1883 Magazine
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American born-and-bred now London-based artist Ashnikko moved all the way from the States to Latvia, a country whose language she didn’t understand and whose culture was milestones away from what she was used to. She saw her escape in music which is why she ultimately decided to fly out to London during weekends, buying a return ticket to Stansted and back, leaving her family thinking she had a weekend internship over there.

By attending as many open mic nights as she could, she quickly found herself a spot in the OddChild clique. As soon as she turned 18 years old she took the leap and moved to London full-time, working on her career as a rapper. Fast forward to now and Ashnikko has signed to a major label, is collaborating with high-class producers and is now set to release brand new music – after last year’s highly anticipated EP ‘Sass Pancakes’ release. At Parlophone in London we caught up with the artist who rightfully pursues female empowerment and practices modern-day witchcraft in the form of self-love. Read below for our chat about Latvia, weekend trips to London and her tips for self-appreciation.

Who is Ashnikko? 

I started doing music when I was fifteen years old, because my 15 year old self needed a confidence boost. Now I sing and rap because why the hell not? 

Considering you only started singing a short while ago – why didn’t you try to pursue it when you were younger?

Making music is all about confidence. Now in my early twenties I have tapped into a magical fountain of confidence that has basically given me the push i needed to start singing.

 

You moved from the States all the way to Eastern Europe – what was the biggest challenge about that big change?

When I was a teenager the hardest part was finding friends because I basically had "FOREIGN KID" tattooed on my forehead. The language gap was also killer. I found that quite hard. That’s why I took up music, because I wanted to find some identity. Learning the language was a big learning curve and really difficult. I did get quite good at speaking but I’ve forgotten most of it.

What was the biggest life lesson going through this period?

I got bullied a lot because I did music. It’s quite a patriarchal society there, a lot of men were offended by my presence. Doing something different is uncomfortable, regardless what you do differently – you always get hated especially as a woman. But regardless, its always more rewarding to be yourself.

On weekends you used to travel to London, how did you start doing that?

One of my friends was going to London a lot for open mics. I wanted to get out of Latvia and my parents were divorcing at that time. I needed a change of scenery and told my parents I had an internship during weekends. And they’d buy me RyanAir tickets which were very cheap. And I did open mics during the weekends, I was like 17 years old. And when I was 18 I thought "fuck it, I might as well move here." My mum was moving back to the States and I didn’t want to stay in Latvia.

And they were never suspicious?

I think they secretly knew I was lying but pretended to not realise. But my parents were busy hating each other that time, so I got away with it.

Did you find it difficult to start a rap career when you moved to London?

I met such amazing people when I first got here, I have been working with OddChild from the beginning. I was doing an open mic gig and my previous manager was friends with my current manager Marc. He didn’t have as much experience in managing and brought Marc in to co-manage but then fucked off before my first release. He recently blocked me on all social media as well. This is the curse of the insecure man – you never know when its going to strike but it will happen. You think you meet a decent man and then this happens. So he left before my big release, my first major label release. That was a learning curve, and made me realise that I have to rely on only myself first and other people second. Everyone can learn from that, nobody will handle your shit as well as you.

How did signing at a major label come about – has it always been planned?

I think it all came together naturally. I don’t really know. Everything happens for a reason.

So you said you got into music quite early – when did you write and record your first proper rap tune?

When I was 15! I had some stuff on soundcloud which I would never play to anyone now. I got into the studio and met some of the best producers in Latvia. I don’t know how, I was the only American there so they all helped me. I got a lot of attention for being the only American rapper in the Baltics. I also got a lot of hate mail. I started working with a lot of great people in Latvia, but the music scene there wasn’t enough for me.

How would you say your sound has developed over the years?

Oh my god, I can’t even put it into words. I really dislike my stuff from back then. I have learned so much thanks to OddChild. Even in the past months I have grown so much music and personality-wise. My songwriting has improved, I am more confident overall. I am embarrassed about my old stuff but you have to start somewhere.

How would you describe your sound now?

A lotta bit angry, it’s a weird fusion of my favourite artists, an influence of all of them. I really don’t know.

Last year you released Sass Pancakes, it sounds so cool. How did you come up with that name?

I don’t know, what was I even thinking? Most of that we recorded at 5 am in the morning because we were up all night and being delusional and stupid. I think it was just a nonsensical phrase we threw around and it stuck.

So tell us about your new song Blow?

I’m sure anyone trying to get into the music scene has a good few years behind them in which they were treated like shit, like you are invisible. It is an angry song about that, about me showing the people who made me feel like that that I’m bossing up. When I first moved here it was irritating because I didn’t know anyone and it was hard to be taken seriously. It felt infuriating.

And how about your EP?

The title is ‘Unlikeable’, it’s all very angry stuff. The second single is called Invitation and is about sexual assault, it’s about me being assaulted, which was shit, but I wanted to write a hard song about it. Companies are using feminism as a marketing tool now. Its gross but even if it makes one little girl or boy go home and google "feminism", I fuck with it. It’s a bit hollow, but i think only good can come out of that. If im going to already be writing pop music i might as well talk about the things i’m passionate about. But the difference between me and Primark is that I mean every word. If you can outline the rules of consent in a pop song so more people can hear it and the more hear it, the better.

Finally, what is it about spells and witches?

I practice household witchcraft. Just like self-love – putting love into your food, reminding yourself to love your body and your mind. This is just my take on modern day witchcraft. I use it to keep myself motivated and feel appreciated.

Can you reveal your favourite spell?

I customize them. I make rose-water facial spritz. A lot of it has to do with cosmetics which you use on yourself daily to make yourself feel better. I spray that shit all over myself. I think putting care into things you make manifests something good within you. When I smell roses I can feel the way I felt while making it. Empowered and beautiful.

Ashnikko’s new single ’Blow’ out now on Parlophone, for more info head to www.facebook.com/ashnikkomusic

Interview Antonia Künzel
@whatantoniadid

Photography Yoshitaka Kono
www.yoshitakakono.com

Hair and Make up Shamirah Sairally using Fudge Hair, Nars and Burt Bees.
www.ss-makeup.com

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