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Screenshot 2023-04-10 at 10.58.27

Ushko is mashing up early 00s Russian trance with anime gore edits

The London-based artist talks us through her latest album Wet Hits, her favourite anime shows, and the joys of fan-fiction

From singing as part of the ‘United Choir of Russia’ at aged six in Moscow’s Red Square, to playing in sweaty basement raves across Europe, London-based musician Ushko’s pipeline has been unconventional. Having fled to London to escape the war with her partner and collaborator Moa Pillar, the 23-year-old makes ravey and euphoric tracks charged with emotional intensity, pulling from dance-pop, UK bass and deconstructed club; and whose fiery live shows have ignited the city’s underground with hedonistic abandon. 

Influenced by 90s and early 00s Russian trance and drum and bass, the artist’s sophomore album Wet Hits follows on from 2020’s Silver Hits, and is the first release since leaving her home country. Drawing on the sound of pre and late-Soviet club scenes, the eight-track album sees Ushko – who recently signed to New York imprint Club Cringe – reflect on escaping the tense political climate of her home country, as well as new beginnings in the UK. “With music, I just do what feels right and try to deliver all the emotions and style so the most beautiful part is when somebody gets it without understanding words,” she explains. “For me, it’s hard to express feelings and emotions IRL, but in music it’s so natural – it makes me feel free.”

With themes of revolt and liberation, there’s a rawness to Ushko’s tracks that feels both dark yet transcendental. This can be felt in the music video for lead single “KITTYTECTOR”, where she takes inspiration from gore anime edits in an animated short that depicts her morphing into a fallen angel who’s ripped apart and then taken under the protection of stray cats. Below, Ushko expands on the inspiration behind the video and her album more generally, while also sharing her earliest musical memories and her most recent iPhone note, which coincidentally happens to be a short story about an anthropomorphic poop. 

Congrats on the release of Wet Hits! What are some of the main inspirations behind the album?

Ушко: My main inspirations are Ficbook (trust me this shit’s crazy!! ), sleep paralysis and Bella’s baby Renesmee in Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2. There‘s also iconic Russian 00s DnB label Piratskaya Stanciya and their crazy raves, my mom and friends, and of course gore anime edits and depression (just kidding, but I think it’s important to embrace and confront your fears and anxieties)!

I love feeling like I’m in that awkward stage when you’re no longer a child but not yet a teenager. It’s that time when we used to make horror movies or parodies of Mr Bean when I was nine years old on my grandma’s flip phone. I remember learning how to dance Jakarta’s “One Desire” and exploring my sexuality by looking under the girls’ skirts in “Destination Calabria”. It’s absolute freedom – and maybe cringe for many people – but that was a very unique and inspiring period for me.

Where did the album name come from? 

Ушко: Do you know that feeling when you are extremely anxious, deeply excited, and simultaneously horny? And with all that drama you go outside and it’s raining, and you start to cry, and it feels like your whole insides and outsides are emitting liquid? It’s like the most dramatic and intense moment of experiencing deep heavy emotions, pushed to the point of absurdity. That’s how I came up with the name.

What is your earliest music memory?

Ушко: The earliest one is of my grandfather playing “Tsiganochka” (or “Gypsy Dance”) on the accordion while my grandmother taught me how to dance to it. (“Tsiganochka” is a traditional Russian folk dance, often accompanied by accordion music.)

Please share the most recent note from your notes App.

Ушко: A poop is going on a hike, marching on and suddenly meets another poop. The other poop says, ‘I want to go on a hike too!’ The poop replies, ‘Alright, come with us!’ And the three of them march on. They meet diarrhoea, who is taken aback by the black belts and peaked caps with red stars worn by the other poops, but hesitates to approach and keeps to the side. The poops continue on towards the setting sun, casting golden reflections over the horizon. Suddenly, diarrhoea takes off running towards them, splashing itself along the way, leaving a weak brown trail in the grey sands of the steppe. Diarrhoea reaches the poops, exhausted and barely alive, splashing all over them. The poops look at diarrhoea with disdain and say, ‘No, we only take strong guys’.

(Note: This is a humourous anecdote and may not be suitable for all audiences.)

And the last meme you saved?

Your favourite cornershop snack?

Ушко: Lays with crab!

The worst advice you’ve ever been given?

Ушко: That I need to learn how to sing.

What conspiracy theory are you quite into, actually?

Ушко: The 2012 Phenomenon and The Nibiru Catacylsm

What do you put on your rider?

Ушко: Today I’ve just asked for a spinning platform, like the one from Harry Styles’ “As It Was” video. I also put a bunch of stupid things on, but for a reason. Sometimes it’s healthy to be a bitch! But 99 per cent of the time I just ask for mic + decks, so feel free to ask me to play anywhere!!