The people who succeed in music seem to be the ones who just keep going. I have another Berklee friend who was an amazing singer, but had not really written any songs and didn’t even play the guitar. She just kept going. She’s since released multiple albums and gotten soundtrack placements and radio airplay.
I had the pleasure to interview Arthur Blume of Nowhere Nation. Nowhere Nation has created the rock concept album that is structured artistically like a sonnet through twelve tracks with accompanying comic book illustrations by Aidan Hughes (KMFDM fame) to match. Arthur Blume is the creator of Omicron. Omicron is about a utopian world inspired by the current socio-political climate in the United States. The gripping story depicts a revolutionary romantic triangle between a secret agent, an assassin, and the head of the secret agency all through the lens of social critique. Omicron was created by Arthur Bloom and developed with award-winning producer Doug Rockwell (5 Seconds of Summer, Sleeping with Sirens) and graphic illustrator Aidan Hughes (of KMFDM fame.)
Thank you so much for joining us Arthur! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been in the computer industry since I was a kid, and that’s where my college major and career eventually took me. But I never let go of the idea of going to music school, Berklee College of Music specifically. I first considered going to Berklee at the end of high school, then a second time during college — I even went to Boston to visit the school and look at apartments. But I decided against it for some reason.
Later on I was working in NYC in a very typical nineties dot-com startup, and I realized that if I didn’t go to Berklee by age 30, I would never go. So I left the startup, moved to Boston, and went to Berklee, where I got a Songwriting diploma, with voice as primary instrument. I have worked ever since then not just to develop singer-songwriter material, but to create great-sounding records that stand on their own as completed works and are meant to be listened to start to finish.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
Here’s how I met my producer, Doug Rockwell. I loved the movie Big Hero 6, particularly the montage featuring “Immortals” by Fall Out Boy. It sounded exactly the way I wanted my uptempo tracks to sound. I have a friend who’s done some major work with Disney, so I asked him — and I wasn’t even asking for a connection, I was just posing a question about the music industry — “Who do you suppose produced that amazing song? Do you think he would work with me?”
To my surprise, my friend put me in touch with an A&R person at Disney Music Group and we quickly established: “No, Butch Walker is not going to work with you. What you need is the younger, hungrier version of the same thing.” He looked around for a couple of weeks and then introduced me to Doug.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My band is called Nowhere Nation and I’m just now launching the first album, Omicron. This is a concept album about two operatives of a more-secret-than-secret US government agency, the love triangle enmeshing them and the agency’s leader, and the eventual fate of all three. It’s set against a backdrop of US overreach in the global war on terror. This album was written and sung by me, with instrumentals and production by Doug Rockwell.
Omicron is the first of a three-album arc. The next one, Nowhere Nation, follows one of the Omicron characters as he pursues violent solutions to the problem of willful inaction around climate change. Both Omicron and Nowhere Nation will be accompanied by incredible art from Aidan Hughes of BRUTE! Propaganda, who is possibly best known for his vivid KMFDM album covers.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I have greatly enjoyed interacting with Aidan. I’ve never done any kind of visual storytelling before, so when I sent Aidan the Omicron lyrics and he sent back amazing sketches that illustrated the scenes in my head, it was incredibly moving — I actually wept to see the story alive in the real world. And those were just the sketches.
Aidan loves to get details right. In the illustration for the album opener, “Heaven and Earth,” I said I didn’t like the hoodie one character was wearing, and he schooled me: “I once worked briefly on a short film project written by a British guy who did wet-work for Mossad (among others) and he told me that the uniform of worn by himself and his mates is invariably a hoodie under a zip-up leather jacket, jeans or cargo pants and soft lace-up boots (he said the Bourne movies got the clothes right).”
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
My heroes are Barack Obama and Elon Musk.
President Obama is my hero because of his incredible ability to make right choices and get things done, powered by his penchant for diligent homework and knack for selecting talented people. He gets it all done with a stupendous lack of drama. I wish I could be more like him.
Elon Musk is the most important person alive today. If you aren’t aware of that, go learn more about what SpaceX has accomplished (that no nation or governmental space agency has yet managed to equal) and what’s to come. That’s above and beyond what he’s done the world with Tesla. If people understood this, we wouldn’t complain as much about Musk’s tweets; we’d be asking how to keep him alive as long as possible.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have used my career in the computer industry to fund the telling of stories that I think ought to be told, that I hope will inspire and move people, and that I believe represent a creative and powerful fusion of Doug’s intense sonic production and Aidan’s unforgettable visual style. I try in turn to mentor anyone I can who’s pursuing music at any level.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would find some vivid way to help people internalize that while we probably can keep our industrial civilization in the long term, there’s only one way that can happen: We must treat the climate crisis like an existential, global war, to be fought with every atom of will and ingenuity all of humanity can muster. And for more on this topic, stay tuned for album #2, Nowhere Nation.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Meditate at least a little (if you think this mindfulness stuff is a pile of hippie crap, read 10% Happier by Dan Harris). Make exercise the thing that gets canceled last from your schedule. Make sure that you have whatever equipment, space, etc. is needed to capture every creative impulse as it comes in. Write all the time.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Trust your singing voice. When we started Omicron, I told Doug “I’m great at covers, but I worry about singing my own material in tune.” (My musical friends don’t believe this story, because I have perfect pitch, but it’s true.) Doug answered “I won’t let you out of the studio until you’ve done the job I know you can do.” Sure enough, one day in the studio I was too tired to deliver, and he sent me home until the next day, when we came back and nailed it.
2. Figure out what you’re meant to do in the music industry and focus on that. Examples:
[a] A college a cappella pal declined to audition for the prestigious senior-only group and thus pass up on their around-the-world tour. He knew what he was supposed to do — write musicals — and sure enough, he’s had some degree of success.
[b] A fellow Berklee student, who has a beautiful voice, never bothered auditioning for Berklee’s singer showcase. She knew what she was supposed to do — make albums — and unlike me, she wasted no time auditioning or dealing with not getting the gig.
3. The people who succeed in music seem to be the ones who just keep going. I have another Berklee friend who was an amazing singer, but had not really written any songs and didn’t even play the guitar. She just kept going. She’s since released multiple albums and gotten soundtrack placements and radio airplay.
4. If you have a non-music career, but you remain truly serious about your music, then music is not your hobby. It is your startup company — your second business — your job. And it remains your job regardless of whether it makes or loses money. Lots of startups don’t make money and are worthwhile nonetheless. I didn’t really realize this until my employer let me run a mini-company in their internal startup incubator.
5. Tell people what you want to accomplish and ask for help. On the way to meeting Doug Rockwell, I had an unexpected chat with a senior exec at a major company, and was struck by two things: [a] People like to help. [b] Everyone in the music industry is there because they love music, and a lot of people who aren’t performing right now nevertheless have a band in their past and an artist dream.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I’d love to meet any member of U2. They have been my favorite band since the beginning and are hugely responsible for my entire vision around what an album ought to be. And as a writer of political concept albums, I’m fascinated by Bono’s ability to bridge from music to effecting change in the real world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?