Following their debut Life on Earth and their follow-up Hate & Love, Electric Union sees Niko pursuing a more focused dance / electro-lounge soundscape where his delicate vocal melodies marry thick grooves, gritty synth basses, and layers of abstract keyboards.
Electric Union covers a lot of sonic ground. ‘The Palace Discotheque’ paints a portrait of the city with Italian flecks after dark. On “You Used to Have Her,” Niko mourns the loss of her love for rave breakbeats before putting all of Sade on the album’s title track. The only album cover is a lush reworking of “I Love TV,” a relatively dark track that Niko heard premiered at a late-night Don Letts radio session many moons ago and whose writers include Leftfield’s Neil Barnes. .
As it happens, Electric Union almost didn’t happen. In 2019, multiple skating derby accidents, falling off horses, and turning on his head in yoga left Niko practically paralyzed and it became apparent that neck and spine surgery was required. Niko was told to prepare for the fact that not only would he never walk again, but he would never sing again. Fortunately, the surgery was a complete success and, after a well-deserved rest and relaxation, he returned to work.
Electric Union was produced and mixed by Aim in his own facilities at Speed Limit Studios, where he also made the beers and contributed a little here and there writing songs.
We have had the pleasure of talking to her, and this has been the result of her.
Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from / how did you get into music?
I was born in Seattle WA and got into music at a really young age listening to my parents vinyl collection and playing on an antique pump organ they had in our living room. As a kid I’d give flyers out around the neighbourhood promoting backyard theatre shows I’d produce and star in with all the kids from my street. I took piano lessons, and sang in the school and gospel choirs before getting into my high-school jazz program where we used to go and compete with other schools across the country, kind of like a sports team. I guess it was only natural that I ended up studying music at ‘The New School’ in NYC at which point I’d had the realisation that this was the only thing I truly enjoyed doing, all of the time. It never felt like work. Before long I was getting jobs, doing gigs all over NYC, making records and writing music for film. My demos got me signed to the now defunct Grand Central Records in Manchester where I met Aim. I ended up working very closely with him, fronting his live band and touring all over the world. We started ATIC Records together in 2005 and have been recording and putting out our music ever since.
How is your sound evolving? What artists and genres do you enjoy mixing right now?
My sound evolved as I became more educated and aware of the production process. When I first started I would get given half ready made beats by producers which I’d write over, add my vocals and then shape the song to a finish from there. Now I know enough about the production side of things to start tracks from scratch and get pretty far into making a song. I’ll then hand it over to Aim to do his thing and take it where it needs to go. Because I work so closely with Aim he knows just how I like things to sound and this new music is as close to reflecting me as it ever has been. If I had to categorise my sound I’d say it’s a mix of electronic, 80’s tinged chill-wave with underground dance / house / d&b influences. Or how about dark indie-pop mixed with lounge jazz vibes.
How do you feel that your music influences or impacts your listeners?
I’d like to think it makes people smile, or want to dance, decide to go out, take a risk, say yes or maybe it helps get them through a shitty day. I hope it soundtracks people’s lives and makes whatever they’re doing a bit more joyous, whether that’s the ironing or climbing mountains..
What projects are you working on right now? What can you tell us about your last job?
Right now it’s all about getting the word out on Electric Union. The last job I did was create a music video for the second single from the album, ‘The Palace Discotheque’. I was inspired by my time clubbing in New York as a teenager and wanted to convey a sense of that excitement, from an era when the city felt a bit more cool and edgy.
Where are you and what have you been doing now?
I’m at home working in Barrow-in-Furness which is close to the Lake District in the UK. I keep things ticking at ATIC Records which keeps me very busy day to day. I make music and record with Aim in our own purpose built recording studio. Yesterday I made 100 homemade gyoza (Japanese dumplings) which is my favourite food.
Has that sound changed a lot in recent years? What is your musical criteria?
I’ve been called a genre slut before. (haha rude!) but quite honestly I’ve never cared about fitting in or sticking with any genre. I’ve made music that could be labelled hip-hop and jazz to power pop and house. To me it’s either good or bad. I like good music.
Do you feel safe now to play a more experimental sound?
I’ve always experimented, right from the start, for me that’s how you’re able to create new things. As far as experimental sound, I think when I used to play with a free-style avant gard jazz group where I was improvising wildly with my voice would be considered more of an ‘experimental sound! What I’m doing now is far more based in traditional song writing and chord progressions because I want to make the kind of music that I want to hear. At the same time I’m not afraid to make music that’s bizzare, I like to experiment more with actual sounds now and I’m really getting into programming our syhthesizers. It’s all fun!
We all know that the digital revolution has affected sales, but has it affected creativity?
I think the fact that artists nowadays have so much more power to self-release digitally is fantastic.
I don’t think about sales or formats though while creating. Creating for me is channeling something deeper. Being creative is fun and challenging, it’s experimenting and puzzle solving. I worry about the business side of things later but I have loads of tracks that will never get released, I had fun making them though and sometimes that’s enough.
Can you tell us what your present and future projects are?
Right now I’m working on pulling together the ‘Electric Union Remix EP’ which will be released sometime next year. I’m super excited to have some top producers do their take on my favourite tracks off the album. So far we’ve got a weirdly beautiful underground electro remix from techno legend Freddy Fresh, a joyful italo-disco-ish vibe from Starrion, a dirtied-up old school hip-hop take from Curt Cazal (QNC) and a really dark and heavy peak-set banger from Aim.