Russian-born DJ, producer and label owner, Yulia Niko learned her trade in the clubs of her hometown before moving to the US to work as a resident DJ at Verboten, Brooklyn and Heart in Miami. Now based in Berlin, Yulia runs the vinyl only label TochnoTechno, as well as the recently launched Libe Vibe and has released on the likes of Get Physical, Hottrax and Heisenberg.
The ‘Nobusan’ EP dropped on the 20th May on Libe Vibe and see’s Niko team up with Enzo Leep to release a resonating house single which includes remixes from Rich NxT, Matheiu, Giorgio Maulini and Saktu. The EP is available to buy HERE.
1. Hi Yulia, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Where about’s in the world are you at the moment?
Hi guys, really happy to chat! First of all thank you for hosting my podcast, I’ve had such great feedback on it. Right now I am at home in Berlin. I was supposed to be back in Ibiza again but since my last visit (I went for the DC10 opening) I am feeling very inspired and I’m bursting with creative energy. So I’ve locked myself in the studio, making sure that these ideas become new music as soon as possible.
For some reason, despite my pretty stripped back sound, I got booked at more “commercial” venues in Russia. You know how that goes, “Let’s book that blonde chick she seems cool”. Oh boy, they were in for a surprise.”
2. Since your childhood where you grew up in Russia, you’ve moved between Greece, New York and Berlin. How has your sound progressed with these different locations?
What can I say, I’m a traveller at heart lol. It’s been a 15 year long journey and I must say I loved all of it, the good the bad and the ugly (because obviously it’s not always been “rainbows and unicorns”). I started off playing vinyl and my sound was very minimal in the beginning. But for some reason, despite my pretty stripped back sound, I got booked at more “commercial” venues in Russia. You know how that goes, “Let’s book that blonde chick she seems cool”. Oh boy, they were in for a surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I respect their craft and never forget that in the end, as a DJ you are an entertainer first and an educator second. What I mean by that is that we shouldn’t forget that we are here to contribute to someone’s night out. So no matter where I got booked at first or how mismatched it was, I would always try to find a balance and make people dance. The biggest lesson for me from those early days was to learn how to adapt without losing my own style and that’s the philosophy I live by till this day.
After I moved to New York and started to get a feel of what NYC sound is about, I kind of got sucked into the “Romanian sound”, which to me feels like a bit of Chicago and Detroit mixed together and then distilled into this very minimal yet groovy vibe. In the end good music is good music, no matter what category or style it falls under. I think as an artist you can’t help but absorb all of it, then filter all these different sounds through your own creative filters and end up sounding like yourself. I would tell you to call my sound now a “Berlin Sound” but really what does that even mean? I just play records and make people dance. That’s my sound.
3. We believe that you have a degree in Law. When did you decide to leave Law behind and embark on a career in music?
It didn’t take long. I started working and 3 months later I was like nah, that’s not for me. Have you seen the TV show Suits? Well, I couldn’t even finish watching it, that whole vibe…
I like helping people but if I have the opportunity to help them in a different way, through art and music, to contribute in some small way to their happiness, I’d rather be doing that.
“Record labels are creative outlets. Like galleries are for paintings or sculptures, record labels are “galleries of sound.”
4. You’re the founder of the label TochnoTechno and very recently you’ve launched Libe Vibe – congratulations! First focusing on TochnoTechno, we believe that it’s vinyl only. Why is this important to you?
Record labels are creative outlets. Like galleries are for paintings or sculptures, record labels are “galleries of sound”. It’s a way for me to be not just be an artist and producer but also a curator of music. It’s very personal, I don’t care about selling as many copies as possible (I mean, it’s nice IF that happens lol), I care about finding something that sounds different, something I personally love and giving it a platform so that the rest of the world can hear it too. It’s nice when the likes of Villalobos are playing something that I put out on my tiny little label (a track by Tripmastaz from their last EP on TochnoTechno). It’s nice when Mixmag supports you and gives you a premiere slot on their platform.
It’s nice to get any support basically, because I work pretty much alone all I can do is my best. And now with Libe Vibe added to the mix I have to manage two labels, produce my own stuff and travel. I don’t complain, although I eagerly await the time when I could clone myself and have two of me to help out. And the reason for vinyl only is very simple. Analog sound is the best and will always be the best for me. Call me crazy!
5. How is Libe Vibe different to Tochno Techno, and what’s the story behind your new label?
I started TochnoTechno when I was living in New York and the idea was to make it, well, more techno. And for the more housey stuff I created the new label Libe Vibe, which translates from German as “Love Vibe”. There’s no story behind it other than the story of me wanting to share music I make and music I like with the world, as well as helping other talented people to be heard in every way I can. Let’s just say i’m doing it because it’s something I like doing. I think that’s the best story and the best reason of all.
“I also just finished a cool deep house/acid remix for Enzo’s first EP on Get Physical. I think it’s coming out in June. Very sexy track with original female vocals.”
6. Your ‘Nobusan’ EP has just dropped on Libe Vibe. Can you talk us through your collaboration with Enzo Leep? How did it come about?
I’ve worked with Enzo before. I like his stuff, we met via Facebook and clicked right away. He is very professional and it was smooth sailing from start to finish. We were planning to make it a vinyl only release, but in the end the timing seemed right to drop it sooner and it came out as digital release. I also just finished a cool deep house/acid remix for Enzo’s first EP on Get Physical. I think it’s coming out in June. Very sexy track with original female vocals. I loved remixing it so stay tuned!
7. We saw in a recent interview that before signing a record you like to “play it live and see the crowd’s reaction”. Why is this process important to you?
Because sometimes you can like a track but it doesn’t work on the dance floor. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I always strive to find the right balance of “entertainment and musical education” in my sets, so it’s important to me that the track translates well on the floor. I’m not signing it so I can play it on a mainstream radio show, it has to be a “weapon” that makes people respond to it and preferably dance to it.
“I love to travel but if you are doing it alone it becomes really boring and at times feels very lonely. I recently started to educate myself more on the subject of creative writing, being preoccupied with something that interests you does help with the loneliness of travel.”
8. You’ve played an amazing array of places in many different countries during your career. Do you find it difficult moving between countries all the time?
I love to travel but if you are doing it alone it becomes really boring and at times feels very lonely. I recently started to educate myself more on the subject of creative writing, being preoccupied with something that interests you does help with the loneliness of travel. I wish I could travel with a team, but I’m not there yet.
Another thing is, I’m not a fan of playing “straight off the plane”. I need a few hours of sleep and fresh air because after I’ve been on a plane (even if it’s a super short flight) I feel exhausted and my legs feel puffy. I’m sure nobody likes it, but it is what it is. You just have to try to eat well while on the road, try to sleep as much as you can and ALWAYS drink plenty of water.
9. What can we expect from Yulia Niko and Libe Vibe in the upcoming months?
Oh, you know, the usual 😉 I keep busy, there are a couple of cool remixes coming out this summer, an EP on Crosstown Rebels and gigs of course, mostly in Europe and South America and hopefully my first ever Asian tour towards the end of the year. As far as Libe Vibe, I’ll try to do my best to scout some fresh new artists. For the next release in June, I am very excited to have an artist from Panama, his name is Muguelle. He sent me 30 tracks to choose from and they were all so well done. The guy has big future and I get to be the first one to release his stuff, isn’t it awesome? So get ready people!