Ashnikko: “You get the best songs on the brink of insanity”

Ashnikko doesn’t just subvert feminine stereotypes: she flips them, kicks them to the ground, and dances on them in glass platform boots until they’re dust. Daisy – the protagonist of her latest single – is no innocent flower, but blossoms in the moonlight to become a throat-punching vigilante.

Brash and fantastical, the London-based American rapper and pop artist makes music that is part escapism, part empowerment, a disruptive blue-haired shot of fuck-you energy. She’s already got Miley Cyrus dancing to one of her songs on a TikTok video, and Grimes singing on another. Ashnikko’s unabashed confrontation of sexism, patriarchy, and womanhood resonates with many, and we caught up with her over the phone to talk about feminism, online hate, and the brink of insanity.

Congratulations on new song ‘Daisy’. We hear there’s a video coming, with some fan-generated content.

There is. We did four different colour ways and it’s a VFX dream. It’s so fucking cool. It was directed by Charlotte Rutherford who is an absolute genius, legend, icon, wonderful human. We included some TikToks but not in a cringe way. Charlotte and I came up with some ideas and it looks sick.

How do you feel about TikTok?

Social media makes me very stressed out, but there are pockets of TikTok that are very creative and artistic, and obviously it’s a great tool to help break a song. You have to have a lot of creativity to make a good TikTok and I think that’s cool.

Visuals are central to your music. Is the importance of visual art under-acknowledged in music?

They’re almost one and the same now. You have to be as good a visual artist as you are a musical artist. The songs and the visuals have to match up. Both are equally as enjoyable and important for me. I love making music but I also love making music videos, coming up with campaign concepts and EP artwork. I’m obsessed with fonts!

How would you describe your music?

I don’t understand it myself sometimes. People that play a part in my music-making process are MIA, Paramore, Joan Jett, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, Gwen Stefani, Missy Elliott, Janis Joplin. Bjork is a huge visual inspiration. My music is… pop-punk-hip-hop-bubblegum I-don’t-know-whatever-the-fuck.

How did it feel to see Miley lip-sync to your song?

People are like, ‘This must have been crazy for you!’ I think it’s cool for sure, but Miley Cyrus dancing to my song wasn’t an indicator of me feeling like I could ‘make it’ in music. It’s cool though. I’m glad she danced to it. Moments like that are so fleeting.

You’ve talked about your small-town conservative upbringing and educating yourself about feminism via Tumblr. How do you relate to that feminist label now?

Being a feminist is sick! I’m very down for equality, but specifically being an intersectional feminist that includes everyone. I think it’s important to continuously learn about your feminism and improve it.

AShnikko
Photo: Micaela McLucas

Do you think things are getting better for women in music?

That’s a hard question. Being a woman in music is an everyday battle of people pitting you against other women, and tearing down your appearance and your abilities as a songwriter or businesswoman. Sometimes I think that it is better for women in music, but some days I’m very frustrated by it. I definitely encourage my fans not to put down other women to bring me up. There’s no place for that in my fandom. I think educating and using my platform where I can to make the music industry a better place for women is all I can do.

Do you feel confident in that role?

No. It’s a very daunting task. I’m a flawed human being but I’m constantly trying to be a good ‘role model’. I’m not perfect.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Becoming a full-time musician was tough. When I moved to London by myself at eighteen and didn’t know anyone in music, I naively thought, ‘It’ll be fine, I’ll meet people as soon as I get there, I’ll just message people on Instagram!’ I didn’t have any connections to people in the music industry. Going from that to being a full-time musician took a lot more time than my eighteen-year-old self thought, and that was difficult. When I became a full-time musician, it felt very sweet because I worked so hard for it. But it’s also been really tough dealing with hate online.

It’s become so much more complicated with social media.

It’s important to know what fans are saying and to be involved in that world, but knowing too much about what people think about you is unhealthy. In a normal work setting, if somebody doesn’t like you they keep it to themselves. They don’t go online and write paragraphs about why they hate you and send it to you. I find myself inching slowly away from social media because it gives me really bad anxiety. Social media is a fucking cesspit and I’m definitely struggling with my relationship with it right now. I’m trying to speak with my record label to offer therapy to all the artists they take on.

But that’s where you get the best songs: on the brink of insanity. It makes the best music, unfortunately. But also, the brink of insanity makes me ill! And I don’t like being ill.

What’s the nicest thing a fan has ever said to you?

I get sweet letters about how my music has helped their self-confidence, which is important because I wrote that music to boost my self-confidence, and the fact it helps others is very touching. And I get a lot of fan art. You should see my room, it’s like an accidental shrine to myself. I got a shadow box from one my fans, of me as an evil fairy drowning a man in an enchanted forest, which was based on a caption on one of my Instagram videos, which was funny. I’m just so overwhelmingly happy that people are inspired by my music to make other types of art.

What music are you listening to right now?

The new Summer Walker. Che Ecru, Noah Cyrus, Saweetie, Phoebe Bridgers, Aya Nakamura.

What does the future hold? Do you miss touring?

Trying to get my campaign done in the midst of a pandemic is tough but we’re getting there. I miss touring so much. My heart’s broken. But it will be that much sweeter when we can finally be on the road again. I’m just going to make my live shows even sicker now with all this fucking time I have!


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