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Nick Diaz embraces lo-fi approach, maintains busy output

They started as bedroom demos he made in summer 2016. But over time, as Nick Diaz dove deeper into those particular recordings, the Austin, Texas-based musician eventually finished with a pair of Buenos Diaz albums.

Playing to a click track, Diaz put down guitar, bass and vocal parts to about 30 songs, then he had drummer Greg Clifford come in and replace the click. Because he viewed what they were doing that summer as demos, Diaz only used two microphones on Clifford’s kit.

“The vibe, the sound and everything that came together in those 2016 sessions ended up being really cool,” Diaz recalls. “I didn’t necessarily want to go retry the takes and maybe get a little better sound quality in a fancier studio. I’d rather have vibe over that.”

So Diaz went back and reworked his parts as needed, such as changing a bass line to better fit with Clifford’s kick-drum pattern. And because he’d only used a pair of microphones on the drums, Diaz elected to go with an overall lo-fi approach in completing Gringo Novelas (released last May) and Gringo Novelas II (which began rolling out in December as a series of monthly singles; “Nervous” arrives Jan. 18).

“I had to fiddle with EQ a little more to make things come through in the mix,” he says about the drums. “There were definitely moments where [I thought], ‘This would probably be a little more rockin’ if it was full miked all over the kit.’ … [But] I was really into [the mindset of] getting a great take. It doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s a super high-res digital file or recording because there are so many old recordings where, for example, you can’t hear the kick drum, or something [else] is a little more present because they cut it all live [together] in a room, but the magic is still there. So I leaned toward that if I ever had any doubt thinking I needed to [remake the recordings] somewhere else.”

After bringing in some horn players and having Mike Saint Clair add a “finishing layer” of keyboards, Diaz says he ran the two-track mixes for both Gringo Novelas albums through a Tascam MiniStudio Porta02 MKII cassette machine (an eBay purchase, he adds) for “some sonic flare and color.” Any doubts Diaz had about doing that were erased after reading a Tape Op article that mentioned a similar cassette-mixing approach used on Foxygen’s 2012 effort, Take the Kids Off Broadway.

“It did give me a little bid of validation that I was looking for, that it was OK to not make some crystal-clear, hi-fi recording,” Diaz says.

He’s not locked into any one method of recording, nor does he limit himself when it comes to his choice of supporting personnel. An EP titled I Want You, made last year and produced by guitarist Beto Martinez of Brownout and Grupo Fantasma fame, is Diaz’s next planned Buenos Diaz release. He’s been writing music to beats he’s created using a drum machine, and then there’s the completed Fox Street Blues, Diaz’s first genre-specific project, which may come out under his own name or as Buenos Diaz.

As for what’s driving this output, Diaz says, “I think it’s my own internal battle with myself. I do have all of this creative energy floating through my brain all the time, and it drives me to put stuff out.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Buenos Diaz concert dates (schedule subject to change):

Jan. 19: The Townsend — Austin, Texas

Jan. 20: Guero’s — Austin, Texas

Nick Diaz performing in Austin, Texas, in March 2018. Photo by Chris M. Junior

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