Featured Photo Credit: Earl Maldoun
As the typical briskness of late November in New York City is starting to set in, guestlist check-in doesn’t start until 10 p.m., I find myself waiting outside of the House of Yes, in Brooklyn. As I stand there, Nick Hook unsuspectingly pulls up in a white service van.
From far off I can see him and his crew, which consisted of just him and his tour manager, unloading. Deciding to lend a hand myself, it was pretty clear that the whole tour pretty much had been 100% DIY. We rolled and carried carts full of equipment to the stage. Inside, acrobats hung from the ceilings and psychedelic paint covered the walls. This was all one representation for the release party that was Hook’s homecoming.
Having been in the music industry for over ten years now, touring in a fairly small van was nothing new to him. It didn’t matter that he had lost sleep, had to take career-determining risks, or even had to exert every ounce of energy in his body for the past five months, he was here. That was clear in the sheer way he joyfully bounced around the room before his set. It was almost like watching a kid enjoy candy for the first time. Nick Hook is a seasoned veteran who has been grinding half of his life to make it to where he is now, and he has proven just that.
I first met Nick the night of his album release party. He had just released his debut studio album, Relationships. It also being the last leg stop of his tour, there was was a certain sense of relief in the air. After all, it was a celebration.
How does it feel to be home first off?
It feels great man, I haven’t been in the van for like 10 years. Every single day was the most exciting adventure, every single second. We saw the foliage change, we saw all the mountains, and it was amazing. It all led to me getting to this show.
Where was the first stop on the tour?
Well guess how many people paid to see the first show? Zero. It was a small town in Connecticut, which we kind of had an idea that it would be slow, but we went from zero to this. I felt like when I went on my tour it was time to [be like], “my album’s coming out, it’s my first tour, let me rebirth my career.” That was the whole point; to come home with the album in front of our friends, pressure’s on, let’s kill it. Just to celebrate. It’s just been amazing to take a risk and play all of my own music in front of strangers. I believe my music can bring people together and I wanted to go out and see if I was delusional, but now I’m seeing that it could.
That’s pretty symbolic of the whole tour itself, wouldn’t you say? In regards to ending it by coming home?
Yeah it was all a rebirth. My album was supposed to come out in April. We had some clearance issues, because it was real. I could tell you an amazing story from every single day of this tour. Now, I’m back and all of my friends can tell me what they did, and I can tell them what I did, and that’s how we keep going. We drive each other.
Would you say these past few years, putting this album together, was pretty much about the relationships you have with your friends?
Everything about my record has at least like 50 meanings. Everything I’ve referenced and everything I’ve paid homage to. Someone asked me once, when I did ‘Old English,’ how much I paid Young Thug. I didn’t pay him, we build relationships. That word means something to everyone. That word touches everyone’s soul a little too much, and that’s what this whole record is about. My whole soul has been punctured, wounded and re-birthed. I’ve been doing this for 14 years, and kids are discovering me for the first time, but I’m a veteran. It’s such a blessing man.
It’s like you said, you’ve been grinding so long and now you get to…
My career’s always been great, I wouldn’t say it’s ever been bad. Every year it’s been spectacular. But there’s ups and downs. I always thought this album I was gonna make — because I produced for other people, I helped Baauer and Azealia Banks — was going to be like, “if you’re a rapper, let’s collaborate,” but I realized they didn’t know I was capable of that, because I didn’t know that. I ended up having to make it for myself, because I trust myself and I can break any rule and I don’t have to argue with someone that it’s right. Even with my parents. No one ever thought I would ever do this, but here I am. That’s what I want to portray, you can do this, do it the way you love, do it with your friends, and make a living.
Nick has performed in bands, watched his friends succeed from a distance, and he’s even had to watch some of them fade away. Everyone’s favourite performers sacrifice countless hours doing the same. Some succeed while others do not. Nick, on the other hand, has not only paid his dues, but reaped the benefits.
A few months later, I caught up with him again. This time, in support for Run the Jewels. Not only that, but he’s no longer lugging his CDJs around in a van, but on his own tour bus.
Is this going to be the longest that you’ve been on tour?
