is a sort of a musical and sometimes band-like feel that you get from [2015’s] Between II Worlds.”
The sonics aside, Into the Unknown completes something of a trifecta, and shines a harsh light on an increasingly probable dystopian future.
“We were always very influenced by sci-fi films such as Blade Runner, Akira, 2001: A Space Odyssey,” they say. “We were thinking about this sort of post-human world that is sort of trying to be resuscitated by AI.”
With that in mind, the barreling “Truth,” which you can hear below, is a thrilling entryway into NERO’s forthcoming adventures.
Read on for an interview with NERO, and listen to “Truth” below.
"Truth" marks your return and first new song since 2018. Why return now?
We've been writing this one since about 2019. That's when we first started working together again and collating our ideas. Shortly into that process, the world shut down due to the pandemic and there was a sort of apocalyptic feeling due to the lockdowns. This felt like a good time for us to pull out of shows and just focus on studio work so a lot of it was probably just the way that things aligned timing-wise.
What did you do in between your time away from the Nero project? What's been going on since 2018?
Well, Joe's been busy working on his solo Joseph Ray project. Alana and I were briefly working on a project called The Night, which we still want to come back to at some point. I had a project with my brother-in-law called Fickle and Vice which was a passion project of 80s pop music in which we only used 80s instruments and synthesizers. Alana and I also became parents, so that took up a lot of our time. It feels like now is a good time to bring the focus back onto Nero.
What can you tell us about "Truth"? What is the inspiration? How did it come together?
We found a recording of Amanda Palmer reading the poem "The Mushroom Hunters" by Neil Gaiman. The way she delivered it and the content of the poem really resonated with us and inspired us.
It talks about science and experimentation. I think in today's world, with the various conspiracy theories.floating around and stuff that rages on the internet, it felt good to highlight the importance of science.
She also has such a cool voice and it had this kind of 'message from the future' feel to it, which follows through to the video.
We felt the vocal really lent itself to the sci-fi intro which builds to quite a dark and menacing track. I guess this reflects our aesthetic and the sounds we have always made.
**You're also releasing a new album, Into The Unknown, in 2024. What can you tell us about the new album? What does it sound like? What can we expect?**
I like to think that this album sits somewhere in between Welcome Reality and Between II Worlds. I think it definitely feels like the album that bridges the two worlds together.
It also feels like it's part of a story arc, but is still set in the NERO universe as we travel in time from the near future, to the far future, to the year 2808 and beyond. In the case of this album, we were thinking about a post-human world that is trying to be resuscitated by AI.
Sometimes these ideas come later, after the music has been written, but as is with anything we write, hundreds of ideas don't get used and we whittle it down so that we can find what represents both the story and the ideas that excites us the most musically.
I think quite early on, it felt like we were revisiting some of the heavier elements from Welcome Reality, but there is also a musical and sometimes band-like feel that you get from Between Two Worlds.
Your music as Nero has always featured post-apocalyptic tones and futuristic, scientific themes that explore the past, present and future of humanity. Will Into The Unknown continue that sonic trajectory? How will Into The Unknown reflect our time and humanity of the past few years?
We were always very influenced by sci-fi films such as Blade Runner, Akira, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, to name a few. What they've all got in common is that they have a post-apocalyptic and dystopian feel to them. I think synthesizers often lend themselves to that kind of imagery. The soundtracks for films like Blade Runner were seminal so picturing the mood of these films is always a good starting point for us to get creative, musically. From those images, we can start creating sounds using our synthesizers that reference that imagery or mood.
We've amassed quite a cool synthesizer collection over the years and we love creating modern and new sounds with them. What's also cool, is that some of these synthesizers have been around for 30 or even 40 years, in the case of the Yamaha CS80.
Going back to your second question, I think with Into the Unknown, as is with any of the NERO stories, it's holding you to ransom slightly with this idea that you know humanity will end up destroying itself.
It's all pretty bleak in a way, but I guess sci-fi, (especially the dystopian kind) is, by its nature, going to be pretty bleak. The prediction is that humanity will eventually destroy itself leading way to a post-apocalyptic world.
