You may have heard this name before but, if you haven’t yet, here we are – James Massiah, poet, producer and DJ from South London.
Truth hunter, Maessiah for those in the know, could be seen as a messenger of modern times, here to spread the word about his AE philosophy – amoral egoism — which is his present life motto. At least, for now. Massiah isn’t afraid to say the unsaid, dig into the unknown, break the rules or shake morality, and it’s always with a provocative smile that he raises uncomfortable subjects. His eloquence is singular, goose bumps material when you witness it IRL. A sensation from which I am convinced he has made his name.
Though expressive and outgoing, Massiah tends to keep what comes in limited. He likes to keep his options open, and having to hone one opportunity isn’t for him. Approachable but uncatchable, accessible but unobtainable — a multifaceted poet that is difficult to get hold of. Not only the King of the night or the Don Juan in eyes of ladies, but also quiet introspective and brutal honesty are what we want you to remember of our prodigy. Lured in by an angelic aura, and held tight by smarts, I spoke to Massiah to find out his secrets and understand who he really is.
For those who don’t know you yet, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? I am James Massiah, 27, born on the 11th August 1990. I write poetry, make music and organise events.
The poetry — when did it all start and why? I guess the first time I read a poem in front of a big group of people, was when I was 12 years old in church. Everyone wrote poetry when I was in school so I started doing the same when I was 10 or 11, that kind of age. English was my best subject; I had the best praise for it. I carried on writing outside of classes. There is one poem that I wrote, which went on the family notice board because it was highly regarded by the teachers. One day after church, one of the Pastors noticed this poem on the family board and said that it was amazing and asked if I could read it in church. So, I read that poem in church and the people there enjoyed it and that’s when I realised that I could write poetry and perform it. So I decided to do it more.
Is it the reason why you are making religious references through your poetry? In particular I’ve noticed that there is often an effect on your voice – is there a link with the echo we can hear in a church? I wasn’t thinking as deeply, but I guess dub and reggae music that has this reverb effect has a big influence on me. Also in modern hip-hop and trap music, they have the auto-tune effect, that is a sort of robotic effect. However, there is a story with my cousin Ishmael, when in a church we were doing a play and we had to have someone to play the voice of God. Someone had the idea that the voice of God should be played by two people — one man and one woman. So they both did the voice and it was like two voices that kind of blended into one. This souvenir would never leave me.
Evoking sensitive subjects, is the robotic voice perhaps a way to dehumanise yourself and create some distance between yourself and what you’re saying? I think there is definitely a truth in that. I think when you put this effect on the voice or edit it a bit, it dehumanises it and it is less about the word. I think sometimes when someone is speaking and the voice is too present, it can almost feel too didactic and patronising, like if someone is trying to teach you or preach to you. There is a benefit in morphing and shifting the voice and doing something with it — to make it less about teaching and more about art and aesthetic. There are lots of reasons.
How has growing up and studying in a religious environment inspired your journey as a kid and influenced you to become a poet? I definitely got confidence from that, I wasn’t afraid to speak in front of people. It also happened in school because we were doing this Shakespeare play. My parents were also really encouraging, they always told my brother and I that we were amazing and we could do it. I had really good teachers and Pastor, as well. Even if I went to state school, the school was bad because the students were naughty but the teachers were good, they care and had some interest in how I would do.
Does religion still influence your work today, unconsciously? I don’t believe in God but I think there is some symbolism. The way that the King James Bible is written to me is so powerful and I find it very beautiful, as well. There are old English words that I would use for a poem that I wouldn’t say in a general conversation. I feel like it removes from the day-to-day life and feels a little bit more special and elevated. I can only say that because I’ve read the bible and known some of the passages.
You lost faith when you were 18 — what happened after that and what has changed in your life since that moment? I was starting to lose faith and then I started to lose friends because I made it vocal. There is one day where I said to myself: I am going to stop praying. I prayed for my whole life and some of the things I asked for came, some of them didn’t come. So I thought, let me just stop praying and see how life goes. I didn’t pray for a whole month — shit happened, shit didn’t happen and it was just life, you know. I realised that my whole life was a complete lie, but I only got to that point after the Bible stopped making sense. It was more of an academic, scholarly process. I came to the conclusion that the voice in my head, which I thought was God, was just me, my inner voice, my conscience. Sex and drugs are the things that have changed in my life since I’ve lost faith. Those things didn’t happen at all before.
Would you say that poetry is like a curative process? Yes, a lot of the issues I have in life are solved by writing about them — the same way that some people have a conversation with someone. I hate to say this word because it’s cliché, but it is true: it is almost like a therapy. A page becomes like a counsellor or a therapist and you work it out as you are writing it. There is also the beauty that comes from putting it with a certain aesthetic, writing in the way you find it beautiful — the rhythm, rhyme or the kind of pattern of words. It’s like you are solving the puzzle of the poem how it is going to sound the best to your ears, and you are also solving the issue of this heartbreak or this missed opportunity. This is what I found from my end.
Ben Sherman shirt, Alex Mullins jacket, Xander Zhou trousers
You’ve developed a really unique style, it could almost be blend with slam nor religious speeches — what is the message you want to convey through it? The intention is to spread my AE philosophy of Amoral and Egoism, nihilism, and determinism. All my poems contain those messages, without necessarily having to say the words. When I say ‘Amoral’ it doesn’t mean that I extol a society with chaos. My definition of ‘Amoral’ is that I want to destroy morality in more people minds and have more people who are more informed about the real reasons why they do what they do.
