Tina Asplund aka Kissey soundtracks her life in NYC with some killer electronic tunes.
Stockholm born, New York based singer, songwriter, producer, DJ and muse Tina Asplund – otherwise known as Kissey – began making electronic music in earnest back in 2000 when she joined the Red Bull Music academy as their youngest admission. Since then she’s performed and collaborated with the likes of Little Dragon, Machinedrum and The Roots amongst others, launched her own label – KISSKISS – and worked with The Martinez Brothers on Givenchy’s Fall/Winter 2014 men’s show. Having recently released her second EP ‘Melting Pot’ late last year, we managed to pin down the wonder woman herself to talk ceiling swings, managing the mania of life in the Big Apple and why she’s drawn to boozy, sexed up Greek gods.
Talk to us about your classical training. When did you realise you wanted to transition from classical music to DJing?
I realized at quite an early age. I tried scratching on my father’s belt-drive turntable when I was a kid and accidentally ended up breaking it a bunch of times. I think the turning point came when a teacher of mine, Mattias Stahl, (he taught jazz piano and vibraphone) taught me to think about my voice as an instrument. I also used to have this crazy math teacher, Niklas Lindberg, who would DJ at a few big venues in the city at night. He used to throw hard cover books across the room at kids that had fallen asleep in class, but I ended up taking one of his classes in DJing anyway and he and his close friend and DJ, Netz, mentored me and introduced me to the world of house music.
Singing, songwriting, performing, producing, painting, duos with TK Wonder and collaborations with Givenchy – how does working with multiple creative outlets help you stay inspired? Do you ever worry that you’re overextending yourself?
I think all of it is extremely important, it stimulates different creative thinking in me. I always learn something new that I can bring to the next project/creation. It always comes back to the same values; being conscious about what I feed myself inspirationally, showing up, honoring the things I’ve promised to deliver and committing to creative decisions that I make. If one project is not unlocking one day I just switch lanes to another, let it rest and come back to it the day after. Showing up is probably the most important part for me – no matter how much or how little is created, it is better than nothing, and a lot of the time you carry on working and conceptualising sub-consciously. If I get exhausted I tend to seek out art somewhere like the MET, or I’ll go for a sit in this huge swing that my friend has hanging from her Brunswick apartment ceiling. Or dancing! Anywhere that there’s a good soundsystem. Whatever relaxes my brain so I can start over fresh again the next day.
Given that disco and house music have an early history in the clubs of gay, black and minority America, did you consciously choose dance music and the name ‘Melting Pot’ to explore similar themes?
I create music for me and my friends to dance and soundtrack our lives to whether they be straight, gay, bisexual, black, white, women or men. Sometimes the music is fast, sometimes it’s on the slower side. Melting Pot was actually inspired by the mythology of Dionysus and strong sense of longing for someone that had broken my heart.
What is it about Dionysus’ mythology that fascinates you?
He stood out for me because he was always the ‘forbidden’ god. I started re-reading some Greek mythology a while back and I found so much that resonated with New York and nightlife culture here. A big part of being in this city is to be a night creature – that’s when you can meet with friends after work and catch up about life. It’s such a beast, such a demanding hardcore grind; people have 2 or 3 jobs just to pay rent and yet they still manage to make it out at night in order to become part of this collective. You feel liberared as as you become part of this living Dionysus. Losing yourself in music, dance, food, wine and sexuality is so important. You can forget the 10 hour day that you were stuck sat in a cubical at work and instead focus on creating memories.
Do you have any other recurring themes in your work? Love? Loneliness? Longing?
Love, longing and relationships recur a lot. I made a promise to myself a couple of years ago to be super honest in my music. It used to take a hard toll on me in the beginning – it was challenging to be upfront about how I felt right there on the spot in front of the microphone. Any lyric or melody you have hear me sing is written directly in to mic which means that I freestyle a recording, deciding what the song will be about as I’m making it. I used to write about my first love in the beginning but right now I’m writing about my experiences with different people.
Can you recall any specific times when music and dance helped you deal with painful feelings?
There was this one period when I was going through a lot of transitions; I just felt lost and all over the place. I remember I would go by myself to a thing that Prince Language used to host in the basement of Le Baron. I would stand in the corner, surrounded by fog and music and dance it out. The sound system was ridiculous and his music selection was always on point. It would make me feel recharged when I went home, like I’d escaped to drift through the clouds for a couple of hours.
Do you have any regular haunts in New York? Places that you keep being drawn back to?
I love going to the MET and the poetry library in Tribeca. I also like hanging out in Sel Rose whenever I have time. My girl (photographer Ellinor Stigle), her husband Marlon and the rest of the crew will always be there, sitting in the corner. It’s a pure family affair. My favourite bar in Brooklyn is Dynaco on Bedford, it’s been made to look like a wood-lodge with great old school speakers and a big open fireplace in the back.
You’ve mentioned an admiration for FKA Twigs. What is it about her that you find so refreshing? Are there any other artists you’re keeping a close eye on?
It is so refreshing that acts like her and Kelela are opening up people’s mind to bringing in a certain kind of cinematic soundscaping. It’s just my flavor. The Nightslug/Fade To Mind crew have a different kind of storytelling as well, very in-your-face lyrics. I feel like underground and overground music are merging more and more. Producers like Hudson Mohawke and Caribou crossover between niche and mainstream so seamlessly. ‘Second Chance’ is one of the best alternative pop songs written in 2014, I remember the first time I heard it, I was on the subway, I could hardly believe what I was listening to. I missed my stop. There’s no reason why every kid in the US and the UK shouldn’t know about that track.
Caribou – ‘Second Chance’
Listened to this song for the first time in the NY subway on my way to a meeting and was so mesmerized I missed my stop, and ended up late. On repeat since.
Lorde – ‘Tenniscourt (Flume Remix)’
Because Flume killed this remix, he murdered it in all aspects. definitely one of my favorites.
Future Brown – ‘Talkin Bandz ft. Shawnna, DJ Victoriouz’
An insane beat, the drop just before 1 minute, where they left the acapella go by itself … on point.
Banks – ‘This Is What It Feels Like’
At first I was a little annoyed that her vocal was lower than were her best range lays, but the more I listened to her album the more this song became the favorite. It ages super well and the chorus, both melody and in the beat, is absoluteness.
Royksopp & Robyn – ‘Monument’
I think it is one of the best songs Robyn has ever written. It’s one of her most epic and empowering pieces, all about creating you and your own self (I love art that talks about that). The fact that it was inspired by a sculpture by Juliana Cequeira Leite makes it even more magical to me.
Tinashe – ‘2 On’
This song was on repeat in general in NY during 2014, either friends, a bypassing car in Brooklyn etc. I heard it at least once a day for sure. It’s a “let’s get started” kind of thing.
Ganz – ‘Get Ones’
I love this song, if a way to a man’s heart is via his stomach, the way to my heart is to know that this is one of my favorite songs throughout all time. When I need a power boost, this is what pumps through my headphones.
Cakes Da Killa – ‘Truth Tella’
Because he is my boo-thing, and I love him and his flow to death!
Herve x Zebra Katz – ‘Tear The House Up’
When you’re walking around the streets of NY feeling boss, this song is absolutely mandatory. Just like Ganz’s “Get Ones”. Call everything as you see it, read it, and your life gets a bit easier to deal with in a urban jungle as NY.
Words: Thomas Curry