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New Noise: DJ Sonikku

We talk to DJ Sonikku, the maestro weaving Sonic The Hedgehog with Madonna and making it sound amazing.

DJ Sonikku, the moniker of Midland’s born artist Tony Donson, has dropped his latest EP. Released via the always reliable Lobster Theremin, All My Friends is an unrelentingly awesome salute to Italo Disco and NYC-house.

While the sound of the EP takes its cues from the dominant figures of the 80s scene (Shep Pettibone Junior Vasquez et al.), All My Friends captures the anarchic spirit of the early days of clubbing – utopian and hedonistic. While our memories of disco are often dominated by that polished Chic sound, DJ Sonikku revives a sense of the murky subterranean. Dives, at the time, like SoHo and Hell’s Kitchen in New York where people would risk a trek across the city just to hear amazing beats and dance.

DJ Sonikku ramped up the music production and DJing after moving to London and started making waves with the island-hopping house of 2015’s Secret Island (released via Distant Hawaii). His skill as a producer comes from his ability to piece together disparate yet familiar sounds to create tracks that are immensely fresh yet rooted in a grand musical tradition. We talk to the artist about his latest work, how he got into music and the state of London’s club scene in 2016.

When did you decide you wanted to make music?

As a child I was always thinking about music, when I played video games I would spend hours on the sound test menu just listening to the music and sound FX in the game rather than playing it, I started messing around with production software when I was a teenager (I hacked the demo of Fruity Loops to get the full version). It wasn’t until I moved to London that I started taking it seriously. I never really made a decision to make music – it just kind of happened, I don’t know why.

How would you describe the sound on your new EP?

All My Friends is a really fun record. I like to blend elements of pop with club music. I guess it’s also a reflection the type of music I like; Italo Disco, Sonic the Hedgehog and Madonna.

All My Friends tips a Sonic-shaped hat to the heyday of New York’s club scene. Which were the producers and DJs that had the biggest impact on your output?

I thinks it’s important for young DJ’s and producers to look back and research the history of the music they are making, and New York during the 80’s really stuck with me, It seemed like such a liberating time. DJ’s like Shep Pettibone, John ‘JellyBean’ Benitez, Arthur Russell, Larry Levan and Junior Vasquez are all people I admire, I hope their legacy is not forgotten by the next generation of producers. I named this record after the lyric “I wanna see all my friends at once / I’d do anything to go bang” from Arthur Russell’s (Dinosaur L) “Go Bang” as nod to that era.

You’ve got some incredible photos to accompany the EP. Talk to us about those?

The visual element of what I do is equally as exciting as the music. The images for this EP fit perfectly represent how the music sounds. It’s also really nice when all the people you work with are your friends… I guess that’s also why it’s called All My Friends.

You’ve DJ’d all over the place. Which are your favourite clubs?

F12 in Stockholm has been my favourite thus far. The energy was incredible, I really love it when a club is really inclusive to all kinds of people; gay boys, drag queens, girls from the office – they were all there dancing together. That sort of inclusiveness is something I think clubs in London could work on….I get kind of bored going to some nights in London and the club is filled with guys dressed like Mac DeMarco. Dalston Superstore and Chapter 10 (§10) are the best examples of inclusive club nights in London.

What’s your go-to record when you need to fill a floor?

I really like to play “California Gurls (Instrumental)” by Katy Perry – it actually really works. I had the whole of Room 2 in Corsica Studios singing the words. “Holiday (Dub Mix)” by Madonna is also a good one. I tend to play a lot of my own music in my sets but I also like to throw in a few unexpected tracks in there that I feel blend well.

With the closures of bars and clubs all over London, do you worry about the future of London’s scene?

It is sad to see places like Dance Tunnel and Shapes close, I don’t think London’s club scene will completely end, but rather it will have to find ways to evolve and do things differently, driving it further underground.

What’s next for DJ Sonikku?

More music. More shows.

All My Friends is released via Lobster Theremin

Words: Dan Austin

Photography: Mila van der Linden

Set Design: Aidan Zamiri

Clothes: Alexandra Russo and Florence Lamy

New Noise: DJ Sonikku

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