Can you give an example? For instance, I am not giving to charity because I am a good person, I am giving to charity because I am a selfish person and it is in my self-interest to give to charity. Donald Trump is not a bad person — he is doing what he is doing because it is in his self-interest to do what he is doing. He is not worse or better than me, but what he is doing is against what I value in life and I am going to combat him. This is actually why I left religion because I was questioning what is real in life. I can appreciate bullshit, I can appreciate a lie, and I can appreciate a fairy tale and a myth — so long as I am aware of what the truth is. If everyone around you is laughing and you don’t know why, it can be really hard. I felt like that sometimes in church. The joke wasn’t about the people in a church, the joke was out there still and I didn’t get it. Now that I would say I am a nihilist or determinist I feel like I know what everything is already so nothing can make me feel uncomfortable.
How and why did you get to the point of creating this AE philosophy? It got to the point where there are these different philosophies that inspire me to write and I realise that they didn’t make sense. At the time, I was on the hunt to find some sort of like foundation or threat that could run through all of my writing, that was true. I went to do these researches, benches on the internet, looking for these philosophers and ideas. Nowadays, everyone is activist – into liberalism, feminism, black lives matter or something else. A lot of people would assume that if you are against that sort of ideas, it is because you want to be. That is not my issue – I want to have fun parties with people from all different races and genders. My issue is about the maths and sciences. There are different logics but it is about a logic that is consistent to me – If you say this thing and that thing and they contradict each other, then your philosophy doesn’t make sense but if you say this thing and that thing and they still live together, you’ve got a system of mathematics that could build a bridge. That is why I’ve invented AE for Amoral Egoism, which is the truth of everything to me.
What is your poetry style and in what kind of spaces do you tend to perform? My whole thing with poetry is – there is nice poetry when people write about flowers and trees but for me what I connect with in art generally, is about stand up comedy – comedians who swear a lot. It is about being uncouth and irreverent. The kind of thing you couldn’t say in church on a Sunday in front of the kids, the husbands, wives, family, and grandparents. That is the space I want my poetry to occupy. There are no manners in this and the place where I tend to read it, generally are places where people are ready for that.
What are the topics that you and your community like to raise? A lot of my poetry is about sensitive topics or personal issues, things that are hard to talk about. Subjects that are difficult to discuss day to day with ‘normal’ people, in an office. I learned in church that a lot of people do a lot of things but they have a veneer or a mask — some people will do things for the image and some other will give the impression they don’t do some of these things. That is the way a lot of people function in society. If that is how they want to do it, it is fine. It is the same with my parents, I try to maintain our relationship by not saying what I am like or expressing my ideas, even though they probably know what I am like but it is almost harder if that become the case. Sometimes it is just easier not to say the truth.
Have your parents seen any of these? I am sure they have seen some of it. There is this rap I did, where I’m talking about marriage, and my dad asked me if I was still a virgin or not and I said yes because it is just easier. I would have imagined that if my dad knew that I wasn’t, he might have asked me to leave the house.
Pretending to be blind for the sake of the relationship, is that the way your parents have decided to act with you? They just want to ignore it. I think that is definitely a part of our relationship but I don’t ever tell them this stuff. I don’t say where I was even when I am away for 3-4 days in a row.
So according to you, the truth doesn’t set you free? No, not always! I mean it can, but free to what? Free to go or free to be depressed and commit suicide?
Yeah but sometimes you know the truth, without having to hear it, isn’t? Sometimes you think you know the truth but there is a truth that comes when you both acknowledge it. It is almost like you could be on a date with someone, you both know that you fancy each other but then if you don’t say it, you just go home and nothing happens. There is always this thing in life — I feel it is almost easier sometimes to text someone than to be with them and address something at that moment. There is a fear of what can happen at that moment and the fear of being rejected.
If you like someone, would you always say it? Not always. Sometimes it is not worth it, it depends on how much. We were talking about selfishness before and I think the airy human being has this thing in the head of profit and loss. I believe that everyone has this thing in life about saying the truth in public and sometimes they have more to gain by keeping it secret.
There is a common thread in all of your visuals and videos — mostly in black and white, nostalgic yet authentic, always suggesting/offering many possibilities. Do you work on your own art direction? Yes, and I edit them myself as well. I use the Boiler Room camera and a little GoPro, and there is an app that I use on my phone as well. I like the idea of always having different possibilities. Why does it have to be just one thing? Everything, all at once.
Like an orgy? [Laughs] Yes, exactly!
Ben Sherman shirt, Alex Mullins jacket
Congratulations on the launch of your first book ‘Euthanasia party- twenty-seven’. What would you say it is all about? It is about death so it is about life by default. So if it is about life, it is about sex by default but the central element is death and the way you connect with that. Euthanasia means good death so I am just exploring different way to die. The whole purpose of this book is that there is someone that was meant to die but he didn’t – so it is also about determinism.
Would you like to be 27 years old forever? That is probably the best question. I am going to say it to you honestly right now — this year has been incredible. My 27th year of life was incredible. I think it was the most different from all the rest of the years. Twenty seven was the beginning of another me. It is almost like night and day, there is a point in which it is dark and it becomes light. And it is light and it becomes dark. The idea of being 27 forever, I guess is no, but also: waaah, what a year!
Do you think that something has really changed since you are 27? Yes definitely. My first time [having sex] was when I was 20 and had a girlfriend for a while. Something happened at age 24 and, for a number of reasons, I was celibate again until I was 26. I decided that, because of things that I experienced at the time — heartbreak, trust issues, STDs, pregnancy — all these different things that I was scared of. There’s lots of stuff I really shook off at 27 that I would’ve still clung on to.
I guess they are the fears and guilt we all have. How did you get rid of them? Read more of George Orwell and Albert Camus.
I know you said you aren’t afraid of anything in ‘Shook To Death’ but, really, what is your greatest fear? When I was in church with my mum when I was young, she asked me the same question and I said, “For me to get in trouble for something I didn’t do, or for someone to get praise for something that I did.” Both have happened and I am still alive today.
