Nicholas Megalis became known for his musical posts on the website and mobile app Vine. Some consider it a stroke of genius. Few realize that genius is 99% perspiration,and 1% inspiration. It really seems like there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s charming, and gets his laughs. He’s riding out a groove with a tone of gleeful bad behavior. His fans are overcome by the oddest sensation, the realization that even hedonism can’t get dull.
His art is both funny and mildly disturbing. Megalis has no trouble navigating the turns into bleaker territory, without losing control of his spiraling existence, facing his problems with humanity rather than judgment, as well as a keen understanding of the various forces that got him exactly where he is. His lived-in performances are one of many main draws of his light but affable comedy /drama. Megalis helms this intensely intimate, and at times uncomfortable character study, which hopscotches through years of complicated relationships. The giddiness with which he opens himself up, quickly goes for those soft spots until they bruise. Some scenes are so personal, it feels like we shouldn’t even be in the room. But we are, and the authenticity of these moments of joy, pain and his attempt at equanimity, is impressive.
Sometimes, the real winners are not those hungering for play lists, or radio spins, or even a record deal. It’s those forging relationships with fans. It’s fan passion they want. Not corporate indifference, fake hype, and eventual royalty rape. Nicholas Megalis has grabbed worldwide attention with his off the wall-pop music and lyrics. His songs and music videos have been featured on MTV, prime time TV, two feature films, and on the Top Ten iTunes Charts. Having only recently self-released his debut EP, Not Funny, Nick is independent and happy to be so. He’s just getting started.
Nicholas started outside the system, so he would not be compromised by it. He uses new tech tools to establish a fan base and grow it. He also knows that his fans help grow it, and that radio-TV is just the icing on the cake. Through music and community, he helps engage young people in challenges affecting all of our lives, to encourage them to step up and make their voices heard. Fans appreciate his broader success by saying they were there first. That’s the litmus test.
A star in his own world, his every act is a silo. There is no competition, other than with himself. He charts if his fan base is growing. Are his grosses growing? Do the fans want new music? Nick understands that there are many ways to monetize. But he also knows you’ve got to do it yourself. The personal touch is everything. He meets and greets his audience, and is available online. He sees his art as an opportunity, with a payoff of doing some good in the world.
There’s freedom in making music for the sake of your own catharsis and sick joy. Noise is freedom.
"I think I might go back to [noise records] when I finally get sick of writing things that rhyme. "
I read you recorded your first album when you were 16, is that right?
That’s not completely true, but Wikipedia seems to think so. Wikipedia is hilarious, isn’t it? Regular people can make an encyclopedia entry of your life, and have no idea what they’re talking about. Historians used to get paid to do that. Now, it’s my uncle Teddy on the toilet writing Beyonce’s life story. Silly! I recorded my first album at 13, probably. 2002? I can’t do math. I’m 30 this year,so plug that into a calculator. It was a noise record, so they weren’t really songs. I wanted to be Merzbow or Ornette Coleman, or something. I thought I was a noise musician for a long time. I think I might go back to doing that when I finally get sick of writing things that rhyme. If I ever want to be ignored completely by everyone, I’ll go back to noise. There’s a freedom in that. In making music for the sake of brutality, or the sake of your own catharsis and sick joy. Noise is freedom.
What artists were you listening to at that time?
I grew up on 90’s music. Natalie Merchant and Nirvana. My mom used to clean the house to Fine Young Cannibals and MC Hammer. I think the 90’s were the last time explosive, open creativity was accepted into the “mainstream”. Now, everything is tucked away on the Internet for fans of that particular thing. You have to dig for vibe. Everything is on Soundcloud or YouTube. Everything has its own universe now. Music occupies its own space, and because there are so many more human beings living on this planet, everything has a fandom now. There is room for literally everything. Fans for everything. I like that. The radio isn’t the only way to hear shit now, so it doesn’t matter. Everything is huge and everyone is famous.
Your song ‘Gummy Money’ topped the Hip-Hop charts in five countries! How did that happen?
