Music & clubs

You & Nic Down by Gretchen: Nic Offer of !!!

INTERVIEW: While Tyler Pope has abdicated his post amongst the exclaiming post-punk dance band, Nic Offer keeps the chking going strong. They gig Thri!!!er at Gretchen on Sat, May 4.

Image for You & Nic Down by Gretchen: Nic Offer of !!!
Photo by Tania Castellví

Dancerock bedrock Nic Offer emerged from Pavement’s mid-1990s Sacramento scene along with co-Out Hud bassist and current Berlin resident Tyler Pope to form !!! (which, you know, can actually be pronounced like anything).

Pope was poached by LCD Soundsystem and is no longer with the group – Supersystem’s Rafael Cohen has taken his post – but they’re still jamming econo a decade-and-a-half later, with Offer fronting a new album, Thr!!!er (Warp) and gigging galore, including a Saturday, May 4 gig at Gretchen.

So, how come Tyler left? You seemingly had a good relationship.

Yeah, it was. It got – it went through a tense time and, I mean, I think he felt a bit crowded, creatively by – I couldn’t really answer for him, you know?

He wrote a fair share of the songwriting, as well.

Yeah, he was a major songwriter. But I think it just came his time to leave and, you know, he came back and did some shows with us last year when Rafael couldn’t do some. So, he’s still a part of it but I think he needs to be on his own.

It’s interesting, because it seems as if all his other gigs were ending.

I think it’s part of that thing of making music. Because he and I even made music before that. We were in a punk band for a few years before that and were in Out Hud. So, I think he might feel crowded by me. I don’t know. He’s one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever worked with, like, hands down. We used to call him our secret weapon ’cause it was, like, anything you threw at him – any groove or beat – he could always lay down something good. And he would lay it down fast, you know. He’d be, like, “Huh. Okay. Yeah,” and he’d just have a part like that. So I still want to work with him. And I’m meeting him later tonight; we’re friends, but if you feel suffocated, you feel suffocated.

Is the whole dancerock/post-punk slot a bit of a prison?

I think what attracted me to post-punk, initially, and kind of shaped our ethos, was just its devotion to something to be fresh and for it to be arty. We didn’t know we would be doing this 16 years when we started, but we did know that we wouldn’t make the same record ever again. It’s been the same thing as like, working with a machine you don’t understand; we want to be in unshaky territory creating and seeing what we find. So it’s like, the post-punk thing is definitely a burden and some of the guys hate being called that.

The new album does seem to have moved away from that.

But I never really minded; being post-punk is important, you know. Like what Wire pushed for, I believe in. And same as Gang of Four, though probably not as heavily Marxist. What they were going for was a beautiful vision and we really responded to all that, and you know especially with Gang of Four, we felt well, they were ripping off the black music of their day, pushing it to something greater. With us we just felt like we wanted to be ripping off the black music of that day and learning from that and finding something. We didn’t want to just rip off Gang of Four. We always liked the actual groups more than the ones who ripped them off. I thought Liquid Liquid was good, but, I mean, I probably prefer hearing “White Lines,” if truth be told.

But the “White Lines” bassline was stolen from Liquid Liquid.

Yeah, exactly, yeah. But I kind of like what they turned it into, you know.

In the same way, Warp Records might feel burdened by EDM. They have a pretty diverse roster, but will always be identified with electronic music. They signed you guys back in the old-timey days of electronica and IDM. Did you feel a natural kinship?

I mean, they came to us. IDM, at that time, was very much a millstone around their neck, you know, and I think that they wanted to change.

Matador Records was suffering a similar identity crisis with indie rock, at the time, and had a deal to cherry-pick Warp’s acts.

But we were still with [the label] Touch and Go when we were with them, initially. I think, at the time, we were the trend in something new – we were innovative. IDM had become a bunch of, like [beats out techno rhythm]. And now, I mean, all that kind of stuff that they felt was like a millstone round there neck, is coming back in a way, you know. And it is fresh again: I feel like they started signing more electronic acts over the last few years than they had in the early 2000s.

Do you feel there’s a kind of merging between the electronic dance world and your sort of dancerock?

It seems like now it’s just become commonplace for those two things to merge and I think it’s where rock had to go. It’s like rock had an easy marriage with electronics and dance in the 1980’s, but I think it’s worth having its kinks – I think they can coexist in a better way that I think people will build upon.

You were working with electronic producers like Maurice Fulton before just about anyone in the Brooklyn scene.

Maurice had the favourite record of the summer.  It was just a matter of like, “What? This guy will work with us? We can just pay him some money and he’ll work with us? Let’s fucking do it,” you know?

MU’s Afro Finger and Gel (Tigersushi)? Why did he stop that project?

I don’t know. I don’t think the second one was as exciting the first. It just it just wasn’t as good. I prefer MU to what he did with us.

EDM has no qualms about bringing the old guys back, because you can always just dress them up in robot suits, but often their ideas haven’t really progressed.

If you can get someone who’s hot, then it is fresh and has young ideas. But I feel that too many times people get caught up in, “I won’t work with Adrian Sherwood or this guy who was amazing 20 years ago.”

The past gets recycled so quickly now, and a lot less nostalgically than it used to be.

That’s why it’s so hard to guess where music is going to go next, because now everyone has access to anything and everything. It moves at a different pace and it can go anywhere and that’s what makes it so exciting. I’m definitely pro these times and excited to be living through them.

!!!, Sat, May 4, 20:00 | Gretchen, Obentrautstr 19-21, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Hallesches Tor