This is going to be the longest tour I’ve ever done, like this. I’ve been an opener on tour, so I like playing for them cause you’re like, “what’s up you guys? Want to rock? Check out my SoundCloud afterwards, but for now let me just get it popping.”
You just got off the Europe leg of your tour, how was that?
I DJ’d that tour and I hadn’t DJ’d for quite a while. Europeans listen to music a whole lot differently, so I got to stretch my sets out and play a bunch of house music. I had an amazing show in Bucharest. They wanted to hear rap and I realised the way I DJ – like New York-style – not everyone has heard it done the right way. Sometimes when I go to other countries I stick to house or techno, but this time I was like, “nah I’m playing everything.” Now that I’m supporting my album I want people to know that my album is everything. Anytime I play, whether it’s my own music or DJing, we’re going to cross all the genres. I just want to let you know that I love all music.
Where authenticity is only an afterthought for some, for Nick it is of paramount importance. Being true to the self, the audience, and them truthfully trying to understand him, leaves him with experiences which, to this day, remain unforgettable.
The prevalence of technology is criticized for the creation of moments which prevent human beings from being in touch with reality. Nick, however, believes that the creation of genuine relationships is what’s truly important, no matter how they’re made. These relationships not only help us to evolve, but can take us to places and allow us to experience things previously unimaginable.
What can you say about your different influences? Did you get to a chance to swing by the UK while you were in Europe?
I’m always in the UK. My record release party there was actually one of the best nights of music ever. Now, the way that London is listening to grime and trap, everything is one. Novelist is on my album. My man J-Cush went back to back with DJ Target from Roll Deep, and he had Manga on the microphone spitting grime shit. Then LVs and Jubilee went back to back. And then I went on – Novelist was hosting my set. This is all the same shit. If you’re fire, you’re fire.
It’s almost like a different culture of music.
It’s definitely a different culture musically. It’s inspiring. I love it. It’s being able to experience vast amounts of music and culture which has helped Nick the most. Diversity is challenged throughout the world every day. Exposure to diverse cultures and experiences allows us all to develop in different ways, and Nick, as well as his career, is living proof of that.
It definitely has to feel good to be where you are today.
It’s great man, because this tour is going to lead to more shows. Because every year it’s like, “is it going to end this year?” It’s like a basketball player’s career. Are my knees going to give out? This tour made me realize I want to go and tour the rest of the motherfucking year though. When I made this album there was nothing else I did but work on it 24/7. My life revolved around the record.
Success is not only rewarded to those who are talented, but it is equally rewarded to those who are constantly on the grind to perfect their skills. The internet era has created a culture in which artists can, and do, get famous overnight. Neither artist is of less importance, because success is success. It is important, though, to recognise those who have worked the hardest to get where they are. Nick Hook is that kind of artist, and his only wish is to see that talent grow in somebody else.
Once before, you said one of your greatest feelings was having Chino from the Deftones saying he was proud of you. Would you say being inspired, and inspiring people, definitely has that same effect?
Yeah, what you start to realise is that the good spirits connect and good things happen by just letting it happen. I went and saw the Deftones over the summer and they were like, “you’re one of our oldest tenured fans,” not only as a colleague, because when I go and see them play I stand in the crowd and, now that we’re friends they ask me “what did you think about the show?” I was a fan, then a friend, and then a creator.
It must be an amazing feeling for you, obviously. Are you looking forward to that day when you have someone who was like you were?
Yeah and I’ve started to meet some of them out on tour. And they’re like “damn yeah I view the world like you.” All I want is one by one, and it’s real like these are real fans. That’s what you want. You don’t want fickle fans, you want someone that’s going to understand why you had to make an experimental record. It’s great just to know that. I’m kind of morphing into the people I would speak to when I was younger. That’s pretty tight.
It’s got to be cool to see that all come full circle.
I feel pretty lucky that I’ve gotten to do it. Because you can want to do it so bad that it goes awry, and I feel like I’m lucky.
Interview by Darius Pleasant.
Relationships is out now on Fools Gold Records, available on all streaming platforms, and available for purchase on iTunes here.