To finish, what would be your poem of life? I know that everything I see, Is just the way it is meant to be, And if it ever changes state Then nature sought to seal its fate Nothing’s right, nothing’s wrong And everything’s where it belongs And if I seek to change a thing It is up to me because I am the King, By James Massiah.
THE SURVIVAL ISSUE 115
Artist / Coucouchloe
Photographer / Alessia Gunawan
Interview and styling / Léa Federmann
In the two years since releasing her debut EP Halo, Coucou Chloe has jetted into becoming one of London’s most interesting experimental producers. I sayLondon, specifically, because this is where she where she moved, distinctly, to get serious about music. A plan that has whole-heartedly come through with the goods. Since the move — which was from Nice btw — she has released not just her debut EP, but a second titled Erika Jane (after her real name); started her own record label NUXXE; and contributed to Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma show music. Twice. Huge.It’s with an unexpected sweet voice and charming French accent that she introduces herself to me. Nothing like I’d imagined when listening to her dystopian tracks — undulating and waving with breakneck hip hop beats and demonic vocal raps — fit to survive a post-Miss Kittin club environment, or a tumultuous current state of affairs..
When did you find out you wanted to make music your life — was it always very clear to you or did it come as a revelation at some point?
I was playing piano when I was younger then I dropped it when I was something like 13. After a break without thinking much about playing music I definitely missed it, so I bought myself a keyboard when I was in art school and started to experiment some stuff. I was recording lots of different sounds as well and was playing around on my software; it was like a kind of puzzle of samples. While experimenting other way to create sounds, I’ve realised that what I actually wanted to do was music. So I dropped out art school to come to London and learn how to make music.
As an artist, do you feel the pressure and responsibility of conveying a certain message or image?
I am making the music I want to make without thinking too much about it, I mean it’s spontaneous and will sound different depending on my moods. I felt this pressure but quickly I realised that it’s already super intimate to be sharing my music with other people.
What do you want people to see or remember when they think of Coucou Chloe and Erika Jane?
I have a lot of people who are messaging me to tell me the experience they had with my music or the way they live it. It’s truly beautiful if my music can walk with people in their everyday life and become the soundtrack of some of their memories. People can remember what they want to remember about me.
Your music has found a nice home in the fashion industry, soundtracking shows, is it something you expected?
I never expected my music to be featured in fashion shows and now I see thisregularly. It’s really interesting as well to see my music evolving in different places and brings interesting questions for my future creations. I would love tobe composing the soundtrack of a whole fashion show though.
You've set the tone for a new era with your experimental soundtracks — digital yet apocalyptic, nervously energetic with a hip-hop beat. Who's the audience? What kind of clubs do you get booked by?
I started in small underground clubs and I’m happy to see myself booked on festivals and be playing on stage more and more. The parties I play are really all very different now.
What’s your preparation and creative process like, depending on if you’re playing for a radio show, a club or if you’re going on tour?
I’ve got a monthly show on NTS Radio, I use it as a platform to show people the music I like — the way you can show a friend like, “Hey did you hear this one? You should listen to it.” But whenever I’m performing I play live so it’s totally different. I don’t really care about the context; I’m just here to show my music so this is what I do.
You’ve been making music for less than two years and your tracks have already been featured in figureheads’ videos and the biggest fashion shows — how did you get so far, so quick? What was the initiating eventor the trigger or the opportunity?
I learned how to use my software properly when I arrived in London, so two years ago from now. I’m very happy to see myself growing as an artist and see people receptive to what I’m doing. Every experience is making me grow but I have to say that the fact my tracks have been featured in the soundtrack of two of the Fenty shows definitely helped start doing stuff with fashion.
If social media would cease to exist, would that be a real issue for your image and communication? How would Erika Jane and Coucou Chloé survive without it?
I guess I’ll be sharing this experience with a lot of people if social media ceased to exist. I guess for a time it would be tricky but we would find solutions.
What does it feel like to be recognised valued for what you do? Do you think your attitude towards others and the world, has changed since your music got to be known?
I do feel touched but I know that I still have so much to learn. It definitely gives me faith to continue.
It's exciting to hear that you are going to LA and NY at the end of this year -— when exactly and what for?
I’m there to play some shows, do studio sessions, hang out. It’s going be cool.
Is collaboration the essence of your creative process? What’s role it plays in your work?
Collaborations are very important to me, it’s always very enriching to work with other artists, share other sounds, other visions, and new processes of work. I see collaborations as such intimate things though; creating something with someone is always super special and emotional to me.
You are now working on your next release — what are we allowed to know about that?
I got better in production. You’ll let me know what you think.
You’re a co-founder of NUXXE — can you tell us more about this collective label. What's your identity as a crew and your goals and future projects?
Shygirl, Sega Bodega and myself (who are the founders of NUXXE) were sitting in Shygirl’s bedroom and we were thinking how much we would like to be booked more all together, then we just thought of a name for our crew. We decided to release Shygirl’s duo single on NUXXE — it felt natural — we obviously wanted to make it the best way we could at that time so we looked up about distribution stuff. Then we just looked at each other and said loud, “Wait, we are a label now.” That’s the story. Now Oklou has joined the crew, we already growing! Let’s see what the future will be, but we are definitely down to make it the sickest possible.
What's your everyday motto?
The thing that makes you stand up and not give up even when you would.There are so many things to live. And so much music to make.
If you had to wear one outfit for eternity, what would it be?
Hmmm that’s a tricky question to answer but it would probably be a full oversize Burberry look. Full Burberry pattern with my Osiris D3 shoes. I don’t think I could get tired of this.
What's the whole purpose of this journey, the bottom line, the highest level you want to reach?
I don’t know yet, let’s see what I will be and what I will want at this time.
If you could have one song or sound be the soundtrack of your life, whatwould it be?
Striking presence and sharp eloquence, it’s always with a quiet confidence that James Massiah get on stage — far from being conventional, performing poetry, another way to spread his AE philosophy. Let’s get into the intimacy of this prodigy London Poet.
