Speaking of dreams, codes, and impermanence, nil00 shares a little slice of their heart with us in this interview, detailing the emotional and artistic processes behind their new EP. Born and raised in Liverpool, nil00 has worked in various fields in the artistic world, melding elements of the natural and the supernatural in their work to make sparkly little world for them and their friends to create in. The EP l0ve follows their previous work, 00, stepping into a more vulnerable space of production whilst exploring the meaning(s) of love, and paying homage to those that have contributed in some way to nil00’s artistic journey.
Here, nil00 lovingly shares some glimpses of these collaborative moments and talks of the importance of friends as collaborators in their musical and artistic endeavours over the years. Whether shooting visuals for live sets in an abandoned shopping centre or making bot-music and releasing it on their non-record label, Dreamchord, nil00 remarks the beauty in numbers with these sort of projects.
Hi nil00! I wanted to say firstly congratulations on your EP, I loved listening to it especially at this time of year, it feels like waking up on a winter morning and thinking about someone.
Thank u so much!!!! That’s such beautiful wording.
Tell me a little bit about your artist moniker, nil00 – where did the name come from?
So it’s pretty much my real name, Niloo, short for Niloofar – u say it like Neeloo. I came up with it before I started making music, when I was really into digital mysticism and was obsessing over the idea of 0 and the overlap between computing and the Sufist idea of ‘heech’, the great nothing from which everything emerges. Don’t really get maths but I’m a maths fan and I love watching maths documentaries where these nerds are like losing it, enthusing about how when you search for what 0 is you just find the human mind and all that.
Also, I always loved this song my friend Yank Scally made called 00 of my world, which was a reference to the starting coordinates in Minecraft. I thought it was neat that ‘nil’ means nothing as well, and then I remembered when I tried to force the nickname Zilch for myself when I was ten (it didn’t take). Clearly, I’ve always gravitated towards zeros/identifying myself as nothing for whatever reason. I was kind of reluctant to use my own name because I know loads of people enjoy having a separation from their artistic projects by using a moniker, but I decided to put myself through it basically because I love a bit of serendipity. I find a coincidence like that impossible to not go for.
Also, a big part of doing this for me was about earnestly expressing myself as a way to gain the true type of strength that comes from choosing honesty for a long time. Wanted to spitefully exorcise the vampire part of me that wants to be protected by a defensively crafted persona. Now that I’m actually doing the thing, I’m like that’s a bit intense. I do sometimes regret it but overall I think it’s working. As dangerous as it is, I want my soft heart to be the one who walks in the sun even if it’s hot and it burns u away to reveal…
I know you’re from Liverpool and have been involved in the arts for a few years now in many different fields. As a multidisciplinary artist, what’s the creative scene like where you’re from? What projects and exhibitions have been the highlights of your career so far?
I don’t get out enough these days to know what’s going on with the scene in general, but I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of talented, unique and kind-hearted artists here who I can count as friends and collaborators. I have sort of halted activities in the digital art for institutions area for now while I decide whether it’s fundamentally unwholesome to feed holy images to the simulacrum, but definitely all my favourite stuff I’ve made has been with my friend Yank Scally, who taught me how to produce and is sick at coding. We make stuff under the name Dreamchord, which is also the non-record label I release my music through.
We made a thing called Mystic Bot, which was an SMS bot you could text and it would reply with a randomly selected aphorism out of a bank of GPT-3-generated aphorisms. We trained the bot on mystic texts from around the world as well as poetry and lyrics. It was cool, people used it hundreds of times, they would read into what it told them and find odd coincidences. Real sparkly brain stuff. And we made this weighted jukebox for Output Gallery called Soulweight, where you weigh objects and it triggers changes in the music and an audioreactive display covered with all these vague dials and speedometers. We had a huge hand-painted pixel art mural on the wall. Wanted to mess around with the idea of values, the last shall be first and all that.
No one really came to that because we got so busy doing galaxy brained stuff that we forgot the regular brain element of maintaining contact with people and letting them know about it, but it was still a highlight. We need to reboot that one some time.
Speaking of your visual art, I read that for your last EP, 00, you created a series of visuals and animations to accompany its release. Are there any plans for a similar venture with your newest EP, l0ve? Or perhaps any live performances?
For the good of my health, I am retired from animation. However, I am working on editing this live performance video of the whole EP we shot at the end of summer. I managed to get some funding from PRS/PPL, so I was able to get loads of pals involved – felt like shooting a tiny budget short film. We shot it in an abandoned shopping-centre-turned-art-space in Bootle. It was kinda based on this airport apocalypse I was having ominous dreams about during lockdown, where we couldn’t go outside anymore and you’re stuck in the terminal. The idea was we’re this band of merry pranksters making art into the void out of boredom, clinging to the questionable magic of life when there’s nothing left.
My friend Freya Wysocki designed and made a huge interactive set with paper mache flowers and cardboard hills, a TV screen pond full of low poly 3D fish and stuff like that. We’re playing live renditions of all the songs on the EP with double bass, cello, harp, iPad, etc. There’s more to be said about the lore, but it’ll turn into psychobabble if I try articulate too much of it ‘cause it’s all based on dreams and stuff you can’t explain properly.
