Leiko Ikemura, Sven ‘t Jolle, Mai-Thu Perret, Sophie von Hellermann & Sybren Vanoverberghe
The British psych-synth oddball and tortured cult-hero Nick Nicely bum-rushed the early ’80s with the two meticulously-crafted singles ‘D.C.T. Dreams’ and ‘Hilly Fields (1892)’. Then, disillusioned about the music business, he faded into obscurity, not releasing anything for over two decades. Now he’s back with his goals slightly altered and doing it just for the sake of doing it. We spoke about re-hardwiring, feeling like a useless wanker and going on an all exclusive holiday. ‘I like cheap hotel rooms without any reverb.’
According to Google your life story is one of undervaluement and struggle, but also great power – victory, even: stick to what you believe in. I was happy to know that at a certain point there’s always some happy stuff waiting around the corner. Or do you see this differently?
I don’t know if I’ve been lucky. I suppose there were some bad times. Where I am now to me doesn’t represent any kind of happy ending. I don’t really feel that I’ve reached anything. The main thing is to keep wanting to live. Doing this seems to contribute to wanting to carry on living, that’s what it is, it’s some kind of a consolation – or no, that’s wrong: it’s a distraction, a very good one.
So it’s really true about the journey being the destination instead of the destination itself?
Absolutely. And that can work on a very trivial level too, like going on holiday. Sometimes people make big plans and they try to achieve that. You need a bit of that, but I think you also just need to be there and let things hang.
When did you doubt this?
We’re programmed by the culture we’re living in and we do what the culture wants, which is often goal-oriented. People forget about the journey, I do too. I had an upbringing that will always make me believe that it’s all my fault, that it’s none other than me being a total useless wanker. When ‘Hilly Fields (1892)’ came out in 1982 it was simply the wrong style. It didn’t match with the fashion backdrop. I still blame myself, but that’s a good thing in a way, because it means you go back at it again and you keep struggling and work harder.
What’s so special about the park Hilly Fields? Is it like Strawberry Fields?
I used to go up there a lot and get intoxicated. Some crazy people go there every 18th of July. The song mentions that date several times. It’s a big day for us, an intoxicated day.
With peculiar stuff like strawberries?
Yeah, I don’t think we’re talking beer. I’m talking about the stuff that re-hardwires. In our very early years between one and five we get hardwired. I think you can also get some kind of re-hardwiring.
I’m really talking in the artistic field. A classic example of re-hardwiring is the British ecstasy thing in ’89/’90. It’s incredible, the change it had on the people. It also made the foundation of long-form dance music.
So the song ‘Hilly Fields (1982)’ is about re-hardwiring and not about a Victorian-era UFO abduction of a junior civil servant?
It’s about a certain Mr CG Fields who’s not with us any more. He got caught up in the fiction to it all.
There this phrase in the song where you hear this boyish voice say something. What does he say exactly?
Pimply little postboy.
Was that you feeling useless again?
Or it could just be random. I think not having a big goal is a strength. I just think it works best not having any.
I read about regrets from people on their deathbed. It’s never about more sex or bungee jumps. A common regret is that they wished they hadn’t worked so hard. Did you ever regret things taking a certain path? And could you have turned it around?
It’s just a silly business thing really, but I regret I didn’t manage to get the money from the early records. My ’80s could’ve been a lot better if there had been some funding to get a home studio, ’cause that’s where I come from. I didn’t have one until the end of the ’80s. That was a logical reason for my collapse. But I think as you get older you get more relaxed, less desperate.
What are you doing tomorrow?
My partner and I are going to the most southern part of Europe called Gavdos to have a bit of a vacation. The ferry only goes there twice a week if you’re lucky. It’s real nice and empty, good to play some acoustic guitar. I like cheap hotel rooms without any reverb. I like that primitive lifestyle.
What are you looking forward to the most?
The feel, the people. There’s free camping. It’s just the vibe. I’m looking forward to a really dry deserty kind of vibe.
No goals, right?
That’s right. There can’t be any goals on this island, ’cause there’s nothing on it.