With eclectic dance influences and a love for all things trash, Ushko is making is making main character music for the club.
“If you hear my sound once, you’ll know that’s me,” Ushko says. Drawing from early 00s and late 2010s electronic music ranging from D’n’B and Breakbeat to UK Garage, 2-Step, Dubstep and trance, and finding visual references in everything from anime to trash culture, Ushko’s creating her own world to dance in. And she’s right – once you experience it with her, you’ll remember how it feels.
Growing up in a village near Cherepovets in Russia, Ushko, real name Daria, trained her voice rigorously and studied music academically for 10 years, even getting picked to sing in the prestigious United Choir of Russia. But privately, music was an imaginative outlet for her too – a safe space where she learnt to process and let out emotion, becoming an outlet for the tough experiences she’s been through but didn’t grow up accustomed to talking about. After finding inspiration in artists like Arca and building her expansive web of influences, it’s exploring this more creative side of music, and using it as a means of unfiltered expression, that’s carried her from the clubs of Moscow all the way to London.
Looking back on her journey in music so far, we caught up with Ushko to discuss using songwriting as a means of communication, her latest track ‘STIGMATA’, and doing God’s work to give us slow-mo-worthy music video moments.
Hey Ushko, how are you and what are you listening to today?
Tell us about your moniker and nickname?
Ushko means “ear” in russian in diminutive way. It was my lost cat’s name.
Growing up, what role did music play in your life?
I have been singing in a choir since age four and we even went to Europe where we won a few prizes in France, Czech Republic and Germany. I also attended music school where I learned to compose music and had really strict teachers. They wanted me to go to the Moscow Conservatory, but I was already listening to Arca and was into electronic music…
What artists other have influenced your sound, or inspired you to make music yourself?
Moa Pillar, Squarepusher, Gosti iz Budushchego, David Guetta, Concord Dawn, Vortex Involute, Lady Gaga, Current Value.
What genres do you mainly draw from now?
I’m into trance, neurofunk, deconstructed club, hardstyle.
Where do you imagine people listening to your music and how do you want it to make them feel?
I want my listeners to feel like very dramatic main characters, or like they’re in slow-mo edit 100%.
What’s your songwriting process? And what feelings and themes are you writing about at the moment?
I usually start with a beat-less structure and record as many vocals as possible, then choose juicy ones and figure out the beats. I hate mixing. That’s why I ask my husband, aka the best artist on earth, Moa Pillar, to do it! He helps me a lot. Text is just a base for expression, it’s more about how the words sound and what meanings we choose: like plain bread, we can put anything on it like honey or egg. It’ll have a completely different sense. I’ve developed my song language in Russian, but when I’m switching to English I feel like a newborn.
Are there any other art forms that influence you?
I’m inspired by anime, SFX makeup and hard-working people.
What are some of your recent visual references and inspirations?
Sun-Yuan & Peng Yu ‘I Can’t Help Myself’. I want to create something as great as this robot.
Tell us about your latest single, ‘STIGMATA’?
I’ve decided to blend English, Spanish, and Italian, creating a unique tapestry of sounds and sentiments. This two-part composition offers a paradoxical experience, where the uplifting and clichéd lyrics in English stand in contrast to the raw, psychological depth conveyed in Russian.
The English verses resonate with the spirit of a FIFA anthem, exuding the energy of a vibrant and healthy individual navigating the life path and always succeeding. However, beneath the surface lies a subtle satire, a playful mockery of the Ushko’s adaptation as a fresh immigrant.
On the other hand, the Russian lyric explores the emotions of search, release, embrace, and the ultimate quest for forgetting. It’s a musical manifestation of a personal psychosis and damaged love.
Amidst the expressive dichotomy, there’s a nod to the ‘donk,’ an Eastern European sound cherished by many, demanding a return to its roots in the UK. The Ushko’s love for all things trashy becomes apparent, as they find a sense of belonging in the eccentric realm of trash culture.
If you could imagine your career five years from now, what would you have achieved?
I have 0 idea, but I’ll have minimum 2 cats and be hot.