Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with NKRIOT

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with NKRIOT

I’ve worked with Emily Tan on various projects over the years, but she recently introduced me to NKRIOT (aka Kris Escajeda,) an artist I didn’t know much about. I started listening and fell in love with his sound. It’s mysterious, raw has hints of the Tron soundtrack throughout… I am sure this guy has been influenced by Daft Punk in some way. In addition to his production, he always wears a mask, which intrigues me. Throw in the work he did on LinkedIn and I just had to learn more. This was a really fun interview for me. It is my pleasure to introduce you to NKRIOT.

You are featured in a LinkedIn national ad campaign right now. Tell me more about “In It To Pioneer” and what being selected for this means to you and your career?
LinkedIn featuring an artist such as myself really makes me feel like there are people who believe in the independent “little guy.” For a company of this scale to acknowledge and be moved by my efforts makes me feel like I might really be doing something worthy of being noticed. I am in it to pioneer! I want to start something new, a new feeling, a new movement, a drive that makes people feel that they can follow their dreams no matter what. To take the little things that you have and make big things out of them, to do it all yourself. Build, invent, create, and be your own hero.

Tell me about your relationship with Emily Tan? She’s a rockstar, by the way!
I approached Emily via LinkedIn right before the launch of the #InItTogether campaign. Without informing her of the campaign itself, I presented her with the full NKRIOT design, bio, photos and construct. Within minutes she “got it” and replied with a response of sheer admiration, and the rest is history! I am thrilled to be working alongside someone with such an extensive track record of accomplishments. Not only that, but we share the same ideas and motivations as to why we get up and do what we do every day: for the sheer love of music and the act of inspiring others.

Where did you come up with the name NKRIOT?
The name NKRIOT is actually a mathematical equation. The NK representing the variables for creativity and inspiration, while the RIOT refers to my slight A.D.D., O.C.D. and the organization of sound. I came up with the name during a life-changing experience at a time of major redevelopment and growth. Letters were scrambled about in cut-up bits of paper on the floor of my room and then randomly, beside each other was the phrase “NK-RIOT.” At that moment, it all clicked and everything made sense to me again.

You wear a mask while performing. Tell us more about that. Did you build that yourself?
Yes! The mask is not only my identity but it’s an instrument, too, a piece of wearable technology. Installed in the helmet is an LED system that’s hooked-up to an Arduino that contains animations which are designed to go along with my music, not to mention a custom built-in wireless microphone system, from which I send the signal to my gear and I manipulate it all, live.

What is NKRIOT Productions?
NKRIOT Productions is the independent production team I started back in 2014. The idea was to create a hub or think tank of young, creative, independent minds and give them the resources to master their craft and produce it for other musical and artistic talents. There is a major community enrichment aspect of NKRIOT Productions as well where we host workshops for youth within the community and teach them how to redesign and program monophonic synthesizers so they know that they have no limits to their goals or dreams. NKRIOT Productions is also the moniker for “Goji,” a lifestyle genre of sorts that takes artists living on the fringe of subgenres and gives them a place to feel they belong. NKRIOT Productions will one day be a physical space where creatives of any craft, any skill level, any dream, can come together and just construct whatever they desire with all tools provided to them, so the only thing they have to worry about is their idea and how to bring it to life.

People can register for RIOTEER GIVEAWAYS on your Facebook Page. What sort of giveaways are you doing?
The giveaway tab is literally a mystery box of sorts. We are currently in development of a few of the new giveaways Rioteers can receive. But really, it’s anything from pieces of customized art, hand-sculpted miniature versions of “the helmet,” to broken synthesizer pieces. All you have to do is input your info, become a Rioteer and your name could be selected to receive whatever NKRIOT randomness we have about. (Laughs.)

Your website says you are an inventor. What are some things you’ve invented over the years?
Well, for starters, there is the whole RIOT LAB itself. That basically includes the restructuring and modifications of all the bits and parts I use to create my music. Then there is the Holo-Gram, this is a miniature hologram built with poly-carbon material bent in such a way that if you rest any regular phone screen on the display playing a video, it will turn that video into a hologram, right before your eyes! Then there is the most recent, the Holo-Display screen. This is a 6’x10’ screen attached to a stainless steel frame. This screen has been treated with a compound (that I absolutely cannot disclose) that allows the screen to become highly reflective. The screen then resembles an LCD screen when illuminated. Apart from that, there are a bunch of little things I have made and had a hand in developing. I’ve become known of like a think tank of how to be the most cost-efficient when inventing, so everyone from little startups to big brands have had me in to hear my “Ghetto Scientist” revampments. Oh! And the helmet, of course!

