Mike Atkinson

Interview: Ronika

Posted in interviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on July 8, 2011

A shorter version of this interview originally appeared in the Nottingham Post.

As a journalist, I want to know all about you – but as a listener, I quite like knowing nothing about you at all.  So I’m a little reluctant to puncture your mystique.

(Laughs) There’s nothing to know!  Mystique is good, but I’m not intentionally trying to hide myself.

Fair enough – but on your last.fm profile you describe yourself as a desolate planet, covered in desert and rock.  What’s all that about?

Oh, sorry – I found that on Wikipedia.  It’s a description of a planet from Star Wars called Ronika, so I decided to go with that as my biog.

You’ve disillusioned me already.  It’s a copy-and-paste job from Wikipedia?  I thought you’d invented a whole mythology about yourself.

Well, no.  I Googled “Ronika” and found that there was actually a planet called Ronika in Star Wars.  With killer wasps.  And a hot surface.  So I thought: yeah, that’s good.

So were your parents Star Wars fans?  Does that have anything to do with the way you were named?

(Laughs)  They’re not Star Wars fans.  They’re Coronation Street fans.  No, my name is Veronica and I shortened it to Ronika.

OK.  So how long have you been making music, and how did you get started?

I’ve been making music since I was a teenager.  I started writing tunes on the acoustic guitar, inspired by people like Curtis Mayfield and Sly Stone.  I started getting into producing and making beats shortly afterwards.  That was inspired by electro, old school hip hop, and people like Tiga, The Hacker and Daft Punk.  Then I started building my own tracks.

The influences that come across most clearly to me are taken from early Eighties New York dance music: post-disco, but pre-house.  Do you have a particular attraction to that period?

Yeah, I’m very much inspired by that kind of sound: Chaka Khan, The Sequence, with some early Madonna in there.  Forget Yourself (on the new EP) came about from me and Joe Buhdha listening to stuff like Tom Tom Club, ESG and Blondie, where late disco met new-wave.

To what extent is what you’re doing a retro homage to that period, and to what extent are you trying to forge something completely new?

Hopefully it’s a mix of both.  Everybody has musical inspirations and references which they bring into their music, and mine happens to be that kind of era – but hopefully I’m adding something to it.

Are you one of those people who thinks that music was better in the old days, or are we living in a golden age for music right now?

I think both, actually.  There’s plenty of good stuff out there, and lots of people are making interesting stuff, but I do obviously have a sweet spot for the old days.  When I was making the tunes, I was thinking: this is very different to what is out there.  But I didn’t especially make them to get played on the radio.

What have you made of the critical reaction to the new EP (Forget Yourself/Wiyoo)?

It’s been amazing.  I wasn’t expecting it.  I’m just really glad that everybody is loving the tracks.  That’s the main thing; I just wanted people to hear them.

When you read people writing stuff about you, do you think: yeah, they’ve got me right?

Absolutely, and I think that’s what has amazed me the most.  With all the stuff that I’ve read, people have totally got me right, and they’ve totally understood where I’m coming from with my influences.

You put out two tracks last year, and you’ve put out two tracks this year.  That’s a fairly slow trickle of music.  How long are we going to have to wait to hear any more material?

I’ve been finishing recording my album; we’re mixing it at the moment.  And the next EP is coming out in September, so you don’t have to wait too long.  It will be on Record Shop, which is my own label.

Have you been fending off advances from larger labels?

There has been interest, so we’ll see.  But for the next release, I’m going to stay indie and put it out myself.

In terms of live performances, do you have it in mind to be gigging more regularly?

I’d like to be doing more gigs.  I’ve been busy in the studio up until now.  But with the coming of the next EP, I’ll be doing more gigs.  Splendour last year was brilliant; I opened the main stage.  I also enjoy playing Lee Rosy’s Tea Shop; I did my first EP launch there.

Morrissey once said that his ideal audience would consist of skinheads wearing nail varnish.  Who would be in your ideal audience?

Robots.  All robots.

Are you a full time creative person, or do you have a day job?

I do work, but it’s not a soul-crushing day job.  I work producing music with young people who have been kicked out of school.  They generally like dubstep, so I make that kind of stuff with them.

It’s been said for years that Nottingham has underperformed in terms of producing artists that get outside recognition, but I get the sensation that this is beginning to change.  What’s your take on it?

Well, Dog Is Dead are doing really well, and Swimming are on the verge of breaking through.  Then you’ve got more established acts like Late Of The Pier and Lone, who are already doing well.  So I think we might be moving to a better time.  Then there’s Spotlight Kid – I’ve seen them and they’re brilliant – and Liam Bailey has just played Glastonbury.  Then of course there are lots of people who have got masses of talent and who are coming up, like Nina Smith, Harleighblu, Marita Metelia and Natalie Duncan.  But if you’re from Nottingham, you have to push a lot harder than if you’re from London, to make things work.

So, is Ronika here to save pop?

(Laughs) I don’t know about saving pop, but I do love pop music.  To me, Eighties Madonna is perfect pop music, and that’s my inspiration.

Just don’t go changing into Noughties Madonna.

No, I’ll leave the leotards.

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  1. […] his debut release on a major label, and Swimming’s new album is scheduled to appear in November. As for Ronika, whose third EP comes out at the start of October, things are shaping up very nicely indeed. Her […]

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