In Session: Ikonika

today27/02/2023 13

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You just brought out a new EP, ‘Bubble Up’, on Hyperdub. Was this record in the works for a while?

Yeah, I only really approached Hyperdub with it at the beginning of this year (2022), or maybe the end of last year (2021). I was sitting on the tracks for a while, especially the vocal ones because I was scared to release them and wasn’t completely convinced by my vocal talent. Most of the tracks were ready by the end of lockdown, and I was just doing tweaks and stuff. I started sneaking them into a couple of my sets and seeing how people would react to them to see if I was sure about releasing them.

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I know you don’t often sing on your tracks, why did you choose to add your vocals to this EP?

It was sort of a lockdown hobby, and also not being able to get vocalists in. But it was really by accident because I was just going to make chants initially, just little noises like ‘yeah’ and ‘hey’ and ‘oh’ and stuff like that to build a better palette of my own sampled voice. A lot of people were downloading the same amapiano sample pack, and I wanted to be a little bit different. It kind of got out of hand, and I started saying stuff just for a laugh and then trying to sing and think, okay, this could work. I started playing them to a few of my music friends like Scratcha DVA and Shy One and Shannen SP, and they gave me the confidence to pursue it and that’s where we’re at.

I read that coming out as queer helped influence this next record – could you tell me about that?

I think in my private life, I’ve been very shy and anxious in talking about my actual personality or who I am. Just look at the younger DJs and producers coming through and not giving a shit, and just being confident or not standing up to bullshit. I feel like it’s a bit different for me coming out because my intention was more to be able to navigate in cis male spaces for instance and try to fit into house or techno or dubstep or whatever it is. So I think now is a pretty good time to be influenced by the younger generation and just be able to say, you know, I’m here. I’ve always been here.

You’ve turned your hand to amapiano a lot more recently. What is it about that genre that you enjoy?

I think the slowness and the patience of it. I know a lot of people in London don’t really get it, and I’ve heard a few comments – one of my favourites is ‘just get on with it’. I guess it’s that London mentality that everything’s fast, but I love it. With age, maybe I’m enjoying things being a little slower and more melodic, and bringing back that feeling of bass that I remember feeling at venues like Plastic People, for instance. I often fall in and out of house music and techno, but then something surprises me, and recently that’s been amapiano and most music from South Africa, like gqom. It’s made me research a little bit more and listen to Kwaito and Bacardi house and stuff like that, and remembering people like Spoko’s music and Mujava, and relating to it because with that type of music, there’s a lot of melody going on and hard beats, and this is something I’ve been interested in my whole career. That’s the kind of style I’m attracted to, where you can have hard club rhythms and drum patterns coupled with nice melodies – that’s always been my vibe. I can relate to that because I try to do that in my music.

Read this next: The beautiful chaos of amapiano, South Africa’s emerging house movement

Amapiano is a fairly new genre – how have you seen it grow since you started playing it out?

I like all types of it, like the melodic romantic sunrise-sunset type amapiano and also the Kwaito-influenced tracks, the ones where there’s rapping over the top, the techno tracks. There’s just so much variety there within that format, and seeing how it’s mutated to these Bacardi house sounds. It’s blown up and is worldwide now, and a lot of the DJs and producers are superstars, so I think it might be interesting listening to the next generation of amapiano from the younger kids. I’m more interested in the rougher and more raw sounds, so I think with the superstars making this nice polished amapiano sound, there’s always going to be another underground sound, so I’m curious to see that level come up and the type of producers that will come out of this next generation. But also with UK amapiano, we’ve got a tendency to make things harder and faster. People like Tribal Brothers, Razzler Man & LR Groove, and JLSXND7RS – he’s really a grime producer, but he recently started making UK amapiano – European 305 who go for the slicker style that reminds me of UK garage’s champagne era. I just want to see where the people from UK can take it, including myself, and how much of this influence can run. It’s got me making a tonne of tunes, and it’s made me start singing. So, I’m very happy about that!

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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