A few weeks ago, I sat down with Junior Nick Keenan. You may know him as Ennui, because…well…that’s why he’s on this list. A self described “electronic Producer that makes music for fun sometimes,” he’s a lot more than that. Check out his interview and fall in love with his beats…and sense of style. I’m happy to say that I got a chance to become friends with him before he blew up.
Where: DePaul’s Art Museum (which inspires a lot of Ennui’s music.)
When: February 28th 2013
ALEX: Okay, so how did you get your start in music?
NICK: Alright, so, the first thing that people usually mess up, is how to pronounce my name, which is Ennui (en-we) which means boredom, or like “in spite of boredom.” And that’s how it all started.
ALEX: How did you come up with that?
NICK: I heard my pretentious WRD Professor use it one time, I don’t know, I just connected with it. I sat down one day and was like “Shit, I haven’t used Garageband since I was like…12” and I loved music, so I sat and opened up Garageband for fun, and just started making little mixes, and trying to make my own beats, which was in November of 2011. I had just gone to my first electronic show, and I went home that night, and started making music. A couple months later, my friend Mike gave me this program called “Ableton” and the rest was history.
ALEX: So how do you go about producing a song?
NICK: Well with production, it’s just this constant cycle of making five or six songs, and then two months later, hating everything you’ve made. When you’re starting out, everything you’ve made you’re all like “wow this is so good” because you don’t actually know where you’re at compared to a pro producer. I started out by releasing a free EP called the “So Fucking Real EP” which was so damn stupid.
ALEX: Nothing is truly stupid, it probably helped you learn a ton.
NICK: Well yeah, exactly. It’s a constant learning process. I think that even any of the big guys in the industry will tell you that they’re still learning even though we view them as “perfection” when it comes to music production. But when I put out my first EP, it got basically no attention. Then I worked with a Chicago lyricist who actually graduated from DePaul, Sey. After we put a track together, it was my first time showing up on music blogs and I was super stoked and I was like “Oh my God, I’m famous now!” Even then though I was only getting 300 or 400 hits on my songs. It wasn’t until I came out with a song called “Release Me” and I got some attention from a small independent label and they put out an EP through us, and I suppose that was my start. In May, I finished the EP, and it came out through Itunes, Amazon…basically all the major distribution sites. Being under their management was a great learning experience, because it was a time when I needed constant encouragement. I had just started developing an ear [for music] and I could hear the difference between my music and big artists, which can be kind of discouraging.
ALEX: I get that. Makes sense.
NICK: So now, February of 2013, I’m putting out stuff for free, and I only have four or five songs out on the website, with like 10,000 hits per song, and people on Youtube are uploading videos of their own and using my audio and getting tons of hits and it’s just so cool that people want to listen to my music and they like it. I’m finally producing stuff that’s on it’s way to becoming pro.
ALEX: That has to be a good feeling. So do you take inspiration from the larger artists? I feel like if you did, you would start to sound like them, but you’re very original with your mixes.
NICK: As for my inspiration, I listen to a bunch of Indie music, acoustic music, and folk music. People might be surprised by that. It is dangerous listening to music you really like and then producing music as well. I’ve seen so many kids listening to the big names, and then they wind up sounding just like them. Then they don’t understand why they aren’t succeeding, but it’s because it’s already been done. Most of my favorite artists are from Chicago, one of them being Mister Lies. He’s amazing, very chill. Stratus is also amazing, and being at a show and hearing his stuff is beyond anything. So, I guess my originality comes from the fact that I can appreciate music of any genre.
ALEX: How do you balance all of this with school? You’re a Junior, right?
NICK: Yes, I’m a Junior, a Bio major, and I’m minoring in Econ. I work at Starbucks on the weekends, so the trade off is that I just get no sleep. Some of my best stuff comes from staying up from 12-4 in the morning, and I’m not good at balancing it yet, to be honest.
ALEX: So time management?
NICK: Yeah…I need to figure that out. I need to finish my degrees in school, and then I’ll just focus on my music. I won’t make the mistake of dropping out of college to just pursue music. That only works out once in a blue moon.
ALEX: Do you think being in electronic music now is different then it was a while back?
NICK: Being a producer now is a very exciting time, especially with the resurgence of electronic music. I feel like when we were younger, all we used to hear was rap. It’s cool to be going into this industry at the time it’s booming.
ALEX: When did you decide to start taking music seriously, as a career? Music and biology are pretty different.
NICK: Only recently did I decide to start taking music seriously. I love science, and I had this plan to go to PA school and do the healthcare profession but I finally realized that my love for music was just superseding everything that I liked about science. I’ve always loved music, and it was right in front of me, and I just didn’t realize it until this year. I love exploring sound. I feel like an idiot realizing it now.
ALEX: At least you realized it now.
NICK: True. Something else I really wanted to talk about, was the whole genre thing. People call everything that is made on a computer electronic music, which is not true. I hate confining genres, because, shit, it’s just sound and sound is vibration. When it comes to my own music, I don’t want to classify it as dubstep. I know dubstep has it’s stigma, like a dial up tone, but my music sounds nothing like that. I guess it could be melodic dubstep or luvstep, but I really just want people to call it “music” or “sound.”
ALEX: So do you think it’s true when artists say ” I don’t care what anyone thinks, I just do this for me?”
NICK: I don’t care what people have to say about my music, because if I put something out and I like it, I couldn’t care less if you like it. Fuck, even if I got one person that would just put on my music going to the gym or walking to class, I would feel accomplished as an artist. My biggest inspiration is John Cage. He wrote a song called 4’33′” where the orchestra was just instructed to sit still for four minutes and 33 seconds. The whole idea, is that you’re going to experience sound, whether the orchestra is playing or not. Also, a song that you’re hearing, is never going to be the same as anyone else. People hear things differently, and a song is always going to be performed differently, every time. So I love the idea, that even silence, is sound and music.
ALEX: Who got you interested in music in the first place?
NICK: My older sister. I’ve come to realize that everything I’ve done, is usually because of my older sister.
ALEX: So when will you feel like you’ve become successful in the music industry?
NICK: God, success is such a weird word in the music industry, really in any form of art. It won’t be sitting in your mansion in LA when you’ve made millions of dollars, although it would be nice, the moment when you think you’ll be successful will be so different then the actually reality of it, at least for me.
NICK: I feel really bad for people who don’t listen to music. Like…that sucks. Your life must be so boring. It makes me sad.
ALEX: I don’t get it either.
NICK: On the same note of success, if you’re trying to get into music because you want to be rich and famous, you shouldn’t do it. Stay true to yourself. I do this because I love doing it. I’m currently making a huge life decision in saying that I’m not going to go into the very thing I’ve been studying now for three years. All because I love music. Making music for me, is happiness.
ALEX: So, any other parting words for us? Any words for aspiring producers?
NICK: If you’ve never made music before, go through a two or three month phase where you just truly listen for the sounds in music. Any and all kinds of music. Even if you hate it, find something that you can appreciate about any song. Diversify yourself to gain inspiration. When you first start, it’s not going to be good. Everyday is a learning process. Don’t expect anything to happen overnight, or even a year. Don’t get down when it comes to frustration. Have a mentor. Mine was Bobby Horan, super cool dude. Keep your head up, that’s all I can say.
ALEX: Finally, where can we find you hanging out around campus?
NICK: Most likely in the 4th floor group study room of the Library when I’m not making music….or Devil Dawgs.
Photo Credit: Joseph Kerins