Absolute dive into a melancholy, well-built symbiosis with drugs and impressive toughness while dealing with a loss of close ones. Due to these elements, Dominic “Nicky” Palermo, frontman of American dark shoegaze rockers Nothing, can quite successfully go through life. As for every interview, I prepared a solid structure of questions, which were mainly concentrating on the band’s latest album The Great Dismal, relationship with melancholy, current issues in US and maybe a bit about pandemic. Eventually, an ideal option happened – we just had a friendly chat. And to be honest, I couldn’t believe where we got at some points. We spoke about some bad trips and I appreciate Nicky mentioned for the first time in an interview the true story behind Bernie Sanders track.
This interview was originally conducted for November 2020 issue of Czech magazine Full Moon.
When was The Great Dismal album getting written? It ideally fits into a fall mood, but this melancholy could have followed you around spring or even earlier.
Well, to be perfectly honest, I started putting it together around New Year’s Eve 2018 leading to 2019. I was sitting at my desk in my apartment in New York with a GarageBand opened and a guitar in my hands. I was kind of contemplating whether I wanted to open this can of worms and start another record. At that point we were dealing with another lineup change. I was kind of frustrated with music in general and little bit out of shape on a tour. So I just was wondering if this was something that I wanted to pursue. It was maybe 11 o’clock pm, New Year’s Eve, I can recall the day so clearly, because it was New Year’s Eve and I was sitting at the house. I wasn’t with anyone. And I could hear people in the streets kind of celebrating and stuff. It was a really strange thing. I don’t really know what made me proceed. But I think that there was this lack of completion from what I set to do originally when I started this thing, almost 10 years on the mark. I knew that this record was going to be highly on me and I was going to have to carry the whole thing. There was also a lot of self-doubt and stuff. But I’m not really sure what drove me, but I started recording that night. I recorded throughout the whole night and I didn’t stop at that point. And I just demo it all the way through the winter. I demoed for about a year on this album, almost to the day. We recorded in March. So yeah, it was about a year and two months that I spent on the demo of this record.
Quite a unique approach to start working on an album, while everybody else is celebrating. But in some way these alone moments are enhancing, because you are suddenly separated and surrounded only by your thoughts.
Being the professional drinker and a partier, I’m a Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday kind of bar guy. But this was even beyond that. I was in a really strange place, as I mentioned before and I was just kind of just looking internally during that whole winter. And it kind of just came to a standstill on that night. It was kind of symbolic, you know, like with New Year’s resolution in a sense and all that shit. I just decided to hit record right then and just started pounding away, basically.
Was it a big flow of inspiration at that point?
I really got a bunch of stuff done the first couple of months. I did a bunch of skeletons of tracks and those turned out to be the songs. This is the most work I’ve ever done on an album or pretty much anything in my entire life music-wise. But also, you know, production and everything else. I’ve just overanalyzed every aspect and every detail of this thing. I’ve attached myself to every single aspect of this this whole entire release. Because it really felt it was going to be an important thing. And as I charged forward, I started to kind of realize that this record was a completion I was searching for. I finally felt something.
Opening up the doors
Compared to the previous releases though, this record brings much heavier melancholy. Not mentioning very dark videos.
When I was sitting, contemplating about moving forward with this album in general, I mentioned this completion a lot. In 2010, when I put this together, it was a really strange time for me. I basically had this epiphany that for me to move on with my life and deal with everything that happened in that previous decade from 2000 to 2010. You know, my problems with the law and a mass amount of deaths that I was dealing with. It just seemed absurd. I felt the way to get through this was to revisit music again. Something that I thought I wasn’t going to do. My plan was to create an album that would help me, as music has always been a therapy for me. But what I wanted to do, is to record one album that wrapped up that whole decade of my life. I really thought that Guilty of Everything was that record. But I didn’t feel that completion yet and I I’ve been chasing it ever since. I think a big realization was that I tried to confront all those things, from that time. But I didn’t really dress them or confront them. I shined light onto them. But I didn’t give them the time that they needed to really reflect on what they’ve done to make me the person that I am today. It was essentially kind of walking down this hallway and opening up doors. I’m still moving forward, but not really taking time to look inside the rooms at all. You know what I mean?
I actually totally do. Well, I was enjoying this album, while I went to Serbia last week, where I spend my puberty. I was asked to be the best man on my best friend’s wedding. We had a deal that when he is not going to need me to help around arranging, I would go to see a couple of places. I went to my old high school, where I was the only international kid. In a Serbian high school, everybody hated me because of the NATO bombing a few years before that. Later in a private school, it was similar, plus I was always different, as a metal kid. I was different and hated, until I fought back. So, I was walking around these places, listening to music and I felt all of those memories coming back. But at the same time, I felt motivated, as I thought: “I f*cking made it, guys. I’m doing a career, I always dreamed of and if some of you don’t like, I don’t care.” I made my way through that shitty room recently, so I can totally understand.
