Nico Turner: "Open Spaces Are Always Good for Creating"

Nico Turner gets lost in her music
Nico Turner gets lost in her music
Annika Oksanen

Multi-instrumentalist Nico Turner sees herself as less a singer/songwriter and more a creator of soundscapes. When she was the central figure in Los Angeles' Voices Voices, Turner led that outfit in all sorts of ambient and unconventional directions. Since going solo, Turner most high-profile gig has been as a member of Cat Power. And now she finds herself opening for Chan Marshall on a tour that features both artists performing without a band.

While driving through New Mexico and in anticipation of Wednesday's show at Trees, Turner was kind enough to talk with DC9 about how audiences are embracing her music and how she just might move to Texas.

How is the tour with Cat Power going? Are people receptive to your music?

Yeah, they have been. I didn't know what to expect. Before this tour, I had never been on a stage alone. I didn't know what to expect. The people have been nice and gracious. They understand what I am doing which is good. That makes me happy. It's just me and a guitar and a lot of sound. I wouldn't call myself a songwriter. I am creating soundscapes and adding vocals to it.

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How did you end up opening on this tour?

We ended the leg of a tour and Chan [Marshall] was going to do some solo shows. One of these shows happened to be near Los Angeles. We were talking and she said that she was thinking about doing more solo shows. I said that was cool because I would have time to work on my stuff. A couple weeks later, she called and asked in I wanted to open. I got all my stuff together and it basically felt like I jumped on the stage. It's like jumping into water with all my clothes on. I am not playing in her band, so it's nice to get up and play my songs and then I play a couple songs with Chan.

Have the crowds been large?

Yes, most of the shows have been sold out. It's interesting to see the different types of audiences in each city. The audience is very telling of the city. When we were in Philadelphia, the audience was the kind that would say whatever is on their mind. I have a lot of friends there and they are like that, too. They are loud and they are amazing people. They talk a lot and it's great and I love it. And the audience was the same way.

You are proficient on many instruments. Do you prefer any one?

Well, I started off playing drums. I always gravitate to the drums. I like exploring instruments and sounds. I like anything that makes sounds. I am just mesmerized by sounds. I like anything I can get melody out of. If I had to choose, it would be drums, guitar, piano over anything else.

It's hard to write a song on the drums.

You would be surprised. You could probably do it.

Do you have a solo album in the works?

I am recording in January. I think I will have some time off then. I am planning on recording some solo stuff around then.

Are you still going to be a part of the band Voices Voices?

No, I don't think so. I think that is done. My former bandmates and I talked about playing some reunion shows, but one person has moved away from L.A. Voices Voices was very important to me. I guess I need to move forward. My solo stuff is really similar to what I did in the band.  

You've played with Prefuse 73 and Vincent Gallo, among others.

It's been an interesting time, and I've worked with some interesting people. It was very cool.

Your bio describes your music as atmospheric, seductive, unconventional and ambient. Anything else to add?

My music feels kind of dangerous. I don't go onstage with a particular style in mind. Some people are taken aback by my style, even surprised by what I am feeling. That is not common I guess. It feels dangerous in that way.

Why cover Nirvana's "Something in the Way"?

I don't know. That was weird. I recorded it on my phone. I was driving one night and that song came on the radio. This was before I was in the Catpower band. I pulled over and I knew I had to record something. That was the song. I knew that I could do it and I did. I love that song. It is a beautiful song and it spoke to how I was feeling at that time.

You also contributed to a tribute CD to David Bowie. Didn't you do some artwork for that project as well?

I did, yes. I drew a portrait of him for that.

Would Cobain and Bowie be major influences on your music?

Yes, definitely. When I was a kid, Bowie was a huge influence. That style, this guy dressed in tights with a cape. He was a great songwriter with a great voice and a great presence. Kurt Cobain was the same way. I feel like they definitely inspired me.

Is this your first time in Texas?

Actually, I was thinking about moving to Texas. When I was in Voices Voices, I wanted to move to Texas. We were all going to move to Austin or somewhere close to Austin.

Texas is a fairly conservative state. Are you comfortable with the political situation?

I don't know. I am pretty rebellious when it comes to that stuff. If I feel that way and the place is conservative, it would push me to create something even more dangerous that I would have created in a more liberal place.

Los Angeles is a busier place than around Austin. Could you handle that slow down in lifestyle?

I feel like people can handle anything they allow themselves to. The open spaces are always good for creating. You can create anywhere. I like it in Austin. It's beautiful.

Were you named after the Nico as in the Velvet Underground and Nico?

No, I wasn't. My dad's name was Noble Lee Turner and he gave me his initials. He has a weird name. It was his fault.

Nico Turner opens for Cat Power on Wednesday, December 11, at Trees.

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