Having recently shared the visuals for their latest track ‘Bye Bye’, sibling DJ and production duo Beatnik gave up some time to have a chat with Matt Tarr at the W Hotel in London and talked about their club nights, their relationship with ‘surrogate sibling’ Kelis, their tracks of the moment and so much more…
MT: You’ve got a new track out at the moment called ‘Bye Bye’ so tell me a little bit about the concept behind the track and how the collaboration with Tyson came about?
Nikki: I used to be the tour DJ for Unklejam which was his original group. We used to tour together in around 2005 I think, so we kept in touch and we’re really good friends. Most of the remixes or collaborations we’ve done recently are with friends who are artists. Statis is a big jungle raver and DJ from back in the day. He started DJing from when he was eleven and was really into jungle and drum n bass. I was more into early hip hop and then Chicago house and all the old original house DJ’s and stuff. So I guess it’s a fusion of all of those sounds.
Statis: All our influences are rolled into one and even when we DJ, it’s rare that we go anywhere and play a straight set of one type of music. We’ve got so many influences and when we make the tracks they seem to come out naturally in what we do, so ‘Bye Bye’ has a lot of jungle and drum n bass influences and also a lot more soulful, melodic sounds but still a lot of bass cos we wanna keep people dancing.
MT: You mentioned your DJ sets; are you ever tempted to just stick a load of your own tracks on during a set?
Statis: We blatantly do! It’s our music and we made it for the specific reason to be able to DJ with it and everything is always focused that way so that it’s gonna be good to mix. Everything fits into our sets well.
Nikki: Plus we’ve done lots of sets where the artists will just come and jump on the mic and do a live PA or we have someone live with our DJ sets like a sound system. It’s easy to integrate our tracks because all our music is dance floor led, if that makes sense.
MT: So you could be described as a cross genre duo.
Nikki: Yeah. Originally, back in the day, I had a lot of club nights and a lot of hip hop artists used to come. I’d also DJ for a lot of hip hop artists so people used to put me in that category. But I started off by DJing both house and hip hop and learning to scratch and doing turntablism and so did my brother and he was into jungle, house and hip hop, so to put you in one pigeon hole kinda does my head in, especially now as it’s 2014, give me a break!
Statis: I do find that if you’re at a club and they’re playing 120bpm all night it gets a bit boring and you’re thinking “come on mix it up, do something interesting, change it”. I just think nowadays people are throwing everything into the mix so it’s more interesting and it’s what we wanna do.
Nikki: We don’t wanna pigeon hole ourselves but at the same time if people can’t pigeon hole you, sometimes you’re not as obvious. Some DJs, like Fresh for instance, have had so many influences for such a long time but he’s had to do the one thing really well to break through and be super successful.
Statis: We’ve made quite a few house tracks and then someone comes back for the next release expecting a house track and it’s maybe a drum n bass or trap track and they’re like “oh I wasn’t expecting that” but usually if the music is good enough they’ll still love it.
MT: So in terms of your club night which is based where we’re sat now at the W Hotel, can people expect to see a variance of tracks from across all genres?
Nikki: Yeah, it’s right across the board really. We call it ‘Bass’ and we do play quite a lot of hip hop.
Statis: Hip Hop seems to be the base of everything and everything else stems out from that. Hip Hop ranges from really slow all the way up to super fast so you can go to drum n bass speed and mix a hip hop track into it or a house or trap track, so we can play all across the place and then chuck some garage on at some tempo. So everywhere we play, unless someone has requested us to do something specific, you’ll get to hear everything bass related, even some old ragga as we love ragga.
Nikki: I love nineties dancehall and I’m pretty obsessed with it!
Statis: Or we might even throw in a bit of Prince here and there and then some super brand new crazy trap track, so you’re always gonna get something interesting.
Nikki: It’s usually something new and then some old school. That’s what I like to hear!
MT: In terms of the current club scene, have you guys got any specific tracks that you know are going to smash it as soon as you play them?
Statis: It depends entirely on where we’re playing and the crowd. Everything by DJ Mustard at the moment is massive, you just can’t go anywhere without hearing ‘Mustard On The Beat’ everywhere and everyone loves it. I’m liking Skrillex’s new stuff because he has pulled it away from the really earbleed dubstep sound and he’s gone a lot more Major Lazer, so I think Diplo has had quite an influence on him. But all the stuff Major Lazer do and Skrillex is doing, those guys have made some really interesting stuff.
Nikki: I’ll tell you one, that new Mark Ronson track with Bruno Mars, ‘Uptown Funk’. The way they’ve done it just reminds me of all those bands that I love from that era and the proper soul guys, I love that. The video is dope and everything about it is a bit tongue in cheek. I like it when people aren’t too serious.
Statis: A track I’ve been playing a lot is ‘Tell Me’ by RL Grime and What So Not. Certain places if you play that everyone goes crazy, certain other places if you play that no one has even heard of it and they look at you like “what is this!?”
Nikki: We’ve got another residency in East London, which is our East London Party that we started in 2005 and we’ve had a lot of artists come and perform there because it’s a bit more grimey and fun and is a colourful party with fashion and music together.
