Ashnikko on faerie orgies, mushroom trips and foraging

Step inside Ashnikko’s world as they gear up to release debut album WEEDKILLER

Hero image in post
photo: Vasso Vu
Hero image in post
photo: Vasso Vu

Step inside Ashnikko’s world as they gear up to release debut album WEEDKILLER

By Grace Goslin25 Aug 2023
9 mins read time
9 mins read time

Ashnikko is an electric performer who makes bold creative decisions from studio to stage with unfaltering integrity. With songs like 'Daisy' and 'Worms' under their belt, Ashnikko is also harmoniously at one with the natural world. In their downtime, they regularly forage with friends and loved ones, embracing and exploring what they recognise as a sentient plant world around us. For them, this as an exercise in grounding, an antidote to a world that is constantly moving.

WEEDKILLER, their debut album, is a cinematically charged, otherworldly musical journey; a direct portal into Ashnikko’s fantasy faerie realm. Here, we are introduced to the concept of a WEEDKILLER, the multi-faceted villainous force of this album. The album cannot be singularly categorised as just a body of music, but instead as a complete package of carefully crafted dystopian art.

WEEDKILLER is a multi-genre explosion of refreshingly queer, erotic, powerfully emotive pop gold. It’s out this week but will continue to thrive and grow across multiple creative realms well into the future and that’s not a prediction, it’s fact.

We chatted to Ashnikko ahead of WEEDKILLER’s highly anticipated release about regaining autonomy, defining creative decisions, and why it's important to invite fun into the studio.

You’ve traveled all over the world this year - where holds the most significance, or defines a key memory that you’ve experienced?

I had a mushroom trip in Wales, and I stumbled upon a quarry, and there I saw this moss covered oak tree. I was just sitting for a while listening to the hum of the tree, and I was getting so many messages from that tree! The tree was laughing at me, and it was saying, “Things could be so easy, but you make them so difficult for yourself”. It was helpful. Now, when I get really upset about the edit of a music video, I remember it’s really not a big deal! It could all be so simple, as the tree told me, aha!

I know that over this past year you’ve got really into foraging - tell me about your recent foraging quests!

Because I’m touring so much, I feel so uprooted from my life. It’s just really hard to maintain any sort of groundedness when I’m living out of a suitcase, I’m never at home, and I’m never able to nest. One of my favourite things about nesting is that I think of all the plants in my backyard as my neighbours. The plant world is so sentient and alive, and I think that one way for me to feel connected to the land that I’m on when I’m traveling.

Recently, in Japan I did some foraging with this older woman who had a great knowledge of the edible spring plants in the mountains near Osaka, and we had a great time picking little shoots and then we made them into tempura, it was gorgeous! Before that I went foraging in an ancient wood outside of London, with my friend Nil, aka HealGoblin. Also my friend Alexis Nikole Nelson is massively inspiring to me! She makes little jingles about which plants you can eat without dying. When I go on tour I’ll have a couple of days off, and I’m going to try and meet up with foraging friends and do some plant identification.

When you thought about WEEDKILLER conceptually, were there any key themes that you wanted to be carried throughout the album?

I made a villain called the WEEDKILLER villain, and they wear a lot of different masks representing a lot of different villains. For me a lot of the songs are about taking back autonomy, wrestling with the after-effects of assault, and feeling like your homeland, your body, has been taken away from you and destroyed by this life-eating force. That’s how I felt for a long time after being assaulted, and dealt with the grieving of your body as yours, and learning to find that power again. That was a big theme on the record. I can never write a song about one thing, there are always multiple themes. Along with regaining autonomy from the person that assaulted me, the record is about deepening my sense of selfhood, which is something that has deepened with my love for the natural world. Learning about the sentience of the natural world has really excited me over the last few years and it’s something that has bled into this body of work. There weren’t themes where I was like: “I have to get this in here.” It just spilled out!

WEEDKILLER is very much an ode to your versatility as an artist, and is very multi-genre. How does it feel to put out this album into the world after working on it for so long?

