On The Decks: Nik Nak

DJing, live sound and studio engineering, music production, songwriting: I’ve done all of it. It comes with its highs obviously, and also its annoyances and battles with the self. More often than not, I’d find myself questioning my ability even though it was clear that I knew what I was doing. At times I still do, depending on what musical work I’ve been tasked to carry out, but overall, I’m very experienced in music… Just saying.

I started my musical career when I was 13: I got some free software from a cereal box, thus became obsessed with making music using brightly coloured digital Lego blocks. The rest is history I suppose but hey, I’m still learning and trying new stuff out.

When I was heavily producing music in school and college, I was encouraged and didn’t have any fear, or at least can’t remember an obviously negative experience in those years. I became a member of Clap4Me, a creative collective in London (check them out!), and they’d perform on my beats, which was encouraging! I was just able to explore all kinds of music and build from there. At the time though, I didn’t want people to know my identity so maybe that played a part in me feeling fearless. University was where I found it was easier to experience the Fear Monster face-to-face instead of some anonymous alien on the internet saying my beat was trash. I’ll admit though, I don’t think I’ve ever received a bad comment on my beats or mixes but you get what I’m saying: anonymity gives people the power to say what they want.

Uni propelled my imagination and confidence further, and it was where I got the courage to start DJing. I’d done mini gigs before where I was just testing the waters of my ability and again, everyone was super supportive and kind. My first proper gig was at a bar I worked at. For this they put on a “ladies night” and I was playing alongside Dan who ran the Friday nights and these events, and Nadia, a mutual friend. All 3 of us rotated throughout the night. Once we’d finished, Dan was impressed with me and from then on, I’d get a set with Dan and the Bug Out Collective maybe once or twice a month.

Yes, I was the only woman in the group and it didn’t bother me.

When it was me and another DJ, I’d get asked if I was one of the member’s girlfriend or wife. It didn’t bother me at all, we’d just laugh it off. All I was concerned about was playing tunes with mates and becoming inspired by their turntable skills.

After a while, I’d gotten a residency at the bar I’d now previously worked at. This happened after I’d graduated. At this point in my life, I had done sound engineering at events, my first proper DJ residency and started using Serato Scratch Live, upgrading from a controller to my first turntable.

It was here, playing on my own, that I would get directly slapped with whatever bullshit came out of ignorant drunk twats’ mouths. Here’s a list of what was said or implied, and how many times roughly:

  • The N Word – twice. They’d say it as if to sound cool by quoting lyrics or a line from a film, assuming I’d be fine with it. NO.
  • Being mistaken for a man multiple times. “You’re pretty shit for a bloke.”  That kind of thing. I like baggy shirts and stuff but even though I don’t wear makeup, I think it’s kind of obvious that I don’t have a penis.
  • Being asked where the DJ is. We’ll gloss over the fact that my headphones where on and I’m mixing and scratching.
  • Frequently being asked if I was looking after the DJ’s equipment. I’m merely displaying the venue’s equipment. It’s all for show, even my presence.

Some nights where tougher than others but mostly the crowd was supportive and was just up for having a good time! A few people even started recognising me and would shake my hand when they saw me play. I remember one week where I was just not in a good place and I had to play regardless. I was warming up and a guy comes over to the booth and says, “AWWWW YES NIKNAK!!!” We have a little chat and he said how he was happier knowing that it was me playing tonight, and that really cheered me up. I made the most of every set I had there, and in general, the gremlins wouldn’t stop me.

This was, and is, my job, my livelihood, the thing I truly love doing. I feel most at home behind decks, and I wasn’t about to let those ignorant gremlins’ stupid comments defeat me.

Music will always continue to be a driving force in my life both professionally and personally. Nothing and no one is going to prevent me from being a part of music. For the most part, the people I’ve come across and met, supported, performed for and played to have been so supportive and kind, and I can’t thank them enough for giving me a chance and letting me do my thing. So far, I’ve supported Jon1st, DJM, DJ Format, Dead Playaz and Cakes Da Killa, and I’ve played at festivals like Strawberry Fields, Handmade and Chin Up. To be brutally honest, if people didn’t think I was good enough to do such things, of if I’d listened to the gremlins and let their bullshit take over me, I’d be constantly doubting myself and probably have become a recluse with a tin hat on my head.

So shout out to the people who have and continue to support me, it really means a lot. And yeah, let’s see what I can accomplish next!

Shout out to the ignorant gremlins too, your comments make for some hilarious tweets.

Nik Nak

Image by Leroy Farndon-Taylor

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