The focus today is on James Massiah, this impulsive and very talented Poet has already had more influence on the poetry London scene than you can image - been mandated to represent a series of fashion brands, featuring in multiple campaigns. Hosting poetry sessions and radio shows, music events including the opening of LFW and commissioned to produce work for BBC & The Guardian. He has recently released his first book – ‘Euthanasia Party, Twenty Seven’ and he is now working on a stylised video sequel to accompany it. Once again Massiah is about to blow our mind. Just be prepared.
I invited James to come around and he arrived at 8:30pm. It was meant to be 8pm but not when you are a determinist. It is in a very relaxed frame of mind that we got this interview started. I felt like I’ve known James forever, guilt-free and with veracity, he describes his nihilist/aeist ideas, what matters to him, what he is aiming for and how performing poetry is another way to spread his philosophy and connects with people in the present moment. All of which was said in a very elegant way, obviously.
Can you please introduce yourself? James Massiah. 28yo Poet, Producer and DJ from South London.
Do you always speak about yourself in your poetry? Not always. I have written about things that are external to me like trees, flowers, mountains. I have written about other subjects as well and lots of them I have been commissioned for. Sometimes I like to challenge myself and write about something outside of my own experience but it will always in some way relate to me because it is my writing and it is my interest and passion. So I can write about these things but there is always going to be some level of nihilism or a nihilistic approach to it. So it is not always about me and my life, it can also be about someone else’s life.
In what environment and state of mind do you need to be to write poetry? I really enjoy what I am creating when I am moving - when I am on my bike or in the shower. Some of the best stuff that I have made, didn’t happen while sitting with my pen. Sometimes I write quickly on my phone when I am at a party, very high. When I have some ideas, it has to come out.
You can see that in my poetry, you can see the connection between one line and the next line, in a very clear and obvious way, like ‘The ground is blue and the sky is too’. If it is not the rhyme, it is the concept that has a direct connection to it. It has to be quick and kind of impulsive.
What is your opinion on the poetry scene and what would you like to bring to it?
There is still a very strict way of performing and subjects to discuss in the liberal politics which I think are nice. However, I want to get more ugly, more brutal, more nihilistic and weirder. Bring something completely different. I think if you were to put me on a line up with other poets, like the London scene, there would be a very clear difference.
What is so specific to yourself? The subject, even the words I would choose to use, a lot of people wouldn’t use them or the decision to invent a word for a purpose of a poem because it feels good in it. “Stick please around, I like the voice of your sound and the way your moves body gets down if you appear-dis joy will part-de and sorrow will sit in your seat", it is not written in a linear way and it doesn’t make sense but it is intended to prove a point.
So you don’t ever use the code of poetry? I do but to me, there is something important about knowing the rules and subverting them to make a point about life and what it is that anything should or shouldn’t be. I find this important because it is about expressing a philosophy or idea beyond the words themselves. It is about nihilism and creating your own rules within the knowledge of the rules that govern you.
For instance, I’ve invented ae for aeism- which means amoral and egoism. If you were to say that something it is like ae, it would be an ‘aeist way’. It is not a real word but it will become one, eventually. I also call it party poetry or funk poetry or pop poetry because it is about funk. The funk is you, the funk is me, the funk is us, the funk is him. So to me, the funk is everyone, everyone is funky and everyone is selfish, everyone is disgusting and nasty and everyone is evil. So if everyone is evil there is nothing to compare it to, so everyone is good and so it cancels each other out. I used to say when I was writing that ae was for - all equal. I was trying to figure how we are all equal and I think that we are equal on a very basic level, so far as we are all in pursuit of our own interest. That is it. It doesn’t matter when it comes to you wanting to reach this thing here or if I am taller than you or if you are faster than me. That is why I deleted this and it became ae for amoral and egoism. All equal was the bullshit everyone was still caught up on. We were just saying that because it sounded nice – it would have been nice to say that you and I are equal but that is not true. According to me, it is about trying to find something that was true everywhere and this is it. The truth of everything is amoral and egoism, as whoever you are, whatever you do, it is always true. A poem!
Is poetry for you only an artistic way to express yourself or are you also using it for a specific purpose - to defend any causes or make some change, for instance? No, I am not an activist, you got me wrong or not in the way you would think. People think I am an activist because I am a poet and I must care about humanity, environment and politic issues but it is wrong. I am a determinist, hedonist, egoist, nihilist, and aeist.
I want my friends to have a good time because when they are around me I want them to be in good form, I want all of my friends to live well. Some of my friends are black, gay, woman, trans but if you are asking me, do I care about every single gay or trans person or black or woman, the answer is no. For me, it’s not because you are a woman that I care but because you are smart, funny, engaging - that is what for me is more important.
It is unexpected to see people performing poetry as it could also just be a written art on its own – why this choice? Do you feel the need to interact and share a moment with your audience and see how people react to your poetry or is it, perhaps, just a nice excuse to bring people together and party? The last bit is very true. In many ways, it is an excuse. If you come on the Monday poetry show, it is very short, it’s half an hour, maybe forty minutes but before it starts it is an hour and a half, and after it stops sometimes it is six or seven hours long. The poetry covers the evening and it offers a purpose. People who are here now, they are here now. They might not take a book home and they might not look for it on the internet but they are here right now. The words you hear, you might take them differently than if you read them but these are the words that are on the page. If I give you a poem on a paper, I can’t make sure you are going to read it but when you listen, the words are going straight to your head and I can still connect with you and engage in the present moment.
I feel that poetry, in general, has a very restricted audience - Is performing also a way for you to reach a wider audience and people who wouldn’t necessarily be interested in poetry in the first place? That is true def.
