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AIKO about her music heroins, the core of equality and how she learned to find home in herself.

ph: AIKO

AIKO is the best example of a confident, empowered and cosmopolitan woman in music. Born in Moscow, raised in the Czech Republic and now calling the English capital her home, multi-instrumentalist Aiko’s music is an effortless amalgamation of culture and influence. These influences are all reflected in her art in a wonderful and fascinating way. In a visual sense, her entire appearance is characterized by a very sophisticated aesthetic, in which fashion consciousness and a very sensitive sense of detail meet. Musically she enchants us with very catchy neo-pop sounds, which again and again animate us to dance and to dream. Currently, AIKO is working on her debut album and managing herself, she is doing so well that we are sure to hear a lot more from her in the future.

What is music to you?

Everything - it brings me purpose, it’s the way I express myself, it’s my work and hobby.

Why is music your passion?

There is no other thing for me, that evokes such deep and intense feelings in me. It helps me - I write my emotions out, and I listen to music to support my mood.

When did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to music? 

I always knew it, wanted to be a singer since I was a little child. At 13 I started writing my own music and lyrics, and shortly after learned how to play the guitar and tried myself in a TV Show. I got through to the semifinals, where you perform for live TV, and you have quite a big audience it was one of my first experiences on stage - and I absolutely LOVED IT. At that point, I knew that this is what I want to pursue and that music is something very true to me.

Why did you choose AIKO as your stage name?

Aiko is my nickname at home:) At the same time, I chose this stage name when I returned from Japan and was slightly obsessed with their culture.

ph: AIKO

What has influenced you as an artist most so far?

By far, the biggest influence for me was the sense of never belonging anywhere - but in a good way. I always had great people around me and felt supported, but since I was a little child, I was always on the way somewhere, constantly moving forward - be it literally a different country, travelling or my goals, etc. One faces quite a lot of solitude during such times and learns to embrace it. For me, it also became the source of my inspiration. Musically, in my teenage years, I grew up listening to bands such as The Neighbourhood, Arctic Monkeys and other indie bands, so I think they influenced my own music a lot.

"I finally learned to feel home in me and stopped attaching it to a place."

Your music is influenced by so many cultures, where do you feel at home the most?

I had quite a crisis because of it a few months ago:) I finally learned to feel at home in me and stopped attaching it to a place - every place is very different to me and I love different bits about it. London has the endless energy that I love so much and is home to everything I love doing - music, and dance. The Czech Republic is home to everyone who is closest to me - my family, it’s a place where I can hide if I need some time off.

Who are your biggest music heroins?

Aurora! As I say everywhere, I find her so inspiring.

Other than that, I think the first artist that I fell in love with was Lady Gaga. Her concert was also the first concert I went to and I always admired her ability to come up with something new and eccentric and how she’s not afraid to be bold! It’s very important and I think as a little kid, it influenced me in a positive way - embrace your weirdness!

What can we learn from artists like Aurora and FKA Twigs?

This is the time when I get to fangirl over other artists that I admire, love it! For me, Aurora is a very interesting persona - she is very free, she doesn’t care what others think of her and she embraces it fully! At the same time, she is very artistically unique, an amazing performer and lyricist and just admirable in many ways!

FKA Twigs, for me is the queen of anything visual, her videos are very aesthetically pleasing, they have a lot of symbolism and you can see how much thought was put in each of her videos, performances, stage outfits, etc. For me she is also the symbol of powerful femininity - she embraces her strength via pole dancing, always knows what she wants, but at the same time isn’t afraid to show that she too, is sometimes vulnerable.

How did you feel making the video for “DOWN”?

I loved making it! I’m lucky to have very talented friends, so we collaborated on this music video. I told the concept of dancing to Sayna Fardaraghi, who directed the music video, we looked at some venues and the church spoke to us the most. She then came up with her own concept and details and that’s the result that you see! It all came together naturally and it was a really fun shoot.

What inspired you to wear that outfit in “DOWN”? Is there a statement behind it? There is kind of. The styling in this music video was done by my friend Eliza Douglas, therefore she was the one to come up with the concept of it. The blouse is the work of one of the fashion students from the university I go to. We found the blouse to be very original, plus it’s always lovely to support upcoming talents. Other than that, we decided to stick to a white colour palette, as it symbolized cleanliness.