Nero is known for its live shows. Any plans to tour the new album in 2024? Can you give us any sneak peek or a test at what your live show/tour will look in 2024?
We're definitely bringing back a live show in 2024 and hope to do maybe even a couple of different types of shows.
Performing live has always been a big part for us. We love DJing and it's great to be able to play our music out and test it in front of a crowd.
We've really enjoyed road-testing material our entire careers. You can go down a rabbit hole in the studio and I think it's quite important to witness your audience hearing new material in real-time, but once we've finished an album, the thing that we've always really looked forward to is building a new live show.
With that, comes us thinking about how or what we're going to perform, what synths and instruments we're going to use and which kind of equipment and visuals we are going to incorporate. It's sort of like like the cherry on top when you finish the album. It's a really fun part of the job and so we are very excited about what we're planning for 2024 for our live shows, but for the moment, it's a bit of a secret.
Boys Noize, Skrillex Headline Hard Summer Music Festival
By Brent Burns
I was among the estimated 30,000 EDM-loving attendees who filtered into the starlit Los Angeles State Historic Park on Aug. 3–4 for the Hard Summer Music Festival. Gary Richards, whose company Hard Events produces the festival, provided enthusiastic fans with more than 50 acts spread across four stages over two days. The arms that weren't waving in the air to the relentless music were either around a friend's shoulder or busy taking pictures of the festival's fully immersive audiovisual attractions.
Day one of the festival included explosive performances by acts such as Magnetic Man, Bloc Party, Miike Snow, and Breakbot (whose collection of catchy synth-pop was probably the grooviest set anyone would hear all weekend). But the main attraction was the evening's headliner Boys Noize, the stage name of Alexander Ridha. Before his set, I had a chance to sit down with him to discuss what we could expect from his performance, his record label Boysnoize Records and his highly anticipated forthcoming album, Out Of The Black.
After taking almost a year off the festival circuit, Ridha recently spent time in Berlin channeling the raw elements of his early days as a producer, when he was admittedly naive and experimenting with his creative process. He says he can still be found shuffling through crates of records every week, which is where he found inspiration for not only his own music, but also for the direction of the artists he's signed to his own label — a label that is now home to approximately 20 artists. And while Ridha was tight-lipped on sharing details of his set, his smirk meant he clearly had a few tricks up his sleeve. "It will be a classic festival set. Techno-ravey, and a lot of fresh stuff you've never heard before," he slyly noted.
Before joining the sweaty thousands who surrounded the main stage awaiting Boys Noize's performance, I ran into Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, who was there to support Ridha, his longtime friend and collaborator. If I wasn't already anxiously excited to see the show, hearing someone as incredibly talented as Shears so humbly gush about Ridha's expertise made me feel like I had just awoken on Christmas morning. "Only the horses, and Boys Noize, can bring us back home tonight," laughed Shears, making a reference to the Scissor Sisters single “Only The Horses" that was co-written by Ridha.
As expected, after an echoing Boys Noize chant called for the German producer to begin his set, the robotic vocal beginning his show turned the crowd's chant to a scream-level cheer. The festival had saved its best for last, with Boys Noize giving attendees an hour of sharp-hitting techno and thumping house anthems, served by a musical connoisseur of artistic excellence.
Day two was noticeably more crowded, and hosted an equally impressive display of virtuosic skill on stage with acts such as Dillon Francis, Zedd, Nero, and GRAMMY-winning sensation Skrillex, who was crowned with the closing slot. Accompanied by a merciless strobe, Skrillex's staging was impressive. Surrounded by what appeared to be a hybrid of a futuristic aircraft and Transformers character Optimus Prime, Skrillex was positioned in the middle with colorful screens on every side displaying warped imagery, a kaleidoscope of lighting effects and sporadic pyrotechnics synced to the artist's drum rolls and bass drops. One of the set's highlights was his remix of Benny Benassi's "Cinema," which the crowd sang along to at the top of its lungs, "You are a cinema/I could watch you forever." Even if you tried your best to remain motionless, you would have failed miserably, swaying in time.
Fans even became the feature of the festival, as the crowd's image was projected outward on main stage screens from Skrillex's point of view, giving a unique perspective to the mass of people united under the same love and devotion for the EDM culture sweeping the globe.
