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Interview: Ningen on His New Album, Connection with Nature and Exploring New Music Horizons

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Since 2018 when Ningen started releasing his music, the German producer has been incredibly active in sharing lovely chillhop and lofi tunes with us, while evolving in both personal and professional sense. 

His passion for live-played instrumentation and organic nature sounds navigates him in expressing his inner world through creating grounding and sometimes slightly nostalgic compositions. His music reflects on the processes of self-exploration and personal evolution, as well as getting to know yourself in relation to everything the world around you has to offer.

In this interview he will share more about his music influences, creative approach and the inspiration behind his latest album lost in my adventure, out now via Stereofox. He will also explain how his connection with nature and his surroundings affects his sound. Lastly, he will reveal a bit about his future projects and his biggest wish for 2022.

Hi, Brian! Firstly, thanks for this interview! How have you been doing?

Hey, thanks for having me! Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty good and relaxed for a long time. I feel like there had been lots of struggles building up over the last year(s) and within a break in the winter holidays, I’ve been able to get back on track and focus on myself some more once again.

I have two theories regarding your artist name: the first one is that you love Groningen; the second – that you were inspired by the Japanese cryptid – a mysterious aquatic humanoid creature. But I can imagine that neither of these is correct. So would you like to tell us a bit about how did you come up with it?

Even though I know about the aquatic creature it’s none of these haha! In general, I’m just interested in Japanese culture and from watching anime I got the word ‘Ningen’ meaning human or human being. When I came up with the name I enjoyed the relation to me thinking a lot about the human being and I still do.

Can you name some of your music influences, which inspired you to make music the way you do?

To name a few over the time of my music progress I want to mention jhfly being my first artist listening to lofi and chillhop music years ago, then a few others in the scene such as Kupla, j^p^n, imagiro and santpoort that especially gave me inspiration for this album. Currently, I’m working on music in new styles with Mac Miller being my biggest inspiration by far and my dear friend I’m working on these tracks together with.

So, I had a look at your IG and tried to determine which is your favourite instrument. But I couldn’t – it seems like both the guitar and the keys are very involved in your creative process; or do you have a certain preference? And which was the first instrument that you tried?

You’re right, I don’t really have THE favourite instrument to play! The first instrument for me was the guitar and I never stopped playing since I was 3 years old so I still would say playing the guitar is more intuitive to me than playing keys, though I got myself a new synth and started improving in playing keys some more as well. Nevertheless, I enjoy both just as much and am happy to communicate in both ways since they enable me to speak in different ways.

Your top three favourite producers are:

Hard one, but here I go: Mac Miller, j^p^n, Alfa Mist

Your latest album is inspired by your feelings about life, would you share what makes you feel ‘lost on your adventure’ and/or what makes you feel ‘found’?

About 6 years ago I isolated myself completely from others and constantly reflected on life and the way I wanted to be truly myself. I, therefore, have changed a lot in my way of behaving and acting, but after about 2 years of self-improvement I got more and more in a phase where time was continuing and with it life going to the next stage, but I got stuck with my old self-image because nothing felt wrong with it. In the end, this still led to me holding on to my past and last year the struggle was as intense as never before. This is where the title ‘lost on my adventure’ comes in to reflect my perspective of this time.

Yet I’m also happy that this album marks the end of this phase and I’m now at the turning point where I started actively rethinking and living in the moment again. I realized that it’s a constant process and so I want to never forget to be aware of the present and continue evolving. The feeling of evolving therefore is what gives meaning to life in my opinion and makes me feel found. · Ningen – lost on my adventure

Is there a nice story around the making of this album, that you’d like to share with us? I know that for several of the tracks you recorded some instruments outdoors – on the beach or while hiking…

Yes I took my guitar and the field recorder with me a few times and for example, I wrote and recorded the guitar riff for ‘orca’ in an old hippie bus while I was hiking for 2 days with a friend of mine and also the guitar for ‘coming home’ I recorded while laying on a beach. As I said I want to focus on being in the present these were some nice moments just for the feeling of these tracks! Something else about the general process I’d like to share is that in the making of the album I suddenly felt like there were too many details added above distracting from the basis of the tracks and so for the first time in my producing career I deleted various elements that felt like being too much and tried to focus on the main elements in the tracks.

When did your passion for field recordings appear and what’s the name of the first track in which you incorporated such a recording?

I’ve always been fascinated by tracks with field recording samples making the sound kind of more real, organic or nature-based so I guess it was only a matter of time until I would use them myself. At some point – before buying my field recorder- I started recording sounds with my phone and used them for projects. It’s hard to tell which was my first track using these sounds, but I think my album L I F E contains the first tracks as for example the intro track ‘Evolving’ has a sample of me wandering around in the woods. · Ningen – L I F E

You like exploring sound and mixing different influences and in “lost on your adventure” you actually sing. Have you thought about stepping out of chillhop/lofi genre-wise and is there a particular genre you’re tempted to explore?

I love this question because I’m in the middle of stepping out of this genre and style! I’m currently working on a new album together with a friend where we both even rap and sing. The main genres you will find in this project are hip hop, jazz, indie and electronic though there are no genres we focus on. I think this current project is the one reflecting on myself in most detail and in more depth than any other project has so far and therefore I don’t think about going in a special direction with sound, but just do what feels right at the moment. Still with Mac Miller being my biggest inspiration as I already mentioned you can definitely hear this on some tracks.

Your connection with nature seems to be very important to you. Do you have a favourite spot, where you like to go, chill and get your creative juices flowing?

I’m lucky that I live on the outskirts of a small town so it takes me like 5 minutes to be outside in nature and I know all places around haha. There are a few spots with panoramic view all over the town and the woods and I often took my laptop with me to enjoy these spots while making music.

And is there a place where you dream to go and why? Would you take your field recorder or guitar with you?

My dream place would be a wooden cabin or something similar in the middle of nature (maybe next to the woods) where I would all day long just vegetate, live and make music so for sure I would take a field recorder AND guitar with me! In general with my goal to hopefully live from music one day this is like my dream way to live in peace and harmony with my surroundings.

Your dream collab will be with:

Once again in theory I would have loved to collab with Mac Miller to experience his way of creating art by myself, but to take someone who’s still around and even in the lofi and chillhop beat scene I would love to work together with imagiro because I feel in his music as well that he’s making his own individual art for the fun of creating.

Lastly, what do you wish for yourself for 2022?

I wish for myself to be aware of the ongoing process to create my meaning in life and for that to meditate! Next to that I want to fully enjoy the moment of being, especially in my future music progress and want to reflect my soul within as much as possible. 🙂

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