The London-based producer and DJ hits us up with sun-dappled beats and a Sega Mega take on a classic 2000s banger
Put the confronting beats that backed Madonna’s 2003 reinvention, Japanese Vocaloid superstars and a drive by Nellyville through a Sega Mega Drive and enter the world of SONIKKU’s transcendental dance-pop. SONIKKU, real name Tony Donson, takes his moniker from Japan’s Sonic the Hedgehog; a game that, alongside Final Fantasy, he says was his avenue into electronic music.
Secret Island, his debut release on London’s Distant Hawaii label, came out early 2016, a collection of tracks that take a skittering digital lens to a lush Balearic holiday. A later release, All My Friends, saw SONIKKU bring the heat and pulsating beats of early 90s New York, in what label Lobster Theremin says was influenced by the likes of Pet Shop Boys and Prince remixer Junior Vasquez and “Vogue” producer Shep Pettibone.
Now, SONIKKU’s gearing up for the release of Dilemma: tunes reimagining Nelly and Kelly’s hallowed track, including a banging garage flip, as a forthcoming white label this April. Ahead of this, he’s taking us by the hand into a supersonic aquarium of a mix, and catching up on the important of pop and remixing a classic.
How would you describe your music?
SONIKKU: Dance-POP! A musical hybrid of Sonic the Hedgehog and Madonna.
Boiling it all down, your music’s so fun. Is it a mission when you’re playing to make people happy?
SONIKKU: For me, I love it when a set has lot’s of NRG and is full of surprises, I try and achieve this when I play out.
What drew you to remixing ‘Dilemma’?
SONIKKU: The melody. It sticks in your head all day!
What influences you outside of electronic music?
SONIKKU: I love pop music. I believe pop music to be the highest form of art. It shapes and influences culture while being highly self-aware. The aim, for me, is to merge this with underground music. I go through phases of only listening to certain Madonna eras – right now I’m on American Life. It’s inspiring when pop deals with sensitive social and political issues, it makes for an interesting combination… Anohni’s Hopelessness is actually strikingly similar to American Life, maybe thats why I like it so much.
“My (musical) education came from video game soundtracks – Final Fantasy and Sonic are the two franchises that influence me the most” – DJ Sonikku
Is there still an aversion – maybe down to general ignorance or closed mindedness – among other artists to play pure pop?
SONIKKU: Theres a danger that maybe the audience will thinking you’re trying to be ironic or something, but with me that’s never the case. I think it has to work in context with the rest of the set – that’s why I like to play instrumental versions of pop hits. I remember playing ‘Gimmie More’ instrumental by Britney on NTS and all the straight guys in the studio looking at me like, ‘What are you doing?’
How meticulous is your process for actually making music?
SONIKKU: I tend to work quite quickly using a formula that I’ve used from the beginning. I don’t really like dwelling and spending lots of time – the best things happen in the heat of the moment, short and sweet, like a Corgi!
Has the sound you have right now always been prevalent in your work, or has it been a journey to get there? It’s nice because it feels so sure of itself and what you’re going for.
SONIKKU: It’s important, as a producer, for the music to reflect your personality. I wouldn’t release a track that I didn’t believe in. I would probably most want to make music for Robyn! ‘Dancing On My Own’ is an impeccable song, she can make you cry and dance at the same time.
“It’s important, as a producer, for the music to reflect your personality. I wouldn’t release a track that I didn’t believe in” – DJ Sonikku
Has music always been a part of your life?
SONIKKU: Yeah, I’ve always been interested in music. Although I’ve never been classically trained or had any lessons, my education came from video game soundtracks – Final Fantasy and Sonic are the two franchises that influence me the most – and discovering things on MySpace, which led me to downloading a music production software when I was 14… I had no idea what I was doing.
What else do you have coming up?
SONIKKU: More music. More shows.
Can you tell me about the mix, how you put it together and what’s included?
SONIKKU: This mix is 100 per cent SONIKKU, unreleased/upcoming material and instrumentals from a pop album that doesn’t exist yet.
01. SONIKKU – “Strawberry”
02. SONIKKU – Untitled Instrumental (1)
03. SONIKKU – Untitled Instrumental (2)
04. SONIKKU – “Sky Sanctuary” (forthcoming on Distant Hawaii)
05. SONIKKU – “Vacation” (instrumental)
06. SONIKKU – “El Bombo” (forthcoming on Distant Hawaii)
07. SONIKKU – “Keep Goin’ Up”
08. SONIKKU – “Dilemma (Garage Flip)” (forthcoming on Lobster Theremin White Label)
09. SONIKKU – Untitled Instrumental (3)
10. SONIKKU – Untitled Instrumental (4)