Mike Atkinson

Interview: Ronika

Posted in interviews, LeftLion by Mike A on February 13, 2012

(originally published in LeftLion magazine)

Ronika

What was the first pop song that you fell in love with, and how did it make you feel?
Take On Me by A-Ha. It made me feel five octaves higher, and then I turned into a very handsome pencil-drawn animated version of myself.

What was your first public performance?
Tap dancing while dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when I was about eight. I think I peaked early.

2011 seemed to go rather well for you. What were the highlights?
I gave birth to two EPs, and hand-made some videos for my tracks which involved robot conventions and interrogating synthesisers. I played my first headline show in Stealth, and then later in the year I went to New York to play CMJ, and to Madrid for two weeks as a participant of the Red Bull Music Academy.

What did you get up to in New York? Did it live up to expectations?
My expectations of being in New York were being in a high speed car chase in a yellow cab, which didn’t happen. But I did play two shows at a venue called Webster Hall, which used to be owned by Al Capone and has had everyone from Frank Sinatra to Blondie playing there, which was dead cool. I also laughed my head off on the subway going to Coney Island while reading my copy of LeftLion which I’d taken with me.

Tell us about meeting Bootsy Collins and Nile Rodgers. How did that come about?
That was at the Red Bull Music Academy. Every day we had lectures from our musical heroes and we were unbelievably spoilt: Nile Rodgers, Bootsy Collins, Trevor Horn, RZA, Tony Visconti, Mannie Fresh and Peaches, to name a few. I learnt so much and they were all really lovely people who blew my mind.

In his recently published autobiography, Nile Rodgers explains that all his songs have “Deep Hidden Meanings”. Give us an example of a “Deep Hidden Meaning” in one of your songs.
Well, deep hidden meanings should remain a mystery. But go on, then; Only Only is about how to programme your relationship to last the test of time. Forget Yourself is about trying to overcome yourself in whatever negative way it may emerge.

When you’re working on a new song, what element emerges first: the words, the melody or the groove?
It’s normally either the melody or the groove; the lyrics are the last thing that falls into place for me. After the music is done, then I’m ready to go shopping for words. Or, more often, shoplifting for words.

What songs are on the next EP? Will there be remixes?
There’s Automatic, which is a summer jam with a Tom Tom Club vibe, and Turn It Out, which is dark Italo disco but with lyrics like Craig David. There will be remixes, but I’m not yet sure who from. I might remix it myself, like on my first EP. I like remixing. I recently remixed my living room and moved all the furniture around.

You used to be a sound engineer in Junktion 7. What are your memories of working there?
Constantly trying to wade through a sea of goths and metallers to try and get to the stage, or doing the sound for some of the awesome bands that played there, like Swound or The Smears, or just hanging out with the lovely people that worked there. A lot of the music at Junktion 7 wasn’t really my cup of tea: during one sound check I told one of the metal bands I liked jazz, and in the middle of their set they just stopped and played a jazz guitar solo just for me. The audience were very confused – as was I – but it was lovely. I do like a lot of guitar music, though; I have a varied musical diet.

We also know you like to do a bit of DJing. What are the records that never leave your box?
I’m very fond of playing Stacey Q’s Two of Hearts at the moment, and also Jellybean Benitez’sWho Found Who.

Do you ever play your own records when you’re DJing? Or does that feel a bit weird?
Yeah, I often slip one of my tunes in, then mime along and forget the words. It feels weird. I might blush.

Nottingham’s music scene is in a remarkably healthy state these days. How has that happened?
If we plot on a graph the amount of people making ace music on the X-axis, and then all the ace promoters, podcasts, DJs and press on the Y-axis, we can see Nottingham music accelerating at an alarming rate. Lots of talent and a supportive loving musical community I think is the key.

Who’s making the most exciting music in Nottingham right now?
Wow, there’s so many, so let’s break it down into boys versus girls. On the boys’ team, we have Swimming, Petebox, Joe Buhdha, Kirk Spencer, Neon Jung, 8mm Orchestra, Ben Fawce, Dog Is Dead, Rob Green, Juga-naut, Jake Bugg and We Show Up On Radar. On the girls’ team there’s Nina Smith, Harleighblu, Natalie Duncan, Marita, Fists and Royal Gala. Okay, so the last two aren’t all girls, but I still want them on our team…

We know you love the eighties, but what music from the nineties is closest to your heart?
Oh wow, so much, ‘cos I grew up in the nineties. So everything from The Prodigy, Deee-Lite, Saint Etienne, Baby D, Black Box, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Photek, Paradox, Goldie, Wu-Tang, The Pharcyde, Beastie Boys, Carl Craig, Chemical Brothers, Ninja Tune, Mo-Wax, Acid Jazz, Talking Loud, lots of house, techno and jungle.

Some numpty at the NME said they wanted you to be more like Katy Perry, but I suspect you might have more fitting role models, musical or otherwise. Who might they be?
Katy Perry is obviously my main musical influence, but other than her I’d probably pick Prince, Sly Stone, Bowie, David Byrne, Nile Rodgers, Kool Keith and Madonna.

You’re renowned for being a bit of a herbal tea girl. When was the last time you had an alcoholic drink, and what made you stop?
The last time I had an alcoholic drink was when I was thirteen. I don’t drink because I follow a religion called the Baha’i Faith which teaches the unity and oneness of mankind. But yeah, booze and drugs are out as the Baha’i writings encourage staying in a conscious state of mind.

But we all have our vices. What’s yours?
Stalking pilots.

What’s the plan for 2012? And will there be more gigging than there was in 2011? We’d like some more gigging, please.
2012 is looking pretty rammed already. Automatic is coming out in March, with the album to follow later in the year. I’ve also got some big collaborations coming out very soon, which I’m mega-excited about. Yeah, there will definitely be more gigging in 2012. In March I’m playing the Bodega, plus some other shows around the country, then some festivals in the summer to be announced.

Let’s talk fashion. What are Ronika’s super-hot styling tips for Spring 2012? And what looks should we avoid?
My style tips for spring are vintage sportswear and lots of hairspray. Full body armour should be avoided in spring/summer – it’s too warm.

Style is nothing without substance, of course, so let’s end this interview with some words of profundity and wisdom. What’s the best piece of advice that you can give to your fellow travellers on life’s great highway?
If I may quote the great twentieth century thinker J. Springer; “Take care of yourselves (deliberate pause) aaand each other.”
Ronika will be playing Nottingham Bodega on Friday 23 March.

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