“I like to be inspired by the feelings that music can arouse in you.”
When it comes to Swiss-based DJ Nora En Pure, “rocking the house” takes on an even deeper meaning. Her massive club hits Come With Me and U Got My Body throb and sway with an amalgamation of all the right deep house and trop house tropes. Her latest master mix, Saltwater (2015 Radio Rework), expertly juxtaposes vocal and guitar samples from Spandau Ballet’s eternally pleading 1983 new-wave ballad, True.
Nora, who was born in South Africa, will soon be spinning her own brand of house magic at Coachella, and she’s also beginning to set her sights on her next remix. “Right now, I don’t have a specific track in mind; it’s difficult to say,” she admits. “But soon, another remix will come out that I did for the Faithless track I Was There. That was challenging. I felt very honored and proud to do it, and the result actually gives me shivers.” (Now that’s how you do chill.)
During a break in her overseas touring schedule, Nora connected with Digital Trends to discuss the elements of Saltwater, why she’s not into hi-res audio, and who her dream collaborator would be, and why. We know this much is true.
Digital Trends: I have to say, I can’t stop listening to Saltwater. How did you decide to incorporate True into that mix? I just saw Spandau Ballet perform that song in Red Bank, New Jersey a few months ago, so it’s really been resonating with me lately.
Nora En Pure: True was one of the songs that I listened to throughout my childhood! So when it came to making Saltwater, I decided to use my favorite parts of True. It’s so soothing and blissful. In our kind of music, the most important thing is to create a four-bar loop that will never get boring. I could listen to that loop forever.
I already did a cover version of it in 2011, and I played around with that sample again to produce a nice beach remake for my live sets. The guys from the label loved it so much that we decided to make it a summer special release. Happy we did!
Tell me about the gear and the plug-ins that you’re using now.
Well, I used Logic 9, and now I am trying to switch to Logic X. I have a few synths like Sylenth 1, and some old Rob Papen synths. I also use Kontakt from Native Instruments, for which I have a massive amount of presets and instruments. I decided not to have too many synths to keep the overview, and keep it simple and practical. With Kontakt, I have a flexible synth/sampler that allows me to load all kinds of sounds. If I break it down, I only use Sylenth to generate synthetic sounds. It is easy to handle, and sounds really good from scratch.
What did you use for the vocal manipulations and samples on U Got My Body?
I had this breakdown melody with that vintage analog sound from a Sylenth bank. I played around with various vocal samples until I found that hook line from a sample pack that matched perfectly. From there, it was quite easy to make it sound good.
And what about the piano and percussion on Come With Me?
I think things like high-resolution audio are way overrated.
I had that arpeggio line in the beginning only, which is a preset sound from a Logic internal synth. I added the piano lick on top. The vocal chop came much later while I already was arranging the track, It was meant to be only an effect, but surprisingly turned out to become the signature of the track, next to the piano.
Overall, no one expected this track to become what it became over the years. It was actually meant to be a B-side track for that EP, but the label decided to make it an A-side, just because Come With Me EP sounded better than The Loneliness EP, which is what it was called in the beginning.
Good call on that title change. Is the piano your favorite instrument to play?
Besides the fact the piano has such a warm sound, it is also the most complete instrument for me. I love strings for the dramatic feel and the bongos for feel-good vibes. There are so many instruments that add a certain atmosphere.
I’ve also heard flutes in some of your work. Does that come from your classical background, your rock background, or both? Do you have plans to remix and/or cover a Jethro Tull song someday?
(laughs) Nice question! I haven’t thought of Jethro Tull in a long time. I remember that big poster of Ian Anderson in his famous pose with the flute on the wall of my first music teacher in school.
I also played the flute while I was growing up, but in my tracks, I mainly use it to give a bit an exotic flare. I think songs of Jethro Tull are not meant to be remixed or remade. They are all so unique that it would be a waste of time to even try to make it better than Ian already did!
What do you think about high-resolution audio, both in terms of recording quality and playback?
I think much of these things are way overrated. We sometimes sample from low-quality records and bit-crush our sounds down to 8-bit and stuff, and then some people want to insist on having 24-bit quality only of a song that maybe contains an 8-bit mono sample from an old ’50s record! That makes absolutely no sense. So I record in 16-bit quality, as this is the quality I deliver to my label upon their request.
I hear you. So are you cool with streaming services like Spotify?
Spotify is a very good thing, in my opinion. The life expectation of a song extends with streaming. Before streaming, a track sold during a time of 2-4 months. After that, it disappeared from the market and didn’t sell anymore.
Do you feel artists are finally getting compensated properly in the streaming universe, or could it be better?
With streaming, we have the chance to make — even if we are talking about very small amounts — revenues even in 10 years from now. And now we’re not only getting paid from the direct purchase, but also from the consumption of a song.
I think that’ll get even better as time marches on; it has to. How do you personally listen to music these days?
The life expectation of a song extends with streaming.
Since I am so used to working with all the platforms, I often listen to SoundCloud in the background while working on other things. But to enjoy music and relax, I often listen only to classical music that we have at home on CDs.
Are you a fan of spinning vinyl at home too?
I do love the sound of a vinyl, but these days it is simply much easier and practical to work with Pioneer decks and USBs.
I guess so, especially considering how much you have to travel. And I just love the feel and flow of your #Purified playlist on Beatport. Do you enjoy compiling playlists like that?
Playlists for Beatport or Spotify are nice, as they don’t really need to fit a certain vibe or energy. I thoroughly enjoy compiling playlists, but it depends on what the playlist is for. I don’t like to make playlists for my sets, as I believe that you have to work off of the crowd and see what kind of vibe they give off. I tend to decide what I play in the moment, which also makes it more exciting for me!
Do you feel South African music influenced you as an artist?
South Africa has its own kind of house. When I’m there, I enjoy listening to it sometimes, but in general, South Africa has many other precious sounds to offer besides house music. What has probably inspired me the most are the sounds out in nature — the positivity in people, and that feeling that overwhelms you when you are in the middle of the wilderness.
That’s cool. What was the very first album you owned as a kid?
My first album was Nevermind (1991), from Nirvana. I still have it, still love it.
Me too. Is there other music that continues to hold a special place with you today in terms of enjoyment and inspiration?
I like to be inspired by the feelings that music can arouse in you. Often I like melancholic music more, as the feeling is much deeper. It needs much more sensitivity to touch people.
Tell me about your goals as a DJ. You mentioned earlier how you like your sets to unfold based on the crowd, the location, and the vibe.
It’s vital to be well organized with your folders and playlists. Having said that, I must admit that I’m not that well organized! It depends very much on the amount of people you have in front of you and what mood they are in. For very short sets — as in festivals with only 1-hour set times — I tend to have more of a structure, as I have to make sure I get all the tracks in that I want to play. If I have more time, then I always try to adapt to what I think people like more in that particular venue or moment.
What do you consider to be the elements needed for a successfully DJed set?
I think for every DJ, a “successful” set looks different. For me, it’s the challenge to take people on a journey between groovy and soft tracks through fun bass lines back to melancholic strings and low- and high-energy tracks. It takes a lot for me to think that my set is perfect. But if I see the crowd having the feelings that I try to convey in my music, I am very happy.
You use Pioneer decks onstage, right?
Yes, I use Pioneer — mostly the DJM900 and CDJ2000.
Finally, who would you consider to be your dream collaborator, and what would you do together?
Probably Kurt Cobain, if he was still with us — for a solid topline. (laughs)