How industrial settings and films inspire Theo Nasa's raw and experimental techno - Features - Mixmag

How industrial settings and films inspire Theo Nasa's raw and experimental techno

The South London-born techno artist talks fashion, Berghain, and the influence of film and gritty urban locations on his evolving sonic identity, explored in his Gotham After Dark playlist

  • Words: Gemma Ross | Photography: Aron Klein | Art Direction: Vassilis Skandalis | Styling: Hollie Williamson | Photography Assistant: John Neat | In association with Warner Bros UK
  • 1 March 2022

This feature is part of our Gotham After Dark series, exploring the interaction between urban settings and music, celebrating the release of The Batman

It’s a gloomy day in the austere setting of North London's Tottenham Hale industrial estate, an area steadily eating its way into the surrounding suburban greenery, now regenerated into a bristling concrete jungle. Inside one of the area’s many depleted warehouses, Theo Nasa steps off the back of a photoshoot dressed in all black, decorated by pieces of silver jewellery, and slumps into a chair in his dressing room. There’s a distinct aura around the producer, almost too fantastic to capture, that bypasses this characteristically dark and mysterious aesthetic.

The North and South London divide has many differences, sure, but one agreeable similarity is the raw atmosphere that extends both ways. “South London, where I’m from, is known for being dark and gritty. I’m seeing it every day with my own eyes, my main inspiration is stepping outside,” says Theo Nasa. For the producer, who deals in the anarchic end of the heavy techno spectrum, London has acted as a playing field for his ever-expanding sonic identity. “The darkness and the industrial side to London all connect with my productions. I might hear a door slam in a warehouse where I’m playing and think, ‘oh, the way that door slammed sounded cool, let me try and add it to a kick drum’ or something, and I’ll try to record it and add it to the percussion or the performance or the track. I incorporate a lot of real-time sounds,” he adds.

Much in line with this dark identity, it’s not just London that provides the producer with the fuel for his industrial sounds, but also perhaps the streets of fictional cities such as Gotham that give him even bigger spurts of inspiration. With a self-proclaimed tie to the film world - which can even be found in his stage name - Theo’s production influence stretches way beyond the stark reality of London life. “It all stems from my name, Theo Nasa. NASA is an acronym for New Age Synchronised Avenger. A lot of people don’t know that and they go, ‘oh, NASA, space!’” he laughs. “I’ve always dreamed of having my productions used in an actual film. My vibe is raw and gritty and experimental, so I think it just has to go in a film one day.”

“Sometimes I try and implement [film] into my productions, it comes into my mind at certain times when I’m watching a movie and I don’t even know how it connects. It’s hard to explain, but when I’m watching an old Batman film, years down the line I might call a track ‘The Joker’ or something. It just happens,” he says. As Theo reaches far and wide for his sonic influence, he most typically comes back to the science-fiction flicks he’s surrounded himself with earlier in life. You can find futuristic, alien-esque sounds careened through Theo’s discography amongst tracks such as ‘The Feeling’, ‘Sour Punch’, or The Matrix-inspired track ‘Matrix Revolutions’. Commonly describing his sound as something “alien”, Theo even launched his own label almost a decade ago named Alien Sound Trax, an ode to all things unusual, gritty, and fast-paced.

Theo Nasa has had a gradual but very sure come up in electronic music. When we catch him just days ahead of the release of his next EP ‘Fatal Energies’ released through Radio Slave’s Rekids, the producer reveals he's rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the techno scene. “I’ve got a track in the EP where I sampled Nina Kraviz’s vocals, she just signed off for it. She really liked it, I’ve met her twice and we’ve got a good relationship. I had the track ready but I thought it needed something else added to it, something sexy and spicy. I’ve never added a woman’s vocals to a track before, but I finally did it and with the reaction it’s getting… I feel like this is the track that’s gonna put me out there,” he says. In the same sphere, Theo’s relationship with the likes of Alan Fitzpatrick and Andy Blake also stems from a joint affinity toward dark industrial sounds.

Speaking about his first encounter with Andy Blake, the London DJ, producer and promoter who helms the World Unknown party, who he met through a mutual friend, Theo tells us: “[Andy] asked me to send some of my music and I’d just landed back in the UK from Germany and made a track called ‘Lost In Berghain’. I sent it to him and he was like ‘this is perfect, I want to put it on vinyl’, so that was my first ever vinyl release.” For Theo, Berghain has played an enormous part in his journey so far. His own blistering techno is a perfect match for the dark crevices of the notorious German club. And though Theo is yet to play there, he relays, while holding up his fist: “I’m always there. It’s my favourite spot, I’ve even got it tattooed on my hand.”

“It’s just my favourite spot in the world. The whole atmosphere, having to line up in silence, not being able to talk, and once you’re inside, you have to cover your phone which I love. Once you get in there, there’s other stuff that goes on which I can’t get into but it’s just an amazing vibe and the best soundsystem in the world,” he says with almost child-like awe. The club even feeds into his fashion, which, according to the producer, is the main inspiration behind his darker aesthetic choices. He embodies the gritty spirit of Germany’s illustrious club scene with “black, shiny, industrial, metal” pieces.

Theo also takes influence from 90s fashion. “I’ve got two sides to me. I’m starting to see both come together a lot more recently,” Theo says, nodding to a growing fashion archive he’s built through the years. While one side tailors to the dark productions he puts out, the other matches the more charming aura of Theo Nasa: fun, retro, colourful vintage clothing geared toward a family legacy where his brother and sister would be influenced by 90s clothing. “I’ve been into fashion since I was young, my first designer piece was a vintage Versace two-piece when I was seven-years-old, and since then, I’ve been in love with it. My siblings grew up in the 90s jungle and drum ’n’ bass era so I have a separate archive for that where people can rent things for video shoots to style artists. I keep that separate but sometimes bring it together with my music,” he says.

When asked why he’s drawn to the grittier sonics, Theo responds: “I would say because of my experiences through life.” Weaving between different states of mind, the darkness isn’t permanent for Theo: “Through the mental health side of things and coming out on the other side, I can switch on and off from darkness into light. I’m a very spiritual person, I just know how to manipulate my mind, but sometimes I’d rather stay in the dark,” he recalls. As for the heavy rave settings that he often places himself into, the producer admires the freedom felt amongst such spartan surroundings. “Everybody’s free. Recently I’ve felt like a lot of people have started to express themselves more and more, there’s no racism or anything. Everyone’s just free and that’s the main thing I love, no one gets judged.”

Now is the time for Theo to step into the spotlight for good. On a mission to push out new artists through his imprint Alien Sound Trax, the producer’s sound is maturing into an evolved sonic identity that's distinctly Theo Nasa’s. There’s more to the producer than meets the eye, surpassing the shadowy character often found hammering out dark sounds behind the decks: “I just want to spread good vibes and loving, powerful energy. That’s the main thing, even though I have a dark side to me it plays out in the loving side. I’m a people person really!”

Listen to Theo Nasa's 'Gotham After Dark' playlist below

The Batman is in cinemas on March 4, get tickets here

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter

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