Beneath The Surface (BTS) Artist Interview #1 – NETM8KR

Back in 2007, when I started this blog, its purpose was twofold: (1) to chronicle music reviews of artist albums I was listening to and (2) everyday topics I wanted to write about. I found the process of reviewing full releases to be tedious, so that never jumped off the board. What did replace the first purpose was my podcast, The Sunday Soundtrack (where you can find all back episodes via the link in the blog menu). Since the podcast has been on hiatus for years, I got the idea to do short form interviews of various artists I get the chance to listen to or interact with currently. This one is the first with a long time friend and artist, netm8kr. I hope you enjoy it.

MF: Welcome and thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you.

N: Thanks for having me. 

MF: This is actually the first interview that I’ve done that will also end up as a written article versus the previous audio based ones. How are you today?

N: I’m doing well, can’t complain too much. 

MF: We go back a few years as friends and artists. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of having you as a guest artist on my Halcyon Sky: The Regrooves project and the same pleasure as an artist on your Beats Is Life collaboration project, which is on your Sonic Planet record label, released back in the spring of 2021. Please tell the readers about yourself, artist and musical genre interests, and as an artist yourself.

N: My name is John. I’m an older creative at age 52. I’ve been at this for a good portion of my adult life. Creatively, I go by NETM8KR. It’s a play on my last name, and my long career in IT. Back in 2016, I created an indie label named SONIC PLANET RECORDINGS. Its focus is mostly on my love of cassette tapes and vintage productions, while also offering digital releases to keep up with current times. My style has been an experimental “fusion” of hip hop & sci fi influenced beats, which I attribute to my massive collection of vintage production gear from the 90s, as well as my luv for synths, space age sounds and noises.

MF: Your latest release is entitled “Duke Hornsby”, which brings to my mind, sort of a play on words nod to the pop artist Bruce Hornbsy, but at the same time, a close nod to the vibe or concept of the release – a collection of instrumental hip-hop influenced jazz tracks. Tell us about the entire concept of the project, from its origins.

N: “Duke Hornsby” was a creative solution to an equation for me. I run a label, while also being an artist. At times juggling those hats can have adverse effects on my personal creative output. Also, throughout my production journey, I’ve mostly stayed away from sample based productions, due to the copyright infringement tales that have come throughout Hip Hop history. but instead, I’ve learned to recreate vibes from beloved artists and creatives organically. This has led me to find my own style. 

“DUKE” is an AI persona inspired by many jazz greats. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and others. The idea of being able to create endless royalty free music, to later be sampled without care was an easy solution to my equation. I can craft a myriad of “fictional” records from any genre of music desired, at which point, I can use my studio gear to create magic. “DUKE” is just the first of many potential ideas to follow. This also gives me the chance to wear the label owner hat, and creative realize ideas from that perspective. 

MF: I’ve been following your Instagram feed for a few years now and noticed that you’ve increasingly shown an interest in AI art. What do you enjoy about and how does it tie into the Duke Hornsby project?

N: Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve refocused a love of art via AI, finding that I’m only limited by my imagination. The idea of being able to create endless art amazes me daily. I’m a very visual person. Typically, I create my music projects based on an inspired piece of art. “DUKE” was an idea before he became a project. Mostly he was an unknown fictional session musician, solely for my sampling purposes. Yet, the unrealized writer in me found a backstory for him. In the vain of how MADLIB has multiple creative personas that he makes music under. Only, I used AI to speed up the entire process. He started with an image, an AI program online brought his music to life. All I needed to do was insert stylized options to craft & curate the music. Which I used prompts to realize ideas and desired styles. Being able to make royalty free music, to later be sampled without care was an easy solution to my equation. It also promotes evolving levels of creative thinking.

MF: You and I were recently discussing the fact that we both have day jobs resulting in careers we’ve been in for decades, family men, etc, all of which sometimes makes it difficult to find time for composing and producing music. How do you combat that?

N: Well honestly, it has been a real struggle for me, being that I have such an active mind. As yourself, I have created a vast creative space for myself over the past decades, which my career has afforded me. Yet, creative time has always been short. Also, with having funds to feed my G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) issues, I’ve fallen into what I’ve coined “Option Fatigue”. I have so many directions I could focus, that it’s easier to not choose any of them. That’s were AI fell right into place. The art came to me first, as I’ve found “Midjourney” easily fixes that fatigue, which enables me to use a MacBook or iPad to feed my creative desire for art, which also enhances my “unknown” graphic designer experience as well.

MF: I noticed that you chose the cassette format as the physical media distribution approach for your Sonic Planet releases. Why cassette in 2024?

N: I’ve had a DEEP love of cassette since early childhood. I remember making my own tapes to travel with during my elementary school ages. Also, tapes have a unique effect on recorded sounds. Being that I was going for a vintage sound when building my home studio, tapes fell right inline with those sound goals. When I created Sonic Planet Recordings, there was a revival of sorts for cassette tapes. I invested in tape duplication machines as well to enable project fulfillment requests. Nowadays, there are still lots of tapes being put out in the world, yet few peeps know that I have that capacity, mostly due to my lack of advertising those services. 

MF: Shifting gears a bit, we are in the midst of seeing a continual convergence of artificial intelligence and music composition from a production standpoint but a visual standpoint. What are your thoughts on where we are and where we may be headed?

N: Well, it’s clear that I’m not against it. Actually, I encourage the use of AI, if nothing else, to inspire more creativity. There will never be anything better than the human brain, but if AI can enhance its possibilities, I’m for it. Yes, there will need to be a loose framework of rules put in place, in reference to intellectual properties, but for someone like myself, having a pseudo creative partner has been awesome, and as a result, inspiring evolving levels of creative exploration visually & sonically.

MF: Well, as we wrap up, let the readers know where you can be found on social media.

N: @NETM8KR (Instagram),  “Sonic Planet Records

MF: Anything else you’d like to leave us with?

N: “Never fear Technology… Embrace it.. Use it… Evolve…” Peace…NET #STAYCREATIVE 

MF: Thanks again for the interview, I enjoyed it.

You can find netm8kr’s latest release, Digital Jazz Odyssey, as well as his entire catalog, on his Bandcamp label, Sonic Planet Recordings.

Thanks for reading. Oceans of rhythm.


About Fresh

Mac Fan/Sys. Engr - NASA planetary missions. guitarist/producer/AFOL/fitness fan/film+TV+sndtrk composer/podcast host/Python newbie coder. Music by me: Mellowly Cool. Find me on X and Bluesky
This entry was posted in Indie Artists, The Music Industry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.