Nick Hook has always been an enigma, and his debut full length album inspires as many questions as it provides answers. 'Relationships' is a journey, a story that follows the course of 2015 from the artist's perspective. Fool's Gold Records is the perfect home for an album that spans so many sounds yet forms a captivating listen from beginning to end and encapsulates the irreverent, eclectic nature of the music. We had the chance to sit down and talk with Nick Hook when the Run The World tour stopped in Toronto.
Fingers On Blast: There's something about the name Nick Hook that sticks with people when they hear it. People hear about you and your music and it seems to start to slowly catch on for them...
Nick Hook: I realize I'm a hard sell, that's the interesting thing. You can't really describe me, my whole life you can't put me in a peg. My album ('Relationships') and 'Spiritual Friendship' and even my collaborations and everything they've done, none of them correlate or make any sense. So you basically gotta say 'trust me' and that's my mantra I think right now.
F.O.B.: I think we first heard of you around the legendary Sake bartending days.
Nick Hook: Oh yah, the sake bar is part of my folklore. I worked every Monday, and turned it from a night where no one ever came in, to 60 people being in a 20 person bar and it was only dj's and girls. So we go to know each other outside of the club, cause most of the time I've realized in a club situation you're yelling at each other posturing, and this way we got to let our guard down and actually become true friends.
I got to live off of one day a week, and then I no longer had to take any wack dj gigs. So I got to position myself in the perception that I only played good shows so it really helped my career. A lot of us in New York became working dj's because we've got to make a living, but then you're not special anymore because you're playing 5 nights a week, so then there's no incentive to come see you.
F.O.B.: And then there was Movement 2015 with the appearance during Hudson Mohawke's set.
Nick Hook: So I came up and jumped on the table and got a cop to come onstage and started just gettin' lit. I tried to get the cop to stage dive, and he put his hand on his gun and said 'I can't do it' and so I went out there and stage dove and did a big horseshoe around the entire crowd.
F.O.B.: That's kind of wild because Hudson Mohawke was out there playing music from his album 'Lantern' before it was released, and that same performance ultimately led us to eventually discover 'Relationships' too, and Hudson Mohawke is back with you on that record and it seems like the music is following a specific journey in life.
Nick Hook: This is only about life. That's why sometimes you discover me as a bartender, sometimes as a dj for Gangsta Boo, sometimes as a guy yelling in a mic because it's all one. We all support, especially the real ones. That song me and HudMo made ('EvolIsOnTheRise' from 'Relationships') is from 2009. My friend who passed away, that's the first time I used the piece of gear he built and gave me.
I did all the drums and the way HudMo flipped it has that like jarring feeling, like he got shot, but there's some kind of spiritual heavenly aspect. I felt that song was really important to my album, that was from 2009, that's the oldest piece of music on the album by far. The only reason I found that is when I went to headline Sonar in 2015 and I cleaned out my harddrive song by song and I found it, and I asked him if I could use it and he said yeah. We did 'Jumanji' together, we all help each other. Like if Boo ever needs me for anything, it's part of what we do.
F.O.B.: Nadus was another artist who helped introduce us to you, and then you two went on tour after 'Relationships' was released, that tour definitely got our attention focused on that new album.
Nick Hook: My ultimate dream is to play the album from front to back with all the guests. That's my true dream, I don't know if I'll get to do it cause everyone's in a wild place on that record but I'm glad I got to really work with all these people.
F.O.B.: The song 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' with Novelist was what got our attention first, and it embodies a confidence that it feels like stems from hip hop music, but not as often from other styles.
Nick Hook: Hip hop is the most urgent music there is. Hip hop is the most punk rock shit because you try to make it as fast as you can and bottle that moment up and leave it. A lot of other genres you over sheen things and most of my album everything is a first take. That shit with Novelist we did in five minutes at 6 am and the reason we stopped is because if I hear it like that and it makes me stop and makes my hair stand up, I'm giving you the same thing. You're just not in the studio.
That's what I worked so hard on for this record, is to leave it as vulnerable as possible because I was in a vulnerable state. Whether it was strong and feeling that I got up from a hard time, or fragile because I had been through so much darkness.
F.O.B.: It seems like quite a few people have reached out online saying the music has had a similar meaning for them.
Nick Hook: It's been amazing. I truly thought that my record wasn't gonna come out because I had such deep clearance issues. I finished my record three separate times, there's three full versions of my album. I couldn't have Afrika Bambaataa on there because he got accused of child molestation, I couldn't clear two Makonnen songs, there are a few samples and at the time Fool's Gold was really militant about 'we have to clear every sample' so I had to pull another song off. But then I just trusted to get through it, I just realized that this is what you have to get through to give this record.
F.O.B.: The record seems to have emotionally resonated with a lot of people, by telling the story of your life, you're giving them something powerful.
Nick Hook: To me the journey of my album is the most intricate, delicate thing I've ever done because every second mattered. If any of it broke down the whole thing broke down, including the last song. To me it's just amazing how you start to attract fans. I want a room of 300 people that has gay dudes, black girls, white guys. I've realized I want my crowd to be the most diverse, dangerous crowd because I wanna show people fuckin' Young Thug that would never listen to Young Thug, and I wanna show those people 'Spiritual Friendship'. I've realized that I've started to build that audience although it's slow.
I met this kid in Cleveland who saw me on 'Against The Clock', and followed me on social media, preordered my album, got it the first day it came out and then came to my show. He told me he listened to my album front to back in the dark. There's a hope for us, there's a possibility that we could fill up a room like whatever studio 54 looked like back in the day. That's what I crave, truly.
Coming out here we're working really hard to try to pick those people out. I'd rather pick the 20 kids out that can join the team than try to please the whole 3000. I'm trying to build with people that roll with me and allow me to create freely.
F.O.B.: Part of the reason we reached out, and began coverage of the album was finding it and having it take on a personal meaning and wanting to make sure that other people were hearing about this record.
Nick Hook: I've realized in creativity it's only about showing who you are. It's not following a verse, chorus, verse structure. I realize as I get older the more I am truly myself, the more people love me and the higher I go. My whole life, I feel like everyone's trying to get you to fit in and conform, and you kinda start believing everybody. I'm a maniac, I'm fuckin' nuts, I can show that to you guys. That's my version, her version is different than yours, I feel like that's what my album is truly about. When my friends died I realized I had a responsibility to the world to show the world how fuckin' nuts I am, and that I come from St. Louis.
That's my responsibility because I think society's getting bottled up right now until you can't do anything. You go to a little office building and make 100k, and drink some fuckin' lattes and shit. We're losing the danger. What was it like when Bad Brains and Talking Heads and Fab 5 came out? To me we're doing that in New York but the world should be doing that. What we're doing on this tour, it's music, it's for everybody, it's not for one type of person, we're playing the most open minded tour.
F.O.B.: and each artist on this tour is giving the audience something they crave but they can't get anywhere else
Nick Hook: The music is just the bullshit to bring us together. It's the safest thing to bring us together. Drugs and other things can do it but music is the thing that correctly brings people together.