I LOVE your sound. Daft Punk immediately comes to mind. Early Pretty Lights, too. Who are some of your biggest influences?
Why, thank you! In all honesty, my main influence is classic Brazilian music: samba, bossa nova, flamenco and punjabi. The artists that come to mind are Caetano Veloso, Jorge Ben Jor and Sergio Mendes. This is because they mastered the art of taking one chord progression and layering it with ear candy to keep the audience interested. Electronic music, I would have to say MSTRKRFT, JUSTICE, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, a lot of the harder, harsh, in-your-face stuff.

Where do you find inspiration for a new song? Do you sit down to produce a new track, or does it just come to you?
I find inspiration through all of life’s experiences themselves, losing someone, becoming ill, or the loss of friendship, to name a few. I channel that anger or sadness into my music to create a cinematic ode to these experiences, whatever they may be. Most of the music is all written in my head; it’s just the art of bringing it to life. When I do this, it is always first on the acoustic guitar.

Do you ever make a mistake while performing?
Yes I do, and I think that’s the best part of the performance! It keeps me out of my comfort zone to always push myself further. In the words of the great Bob Ross, ‘”happy accidents!”

Your hardware is built from scratch. Not a lot of people out there doing that. How do you know what to do when you are building a new piece of hardware?
Well, everything I have built, I have had to teach myself how to do it. Lots and lots of research goes into each piece of hardware. Usually the ideas and the constructs come about when I am working on a song. That’s when the concept is developed. It’s really all trial, error, patience and learning. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

The RIOTLAB is a personalized, self-designed piece of hardware I have been developing for the last four years as an ongoing build and will never stop. I have been able to hack and reinvent each piece for my unique sound design. Essentially what the whole lab can be summarized as is a live loop machine that consists of synth, drum machine, effects processor, vocal processor and wireless microphone system.

You pretty much created a concept referred to as Goji. Explain what that genre is and how an artist can have such an amazing impact on the music industry like that.
Goji takes what is the cast-out or bitter end of the music world and puts it together in one genre where you can exist in a creative space of your own, free of all genre limitations. It’s is for those whose art, music, ideology and design is that which they feel cannot be defined. To provide a genre where you can be your own creative is really game-changing. It is literally a new landscape for art and sound. Goji will hopefully allow more artists and people to be open to the other spectrums of music and art. Art should never have any limitations, that’s why it’s art. Goji takes direct influence from the “nightshade” berry itself, which is ripe, rich, vibrant, misunderstood, and in overconsumption, can kill you. (Laughs.)

It looks like you have a lot of fun during live performances. What can fans expect from seeing you live?
An NKRIOT live performance is a high energy, electrifying, captivating show that is meant to make you experience a sheer sense of enigmatic euphoria, without the drugs! (Laughs.) I wanted to be able to create a state of trance and wonderment with the music being the mind-altering substance. So, at each performance, I find people in the audience with their expressions of awe as the sounds of arpeggiators and flashing lights fill the air. It’s an experience.

What inspired you to release RIOT on cassette tape? Why did you only produce 50?
When I first started recording, I originally produced my music on a Akai reel-to-reel and I always just loved the tone of it. I felt I wanted to give my first album a chance to be on tape, so I went ahead a pressed it onto cassette and figured, “Hey, what the hell! Let’s only make 50.”

What’s next for NKRIOT?
Coming up in March, I have a single release for my sophomore album. Coinciding with that will be a music video release for the single, “Shogun 8.0” filmed by MARACA studios in Venice, CA. After that, I tend to reinvent myself every six months, so there is really no telling what phase is next. Stay tuned!

Thank you for doing this. In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
I hope whoever reads this article becomes inspired to give back to themselves and to the world. Never let an ounce of creativity go to waste and always express how you feel through the tools that mankind gave us since the beginning of human evolution.

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