Koka is an experimental indie pop artist making waves in Berlin, her chosen city. With her excellent new single Deliverance just out, we decided to take the time to sit down and ask the Albanian-born, ex-architect independent artist some questions.
Hi! So, first question: where are you from? Your website information talks of civil war…?
I was born in communist Albania, Tirana, toward the end of that regime. When i was 6, we immigrated to Greece. I lived 5 years in Athens, where i started vocal- and piano lessons at the age of 7. We moved back to Albania for entrepreneurial reasons of my parents. One year later, in 97′ , the financial pyramid-companies that had promised people to multiply their money by different investment schemes, collapsed. In outrage, people opened the gun storages of the government, schools closed. It was pure chaos.
You are also involved in architecture….want to tell us about that side of your life? And does it – or how does it – affect or influence your music?
I am not actively involved anymore. For now. But I was for more than a decade. It helps me administer my stuff very well 🙂
Back in my teens, It troubled my parents, that my main interest in life leaned towards music and arts. I guess because being an artist meant nothing at all in Albania. It meant – being a beggar.
When I expressed my interest to move and study abroad they put me in front of the condition to study a “proper” career because i was “smart” and “good at school” – quoting here intentionally.
I was very troubled within as a teenager. However, despite loving music so much, always having a band, being on TV-festivals quite early (aged 14) i wanted to be independent from my country’s ways of doing, thinking and especially being a woman there. I insisted to leave home. That i can, if i want- study a proper career. I moved to Germany, Aachen (the Technical University accepted me) and after 6 years of blood and tears – in 2010 graduated in architecture. It was the toughest thing i’ve ever done!
“I felt like suffocating in pain. Meditation saved my life.“
I could look back now and condemn it. But the years in that career, then obtaining the German citizenship and as a result – becoming independent, it shaped my confidence. But I also became a stranger to myself and my heart’s true calling. I reached a point where nothing in my life made sense anymore. Call it as we do now in modern days “depression”. It was really bad. I felt like suffocating in pain. Meditation saved my life. It changed my whole perception of the world. My family was confused at how i had changed.
So yeah, this would be the perfect short answer to your question:
Where do you find your subject matter – love and breakups, world affairs…?
I write for what has troubled me the most. Hard education, feeling lost, the meaning of life, the finding of happiness, our purpose in life, the greatness of love – not only the carnal love but mainly the universal love. The meaning of home (as i never understood where is my home till i found it in me). The stuff we consume to numb our questioning minds. I address questions most all of us have a hard time with nowadays.
Besides Skin & Bones (out mid July 2022) – that i sat and worked around with Henne Müller (drummer of former band Abby, producer of Gheist and many other artists, co-producer of my album) for it to have a “radio”-ish vibe, every other song revealed itself to me including lyrics. The whole debut Album, that will drop 2nd September 2022, is a piece-by-piece healing journey that came to me as i was making space for music…They say “our biggest suffering is our gift to the world” How would i know how to write songs? Been listening to a lot of english music throughout my life, all kinds of genres, but really, what I’ve put together was never planned and goes beyond my cognitive understanding of what i am capable of doing…
Don’t know what the next inspirations will be. I think it keeps changing as an artist changes…
Your music, while I would pigeonhole it if I had to as experimental pop (?), has a ton of different influences. Are you a fan of mixing and matching; do you find yourself listening to a lot of different music…?
Interesting. Yes, i do.
They call this Art Pop. I am sure Experimental is not wrong either. Call it what pleases you. 🙂
What i have done comes all from the heart. I shaped my sound with my beloved life-partner and incredible producer Oscar Lindahl (the pandemic was the reason why we ended up doing a whole album) He was patient to hear me out when i was explaining the synth-sounds i wanted to shape, replicating them with my mouth, hands and legs (:D) cause i lacked the terminology in english.
If it helps, I grew up with Madonna, Kate Bush, Collins, Michael Jackson and the famous Italian artist Celentano. In Greece we listened to a lot of greek music (- it was inevitable) but as a teenager i soon found my deep love in punk-rock, trip-hop, even hard core or metal or total undefined abstract music. Portishead, Björk, Massive Attack, NIN, Marilyn Manson, The Cure, Tori Amos and many more, later bands like Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead (absolute love), Foo fighters, Imogene Heap, Janelle Monae and many many more fuelled my rebel mind, but i have never sat and thought “i will write a song like xy…” I just get that tune in my head and sit and let it take me places.
Do you plan your music? Or does it just happen? IE what percentage head and what percentage heart?
