1) Hey ONIKHO! Thanks for interviewing with Indie Witches. How did ONIKHO come to be?
I started making music for this project shortly after the car accident that put me in a wheelchair four years ago. After being released from the hospital, I found myself home alone most days unable to do much on my own because I was still recovering from surgery and acclimating to living with paralysis. As you can imagine, this experience was immensely traumatic so music became a release. It started just as tinkering over chords but I began to teach myself how to produce music on production software called Ableton in order to add other instruments and effects to each song. A little more than three years later ONIKHO has become a project that tells the universal story of self-rediscovery after loss, it is also my way of promoting visibility for artists with disabilities.
2) Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
I usually start playing with a song idea over the piano, which is my principal instrument. Sometimes the lyrics come first, other times a melody. Then I start to produce the rest of the track on Ableton, which allows me to experiment with different styles. Recently I've begun to collaborate with other musicians so in my newest album that will be coming out early next year I bring back my classical roots with cello, violin, and upright bass on a few tunes.
3) How has your music evolved since you first started?
Like a lot of little girls I started playing classical piano at the age of four. As a teenager I began to rebel against what I found to be a very constraining form of music and explored jazz and blues. This transition has shaped my playing style into a hybrid between blues and classical music. However, ever since I began to produce my own songs my style has fused with a more experimental and electronic sound.
4) Are there any challenges you’ve faced being a young woman in the music industry?
There are still significantly fewer women in the music industry than men, so I often am the only woman playing out of an entire lineup of other musicians. Also often times male producers or musicians that I've worked with have tried to bulldoze my opinions, even when we are working on songs that I wrote. At first being so outnumbered was intimidating and there were situations where I could have stood up for myself more -- it certainly took a few years for me to embrace my own talent, and to recognize that I had a lot to offer as a female musician. Now I find it thrilling to show my chops off to the boys and prove their assumption that women don't play music wrong!
5) What advice would you give to other women in the industry?
People may try to intimidate or judge you, but stand your ground, especially if you are working on your own material. Also building a community with other female musicians can lead to a great support system and camaraderie.
6) What was your inspiration behind the music video for “Computer Love”?
Besides making music, I am also a professional dancer. After my accident I danced with a company called AXIS, which casts dancers with and without disabilities. Joining AXIS was my first exposure to dancing in a wheelchair and with other people with disabilities. Through this experience I learned that beautiful surprises arise when you celebrate people's differences rather than fearing them. I felt that this was an incredibly important theme for me to promote as an artist. "Computer Love" features a few of my fellow AXIS dancers and generally was meant to capture the sexiness and grace within the movements of dancers with very different bodies, abilities, and identities.
7) Who were your musical inspirations/favorite artists growing up?
My parents, who are Chinese immigrants, strangely listened to a lot of country so I have a deep appreciation for Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Despite the fact that their style is very different from my own, they are incredible song writers who tell powerful stories through their lyrics. Now that I am trying to tell my own story through music, I often revisit their songs to get some inspiration.
8) What is your favorite venue you have played?
I love playing small and intimate shows so my favorite venue is a tiny bookstore in downtown Oakland, CA. There were probably no more than fifteen people in the audience but I felt way more connected to each person.
10) Who are you currently listening to?
I'm a huge soul and blues fan, artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Ray Charles can move me to tears. On the other side of the spectrum I really appreciate artists who take risks with experimental and dissonant sounds, like Roisin Murphy and Juana Molina.
11) Any upcoming shows? Where is the best place for fans to follow you?
My website www.onikhomusic.com, Instagram @onikhomusic and Facebook are the best places to follow me. I am releasing a new album in a few months so I definitely will be playing a lot more shows starting early next year. Look out!
As for now, I've been living in Uruguay (South America) this year so all my upcoming shows will be in the capital city of Montevideo. However, on November 17th I'll be playing a Sofar Sounds show, which will be available to watch on Youtube!