As a Poet and Producer, who are your main influences? A lot of my inspirations are stand up comedians - George Carlin, for his rhythm. Albert Camus, Kate Bush, George Orwell, Dave Chapelle, Eddie Murphy, Bernie Mac, Lenny Bruce, for the subject matters. Rap, singers, and songwriters are also a massive influence on me. Morrissey and more recently Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Kayne West, Prince, James Brown, Michael Jackson. That is why my kind of approach really related to the funk 27. Grime as well, I like the violence in that kind of writing.
Given the chance to meet with them, what would you ask? ‘Do you believe in right and wrong?’
Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you would like to share with us? I am now working on a sequel to go with the book I’ve recently released, which is a project that I am really excited to share. It is coming very soon!
The project of making a stylised poetry video is something completely different from what you are used to – alone facing the camera, no audience to support or interact with, it isn’t spontaneous anymore, not allowed to make any mistakes, it has to be sharp. I guess it is a new challenge for you - what are you expecting from that? It is like a sequence in my head, for me, it is the next step. Yeah but I don’t mind about making mistakes – there is one video, I uploaded it and it was up for maybe 2-3 hours after I realised that I didn’t like it. I took it down, re-edited it and uploaded it again and that was it. There is this thing with Instagram of views and stats - it matters to some people but I don’t care. I even look at that one thinking that it was special for that reason. The mistake was a part of the overall story and the learning process. I do a video sequel because it is not possible for everyone to have the book but I can spread my philosophy and it will travel in a different way and will reach more people. There are more views on Instagram than youtube because this is where people are. Not for now.
It sounds like you had a busy year or just a busy life in general - can you just go through everything you do, as well as the projects you’ve been working on this year? I worked on different projects for Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Ellesse, Vice, and BBC. I also organise events for the Boiler Room, Monday's poetry show at The Haggerston Poetry during all summer and I host monthly poetry shows on NTS radio.
What is the highest level you would like to reach so you could die in peace? There is this phrase - God is the measure of genius -
It isn’t completely true of course, there are lots of people who are very intelligent, very creative and who aren’t famous and will probably never be rich. It is just interesting the way in which value, is not inherent, it does not exist but each person can ascribe value to something. The majority of people on this planet ascribe value to money and so because people believe in it, it has value. So I think in that sense I buy into it and I buy in the value of money and what it indicates. So if you ask for the highest level I would like to reach, obviously I could never make another pound and still get on with life but in terms of having something to aim for and what I want to achieve – well, I want to meet new people, I want to have some more fun experiences, hear some new music, hear some poetry that pleases my mind and I want to make more money because that is just something you can measure, process and grow.
I met Lola in North-West where she hails on the eve of her debut single launch “Mountain Dew” to talk all things music, modelling, self love and Spanish princesses. When we sit down she’s endearingly awkward but confidently holds her own as we exchange some habitual banter before diving into the interview.
For those who don’t know you yet, could you introduce yourself, we want to know MORE.
My name is Lola, I’m 21 and I’m based in London. I’m a singer, a songwriter, and an artist.
Firstly, I love the music I’ve heard of yours thus far; there’s a real sense of relatability and personal experience in the lyrics. Where do you dig for inspiration for you’re songs?
I guess something notable is that I have always felt like an alien or an outsider, and that’s definitely reflected in my work. For a long time I didn’t even know what my actual ethnicity was; my mum got me a DNA test for my 21st birthday. The first question people would ask me was always this: “so… where are you actually from?!” I even thought I was adopted for a hot minute because I felt so weird looking. There are a lot of myths and legends that are told in my family, about Spanish Princesses and weird traditions. We have a family chalice… None of my family history or identity felt real. Saying this to kids at school meant immediate jokes and shit like that, so I tended to try and fit in. I don’t think it was a case of me not being liked or welcome by my peers, it was more how I felt about myself and how I didn’t feel like I could really relate to anyone. The whole process of finding my identity, making sense of my own experiences, and learning to accept myself was one that would have been made a lot easier if I had seen someone in the media who I could relate to. It’s been such a crazy journey in finding out who I am now, that has been really complex and difficult for a number of reasons. I tried to encapsulate the process in my work, which I’ll get more into when I’m ready - it’s in the music anyway!
When did you start to steer more down the music route, when did it all start?
I grew up around music, my whole family including my Grandparents are and were creative. It was super inspiring to see growing up. The musical experiences I had were always so magical, and those moments stuck with me forever. I think classical piano got me into it initially - I really hated the theory shit. Apart from that - the feeling music gave me was kinda like a drug. I made this hand clap with my friend when I was eleven, which my dad recorded and made into my first official single (ha!), and I guess my songwriting started there. Music became my solace. I could be honest with myself when I was making it because I could make even the ugliest things sound beautiful. Writing is how I figure out more about myself - it’s like my own subconscious speaks to me. My independent journey in music began about a year ago, though, after I had left London for about 6 months. It gave me the space to take the time to get to know myself and to figure out what I wanted to do and what I wanted to make. When I came back, I decided that music was going to be my life, and that I would just have to make it happen!
Your musical style/and composition is so unique to yourself, how would you describe you’re sound to someone who hasn’t heard Lola yet?
I find this question sooo hard. I don’t know! How the hell do you even describe sound?! I feel like categorising music is becoming more and more pointless these days. There is an unlimited spectrum of music, and I feel like calling an artist’s body of work one specific “genre” just doesn’t do it justice… You could call my music Alternative but I think it’s pointless to categorise my work when it’s constantly evolving and changing. I guess I would say that the running theme and feel is kind of ethereal and nostalgic.
What type of music where you into growing up ? Who are your main musical influences?
