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February 2021
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Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"

With his much-anticipated debut album now out in the world for all to hear, Dominic Fike has arrived.
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Published: 11:20 am, September 23, 2020Words: Jamie Muir. Photos: Adriana Sein, Daniel Prakopcyk.
Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"

Who are you? What do you want to be? What do you want to do? They're big questions, and there have never been more possible answers. In an age where at a click of a button and 20 mins of free time, you could be on whatever path you like - the most exciting artists on the planet are doing just that. It's not about being defined by one occasion or one track, it's standing for more than that. If there's anyone on the planet capturing that right now, it's Dominic Fike. 100s of millions of streams later, he finds himself in a position he'd never have thought possible: on top of the world.

But what now? "If this has taught me anything, it's do whatever the fuck you want."

It's no surprise that freedom is firing through Dominic Fike. It's been exactly what he's all about since the very beginning. From word of mouth sensation to viral trailblazer and global powerhouse in a matter of years - he's become the artist you simply have to know about right now. Not that attention is particularly playing on his mind. In fact, as he wanders through his LA home and ponders his journey so far, keeping himself removed from the millions plugging into his every move is exactly what's needed.

"I've seen some of the reactions, but I'm trying to stay away from it as much as possible," he admits. "People have been nice about it, some people definitely have too much shit to say, but I've realised that when I like a song or artist, I don't really go and look at the views on a track or the comment section. Maybe I'm a different person, but I've been very present in my life with everyone that's around me instead so I'm on my phone less. Which is good, I'm happy."

The "it" in question just happens to be Dominic's debut album, 'What Could Possibly Go Wrong', a long-awaited opening statement of intent from an artist all too aware of the responsibility that comes with such a moment. "I didn't think releasing it would be so relieving as it is," he adds. A world of pressure and awareness circling around his head while he worked away at it. "It scared the shit out of me. I didn't realise how much it was weighing on me just having that album there and ready to go, and then having to think about what would happen when I released it. The fact it's already happened and nobody's dead, and the sky didn't fall on us, then wow - it's relieving. My days are easier now."

He needn't have worried. 'What Could Possibly Go Wrong' is the sort of debut album that glues the play button down on first listen; a bewitching mix of alt-indie, swaggering hip-hop, epic pop and bubbling darkness that takes the experimental leanings of Frank Ocean and Post Malone and blends them into a distinctively fresh new cocktail. The sound of an artist taking the scattered world of music he'd dip into and making it into his own voice, there's no surprise it's already captured the hearts of millions across the globe. It's not about answering one question, but asking ten times as many. The result is an artist unlike any other.

"I'd say mainly that I'm pretty slutty with music," he cracks. "I'll move on to something else and suck it dry, and then move on to try something else. Sometimes I'll stay on something a long time if I like it, but I don't know. I'm just doing what I want to do because I think that's what people care about the most. If you make shit because of other people, it's not going to connect."

He stops and points at his chest. "You have to speak from here."

Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"
Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"
"Some people definitely have too much shit to say"
Dominic Fike

It's where Dominic Fike has been his whole life. Intrinsically linked to those around him, his community, his family and friends - it's at the forefront of his mind from day one. You can't build a world without a core after all. "My mum used to listen to everything," remembers Dominic, peering back to those early days growing up in Naples, Florida. Life had its challenges, but if anything those sounds that he'd hear bursting from his mum's collection were the first chips at his vast musical taste now. "She had this wildly eclectic taste when growing up, but mainly R&B. She listened to a lot of Usher and just loved him. I'd hear the Jackson 5 or Biggie, it was a super musical household."

It didn't mean that music was the one and only. Dominic would find admiration in figures that would find enjoyment and themselves in doing something they're deeply passionate about. "I'd watch music videos all the time on like MTV. Like me and groups of friends sitting in the living room just eating snacks or whatever, while we looked at a big screen with Eminem and Gwen Stefani looking right down the camera at you. I admired these people and what they were doing, but I also admired actors and all types of things. Even athletes."

It was clear that Dominic wanted to do something more. "I knew I didn't want to just go and fucking work at a coffee shop, but I didn't know I wanted to be a musician. I definitely wanted to be something that was fulfilling to me no matter what, and I didn't know what that meant, but I had that feeling."

Mixed in with the usual trials and tribulations of growing up, Dominic threw his hand at everything. There was skating, at a point thinking he would go on to become a professional skater. There was sports, including football/soccer, before he realised that he wasn't really the 'team-sport' kinda person. There was the time he considered becoming a professional poker player. Even joining the military came into his head at one point ("then I thought about having to merk people and was like that doesn't sound easy. Maybe not that" he smiles).

