A lesson about the music industry and a booster shot for live performance.
By P.K. Greenfield
Rob Fusari (aka 8-Bit) has written and produced songs for some of the leading icons in the business: Lady Gaga, Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston, Will Smith…He is now on a mission to breathe new air into the music industry and live performance with Cary Nokey. Along with DJ ValNtino, the vibe is intoxicating and will be a household name.
Most of us have only heard about CBGBs, Studio 54 and Area, etc.; the lost trenches of the The Ramones, Scissor Sisters, Blondie, The New York Dolls, Madonna, etc. Cary Nokey is on a mission to bring that frenetic vibe back to the music scene.
At a recent performance at Stray Kat Gallery in lower Manhattan, he unloaded about his journey.
How did Cary Nokey come about?
It started about a year and three or four months ago. It came out of pure necessity. I needed to feel something musically, creatively; I felt a little lost…
After the Gaga project, I tried to budget things and nothing was feeding my creative soul — I was getting frustrated. One day I woke up, I’ll never forget, it was on February 26th and I wrote a song. And it wasn’t like I want to get this on Beyoncé or in a movie; it was just a pure piece of work. When I wrote it, I said let me put the vocals down, so I could hear it the way I heard it in my head. I went back to the studio and it was like the skies opened up and the clouds parted; I knew where I needed to be.
Cary Nokey sounds like Karaoke with a pejorative twist.
That’s right. At that time, in search of something enjoyable, I was frequenting Karaoke bars. When I started the group, I was going to have all kinds of singers, all kinds of covers and collective works. I never considered myself a singer and that was my safe way of going about this. With the name, you don’t know if it’s a girl or guy, I like that it’s androgynous.
You told me that your brothers brought disco into your house when you were growing up and that influenced your music. What other artist have made an impact on your music?
I’ve always gravitated to artists that are a little darker, like Bowie.
I sense a little bit of Ziggy Stardust.
I love, love, love Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. I love artists who can really express themselves in this industry. There is so much that is run-of-the-mill out there and so when I hear or see something different, I’m like, oh my God. What is that? The legends have that. Like Freddy Mercury [sic] and the Bee Gees were huge for me melodically and their music pulls at the heart. I’m about the emotion. I mean, I like to dance too and back in the 70s we had both. In my opinion, we haven’t had both in a very long time. Take the song MacArthur Park for example. It kept people on the dance floor but also told a story and evoked emotion.
The song “Invisible”. What made you write it?
That’s a good question. It’s a special song for me. It was partly influenced by one of the Cary Nokey shows and while the show can be abstract, there is a timeline and at one point the person is playing my father. My father died when I was seventeen. The part in the show where we play, “Invisible” is when my father is passing and vanishing away. I could see him looking through me as if I were invisible.
It also ties in with the song “Troubadour” which is about being a rock star. It’s the fight, a tug-of-war. I’m being pulled into this world and you don’t even see me because you’re dying. All of my friends are playing in bands and I want that, but I can’t because I have to side with my father and family. When someone is dying you sort of vanish with them as well.
What was it like working with people in the music industry? Name names.
[He laughs]. I can’t believe how fortunate and blessed I have been. I never dreamed of working with legends like Whitney Houston, Gaga and Will Smith. If someone told me that as a young adult, I’d be like, “Yeah, okay, what dream are you in?”
I can tell you what I’ve learned and seen and just being around those people has seeped into my soul. Will Smith, his take on life and business and music has given me a wealth of knowledge, such an education and love from the most unexpected superstar places. And with Gaga I learned so much. It was my first development where I took something from nothing, so to speak, and built it up brick by brick.
Has Lady Gaga been to one of your performances?
What would you say to her if she showed up?
I’d ask if she wanted to join the group [Laughs]. And she’d probably say no, and that’s okay.
I noticed that fashion is a large part of your art. Why?
It’s just another way of expressing myself. I love everything about the fashion industry and design. The fashion part is just as important to me as the music. It’s about being honest and who I am. When you put something on, it makes you feel a certain way, it yourself at the core, you own it.
What should a young person expect when pursuing a career in the music industry?
A lot of pain. Be prepared to give up your whole life in every shape and form. It’s very, very, very difficult, because at every turn you are basically in a fishbowl. You are exposing your soul and putting it out on the table for everyone to look at and criticize. It‘s a difficult thing if you don’t’ have thick skin.
The positive aspects are you’re doing what you love. I get up early every day and I’m excited to get going and see the vision come to light. You have to be ready for that road and never, ever stop.
Check out his website and learn more! www.carynokey.com
Stephen Shadrach, John F. Cooper, Melinda DiMauro