Ashnikko: "I’ve built a character for myself to tap into, I guess was selfishly for my own needs and confidence boost"
Alice Gee | 07/01/2022
I meet Ashnikko late-night UK time while her day is just beginning over in LA. She’s no stranger to the difficult time zones as she shares her time between London and LA amongst a busy tour schedule.
Having moved permanently over to LA this year, and being pretty grounded there due to the ongoing pandemic, I ask if she’s been missing England?
“I love the UK. I lived in the UK for seven years full time and I realised that I didn’t fully appreciate the UK and its natural wonders until I left/started splitting my time. I spent those seven years hustling so hard I didn’t have free time or the extra money to explore. I think now I can enjoy the UK and its natural wonders I’m going to do it more. I admit I really like the UK in the summertime, it is the dream.”
“I love to go to national parks. I love taking my dog for hikes. She’s a little mountain goat. She’d climb up a cliff face if she could, she’s hardcore as hell. I also like finding new restaurants to add to my ever-growing list. But most of all I love being around my friends, going to the beach, and having picnics.”
Being able to finally find more time for herself since the explosion her career has seen, I can’t help but wonder how the effects have found a place in her life.
“Ultimately, we’re not supposed to be working as much as we do. I think this year I’ve very much realised that I need to put more of a focus on my free time. I do demand a lot less from myself than I used to. I used to think that this is how much work it takes to make it, so I would be like, Okay, this is the amount of work that I need to put in to make it. That’s how I used to think. But now I feel I’ve kind of made it, I realise I’m burnt out and running on fumes. So I’ve had to say to myself it’s time to focus on, relaxing and hanging out with my friends, taking time for myself because burnout is not cute. I know I’m gonna function way better as a productive member of my team when I’ve had breaks. I mean, scientifically the human brain works better with breaks.”
Speaking of burnout and the pressures she’s placed on herself in the making of Ashnikko I found myself asking how confidence has played into her burnouts and whether she is as confident as the persona we see in her music and videos.
“The confidence that I’ve built a character for myself to tap into I guess was selfishly for my own needs and confidence boost. It’s definitely a persona that I can tap into and channel. She’s a very unapologetic, powerful, almost comic book character. It’s nice to be able to take the little twisted creatures in my head and make them real. It’s definitely my stage persona as it’s a very unsustainable level of confidence that I don’t maintain in my daily life. That would be kind of insane, but she’s a good friend to have.”
It’s an interesting idea, to be able to find inner confidence from an outward character. It’s something I’d buy in the bucket load if I could. Whilst on the topic of confidence I ask Ash about her single ‘Panic Attacks In Paradise’ Having shot to fame following its release I was intrigued to see the other side of her personas confidence, and the reality and pressures she’s encountered since what many would call her big break.
“When you have a very intangible goal in your head, which for me in the past was a success when you get it I guess you realise that it’s made of nothing but smoke. It’s a weird one. It’s definitely something that I’ve been struggling with. I’ve been trying to find more tangible things to anchor my happiness on. On the flip side of that, the songs are all about being in a very bad space mentally. In such a bad space that you sabotage all the good things that come into your life, which can be as simple as friends reaching out to ask how you’re doing or sabotaging yourself by not opening up to the people around you that love you. It could be not doing the very simple things for yourself, like brushing your teeth or doing your laundry, which is something that my brain sometimes stops me from doing in some sick masochistic self-harm fantasy. I just kind of wallow in it which can be fucked up. It’s hard realising that the best years of my life, maybe aren’t all they cracked up to be.”
I resonate with Ash about self-sabotage. Having spent many years making practice perfect in the art. I know it can be a bizarre moment when we feel guilty about the moments we should be enjoying. But it’s an interesting point she raises about feeling almost imposter syndrome.
