Sara Abdel-Hamid a.k.a Ikonika is a London-based producer, footwork lover and a kick-ass role model for female producers. She’s successfully carved her own path through a male-dominated scene, establishing herself over the last 8 years through a string of consistently strong releases and live shows. With a new album almost done and due to be released this year, she is also taking part in a music production workshop for young women in London.
Based in Hamilton, Canada, Jessy Lanza joined the Hyperdub family in 2013 releasing her first album Pull My Hair Back. Her captivating vocals supported by unique electro R’n’B-tinged melodies led to received positive support from both journalists and artists alike. She recently finished her second album Oh No in collaboration with Jeremy Greenspan from Junior Boys.
The meeting of Ikonika’s dope beats and Jessy’s soul voice would not disappoint: the track Beach Mode (Keep it simple) was released on Ikonika’s Aerotropolis album, showcasing both artists strongest qualities. Sharing more than just a common label, they both have a serious obsession for R’n’B and collaborated on a radio show for Radar Radio.
The Hyperdub buddies jumped on the phone with us to ask each other questions, in a funny session filled with laugh and confidences. The two producers talk music gear, their sometimes accidental creation process, news and recent discoveries.
Their first meeting….
Ikonika: I was looking for vocals for my last album. Kode 9 [Hyperdub’s founder] played me some of Jessy’s tracks. I thought she sounded really cool.
Jessy: We did Beach Mode together first, and then I met Sara when she came to play in Hamilton.
Jessy: I’ve heard that you guys are working in a sort of outdoor studio?
Ikonika: Yes, we built it a few years ago, it’s in my garden. I’ve always been a bedroom producer, so I wanted to have a proper bedroom! I haven’t had a bedroom without a drum kit or decks in it for 17 years ! It’s good to have a music room.
Jessy: What is the favorite piece of gear you have in your garden studio right now?
Ikonika: It’s definitely the Yamaha DX7. I bought it on eBay. I want to keep good care of it, because the seller was saying that it was originally Hot Chocolate’s DX7. (laugh) It could be a lie, but I’ve always wanted to believe that it’s true. It is massive, really heavy and difficult to use – I don’t even program anything on it.
Jessy: I agree, it’s a nightmare, they are notoriously difficult to use! I have an SY77 and I don’t even know how to program it either…
Jessy: Your junior boys remix is really great. How do you approach remixes? Is there any method?
Ikonika: I really enjoyed doing that one, because it was a really good song to begin with – and that’s not always the case! (laugh)
Jessy: What you did with it is a whole different song…
Ikonika: Yes, that’s exactly what I want to do with a remix. I want to make it my own.
Jessy: I was reading about this production workshop you have coming up. What is it about?
Ikonika: It is basically an introduction to music production just for girls. There’s me and the organizer Emma, who’s also a producer, and P-Jam, a grime producer. We’re going to teach production on a basic level to help girls just starting out. It’s good to do something concrete, rather than just another rubbish interview on why there aren’t women producers. We hear somebody knocking at Sara’s door. Then she comes back a few seconds later. “Sorry! That was my niece.“
RCRD: Will your niece be attending your production workshop?
Ikonika: I’d love to bring her along, she’s 10 years old and she’s really interested in DJing. I should teach her now, but in general I’ll have her in the studio while I’m making music and she’s like “Can we go out?” She gets a bit bored. (laugh)
Jessy: Who is mr. cake? (the name of one of Ikonika’s tracks)
Ikonika: He is not a person. But it’s the kind of cake with a lot of preservatives and sugar in it, the kind of cake bar you find at the grocery store or the news agent. It looks pretty horrible, but I thought I’d call a tune that.
Ikonika: How’s Hamilton? What’s Rob Ford up to these days? (the Mayor of Toronto)
Jessy: Oh! That’s exactly the same old town. Rob Ford is sick now. If you came back that would be exactly the same group of people you’d say “hi” to in the street. There’s just more coffee shops opening up… gentrification is here!
Ikonika: Got any new gear in the studio?
Jessy: I got a Roland SH-101. It’s great, you can do a lot of different things with it. I even feel it is over-powering. Sometimes it is a total accident when I find something. I don’t quite know what the fuck I’m doing with that thing, but it’s really fun to play around with! (laugh) I’ve also got something new to replace my old Juno 106 that I don’t have to carry around anymore. I can just use a plug-in instead. It was so tiring to bring that keyboard around on tour.
Ikonika: You’ve got some new people on stage with you now. What are they doing?
Jessy: Tori joined me on stage. She’s playing drums and she sings a bit too, which is really great. We’ll be playing in London at Corsica Studios in May.
Ikonika: You’ve got a new album coming out, was much of it written on the road? When did the process start?
Jessy: I don’t really enjoy writing on the road too much. I usually prefer to be at home with actual hardware to work on music. Jeremy (from Junior Boys) and I wrote the whole album between January and August 2016.
Ikonika: Your latest video looks very grey and green – was it filmed in England?
Jessy: That was a weird foggy day in Hamilton, but it does look like the countryside in England indeed! We basically grabbed some Ikea plants and a smoke machine, and then shot the clip in a garden.
Ikonika: I know that you love RnB. Have you heard any good mixtapes or albums recently?
Jessy: There is this track called Keep you in mind from Guordan Banks that I play in repeat. It’s a really good song that randomly came out from a hip-hop station on the road from Toronto.
Ikonika: Have you listened to the new Jeremih album?
Jessy: Oh yeah that was great too! I don’t think listening to the whole thing, but there is definitely some really good songs on it.
Sara: I kind of like it, for me it’s one of the ones that’s on repeat. I like I did and I like playing that one out in the club, even of it’s more a bedroom tune.. but fuck it, I don’t give a shit. (laugh) Bedroom / club, same thing!