Hi, Doctor Nick! - Choosing Between Music and a Job and the Struggle to Build Something in a Place That's Behind the Times

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It's Thursday morning, which means it's time for Nick Hook to do his thing on XLR8R. At this point, the good doctor is quite possibly the world's greatest street shaman, a jack-of-all-trades whose knowledge runs deep, whether he's discussing music, production, DJing, travel, life, love, romance, or just his favorite synthesizer. We're quite serious when we say that the man is an invaluable resource, which is why we highly encourage readers to take advantage and send questions to doctornick@xlr8r.com. The good doctor is here to help.

Hi. I'm coming live and direct from NYC. To be exact, I'm in my studio, in my underpants—just like I like it. This week is incredibly special for me cuz the Run the Jewels record that El-P and Killer Mike did came out. It's free on Fool's Gold, the product of talented people making honest music and giving it away without a corporation or anything. So hopefully you dig it, or at least try it. I think it's an amazing record and I had the best time being a part of it. Get it here.

I'm also going to Korea and Taipei next week. Does anyone there fuck with me? Let's go eat that good food. Here are the dates:

July 5th - Cakeshop Seoul
July 6th - Havana pool party at GTK Country Club (daytime), M-Club Taipei (night)

Thanks for all the new questions. Keep them coming to doctornick@xlr8r.com. Um... I don't know. Go buy a plant for your room. And floss your teeth.

Hi Doctor Nick,
Just want to say I love your column and your words of wisdom. You are always well spoken and what you have to say feels honest. Much respect.

I'm in a bit of a pickle. I've been making music for three or four years now and I feel like I've reached a point where if I'm really going to make a go of it, I need to focus 100% of my time on music. I am confident in my ear and my abilities but to continue making huge strides like I did when I first started, I need to focus more time on music. My problem is money. I have a degree in architecture, which means massive student loans, so I spend most of my time working on projects that put dollars in the bank. Architecture is great, but I don't get that feeling of being at peace with the world inside and out when I'm working on drawings or building digital models. I get that feeling when I'm sitting in front of Ableton with a stack of records searching for samples and then I find something really dope that I can turn into something unexpected.

My question for you is this: what would you do? Continue disproportionately splitting your time between music and architecture, or dive into music full-time and forget everything else and hope for the best?

Hi. Thanks man. I appreciate that. It nice to have a forum to run my mouth every week, but really, the foundation of this column is that I am that dude. I went to college and hit the wall in my town and went through all the things you read about in this column. To lead by example is really what it's all about.

I think there's something important here—very important—and that's getting money. When I moved to New York, after two years I was holding like 15 G's in debt on my American Express card. My girlfriend at the time helped hold me down, but it was pretty fucking stressful, and I felt pretty fucking pathetic. I don't know about you, but for me, not having money blows. I'm not saying a ton of it, but I think if you are out with your friends, being that cheap fuck makes you look wack. I like buying my friends drinks. If I see a piece of gear I want, hopefully I'm going to get it. So I think if you do decide to go in full time on music, maybe you should come up with a plan to do architecture for a little while longer, live a little modest, and clear out your student debts as aggressively as possible, so when it's time to go in on music, you can really go in. I really believe the state of mind you are in is important for being creative, so not waking up at 8 a.m. to go to work is obviously going to help that, but also having to stress on bills and being broke could be harmful.

Keep hustling too, whether you have a job or not. Ironically, my roommate is/was an architect, went to college, and literally had the exact same story as you, and he quit four years ago. He doesn't do music, but since then he's worked at a bar, started a running club, and is just living life the way he wants. He claims it's the best decision he's ever made. He says that no matter what happens, you can always go back to architecture, and he would definitely advise against staying in it.

Hi Doctor Nick,
I started DJing around 1995/96 or so and was pretty popular around this city (St. Louis) and the rest of the Midwest for quite a while. I really got disillusioned with the whole thing though somewhere in between the early and mid 2000s, so I hung it up for a while. I started getting back into things though about two years ago. The music that I was hearing was totally turning me on, and I felt the need to get back into the game. I used to be strictly a drum & bass DJ, but I've now started playing an eclectic mix of bass, garage, techno, and whatever else is awesome at the moment. So here's basically the dilemma. The promoters here either seem to be stuck in the same time period I left and are in the same house-music loop they have always been in, or they totally do nothing but wub-wub screechy-screech stuff that only teens on molly can appreciate. Where does that leave me? I know that most DJs are fairly unappreciated in their hometown, but how do you get contacts outside of your own city? I know the internet is awash in people and ways to get your music out there, which was really overwhelming and exciting at first, but then there is the problem of it's sooo freaking huge, how do you ever get noticed?

Haha word. I used to go to LO and drink two-dollar Newcastles and see Jim K all the time. Shout out to the Litterthugz crew in those times. All those fools really shaped me and were so fucking ahead of the curve. (Wut up Mike 2600, Doug Surreal, and Bitch Ass Darius?)

I mean, I'm from St. Louis. I had to leave. I conquered the maze. I love the place to death and I feel bad even saying anything, but I go back and I look so hard and I can't find anything new. Everyone is doing the same things at the same places and it makes me so grateful that when i had the opportunity to go to NYC to do music, I said "Fuck it." It was a dangerous move, and I wasn't sure, but it all worked out.

We've touched on this a lot before, but as an artist, you are to a certain extent branding yourself and great music will travel. Look at a dude like Ryan Hemsworth. He's from Canada, I don't think even from a big city. Dude did a bunch of bootlegs and some original stuff that traded hands and he had an interesting persona online that made people want to book him. He took that chance and there he was. Take a look at Salva. He was working his balls off for-fucking-ever, playing a million shows for small money, and even doing RBMA, but the straw that broke the camel's back was his remix of "Mercy" by Kanye West. You just never know what's going to blow up, but when it does happen, it's amazing because all the hard work and preparation you did in advance will make it so that you're just ready for those moments. Good ideas ARE gonna find their way to where they should be. I am very convinced of that.

I think you should look at yourself and say, "WHY should people book me?" Cuz you have a few tracks on your SoundCloud? Cuz you did it back in the day? If you don't go by foot, your internet persona is the thing that is your calling card. I say keep growing in your production. I'm listening to it now. It has absolute potential, but to be 100% honest with you, it's right in the middle of the pack. So if you push that forward, along with maybe just getting a show or two in Chicago or Kansas City, putting a little record out, or doing some mixtapes, who knows what will happen? The mixes on your SoundCloud are nice. Keep rolling with it. I'll tell you what. I'd love for someone to put on a party where a couple of hundred kids showed up in St. Louis, cuz I would come back and play that for free, just so I could hang out with my parents and eat some Red Hot Riplets. Let me know.

Hi, Doctor Nick! appears every Thursday on XLR8R. Do you have a question for Doctor Nick? Please submit your inquires to doctornick@xlr8r.com. Nick Hook can help you.