But hopefully, it’ll give iceberg theory and the vibe will transmit. I’m mostly excited to have so many heads in the mix – Podge did the 3D animations for the set, my friend Zmaraks who is so sick directed it, and Pearling does a guest performance. I’ve never done something working with so many people before. It makes a really nice change from doing everything myself like I used to. I need to get a move on with the edit, but I think it’ll come out in January, and hopefully give people a flavour of the live show I’m working on so I can do more of that. That’s really what I want out of this year – to play live more with my friends.
On the note of 00, l0ve feels quite dreamy in comparison, like a packaged little box of love songs you’ve let us fumble around in. Seeing as l0ve was entirely self-produced, do you feel like its more of a personal EP than the previous one?
Definitely ! I was hiding behind my friends in the first EP, had an inside joke with myself that 00 was my 0th EP, and l0ve would be the first actual thing that would count. I’ve had l0ve planned since before I released 00 with loads of the songs written for ages and the artwork ready for time, but I just wanted to study the blade of production for a while and get myself into the swing of putting stuff out first because I had never done it before and it felt like a fall from grace that I would have to weather before I could show myself without panic. My friends’ productions really got me thru the worry of it all ‘cause they’re all so good and taught me a lot. But l0ve is really me giving my heart on a platter and setting it before you now I’m feeling a little stronger on my own.
I love the bleeps and what sound like dial tones in the first track of the EP – l0ve @5am – and the gentle voice that reminds me of a voicemail. Was this the intention?
Yes!! This is reminding me of the mixing sessions with my friend Charlie Power who is a DnB producer and my childhood friend. He’d be like, ‘the vocal’s too quiet’, and I’d be gesticulating going, ‘no, Charlie, it must sound like a lone voice crying out to a digital abyss’. I guess I feel we are all having a weird time of life these days, projecting our disembodied avatars all over the world like ghosts, and who knows if it mangles our souls or what. It makes me worry sometimes, does a part of me now live without me, lost and lonely amongst the 1s and 0s?
I wanted to make very sweet, heartfelt music but with the sound of garbled signals and lost connections. It’s a hope but also a wish I’m making, that something survives despite the darkness enveloping us and turning life into an echo of itself. I wanna double down on impermanence and vulnerability even when everything’s getting very crisp and sharp. I wanna feel there’s a secret place in the human heart untouched despite it all. It’s probably also growing up in the ‘90s and 00s, it has stayed with me the mystery of those sounds.
The harp in the third song of the album, Luminous Doom, is mesmerising. Who is playing the instruments we can hear in the tracks?
I am so glad you asked me that ‘cause I love going on about how talented Georgia is. Georgia Harris Bond is an incredible musician, one of them who can play multiple instruments virtuosically. She listened to the tune literally once and came out with that, pure churning out countermelodies – I honestly had to extend that song by a full minute just to honour all the sick harp shredding she did. She also did the piano at the end of l0ve @5am with zero rehearsal.
She releases music too, she’s one half of Loris And The Lion with Richard Harris Bond, who recorded the instruments in his studio – would recommend checking them out. And my other friends Kate O’Dempsey and Charles Peacock did some cello and double bass for the EP as well. Was lucky to have all of them involved as the live band for the live performance video I mentioned earlier too, Rich had a huge mixing desk set up in the middle of the abandoned aisles – it was a precarious operation.
Throughout the EP, I can feel you moving between discussions of love as fleeting and even silly, to something all-encompassing and melancholy from start to finish. What does love mean to you after crafting this EP? Can it be all these things at once? For me, you really managed to capture the overlapping nature of all these types of love in six beautiful tracks.
Love for me is something like our smallest unit of meaning, it’s the word we have for the thing we don’t need a reason for. Life’s only devastating because of our attachment to dying things, and at times I’ve thought it best to do away with that kind of illogical, irrational – stay safe and cool – but it’s not a real option and you just feel depressed. Everything is silly but everything is important. If you zoom out of everything it’s all absurd, we’re all like little cells dying in a great tide, and who knows what we all make up together.
But I also don’t care; I love it, I love life and I love the people. You could mathematically prove to me that we’re in a simulation being projected out of my personal consciousness and I would still care about my mum. My friend Azadi.mp3 said something hilarious last week when I was wittering on speculating about other dimensions and our place in them and whatnot. She said, ‘guys, I have a theory. What if we’re people and this is all real’. I can’t stop thinking about it! I think that’s what love is to me. We’re tiny but we’re massive, we’re nothing but we’re everything. I’m on a philosophy ban now though, you go on all these holidays from the pain of it, escaping into abstraction not even knowing you’re trying to find a way back until you’re in it again. Love’s a word for what you don’t need words for, or there isn’t a word for, or it moves when you turn your head to look at it, like a speck in your periphery.
And finally, as a little side note, I adore your hand airbrushed clothes you’re selling on your website. How long have you been making them for? I hope to see more of your art and your music in the future!
I started last October! Feels really lucky to be able to support myself doing something I like. Appreciate you a lot, thank you for interviewing me!