First…as i already stated, never planned any of these. But i wanted it. I learned about the glorious “law of attraction” and was fascinated by it. Started saying to myself every single day “i will write beautiful music to soothe people’s hearts” – if you looked at my life’s setting back then, you would really think i am crazy 🙂
Second, i estimate 85 heart – 15 head. The arrangement is mostly head-driven, for sure. The top-line always comes at first (mostly in random moments or wakes me up at night) Surely, there are many patterns of sound and chgord-progressions i have kept from listening and performing for years in cover bands (until 2015). Those come to help during music production. The way our brain gets help from experience to achieve a specific outcome fascinates me.
Tell us something about your new single – where did you record it, how did you come up with the idea for it, how did it come about?
The new single dropped on the 17th of June ’22. It is a collaboration with the german-italian, very talented producer Matteo Capreoli under his project TTeo. Matteo is a carrier of a LIA Award and has worked with many renowned artists from Germany and abroad. A friend introduced us and we decided to sit and write together. It was end of September last year. Matteo sat on his amazing Rhodes Mark 2 and it hit me straight away. I sat at the corner of the room and wrote lyrics and recorded vocal melodies as he was switching from one instrument to the other. It was a great energy in the air. We recorded the second half in December 2021. The song title is Deliverance and it talks about the need to find the path of our calling and what it represents for our being.
Where can people find your music?
It can only be streamed across all platforms, and it will probably take until the end of this Year (2022) until physical copies can be obtained. There is a bottleneck in Vinyl Press capacity right now due to the pandemic consequences. Looking into CD’s and if that can go faster…
What works best for you: streaming, CDs, vinyl, NFTs or something else? How do you like to – plan to – get your music out there?
I have only done digital distribution so far. The album will be out there in a physical form latest by end of this year.
Also, I am open about the topic of Web 3 and the decentralised economy and art, no matter how many diverse opinions there are out there. This year i am partnering up with a great developer who loves and wants to support my music, to release several NFT collections starting from my Album release. The topic will be (as within the album) human transformation and human change. I am active on twitter spaces and often engage in talks about this new world opening up to us. I believe it will diversify the economic power of people, make artists more and more independent and will raise awareness about how much influence and responsibility we really have in the world.
Do you record at home, or in a studio…what’s your process?
I start at home, mostly laying down vocals and Piano by myself.
The rest of the serious work we have done at Riverside Studios Berlin, so far.
I feel very blessed to have been able to work with great producers from there. It made me grow a lot in my craft.
What’s something no one ever asked you and you’d like to spill the beans about? 😊
Interesting fact: During my architecture studies and later career i was every week raspy and kinda lost my ability to sing due to stress states, which was my most dear life expression. This lead to 4 years vocal therapy and lessons. In case people think my voice is pure talent. It’s not. I lost something very important along the way, to gain something very important back.
Are you playing live in the next while?
Yes, i have a gig with Fem Concerts @ Art Stalker Berlin on June 23rd, 8pm, where i am playing an unplugged set alongside a very talented newcomer indie-musician from NRW named Kira Hummen.
On July 21st at Gretchen Club there will be the finals of the “Beyond the Music Label” program where i am one of 3 finalists and I will be performing with my band.
September 2nd there will be an album Release Show,! I am talking to a location i really like, but it’s not 100% set yet. I will update you asap and hope to see you there!
The industry of music inevitably experienced a huge shake, maybe more than other industries did (eg. the pharmaceutic :/). Maybe even the biggest stores and labels know now, nothing is unchangeable. The era of cross-disciplines is coming. I believe strongly, our greatness is called to action here. We were called to approach our hearts and this has a good reason. Whatever is not born from that, or does not act through that, will have no chance to survive in the future.
The development of web 3.0 took massive pace, as people were stuck at home on their computers looking for exciting new stuff to do. This bold evolution is part of our nature, despite the anti-innovators’ fears and doubts. 😉
I am reading a very interesting book these days by the german author Alexander Graf von Schlieffen regarding different astrological eras in relation to societal and political events. I am loving the fact, that the pandemic made the transition into the Era of Air (Aquarius), as the book states. Meaning, the relevance of working together, crossing disciplines, trusting more, being bold and open in communication but also more honest, respectful and loving. Navigating this new atmosphere in the society is a lot of fun. Being a bit scared of the unknown was also always part of our nature.
An artist is becoming and will have to become more and more a statement of what the future will be like: Bold, open, interactive, multi-disciplinary, intuitive, intelligent, creative, hands on, always learning new things, taking responsibility. Whoever can not embody these traits, will not survive because an artist has been the reflection of the higher realm of our society as long as we exist.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Grateful for all these questions. I hope someone will benefit from all i have opened my heart to state. Also, come to my Album Release Show on the 2nd September 2022! It will be beautiful. Follow @i.am.KOKA on instagram for updates of location and so on. Thank you! <3
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