Flaming Flamboyancy: An Interview With Nick Vivid

New York's indie electronic multi-instrumentalist artist Nick Vivid is all about that sweet, sweet funk, deliverance and worship, enthusiasm on tap. Vivid by name, Vivid by nature. 'Right on! I dig James Brown during the Bootsy Collins years. Rick James. Parliament. I also get introduced to a lot of cool obscure 80's Funk with this crew out of Oakland, CA, who does Funk Mondays on Mixlr every Monday night.' A concoction of characters magnetising Nick.

Back to the roots, a push and pull type scenario was present at birth from two parents of opposing auras: one open, glamourous mother - sensitive to the universe's teachings - sharing her belief systems, and popular music playing father devoted to his job made for an unconventional yet inspiring nest, which looking back and dissecting, shaped the art yield that Vivid would grow to perform.

My mom was hugely supportive, and we dug the same music. We would go to concerts together. She was into spirituality and angel numbers and mysticism; I got heavily into crystals and meditation because of her. My dad was absent emotionally. He was a DJ on a soul station, so he brought that music into my life, but he was stuck in Top 40 mode all the time. If it didn't sound like a commercial hit record, he hated it. And he wouldn't mince words with me as a teenager about how much he disliked the music I was creating.

It was a 'weird' house:

One parent telling you you can do anything you want in life, the other essentially telling you not to bother if you're not selling out. No More Secrets (November 12th, 2021) has as much to do with me as it does with the loss of my parents, the complicated relationships with them, and the strange mix of values they each passed on to me.

Growing up in Buffalo did not carry the artistic diversity of other areas in mighty New York, USA. A white demographic, the clothes, the hair, the entire look never strayed far from person to person. Football reigned supreme, and what of music? Music took a back seat in the city, with the opportunities to be engrossed and meet like-minded people pretty slim.

When I started playing in bands, we had one cool goth club downtown that I could play at, one independent weekly arts paper, and maybe two independent record stores, but it was an insular scene. That club, that paper, and those record stores are all gone now. On the flipside, to this day, the Goo Goo Dolls still get weekly coverage in the major Buffalo newspaper, as they have every week for the past 25 years.

It wasn't until I summoned the courage to move to NYC that I finally felt I could exist in an environment that would foster my growth as an artist, presented with choices I didn't know existed, so it took some time to figure out who I was once I got here. But the possibilities were finally open to creating any reality I wanted for me, and I took full advantage.

Coming from such a culturally oppressed place, I had an appreciation and perspective for all that I think the natives take for granted. I've now been here long enough to start taking it for granted, myself.

Nick fostered an exhilarating love for Rock as a kid originating with the records of the painted showmen KISS. Now he locates intrigue in what Lo-Fi beat makers are doing, strengthening that New York City 90s Hip Hop custom. Balakay Beats and SwuM are named on his listening list, but whatever he lends his ear to must stir something in his being; it is non-negotiable.

That's pretty much the only new genre that does. If it's old stuff but new to me, it's usually because I'm going down the YouTube rabbit hole. A couple of accounts come to mind -Terminal Passage and magrosi65 keep finding cool records, new and old.

I'm always looking for something inspiring. I'll sometimes buy at the record store like I did when I was a kid - based on being intrigued by the cover art with no idea what's happening on the grooves. That's always been a hit and miss proposition, but it feels so worth it. I like being a seeker of sonic knowledge. I'm always looking for something to inform my art so I can take it to another level.

An investment in drums was born from a high school teacher who dug Jazz Fusion, prompting a search for odd time signatures and bizarre patterns by an impressionable Vivid; this springboard would come into play when the time came for him to record on a 4-track. Now, a coming of age period to look back upon fondly.

I was learning guitar, bass, drums, keys, recording techniques, album production, mixing, art design, manufacturing and distribution - all at the same time. Being experimental and just learning was my thing for a few years. The work was its own reward. Then I played in rock bands as a frontman. That's where I learned an appreciation for a solid, steady beat, pop music structure, and how to work with an audience in a live environment. I was turning semi-pro around that time and taking it more seriously as a lifestyle and a career.

When being a solo artist beckoned five years ago for our Big Apple brother, he fused electronic components and soul influences - delivered by his father - with a smattering of innovative elements from his teenage years, extracting bravery from his technicoloured childhood to borrow from here, there and just about everywhere.

Some artists like being in a box of their limitations to keep their music focused in a definitive style, but I've found I'm better when I go the opposite direction and keep breaking my own rules. So I'm allowing my music to grow wherever it tells me it wants to go.

And it's those grooves and beats, with a repetitive organ earworm, that drive recent lucid single Hush Money, where a drumming background pays dividends in a thorough understanding of sampled loops, tying together as only they should, seeking a balance and meshing of traditional and contemporary techniques.

I like that syncopated perfection of programmed drum loops that can almost put you in a trance-like state but mixed with the imperfections coming from the analogue samples and the way you use them. If you can repeat the same 4-bar drum loop over and over for three minutes and it doesn't get tiring to listen to, then you've got something that can work. I play everything on my records, though I chop up and repurpose a few samples here and there.

The song has the "speaking truth to power" vibe. It's about shortcuts towards the answer - the bribe, if you will, and avoiding your problems, thinking they'll go away. My experience is that this particular solution doesn't work. Facing life head-on and feeling the pain associated with failure has been the path of real growth and strength in my life.

Nick Vivid accepts his last work, LP Blissed Out, was where he located his voice; it became louder, it was at home, and work No More Secrets, coming in the Fall, establishes this further, with concise songs that are to the point and oodles of that 'analogue goodness'. Mixed to tape through a 1980's recording console that he modded.

I spent a lot of time with my mastering engineer to get it just right. I didn't approve of the final master until it opened my third eye and made me feel like I was high while listening to it. Once it did that, I knew the album was done. I hope it makes other people feel like that when they hear it. I wanna reach people with the messages in these songs. I wanna make people feel empowered with the music they hear.

I'm starting to build and rehearse my live show now, and it would be great to travel in the van for a few months next year touring the country, but that part is obviously gonna be up in the air. I'm planning as if it will happen, but we shall see if the planets align.

Article by Beverley Knight