Rob Bakker has recently released his first track under new moniker NICOLAAS. ‘No Stranger Thing Ft. Lucy Mason’ is a synth-funk extravaganza, and hallmarks his move in a completely new musical direction.
Formerly known as Muneshine, Bakker became a household name on the hip-hop circuit. But after a slew of awards, and tracks that racked up streams in the millions, he felt the need to change direction creatively. The Canadian producer began to test the waters of genres he had never even thought of dipping into, and this is where inspiration took hold. He abandoned the style of sampling and reworking someone else’s song, and instead of his usual creations of chopped samples and drum breaks, he wrote his own melodies. Traversing the musical landscapes of 80’s, synth-wave and funk, ‘No Stranger Thing Ft. Lucy Mason’ was born, and with it his new name, NICOLAAS.
We caught up with him for some insight into the new project
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I’ve been a fan of music since early childhood. I grew up in a house full of music, the love was inherited. I’ve been creating in one way or another since then.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
I’ve been writing and producing long enough to have learned what triggers my creativity. Most often it’s the sound that sparks the idea, so I’ll load something up and start fumbling around, and it usually leads to something!
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Yes, I love writing music and featuring different songwriters and vocalists. Collaboration is definitely my favourite part of making music.
What’s on your current playlist?
I’m listening to a lot of OLIVER, Parcels, Roosevelt, Amtrac, Purple Disco Machine; the list goes on and on.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
It’s all about connecting over a common feeling, and when tastes align, music allows for that to happen on a deep level. I don’t perform live as often as I used to, but that’s always the goal.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I’ve been intentional about learning new methods and techniques to be successful at delivering the sounds I’m hearing in my head. More than ever, for me personally, this comes down to engineering. I’m studying and pulling inspiration from my greatest influences, and constantly just ‘trying things’. Sometimes breaking the rules of songwriting and mixing yields the most interesting results.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to writing and producing, so when I do find myself in the studio I need to get to work efficiently and effectively. A nice cup of coffee doesn’t hurt either! I’ll load up Logic and spend some time getting a rough skeleton of the drums and percussion; this gives me the foundation to build on with chords and melodies. From there I’ll dig into my soft synths and start looking for the ‘it’ sound that’s going to carry the melody. The rest is icing. Once I’ve got a demo I think is worthy of sharing, I’ll spend some time thinking what kind of vocalist will best compliment the sound and style, and start cold calling. I love building new relationships with artists around a piece of music. I’m always hoping to connect with artists who care about the music first and foremost, because that’s where I’m at.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I don’t recall a ‘Eureka’ moment, but if there was one it was a long time ago! I don’t know if there was a particular event that made me think that, but I can say for sure that I’ll be making music for as long as I’m able to.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Many! Those are usually the artists that I’m reaching out to for collaboration.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Positive energy and free moments to explore ideas.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
It’s pretty simple these days. I do most of my work in Logic with a myriad of soft synths and plug-ins (I love almost everything Arturia is doing, as well as other analog-modelled synths). I lean on my Juno-60 from time to time as well, but I’ll usually write the parts digitally, then re-play on the Juno for the sake of moving quickly.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Nothing that’s ready to share, but there are always ideas in the works.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I’ve been focused on this from the beginning. Early on I was working harder than smarter, but these days I’m a little more meticulous. I think it’s important to always push yourself to evolve and learning is a great way to inspire those changes.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
This is a brand new project for me, so getting it off the ground is my biggest priority! I’ve got a number of songs I’m really excited about, and we’re currently getting them all scheduled for release. I’m also hoping to use my different social platforms to connect with people who are looking for this kind of music and aesthetic.
Famous last words?
If you love it, share it.