Okay, so if I broke it down, it would be like this: my Grandpa had a Big Band that he would sometimes conduct from his drum kit… he was such a cool guy. He played Jazz in his house non stop. You know that Jazz that sounds like endless solos and improvisation? Then we would have little interludes where he would play the piano. His music was hypnotising. The layered melodies I heard in his house stuck with me. Then we have my Dad: he’s a funk dad. Like a stereotypical funk dad, with 70’s inspired flowery shirts, corduroy trousers and a fedora. He had a home studio in our house and would bring in a ton of amazing musicians all the time who did every style you could imagine. But his preference was pretty hard core funk. He introduced me to Soulwax, Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Jamiroquai… and his style of percussion is engraved into my CORE - I live for a bit of percussion on a track. And lastly my Mum. She was more of a mixed bag when it came to her music taste, it was more eclectic. She sang a lot of Chamber music while I was growing up, but she listened to a lot of Kate Bush, Seal, Prince, Bowie, that kind of thing. Her and my dad would play artists like Eve, Little Dragon, Justin Timberlake, Frou Frou, Corinne Bailey Rae, Jamie Liddell and Erykah Badu in the car. I think that’s why I love a falsetto so much. The songs I remember being obsessed with are ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’ by Eve featuring Gwen Stefani, and ‘Breathe In’ by Frou Frou. Imogen Heap is still one of my idols and it’s my dream to write with her.
As an independent artist who writes and co-produces, can you tell us about your creative process?
It depends on who I’m working with. It’s a lot of trial and error, all that stuff. But writing wise I try not to think about anything too much, because when I overthink something it loses it’s authenticity. Like maybe someone has pissed me off; rather than thinking bout how to describe it, I channel the feeling. Sometimes I won’t even know I was upset until after I’ve written the song… then I’ll hear it and it’s like “damn! Is that really me?! Is that how I feel?” When it comes to the beat again it depends, sometimes I can leave the producer to do their thing and sometimes I’ve gotta be there 24/7. But I have a playlist where I put everything I think I could reference, so some days I’ll take it into the studio and be like “GUYS! Listen to this ‘ding’ sound! We gotta find something like it!”
London is notorious for nurturing some of the best underground and global artists, whats your take on London grown music from inside the scene? Where does Lola fit into it all?
Is it corny to say that I think that London has the most exciting emerging talent right now?! What I love about the scene is that there are a lot of really unique acts starting to excel in the industry, like they’re really being recognised for their craft. It’s so refreshing. I do think that the majority is still underrated, though. It makes me so happy that people are staying true to their vision - that’s what we need right now. I mean, as for myself, all I can really do is do my best to convey what I want to say through my work and stay true to myself as an artist. I’d like my music to bring something different to the table. I don’t know. This is the hardest question. I just wanna make people feel something and start a conversation. I hope that people will relate.
Who are you listening to right now? Uh, right now I’m listening to a lot of RnB and Soul music - D’Angelo, Erykah, Sade, SZA, Moonchild. And I’m listening to an unreleased song by my homie on repeat, shout out to LYAM! Love you.
Your debut single Mountain Dew is launching this month, how are you feeling on the eve of its release?
I’m so anxious, but I’m super excited too; releasing a song is like putting your baby out on the street. Once it’s out it’s up to the people to do with it what they will. I’m still in shock that this song even happened, it was a fluke; we made it in a day. The message is that of self love. Learn to love yourself before you get yourself into that relationship shit with someone; be confident in yourself, trust your emotion and don’t feel guilt for however you feel. It’s a track about the fact that everyone falls in and out of love, and you have to be mentally prepared for that possibility and the energy it takes from you. As the angel SZA said: “it’s self love and it’s lit.”
Your visuals are incredible; do you work on your own art direction?
I am super lucky to have the team that I do. I’m surrounded by geniuses. It’s like a dream. Everyone I’ve worked with on the visuals has been a friend whose work I fuck with. The person I’ve worked with the most has been Yumi Carter, my manager, and my best friend; we usually brainstorm together and come up with concepts. All of our messages to each other are screenshots and videos and inspiration.
As a new emerging female artist in a traditionally male dominated industry what message do you want to put out there? Any advice for aspiring creatives?
The ultimate message is always self love and acceptance. Always. I’m still learning to do that every day and my work captures that process - I try to be as honest as I can, even if the truth is ugly. It’s the idea that if I can be honest about how I feel, you can too. If I can overcome everything and achieve my dreams, you can too… the cheesy lines could go on forever and ever. I just want people to believe in themselves and stop being such harsh critics. There are a lot of things I wanna talk about here… I gotta stop before I ramble. Just take time for yourself. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Listen to understand, not to respond. You control how you think of yourself, no one else. It’s just about reminding people of those things. My friends always say I’m corny but I think I’ve just outdone myself.
If there is one sentence to describe who you are or your way of seeing life – what would that be ?
Kali Uchis said in an interview with Noisey, “What really changed my life was the realisation that I literally don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, ever, in my life. Once you realise that, you come to a consensus that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing with a purpose, and you’re doing it because you want to… You don’t have to do anything because someone told you to, or because you think that it’s obligatory.” When I heard her say that, it really hit home. I did a lot to please other people, and it ultimately made me miserable; it always goes into a downwards spiral. It’s okay to be selfish, and to look out for yourself. It’s how I try to live my life now, I have to be my own best friend - ultimately, we are alone in this world, so do you! You might as well.
On the verge of releasing her first album, titled ‘DJ Tools’, London-based artist, Robin Buckley is the musician we’d like to put the light on today.
Robin’s electronic vibe is related to club culture – As a mostly sober, transgender person, her music is fluid, dynamic and social. The idea is to share and connect through her difference rather than erasing it and invite everyone else to do the same.
Her previous pieces of work have explored the materiality of film sound, YouTube and EDM sample packs through the lens of house and ambient. Buckley also runs a radio series for Resonance Extra called Lossless Communication, which explores sound discovery in the internet era. Other recent work includes a live improvised performance with Claire Tolan in Berlin, sound design for the art website Clubdead and Brostep in the Style of Florian Hecker, a multichannel composition available for download with limited edition lanyards and a game which offers a virtual environment for listening to the composition.