“I have wanted to be an artist since I was like a young teenager. So there’s been a lot of building expectations in my head about what it was going to look like. But wherever you go your brain follows. You’ve still got to deal with the festering pile of sh*t that is being swept under the rug. I definitely think this year I’ve achieved the goals that I wanted as a kid, and I’ve realised that happiness doesn’t come from that which is quite freeing. At this point, I’m realising that all I want to do is just make music that makes me feel good and see the people that I love.”
Surrounding herself with loved ones whilst solely focusing on what makes her happy is a lesson we should all take into account more. Having written and produced music that incorporates and mentions so much of her experiences with mental health, I ask Ash how mental health has found its presence in her day-to-day life.
“My experiences with mental health are ongoing all the time. I’m very manic, I tend to overwork myself and I burn out, ending up making myself sick. I find I’ll have good weeks, and then I’ll spiral straight back down. I think happiness is hard work. No one tells you about it when you’re a kid. No one says it’s something that is a full-time job. I know for some people it’s an easier little part-time job, and I envy them so much. But for me, it seems to be a very taxing full-time job. I’m working on it for sure. I feel I’m having to do that a lot. But I’m super grateful to be able to do what I love most in the world full time as a job. It’s the dream.”
With her dream job being something she gets to do daily, I wanted to know if her music and persona grants her some form of escapism, as well it being something her fans can indulge in.
“I have to admit I wrote it to be escapism for me. I think it’s like that for all of these songs. I’ve been doing a lot of q&a’s on tour. Everyone’s like, how are you so confident? And I always say it’s not real. All the songs are me trying to hype myself up and build a fantasy world for me to escape to and help me go through tough times. It’s basically, to help me go through my own little silly life. I love the world-building in my music. I’m a huge fan of fantasy series and short stories, my favourite author is Neil Gaiman. I always say that he’s my number one inspiration for songwriting. I love him so much. He’s the only person that I stan so hard over. I’m always tweeting him and blowing up his social media. I love, really descriptive imagery and songs when you feel and imagine a music video without actually seeing anything. That’s what I like about songs. I feel pop artists who build an entire world around themselves are so interesting. That’s why Lil Nas X is super fucking cool because he builds these colourful, descriptive fantasy worlds. It’s amazing.”
Finding such comfort in the world of songwriting, creating animated ideas and visualisations is something I hugely admire and appreciate. Moving away from her songwriting slightly I’m interested to hear what coping mechanisms help Ash outside the world of Ashnikko.
“I feel like I’ve been doing my manifestations for many years. I like to write in my journal a lot, everything that I want. I mean, it’s not like magic. You can’t just write it down and not work towards it but the more you write it down, the more that it’s lodged in your head, and the more you will unconsciously work towards it. It’s really important to write things down. When I first started performing on stage. I found a really good memorisation technique in writing down things. I wrote down my lyrics just to cement and engrave them on my brain. So it’s the same technique that can be applied when manifesting.”
As we find ourselves manifesting for a moment, it’s the perfect time to ask about her future hopes and aspirations and whether she hopes to find herself wanting to do more in other industries following her involvement in the successful track “Boss Bitch”, featured on the “Birds Of Prey” soundtrack.
“I’d love to. The song for Birds Of Prey was a song I wrote when I was 18. I literally don’t know how it found its way to Doja Cat, but she did her thing and completely reinvented the song. She made it her own. In all honesty, she made it 100 million times better than the demo. I love the evolution of the song. I would love to write songs specifically for certain scenes in movies. I feel like that’s a challenge that I haven’t done before. If I could pick one or two it would be the new Sandman, the Neil Gaiman series is coming to Netflix. I’ll do anything, I’ll whistle a little song, I don’t care, or I’d love to do some female superhero films. There’s a whole world of unexplored possibility there. So we’ll see.”
I love the way Ash has found some sort of balance when it comes to her aspirations and taking into account time to look after herself and her creativity by questioning her boundaries, it’s something I can’t imagine was easy, learning to navigate her mental health all whilst launching a hugely successful music career. But if Ash’s previous manifestations are anything to go by, she is going to see a whole lot more when it comes to success.