London-based producer and DJ Sonikku loves video games. In fact, his name is the Japanese pronunciation for iconic video game character Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonikku just dropped his newest EP Molg, a collection of four songs with spacey beats and punchy rhythms that sound like they’re plucked straight out of a video game, and he was able to share his new music live at Valle Eléctrico in late May in Madrid, next to LVL1 and Rebecca Black. In this interview, he speaks about his love of gaming and how it influences his music, as well as shares his thoughts on genre and future collaborations.
From your album artwork to your music videos and even the visualiser of your new EP on Spotify, your visual style really elevates your work. To what extent is your visual style influenced by the music you make, and do you look to forms of visual media as a means of inspiration when creating your music?
I like to build a visual world in my head before I release a project. I’ll look at fashion shoots, movies, and video games to get an idea of what sort of atmosphere I want to create, and then I’ll fit the music into that world.
You mentioned in another interview the role video games such as Killer 7 and Metal Gear Solid 2 have played in inspiring your EP Molg, and I read that your name comes from the Japanese pronouncation for Sonic the Hedgehog. What is it about video games that inspires you, and what are some of your favourite video games that you feel have influenced your work?
My first exposure to electronic music was through video games, specifically Sonic 2 and Streets Of Rage 2 on the Sega, so my whole way of working has been influenced by that.
As you came up in the club scene, when making music, are you conscious of how it will translate to this environment, and does this inform your creative decisions?
I think I fluctuate between pop and dance music, so it’s hard to place where my music will go sometimes.
Your work effortlessly moves between genres, as was definitely the case with Molg. What role does genre play in your music, and do you see genre as something that can be restrictive, or is there some level of importance to these labels?
I try not to think in terms of genres – I don’t want to be boxed into anything as I like to explore lots of different sounds and not be confined by what you are and aren’t supposed to do.
I love the way you move between techno and pop on Molg. On paper, I wouldn’t necessarily see these genres working together as well as they do, but the transitions and shifts in tone are so tight and effective on the EP. In a sense, I guess the trajectory of pop in the last decade or so has shifted towards more electronic sounds anyway, especially so in the form of hyperpop, so in some ways these worlds feel closer than ever. I was wondering if you’ve found similarities between these genres, either musically or in terms of audience?
It all depends on what you define as ‘pop.’ It means different things to different people – it’s sort of genre-less. I don’t really understand what ‘hyperpop’ is supposed to mean. I know some people would put me in that category, though.
I was first introduced to your music when a friend showed me SOPHIE’s remix of Sweat – how was the experience of working with her, and have you found her work has influenced your own?
Surreal, a memory that I’ll never forget. It was a joy to meet her. She has influenced me and many others.
What do you look for in collaborators? Notably the EP doesn’t have any featured artists compared to Joyful Death. Was this a conscious decision, or did this just arise from the circumstances in which you wrote the EP?
My next project will be all collaborations; Molg is a taste of the sounds I’ll be exploring. I like to work with people who can have fun with music and are open to not taking things too seriously.
After Molg, how do you see your work developing? Is there another album on the horizon, or do you see yourself working on more shorter projects in the future?
Yes, as said before there, is a mixtape/album project on the way. I’ve been working on it since my first album came out.
Thinking about the future more broadly, you clearly have interests outside the world of music. Do you see yourself stepping outside of this field and experimenting with other mediums? Video games for example – was there any point where you saw yourself being involved in this industry in some capacity, or were your ambitions always firmly rooted in music?
Music is the only thing I know how to do, and speaking of video games, my music is going to be featured in a major racing video game title, which is kinda perfect. I’d love to score video games. I also like making sound design for artists, which I’ve done a few times.
More specifically regarding music in video games, can you see yourself scoring a game in the future? A recent example of an artist moving into this space was Japanese Breakfast’s score of Sable, but another example that comes to mind would be Colin Stetson, Arca and D’Angelo’s contributions to Red Dead Redemption 2’s soundtrack. As your work is already so inspired by video games and video game music it just seems like the perfect fit.
Yes, I’d love for that to happen.
The last 2 years have been challenging for everyone, forcing us to change the way we live our lives but also reflect on why we lived our lives in this way. Has the pandemic and the social isolation that came with it changed your music or the way in which you make music?
It’s made me make more club-focused music, because we obviously couldn’t go out dancing.