But in music, he began to notice that he would keep coming back to it. From being in a rap group when he was young alongside his older brother and his friends, that storytelling ability began to shine. A place where Dominic could put every emotion he was feeling and craft stories witnessed around him into a creative outlet. "We kinda made it," remembers Dominic, "and it began to take over my life slowly. I'd dropped out of school for it and without realising it that was everything I was doing at the moment."

It's where his broad tastes came to the fore. Across the movement of spinning South Florida rap at one moment, the experimental flourishes of Earl Sweatshirt the next and the early jags of Travis Scott just after. The "stuff that gives you goosebumps and shit with good beats, that's really good for the back of your head." He'll tell you exactly why the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Greatest Hits' was an album he looked at and went, "that's the kinda album I wanted to make" with a laugh, while noting how Weezer and The Beatles pulled him more towards the swinging rock and indie sounds you can hear peppered across 'What Could Possibly Go Wrong'.

Dominic was simply enjoying mixing it all up and creating something surprising out of it all. Constantly creative. "I would make parody songs, songs that would just make people laugh. People would come over, and I'd be like yo check this out, and we'd all laugh and then go on with something else. It was something I always did. I would make music. Make little shit for my friends - you know, one of those weird creative kids who make shit, and it's like 'ahh cool, now let's go smoke some weed'."

Parodies turned to something more personal quickly. He picked up the guitar for the first time in years, and things began to click even more. "I was listening to music so much, so many bands and that guitar-based shit. I actually forgot I played the guitar for like 5 years and then my girlfriend at the time bought me a guitar for Christmas. I was like, 'oh yeah', and I got obsessed with it like kinda how I did the first time I had it. This time I had learnt more stuff and my fingers weren't as clumsy, and I was a bit smarter in learning things and searching out things."

Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"
Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"
"The way my shit hit was so instant and so hard"
Dominic Fike

When he showed his new creations to those close to him, people were surprised but blown away by what he was making. "It was a great feeling," he smiles, "people were like 'wow' and we would play it all the time. I was really proud of that." This new direction found him capturing what he was feeling in a completely different way, one that before just didn't feel right.

Showing to one friend led to that friend showing another, and before long, there was a network of those around him excited to see where the Dominic Fike story would turn next. What nobody could have predicted is the run of events that came too. A series of events saw Dominic end up in jail, and while locked up on his birthday, he decided he needed to put some music out there. With the latest demos he'd been working on, the result was 'Don't Forget About Me, Demos' - "Demos" being the vital note there.

It blew up, with countless people discovering Dominic Fike for the first time - with a collection boasting a full mix of different styles and songwriting that he'd been working on since the very beginning. One such track sitting on the collection was '3 Nights', the track that would go on to take the world by storm and fully launch him into a whole different sphere. It was a rush that Dominic wasn't entirely prepared for.

"The way my shit hit was so instant and so hard," he remembers. "It knocked me off my feet, and I needed to take some time to find my balance again. It started becoming nerve-wracking when all this shit took off, when people have a certain idea of who and what you should be. Now everybody saw, and still do, to be honest, saw me as this person that's just supposed to be better and better each time, which kinda fucks with me."

He took his time. Shaping and learning the sounds he wanted to create, getting out and playing shows and connecting to a newfound audience. It was the only way to comprehend the sudden change in his life and how suddenly, all eyes were on him. "Yeah, that time for me…" he begins "… that time for me was kinda sad because it kinda felt like I had lost that connection to the people I'd been showing it all too at the start. For a while, I struggled with that, but the people around me have made me realise that there's a way I can still know these people and connect with them. Having a bigger audience isn't a bad thing, you've just got to figure it out. It's a thing that comes with a certain responsibility. Remaining connected to people, it's something I'm learning and getting better at every day. I'm getting more optimistic, I suppose."

With the world at his feet, Dominic picked up his belongings and headed to Los Angeles, via a small detour to Colorado. "I saw the snow. I'd never seen snow in my life so I thought I can go and do this now, so I did, which was tight! The music I made there was cool, but it was kinda sad. I was in a cabin on my own. After a while, the time started to wither away, and so did my mental health. I needed to go somewhere that was fun."

