Introducing: Iain Howie
Based in Vancouver, twenty six year old singer-songwriter and producer Iain Howie has been active in the city’s underground minimal house & techno scene for the past five years. After nearly a decade of producing dance music, Howie has shifted his focus to songwriting. Blending the natural tension of house music with themes of loss, anxiety and the pitfalls of technology on society, Howie’s music provides a solace for listeners looking to escape, even if it’s just for a moment.
We caught up with Iain to get to know him a little better and hear what he has in plan for the rest of the year.
Iain, tell us a little about your background! How is growing up and living in Vancouver?! What got you started in music in general?
Vancouver is a beautiful city. It’s hard not to get inspired here as a creative person. I grew up playing instruments from a young age but once I got my hands on a pirated copy of Ableton in high school I was hooked. I’ve been obsessively making music ever since. After getting connected in the underground scene here after high school, I started releasing on some local labels and haven’t looked back.
After a decade of producing, you’ve shifted from house and techno into a more singer songwriter direction. What brought on this change?
I always knew I wanted to write songs, but house music was new and exciting when I started out. Being connected in that scene, and with some experience Djing, it seemed like the perfect way to get my foot in the door. The move into songwriting was quite natural and happened over a few years. I started putting more and more vocals in my music, then when “Patterns” came out of me I thought, “Wow, I’ve got a real song here!”
Do you have any advice to artists who are also looking to pivot their direction of their musical projects?
Oh man, just write what you want to write. Go where the inspiration takes you. I think it should always feel exciting and even scary when you’re properly developing as an artist.
The images and visuals you have on your website and with your music are so interesting and vibrant! What are they and what inspired them?
All of the visuals have come from Collaborating with visual artists. Most notably Akiko Nakayama and Genki Nishida. I like to let the artist lend their interpretation of the music and have creative freedom. I think that’s the best way to make your art as powerful as it can be.
You have a very beautiful voice, have you had any classical training?
Thank you very much. I really don’t have much training but I do like to see a vocal coach regularly to keep my voice in good shape.
What is your favorite part about writing lyrics and do you have a specific process?
Sometimes words will just pop out that make sense and resonate with me a great deal. Those are my favourite moments in lyric writing, they can be quite surreal. Apart from that, my lyric writing typically starts with some gibberish. I try to just get the melody down. I’ll hear a word or phrase that relates to my life or just something that inspires me. Then I’ll base the rest of the lyrics around that idea.
Who are your biggest influences in the house and techno scene?
Too many to name. John Talabot, Axel Boman, Four Tet, Stimming, Francis Harris.
Who are your biggest influences for singing/songwriting?
This list could be very long. Neil Young, The Velvet Underground, Caribou, Adrienne Lenker, Arcade Fire, to name a few.
In March you launched your NFT storefront “IainHowieNFT”. That’s so exciting! What led you to get involved with Web3 and NFT’s?
The current web2 music model isn’t working and needs a reboot. Music is one of the most valuable cultural commodities yet its monetary value has been completely decimated due to streaming model economics.. As an up and coming artist, the web 3 space is really exciting to me. It shifts distribution and ownership back to artists and most importantly it allows fans to participate in the success of the artists they support. It allows me to reward my supporters in all sorts of ways. This is revolutionary and very exciting. My manager at Block Sound introduced me to the space and got me pretty stoked on what it could do for music.
Tell us about the Leaf Syndrome Stems that you made available for free? Can you explain what a Utility NFT means?
A Utility NFT is just an NFT that provides intrinsic real-life value as opposed to just being about flipping for a profit. In this case that value is freedom to make what you want with the stems and even upload your remix to Spotify and own your remix master 100% and make money from it. We wanted to inspire people to create something new and have fun with the stems. The benefit for me as an artist is that the more remixes there are of my songs, the more valuable the original version becomes. It’s an inclusive, win-win approach which is what the Web3 ethos is all about.
What do you hope to see for the future of digital music?
Fair pay for artists. A climate favourable to new artists trying to grow their careers and build a fanbase.
What advice would you give to artists looking to get started in NFTs?
Just get started, read a lot, do your own research and talk to people in the community. Twitter is where Web3 community and learning happens. It’s the Web3 town hall so to speak. So set up an account and start following the followers of respected artists and builders in the Web3 music space. Also be sure to join and participate in a couple Discord servers. It’s a very supportive environment. Also know that most artists who are doing big things in the Web3 space have a Web3 team around them that understand the space. Don’t think you have to figure it all out yourself. My manager handles the technical side of my Web3 initiatives, I don’t know about that part yet and that’s okay. It can seem a bit overwhelming but remember that most new ideas and technology feel this way! We are building this space together and are in it for the long run.
What are you most excited for coming up this year?
Playing live. I’ve got a new live set I’m working on and I can’t wait to get it on the road. I’ve also got lots of new music I can’t wait to share.