Hi, Doctor Nick! - The Pros and Cons of Being Anonymous and What to Do When Your Music Is Difficult

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There's no stopping Nick Hook. Even when he's on the road—as he is this week—the man takes the time to dole out advice to the XLR8R massive. He does this every Thursday, tackling questions about music, DJing, production, travel, romance, studio gear, and more. He can help you too, so send your questions to doctornick@xlr8r.com and let the wisdom flow.

Sup y'all? I'm comin' from San Francisco. Shout out to my man Vin Sol for saving my life and letting me grab some tunes after I left my hard drive on the plane. Delta, if you have it, I need it!

This week I'm headed down to NAMM to look at nerdy things. If anyone is around, give a shout. Send questions as always. We need more. doctornick@xlr8r.com. Hope everyone is doing well.

Hi Doctor Nick,
I was wondering how you felt about the path of anonymity with any creative endeavor, but particularly in the case of being a musician/producer/DJ. If one walks this path, what are some good things to keep in mind? And how is it done successfully?

The way I feel about it is this: either it's really cool and interesting or it's really boring and contrived. I don't think I have a middle ground on it, so if you are gonna roll that way, make it fucking amazing.

I've never personally thought about being anonymous because I really think personality has a lot to do with your music. My music is me. It's what's inside of me coming out of a speaker and I think playing shows and connecting all that is personally important. I'm nuts, there are tons of sides of me, and I've always been like that, so the more output for me, the more I think it tells someone who I am. So if you're thinking about being anonymous, maybe there's a side of you that you are scared to show, even though you really want to. Maybe. I'm not sure. Just because I'm a doctor, that doesn't mean I know the answer to all this stuff. It's good to think about it though.

I think we touched on this in an earlier column, aliases and what not. I think the good thing about an alias is that keeping the mystique is really important. You look at Burial, and all people ever care about is wondering who it is. But the only reason they care about that in the first place is because the music is great. The last anonymous project that had some sort of impact on me was Captain Murphy. It turned out to be Flying Lotus, but for a minute, no one really knew. He was leaving a trail of music and crazy videos and stuff. The liberty of being anonymous is that you can do anything you want, so make sure to push the limits as far as you can go.

I think this kind of ties in with the next question a bit.

Hi Doctor Nick,
What's cracklin' through your frequencies? I feel that my music and soundscapes project is best experienced during that introspective "you" time—lounging, cleaning up the crib, a long drive solo to another city, studying, before bed, etc. (I hope you feel me.) I even have heads zoned out when they come over, so I've been told. Because of that, I feel like the emotive, feeling, ponder/reflect aspect of what I'm doing is there. However, this is not that rad when you want to share your music in a public performance sometimes. Non-traditional venues (art galleries, school hallways, clothing stores) have served me well, but generally I find that it just doesn't go over as well as when the music is super intimate. Plus, you can't smoke everyone out and give a dissertation at every show. Any suggestions for growing an audience without alienating them?

First and foremost, don't worry about alienating people. The greatest artists of all time are the ones pretty much looking at us in the eye and saying, "I love this so much that if you don't, I don't care." Seeing that, you either love or hate it right away, or maybe take some time to process it and eventually grow to love it more, just because you are connected.

Maybe alienating everyone that isn't down for the ride is the best-case scenario. After that, the fans left are ride or die. Do you wanna serve your fans or be a servant to them? I know which one I choose.

Look at a dude like Four Tet. When he started, he made downtempo music. Look where he is now. He can do anything he wants and it's really inspiring, cuz we've watched him grow and experiment. As artists, it sucks that people watch us grow and fail in public, but at the same time, the short attention spans and heaps of horrible music out there allow us to keep forging on.

Another idea would be to do club mixes of all your stuff. Take them all and rework them for different environments. Then you have two, three, four versions and you can let the people that fuck with you see it all. That way, you're not forcing them to "pick" one. Instead, you're opening up your palette and nothing seems off-limits after a while.

Thanks y'all. 'Til next week.

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.