Using a geeky vocabulary, Robin explained to us what's the process to make music like as a computer artist, with all its complexity. She also told us more about her music, the message behind it and what she hopes to bring to the social space and world of club culture.
As a young and emerging artist from the London scene – who are you and what’s your vibe? I'm Robin and I'm a 25-year-old musician and sound artist who has spent a lot of their life in Germany as well as in the UK.
When did you decide to take a music path? Well, I used to be in a few bands through school, but at some point, I started exploring electronic music as a way to reproduce some of the things I was listening to around that time.
How would you describe your music to someone who doesn’t know you yet? It depends how much I know about them, but on a basic level, I would say it's electronic music. If they know a bit more about the area I'm involved in, I would describe it as music that plays with the idea of how club music should function in a space.
Could you explain how club music should function in a space, according to you? Well it should be expansive in various kinds of ways, for example, letting people think about new kinds of rhythms and textures they can experience in a club, as well as different forms of social relations... i.e. reactions to the music, to each other and the room.
Robin Buckley aka @rkss for those in the know – why this alias? What musical projects have you already released under this name and where can we find them? haha, it doesn't come up very often in interviews but basically, it was me using a letter generator and then choosing my favorite combination. Names and titles weren't particularly important to me at the time when I started the project. Some recent releases from the last two years include Top Charted, which is a precursor conceptually to DJ Tools, Cutoff EP which is my take on house music and Brostep in the Style of Florian Hecker, which looked at the relations between academic art music and commercial dance music.
Sounds like your music required lots of materials and digital instruments – what’s your creative process like and what do you use to create it? I'm a very 'in the box' producer, which means I do everything on the computer and don't use outboard gear or hardware. I use Ableton Live and always start with a certain set of samples, such as audio from a film or a certain sample pack or some recordings I might have made (these are like the theme for me of the project). Then I will take these samples and either edit them extensively or just simply put them into some kind of time frame, whether that be techno or house or computer music.
What’s the most powerful tool/instrument? What are your most prized possessions, both physical and digital? I really like simple things, so for me (other than the laptop itself) is the LFO Max for Live tool, which is like a very simple device that can control other elements on a track. I mostly use it for rhythmic elements, say I have a percussive sound, I can connect the LFO to an arpeggiator (a device that automatically plays rhythms with the sound), and it will keep changing and morphing the rhythm and creates these very interest swings that are not tied to the BPM of Ableton at all... a few of these sounds are once can be very hypnotic because it's quite loop-y , but not in the way we are normally used to when everything is put to one BPM.
Your sound can be described, as club and computer music, isn’t? Who do you want to engage within that social space? Are you performing/DJing in clubs, as well? Yeah, it's definitely pulling from club music but isn't necessarily presented in a club, i.e. could be venues and sitting down concerts. I always find it interesting to see people's different takes on my works. Even a good friend who's only newest musical references was New Order, said he really heard the music as being a lot like me, which I thought was very sweet. I'll play wherever someone books me!
Ideally, in what sort of space would you like to play? Still waiting to be asked to play Berghain!
Are there any other countries or clubs, you have your heart set on playing and you are planning to go soon? Yes! I really want to tour the US and Japan, but I need to figure out how this will be possible with Visa stuff. In terms of spaces, TUF Seattle looks like a very beautiful festival.
What do you want to say with your work? I just really want people to think about the social space that we are in, like why are we here? What are we meant to be doing here? Look around and see how much you do or do not fit into space and what you can bring to the space to make it better.
What are the other projects you are working on if any? This is definitely my main project at the moment. I have worked on other kinds of electronic music that don't dance music under my name Robin Buckley, exploring queer ecology and sound. I also do freelance mixing work for other, predominantly, visual artists.
Oh, that's really interesting! Have you found an answer to this, personally - why are we here and what are we meant to be doing? I guess we are all here for a purpose and we all have a role to play. What's yours? What do you think or hope to bring as a person and musician? I'm not sure I have the answer, but I would like to work with people to think of new ways to listen to and experience sound.
We are looking forward to hearing your first album titled ‘DJ Tools’ – when is the release and where will we be able to listen to it? 31st of August, check Boomkat to buy a copy or listen to it on SoundCloud! It's coming out on UIQ, an amazing label run by Lee Gamble, with two more LPs coming out this year one from Zuli and another from Nkisi.
What are you most excited about the world in 2018? It's #20gayteen.
Lea Federmann presents her latest fashion editorial in teaming up with striking photographer Eve Power in which displays the interesting and admirable life of Hari Dasa Miao and in which his loveable personality and energetic presence gave sole influence to the project. Hari, previously a member of Sarah Andelmen’s Parisian Fashion house Colette, we explore the masterful styling and art direction delivered by Federmann.
A KALTBLUT exclusive womenswear editorial. Photography and Set design by Eve Power. Model is Donnika Anderson signed to Nevs Models. Styling, Set and Words by Léa Federmann. Make Up by Sophie Cox. Hair by Shab Malik. ” ‘Brand new tradition’ editorial explores unapologetic black subculture merging traditional jewelries, modern accessories and a mix of both traditional and modern clothes. Feminity and sensuality can be perceived and represented in many ways depending on beliefs and history, every culture has it’s own way to embellish the body and that is what we wanted to highlight in this story. Therefore hairstyles were a major part of this editorial, just as they have a major importance in traditional black culture, aiming to create a sense of beauty. Hairstyles have historical and religious connections and have always been used to convey specific messages in society. The hair is the most elevated part of the body and was also considered a portal for spirits to pass through to the soul. Women are now inspired by their own culture and history; they are no longer confined by the restraints previously set upon them by society as a whole- the broader perspective. Building identities based on their own personal culture and history, that reflects the journey between traditional and modern. When planning the shoot, we based the concept around Donnika because she embodies the idea of identity, strength & independence. She is visually inspiring and full of emotions, she is more than just a model and this was so vital for the shoot.
