Nakadia Exclusive Feature InterviewJuly 8, 2021
Interview editing Mike Mannix
Nakadia from Thai country girl to Berlin – the World!
Mike Mannix: Nice one Nakadia thank you for talking to us at iconic underground. Give some background on your early influences socially and musically how did you get into dance music, what gave you the itch to mix?
Nakadia: Thanks for having me and let me tell my story. My path as an artist has been very different from other artists and I think I have quite a unique story as I grew up far away from electronic music – even from western music! I was born into a farmer’s family in Thailand’s poor Isaan region, growing up without running water or electricity. We had nothing, but I had a very happy childhood.
From early on I was in love with music, but it was traditional Thai music first. At the age of 15, I moved to the closest city to my village and shared a room with 5 other girls. At that time we danced to tapes of western pop music and we thought we are so cool. It was only in 2002 when an online friend invited me to fly to Europe and visit him, that I discovered electronic music on my first night out in Germany. This was my life-changing moment! Marusha – a famous female German Techno DJ rocked the club and I was blown away by the energy in the room and the control she had over the dance floor. At that moment I knew I was born to be a Techno DJ!
MM: What DJs / Artists / Producers are behind your ever-driving passion for the scene, and who would you like to work within the studio?
N: This is where the difference in my story continues. Usually, young people get inspired by artists they see in the clubs and try to learn from how they play. Be it a friend who is a local artist or a big name they follow. I didn’t have any of that. After this first night at the German club, I was on my own. I went to a local record shop and bought my first vinyl – but I had no idea what I bought. I didn’t know anything about the different genres, labels, or artists.
I took decks and vinyl back to Thailand and started practicing to mix. But I had no guidance, no DJ to check out, no club to go to or friends to ask for help. I was on my own. I started ordering vinyl from online shops. 90% of the music I bought was straight for the bin, as I had no idea what I was buying. Remember, this was a time without youtube, Spotify, or social media channels. I built my style of playing without any outside influence, just following my ears and my heart.
It was a very hard way, but I am proud of it
as I can truly say that I followed a unique path and I continue to do so ever since. As for the studio work, I love the production quality and sound of Maceo Plex, so a studio session with him would be most inspiriting to me.
MM: Walk us through the usual process of when you are in the studio creating your new tracks from the analogue outboard, midi, samples, and DAW you use and why. What is key in the whole production process?
N: Over the past years I bought a lot of analogue gear, but bit by bit I sold most of it again. Before Corona, I was hardly ever home, and if I had 2 or 3 days to recover I didn’t have the energy to jump into the studio. So I reduced my workspace more and more to the laptop. It had the second advantage, that I am most creative straight after my gigs. When I get back to the hotel room and still have the adrenaline pumping, I get the best ideas and often sit for hours on bed with headphones on, jamming away on Ableton and totally forget to get some sleep.
For me, the key to a good track is the feeling and flow of it and I don’t care if the sounds comes from digital or analogue equipment or samples. It’s all about working out a catchy idea and keeping it alive during the arrangement. That is also the difficult part. I only create my ideas on the road and once a month I travel to Dusseldorf and work with my production partner Ramon Zenker. He is a legendary sound engineer and producer, who has many world hits under his belt.
During our studio sessions, we finalize my tracks. I have to admit that I would not be able to deliver the kind of quality productions if I was on my own, but in my opinion, this is nothing to be shy about. Once again my story is different than usual when it comes to producing. Normally artists reach international success with productions. I did not, I started touring internationally from the very beginning in 2003.
During the year 2005, I was already touring 120 gigs across 35 countries – all just as a DJ, without releases
When I started producing I just had so little time to learn, if I would have wanted to be a perfect producer it would have meant giving up DJing, but that was not an option.
MM: Tell us about why you moved to Berlin?
N: At some point, touring out of Thailand was not possible anymore as my tours became too complicated and most gigs were across Europe. I needed to be based closer to where my gigs were and Berlin offered me a resident permit. It was also the city I had fallen in love with at the early stages of my career.
The lifestyle, the coolness of the clubs and music, the networking possibilities – it all made Berlin the perfect place for me and I am very happy here
MM: What do you hope that people will say about you when they look back at this moment in Techno?
N: The biggest compliment would be if they say: “She made me smile and fall in love with her music”
MM: What’s the biggest thing in life you’ve overcome, and what did you learn from it?
N: There were so many huge problems to overcome during the first 10 years of my career. Many times it seemed that my career was not possible and I have to give up. My path was just so different from others and it looked like
it was impossible to make it being a girl playing Techno, coming from Thailand, and not having money to invest
I never gave up and it proved that anything is possible if you just believe and work hard for it. This is such an important message I want to send out to the world, that during the Corona break, I actually wrote a book about my life story. So far over 1000 people have read the book and the feedback is overwhelming. People are very surprised about the story – even my closest friends did not know what I have been through and the book once again changed my life. Even two of the biggest Hollywood production companies approached me and it looks like my story will make it to the big screen.
MM: Your standing in club/Festival/field tunes blaring on a rush to the outer planets and your thinking fuck this is real this is amazing… but fuck I’m bursting for a piss, ever happen, and when…?