(Brent Burns is the dance/electronica GRAMMY.com Community Blogger.)
Dance/Electronica Comes Into Prominence In Fluorescent Fashion
"And the GRAMMY goes to … Skrillex." "And the GRAMMY goes to … Skrillex." "And the GRAMMY goes to … Skrillex!"
No, those aren't typos. The artist otherwise known as Sonny Moore, the multitalented, one-man dance/electronica music machine, returned to the GRAMMY stage at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards Pre-Telecast Ceremony to accept three more gold gramophones this past week. If you're experiencing a bit of déjà vu, it's because the dubstep king claimed victory again in the exact same categories he won last year, bringing his career total wins to six. His latest winnings included Best Dance Recording for "Bangarang" featuring Sirah (the title track from the album that also won Best Dance/Electronica Album), and Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his remix collaboration with Nero on the latter's "Promises."
During Skrillex's first acceptance speech for Best Dance Recording, he shared that the inspiration for the album was taken from the Peter Pan idea of "never growing up." But never growing up doesn't mean never winning again because shortly after exiting, Skrillex was called back to the stage with his full Lost Boys gang in tow to collect the award for Best Dance/Electronica Album.
"None of the rappers showed up so we had to come rolling deep!" he said, motioning to a group of more than 15 of his musical "family."
Skrillex might have been the man with the statues, but he wasn't the only EDM heavyweight at the GRAMMYs. One of the presenters at this year's Pre-Telecast Ceremony was Ryan Raddon, better known as Kaskade, who gave a heartfelt nod to The Academy.
"We've got three categories this year," he began. "Now, they've got it really figured out … It's a well-oiled machine."
But that machine wasn't just confined to Sunday night. Amid the insanity of GRAMMY Week, another EDM highlight was an exclusive party that took place in downtown Los Angeles to support the Dance (RED), Save Lives album. Kaskade and Tommy Trash kicked the night off in quick succession, leaving Diplo and Skrillex to go back-to-back on the decks for the latter part of the evening. Not to be left out, Nero joined Diplo and Skrillex onstage just after midnight and, after going back-to-back for a few tracks, Nero treated the crowd to a semi-live rendition of the soon-to-be-award-winning "Promises," bringing the weekend full circle even before it had begun.
EDM thus wasn't just a one-night welcome to the ceremony, or a one-off event, but a full-fledged cog in the GRAMMY machine, and a welcomed one.
Welcome to the main stage, my favorite genre … for good.
Photo: Ellington Hammond
Erick The Architect Steps Into A New World On 'I’ve Never Been Here Before'
The Flatbush Zombies' member says his debut double album is more than catchy introspections: 'I’ve Never Been Here Before' is the arrival of a new persona and sound.
Rapper/producer Erick The Architect is no stranger to reinvention.
The Brooklyn-bred MC cut his teeth over alt-East Coast beats as Erick Arc Elliot before forming psychedelic rap trio Flatbush Zombies with childhood friends Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice. But after multiple mixtapes and two albums with the group, Erick is returning to solo form and venturing into new creative ground.
Following 2021’s Future Proof EP, Erick is embarking on new musical travels with the release of his official debut album, I’ve Never Been Here Before. Out Feb. 23, the double album explores Erick’s flowy instrumentation, poeticism, and artistry at full scale. The project is fueled by singles "Shook Up" featuring FARR and Joey Bada$$, "Ezekiel’s Wheel" with funk forefather George Clinton, and the breezy "Instincts" with Westside Boogie.
Erick says I’ve Never Been Here Before is more than a collection of catchy introspections, melodic monologues, and '90s-inspired jams. It’s the shedding of one persona — and sound — and the beginning of a new: the Mandevillain.
"This album is an identity of a new person," Erick the Architect tells GRAMMY.com, noting that the moniker is an ode to his father’s hometown of Mandeville, Jamaica. "A lot of people may have thought there was a ceiling to what I’m capable of, but I think this album will showcase a brand new artist and identity, which is really hard to do when people think they already know you. But I really think this is unique."
