Niko's new long player ELECTRIC UNION will be released on ATIC Records this fall. It will be preceded by two singles ("You Used to Have Her" and "The Palace Discotheque") and followed by a 5-track remix EP in the new year.
We have had the pleasure of interviewing her and this has been the result.
Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from / how did you get into music? Was it all internet based?
I was born in Seattle, WA and got into music through my parents’ vinyl collection and their antique pump organ that I’d play all the time when I was a toddler. I sang in gospel choir as a kid and in the jazz program at my high school. When I started playing in bands and performing the internet didn’t even exist! I moved to New York to go to The New School University and started working and writing with producers and other musicians I met on the scene. Those early demos got me my first record deal with ‘Grand Central Records’ based in Manchester UK.
Who have been your main inspirations (both musical and in "life")? And how have they affected your sound?
My inspirations have evolved. In the beginning I was inspired by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Betty Carter and Nina Simone, pretty much any female jazz vocalist I could get my ears on. Growing up in the 80’s there was so much music and I soaked up everything from early hip hop to pop. In life I take inspiration from my parents. We always did things as a family and the way I’ve set up my life, I too spend most of my time with my family and kids and doing what I love. Life’s too short to waste time on things that don’t bring you joy.
How would you define your sound?
I try to make music that I would want to listen to in the car on a late-night drive, that I’d want to hear in an underground club and that could soundtrack a secret after-party. A neon cinematic soundscape. I love vintage synths, intricate vocal harmonies and lyrics that are relatable but also ambiguous enough to mean different things to different listeners, that can make you think and transport you somewhere else.
How has your sound evolved so far?
I think the main thing that has evolved is how much more I’m in control of everything I do. When I first started, I would just turn up to the studio, get given a beat, write the song, record the vocals and leave it to others to sculpt and finish off. Working with Aim (Andy Turner) I’ve learned to be much more self-sufficient. He encouraged me to create my own sounds, program drums and just figure it out. I can produce my music from scratch now, I can choose the right mic and reverb, record myself and get involved with mixing. This has given me the confidence to have strong opinions about how my music should sound and also to do other things like artwork design and video production.
What can you tell us about your last job? What inspired you? What do you want to convey?
The last job I did was to create a video for my next single ‘The Palace Discotheque’. I started with a bit of footage from a video I produced a while back when I was still writing the album. I liked the clip as it really evoked a feeling of me embarking on a journey into the night. In my experience it sometimes feels like a battle to go out and enjoy yourself with so many vultures and ‘energy cannibals’ out there. This song is about doing battle with the dark, slaying and coming back home with your spirit full from a night of dancing… a happy ending. I wrote the song after a night out when I felt like the world’s biggest weirdo magnet and was a bit pissed off.
What can you tell us about each song that makes up your latest work? What is hidden behind?
Well there are nine tracks on the album and each of them tells a story. Some of them I wrote as lyrics to begin with and as a way of getting something that’s happened off my chest; music as therapy. Sometimes I just mess about with a sound on my Prophet synthesizer and something about it would make me feel a bit giddy and off we go… A few hours later you’ve got a pretty solid start to a tune. The title track ‘Electric Union’ is all about lucid dreams and desire. ‘Saturn’ is about planets crashing into each other, metaphorically. ‘Those From The Heavens Come’ is a biblical inspired reference about past civilizations and aliens, I wrote it after watching some weird Discovery Channel video on YouTube. ‘I Love TV’ is a cover of an obscure track I heard on a late night Don Letts radio show. The way I interpret the song is that it’s an ironic comment on the human disconnect since the advent of the digital age…a tender love song about being in love with your television. Very sad and lonely really, but that’s just my take. Like most songs though, it’s up to the listener, it could be about anything.
How are you living the current situation because of COVID? Has your work affected you a lot? Do you think there is hope? I feel like the underground scene will continue to persist.
I’m definitely a ‘glass half full’ sort of person but home-schooling two kids while trying to finish off an album was a huge challenge. I’ve been pretty lucky though as I’ve always worked from home, so no change there. Yes, I’ve missed singing live and doing club nights and festivals but I’ve also loved throwing my own personal parties with my family in our living room with our decks and strobe lights and keytars. I have so much to be grateful for! We have our own recording studio so we went full hermit mode writing and mixing. I also cooked a lot of food and drank lots of wine like most people. Long live the underground! Without artists who do exactly what they want to do what kind of world would we live in? Go out and support people who are doing it themselves.
What projects are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on short videos that capture the essence of the songs on my album. I’m also working on getting remixes together for a limited vinyl release which will follow the album. So far we have Freddy Fresh, Starrion, Aim and Curt Cazal taking songs from Electric Union and putting their own spin on them. All I can say is, they’re all bangers! I can’t wait to get them out there.
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