This album is definitely an ode to my severe ADHD, and my inability to focus and do just one thing, aha! I like to play around and have a silly time with sound. My producer, Slinger, and I approached the sounds of the album in the same way you would score a film. Even if the genres were different, there are specific sounds that are carried through the whole record that make you feel like you’re in a cinematic realm. I had a lot of fun writing this album, and for me, fun is not doing the same thing twice! That’s why this album is quite different from my mixtape Demidevil. I can’t make that kind of music anymore because I’m bored of it.

You’ve grown!

I’ve evolved out a little bit, I do have love for that era of my music, but I’ve changed my writing style quite a lot. I'm constantly changing. I’m already thinking about the deluxe. And I’m like, when do I write the next album?!

Maybe you’ll gain a new love for them when you perform them live, and attach different memories to them

I have a new found love for the track 'Chokehold Cherry Python'! I wrote that for a TV soundtrack, and they didn’t take it, so it’s mine! They took another song from me, so it’s all good, but I had a really fun time writing that one, it really sets the scene. My main anti-hero warrior of the record is on a killing spree! Kind of in the same vigilante realm as 'Daisy'.

The album features collaborations with the likes of Ethel Cain and Daniela Lalita, how did these collaborations come about?

The whole album is super collaborative behind the scenes so it felt right to include people that were massively inspiring the record for me. I was listening to loads of Daniela Lalita and Ethel Cain, both of them are wizards! They feel like they’ve been around for 600 years, just stirring their big cauldron of music. To have her on the song that closes the album, Dying Star, means so much to me. It’s the closest that I’ll ever get to a love song and is really special to me, so to work with someone who is just as passionate about world-building as I am was really nice, we had so much fun! The same for Daniela, she’s an incredible producer and she helped to produce 'Possession of a Weapon', and 'Super Soaker' as well. 'Supersoaker' is a very special song to me. That song is giving faerie orgy in the forest, mushroom up my ass, ahah! As much as there is this grieving rage on the album, there’s this sexy and erotic side to the album, there’s a lot of self-discovery and power in eroticism.

There’s also a very queer side to the album

It felt so right to talk about queer love in a sexy way. It was really special to write those songs but I just love writing fun music. Some people will hear the record and will be like “You’re trying to talk about serious themes in your music, but you also have lyrics like ‘I can’t help that I want to be titty smothered’ so make your mind up!” I don’t want to make up my mind, I think that there is a place for fun in serious conversations!

Everything about WEEDKILLER feels very cohesive, in terms of the music, the visuals, and the comic book as well. Were there any creative decisions that you made visually that you felt helped define it as a body of work?

Vasso and I spent so long pulling together mood boards and looking up lore, creating sigils, doing our research. We made these scrapbooks before the album began, and that really informed the visual side of the album. The album is inspired by everything that I love, that is dystopian fiction and faerie fantasy and apocalyptic video games, and old anime films. One visual side of the album, the final piece of the puzzle was the video for 'Cheerleader'. I’ve never shot a music video outside before, and I had never done anything lo-fi, with VHS elements in the visual universe of my work. Having that video there, it felt as though everything was rounded off really nicely, and it reignited my love for that song. It was as if the inside of my brain had come to life!

On set, everyone was howling like a wolf, it was truly unhinged! There was one scene where we were like “Just be possessed, go wild!” and I looked around, and one girl was eating dirt, aha! I was like “Hell yeah!” You could hear everyone howling with laughter. I think having that magical ritualistic time on set kind of finished the project for me, and rounded it off really nicely.

Before we started shooting we had all the girls scream, because it’s a really weird video, Johanna the director and I were worried as these are very clean, sharp cheerleaders. We worried that maybe letting loose might not come naturally to them. What I learned was everyone has the capability to be a freak! The visual side of the album for me is just as important as the sonic side. It was a huge task and the biggest undertaking that I have embarked on because it wasn't just the music, it was visual art, the comic book, music, and performance art.

Tell us a little bit about your comic book with DC

It was a childhood dream come true! I’m also writing a graphic novel. The WEEDKILLER universe is something that I will be fleshing out for a few years, outside of music.

_Ashnikko’s debut album WEEDKILLER is out on Friday 25 August. _

Shop artefacts of planet woo for those who engage in radical wellbeing.