Q&A with audio alchemist Nikki Pryke about her first LP, Connection

Swedish producer, DJ and Envelope Audio label boss Nikki Pryke unveiled her debut album,
Connection, via the imprint on November 24th, 2023. A prolific figure in Stockholm’s music scene, Nikki Pryke has previously worked under the moniker Lioness which has seen her DJ alongside the likes of Ron Trent and Âme and unveil an array of material ranging from techno to ambient and more. Under her own name, she is exploring new sonic avenues and featuring her ethereal vocals in her music. Heavily influenced by electronic pop from the 80s and 90s, the nine-track collection offers a variety of styles, leaning towards pop, nu-disco and indie, exploring a range of themes under the broad umbrella of love and connection.

The album meanders through a variety of styles and genre’s, are there any particular things you would cite as influences in the making of ‘connection’? A particular era of music, a specific sound or even a core synthesiser that you used throughout it?

Oh, quite definitely. I had an obsession with Depeche Mode during a certain period of time in my teens (ca 90-97), and that was something I was naturally drawn back to in the process of making this album. I felt an urge to channel that period of time into this album, which included not only DM but also a lot of indie pop and other styles of electronic music. It also felt right to blend it with some of what my creative direction has been over the past few years: more ambient, cinematic soundscapes. It was important for me to be entirely honest in all aspects of the creation of this album, and I feel the variety of expressions is a fair representation of who I am musically, at least at the time the album was created. 

From a technical standpoint, how did you compose the whole thing, do you have a home studio you work from or did you work with an engineer at a recording studio to capture the elements? 

Both! I wrote and arranged the core songs in my home studio, before moving them into my co-producer Victoria Moralez‘s studio where we added proper vocals and also discussed the productions further, adding some acoustic instrumentation from external musicians. That was definitely a very rewarding – and new – experience for me. Further down the line, the mixing work of sound wizards Fabian Roos and Christoffer Berg really elevated the songs further. All in all, inviting other artists and craftsmen into the creative process has been a really enriching experience this time, both spiritually and creatively. 

What are some of your go-to instruments and studio pieces that have been key to your music over the years?

I think central in the development of my sound is the production skills that I developed, so maybe a matter more of how and in what combinations I use my tools rather than which ones exactly. There are however some software instruments and plugins that I’ve come to love and return to the past 5-10 years. Some of them that I used on Connection is U-he’s DIVA synth which I love for its rich and varied bass sounds, and Sonalksis’ Creative Filter, which I use on most of my productions. It’s a really good filter and above all, I really love the way it colours the sounds I use it on. 

Your own vocals are featured throughout the project, from what I can tell you didn’t sing before on any of your more Techno and ambient projects as The Lioness, do you have a background as a vocalist or it just felt like now was the time to embrace your voice in music and put it out there?

I think there’s several reasons for that. Long before I started making electronic music, I wrote songs with lyrics on guitar and piano so it was always sort of in the back of my mind that I would one day return to it. Besides this, I felt there needed to be an element of authentic expression, honesty and vulnerability in this album project. So despite me never really being a trained singer, it felt vital to me to use my own voice in these songs. 

There’s an underlying meditative, healing aspect to the album and some of the track names such as ‘Sorrow’ and ‘Fear & Freedom’ allude to this album being something you’ve processed. Are there any backstories to these songs you’ve composed? 

I think that’s a direction I generally gravitated towards over the past few years, and even more so on this album. There are definitely backstories, most of the songs are processed feelings and experiences I’ve lived through over a few years of sometimes harsh, and at the same time liberating, growth. This was one of the things I really enjoyed about writing “real” songs again, the chance to more directly and honestly channel and communicate my inner world with the outside. So I’m glad you noticed.

Do you have a particular highlight from your musical career so far or any defining moments that have driven you to push further in music?

I suppose it depends on how you define “highlights”. I think I’ve been lucky and had some really nice moments with great response from the outside world over the years, like for example the Pioneers EP project and DJing in Berlin for example. Highlights like those are rewarding in their own way, but I think what’s driven me to push further into music has been more of inner shifts, something defining changing within me that felt like it needed to be expressed. Hence not being able to stick to one genre, haha! 

And lastly, can you share one of your all-time favourite records with us and tell us why you picked it?

Ohh, this is a tricky one!  I guess I would have to say Depeche Mode Songs of faith and devotion since it’s an album that spell-bound and impressed me immensely over the years, and I keep coming back to it. Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the key of life” is another one that I never get sick of. His song-writing is truly a gift to the world. Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and Smashing Pumpkins “Siamese dream” also made great impressions on me at the time I discovered them, both unique and groundbreaking in their own way at the time of their release. Ah, there’s so many! 

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