nothing, nowhere.: “I wanted to make a nu-metal record that was different”

NOTHING, NOWHERE. is looking back to his roots for an evolution in sound.

This is not a drill. Those crushing sounds that erupt the moment you hit play on nothing,nowhere.’s new album ‘VOID ETERNAL’ are for real. And, in the most sincere way possible, nu-metal is back. So grab those chain wallets, and get excited. 

It would seem that nothing,nowhere.’s Joe Mulherin is finally where he belongs. “I haven’t been this excited about music since I started nothing,nowhere.,” he opens joyfully. “I know that because I feel that way, I’m doing something right.” 

Now toting the same crushing and bruising sounds that captured a generation in the early-00s, his new armoury is a far cry from the sparse, emotive sounds of his earlier works. Where the lo-fi Soundcloud emo rap of 2015 established Joe’s ability to dig around into his inner workings to present them as gut-spilling confessionals, this time, the search was on to figure out where he could go next. 

“I had songs on ‘Trauma Factory’, like ‘Fake Friend’, get to, I think it was like No. 9 or something on the Billboard alternative charts,” he says. “It was being played on the radio, being played in grocery stores and gyms across the US. And I sort of was like, ‘Okay, I did it… now what?’”

That was the question which hung thick in the air. With his fourth album ‘Trauma Factory’ dropping just before the pandemic struck, it would inevitably offer up the space required to answer it. The reply came in the form of regression, in the best way possible. “That didn’t bring me the peace that I thought it would,” he says of the success from ‘Trauma Factory’. “What does bring me peace is to just be doing exactly what I want to do and making the music that I grew up on… All I really want to do at the end of the day is make music that I would listen to,” admits Joe, and it was during live-streamed sessions during this period that he would end up sketching out the ideas for ‘VOID ETERNAL’.

A brutal slab of nu-metal which relishes in its dark undertones, there’s a reason it sounds like a joyous homage rather than a derivative throwback. This is music Joe has been making his whole life. “I’ve just never released it. I’m not really sure why…” he sits pondering for a moment, before offering up: “I think I probably fell victim to the marketability of my music. I had a lot of people whispering in my ear [and] putting thoughts in my head that alternative music or heavier music, there’s no longevity in that. I [also] think I never released any of this stuff because I was just afraid of what would happen, or what people would think, and I think I just got to a point in my life where I just like, oh, fuck it, this is what I like. Either you like it, or you don’t.”

A reaction to this screaming sonic gear-change is to be expected; after all, Joe’s emo rapper lane is one that has its own gatekeeper ideologies kicking around. But, as he forewarns with a smirk, “If anyone ever tried to gatekeep me from heavy music, they don’t know my credentials. I grew up in hardcore bands, and I grew up going to shows at the local VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] halls, and that’s the music that made me; that’s who I am.”

It would seem that Joe is teeming with defiance this time around. This is music he believes in. That’s not to undercut his previous releases. But it’s material like ‘VOID ETERNAL’ – with its crushing, curb-stomp of an opener ‘ANX13TY’, to its plentiful breakdowns and wild-eyed fury – which runs within his blood. “It’s the first music that I fell in love with, and it just feels real to me,” he grins.

Not alone in this endeavour, there’s a whole heap of collaborations too. From mainstream icons (Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz), to newcomers (Static Dress), scene mainstays (Underoath, Silverstein), and many more, ‘VOID ETERNAL’ is a full-circle moment for Joe. “A lot of the influences are on the record,” he beams. “Which is crazy to think they’re all my biggest influences growing up, or why I learned how to play music.”

This joyous essence lies deep in the heart of ‘VOID ETERNAL’. “I just wanted to make a nu-metal record that was different, and that felt right for 2023. And I think the result is some weird post-hardcore, nu-metal mash-up – and to be able to actually just let go and fully embrace my influences feels like a rebirth in a great way.”

Really, nothing,nowhere. was always supposed to be a chameleonic undertaking for Joe. “I’ve never been tied to a genre; I’ve never been involved in one singular scene,” he says. “And that’s sort of true throughout my entire life. I’ve never belonged to a certain social group; I’ve always floated in the space in between things,” he says. “And I just think that nothing,nowhere. is about pure expression, without any filter, or without any expectations.”

“I made that clear when I started that this is never going to be the same thing.” Joe explains, “It’s constantly changing. It’s constantly evolving like I am as a human being. It would be crazy for me to think that I’m making the same music as I did eight years ago, because I’m an entirely different person, you know, mentally, physically, spiritually.”

It’s these last few facets that ‘VOID ETERNAL’ strikes deeply into. While the songs are thick, cacophonous brutes, Joe admits these are “even more cathartic for me because what started it all was the live aspect.” Really, it’s all about being able to explode onto a stage, feeling the audience whip up the dust through each power-hungry chord and tonsil-rupturing scream. “When you look out in the crowd, you know everyone’s going through something, and this is their chance to let it out,” he smiles. “And letting it out in a positive way, not a self-destructive, harmful way. That’s the beauty of it.”

Continuing, he says, “It’s an outlet. I think a lot of – especially the younger kids – they need a positive outlet. I was that kid who needed a positive outlet for my frustration and my anger and a lot of these emotions, so I’m happy to continue to be a part of that scene.” There’s certainly a case to be made for any iteration of nothing,nowhere. not particularly dealing with the happier side of life but being able to be this conduit for his listeners; Joe knows it’s serving a higher purpose. “My music has been really sad and downtrodden for a long time,” he says. “This is exploring the anger that’s associated with struggles with mental health, cultural isolation, things like that, and getting it out in a positive way.”

While this is all well and good, apparently, there’s also a physical toll that this change-up in sound brings. “The breath control is crazy!” laughs Joe. “And I have to really pace myself. It’s a completely different beast. I’ve learned to not get overly excited on stage and run out of breath or lose my voice. A lot of it is technique. That’s the difference with metal, heavy music, and rock music – these are true professional musicians, and technique is everything. And that’s something that I really admire and appreciate.”

While ‘VOID ETERNAL’ was born out of Joe’s desire to dig back into what it was he loved about music, the challenge it now presents is a welcome bonus. “I don’t have any interest in feeling complacent, at least right now. I feel like that’s for later in life,” he says. “So I need something to keep me going, and to keep me waking up every morning feeling like I have a purpose.”

As for if there was ever any consideration of branching away from the nothing,nowhere. moniker to release this new material, Joe ponders for a moment. “The more I thought about it, the more I realised that nothing,nowhere. has never stuck to a certain genre as it is, and my fans are here no matter what I do, it seems, so I just was like, ‘Nah, this is me’. I can’t hide this from people. I gotta show this to the world… It’s nothing,nowhere..” ■

Taken from the May 2023 edition of Upset. nothing,nowehere.’s album ‘VOID ETERNAL’ is out now.