Nora En Pure may be a criminal on the turntables, but she walks the straight edge while on tour. The South African artist studied criminology in school before course-correcting to pursue her passion for electronic music.
CONVICTS caught up with Nora during her recent visit to New York. We got her take on traveling the world solo and her love of nature and the land, however, we failed to convince her to sing karaoke.
Hey, Nora. What’s been the highlight of the tour so far?
Well, it actually started in Australia and Australia was great — some really good festivals for good crowds and then there was a whole month of that. And then smaller cities that I’ve never done before, where it’s always amazing to see people are still up for it and know my stuff. The big cities like San Diego, San Francisco, New York, LA they are always like the best. Now I’m going soon to South Africa and little bit of Asia and I’m looking forward to that too.
So you grew up in south africa?
How old were you when you left?
Very young, only till 4. But we kept going back part of my family still lives there and it’s just like my place to be I relate very much to it. I love south africa.
Must be nice going home. How long is the tour?
The whole tour is maybe 30 shows.
That’s insane. Thirty nights, and people don’t even realize you’ve been travelling. They just want you to party.
Yeah and they expect you to every time, but given that I’m often travelling by myself and I’m a woman, people are not pushing too much.
You come off as a bit of a well behaved artist, but do you have any crazy things that you’ve done, or anything you’ve gotten away with?
Not really I must say. I really am focused on the job, and it’s a lot of travelling.
Is travelling alone tough for you?
Well I must say, most of the shows are really well organised so I don’t feel like I need someone badly. Of course, it’s nice to have someone, because always travelling on your own is a little lonely. But by now I have people from cities all over that come out to the shows, so it’s good. But in other countries like Brazil where the language is also a bit of a an issue they always have local tour managers. For longer tours, or more exhausting ones, usually have someone.
What does travelling alone do to your headspace?
Being away i have this strong sense in me to take care that i catch up with my people at home.
Did you study music in school or did you study something else?
Criminal Psychology. In South Africa, crime is a big thing so-I don’t know-I was always fascinated with psychology and with forensics. Watched too much CSI and I thought it would be a really interesting field. Also my parents wanted me to have a real degree in something before i just wandered off into music. I finished that and by the time I had those studies done, there were many booking requests coming in because ‘Come with Me’ was released like half a year, a year earlier and it went truly big because global players had picked it up. So I thought ‘Okay lets try it,’ and I slowly got into it and then, yeah, it worked well.
How was it studying and producing music at the same time?
When I was studying I often just travelled without basically any money. I would go until I would be in debt and go back. It was a bit the same with music, I was never a fan of planning it so thoroughly. So when the management was like ‘Hey there are some booking requests maybe go for it? I said ‘Ok.’ I don’t know how I feel about playing because I had to learn it in front of people which is very different than making music alone in your studio or with a couple of friends. But I gave it a try and I felt good with it. I just had a little job on the side and thought, ‘I’m young you know? Whatever!’ and it was a good decision.
Have you solved any crimes yet?
Well in the music industry, I hope there are not too many crimes. Before working like I work now, I went to prison for half a year for an internship. It’s heavy stuff. Deep. I still enjoy that work, but it’s less about crime solving. It’s more talking to the offenders and reconstructing the whole crime and working through it.
Is that what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Not anymore. I love the creative stuff. I don’t think I could ever be in a normal job. I love also photography and painting and all these things. I don’t think I could ever make a living at that, but I love creative stuff.
Awesome. To change gears a bit, can you tell us about growing up in South Africa?
Theres the crime issue that you have to be really aware of. You’re not going to be walking alone in the street as a kid never. You’re being driven to school and back and so you have to be aware of things. But other than that I love Africa. Africa for me is the source where everything comes from. There’s an innate joy that you feel in the people. All the animals there, the vegetation is amazing it feels like the source of where everything came from. When I’m there I’m just so happy its not describable and whenever i go back i cannot feel anywhere else at peace like in Africa. It’s so amazing. If you’ve never been, you have to experience it once.
You put up a lot of other animals on your instagram. Did you grow up spending time with animals?
We spent a lot of time in the wilderness areas and I also got into wildlife photography. I like serving animals and spending time with them.
Maybe you’d be a wildlife photographer if you weren’t a dj?
There are too many. That’s the thing everyone loves. Nowadays everyone loves dj’ing too. I guess you just have to find your way to stick out.
Have you ever used sounds you’ve recorded in nature?
Not really, there are good samples that are way better than what I would be able to take. It needs to be so clean around that kind of sound, so it’s difficult.
Is there anyone that you haven’t worked with that you would like to work with soon.
I always like to have someone of a different genre, so yyou can work something out that sounds really different and and original. I would love like Odesza or someone like that, to see what comes out. Maybe someday.
Did you grow up in a musical family?
I learned the flute for a while and then pian. My whole family played piano and I took singing lessons and these kind of things, but it’s better if I don’t sing.
How come? You don’t like your own voice?
No, no! If you don’t practice it anymore then you really get out of it. Back then I felt i had quite a good voice, but now sometimes if i sing randomly i think ‘Shit, I’m not in it anymore.’
Would you ever sing on any of your tracks?
Sometimes to try out things. Now that I’m so rarely at the studio, I do drafts here on the laptop so I will use my voice for fillers or for ideas. Often i start with a sample that I like and work around it. There are not too many vocals in my tracks-I usually prefer the instrumental stuff.
Do you think you could still kill it at karaoke if you had to?
Oh I don’t know! As i said if i get into it, a little. I could maybe still sing a little but let’s not try it.
Thanks Nora. Good luck with the rest of the tour.