Nick Hakim is one of the most exciting artists making music right now. The records he makes could only come from someone with a long-term auditory diet of unfiltered soul, guttural grit and cosmic slop.
In anticipation of his new album, Will This Make Me Good, we chatted about building his sound & sampling records in the back of Human Head in Brooklyn, and dove deep to his collection to unearth some real treasures.
It feels like the theme of this album is really relevant to what we are going through now. Can you speak on the title and theme of Will This Make Me Good?
We would have not been putting out music if we didn’t feel the it was appropriate, and I think the sentiment of the album is appropriate. It is definitely tied into these strange times and confusion.
You make music that is hard to attach a genre to, and it has become more daring presentation-wise. Do you feel you’ve had to be responsive to the way people are categorizing it?
Not really. I think I’ve still been able to maintain a pure, child-like way of thinking about anything that I do, especially when it comes to making songs. Once you get to the point where you’re not thinking and you’re just doing, you just tap into that visitation of creativity. You can’t really explain what happens, you kinda black out.
In the process of getting over that hump, you have to move your self out of the way.
It’s like something is moving you, moving your arms, you’re not thinking, you’re just doing.
I guess that’s the definition of soul music right? Not the genre, but coming from a place that’s not burdened by thinking.
Yeah, I agree with that.
So where does a song start for you? A riff? A lyric?
It depends. Usually lyrics are last. It usually starts with a chord progression and a melody. I’ll record the progression on guitar or piano, and go from there. Sometimes I’ll start over ten times with variations. But on 60% of the last record, Green Twins – and this record too – the recording you hear is basically just an extension of the original approach.
Do you build it out with other people?
I’ve been working with my friend Andrew Sarlo for years, he’s one of my best friends and closest collaborator. He co-produced this album with me, we do it all together. I have a lot of friends that contributed – Kyle Miles, Margeaux Alexis Roselena Whitney, Jesse and Forever, my brother Danny, Isaiah Barr, Vishal Nayak, Paris Strother, Joel Mateo, Jake Sherman, Spencer Murphy, Mac Demarco, Dylan Day…
What music were you listening to in the making of this album, I hear Funkadelic, but I’m sure there’s a lot more.
Fuck yea! Funkadelic…Garry Shider. My friend Spencer who plays bass on the record, showed me this Gary Shider album that came out in 2002, called Diaperman Goes Starchild. It’s probably on CD somewhere…so fucking good. I listen to it all the time.
So, definitely Funkadelic family, I know a lot of those records really well. And some that I’ve never even heard!
Yeah, that’s the special thing about P-Funk. You can think you’ve heard it all, and still discover whole albums.
Yeah man! Let me see what else…
Pink Siifu, Ensley – that literally helped me get out of writers block, I think he is someone that I connect with so much because he’s not really “I do this’ he’s like, “I make music, and this is what comes out” I couldn’t really write for a while, and he told me, “If I can’t write, I just fuckin scream, just yell.” Man he’s a big inspiration.
(Nick goes to look at his playlists over the past few years)
- There’s a Riot Going On by Sly and the Family Stone
- Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow by Funkadelic
- Comfort Woman by Meshell Ndegeocello -– She’s a huge influence.
- Love For Sale by Bilal –– I always listen to that album.
- Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants by Stevie Wonder –– I listen to that record too much. I want my record to be like that. Initially my record was an an hour twenty…
- Bandana by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib –– I was obsessed with that record.
- A Quiet Farwell 2016-2018 by Slauson Malone
- Black Woman by Sonny Sharrock –– That shit is so fucking good.
- Sweet Exorcist by Curtis Mayfield
- It’ll All Be Over by Supreme Jubilees
- Fôrça Bruta by Jorge Ben
- DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
- Robert Wyatt…
- Cities Aviv…
I was at a party in the basement of Trans Pecos around 2016. It was all rappers and you on the bill.
[laughs] You went to that?
Yeah! That was a great party. And you fit seamlessly on a, literally, underground rap party… So how does rap drive you?
Whooo! It’s lyrical, it’s attitude, it’s improvised, it’s raw. Especially the whole scene in New York — MIKE, Mehdane, Wiki — it’s a punk attitude to it. It sounds like there’s dust in front of them when they’re singing.
Yeah, I was just listening to the Rick Rubin podcast with Richard Russell and they had a great conversation about early hip hop and how it stood out.
That’s Broken Record, right? Man, the André 3000 episode broke my heart and made me feel so inspired at the same time. He’s another one… I will always think of André as one of the greatest of all time. He’s one of my biggest influences ever. I’m nowhere close to how big he is, but I relate to how he would talk about his relationship to fame and success. He’s just so vulnerable and open. I relate to much how he questions things.
So… records… I know you collect them. Human Head is my favorite shop in Brooklyn, and I know they’re big supporters of you.
Dude, I used to work there!
No way, I didn’t know that! That makes sense a lot of sense…
Yea the first year they were open… Probably 75% of the records I own are from Human Head. You know I helped start Human Head’s Discogs profile? Now they have like 25,000 records, I probably did the first 500.
How fitting! Working in a record store, you get the opportunity to see music that most people don’t because a whole lot music never even made it to CD, let alone streaming.
Yeah it’s like its own world. 45s alone are their own world.
When you’re traveling and you just wanna buy 45s, what do you look for?
Weird labels, things that I know… I like finding covers of songs or instrumental versions. I’m always in the Soul or Funk section looking for little amazing jams that aren’t well-known. Or just for me to discover, so that I can live with this beautiful music.
I have a lot of my 45s at the studio, but I have this little stack here…
What are you working with?
- I have bunch of Daptone and Colemine 45s.
- Smokey Robinson
- Joe Tex, Dial Records,
- The Classic IV by Stormy –– John Legend sampled this on “Save Room.” The song came on the radio when I was in the car with my father, and he was like, “man this guy just stole this song!” He was so pissed cussing out John Legend in the car…
- Bloodshot Bill –– I have everything from him. He’s a contemporary rockabilly guy that my brother really loves.
- Junior Parker, Duke Records.
- Jerry Butler
- Love You Down by Ready For The World –– love that Me’Shell Ndedgeocello version
- I’ve Got So Much to Give by Barry White –– I think I sampled this at some point. The guys used to laugh at me because when I worked at the shop, no one came in. So I would just take my SP-404 and sample records in the back all day.
It’s great that this interview drove you to dive back into your collection, that’s what Discogs should do!
If you had to move, what are the first records making it in the box? What are the essentials?
I feel like my Brazilian collection is my most precious. I have a lot of original pressings. I got some from Travis at Human Head and Joel Stones (Tropicalia in Furs.)
- Jorge Ben’s Self-Titled
- A stack of Caetano Veloso
- Clube Da Esquina by Milton Naciomento & Lô Borges
- Greed by Ambitious Lovers –– A good NYC/Brazil connect from one of my friends Arto Lindsay. He’s also been a really great person to connect with.
- Plays The Devil’s Music by Lubricated Goat — This is an essential. One of the owners of Human Head put me on to this record. Australian, weird punk band.
That’s amazing, I can tell you’re a real music lover – you can hear it through your own music. You definitely have your sound, but you can hear your influences through your music in a real way.
Thanks man, I definitely have a lot of influence. I’ll get obsessed with something, let it resonate, and then it will come through in its own way. Really, I’m just a fan.
Thank you for doing this – we gotta do it again sometime.
Yeah man, this was fun. It’s like going through my library. I mean, that’s what record stores are. They’re libraries.
Will This Make Me Good is out May 15th on ATO Records.