INTERVIEW: A chat with Half Gifts wunderkid Jude Noel

Half Gifts is an Erlanger, Kentucky based record label and zine press who have been on a non-stop roll of amazing releases, compilations and in-print zines. Half Gifts is spear-headed by college student Jude Noel, an amazing recording artist in his own right. Half Gifts just released Janus, a short compilation to accompany Half Gifts zine number 16.

Let’s chat to Jude now!

UC: Hey Jude! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to United Cassettes. You’ve dabbled in just about everything from zine making to being a multi-faceted recording artist, but for now let’s focus on Half Gifts, your label/zine distro.

UC: How did Half Gifts get started?

Jude Noel: The blog itself started nearly 4 years ago, born out of a lack of outlet to discuss my favorite music and a drive to improve my writing skills. I started putting out zines a year later after being particularly inspired by an issue of King Cat Comics that I picked up from Cincinnati’s Shake It Records and from then on I became much more interested in publishing physical media. That same year, I pressed 15 copies of my first ever Half-Gifts compilation album to some store-bought cassettes. To my surprise, they sold out within an hour of their release, and the fun I had putting the tape together pushed me to work with even more artists that I found interesting and undervalued.

UC: Do you find yourself gravitating towards any specific genres when you’re releasing music or do you like to keep it diverse?

JN: For individual band releases, things have been all over the place – I’ve dropped everything from a killer shoegaze EP by 17 Years to a spooky noise tape by the now-defunct project Baseball Cap to an album of tongue-in-cheek new age music. Compilations tend to end up harboring a predominantly lo-fi garage rock aesthetic but I’m open to including just about anything.

UC: You’ve just released “Janus” a compilation to accompany the latest Half Gifts zine. What was it like compiling that excellently diverse collection of tracks?

JN: This time around I asked for ambient instrumental tracks only to act as a sort of calm, meditative transition point between December 31st and January 1st. Maybe it’s something to listen to while you read the new issue of the Half-Gifts zine, which acts as a recap of my favorite records and sub-cultures that were born over the course of 2k15. I named the comp after the Roman god of doorways and the new year to highlight that feeling of looking back and moving forward.

The first track was made by my buddy Trevor who I met at my college orientation. I thought it acted as a perfect opener to the comp, as it felt very personal, very nostalgic. The field recording was captured during a vacation he took with his family and the title was taken from a panel at the end of the manga version of FLCL. It’s all held together by a delicate Antlers sample. I love it because it’s a song full of subtle, yet profound details plucked from the heart/mind of the producer who worked on it, yet you’d never know that unless you had the chance to discuss the track with them.

“Late Crafting” is a sneakily pretty track by Nevhar Anhar, who has appeared on a few other Half-Gifts comp, and it’s his best submission yet. He weaves sparkling lead guitar ripples over this jittery ambient loop, creating a contrast between tension and release. The track that follows it is of my own creation, a loop pedal improv played over a recording of my backyard.

Following that is Aaron Hurtado’s awesome new post-rock project Astro Lips. Plenty of interesting textures and ideas packed into a minute and a half. Very remniscient of Explosions in the Sky.

The Track by The Kiriks is extremely lo-fi and quite charming in its ultra-compressed ambience. They’re from Jakarta I believe. The final cut is taken from Crystal Surge’s upcoming vaporwave/future-funk tape coming soon on AMDiscs. Very fun combo of IDM and post-chillwave.

UC: What have you been listening to lately outside of your own label’s stuff?

JN: Yeongrak’s new-ish record on The Worst Label is really good. Very creepy and dense techno/noise that gives off some Aphex Twin vibes. The second Sunny Day Real Estate LP is on rotation a lot these days, too. There’s a song called “Waffle” that’s built around one of the loveliest basslines I’ve ever heard. My friend John and I listen to a lot of BB SUN on soundcloud and I’ve been revisiting Slint’s “Spiderland” whenever I’m in the car with my buddy Kyle.

UC: You make music under a number of monikers, such as Superbook and various others. Are you recording anything new at the moment?

JN: I’m always recording new stuff. I rarely finish anything though. I mostly make little emo guitar doodles or SADBOYS inspired cloud rap beats in my free-time. Nothing too serious though. If you wanna hear something I finished not too long ago, you could look at this.

UC: What’s next for Half Gifts?

JN: I just finished filling out an application for a spot at the campus radio station. I’d love to work on a broadcast component to the Half-Gifts empire. Also I’d really like to start doing more tapes again. I just need to motivate myself more.

UC: And now for the final question, how much do you love Vaporwave?

JN: The visuals are almost always awesome, and the music is sometimes cool. A lot of it is kinda lazy or unpolished – it’s actually pretty tough to make and I have no idea how people like Macintosh Plus are able to pull it off. The only vaporwave music I listen to that much these days anymore is Dean Blunt’s “The Redeemer”, if you could call it vaporwave.

“Janus” and Half Gifts issue 16 are out now and available via Half Gift’s Bandcamp. You can find more news from Half Gifts via their Facebook.

Written by:

Label owner / vintage guitar aficionado / often found playing Earthbound.