The blue Nihil
The dark ambience of En Nihil
By David Cotner 07/11/2013
You wouldn’t think, looking at the master-planned city of Thousand Oaks — with its clean gleaming auto dealerships, sun-baked hillsides and endless shopping — that anything even remotely resembling disturbance exists anywhere beyond neighbor disputes or the heat pouring off the 101 freeway at rush hour. Life is tough, but Thousand Oaks is usually great at making you feel good so that you don’t need to think about it. There is no anomaly in this matrix. And yet for the better part of 20 years, Adam Fritz has crafted a kind of sonic unease that stays with you after you listen to it, a kind of aural heat that won’t lift, bringing with it a queasiness that you can’t quite put your finger on. He calls it En Nihil. It’s a strange sort of atmosphere. En Nihil is the sound of one’s own distilled frightening thoughts settling into place when no one else is around to render judgment on those thoughts.
Through home recording and experiments with sound collage, experimental music and tribal warning shots, Fritz has, through the En Nihil banner, released a dizzying array of cassettes, LPs and CDs over the decades on record labels from the noise scene such as Red Stream (Death Keeps), Pure (Blood Dreams) and this year’s CD on Italy’s Eibon Records, The Approaching Dark.
And yet this is not a strategy for careering. There have been long stretches of silence from his noise factory during which he simply took a break and contem plated both sound and life. As riveting and intense as the En Nihil sound is, Fritz doesn’t feel the need to impose it on the world with a constant carnival of tour-press-record-tour. It’s difficult to be intense all the time. It tends to wear on you. And in today’s 24/7 climate of total information awareness, it’s a strong statement in itself not to be “on” all the time.
VCReporter: How do you stay so productive?
Adam Fritz: It comes in spurts. There was about a 10-year gap between albums in my prolific period. I’m at the tail end of a fairly prolific period now, where I’ve had a lot of work done over a six-month period of time. And the nature of the scene is such that it takes a lot of time between when someone wants to put a cassette or a CD out for you, and when it actually does come out. Sometimes it’ll be six months; I’m working with a label now and it’s been almost two years for the actual product to appear. Right now I’m not feeling the inspiration like I have in the recent past. I’m productive for certain periods of time, because of life in general. I exorcised those demons and I’m just trying to relive a little of that.
Is Thousand Oaks any kind of inspiration at all or is it simply another stop in the voyage?
I’d be selling it short to say that it wasn’t, but a lot of what I do [creatively] is done alone, with an isolated kind of feeling. There’s a lot of natural beauty around here. What I’m around now is far removed from what I grew up with. In my later adulthood, I was in some pretty rough places. Now I live in an apartment building where I look out from my porch and there are trees and time to be contemplative of my surroundings. It affects the way I approach some of what I do with En Nihil now.
Has the inspiration changed over the years?
The aesthetic for En Nihil has always been the same, but it’s varied and matured as I’ve grown up and matured and experienced life. Initially, like a lot of people [in the scene], I was inspired by early industrial music, the whole punk rock aesthetic of doing it yourself. Mental health has always been a factor in what I do. Depression would be a huge thing that’s always been . . . looming over me in my life, and it appears in a lot of what I do, in terms of the imagery I choose. The mortality of us all and how frail we all are. When you lose a loved one — that’s been a part of it as well.
To learn more about En Nihil, visit ennihil.blogspot.com.