Well, that’s great, man. And that’s beautiful. And that’s the kind of connection I feel why people are always been drawn to this project, as people feel that through this music and see it’s genuine. You know, there’s no bullshit. I might not speak as eloquent as I can. I have a rough history with things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of, but I’m always honest. And, you know, I think that’s a reason why people can connect with this stuff and always have.
I was kind of contemplating whether I wanted to open this can of worms and start another record.
Which long term problems did you manage to solve with this album?
There was a lot of looking back into 2000 and that decade, but, you know, it didn’t stop there. There were things that I started to tackle than it happened more recently, like the death of my father. It never really weighed heavily on me, to the point where I didn’t understand. I feel like death is always very surprising to me and I don’t want to downplay that. It has impact on me. But I’ve learned a way to deal with it in a logical sense. So when my father passed, it really wasn’t like a sledgehammer to the chest. It really just kind of opened up more questions. So that was a big one for me. On Blue Mecca, it’s kind of me answering the questions that I was kind of asking myself, as well as on the previous records. So there’s things like that across this album. I’m not sure how clearly it will resonate, but it has never been my goal. This has always been for me and people that can get some sort of meaning out of it. Another big thing that transferred through in this record was just the readjustment of coming home after that lengthy prison sentence I had. That was one of the key things that I never really dealt with. I should have given myself more time to readjust. I flung myself directly back into the world and it was a different world that I left. A lot of things changed, I lost people, and I never really gave myself the time that I needed to deal with that. I feel like I’ve now turned and looked myself in the eyes. It just all kind of makes sense in a cosmic kind of way like that. I’m not saying that I won’t ever do another record again. But I already feel content with what I’ve done. You know, I’ve never had that feeling after a record before so. So it’s a little relieving, to be honest. Like, I can feel the air hitting my face differently. It’s not necessarily a positive thing, but it actually is. A little bit. But you know, I won’t go too far with the optimism, obviously.
I have a feeling that when I solve some big thing and positive phase is happening, suddenly there comes another shock.
Absolutely. I mean that never goes away. That’s what life is. It’s a pit of suffering. As soon as we’re pulled out of that state of non-existence, we’re ripped into this world with life into a screaming, loud, bright, violent, painful world. That’s what life is in general. It is just suffering. And the reason it’s like that, is that you are able to derive beauty and pleasure out of it when you can. I don’t think that’s the purpose, but it’s there. But yeah, it never ends. There’s always another thing right there. I mean, look what happened. You couldn’t even predict the type of shit that’s going on right now. It’s beyond me, but the thing is with me is that I’ve learned to kind of float amongst it. I mean it still hurts. I’m hurt and I get hurt. I am depressed a lot of the time. But, you know, I feel like I’ve learned how to roll with the punches of these things. And again, even with everything that’s going on, it’s hard to surprise me anymore. Nothing really surprises me. If a black hole opened up in the middle of the sky right now and sucked us in. I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Who could be at this point? You know?
To be honest, I didn’t want to be much surrounded with current events and I kept the amount of news to a needed minimum. But I am interested to see a behavior of my surrounding. I find it very enhancing to see how people react in a stressful situations. I saw a lot of frustration, but at the same time, neighbors helping each other. Can you recall something from your surroundings, which surprised you?
I mean, yeah. I know this question probably wasn’t pegged for this, but I lost two of my really good friends already. Not by the sickness, but by exactly what you’re talking about, in some way. The state of the isolation has broken down a couple of close friends and it took them. I lost a really great friend Riley Gale from Power Trip, only about a month ago. He was a close friend. And then on our release day, on 9/11, which is also my birthday, which kind of makes sense too. On that day, as I’m enjoying the record announcement, I get a phone call from another friend from Texas, Wade Allison who played in a band Iron Age, he killed himself during this. Honestly, it’s so scary man. Especially for our peers in this ecosystem that we’re involved in. The musicians and artists, like, you know, leaving them stagnant, where they don’t have the room for creativity and to get these demons out of their head through music and art. And also losing their main sources of financial, being able to tour. This is weighing heavy on our people. It’s so scary to think what’s next, as it doesn’t seem this is going to stop anytime soon. I’m just really fearful of this winter and what this winter is going to bring. I feel like we’re going to lose some people unless we can do something. And I just don’t know what the answer is. I have a really bad feeling about what’s going to transpire to be honest.
Dark sources of inspiration
I am sorry for you losses and I know, I can have only a very rough idea of what they were going through. On the other hand, I am trying to take the current situation as a new impulse. I have a feeling, many of us were floating in the air or going on an autopilot. The drive was often missing. When difficulties showed up, people started to improvise, create and adapt.
