Time for you guys to find out a little bit more about DJ Nikki Beatnik – We had a sit down chat with the her recently to give you the lowdown on everything there is to know about Beatnik….
Nikki’s playing the Big Chill in the coming weeks before heading off on tour with Kelis to wow the European crowds – but she’ll still be available for interviews – to find out how to get in touch, get hold of some tracks or just for more information – email firstname.lastname@example.org
DJ Nikki Beatnik Q&A
First things first, how did you first get into DJ’ing?
I started DJ’ing at 16- I went to music school from the age of 8, then as a teenager became obsessed with clubs, house music, hip hop, swing beat, reggae, rare- groove, pirate stations and DJ culture. I bought my first set of belt drive Technics decks from another kid who lived near me and I taught myself to mix, scratch and transform. I had speakers my Dad made me and a tiny Made-2-Fade mixer. It was at Art College that I graduated onto 1210’s and started DJ’ing out at clubs and throwing parties.
What came first, a love of music or fashion?
I can remember at age four going through my grandparent’s record collection and playing Johnny Cash and Boney M so I have always loved music and been musical. I used to sit at our piano and play boogie-woogie when I couldn’t even reach the pedals. I won a place at music school and learned classical cello & piano and vocal training – I actually sang in choirs for years. At the same time, I was obsessed with clothes and dressing up. By the time I was a teenager I was making my own clothes designing shoes part- time and I wanted a career in fashion. But as I got to Art College it was DJ’ing that won.
Do you remember your first gig?
I have played thousands of gigs so I can’t really remember my very first one – probably a house party to be honest. The first club I played at was Batchwood Hall in St. Albans, I was 17 and it had quite a fetching carpet…
Explain to us in your own words the concept behind the Beatnik Soundsystem?
Beatnik Soundsystem is an extension of the records I make with my brother and co-member of Beatnik – Statis. We are always in the studio writing and producing. Beatnik Soundsystem is the live element for clubs and festivals. Statis and I back to back, on 4 x decks with our artists performing in one big live DJ set. A great show of talent, proper DJ skills and pure fun.
Creativity and experimentation seems to be a constant theme within your music – How important is it to you to be really creative and try things that aren’t necessarily in your comfort zone?
Being pushed out of my comfort zone is the thing that rocks my world. I like to be pushing boundaries and be creative- whether it was pushing boundaries as a female DJ, or working with abstract sounds or artists that people don’t quite ‘get’ yet- that all interests me greatly.
You’re just about to head off on tour with Kelis, how did that friendship come about?
Kelis and I have known each other since her first trip to the UK, over 10 years- right before promo for her first single ‘Caught Out There’. Her A&R brought her to one of my club nights and me, my friend Liz who I ran clubs with then (and now runs Kubicle parties) and Kelis made a strong bond. I was playing her records and Neptunes production when lots of people just didn’t get their sound at that time.
K brought Pharrell and all the NERD guys to hang out too in those days, Pharrell would always ask me to drop some ACDC in my hip hop sets! Kelis and I have stayed friends though throughout the years mainly because we have the same sense of humour, love of family and fashion! She is a very real person with a lot of talent, a great heart and I love her to bits. Her tour is so much fun- it’s actually ridiculous! Dressing up in crazy outfits and DJ’ing to 50,000 people is so much fun.
What achievement are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud to have pushed the boundaries for female DJ’s; I kicked down a lot of doors. I’m also proud to have played all over the world for some amazing parties and met many musicians and artists that people consider iconic.
It seems like your links and work within the fashion world came about quite organically – What’s it like to be looked up to as a bit of an authority on style?
Yes- it all came about very organically, but it’s very nice. My style works for me and I can see what works for other people. I studied Fashion and Art so I have a passion for it. Artists have recently been asking me for help with creative direction and styling for videos and photo- shoots, so this is something I will definitely do in the future.
Now this perhaps isn’t the easiest question as you seem to have answered it by taking on about 4 different jobs at once! But if you weren’t a DJ what do you think you’d be doing?
I would be designing shoes. Such an easy question!
What would be your dream gig?
I want to do Jools Holland with my Beatnik Soundsystem – that would be top. Playing at Coachella and Glastonbury is on the hit list. I also want to be Danny Baker’s side- kick on his Radio Show. I love him- he has the funniest most abstract British sense of humour- he cracks me up.
You’ve been all over the world, what’s been your favourite stop?
I love Istanbul- it’s a magical city. I also love France; Paris is fun to DJ and the mid to South of France is so relaxed. Hong- Kong for shopping and neon! New Zealand for lovely people and healthy food. I went to LA to stay with Kelis and loved the climate and hanging out there too- we went to some great spas. I can pretty much enjoy myself everywhere I go.
If you could get in the studio with anyone, who would it be?
Omar. I adore Omar, he has the best voice and his song writing is brilliant. He used to come out all the time to my DJ spots but unfortunately I’ve lost touch. I’d love to make records with him. Also Peaches, Prince, Iggy Pop, Squarepusher (for Statis) Grace Jones – the list goes on and on.
You’re not just behind the decks; tell us about your work on the production side of things – What have you been working on recently?
Production is my passion nowadays. As Beatnik my brother and I have been working with lots of UK artists. We have some astounding talent here. We just finished a track with Terri Walker which is so hot it blew up my speakers! Also we are working with lots of young up and coming artists, new tracks with XO MAN, Zest, Lingo Scott, KCAT and Shiikane are all about to be released. I spun for Diddy’s party in London recently and played some of our tracks and he was crazy about them and wanted remixes of his new Album. Our Beatnik sound mixes our influences of 80’s electro synths, rock, Drum&Bass, hip hop and 90’s house music.
Working with new talent and artists, who would you say is one to watch for the future that you’ve had the pleasure of working with?
All the artists we have worked with recently are doing their thing, PA’ing their own records – they’re all naturally gifted performers, it’s why we work with them. I love being surrounded by people who have the same creative passions as me. Ones to watch are Smiler, Zest, Lingo Scott and XOMAN.
You’ve started making some buzz with your FashBash events and bringing yourself back East – What inspired that and how did it come about?
I have a huge connection with East London; my Nan was born in Hoxton. I lived on Hackney Road for a long time, so when I wanted to do a party with my friend Wale Adeyemi MBE which ended up being Fashbashsoundclash, we both knew the only place for it to be was East London. It is the centre for creativity and where Wale started out too. The way it came about was that Wale and I were both a bit bored of clubs. They was a lot of apathy and mind-the-gap DJ’s and neither of us grew up with that. Wale is a huge music lover as well as running his fashion labels, so between us we wanted to merge the creative focus of East End London with great DJ’s with a passion for music and PA’s from hot artists- the concept was a big crazy Soundsystem Block Party for creative people with great vibes.
Where would you like to see yourself and your brand in say, five years’ time?
I want to be producing records with great artists from all over the world, releasing Beatnik records and touring the Beatnik Soundsystem. I would love to be creative directing some videos and designing a range of T-shirts and shoes…and I want to get married. Hint to Boyfriend…
What’s in store for the Beatnik Soundsystem in 2010/11?
More gigs, more records, more production!