London-based composer Nic Nell is one half of Rainer and one half of Young Colossus - but 100% of Casually Here.
A moniker for his solo deviations, Casually Here has become a vessel for Nic's left-field pop inspiration. A producer with a real painterly touch, the atmospheric nature of his work is set against some vivid melodic moments.
New album 'Kept' is out now, with Casually Here set to play Peckham's Rye Wax on October 6th. Emerging, blinking, into the glare of wider attention, the producer kindly agreed to take part in the latest instalment of Their Library - our regular glimpse at musicians' bookshelves.
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What is your favourite book and why?
Tough question! I’m going to go with The Lathe Of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin. The book takes place in the near future and is a surreal play on utopia building about a man who’s dreams change reality. It’s playful and fun with deeper philosophical ideas running throughout. It’s the book I’ve given as a gift the most times as a great introduction to what science fiction can do with ideas which has nothing to do with a lot of people’s preconception of science fiction just being space adventure type stories like Star Wars.
What other authors do you like?
Alistair Reynolds, Iain M Banks, Neil Stephenson, Haruki Murakami, David Mitchel, Peter F Hamilton, Tom Wolf, Lauren Beukes, Brett Easton Ellis, Chris Beckett.
What draws you to certain books?
As a musician/producer I spend a lot of time working alone stuck in my own in my head so I love the escapism of being able to open a book and fall into another world. I read a lot of fiction in general but I’m particularly passionate about science fiction. One of the things that draws me to science fiction is being able to step completely outside of your day to day reality but unlike say fantasy novels where magic can just happen, they do have some kind of scientific framework that the story gets told in… so it potentially could happen…. sort of maybe… and I love the sort of story telling and human drama that those nuanced situations can allow.
Relativity as a device in stories like Christopher Nolan’s fantastic Interstellar can allow for some heartbreaking story telling. If you enjoyed the film I’d recommend giving Alastair Reynold’s stand alone novel Pushing Ice a go.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man are two amazing science fiction novels (the only two he wrote) written in the 50s with such a deft touch and lack of specificity in relation to technology that really haven’t dated at all. When I first tread the Demolished Man I had no idea it was written back in the 50s as it could have been written now. Read both - they’re fantastic.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
I think of music in quite a synaesthetic visual way so certain sounds have colours and shapes for me with quite a sci fi / futuristic space leaning. A lot of the new instrumental stuff I’m working on at the moment is very space and science fiction visually inspired - ships burning up flying into stars or on planetary re-entry etc. I love trying to evoke musically the emotional nuance of stories and situations from books and films.
What are you reading at the moment?
Shogun by James Clavell which I had recommended to me as a teenager and my brother just lent me. A late 15th Century feudal Japanese romp based on the story of the first English man to come to Japan. Completely transportative and Japanese cultural side of it is fascinating. Thoroughly enjoying it.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
I can’t remember the name but it was two books in one that you you flipped over and could read from both sides of the book - ending in the middle. It was the first book I read on my own without being prompted. I think it was a Saturday night, my parents were out and I found it in my brother’s room. I read if from both sides start to finish and for the first time thought aha, there’s something in this reading.
Friends who still don’t really read as grown ups tend to put it down to never having got to the point of reading not being work you did at school which is such a shame. I think for a lot of people the problem is they’ve just never found the books which they love - which are definitely out there! I’d also highly recommend books in baths - great dialing out from the digital world.
Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
Yes - I read pretty much the entire science fiction section of Winchester library. I’d read about a book a day when I was on holiday and would often not have paid attention to the name of the author or the book so have occasionally found myself reading something years later and going… there’s definitely something familiar about this. I remember a particular time getting out a big stack including an Anne McCaffrey novel called ‘The Dolphins of Pern’ which had a picture of a He-man type figure in a loin cloth riding a dragon with another man riding a dolphin jumping out of the sea on the cover and feeling excruciatingly embarrassed as teenagers do as the very attractive, just a few years older than me, librarian scanned it out for me. For the record the scene on the cover had nothing to do with and didn’t appear in the book - the dragons actually teleported into space.
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn't finish?Do you read book reviews?
I don’t tend to read print reviews of books ahead of reading them but do sometimes read through people’s reviews on Amazon after I’ve read a book to see what other people thought. I take a lot of recommendations from friends and family who’s taste in books I have a good idea of so I can gauge how into it I might be. I’ve definitely given up on books and I really think there’s no shame in it.
If you find yourself not reading because a book is such a struggle then to keep going is to take away the pleasure of reading. There are a million other books you’ll never read so don’t get stuck reading something you’re really not enjoying. Reading isn’t homework!
Would you ever re-read the same book?
Yes definitely - though good to leave a decent gap so you’ll have forgotten a lot of the details. It can be interesting what you’ve either misremembered or what really stuck in your mind on a previous read which might end up being just a fairly incidental detail.
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
I’ve been called Frodo a lot… less identifying with the character and more because of my face.
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
In general only if I’m not enjoying them. At which point your best of putting them aside and finding something really good. You can always come back to them later. And I find it not to be the most relaxing having a stack of half read books next to the bed... feels like an extended to do list.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
Brett Easton Ellis.
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Credit: Hugh Frost