Nikki Awesome’s alter ego DOLLS is a by product of a commercial pop career gone awry. We spoke to her about the inspirations behind own brand of dark, dirty pop and the gender politics of the music industry.
What were your inspirations for embarking on a music career? Tell us a bit about your journey so far from Canada to London.
I went to FAME school, played guitar and had an unhealthy affinity for snatching trashed vinyl (they used to put milk crates full of records out by the bins, and I was attracted to a lot of 80′s cover art), further developed by an even unhealthier affinity for too many late nights out with all the wrong people in all the right outfits (or was it the other way around?) In any event, the drugs were good.
I signed a singles deal with Warner, released two commercially-charting singles, did some press, played some shows, toured with Flo Rida, dealt almost exclusively with misogynistic assholes, threw some $5 bills in people’s faces, had my record stolen, got pissed off with it all and essentially left Canada two minutes after the MMVA red carpet. I came to London to run out the end of my sell-off period, learn production, re-launch and say ‘fuck you’ to everyone. Pretty standard, really.
I used to describe my style as sort of a Kawaii 1940′s Judy Jetson – I love spandex/sparkle/rubber/fur (bad vegetarian).
I have a hard time shopping because I find many shops go full-out ‘on trend’ which is annoying. I don’t like feeling like my personal style is being dictated by buyers, and it’s sometimes so random – like they’ve got this Spice Girl-esque vision of “okay we’re doing SPORTY now” and I’m supposed to be carrying a football around like a Zoolander parody. I hate the IKEA-ness of high street fashion – it’s like recognising your furniture on Come Dine With Me.
I do love my WAG-wear: Gucci (s/s 2013 makes me so happy), Louis Vuitton, FENDI has some shoes and handbags that I would do cruel and unusual things (to someone else) for. I love beautifully constructed garments, and I’ll pick up a lot of vintage pieces as well – there’s a shop on Kings Road I feel partially responsible for keeping in business, and my friend has an amazing shop called House Of Vintage just off Brick Lane, the actual best picks. I’ve been in his showroom and been tantalised by floor-length Gaultier trenches and 1980′s Ungaro. I can literally go in there and say “I want to look like Brigitte Bardot performing on a cruise ship” and come out with high-waisted Chanel trousers or the dress that everyone compliments for the next decade.
I’m not above ASOS either. I pick up a lot of Vero Moda or Zara stuff, then shred and rework it, and I love mixing really shit clothes with super high-end stuff – so I’ll dip into Primark for a £2 vest and left-handedly write NIRVANA on it; next thing you know it’s a staple. Wardrobe solved.
Three words to describe your personal style…
Plastic Post-Futurist Glamour.
Fave lingerie/hosiery/shoe designers?
Nichole De Carle, Coco De Mer, and I won’t shun La Perla. You can’t really go wrong with Wolford, and as far as shoes – YSL (Yes, I know, but I’m still in denial about “St Laurent”) for stacked platforms, Miu Miu for wedges, Dior for a biker boot.
Secret Sulk is a fantastic, sexy album. ‘Better Half’ has been described as a ‘break-up’ song and ‘Pretty’ – a darker song about fake breasts and free drinks. You like to play with words so it requires a careful listen.
Thank you! I’m obsessed with the idea of ‘love song love,’ an intangible concept of a sensual dopamine lullaby – except it doesn’t really fit with my experience. So when I write I find I’m more inclined to spit out bitterness, jealousy, betrayal in the style most singers would deliver a ballad. Tracks like ENEMY LINES and TASTY which musically sound ‘love song-ish’ come out cynical and a bit twisted, whereas PAYMATE (the only actual love song on the album) is sweet and sadistic, to be self-referential. “True love forever” comes out like a typo: ‘you complain about me being a bitch and spending all your money, but we know you secretly love this.” ERASE YOU was written in a post break-up Mommie Dearest moment. You don’t realise how much you’re haunted by exes until you delete someone from your life, then have to micromanage the social media fallout – it was like “oh my God – just fucking disappear already!”
I adore the idea of something perceived as innocent or beautiful revealing very sharp teeth. NOW NOW and CHAMPION explore the naiveté that’s consistently been assumed of me, as though I was this inexperienced Disney princess direct from the industry machine. It’s intolerable for me to accept that paradigm when it couldn’t be further from the truth; I wasn’t manufactured by a label, I wrote everything I performed and most of the time (still) nobody knows what to do with me or how to deal/sell it. Either in music or in life. I may have been reincarnated as a Gucci-wearing Barbie, but I’m still the same girl who was ostracised for shaving her head and pairing men’s clothes with drag makeup in a teenage protest against gender roles. As I result, I resent the implication that I’m somehow experientially deficient because I don’t make the effort to buy into the taxonomy of easily digestible, ‘one size fits all’ music genres, scenes or styles.
Who inspires you?
Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, New Order/Joy Division, David Lynch, Eric Stanton, LCDSoundsystem, Peaches…I could go on but we’ll be here forever.
Seen the new Bowie exhibition yet?
NO. I can’t get tickets. I think I need to stand outside and protest or something.
Tell us about the London Fetish Fair gig in July – what will you play?
I’ll be debuting new material off my 2nd EP, pretty vicious cynical synthpop. I just posted a track called WATCH & LEARN on my Soundcloud account to launch dollsxx.com (where you can find me posting and pouting), ”I want a pet, I want an appetite to whet my obsession – your attention, please.” Oh and I’ll probably play on your heartstrings, too.
Buy the album ‘Secret Sulk’ here.
Bio-curious? Check Nikki out here.
ga(‘create’, ‘UA-33000715-2’, ‘auto’);