Interview – Niz Wiz

For the first time since its exclusive limited-run vinyl release, 54•40 alum Neil Osborne’s creative persona Niz Wiz’s single “God Do Me A Solid” is available.

As Side A’s track three from the nom de plume project’s self-titled double album, Niz Wiz: Limited Edition Double Album, “God Do Me A Solid” echoes the release’s expression of feelings and fears around prescient themes: America, money, God, A-I, “and a little bit of Canada,” Osborne shares.

“Many people have asked me in the past if I would ever consider a ‘solo’ record, but I never felt the need to…” he reveals. “54•40 is the perfect vehicle for me as ‘Neil’ in our themes of fun, unity, thoughtfulness and reflection couched in a three chord rock combo.

“That all said, I had a sudden inspiration to create a conceptual body of work alone somewhere in early 2019. As a person — as Citizen Niz — I began to sense some kind of disconnect with common sense, and outdated or hijacked cultural values.

“I supposed some of it could be attributed, as my father used to say, as feeling ‘well, the world is passing me by,’ but I had this insistent, nagging feeling it was much more than that.”

As for what in particular was plaguing Osborne’s observations, the world’s skyrocketing political partisanship, an increasingly chasmal wealth gap, and the damaging disconnect caused by social media in its attempts to increase connection were among the top contenders.

And this was all before a catastrophic global pandemic and stirring social unrest spread to each corner of the globe.

“For this album, I started to think about the bizarre rules of what money and ‘ownership’ really means; the way many people carry old beliefs and impotent faith as one would with ‘phantom leg syndrome;’ how artificial intelligence is infiltrating and defining our very identity, distilling our emotions and values to ikons.

“I remember pontificating these thoughts in my basement studio before looking up and saying, ‘Hey! Am I the only one feeling this?! Am I the only one thinking about this change? This undertow of a tide sweeping us all potentially under water? And how we don’t know when we can come up for air?’”

When it came to tangible pieces of inspiration for the album, Osborne looked beyond the endless news cycle to his bookshelf: a copy of Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel, The Magic Mountain, and the character Hans Castorp in particular.

“That book reflects on the ability and necessity for a person to take on, and try on, as many opposing points of view to keep a healthy perspective and get a taste for certain themes,” Osborne explains. “It encourages to see if you like them, and if they’re worthy enough to suit you, all the while allowing respect for individuals who choose ‘this’ or ‘that’ as their point of view.

“So, on that early spring day in 2019, I covered my studio door with a canvas, grabbed some markers, and wrote down any song title that immediately entered my mind.

“I ended up with 17, and every track is a stream of consciousness. I would adopt a vocal ‘character’ to inhabit and tell the story, and I’d record this directly to the track over and over until I had the right character cadence, words, and personality.”

The video for “God Do Me A Solid” features a clever collaboration between Osborne and 2010 Visual director, Charlie Darragh. Check it out below, and find out more about Niz Wiz via our mini-interview.

First off, care to introduce yourself to our readers? 

I am Niz Wiz which is my production/project name that was made up for a conceptual album experiment that I started tinkering with a couple of years ago. As I adopted multiple characters, roles, themes, and instruments throughout the album, Niz Wiz was a nickname presented to me and it kind of stuck. Niz -Neil-Wiz-Wizard. Neil Wizard = Niz Wiz. Some of the readers might  know me as Neil Osborne that  guy in 54•40

Tell us about the recording process behind “God Do Me A Solid”?

So glad you asked. Each song on the album was written and recorded under a certain self-imposed methodology. I started by creating 17 song titles. Titles that would immediately enter my mind. Once I had them all, I would then write music for the first song and then proceed to record each song in consecutive order. I would adopt a vocal character to inhabit and tell the story of the song. I recorded this directly to the track, over and over, until I had the right character, cadence, words, and personality. I wouldn’t start the next title in sequence until the previous was completely written and recorded. The intention was for the listener to take in the entire album in sequence from beginning to end. To this end, “the directors cut” definitive version is the double vinyl version. “God Do Me A Solid” was the 3rd song on SIDE A, therefore the 3rd song created. The album is an expression of feelings and fears around certain themes, primarily America, Money, God, A-I, and Canada. “God Do Me A Solid” is the salvation of America in panic mode. It’s a driving song. Our central character leaves the church parking lot and hits the open road looking for answers. Fuel is low. He is broke and busted.  He knows God is on his side but he is backsliding. He wants to believe but the dream of prosperity and advancement is diminishing. The bills are piling up, it’s always 2 steps forward, 4 steps back. Stress is mounting. He is burned out. Losing faith in the system. Isn’t there more?  Just need a sign from God. Just need a prayer to be answered.  GOD, Do Me A Solid  #Nizwizdoublevinyl

What was the highlight of 2020?

Honestly, the highlight was having time to learn some new craft. I invested in video software and developed my abilities as a visual creator/editor.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career in 2021?

I would like to present a Niz Wiz performance piece. Not a traditional show but more of an installation.  I am developing some ideas for this. I think it would be cool to be able to have more mobility in 2021 into 2022. And honestly, I would like people to have the opportunity to hear my music.

Is there anyone out there you’d like to collaborate or open/close a concert with in the future? 

Living or past? Human or machine? Niz Wiz has been very solitary. No other writers, musicians, or producers. Just Niz Wiz all alone floating in space.  Except of course SIRI. As A-I was one of the themes contained within the album, SIRI makes a few appearances.  In my opinion, SIRI’s performance on the album was very inspired by HAL9000 in the Clarke /Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey, but you would have to confirm that with her.

That being said, there might be some great possibilities for future collaborations so I am open.

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