The DJ, producer and co-founder of B.A.D talks discovering new sounds, her approach to crafting a set, and new self-released single, 'Riding Senses'.
Raised in South-East London in a household big on music – with a guitarist dad and a brother who collected OG garage records – the language of sound is in NIKS’ blood. After studying piano and training as a dancer, the rising creative taught herself how to produce and DJ, building the tools to communicate her intuition and natural flair for music.
Known for her eclectic taste spanning decades of niche underground dance music, you’ll never know what to expect in a NIKS set. What’s guaranteed is that she’ll make you feel something, and that she’ll make you dance. For NIKS, music is a form of communication, and in turn, discovering a new track is like unlocking a new means of expression – something she finds one of the most fulfilling parts of her job.
Having been named one of Rinse FM’s residents last year as well as making her second Glastonbury appearance, 2023 has seen a sharp acceleration in NIKS’ career. Dedicated to lifting her peers in the process, alongside her personal production projects NIKS co-runs the B.A.D (Black Artist Database). What started as a spreadsheet in 2020 has evolved into a multifaceted media platform organising everythig from workshops and events to mix series’. Community is at the core of the initiative, with NIKS dedicated to amplifying both the culture that nurtured her and new voices on the rise.
Taking the platform to the next level, in 2023 NIKS and Tanya Akinola launched the label to sit alongside it. Founded on the same values and vision, the venture will spotlight celebratory Black music, with NIKS and Tanya Akinola acting as both label manager and an A&R. Taking her instincts for finding great music and her passion for pushing culture forward to the next level, the label aligns with all the DJ and producer stands for personally.
Self-releasing her new track, ‘Riding Senses’, NIKS is venturing into the world of dropping music as an artist in her own right. Showcasing her intricate production skills, ‘Riding Senses’ bottles the transcendent, cathartic dance floor moments she weaves through her sets.
Do you remember the moment you fell in love with music?
My dad was the lead guitarist in a band and my brother was always collecting records, so I was surrounded by music growing up. It’s something that’s in my genes.
I remember the orchestras that used to play at my dance school, and then as I got older, experiencing music in nightclubs and theatres and plays. The way music is used in all these different environments, you realise how powerful it is when you get goosebumps. Stomp was one of my favourite productions for that. There’s no words, just dancing and music from dustbin lids, but it powerfully communicated to the audience. Movement and dance is a big part of my upbringing too.
What does music mean to you now?
This is a big question… I guess it’s always been an intrinsic part of my life. It’s become the way I express myself, whether it’s in production or playing it.
Music is a powerful mechanism to express your feelings — you can tell a story and channel your emotions through sound.
From a DJ perspective, when I’m doing a set or recording a radio show or mix, it’s definitely about digging deep to discover the sounds to communicate your feelings. I find producing very cathartic. There’s a deeper meaning to it.
What do you love most about DJing?
There’s so many elements. For me, it’s the digging for music — the satisfaction when you have those really good digs and every track you listen to you’re like, ‘Yes, this is what I’m feeling now. This is what I want to showcase this weekend’.
I’m really into discovering older music. Obviously there’s so many great artists now, but when you discover old tunes it’s really exciting. The carving of a playlist for a specific set is a really fun part too. And of course, the showcasing.
What do you think the biggest misconception about DJing is?
A lot of people just see the fun side of DJing. I don’t think people always recognise all the hours that go into it before. There’s 40 hours of work that go into a one and a half hour gig on Saturday night. You search for hours and hours on digital websites for tracks, then selecting them and carving out your track list, thinking about timing and how it’s going to work in the set.
The other side is the travel, moving between multiple time zones, the lack of sleep and sleeping patterns.
You tend to blend the old and the new in your sets — how would you describe your signature sound as a DJ?
I guess I cover all spectrums of the underground. I try to keep things upbeat, percussive, rhythmic, groovy, but I also like to have downtempo time, particularly for the longer sets. But at the same time, I feel like I don’t exactly have a ‘sound’. I have an array of sounds which is always evolving.
Can you tell us more about your work with Rinse FM and where it’s led you?
I’ve been on Rinse as a resident now since April 2022. It’s been a really great way to showcase music that I’ve been playing over the month. It’s also an outlet to talk about tracks or labels or producers that you’ve just discovered, or you’re interested in. Every month it completely changes – in summer it’s a lot more bouncy and fun, and then in club season it’s a bit deeper and darker.
Can you tell us about some of your current favourite up-and-coming tracks or DJs?
In terms of producers: 131bpm, Eion, Amaliah. I’m going to plug myself too because I released my first track earlier this year and I’ve got more coming.
And then DJs: Danielle, Softi, Akua, Kessie. There are a lot of incredible females in the space right now, especially coming out of the UK. Oh, and MoMA Ready released a really good album, called Headlock, earlier this year.
