NEO 10Y & Loverboy go way back. Waaaay back to when NEO 10Y was simply Nik Thakkar and Loverboy was still The Back Building. But since then much has changed. We launched our first issue, starring Francois Sagat, whom Nik styled in garments from his own label no less, while Nik has since gone on to launch a music career under his new alias.
This new venture has seen him embrace his love for the colour black even more. (Yes, we know black isn’t a colour, but it sounds better than ‘shade’, right?) While sonically, NEO 10Y’s sound takes its cue from the likes of Marilyn Manson, Depeche Mode and Massive Attack, while creating something totally unique, all of his own – Just ask the people busy sending him death threats after the release of his ‘The Kid That Killed Tr*mp’ video! But more of that later.
What was your earliest memory of being drawn to the darker side of life? Who was your favourite supervillain?
I guess I was the kid that saw a light in the darkness. Darkness has a bad reputation and a lot of that is systemic, “dark matter” is that which is unknown and I kinda love the idea of finding love and hope in the midst of not knowing why we are even on this planet. I think aesthetically, I like a mood. I like euphoric emotion and I think that’s what I bring to NEO 10Y.
Scar had the best song in the Lion King, it’s called Be Prepared. It’s a mood, BUT lyrically it’s hella uplifting if you erase the whole murdering Mufasa issue.
Jafar has the best outfits, I didn’t like Cruella de Vil because I don’t believe in violence towards animals and I kinda wanted to bang Gaston.
Last time we spoke, it’s been a while, you were stylin’ and designin’. Are you still working on that?
So, since we shot the cover with Francois, we won the Gen Art prize at NYFW, but I haven’t been active in the design of physical products for a couple of years. My focus has been on the music and videos, and art and paintings and cerebral and ethereal constructs.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t go back to creating physical objects, I’m just in a minimalist and environmental space right now. I love personal style and I have a very specific archive of clothes and I get to work with brands that dress me, so I am still creative in that space.
Shot exclusively for Loverboy by LUXXXER
When did you decide to venture into music and what was the final thing that made you think, ‘Fuck it, I’m ready! Let’s do this!’
You know, I have been musical my whole life, I leant piano when I was a kid and was head of the choir, and then taught myself guitar. I had been playing open mic nights forever. The evolution came when I had something to say. It was environmental and also spiritual, I think.
Growing up, I never really knew what it was like to be in a music studio or make a song professionally, but I made some amazing friends over the years and ended up in the studio with them, picking up instruments, writing hooks and experimenting and I guess it just started coming out of me really naturally.
It was only when I had something to say as a human, that I started translating it into songs and poems and raps and verses, and bringing my ideas to life in a way that I never had before. So I made a few songs, working with JEZTLS and hii.de in NYC on production, and ended up putting Amerikkka and the Tr*mp film out anonymously, because at the time I was genuinely scared about it, it wasn’t as “free” to make statements like that as it is now….
So the anonymity made it all feel kinda gradual, eventually people either worked it out online, people in real life knew and then I was like “ok, this is what I’m doing now” and then Billboard interviewed me and they were like, do you want to give your real name, and I did, and since then the mask has been off and I’m visible in my music videos and visual now and my confidence as an artist and performer has evolved into something really epic that I never thought was possible in this reality.
Dopamine has the lyric, “behind a mask, I forced myself just to come” as a reference to that.
What was the darkest reaction to ‘The Kid That Killed Tr*mp’? How did it affect you?
The threat to be hung, drawn and quartered was probably the worst and most graphic, but then again I did burn the face of their fave world leader, so it’s kinda expected. I have thick skin, mostly. All that moisturising. Put it this way, I still went back and created a similar visual for the Trump rally in London this Summer.
You’ve had a lot of great endorsements from designers already. Who has meant the most?
Jean Paul Gaultier started it all for me really. That was incredible, he and Thoai and Jelka and his team saw something in me and I am forever grateful and a stan. I love couture, I love what he stands for, I even love the song that he made…
We know you’re a Karl fan. Is he next on the list?
You know I worked with him twice, once for Shu Uemura and once for Diet Coke – but yeah, I think he would love Dopamine.
Shot exclusively for Loverboy by LUXXXER
What do you do before a show to get in the right headspace?
Meditate and smoke weed. Cos, world peace.
What has been your highlight as NEO 10Y so far?
A letter I got from a French kid who wanted to end his own life, but didn’t because he listened to my song Janis and understood the meaning behind it. Nuts. I would love to do that on a bigger scale. It’s why I make these songs. When you get it, you get it and you understand reality more. I’m glad people are on this journey with me.
Also, playing a show in LA a few weeks ago. I trip at the fact that this is a reality sometimes but it makes me want to do so much more.
What themes continue to inspire you?
The unknown, the truth, the universe, quantum entanglement, ancient civilizations, human enhancement.
Which vocalist would we be surprised to know that you would like to collaborate with?
I love BTS.
What is your favourite hashtag for NEO 10Y’s Instagram?
From the Wild West-style introduction, ‘Dopamine’ has a very cinematic feel to it. Does cinema influence NEO 10Y’s sound? If so, which films are we talking about?
My mind is really visual, I see sound and emotion and energy flow, and I think I always want anything that I create to feel immersive and transportive, so I am so glad that you feel this way about Dopamine. I think all of my music is cinematic because I like emotional experiences. With regards to my visuals, my brother Oz is a film director and has inspired me greatly in terms of understanding cinematography and capabilities when it comes to producing video content. I am really lucky to have him as a brother.
Favourite films though… The Fifth Element, The Fountain, Requiem For A Dream, The Skin I Live In, Mysterious Skin and Rampage starring The Rock and a giant gorilla.
What film past, present or future would you like to create the soundtrack for? Tell us about it. Venom would have been fun – if it had turned out to be a good film!
Past: The Fifth Element
Present: Ready Player One
Future: Buffy The Vampire Slayer 4.0
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind Dopamine?
In line with my evolution as a human, Dopamine is about finding yourself and the truth so that we can collectively, through group consciousness, find world peace. That said, it’s also referential to finding peace in any way you can within reason. I made it for everyone. I hope it’s a song that everyone can connect to.
The B-side is ‘Poems to Fuck to’. According to Nick Cannon, Mariah fucks to her own music. What about NEO 10Y?
I’d 100% fuck to ‘Dopamine’ on loop. It’s literally designed for that.
Speaking of the Queen. Which is your favourite Mariah track?
I actually love Rainbow and specifically, After Tonight. I know it’s so niche, but I love it so much. The guitar and her vocals make me wet.