Jumping between different houses, he found a new community of friends and creatives all invested in each other. He turns the camera to show off his new house now - "I love this place, it's like 100 years old in Hollywood with loads of friends living nearby. Good food too, so I'm chilling! It definitely helped with my music too, all that moving around and getting to know this place helped me make music about it, which was much different to anything I would have made in Florida. Florida was nothing like this or anything I was involved with."

It all helps take 'What Could Possibly Go Wrong' to new terrains; that ability to whip up a melody and try anything that comes in front of him is there at every turn. Just click play on 'Chicken Tenders' and its light pop grooves. Or the thundering bass and jangled indie licks of 'Why'. Or even the menacing undertones of 'Politics & Violence' and the Nine Inch Nails scratches of 'Come Here'. It gave him that added confidence in a new home and surrounding, both literally and in his new standing as an artist millions were invested in.

"I think what really settled in, was that I had control over this all. That really settled in," he notes. "If I want to be sad about this and think it's impossible to handle or manage, then I can do that, or I can do the opposite. I control this shit regardless. Even with what I was physically doing before, just sitting around and being sad - that also was controlling the way my music was going. I was like, 'oh my god, I really do enjoy this'. It settled in."

The idea of stopping? Or thinking about it all too much? Forget it. "A lot of people do that too much - sit themselves down and reassure themselves about what they're going to go and do, but you've got to just be doing it all with your eyes closed. Sprinting forward, there's no other way."

Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"
Life lessons with Dominic Fike: "Do whatever the fuck you want"
"Even with shit reviews now, at least that's over with - it doesn't matter! I don't give a fuck, dude"
Dominic Fike

With one milestone down, Dominic Fike is free to do, well, whatever he pleases. The tunnel vision of getting a debut album out now in his rearview mirror, there are grander plans afoot. "You know what?" he interjects, halfway through chatting about what he wants to do next. "I remember wanting to be an animator when I was younger too. Drawing is something I really enjoy doing and was obviously big into anime, animation and those Disney movies…" He wanders off deep in thought. "I still think I have a chance to do that actually, I'm gonna work towards that this year. To be a part of that process. If not, I'll get my foot in the door with music and then be like, 'but I really want to get involved in the storytelling!'"

It's impossible to rule anything out with Dominic Fike. A story of music, determination and resilience changing lives, as an outlet it's become a vital part of his DNA. "More than ever now too," he adds. "It's so relieving to be able to create music and write. During the making of the album, maybe there were times where it wasn't. Putting so much pressure on what I was doing and seizing up a bit because of it but now it's like okay - do whatever you want to do. Whatever makes you happy."

"Even with shit reviews now, at least that's over with - it doesn't matter! I don't give a fuck, dude."

Delivering on every drop of hype that's come his way, right now feels like the beginning. The opening reveal of an artist who seems destined to define an entire generation. They're big words, but if anyone has that potential - it's Dominic Fike. "I know what I'm going to do next," he admits. "I'm still working, just always making songs. I'm making a bunch of stuff right now because I don't feel like I've done it all or explored everything yet. I think when musicians take breaks for a long amount of time they just feel like they, I dunno, need more ideas or have exhausted all their resources so need to take some time to work out what comes next. I haven't. I'm actually finding more music than ever, trying out all these different sounds and lanes. I'm still exploring so I won't be stopping anytime soon."

"I want to be able to put on grand performances too, that's what I want to work towards. I never really went to concerts when I was younger, but I see how much fun people have and when you watch that, like when you watch that Queen movie, and it just gives you goosebumps, and you're like wow… you can do that for people? I want to do that for people."

Dominic gazes upwards again. "Not even related to music, but I really want to get involved in cooking on a grand scale in some way. Whether that's opening a restaurant or creating some type of food service for people where I'm involved."

The ideas keep spilling out of Dominic Fike's mouth. He's feverishly excited about what he could work on next, and grateful to be in a position where he is able to dip into whatever he likes. He praises and speaks with love of the people who've stuck by his side and been there for him through thick and thin. Of wanting to give back to those people and make sure everyone is alright. But above all else, he's hungry for more. Now he's firmly on the road, he's ready to pull some wheelies.

"I want to make some really good albums where I can just go listen to them whenever. I want such a large catalogue that it's like, okay, what else is there to do? Let's create some weird shit."

Who is Dominic Fike? Where will he be in 5 years time? Not even Dominic Fike has an idea of that, but he sure as hell is going to have fun finding out. The world is watching. 

Taken from the September issue of Dork. Dominic Fike's album 'What Could Possibly Go Wrong' is out now.

September 2020 (Dominic Fike)
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