What song could you listen to on repeat at the moment?
I made my FOLD debut, which is obviously a really great venue. It was for this party called Neighbourhood, for a really good friend of mine who I’ve known for six years. It’s been six years in the making, so for the past week I’ve been going through vinyl and there’s one track that I just can’t stop listening to. It’s a Mr. G and G Flame track from 1992 called ‘Man De Bango’. I’ll whack it on everywhere — in the gym, at home, on the overground, non-stop.
You’ve talked about what you like about DJing, but what do you like specifically about the London scene?
It’s very diverse. Everyone has their own thing going on, but within a bubble so you can easily access and interact with it. Especially doing radio. I have friends who live outside London so they pre-record their shows, but for me, what I love about radio is that it’s live. It’s the accessibility you get in this city — the radios, the studios, the connections, the clubs. Sometimes we take it for granted.
What do you think needs to change in the UK’s music industry?
Transparency is really important. I actually spoke about it last week on our B.A.D panel. I did my first US tour this summer and I play in Europe a lot so I’m aware that costs and fees in the UK are comparably pretty different. The majority of the money seems to still be going to the top. I guess the American and European markets are bigger. We’re a tiny island with smaller pockets, but transparency would definitely help.
Listen to NIKS' new self-released single, ‘Riding Senses’:
You mentioned B.A.D, can you tell us a bit about this initiative and what it aims to do?
First and foremost, we’re a free and open resource as an artist and creative database with over 5000 Black-owned labels, producers and bands. So if bookers are struggling to diversify their line-up, it’s a great resource.
Beyond that, we now host panels and do events and festival stage takeovers. We recently launched our own label so we can showcase the talent in the underground electronic scene. With the website, if you go on to say Shygirl’s profile, it will list all the places you can buy her music on every platform. Discogs, Juno, Bandcamp. Post-pandemic, as we know, sustainability isn’t quite there with live touring. If you can support an artist by buying their music then you know you can do it directly, and specifically for Black artists.
Can you tell us more about the record label — is there anything specific you want to call out that you’ve got coming up?
We launched our label in May 2023. Myself and Tanya Akinola worked about 10 months on it and then we launched it with a compilation. There were seven of us, all women, from across the world and we each contributed a track. They were celebratory and high energy and fun. We’re working on the next set of releases, which is exciting. It reaches far and wide. That’s music — it can reach the other side of the world in a heartbeat. There’s so much talent. There’s such an array of music being produced by Black producers, so it just made sense.
Watch NIKS mix using the rekordbox app on the go:
What has been your career highlight so far?
Glastonbury this summer. I went on the Friday and that morning I woke up to loads of WhatsApps from my agent who was already there. In Block 9 at the Icon stage, which is the massive stage that hosts about 15,000 people run by Gideon – an amazing architect, DJ and producer. Hodge closed the stage on Thursday night and he opened his set with my track. It was literally three weeks after I’d released the track. I had goosebumps. That was a beautiful moment, seeing that many people hear my music.
That sounds amazing. If you could manifest the dream career day, one year exactly from today, what would that look like?
By that point, I would love to have more music out and be at a point where I’m touring my music to new parts of the world like Australia or Asia. So I’d be getting ready for that tour. I would have been collabing with more people, doing fun things like editorial shoots. I guess just doing what I’m doing now, but a level up. Most importantly, I’d still be having fun. That’s key.
What would be your advice for people who look up to you in your career?
I would say focus on your trajectory. What do you want to do? Where do you see yourself? Like the expression ‘slay in your lane’, focus on yourself. Don’t compare. It’s really easy to do. I do it a lot. But focus on what you want to do. Harness and hone your talents. Make sure you build a really solid team around you, even if it’s one or two people — an agent or an assistant.
And collaborate as much as you can. I think that’s really important, whether it’s peers or people with a lot of experience who you admire. It has to make sense of course, there’s a time and a place, but you can learn a lot so don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve found that people are really willing and happy to help. That’s how I’ve found a lot of my opportunities. I went to Lost Village this year – I was playing on Friday but I went with Shanti Celeste. Watching her set and picking up tricks helped me when I played on that stage the next day. Little things like that go a long way.
Finally, what’s coming up imminently for you between now and the end of the year?
I have three new tracks coming out. One of them is a self-release [‘Riding Senses’], which I was super excited, but also nervous about. As a newcomer producer, self-releasing requires a lot of faith in yourself and people wanting to listen to your music. That first track I finished in early September. It’s a reflection of my feelings and vibes this summer.
I’ve got two more tracks coming out on two labels. One of them is pretty underground and the other is a bit more fun and bouncy. I’ve also got some really fun gigs. I did my Boiler Room debut in October, which I was very nervous about. We also did our B.A.D event at the De School. At the end of the year, I’m doing something in the States. But most of all, I’m buzzing to get these releases out.