Hot Sugar Makes Music Out Of Anything And Everything "I try to capture sounds the same way a photographer would capture an image," says musician Nick Koenig, whose songs are meticulously constructed from the noise of everyday life.

Hot Sugar Makes Music Out Of Anything And Everything

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The bark of a dog, the crackle of Pop Rocks in someone's mouth, a stone skipping over water. We're about to meet a musician who says he can make music out of anything. He records sounds in the world around him, manipulates them and builds them into melodies.

NICK KOENIG: I'm Nick Koenig, and I make music as Hot Sugar. I try to capture sounds the same way a photographer would capture an image. If something looks poetic, I'll record it. Sometimes I go on noise walks. So I'll just walk around carrying the microphone and aiming it at different sources, discreetly so that no one gets suspicious of what I'm doing. I wanted to record some sounds inside of a cave because of the reverb. So I went into a cave in LA in some park and started throwing some rocks against the wall, trying to capture the echoes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKS HITTING WALL)

KOENIG: And in the darkest corner of the cave, there's a guy sitting down. And I apologized 'cause I felt weird after throwing rocks at a wall. And he had been staring at me in the dark. And he actually apologized. He said that he was about to scream. And he was waiting for me to leave so that he could scream. And I asked if I could record his scream.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KOENIG: OK, scream as loud as you can and try to hold the same note.

And sure enough, it wasn't a scream. It was a perfect operatic note.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Ahh.

KOENIG: I mean, I was blown away. And he refused to give his name - just wandered off and disappeared. It was a sustained note. So I knew that I could throw it onto any sort of sampling keyboard or sampling guitar - pretty much any MIDI controller.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOT SUGAR SONG, "DEAD INSIDE")

KOENIG: So using his voice, I laid the foundation for a song called "Dead Inside" off of "God's Hand," my latest album.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOT SUGAR SONG, "DEAD INSIDE")

KOENIG: For one track, "Beer Cans And Bubblegum," I wanted to play with this very American portrait of teen boredom. And you can picture teenagers twirling their hair, chewing bubblegum and blowing bubbles. So I asked my fans to submit webcam videos of them either crushing a can on their head or blowing bubbles with bubblegum.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOT SUGAR SONG, "BEER CANS AND BUBBLEGUM")

KOENIG: Extracting the resonance is how we create the melodies.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOT SUGAR SONG, "BEER CANS AND BUBBLEGUM")

KOENIG: If you listen to that song with headphones, you can hear people chewing. Instruments were made when we didn't have amplification. People invented the drum so that they could communicate to an entire village. That's why a drum is considered an instrument. But if I were to rip a Kleenex, that's not referred to as an instrument. But I can make the tearing of this Kleenex louder than any drum could be. And that changes everything.

MARTIN: Nick Koenig, also known as Hot Sugar, is the subject of a new documentary, "Hot Sugar's Cold World." This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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