Nate Mars’ dreamy music takes you on a journey — where that journey leads is up to the listener. The NYC-based multimedia artist just released his newest record, the appropriately titled In Transit, a collection of nearly 20 tracks of ambient, drone, and experimental electronica that calls to mind ’80s soundtrack pioneers like John Carpenter or Vangelis. Having also come on board as a contributor to the new Pond5 Select Music collection, Nate sat down with us to discuss his influences, creative process, and ventures in VR.
“The Night Alone,” from this year’s In Transit
Early influences and movie soundtracks
Nate has a background playing upright and electric bass in his high-school orchestra; his interest in multi-track recording came early on when he began experimenting with a 4-track cassette recorder, layering bass with piano and other instruments. He started releasing music in 2004 under a few different labels and released his first full-length in 2010, a collection of ambient experimental music called Concentric Circles.
“Ziraffa,” off a compilation from Argentinian label ZZK Records
“Soundtracks and concept albums are a big influence for me,” Nate tells us. “I really like the idea of a body of work in music being part of a larger narrative. I’ve had some music licensed for film/TV and it’s always cool to see how it was used to support a scene. I also really love composing to a scene where I already have an idea of what the visual narrative looks like.”
The Making of In Transit
In Transit was recorded over the course of a year and produced in Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and Bitwig. He utilized a number of VSTs and soft synths, ranging from Native Instruments’ Reaktor to Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere. Nate began the record in New York, but decided to venture to upstate New York to complete the process. “The album is called In Transit because I’ve been thinking a lot about this constant state of motion and the temporary nature of all things,” Nate says. With that in mind, he decided to release the record on cassette. Unlike a USB drive, the contents on a cassette are ephemeral and could be erased and overwritten at any time.
Getting over writer’s block
Nate’s writing process varies from track to track and never whittles down to one set procedure. For his newest release, Nate would conceptualize melodies in his head and come back to record hours later. “A lot of the compositions were based around little melodies,” he explains. “Sometimes while tweaking out a synth to get achieve the sound I wanted, an idea would come to me.”
“Above and Beyond Dem,” a collaboration with Jahdan, off the Fabriclive 42 compilation
Nate, like many artists, struggles with writer’s block from time to time. To get over it, he advises segmenting time just to work on your craft. “There are some days where I’ll sit down to write and no inspiration seems to come,” he admits. “On those days, I’ll stop after 30 minutes and move on to something else for a bit. On other days, I’ll sit down to write and 6-10 hours will go by where I barely notice. In those moments, sometimes I’ll have ideas for/record several tracks at once.” The final steps of finishing a track, he says, are usually the hardest part of the creative process but also the most rewarding. “It gets easier the more you stick with it.”
Working in Virtual Reality
Nate is a multi-dimensional artist. In addition to his music, he works in creative marketing consulting, where an interest in VR storytelling grew. He’s produced VR content for musicians and music videos, in addition to consulting work for VR gaming companies like SpaceoutVR. “I see virtual reality as another way to tell stories,” Nate says. Although there are challenges in terms of shooting, consumption, participation, and retention in VR, he believes “we’re at the very early stages of VR’s potential, and it’s an exciting time.”
Nate produced and performed in this 360° jam session with Roland and Serato
In addition, he’s currently producing a 360° music video for one of the songs off In Transit, to be released soon. He’s looking into experimenting with ambisonic audio, as well. For Nate, all of these tools are a means for creative inspiration. “I start by searching deep for what the concept of the best idea is, and then go from there to figure out what mediums or technologies are best to utilize in order to express it.”
“Open The Door” from In Transit is available in Nate’s Pond5 library
You can find In Transit and more of Nate’s work as part of Pond5 Select Music collection. To the Pond5 community, Nate says, “I’m honored if you find that my music helps support your art, and I look forward to seeing how you incorporate this music into your work.”