"I Love Meeting People!" Niko B Interviewed

"I Love Meeting People!" Niko B Interviewed

Catching up backstage at Reading Festival...

“I love meeting people,” says Niko B. “I just feel like whenever I meet someone for the first time, I talk to them like I've known them for ages. It could be a mate from school, it just instantly breaks that barrier, because there's no barrier separating us, we're exactly the same.”

It is the sense that everyone and everything counts that drives the young artist. If there is a tendency to view the everyday as too mundane and trivial, unworthy of a mention, then Niko B is working to challenge, if not transform, such trends. The 20-year-old multi-disciplinary artist, whose real name is Tom Austin, hones the depiction of details from day-to-day life. Nothing is considered too small. In fact, small detail seems to what he prefers to work with.

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His debut track ‘Mary Berry’ came out last year. Going viral on socials to the point at which his ability to communicate observations with humour and finesse became obvious to thousands, he created a cool, distinct comedic style in the process. YouTube is the platform he emerged from before the global pandemic was a thing, and it looks set to remain his future digital home.

Having delivered a glorious set at Leeds Festival at the start of the weekend, which people adored, day three has come, and Austin is spending time with Clash at Reading Festival. Playing a wild and explosive clip of Friday night’s performance on his phone, he goes on to share a somewhat different perspective, how he felt prior to going on stage. Getting used to the live environment, his recent popularity in lockdowns means that there has been little time to practice and gain experience of performing live on a stage, so it’s learning as he goes. So he put a lot of pressure on himself, perhaps it was too much, and the nerves got to him. “I was being sick,” he admits. “I threw up before, it felt like the worst thing. I felt like I couldn’t do it, but then as soon as I went on stage, I forgot all about that, and I was just singing and enjoying it.”

Austin does rap, but there is more to his style of entertainment, and he is no rapper in a traditional sense. Led by a strong visual aesthetic, his music videos form the basis of his creative production activities, which also include his own clothing line Crowd. He gets heavily involved with all aspects of video production, with a particular interest in directing. There is no doubt that he loves music, even if it is just one creative component out of many. He enjoys the immersion of digital content, and lately he has been binging artists like Tyler, The Creator, Teezo Touchdown, Jamiroquai, and Gorillaz.

But comedy greatly influenced his creative path and his approach to content creation. It is a genre he connects with “Comedians will take the smallest scenario,” he enthuses. “They understand how to turn it into the biggest thing that you've never even thought about.” He got really into "Weird Al" Yankovic when he was younger. “I love parody songs on YouTube as much as I love pretty music that’s fun to listen to, and I like to combine the two.”

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With ‘Mary Berry’ performing above and beyond expectation, it made sense to follow up with 'Who's That What's That'. Created from the confines of his living room, it was where most of the track came to be. Sat on the sofa, he wrote the track using a beat that resembled Nintendo Wii. After writing the song he contacted a friend, a producer with a studio in his bedroom. His friend was up for the idea and asked him to pop over the next day, where he presented Austin with the beat, which would end up in the final version. “It was sick,” he interjects. “I put snippets out here and there, and then it all just exploded.”

He wants things to be real and feel closely connected with others. Unimpressed by the idea of having a divide, a distance between himself and those, who are into the music and videos he makes, he insists on being on equal terms with the people he meets along the way, whether they are famous or not. The same idea applies to the relationship between him and his audience, it needs to be honest and direct, he wants his fans to feel close to him and vice versa. “I feel a lot of musicians put themselves above,” he maintains. “But I’m with my fans and let them know that we're on the exact same level, in the exact same boat. The only difference is that more people get to see what I do.”

Seeing what Niko B does, seeing the impact his creativity is having is not hard. The main challenge is keeping up with what he goes on to achieve – the full range of his creative production ventures. The important thing is the need to stay in touch with the mundane, so he can continue creating the type of content that resonates with people.

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Stay in touch with Niko B on social media.

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Words: Susan Hansen

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