Next Generation Spotlight: NikNak

Audio Media International, in association with Genelec, is delighted to present the latest in its series of Next Generation Spotlight interviews. This time, we catch up with producer and DJ, NikNak.

One of the most exciting talents in the industry, NikNak, aka Nicole Raymond, has already amassed an incredible CV. Released on Friday, November 20, she produced, mixed and mastered her debut solo album Bashi; has become the Audio Fundamentals Module leader for BIMM Birmingham; and presented a TedX Talk and performance at the University of Leeds, to name but scant few of her achievements so far.

Here, she tells AMI about her route into the industry and discusses the work that has made her one of the brightest talents in pro audio…

What is your name and what do you do?
My name is NikNak (Nicole Raymond) and I’m a music creative.

What inspired you to get into studio work?
The desire to be the/one of the creative force(s) behind the scenes… To play with sounds and push all the colourful buttons…

Tell us about your route into the industry?
I started making music seriously when I was at school. I was balancing my college and uni studies with working with passionate artists of a similar age to me, and with similar influences. With them I was just unashamedly uploading things onto Soundcloud and Bandcamp – you never know who’s listening. During my BA I made the decision to become more of a DJ/performer (and eventually, a turntablist). This choice meant being vulnerable in some ways that I wasn’t used to, but again, through a lot of friends, people listening to my mixes online, entering competitions and people coming to clubs/events I would play at, word got around… and here we are.

Tell us about some of the key projects you’ve worked on over the past 12 months?
I’ve been an Opera North Resonance Artist 2020 – this meant collaborating with Khadijah Ibrahiim and creating a series of works that were performed at ‘Connecting Voices-Dead And Wake’ at Leeds Playhouse in October 2020.

I became the first Black Turntablist to win an Oram Award. I self produced, mixed and mastered my debut album Bashi which came out on November 20. I Became the​ Audio Fundamentals Module Leader for BIMM Birmingham; I remixed singles for Ten, Mamilah and Mansion of Snakes (coming soon!), and I supported Madlib, Grandmaster Flash, Moses Boyd, SEED Ensemble, Saul Williams, King Midas Sound, Lady Leshurr.

I also presented a TedX Talk and Performance at the University of Leeds; performed at Wilderness Festival, Marsden Jazz Festival and We Out Here Festival; and I collaborated with Mike Drones, Lauren Harrison and Enoby for Light Night in Leeds to create ‘Clash Course’, a multi channel diffusion sound and light installation at the University of Leeds.

What is your approach to work in the studio?
Being open to whatever comes to mind. Over the years, I’ve basically become a sponge, whereby I’ll draw inspiration from something I might have listened to once in my career thus far… but it stuck with me and inspires a project, a track, or even just an element of a track I’m making. Also, while I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist, the way that I work has definitely changed over the years and I’ve accepted that. So now, it’s a way more fluid and honest process than what it was 10 maybe years ago, and I prefer that.

Who/what have been some of your biggest influences in your career to date?
Shiva Feshareki, Burial, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Portishead, J-Dilla, Boxcutter.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
Staying ‘consistent’ even though you want to try something different and/or go in a different direction. I’ve had friends ask me loads of times when I’d be releasing another beat tape, and that pressure made me not want to produce for a very long time. It felt forced and I really did not want to make something I knew I wouldn’t be happy with. I guess it was a fear of letting people down… it took a while but I’ve accepted and can appreciate that my creativity takes on many musical forms.

You don’t have to stay within a set genre if you don’t want to. I feel like many women in the industry feel like they are somewhat pigeonholed into prescriptive genres for one reason or another, and that’s really disheartening. For me, my ideas and creativity may manifest in a beat, it may manifest in something way more abstract and weird. It may manifest in something I’ve never even considered making before. EVER. All are totally fine though – I have learned the tools to make the music I want to make. All are equally fine and just as malleable and fluid as water, and I love that.

What projects do you have coming up?
I’m already thinking of album number two, so stay tuned for that. I have a new monthly radio show coming soon to Worldwide FM! Also, my Mansion Of Snakes remix will be out at some point so stay tuned for that as well!