British-born, Berlin-based Emika is the reigning queen of the Ninja Tune roster. Having recently completed a US tour with the legendary Amon Tobin, her dub-influenced, sinister pop is connecting with a growing audience. Although sadly her scheduled gig at Gretchen has been cancelled, we caught up with her to chat about what inspires her and her plans for the future.
What sparked your interest in music/sound technology? Were you into gaming or computer programming as a kid?
Not as a kid, but i did get sore thumbs from Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Tony Hawk’s, and Super Mario on my NES. My interest for music technology comes from my frustration as a young composer having to score and write music on paper. When I began composing this was before software like Sibelius existed. So being able to program software instruments and make recordings of acoustic instruments was perfect for the ways I wanted to create music.
How old were you when you first started making beats? What was the motivation behind this?
I love hip hop and I wanted to make beats for MCs. I did make some, a couple of good ones years ago. This was before I started singing properly and was mega lofi bedroom recordings aged 16 and I got to grips with sampling and tape.
What artists inspired you to make your own music?
Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Chopin, Rothko, Beethoven, Dvorak, Aesop Rock, Amon Tobin, Marcel Dettmann, Mala, Mahler, Rachel Whiteread.
How heavily does your location influence the vibe of your compositions? Did living in Berlin set the tone of this record? Do you think it would have sounded completely different had you recorded elsewhere?
This LP sounds like it does because of Berlin techno culture; my memories of Bristol dubstep and wonky around 2004; Rashad Becker who I worked with on the sound of this LP; my old job as a sound designer at Native Instruments and using all their amazing software instruments; Stephan Schmidt inventor of Reaktor and Mike Dalliot inventor of Massive; and Hardwax the amazing record store in Berlin.
My whole life inside and out goes into my music. I feel good here in Berlin as I am living the life I dreamed of as a teenager and I surround myself with great music and people and vibes. And not to forget, the priceless unexplainable music education Bristol Trip Hop gave me and studying music technology at uni at Bath Spa. And definitely not forgetting Ninja Tune and how much they supported me and gave me complete freedom to work independently on developing my music over several years.
I read you used to be an intern at Ninja Tune, was releasing your music on the label always a long term goal?
Yes. I did the complete opposite of what my father always used to tell me – “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. I put all my eggs in two baskets. I wanted to get on the creative music tech course at Bath Spa, and at the time I had no decent music grades to apply with, and I wanted to be a recording artist on Ninja Tune and signed a deal before having any finished music for an album or even a single.
A lot of electronic artists seem like they’re not very comfortable live performers and tend to hide behind props, costume or equipment. You seem pretty self-possessed on stage from videos I have seen. Is that good acting?
Haha self-possessed! I have no idea about acting, and I have no ideas about performing. I simply get on stage and make love to my music in a very soulful in-the-moment way. No visuals, no gimmicks, no tra la la. Just deep vibes, my voice, and the people I am connecting with in those moments. This is the joys of being a musician. I had no ambitions to be a performer as a kid, and it took me several years to work out which technology and how to performing my music on a stage. Now I am totally in love with performing and traveling and meeting fans. I get so much inspiration from the people that come to support me – my next LP I am working on comes from the hearts of the people.
Do you have any plans to compose/produce for other artists?
Yes – my life long plan is to compose music for the Czech Philharmonic orchestra. We’ll see if that ever happens! Time will tell…
Have you started working on your next album yet? If so, what can we expect?
Sexy kick drums which pound you in the throat, beautiful high silvery high notes, square waves, moody music from the moon, truth, stories from the East and a development in the instruments I use.
Hear more from Emika here