N: It happens a lot, as I believe the biggest difference between male and female DJs is, that girls can’t hold their pee as men can. Sometimes I play 5 or 6-hour sets and somehow have to rush to the toilet during a long track. One time at Watergate Berlin it took me too long to cut the lines of the toilet and my track was running out. Lucky for me, the booker of Tomorrowland was standing next to the DJ booth and asked my tour manager if she should get the next mix ready – and she did! I was rushing back to the Dj booth and found her mixing in the next track. We had so much fun after that.
MM: Back in the day DJs and producers really had to put in some seriously long hours, dedication, patience, and money to learning the beautiful art and skills of mixing vinyl and producing original tracks. Now with the advent of sync buttons, constructions kits and templates are today’s electronic DJs / Producers at a disadvantage or advantage?
N: It is both. Of course, it is an advantage if you can just start mixing without any training. But it also means it comes easy, and so often things that come easy are nothing special and have no value. There is the disadvantage –
too many people think they are DJs, just because they have equipment that mixes tracks for them
But I believe that those who take their mission seriously and try to stand out can still be discovered. This also is the same on the production side. In the past, the labels were a filter that only invested into tracks that had a chance to succeed.
Today every piece of crap can be released and DJs have a hard time finding the good tunes within the huge pile of garbage
Finding the good tracks and putting them together in the most perfect way is our art these days.
MM: What advice would you give the aspiring DJ today / Producer on how to be creatively original in an already saturated market?
N: It becomes more and more difficult to stand out. Everything has been done, and all sounds have been created. Now is the time where we need quality in tracks. So often I receive promos that have great ideas or hooks, but the quality of the production is just so poor that I won’t play it. It’s better to produce 2 tracks at the highest possible quality level, as finishing 10 tracks that all sound the same. Focus on quality instead of quantity is my recommendation.
MM: How do you see the underground scene today progressing and where do you see it evolving?
N: Unfortunately during the past years I see the underground turning into mainstream. We are about to lose what Techno stands for and turn our community into something like EDM. I am afraid that this will kill all of what we love so much about our community and it might change everything.
If Techno continues to become the new EDM, then a new underground movement will grow from that
Soon the dance floors of the big festivals will be full of people who don’t care about the music and only want videos of the superstars on stage, while on the other hand, all the real music lovers will search for great artists away from the hype.
MM: If you ended up trapped on a godforsaken island with only your decks, a crate of spirits, and your vinyl fly case to your name, what would be the top 10 essential cuts that you must have to survive and why?
N: – First of all, I would take with me the first record I ever bought:
1 Mauro Picotto “Pulsar”
Then of course I would take one of my own tracks to be proud of myself:
2 Nakadia “Acid Storm”
To remember how the dance floors used to go crazy I would take the
3 Dextro Remix of Jones & Stephenson “The first rebirth”
One of the greatest tunes of all time…
4 Underworld “Born Slippy”
The most memorable track of the artist that helped me to become Nakadia
5 Timo Maas remix of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the silence”
The track that I probably played most often over the past 19 years
6 Josh Wink “Higher state of consciousness”
The track that gives me the best Berlin feeling
7 Paul Kalkbrenner “Gebrunn Gebrunn”
The track that I used to play so often to close my sets until Nina Kraviz started playing it
8 Jam&Spoon “Age of love”
And last but not least two amazing tracks to enjoy the lonely island sunsets on the beach
9 Rampa remix of Ame “No war”
10 Hardy Hard “Silver Surfer”
MM: What drives and motivates you?
N: When I see the happy faces on the dance floors. This is what keeps me going, it wakes me up when I am tired and lets me forget my jet lags.
MM: Love or hate it EDM what are your thoughts
N: I honestly can not listen to it, these sounds hurt my feelings. It’s like an insult to music in my ears. But this is just how I experience it. So many people enjoy it and this shows how every person has different feelings and a different taste. We should all respect each other and let people enjoy the music they love.
MM: Do you feel this is a particularly exciting time to be working in dance music?
N: Now, at the time when the Corona crisis seems to come to an end, I feel it’s an exciting time. Before Corona, I had a feeling that the music has no value anymore, but during the live streams of the past 15 months, I received so many amazing messages that I am now excited to go on tour again and play face to face for all these people out there that supported me during my streams.
MM: What are your biggest stand-out festival/gig moments where you thought ‘ fuck this is real this is amazing….’?
N: There are so many, but the biggest one was probably when I played in front of 1,2 million people at Berlin’s Loveparade in 2006. It felt surreal and was adrenaline pure. My most recent moment like this was at Australia’s Rainbow Serpent Festival. The crowd was just amazing and the energy unforgettable, something like an Australian version of Burning Man with a sea of people going crazy to my energetic music!
MM: Post covid – what are your next big planned events and projects?
N: I expect to be quite busy again touring from August onwards. I have some gigs before that, like London on July 20 – if it will go ahead this time – but the real extensive 10 gigs per month tour will probably start in August and then reaching across all continents over the next 7-8 months. I can’t wait to be back on tour again. Besides that, I was busy in the studio during the Corona break and from July 12 onwards every 5-6 weeks you can expect a fresh Nakadia EP to be released.
MM: Thank you great interview