Exclusive Interview: [Nic]eotope Talks Musical Journey, Upcoming Events, & More!
One of our favourite things about the rave community is its ability to unite like-minded individuals. Throughout the years, we've encountered countless passionate dance music enthusiasts, many of which have become lifelong friends (and there are even some we consider to be family).
When we met Nick Packer, better known by his stage name [Nic]eotope, we immediately knew that we had to share his story. Instantly, his down-to-earth nature allowed us to get a glimpse into his legacy. As such, we are delighted that he's now part of our Flag fam for years to come.
Recently, we sat down with the Canadian talent for an exclusive interview. We discussed everything from his musical background, proudest career moments thus far, his views on social media and the overall competition in the music industry, upcoming performances, and much more. Check it out below...
Firstly, you proudly display "B I G 1 9 9 9" within your Instagram bio. We have to say, this caught us off-guard due to your resume being so lengthy despite your age. Like many, we've been closely following your musical journey, and have quickly taken notice of how many hats you actually wear. Between being a DJ, a producer, the mastermind behind UNDERCOVER, and much more - we can't wait to dive deeper into the realm of [Nic]eotope.
1. Can you walk us through some of your proudest moments in your various roles thus far, noting how they've impacted who you are as an artist and as an entrepreneur today?
Thank you! If we start with my events coordinator role, I have a little story to share with you all. The other day, my friend sent me a photo of me at our first-ever UNDERCOVER event at the House of PainT. It took place under a bridge during the pandemic - which is when we launched the company. We wanted to find a way to keep events alive when a lot of the traditional routes got closed temporarily because [of the state of the world].
At the time, there were a lot of laws and regional restrictions, but our team felt there was still wiggle room within them, and we were able to host them in a safe matter at that. We felt it was important to bring the community together - in fact, it was more important than ever! Although I know that may sound backwards, it was a really hard time for a lot of people (and we're still feeling the effects of it).
So, just to be able to give our scene a few hours where they could come together, forget the world's reality for a short time, and most importantly, give them a sense that everything will be okay, made all of our hard work worth it! The photo was candid, and it really means a lot to me because it represents a starting point of a lot of the growth that I've had since it was taken. I believe the first step is always going to be one of my proudest moments...
[On that same topic,] I'd also like to mention the fantastic event called 'New Beginnings.' It was a huge undertaking between our group at UNDERCOVER, FMG Collective, and Audioform. Seeing all of the different aspects come together, and working with so many amazing people was very rewarding.
As for producing, very recently, I signed my first label release! Although it's not out yet (likely by the end of the year), I believe it's a moment in any artist's career that is always going to be very important. I hope to look back on it as motivation for the future. I'm also so excited about this [occasion] because the imprint will also be doing a vinyl run! So, not only will the track be released, I'll also be receiving a wax record as a keepsake. Honestly, that's been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I truly can't wait to see what else is in store - getting booked for huge festivals is something else I am very proud of...
2. What have been some of the challenges you've encountered when it comes to balancing these numerous undertakings - whether that be keeping the engagement alive on social media, the competition in the industry, or more...?
Truthfully, I believe this is a question that's at the forefront of pretty much every artist's mind. During the past couple of years, there's been such an importance placed on social media. In my opinion, it seems as though every artist has had to take on a second job as a content creator.
Personally, I love all social media, and I think it's important to always have a positive relationship with the concept! I find it's really easy to fall into a hole where you feel constantly pressured to make content and can be tempted to stare at the amount of engagement you receive on your post. This can cause a lot of anxiety as some may worry about not hitting a goal.
[However,] we all need to keep in mind that everyone lives different lives - you cannot take the engagement personally. I know a lot of people in my network who are struggling with taking on this role, especially with the rise of TikTok. It's unfortunate, in a sense, because every big person in the industry will tell you that if you want to succeed right now, you have to be posting on TikTok or making Reels on Instagram.
In my opinion, I don't think it's reasonable for these big leagues to push the expectation of artists posting 2-3 times a day. I would like them to keep in mind that people are still people, meaning they have other things going on that may limit them from continuously working. This is why it's so important to have a balance in one's life - separating business from pleasure when applicable. Simply put, don't let it consume you.
As for the competition in the industry: when it comes to artistry, I think it's a bit ridiculous, in all honesty. If there are any small producers reading this, my advice is to not look at other musicians as a threat. Look at it as a collaborative opportunity. You have to stop comparing yourself to others as you'll likely feel defeated. I encourage you to look at what they're doing, and try to find a way to make it mutually beneficial for the both of you. Approach competition as a productive opportunity...
Speaking of obstacles, we've observed that you've worked through some of the ones you've faced thanks to your close-knit network of like-minded individuals. You always seem to praise your friends/connections in the music scene for their contributions to your success...which is a very admirable quality.
