The Mix 013: Nikki Nair - Music - Mixmag

The Mix 013: Nikki Nair

Nikki Nair pounds through a 100% production mix and chats to Mixmag about mythology, getting silly in the studio, and causing chaos with Hudson Mohawke

  • Words: Gemma Ross | Photos: Jason Lindner/Highdeas Productions & Alana Naumann
  • 16 May 2024

The last time Nikki Nair spoke to Mixmag in 2021, he was at a crossroads in his career. Fresh off the back of a move to Atlanta and busy with his head down in production, his graft was beginning to push him up to the heights of festival stages and cult label releases. “I hadn’t spent much time touring then,” he recalls. “Since then, I've had a bunch of learning experiences DJing in front of different audiences and meeting and working with artists who I like.”

“I’ve simultaneously gotten more jaded about the music industry and more inspired to do new stuff. The pressure to either follow trends or repeat myself feels more apparent to me — I think that pressure has made me even more firm in disregarding any creative advice I’m given about the music I make,” he says.

Despite the pressure, Nikki Nair never follows trends — he makes them. Blending offbeat bass with distorted, percussive garage and glitch, his speedy persuasion has helped him travel far and wide in the past few years, even helping him forge a tight friendship with similarly off-kilter bass favourite Hudson Mohawke. Last year, their joint single ‘Set The Roof’ made the rounds, a garage-tilted earworm sure to stay in your head for hours.

Read this next: 20 of the best dancefloor bangers from 2023

Since 2021, he’s come leaps and bounds. Now working with a regular pool of his favourite artists including DJ ADHD, Breaka, and Chloé Robinson, he’s found a niche with his own leftfield styles both on stage and in his releases. Up next, he’s gearing up for the release of a six-track EP titled ‘Snake’, said to be his most reflective work to date bringing mythology, spirituality, and worship into the thematic fold.

After completing a victory lap around the US with Hudson Mohawke, we sat down with Nikki Nair to chat mythology, getting silly in the studio, and his brand new EP, ‘Snake’, alongside a pounding, bass-oriented mix made up entirely of his own productions. Check it out below.

You just finished up a North American tour with HudMo, how did it go?

It was a great experience; I think the more the two of us play together, the more consistently locked in we get with our sets. Because we both have pretty dramatic styles of DJing, the result of our playing together can easily turn into pure chaos! But I think we’ve found a way to refine it so that it's controlled and coherent despite the chaos.

‘Set The Roof’ really skyrocketed after release last year - when you look back at that track now in retrospect, was it a shock how universally loved it became?

I think when we made it, we knew it would at least do moderately well among DJs, and we knew people could enjoy it outside of a club. It had all the ingredients for that. However, I didn't expect it to be played by such a wide variety of artists. I remember seeing a video of Björk playing it and losing my mind.

You always find a way to add a bit of humour to your releases (as per your recent Homer Simpson ‘Set The Roof’ refix). How important is it to have fun with your production process?

I'm always having fun when I make music. The one certainty I have about my production process is that if I’m not having fun while making a track, then the track isn't going to be good. This doesn’t mean the tracks are all outwardly funny — most aren’t, and most shouldn’t be. But on some level, I have to be excited and engaged by the music for me to feel like it means anything. I usually won’t even finish a track if I’m not having fun making it.

You just dropped a new EP with DJ ADHD, ‘Where U Find This’. There’s a lot of unusual sounds and samples in that release - where did you pull inspiration from?

We were being idiots in the studio. DJ ADHD and I are friends — I stay with him most of the time when I visit the UK. I think a lot of our music together involves making ourselves laugh while producing. In ‘Fidget Spinner’, we were basically one-upping each other by adding increasingly terrible samples, which culminated with adding the Secret Agent thing at the beginning.

How did you first come about collaborating with DJ ADHD? And what’s your process like when working together?

Chloé Robinson initially introduced us to one another and we hit it off, I usually work with him at his place in London. We work pretty fast together and just come up with the most insipid ideas for tracks that we can. Both of us like to use as few elements as possible to build grooves, and I think we have fun trying to see how basic we can make tracks.

Your next EP, ‘Snake’, is due out this month, and it’s based on the symbolism of the snake, mythology, life, and worship. How have you worked that symbolism into the EP?

All the music on this EP is more uncompromising and personal to me than anything I’ve put out before. Even with the dance tracks, I wasn’t sure how many DJs would be able to naturally fit those in their DJ sets because the textures are so dirty. With the more aggressive tracks on there — 'Snake', 'Worm', and 'Prowler' — the tracks are all really low-dimensional grooves that kind of feel like a snake to me.

Historically, the Nairs worship snakes, so I feel connected with the symbol. The reason I called this record 'Snake' is because it has more of me in it than anything else I’ve made in a while.

You said these tracks are much more personal, and muse on your “anger, frustration, confusion and joy". Can you tell us more about that?

These tracks were all made with basically no concern for any current trends in music or labels or anything. With each of them, I was making them initially believing I would never put them out. I just made them for myself for relief in the studio. A lot of times as a dance music producer, you're thinking of where the track fits in the world because you're making music for other DJs. It’s a craft as much as it is art. This type of consideration causes you to filter your feelings a bit for the sake of others. These tracks were all made in moments where I abandoned this feeling to blow off steam and make myself feel better.

Read this next: Sound nothing like before: Nikki Nair’s unpredictable music drags you through a genre wormhole

This summer is looking like a busy one for you - what are you looking forward to most?

I’m looking forward to any studio time I get! I have a bunch of gigs in a bunch of cool places that I’m of course extremely happy about. But mostly, I'm excited for the moments I'll have by myself in the studio.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on another record with Future Classic at the moment. I usually don’t spend a lot of time working on a specific record, I just make music and see how it all fits together. But this one is going to be a bit more coherent — if that’s possible. So that’s what I’m thinking about right now.

You’ve delivered another 100% production mix - can you tell us about it?

This is the second 100% production mix I’ve done for Mixmag, and I’m glad to do another one. This one begins with dancefloor-oriented tracks I’d made just for DJ sets — a lot of this stuff might never be released. I’m always making this kind of stuff just to have it on hand, it’s more related to the type of dance music I love and collect. The other part of it is a bit more experimental and focuses on newer ideas. I used some previous releases to connect grooves together. I was more concerned with the interaction between grooves on this mix than anything else, so hopefully that comes through.


Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair ft. Saint Thomas LeDoux - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair, Thys, Kelbin - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair & DJ ADHD - Golden Monkey [SSPB]
Nikki Nair & ? - ?
Nikki Nair - ?
Caroline Polachek - Bunny is a Rider (Nikki Nair Satellite Remix) [Perpetual Novice]
Nikki Nair & Thys - ?
Nikki Nair & Thys - ?
Nikki Nair & Hudson Mohawke - More Recently [Warp]
Nikki Nair - Worm [forthcoming LuckyMe]
Nikki Nair - ?
Nikki Nair - Catenate [forthcoming LuckyMe]

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