I totally know what you mean. Especially here I really felt it. And I can only really speak for myself over here but you know, I felt like the pandemic was just icing on the cake, to be honest. There’s just been this aura around the world for the past few years. You’re just starting to see a lot of things feel like they’re coming to a boiling point. And it’s really hard to explain. I don’t really understand what’s going on lately. And it’s kind of fascinating to me at the same time. But you know, here, just watching the politics unfold the way they do. And we’re having people murdered in the street by the people that are supposed to protect, you know, black and brown people, people of color… it’s like, we’ve gone backwards in time. And it’s getting worse. It’s getting worse instead of better. There’s so many more eyes on everything and it’s getting worse. We have California literally on fire. California is burning, the rainforest in South America is burning and there are places, which are flooded. Everything that’s going on just doesn’t make sense anymore. There are admitting now, they have seen UFOs even, black holes and solar flares. And I know that this is a thing that has always been around. It’s beyond me what’s going on anymore. And it’s just really fascinating for me to watch. It’s obvious that I’ve always been a firm believer that human beings will end their own existence, if they haven’t already, like, a million times over throughout history. I don’t want to get into that crazy shit that I’m talking about. (Laugh) But, you know, I’ve always been a firm believer, and it’s not an absurd thought to think that. Human beings will be the ultimate cause of their own demise. But look at what is happening right now. This sickness here is killing people all over the earth. It’s not an isolated incident. The earth is fighting back a little bit, I think. I feel like I might have drifted completely away from what you’re saying. But I do tend to do that a little bit. I think my head gets a little lost. But it’s really just fascinating to me we’re really watching the beginning stages of the end of something. But we’re not even close to it, especially in the States. We take things for granted. The human survival is very short sighted.
When we are talking about a situation in the USA, why did you name one track Bernie Sanders? Many people were considering him as a hope and even a DIIV frontman had a t-shirt with his logo on, when they were playing in Prague last time. Well, it was actually the night before all the restrictions were introduced in the Czech Republic. I couldn’t find online a proper reason and very confused were also other listeners in the comments on YouTube. Brutal video showing extreme frustration from an isolation didn’t help much either.
This was actually the first song, I started working on. I kind of wrote this song about an experience I had in Japan. To be honest, it’s related to a trip on cocaine. There wasn’t a political value. It was about an effect of cocaine and a trip I was on in Japan. It was about getting lost and while you are looking for a way, wherever your destination is, you kind of get lost, as you never had a destination. I kind of wanted to say that it’s impossible to follow a story when you are constantly deviating from the subject. That’s kind of a thing, when you are on cocaine. Bernie Sanders is a street nickname for cocaine. In the US, cocaine has its classic street names. But as the times move on, it typically gets associated with white people that are talked about in a media. At one point, asking for cocaine, you would say: “Do you have any Miley Cyrus?” That’s 2018 and Bernie Sanders was very much talked about. So that’s where that title comes from. Mind you, I haven’t spoken about this to anybody yet. I kind of kept my mouth shut about this. But this is the last interview of the day, I am having my cocktail and I respect your time, plus I want to give you a solid answer on this. When I wrote that song on that night, I never thought I will be releasing this track with this name at this time, which is very important in politics in the US. I don’t like to talk about politics, as there are plenty of others doing that already. The last thing a world needs is another uneducated opinion. But now it’s a different time, as we are experiencing a police brutality, murders on the streets and a government which is separating the people. It’s something I never really witnessed before. Therefore I used the obvious idea, what this song might be about and I attached the voter’s registration between the viewer and the video for this. I wanted people to vote, but I am not here to tell how to vote.
In the US, cocaine name gets associated with white people that are talked about in a media.
I appreciate your honesty and therefore, I would like to get back to Japan and ask, how did you manage to solve the situation? The bad trips can be really shitty situation and it can lead to a solid paranoia. Especially when you are combining the drugs. Not mentioning it was in a foreign country. Did you have a space to walk off and get yourself back together?
Two important facts here. First of all, I am on mushrooms right now. I take them pretty frequently. I woke up today and I had a few, as it’s helping me a lot with my depression. Little bit more than a microdose. I understand what you are saying, as I had problems in the past with LSD. That’s much different animal, which you obviously know. We have all been in that scenario before, when everybody seems they are not helping you have a great time. Typically it’s really just yourself. You are maybe not feeling the comfort. Or what somebody is doing, could be triggering something. But you are right, the best way to do it, is to walk off on your own and get it sorted out. Therefore I mainly stick to mushrooms. In Japan it was great, but the problem was, we didn’t have cocaine. We were looking for cocaine, while we got lost walking around there. We were just really drunk, wandering around Tokyo, wishing we had cocaine to kind of fix us little bit.