The switch isn’t just in name — he’s taken on a new approach to music, too. For the first time in years, Erick says he’s prioritizing himself and his specific musical world. "It’s the first time I have created with the headspace that I’m free," he says. "I find that other artists don’t listen to other people’s music when they’re in a creative space, but this is the most locked off I’ve been from things."
As much as I’ve Never Been Here Before signals new creative ground for Erick to fertilize, it also represents his collective efforts to limit distractions and break free of any barriers — personally and sonically.
While it was difficult to stay so focused and inward-looking while creating his debut album, turning to some of his legendary collaborators provided some clarity. After having conversations with James Blake, George Clinton, and other artists as part of the project, Erick no longer feels forced to fit a mold or address outside criticism.
"This album is about sacrifice, and I’ve Never Been Here Before is me being okay with losing things," he says. "I think that losing has always a negative connotation because nobody wants to lose, everybody wants to win. But it's the first time I'm losing stuff and it’s better being lost. Whether it's a habit or a person in your life, you don't need to hold everything."
I’ve Never Been Here Before lives up to its title in both theme and creation. Where Erick previously wrote songs in moments of vulnerability, the rapper says he "doesn’t feel that way anymore."
Citing the work of Keith Haring, Miles Davis and Pablo Picasso as inspiration, Erick says he was driven to write more high-spirited songs, rather than ones tethered to struggle and hardship. As a result, the album is more accessible than some of his previous work.
"I’m tired of writing from a perspective of just being like, 'I’m sad today, bro,'" he says. "I haven’t made a project that I feel like you can just put that joint on and just play it, don’t even think about anything else because it’s commanding an energy that we all need."
In transforming the project, the "Die 4 U" artist pieced together a blend of new and older songs he recorded five years ago. And while a double album is a "death sentence" in the eyes of most rap fans, Erick says he’s prepared for both heaps of praise and hurls of "he’s overrated" from listeners. He would feel more anxiety only if the music never came out.
"I’ve always believed that I had another special part of me that I think people didn’t witness because I didn’t put it out in the forefront," he says.
While getting a new release across the finish line can be a heavy weight to bear, Erick says he’s determined to prove his doubters wrong and own his legitimacy as a solo act. "I didn’t get lucky or sneak in here and steal beats from somebody’s laptop," Erick says. "This project is great to defeat people who have perceptions about me that are incorrect."
With the momentum of I’ve Never Been Here Before, Erick is set to test his new music and moniker on the road during his upcoming Mandevillain Tour, which kicks off in Austin on March 25.
Now that he’s fulfilling his ambitions as a solo act, the artist has a few more mediums he plans to explore – TV and film. After being a rapper/producer for more than a decade, Erick says he’s ready to take grander creative leaps. "I’m just trying to take this to the highest caliber," he says.
Photo: le3ay Studio
It Goes To 11: DPR IAN Unveils The Drumsticks That Inspired His Musical Dreams
Korean artist DPR IAN shares the story behind his Ahead 5A Drumsticks, the nostalgic piece of gear he discovered while watching Joey Jordison's Slipknot performance videos as a teenager.
Korean artist DPR IAN might have abandoned his drumming days, but that doesn't change the fact that it planted the roots for his artistry — which is why he still names his Ahead 5A drumsticks his favorite piece of musical gear.
"I remember my friend showing me a video on YouTube by Slipknot — Joey Jordison," the singer/songwriter, whose birth name is Christian Yu, recounts in the latest episode of It Goes to 11. "That was the first time I got absolutely shook."
Because of his hours of watching the band's videos, he could quickly recognize the tools they used on stage in any instrument shop. After convincing his mom to buy the same drumsticks as Jordison's, Yu drummed everywhere, including his car dashboard, which still has dents today.
Eventually, it was time to perform on the drums live. Having never been in front of an audience, the nerves were so high that he remembers he "blacked out" on stage as soon as the song started playing. "It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life because I froze."
However, DPR IAN says it taught him a valuable lesson: not to become a drummer. But it also showed him that one negative experience shouldn't ruin his entire perspective on music.
"The greatest success is actually from a failure," he declares. "You have to learn how to be bad [at] things."
Press play on the video above to learn more about DPR IAN's history with the drums, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of It Goes to 11.