FRiDAY N!GHT has just released his first album on the 1st of January 2018 and here is our editorial and interview to get to know him better -
Artist Friday Night
Photographer Eve Power
Make up Flo Lee
Styling, Set and Words Léa Federmann
FRiDAY N!GHT / Interview
It’s not often that a musician doesn’t want to reveal their name, but it happened today. Fr!day Night is a young, talented, multi-disciplinary artist who explores visual and audio expressions. Although still unknown to the general public, he already started to make a name for himself as he quiety prepared for his entrance onto the London hip hop scene with the release of debut album, ‘Catharsis’.
BESIDES THE ANONYMITY, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
I’m 23 years old and was raised on both sides of the city. In north-west London around the Kilburn / Willesden area when I was younger, and towards Bethnal Green / Stepney Green in my later years.
I SUPPOSE THIS IS SOMETHING YOU GET ASKED A LOT, BUT WHY THE NAME OF ‘FR!DAY NIGHT’?
My earliest memories of music was the typical getting ready for primary school. I would hear artists like Erykah Badu, India Arie and Lauryn Hill, and subconsciously I was taking in all of that information. I want Fr!day Night to be a recognisable name. Catchy and relatable. Me? I am my own person, somewhat emotionally recluse. Fr!day Night, the alter ego, is extremely expressive. The context of the character is in relation to the anticipation we get for the end of the week. Or the fear of missing out on a Friday if you’re staying in trying to save money. But if you can grasp the ideology behind those feelings, that is basically what I wish to express.
We all feel, or have felt, these things. So it’s time to be reminded in the world and it’s current state, that we are not alone. I truly believe that we are really all one.
HOW DID YOU INITIALLY VENTURE INTO MUSIC?
My earliest influence in making music has to be my brother. I remember he would take extra books home from school so he had something he could write his lyrics in! While listening to all of these different artists from my Dad and brother, I was still trying to identify my own style and represent a different part of my life. I have attempted to make a lot of music with a number of people, because the knowledge I have comes from the people around me.
SO WHAT KIND OF MUSIC ARE YOU INTO?
I’m into a lot of music to be honest, perhaps too many to name each genre. But, for example, with heavy metal, I haven’t given it a chance to fully understand it. But with almost everything else, there’s been something I have liked. Obviously, I’m a fan of the current mainstream. But I really haven’t been listening to a lot of music that’s not my own…
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS AND WHERE YOU DRAW YOUR INFLUENCES FROM?
My creative process usually starts with my smoking weed. I’ve been trying to quit but I believe it helps me relax and I get into a confident state of mind. From there I can express my emotions which I find hard to do while sober. My inspiration comes from the experiences I have, both the pain and pleasure. I enjoy take us on a journey, whether it’s good or bad. I just love relating to things, maybe it’s a need not to feel alone myself. But, there are also days without any inspiration where the energy is at a completely low vibe.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE RELEASED YOUR FIRST ALBUM; THE NARRATIVE IS PERSONAL TO YOU ISN’T IT?
So, I felt so anxious about releasing my first album. Because of the honesty and the transparency. It’s a medley of my different thoughts over the last two years; from losing my flat, being in a relationship and breaking up, to being alone and everything in between. There’s a lot of aggression, regret, love and peace combined into one. So for people to know these things, like every human being, it opens us up to scrutiny and ridicule. But it is a release to be speaking on these things. It’s exciting as well to be recognised for the different views I express, not just the happy and upbeat personality people know for me. It’s going to be you vs Fr!day Night.
WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON THE HIP HOP SCENE IN LONDON, AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR MUSIC TO BRING TO IT?
I want to bring something different to the table. Like, I don’t want to say it’s anything that any other UK artist hasn’t done, but just like, bring back that honest and heartfelt vibe. I’ve got to get focused and on it.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE YOU WANT TO CONVEY WITH THE ALBUM, AND HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE VISUAL ELEMENTS?
As for the visual elements, there’s definitely going to be videos and artwork that all correlate in some way. I don’t know how yet, but I know it needs to. I collaborated with people that I’ve known for years on a few videos that are yet to be released. If I can’t reach you through the songs, then I need to reach you through the visuals. No matter who you are. I want to submerge you in content until you are forced to conjure up your own emotions or empathise with mine.
MUSICALLY, WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE ARTISTS OF THE MOMENT?
My favourite artists are M.J, Lil Wayne, Andre 3000 and Kanye. But like I said, I’m influenced by everything that’s mainstream. There are undergrounds artists that I find inspiration from too though.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER EXCITING PROJECTS COMING UP SOON?
I want to have an exhibition for my artwork, but have it like a proper trip. But you will see what I do when I do it.
AS A YOUNG ARTIST STARTING IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO FUTURE GENERATIONS?
Any advice I would give would be to stay focused. Remember your worth and what you are doing this for. Make sure that you articulate yourself, and when you don’t, look back and analyse so you become better and smarter. Adapt. My advice would also be to understand your level of emotional intelligence. Recognise the ability to see your emotions from a third person viewpoint. But have fucking fun, enjoy yourself. Make mistakes, repeat them and learn from them. Just be you.
IF YOU HAD ONE SENTENCE OR QUOTE ON HOW YOU SEE YOUR LIFE AND WHO YOU ARE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
That’s a good question, but I don’t have the answer yet.
The accompanying ‘Fr!day Night’ editorial is about conveying a process of releasing; thereby providing relief from strong or repressed emotions through a brand new artist who wishes to remain anonymous.
In this editorial, Fr!day Night is getting high, getting ready for the night. He embodies this deep feeling that we have all already experienced at some point in our lives. He feels lonely even when surrounded by a thousand of people. You can view the full editorial here.