It happened like 'Not Funny' charting the other day happened, Both serendipitously and on purpose. I work really hard to get my music in people’s faces. I don’t have label money, so I’m not on giant billboards in LA. I don’t have a street team. I don’t even pay for promo. I do it all myself and with my die-hard supporters. I have social media and I have next to zero shame. I tirelessly promote my work as much as I can while I’m alive. What’s the point in making something if nobody hears it? Can you imagine that? I couldn’t sleep at night. I message literally hundreds of people a day on Instagram and Twitter. “Hey Sarah! Did you hear my new record yet?”, “Hi Dave! What do you think of my new song?” Everyone was psyched on ‘Gummy Money’. It was a hit waiting to happen.It’s hooky and brilliant. So,that helps a song chart. But it also charts because I hustle endlessly and I sleep 3 hours a night. I’m unsigned. It’s the sweat of a musician. I think living in New York City for ten years gave me a fucking serious artist work ethic. It taught me how to make money and make even more noise.
Your short story-auto-bio ‘Mega Weird’ is also a hit. How did you write it?
‘Mega Weird’ was a natural transition from Vine, because Vine was storytelling. It was conceptual and condensed.I couldn’t have written a normal book. Let’s put it this way, I could never have written a novel or something focused. I don’t have the patience. I paced around my apartment in New York City writing ‘Mega Weird’ on loose leaf paper and chain-smoking cigarettes. I can barely sit still. My publisher, Judith Regan, was really inspiring and fearless. She’s the most punk rock publisher in America. She told me not to edit myself, not to cut out any of the fucked up details of my life. That’s why the book did well. It sold because nobody had read a book quite like it. That book was a phenomenon outside of “Nicholas”and outside of “Vine”. It was a really fucking bizarre collection of true short stories that didn’t apologize for being bizarre.
When did you realize that your family were NOT the Brady Bunch?
Everybody at school reminded me of that everyday! I was the kid who drew comic books during lunch, while kids threw food at me. School sucked. It was a nightmare for me. I hope my daughter doesn’t have to go to school. I hope we can home school her like we want to. The system is still screwy. No kid should have to go to school for that many hours a day! It’s not even good for your work ethic or your brain. I think scientists are just figuring that out. It’s not the way everyone is meant to learn. Kids were often cruel. I hope kids are generally nicer in 2019. Kids used to call me a “loser”and a “weirdo” because I wasn’t interested in the pedestrian, lame ass shit they were into. My brain moved fast. I was already learning how to animate with a 16mm camera in my basement with my dad, who was a filmmaker. Is this a therapy session or an interview?
(laughs) Tell us a bit about your Hellenic roots.
My dad is Greek. I’m half Greek, but as my father always says, “If you’re 1% Greek, you’re 100%.” He’s first generation. My Ya Ya used to chase me around the house with a rolling pin. Literally! Like the kind of shit you’d see in a cartoon. That was my life. Stealing kourabiedes from the kitchen and getting chased around the house. I used to watch Baywatch on a little black and white TV in her living room, and my Ya Ya would stand in front of it whenever there would be a kissing scene. There was no air conditioning at my Ya Ya’s house in Ohio. She didn’t believe in it. I also think it’s funny that her TV was black and white in 1997. I identify with the neurosis and drama, emotion and joyousness from my Greek side. I love drinking coffee with Greeks and sitting around for six hours laughing and complaining. I want to visit Greece so bad, it makes me want to cry. I’ve never been! I want to see donkeys and play bouzouki on a mountain.
You’re currently touring the US. Share some Rock n’ Roll stories with us.
I went to Las Vegas on my tour and rented “Wreck it Ralph 2” in my hotel room while I ate a turkey wrap in bed.
If you could bring back any artist from the ‘after life’, who would you choose and why?
Kurt Cobain. I think he made a dumb mistake, and I think he could have had a lot of fun as a dad later in life. Wow. What a heartbreaking answer! Holy shit. But hey, that’s my truth. I’ve reflected on Kurt a lot since my child was born. It puts shit into perspective. I think Kurt made a mistake, and I think he would appreciate a second chance at being a father.