INTERVIEW: Rob Bakker, aka NICOLAAS, talks about chasing the feeling of being a kid

NICOLAAS

Prolific songwriter and producer Rob Bakker, aka NICOLAAS, teams up with Supertaste on “Anyone Else,” his latest creation. Talking about the collaboration, Bakker says, “Supertaste are dope artists and genuinely dope humans, so it’s been a pleasure getting to know them a little more and jam on music together. I’m super stoked about this song and am excited to be able to share it finally. This is the first release to drop leading up to my debut EP, ‘The Way Is Forward,’ coming later this year.”

While Supertaste shares, “This song was inspired by one of those dreams you wish you could wake up from sooner… where your brain exposes a fear and makes you feel it to the point of virtual reality. A lover in the arms of someone else, waking up in fevered heartbreak.”

Bakker’s previous hip-hop project, Muneshine, collected three Juno Award nominations, was long-listed for the Polaris Prize, toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, and worked with artists such as Portugal, The Man, Tom Waits, and Pete Rock.

With NICOLAAS, Bakker ventures into house, disco, and synthwave, a sound at the other end of the spectrum from hip-hop. What sparked the stylistic change? XS Noize decided to find out and spoke with Rob Bakker to discover more about the person behind the music.

What three things can’t you live without?

Good coffee, my laptop and nostalgia - the magic ingredients.

What inspired your new single “Anyone Else?”

This track, like all of my music, was inspired by my own sense of nostalgia. I'm trying to walk the line between contemporary and retro sounds. I know the lyrics were inspired by something more specific, but that's something you'd have to ask Supertaste about!

How and when did you connect with Supertaste?

I absolutely love co-writing and collaborating with different artists, so I'm always looking for people to connect with. I discovered Supertaste's music on Spotify not terribly long ago but really loved it and decided to reach out to see if they'd be down to work on something together. When they hit me back, it was a go. I sent a pack of demos that felt suitable; they snatched an early version of 'Anyone Else' out of the bag, and away we went!

Please walk us through your mindset as you approach recording the song.

I live in central Canada, and Zach and Lucas are in NYC, so it was long-distance. I'm very comfortable with this and used to it making the kind of music I do, in the place I live. The three of us had a few calls to chat about the song, but more so to get to know each other a little better, which always makes the process more enjoyable. They took the demo away and came up with their ideas, tracked them down and sent them over. Once I had that missing piece to the puzzle, it was a matter of flushing out the production in a way that complimented their contributions, mixing and mastering—all that good stuff.

Later this year, you will be releasing your debut EP, The Way Is Forward. What can you share about it?

That's the plan! I've got a lot of music in the works that I'm very excited about. I've released a run of singles, but I haven't tried building something more cohesive and conceptual yet for this project. It might be more realistic to say it's going to drop in early '23, but it's good to push yourself, right? I'd love to get it all done and out this year; I'm excited to share it! There will be a lot of collaborations involved, but nothing I'm ready to announce yet. The EP will contain mostly vocally driven tracks, but there'll be a few instrumentals as well. There's going to be a whole lot of digital content to support the release, too - some branded short video stuff like you may have seen from previous releases, some bigger picture video content, NFTs, and merchandise as well.

How did you first get into music? 

I fell in love with music when I was quite young. Like many people, I grew up with music in the house and had some older friends who took it upon themselves to school me on what was good (and what wasn't).

Where are you from? 

I'm from Saskatchewan, Canada. Quite literally the middle of nowhere.

Did your hometown impact your sound? 

I don't know if or how much my hometown impacted my sound, but it definitely impacted my desire to get out in the world, meet interesting people from different walks of life and do something creative.

Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you push it deliberately in a certain direction?

Probably a bit of both. For many years my focus was hip-hop; I had a project (Muneshine) that I worked on exclusively. In 2016, I realised that I was pretty bored with what I was doing, and I needed a new challenge. I've always been a big fan of electronic music - house, disco and synthwave in particular, so that's where I set my sights. I also spent most of my career producing sample-based music, so I saw this creative transition as the perfect opportunity to learn about music theory, writing 'original' music and more advanced production and mixing techniques. More than ever, I feel like what I'm doing is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing - and I've landed here both naturally and by design.

Which artists/musicians had the most impact on your sound?

It's been quite a journey getting to where I am now, and I believe all of my influences along the way have contributed. Some artists would influence me from a songwriting perspective, some from a technical/process/workflow perspective, and some just by making incredible music that hit home. There aren't many artists whose entire career has influenced me, but many have had particular moments that really impacted me: early Madonna (particularly her work with Shep Pettibone), A Tribe Called Quest, Change, Hall & Oates, Janet Jackson, Guns n Roses, Jamiroquai, Oliver, Justice, Daft Punk, Roosevelt, so many!

Which artists, in your opinion, are killing it right now?

I'm really feeling a lot of new music, but I absolutely love everything Kartell and Darius are putting out.

Who or what inspires you?

I'm always chasing the feeling I had when I was a kid - when everything was new and anything was possible. Whenever I write music, produce any content, perform, etc. - that's where I want it to take me - regardless of the subject matter. There's so much heavy shit going on in the world these days; it's nice to put myself back in a place with broader horizons. My favourite escape is music, and I find approaching my creative process with this purpose to be super gratifying, and it keeps me consistent with the sound I'm going for. That's my biggest inspiration and something I feel others can really connect to.

What can your fans expect over the next six months? New material? Live gigs?

Definitely new material - music and video - and hopefully a return to some live performance! There are no dates set for touring yet, but it's all part of the plan. I'll be releasing a couple of remixes of 'Anyone Else' soon - from two of my favourite producers right now, HERO and Lenno. I've had some success remixing in the past as well, so you can expect some more of that to drop while I'm working on the EP. Check me out on Instagram in the meantime, I treat my profile as a continuous source of inspiration, so if you're a fan of retro style, design, tech, and aesthetics, you will likely enjoy what's happening over there. It's also the best place to stay tuned for content updates.

Follow NICOLAAS Instagram | Soundcloud | Spotify

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