What exactly is associative music? Prior to the growth of Hot Sugar’s skills and creations in the NYC music and entertainment culture, nobody had really heard of the term. Then Hot Sugar, his regular name being Nick Koenig, started coining the term as well as producing unique, genuine sound recordings put to music. The result was a style and approach named by Hot Sugar himself, that was different, unheard of before, and most importantly, catchy.
From Koenig’s perspective, associative music is tied to the natural environment. It’s not generated on a synthesizer or an electric instrument. Instead, Hot Sugar uses sounds well-known to people and taken for granted to produce relationships with sounds and emotions. The recordings then trigger notable psychological responses in listeners, both because the sound is recognizable and also sampled in a different and unique form. As Koenig puts it, everything produces sound; how it gets framed in the context of listening changes the nature of how it is perceived. “Sinkies” is probably his most famous cut, getting exposure being part of the score of the TV show, Ms. Marvel.
Hot Sugar will use anything, and he doesn’t limit himself to instruments alone. Whether it’s something as mundane as crushing a beer can or odd and weird as tapping on skulls sourced from catacombs, Koenig will find a way to make that particular sound part of something more intricate and musical. Each sound gets added to Hot Sugar’s library of samples and from there he composes his songs and creations much the same way a painter chooses colors to create a landscape.
A typical Hot Sugar production could involve the staticky quality of a silent room. Yes, even air makes noise, and then Koenig adds the puffing of a mini-explosion using a lighter and hair spray. The combination provides a steady sound base with an explosion sound that applies like a snare on a drumset.
The sample world has long been a challenge; how you create music from samples of sounds other people have claimed as their own previously. The “Vanilla Ice” trap has long been a problem for samplers trying to use a catchy sound and recreate it as their own. For Hot Sugar, however, he has no such problem. Because the source of his sounds doesn’t come from music per se, David Bowie’s estate is never going to have a copyright claim against Koenig’s music. In fact, most of what Hot Sugar puts together is entirely non-music turned into music in a way nobody has done before. He’s in open, unexplored territory.
Associative music might sound like a buzzword term, but for Hot Sugar it truly represents a genre created by Nick Koenig and no one else prior. And it’s one of the reasons why his recordings continue to create demand for Hot Sugar’s work on future projects as well.