3. What are some upcoming projects of yours that will be directly affected by this support system such as artists, graphic designers, A/V technicians, and more, & why do you believe their help is crucial to your personal triumphs?
To start, I remember coming across this saying that read, "lift as you rise" - I thought that was genius! It reminded me that I wouldn't have any of the opportunities if it weren't for others. I recognize that, and I think because of that fact, it's like a torch that you have to pass on. So, if you get an opportunity because of someone else, you have to pass it forward so it ends up benefiting them. Better yet, that it ends up rewarding them and others in the long run.
As an events coordinator, it's always been about the community. Even when we first launched [UNDERCOVER], we didn't push for any promotions. Every day, I am in awe of the way our scene comes together - the proof is seeing the UNDERCOVER page continuing to grow organically. One of my favourite things is receiving messages from our followers, especially when they express how they've enjoyed their experience at one of our shows. I can't even put that feeling into words...The support we receive from the community is how we've been able to host these events. [Therefore,] everything we do, is for the individuals that complete this magical scene.
On the topic of success, congratulations are in order! Your star is quickly rising as you've landed some of the most acclaimed local gigs one can dream of! To name a few, you'll be performing at Escapade, Ever After, Ørigins, and more!
4. Amongst this impressive list, you'll be playing a few highly-anticipated b2bs [playing simultaneously with another DJ]. How does your preparation differ from playing alongside another DJ compared to a solo set, and which one do you prefer over the other? On that same topic, what are some of the elements that you like more about playing a festival set compared to a club or intimate setting?
I think that most DJs would tell you that playing a solo set is more comfortable. The reasoning behind this statement is because you have more control over everything that is going on. You are also able to get into a zone - your own zone, nobody else's. [Furthermore,] you're able to bring more of your personality into the set compared to when you're playing with someone else.
When you go back to back with someone, it's just like any other relationship: you need chemistry. Unfortunately, there are times where you just don't vibe with the other artist; it becomes a dead set. I've been in both positions. It's always amazing when you do find someone that you can feed off of each other's energy and deliver a memorable set. I am so fortunate to go back to back with some truly amazing artists this summer...
The first b2b that comes to mind is with Chefnier. Although I've said it before, I will say it again; in many ways, he is a mentor of mine. We've played together in the past, and I always look forward to sharing other experiences with him in the future. I can't wait for you guys to hear our set at Escapade!
The other b2b [performance] will be with one of my great production friends - STYL. To me, he's an extremely underrated producer out of Montreal. He has a handful of accolades under his belt; [that said,] I'm telling you, he has many more to come! Since we've been friends for a while now, I am not at all worried about performing with him. Knowing each other really helps getting into a good flow.
Festival sets are completely different than a club set - mostly because they are outdoor. Right off the bat, the environment makes it a complete contrast. For example, at a club, you're sort of boxed in, and the sound will reverberate. It's essentially designed for music and dancing in general.
The festival grounds just offer a much more pleasant overall experience, in my opinion. You have room to roam and breathe in fresher air...I absolutely love going to fests as an attendee for these reasons. There's just so much to explore and live.
On the flip side, I'm going to try to live up the perks of my artist passes this year. I'm not going to be shy to ask some of my favourite artists for a selfie, haha! At Escapade in particular, I'm really excited to potentially meet ATliens. My ultimate dream would also be to meet deadmau5. I grew up listening to his music, and it's inspirational to see how many people he [swayed] towards discovering the world of dance music.
5. Is there anything else you'd like to share with The Flag Gang & I?
Earlier, I had mentioned showcasing one's DJ personality during a set. If I had to describe mine to someone it would be whimsical. I tend to play some more experimental music when I'm on stage. When I first started to perform, I found my sound to be very melodic, with many chords and harmonies. I always aspired for my sets to sound positive - which is why I leaned more towards future bass and lo-fi genres.
If you were to dive into my background, you would discover that I grew up playing in bands. Funny enough, in high school, I also sang! Don't get too excited though - any singer will tell you that your voice is an instrument and you need to practice it. Although there are a few songs on my computer that have original lyrics and vocals, I don't think they will ever see the light of day...It takes a lot to put yourself out there, especially from a vocal point.
All that said, my entire background is extremely musical. I think that's why I understood being one part of composition (like when you're in choirs), and also all of the music I loved was pretty wacky/all over the place, haha. So, my musical goal has always been to find a way to combine the two. I've wanted to blend cutting edge sound design with bass forward music, but present it in a very musical way. I've felt that I've been on the right path, but haven't quite figured it out yet. But, it's okay - that's all part of being a musician. I can't wait to really, truly, discover my sound.
Lastly, I'd like to say thank [The Flag Gang]. A lot of these blogs are part of the culture, but aren't necessarily part of the music...it's what keeps it all alive! So, to be able to have a platform to speak my own story, and connect with my followers in another way, is really appreciated. I can't wait to meet you all in the future!