One on one with Ikonika

March 01, 2017

Launching her career on Hyperdub records in 2008, Ikonika has emerged as a versatile artist who has refused to stick to one sound. A talented producer and DJ, this London native will be playing in Durban and Cape Town and showcasing her dynamic sets as well as hosting workshops in both cities. With influences ranging from Teddy Riley to Kode9, we talked to her about the music that inspired her growing up, what got her into production, her changing sound palette and her role in the musical landscape.

Growing up which musicians did you look up to?
Growing up I was into a lot of r&b and hip hop, mainly from America. Producers like The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Rich Harrison, Teddy Riley, those were like my favourite producers.

​And did those inspire you to get your start in music?
I guess it was around J Dilla times when I started to think about producing. J Dilla and the early beginnings of dubstep, listening to Skream, Burial and Kode9, that’s when I really wanted to start producing.

You have a long standing relationship with Hyperdub. Can you tell me what’s it’s like being part of the label?
They’re an independent label so they give us quite a lot of creative freedom. They never say you have to make this type of music or here’s a five album contract, they’re not like that at all. They just kind of know what you’re about. They understand my style of music and the way I like to promote myself and represent myself and all they can do is respect that.

Your sonic palette has evolved over the years, what drives you to explore new sounds?
I’m very big on melodies and I have an attraction to 80s synths. So I think that will always be with me, the funk melodies or the freestyle house melodies. They’re kind of like my guilty pleasure and I try emulate that when I’m in the studio. But I’ve shifted to different palette’s like the last album was more freestyle house and bits of house and techno in there. The new stuff that’s coming out this year is going back to my childhood, love of r&b, and just try and channel all the things I’ve learnt, still with the same 80s synth vibe but with some modern techniques.

Your sets are very dynamic, do you prepare them or do you decide as you play out?
I used to plan my sets meticulously, but now I understand that it’s a team effort between me and the dance floor. So I’ll play a tune and see what the vibe is and see if I can continue with that vibe, kind of earn the trust of the dance floor and then maybe in the middle of the set break into more leftfield stuff. Not that it’s all mainstream stuff, but I go from weird to weirder.

With the recent conversations around race and gender do you see yourself as breaking down barriers or does the music come first?
Always music comes first. I do understand that I’m a woman and that I’m a brown woman as well and there’s not many girls like me out there. So I’m just trying to represent that the best way I can by being myself and being a good role model. It always makes me happy when young women come up to me and say they really want to start producing or djing and I tell them to do. Back home we also run some workshops, beginners lessons. We call it Producer Girls. It’s run by me, E.M.M.A., Dexplicit, and P Jam, so the four of us are kind of like Marvel characters building our little army of women producers, just to show them how easy it is to get into and then after that it’s just pure creativity.

What does 2017 hold for Ikonika?
​I’ve got my third album coming out on Hyperdub, it actually drops just before the summer. It’s all finished now we’re just waiting for some bits and bobs. I’ve got a release on a techno label called DBA which stands for Don’t Be Afraid, that’s run by Semtek who’s based in London. So I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully if we get this remix done by one of my favourite producers I think it’ll be a really strong EP. But I can’t really talk about that!

Catch Ikonika in Durban Friday March the 3rd at the Winston Pub and in Cape Town on Saturday March the 4th at Sorry Not Sorry Club. There will also be workshops with Ikonika, with Durban hosting it on the 2nd of March at Khaya Records and Cape Town hosting at Red Bull Studios on the 7th of March.