"I'm just gonna point to everything I want."

That's Hot Sugar, real name Nick Koenig, in the New York Museum of Natural History, two days after his latest album, God's Hand, has been released. He's standing in front of a diorama of antelopes fake grazing on fake grass but he could easily be talking about his unique style of making music.

Koenig has blue-green eyes and never smiles on camera or during his shows. "I only make one expression," he says. He's the type of guy whom you can imagine people calling "pretty" either as a dis or as a defense of their attraction to him.

Koenig has risen to fame recently for providing his music to score the mega-popular sitcom Broad City, which he considered his favorite show on the air even before providing them with his music. But his initial claim to fame was as the founder of Associative Music.




The organizing principle behind Associative Music is more or less Pavlovian. Associative Music, for the uninitiated, is created by recording commonplace sounds -- his example is "a duck eating a baguette in Paris" -- and reprocessing them into music that sounds more or less like regular music. It's kind of like The Books or Girl Talk but the exact opposite. When you hear a track like 'Beer Cans & Bubblegum', it sounds like a pretty standard-issue electronic beat. That's before you realize that it's composed entirely of people, recorded on webcam, either chewing or snapping bubblegum or crushing beer cans on their head. Koenig says of the track, "It sounds like instruments and it took forever." The idea is: if you hear a sound you will automatically have a set of personal associations, even if your conscious mind doesn't realize it at the time -- or at all.

As a result, Koenig is constantly on the hunt. He estimates that there are at least 100 samples on each song and he spends most of his days looking for things to record. He's recorded silence -- "When I crank the volume, it sounds like a whole different universe full of texture that none of us would know about." -- a couch being thrown off the roof of a six-storey building in Manhattan -- "On the mic, it sounds like when I stepped on an apple crate." -- and his ex-girlfriend, internet-noted rapper Kitty, having an orgasm -- for which he was kicked off of car brand Scion's record label.

He's also recorded bones, which he does by going into the Paris catacombs, grabbing a couple of bones, and tapping them together. He tries to be respectful but when he was younger, he made "a couple of wrong choices." He's talking about when he -- age 12, living in Paris -- stole skulls with his friends and smuggled one to his apartment.




"It started molding and so I had a rotting skull in my apartment," Koenig says. "I didn't want my mom to find it, so I put it in my backpack and brought it to school and threw it in a trash can."

He says he regrets taking the skull and emphasizes that he always tries to treat the bones with respect.

While Associative Music may sound oddball or gimmicky to some, it caught the eye of famed physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. His office is directly above us as Koenig talks in deliberately vague terms about a meeting that will be used for an upcoming documentary about Associative Music, produced by Danny McBride (yes, that one) and premiering at SXSW.




DeGrasse Tyson isn't the only person whose eye Koenig has caught. Featured on the album -- playing toms on his iPhone -- is American indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch -- "Jim's the man!" -- who also introduced Koenig to snails. He had a pair -- Angelfire and Webdings -- to which he fed "the most romantic food." That would be roses and after accidentally feeding the pair roses laced with pesticide, Koenig says they "exploded in traumatic fashion. Their blood is on my hands. I'll never get over it."

He's had bad luck with pets, recently. His latest example is a black goldfish which he kept in an apartment tank. Everything was fine until his friend Dap -- formerly of rap group Das Racist -- brought him a tiny shrimp. Overnight, the shrimp ate the goldfish's eyes out of its sockets. Koenig discovered the fish, dead in the tank, in the morning.




While you might think he's death-obsessed, Koenig uses the word romantic constantly. In our roughly hour-long interview he says romantic or intimate at least six times, and has composed mixtapes as odes to his favorite -- romantic -- movies. He says that his latest show -- his album release party at Santos Party House in New York's Lower East Side -- was, like all his shows "intimate and romantic" but also the first in a while where he didn't throw out copies of Harlequin romances that he claims to have written.


Photo by Jennifer Medina.

And he really does seem like a romantic which is either ironic or appropriate when you watch his -- all self-directed -- music videos. In his last one, for 'Sinkies', he takes a woman's French bulldog and threatens to pop it's head off if she doesn't pay him a ransom. And he really does it! Or so it appeared to a passing businessman. He told BuzzFeed Music that the man saw him holding the dog, saw the terrified woman holding out a wad of cash, and the sum total of his reaction was to walk away. The video is legitimately disturbing and ultimately does end in a death -- just not the dog's. It's also, in its own way, beautiful.

Hot Sugar's new album God's Hand, is out now.