Where does your enthusiasm for dancing come from?

For me, music and dance go hand in hand. Dance is leaving music flow through your body and I don’t think it matters if you “know how to dance”, we all know how to dance if we allow ourselves to feel the music. I’ve been dancing on and off since I was a little child, but just now found the flow that suits me best and that is pole dancing and contemporary dance.

What does equality mean to you?

For me, equality is having equal opportunities, and being rewarded for our efforts the same way and it doesn’t matter if the reward is financial or emotional (as in appreciation).

"Equality is not presuming interests or abilities based on gender."

When you go on tour or produce an album, what do you look for when you put together your team? Is diversity important to you?

When I tour, I perform and travel alone, so there isn’t much diversity happening:) Other than that, when I produce with people, or we, for example, perform a live session together with other people, I mostly look at talent, rather than any other factors - I don’t give preference to any gender, race or age, really. It’s important to me, that we click well and have good energy and understanding within the team.

How would you say that race and gender affect people in the music industry?

I feel sad, because women are way less represented in the top parts of the music industry, and we are by far outnumbered by men. One could also say, that it doesn’t matter, as talent and how the music sounds is the most important bit about it, but it just doesn’t make sense why would be the numbers so different, if we only looked at the talent aspect. Female producers are a rarity and I don’t think it should be like that. On the other hand, since we now are more aware of this issue, we’ve done steps to improve it and I’ve seen many support programs being developed. I am also very aware of being a privileged person and fortunately don’t have any personal negative experiences that are based on race or gender.

You have lived in several cultures, why did you choose London as your current base?

I’ve always loved big cities - the buzzing, never stopping energy strangely charges me and inspires me to create. I grew up in quite a small town and knew that I want to move as soon as I finish high school. At the same time, I am very close to my family, so London was the solution. It’s a two-hour flight from where my family lives and the biggest city in Europe. That was that initially, but only after moving there, I realized how diverse and multicultural London is, how many opportunities it provides and that people think differently here, so that was what made me fall in love with the city!

What are you working on at the moment?

As everything is becoming still in the world right now, no concerts are happening, I took this time to finish my album, and shoot as many music videos as possible (also currently working on an animation and that makes me so excited!) and just create, develop new live performance ideas, and promote my new music.

ph: AIKO

How are you affected by the current Corona crisis so far?

It has cancelled many of my concerts, a few video shoots and many events for me. To be honest, I try to avoid reading about it as much as possible and only know the necessary. It makes me feel a bit anxious, as I don’t like my freedom and actions to be limited and that is exactly what the lockdown does. On the other hand, I realise that it’s for the better, I try to be as positive as possible and I don’t want to stress over something I can’t really fix - so I just stay home and create. :)

How do you deal best with the current situation as an artist?

Stay home! Create, and encourage fans to support local artists and to buy merch. Livestreams have also been a popular thing to do - it’s like having a concert from a living room to your living room and that is a lovely concept. Plan for when the times get better, record live sessions from home, and try working remotely. There are many ways to stay productive at these strange times.

"Always see the best in people!"

You not only write your music, but you also manage yourself, how do you manage to live up to these two roles?

I have always been my own manager and artist - it’s a lot of emailing, knowing people and just knowing the right words. I think it’s also important to carefully plan and separate the creative bits and the managing things, as you can easily get stuck and caught up in the whole booking/managing process. It often takes a lot of time, so what I found works best for me is to actually set aside a specific time to be creative, a specific time to do the managing bits.

Which aspects of your artistic life do you like best?

It’s the ability to feel and express yourself however you want! If I would be talking about some of the artistic things that I talk about in my music and wearing my stage outfits in my normal everyday life, they would call me a drama queen! Like this, you have this sort of an alter ego, a different persona where you can live and express whatever you want and get positive reactions!

ph: AIKO live in Vienna

What do you want to achieve with your music?

I’d love to create an experience for people, a tiny distraction from the daily routine - I like to imagine my music as something, you have to “dive in”, both music videos and the sound, therefore people are then immersed in the experience. I try to also achieve the same thing while performing live. Of course, I also have career aspirations, such as performing at festivals such as Glastonbury or Lollapalooza, filming an NPR Tiny desk session and many more.



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