Statis: It’s very different what we can play here [at the W Hotel residency] and what we can play there. In there everyone’s going off and loving it whereas here it’s a bit more chic. We just did a remix for Kelis and we made it into much more of a trap beat with an old jungle breakbeat and people have been going mad for it. So every week I’ve been finishing the night on that on a high. We had all Miley Cyrus’ dancers in here and they started having a twerk contest to it! They were in a circle, handstanding and stuff, it was crazy and all the Americans were liking that remix.
Nikki: Funnily enough quite a few Americans have loved ‘Bye Bye’ as well, even though they don’t know of Tyson, they just love the sound.
MT: What about follow up tracks then, what can we expect from you guys in 2015 and onwards?
Nikki: We’ve got a backlog of tracks and we’re trying to figure out which one to put out next really. They’re not all this sound, they’re an amalgamation of what we like but they’re not all obvious and exactly the same.
Status: We’ve been getting a lot of love for some of the more house-ier tracks and when we remix sometimes people request that of us because they’ve heard others. But our house tracks aren’t straight up house, they’re much more base led and people have been asking more and more for those. We’ve also got a lot of trap heavy bass line ones coming. It kind of just depends what we think is gonna work next.
Nikki: And also I’ve got quite strong opinions about how the visuals should be for each track, so when we make the record I almost have an idea of how it should look as well, which is what we had with ‘Bye Bye’. We wanted it to look quite stark and we had this idea that we wanna be really still because Tyson’s crazy and so those things are really important to us. We’ve gotta make a decision really on what the next track is gonna be!
Statis: But the next few things will definitely be remixes because we’re continually putting out remixes in between our own tracks. With out own tracks though we like to make them more special and make a bigger deal of them.
Nikki: When you’re doing everything yourself as well like a small label, it takes a long time to get things done. We styled the video, we got all the clothes, we directed it, we did everything. We did have a big team though and everyone came and gave their time. My friend is a make up artist and she came and gave her time, so we did have a team of people there. We had amazing people who work on films etc.
Statis: The cinematographer was brilliant. But we still have to be there at every step, so it’s a longer process. Like sitting with the editor for days and sitting in on the grading, so for every step along the way we had to be in there.
MT: In a way that’s not completely a bad thing because it means you have complete creative control and as an artist that’s what you always want, whereas some people lose that when labels and huge teams of people are involved.
Nikki: Yeah I think most people do if they’re with labels. My best friend has been signed since she was sixteen and has been signed to lots of different labels. The whole time it’s been that battle of management in the middle telling the label one thing and her another and what they have money-wise to make her creative vision happen could all mean that they end up with something completely different in the end from her initial vision.
Statis: Maybe it’s saying we’re control freaks!!
MT: Well I don’t know how you find time to DJ, produce tracks, make videos and everything else. You must just be going 24/7?
Nikki: It’s just like having a full time job, except you’re there a bit more.
Statis: Quite a lot more!
Nikki: I just gave birth a few weeks ago and I’ll get up to feed the baby and be checking my emails at like 3am and going through stuff, uploading on Instagram whilst I’m up so it never really stops.
MT: What kind of jobs have you guys done outside of music?
Nikki: I worked in advertising.
Statis: I studied Design at St Martins and was a Creative Consultant for Google for a number of years. Then I kind of went “this is the pinnacle of the career and I don’t really like it that much” so I just wanted to get back into making music.
Nikki: And I always wanted to be a DJ but twenty years ago when I started, there was no proper career path and there wasn’t very many girls doing it. People just wouldn’t take you seriously, so I had to make my own niche with club nights and make them popular.
Statis: We’ve also done a lot of corporate work as well including writing bespoke stuff for fashion shows and worked with L’Oreal and people and musically directed stuff for their shows.
MT: Earlier you mentioned your relationship with Kelis including Nikki being her touring DJ. How did that relationship come about?
Nikki: We met in 1998 when she first brought out ‘Caught Out There’ and she came to one of the club nights I was running. That club night used to have people in every week and in fact she introduced me to Pharrell, who was unknown at the time and had just brought out ‘Shake Ya Ass’ with Mystikal. I loved ‘Caught Out There’ so I used to play it all the time and we met just hanging out. Then every time she came over to the UK she used to hang with us and we just stayed friends. It was 2003 when she brought out ‘Milkshake’ that she asked if I wanted to come and DJ for her at the Royal Albert Hall. So we’ve been there right through the history of boyfriends, marriages, records, DJ career all the way through in a big circle. So we’ve been everywhere, but more than that we’re best friends, so she’s wicked.
Statis: She’s my surrogate sister!
Nikki: She beats him up and stuff and tells him what to do but she’s really an amazing artist. She knows her own mind and it has shown us that you can do everything yourself and you can say that you want the video like this or that etc because she does it all herself too. It’s good to have friends like that because it kicks you up the arse a bit too to do good stuff.
Watch this space for 2015 because the way these two have been going on lately, their next stop will be world domination! To keep up with all the latest from Beatnik, make sure you follow Nikki and Statis on Twitter and follow Beatnik on Facebook.