Q&A: 5 minutes with Yulia Niko

If the name Yulia Niko is not one you’re familiar with yet, chances are that’s about to change fairly soon. Finding her way to music at fifteen after buying ‘Western music’ from her local record store, Niko has since been crafting music that combines European minimal tech with the groove and soul of Chicago house and the Detroit underground. Fine tuning her style on the New York circuit, Niko’s music is at once familiar and distinct; seductive house formulations served with lashings of techno. With a bevy of massive remixes and high profile releases on labels including Get Physical and Crosstown Rebels, Niko’s burgeoning success has also seen her book gigs at Coachella and Burning Man as well as a residency at Berlin’s iconic Watergate club. We caught up with the rising house music star to find out more about her and what inspires her work:


Hi Yulia! Welcome to The Playground. Thank you for speaking with us.

Hello The Playground. I am super happy to do this, thanks for the opportunity. 


Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

I don’t see myself doing anything else. If it was not music, it could be dancing, painting, writing books, photography etc… I think it’s a combination of my astrology sign and the way my parents treated me as a kid. I had the freedom to choose what I wanted to do, so I jumped from thing to thing and I had support all the time. My mom was an artist as well, but at the same time an independent business woman, so she sowed the seeds to those trees which are now in blossom. 


Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Somehow I feel super bored to produce just beats. I never could. That’s why most of my tracks have vocals or something else on it. I was even asked by some bigger artists who are playing my tunes to make something without vocals in case they would like to play, and sometimes I send them instrumentals for them to have personally. In the beginning, I was obsessed with the voice. I could fall in love with a radio host just by hearing his voice. That’s why I am constantly looking for new singers and lately, I’ve been pretty successful. 


What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I wish I did. Actually, until this month I was still experimenting with different things most of the time. For now, I am working on my first Sample Pack with Beatport. I collected my signature sounds from the last 5 years and finally organised it. It was a dream to do, and I’m happy that I found the time to do it. So I guess having my own sample pack now, I have a quicker workflow and it’s easier to find the right sounds which are my signatures. 


Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Well, I am also super impatient so if after 1-2 hours of working on a new vocal sample nothing is working out, I give up and move on to another idea. I believe the best tunes are made super fast and with a fresh head. I don’t drink coffee or some kind of stimulant, I don’t need it. It’s very important to take breaks, by the way. To have hours to rest your ears and not play too loud. I also have turntables, and often I start to play vinyl for a bit of inspiration. I can even record 10-15 minutes of me playing and sample some of those sounds for a new project/idea. 


Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

My home studio is super simple. I don’t even have a proper studio table and I use two seat benches from a beer garden lol. Proper German vibes. I have a bunch of stuff from Roland. A few synths, drum machine, drum pads, acid machine etc. I mostly work on the laptop and I use a lot from Roland Cloud. It has new and vintage synth plugins, new toys, samples, and fun things, with weekly upgrades. Super handy to use while traveling as well!


Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

There is really such magic and weirdness at the same time. I have been playing music since I was 17 and I still feel goosebumps during the peak moments of a set. This feeling is not comparable to anything else, even sex lol. Before I start to play, I look into the crowd and imagine gold rays coming from my chest to connect my energy with theirs. I think sometimes it really works! I am sober, but it makes me feel like I am super high and have some kinda spiritual connection with people. It also makes my work much easier because I don’t need to play some bangers. I can just roll with a groove and everyone will just follow me. 


Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I think about 40% of shows are not as perfectly good as the rest of 60%. We all have moments and moods, especially us “women”. So, when I arrive after a 10 hour flight and I’m super jet lagged and going to sleep, then have to wake up in 2 hours at 1am because I need to go to play, I think “Hmm.. am I doing the right thing? Why should I hurt myself so much?” But as soon as I step onto the stage and people start to react, the answer is clear:  “Come on, look at this! You’re definitely doing the right thing” I am super obsessed with what I am do, and I love all of the busyness that it brings me. 


What’s on your current playlist?

Most of my released and unreleased tracks, plus music from our new project Scenarios. My new remix on Moulinex which is coming out on June 10th is such a killer. Also the track “Omana” will be out on Scenarios in May, a super beautiful piano hypnotic tune, it even makes some people cry. In February I finished my first album, and I just keep testing it, so it’s my first folder on the USB. 


Any emerging artists on your radar?

Adam Ten & Mita Gami from Israel, Bryan Kessler from Germany and Maxim Lany from Belgium are my current favorite producers! 


Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

A lot of things I guess. Upcoming albums, a few massive remixes, and of course a few highlights like playing for the first time at Coachella, Burning Man, Warung in Brazil and a summer residency in Amnesia for Paradise and Guy Gerber’s new party.  I’m super busy and happy, but already waiting for next February when I have the month off.


Famous last words?

Don’t listen to people who tell you what to do. Listen to people who encourage you to do something that your heart tells you. 


Thank you for your time!

Thank you, dear readers! 


See the music video for Yulia Niko’s latest single, Intuición featuring Sil Romero below. Download and stream the single from ORIANNA here



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