fOUR X.IT: Nate Wood

NATE WOOD latest album release fOUR X.IT and live performance at NuBlu August 1st 2018

"I gazed upon a burning bush of elemental fire, it said: 'do just what you have to, son, to keep yourself inspired, maybe you can ride this flame, but don’t get caught too high, it might be worse if you succeed, but it’s better if you try". This excerpt from the song, Better if You Try from Nate Wood's latest album fOUR X.IT resolved my curiosity as to why this extraterrestrial musician has gone solo on this newest release, a project of one take performances with no prerecorded backing tracks, overdubs or click tracks, Nate playing all four instruments, drums, bass, keys/synths, and vocals.

Founding member and drummer for Grammy Award-winning progressive LA-based band, Kneebody, the first time I saw Nate play was with guitarist Wayne Krantz at ‘The Cutting Room’ in NYC; he was playing bass. His presence on an elevated stage was looming, prodigious, strangely frightening, while I was seated at a table pushed up against it. I had to kink my neck to see, the perspective making him seem more foreboding. I soon learnt that Nate Wood had already a prestigious playing history collaborating with Donny McCaslin, Chaka Khan, and Sting among others. Since then I’ve attended many of Nate's gigs in smaller clubs at eye level. Its hard not to watch him, he draws you in, this mysterious one. I almost feel voyeuristic as I view him through my camera, his strabismus eyes appear to stare directly into my lens. Nate's appearance: tight, cartilaginous body, long gangly arms, usually sporting a fashion item from his odd collection of short-sleeved patterned open-necked Lacoste t-shirts, strangely eery. Nate is soft-spoken, thoughtful, and laconic. He doesn't see himself as just a drummer, he sees his musical dexterity on many instruments as being one unified universe. He is flying high in that universe.

Music is hereditary for Nate, both his parents are musicians. His father, keyboardist Steve Wood, a longtime member of the Kenny Loggins band and his mother Beth, a guitarist-singer/songwriter. A close friend of the Wood family revealed to me that he taught Nate his first and only bass lesson. "There were two lessons, one was about playing on beat one and the second lesson on beat four, you work out the rest". I met the friend last week in a New York bar where Nate was playing bass, once again with Wayne Krantz. Nate sat down at our table during the set break and proceeded to finish his dinner, Lebanese take-away, while catching up with his old friend. I couldn't help but overhear how effortlessly and enthusiastically their conversation was centred on music over the din of the bar, never raising his monotone, silky-smooth voice.

fOUR X.IT, the album was released in late July 2018 and the album release show was performed at NuBlu in NYC on July 25th. Reliant on his musical narrative, Nate prefers not to play it safe, fOUR is hard proof of his revolutionary self-progress and self-criticism. His gripping lyrics admonish against future existence and serve up wild suggestions to combat what lies ahead: "I’ll take a rocket ship to the moon, before we meet our impending doom;  I can't wait for this frozen state ", justly referring to a future where we will wake up from a cryogenic sleep in a new world where all the bad men have been annihilated. The story lines in these tracks could provoke an exciting A.I. movie script. Ten tracks in total 50/50 vocal and instrumental.

Nate can navigate any musical genre; consequently, fOUR X.IT  combines his jazz, improv, rock, singer-songwriter, and pop sensitivities. If I tried to compare his sound to another band, or place it into a dedicated genre, the closest would be an amalgam of groups from England, some touches of 80's New Wave, Talking Heads, XTC, or more recently British band, Aphex Twin. Originating as a video project, Nate released the tunes on YouTube in 2017 in order of the creative process.  He has achieved a fantastic musical victory with this record, pushing musical boundaries, challenging himself to be a better player, finally gaining a deeper understanding of his multi-instrumentalist capabilities.

No Lacoste floral t-shirts for Captain Nate of the Starship Enterprise flying in NuBlu's universe, he is simply dressed in khaki overalls that resemble a wing-suit with luminescent orange lapels. The cockpit houses drums, synthesisers,  bass on his lap, and headset mic, Nate is comfortable and ready for take-off.  Multifarious, dexterous, ambidextrous, hyper-mobile: a renaissance man. I’m sure he could paint with intricate strokes with his left foot, write a thesis with his right, direct a symphony one-handed, and scramble eggs with his free hand during breakfast. I want a ticket on that starship so I can freeze myself, or maybe just my head, and wake up in Nate’s sonic sci-fi world. 

Tracey Yarad