Like water, NKRIOT‘s music is always flowing and never stagnant. His project sprouted as a chip-tune, cyber-punk project, that eventually transformed into his creation of the GOJI movement. His sound being a catalyst for creativity makes him the perfect artist to perform during the upcoming Art Battle in Los Angeles at Exchange, LA. On February 21st, 16 talented painters have 20 minutes to transform blank canvases into beautiful pieces of original artwork, with an audience vote determining the champion of the evening while NKRIOT‘s trance built of dirty sub bass and live hologram show inspires them.
Kristopher Escajeda aka NKRIOT is an electronic music artist, a pioneer and inventor who is well known within the LA art community.
His DIY mentality has driven him to create music equipment out of broken synthesizers that people have tossed in the trash. After receiving recognition for his innovative lifestyle from Linkedin via a 10-story billboard, we had to get to know the visionary from Boyle Heights, CA ourselves. Hence, we reached out for an exclusive interview and fortunately he got back to us.
Enjoy a rare “Behind the Mask” perspective of Kristopher’s struggles, growth, what truly inspires him to be driven as an artist, musician & pioneer.
As you read our interview with the man himself take a listen to his ‘ATHENS’:
What is the philosophy behind NKRIOT?
Originally it was spelled NK-RIOT which was broken down into an equation. NK being two variables multiplying each other. The “minus RIOT” portion refers to my slight A.D.D., O.C.D. and organization of sound. This is the mental structure of NKRIOT with the equation being used in all development of sound, performance and creative output. This allows me to be creative and productive. The philosophy is tapping into my inner hero to inspire others, something many people overshadow in themselves with fear and anxiety. This is something I had trouble with myself growing up as a kid. This was cured when I involved myself with music at age 12 and soon realized that people in this world need someone to look up to. Not just celebrities, musicians or artists, but themselves. When audiences see my performance, come across my story or engage in a conversation with me, I hope it inspires them to find their inner hero.
How do you differentiate between Kristopher Escajeda from NKRIOT?
Kristopher Escajeda is the organic vessel that walks this earth and NKRIOT is the entity that this vessel encapsulates. The difference is triggered the moment I step onstage, pick-up an instrument or step into a studio.
Congratulations on being chosen as a LinkedIn brand ambassador and being featured in their advertising campaign! What does it mean to you to be featured by such a huge tech company as a “face” of the company?
Thank you so much! It’s quite a shock because this was purely unexpected. For LinkedIn to recognize a small artist such as myself and have enough love, support and belief in me to feature me on a 10-story billboard in Hollywood and advertising campaign makes me feel as though I might be doing something right.
What is the “live hologram show” setup you use when performing?
The holo-display is a 6’x10’ stainless steel frame. Attached to it is a screen I developed that has a highly reflective compound I embedded into the material. When we shoot a high-resolution 7k-10k lumens projector onto it, the reflective material bounces the light, creating a bright LCD screen effect. The content being projected is created live.
Check out as NKRIOT performs ‘AMERICAN DREAM’ live at Amoeba:
What are you trying to achieve, as an artist, when you are performing live?
I aim to take myself out of my comfort zone by pushing the limits and creating a surreal and epic performance each and every time. Stimulating the audience and making them question, “How was this achieved, with no computer onstage? What is he singing through? How does he do it?” I exert my energy to ensure that every performance is memorable, unique and euphoric. Every live performance is different and no two will ever be the same.
Explain your stage setup. We couldn’t figure out exactly what the heck equipment or instruments you were using from the videos we’ve been able to find online.
It’s called “THE RIOT LAB,” a personalized, self-designed piece of hardware I have been developing for the last four years as an ongoing build. 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: synthesizer, drum machine, effects processor, vocal processor and wireless microphone system.
Are you literally making electronic instruments with your bare hands?
Most of the equipment I make is from taking apart broken synthesizers that people have tossed in the trash or left behind. I do a lot of my technical work in a tool shed where I solder and re-fabricate parts to make functional instruments. I do not use software to sound design these instruments. I am basically the “re-animator” of broken instruments.
Take us through your process of composing music.
All my songs are written on an acoustic guitar first. Melody and lyrics included. Then I take that chord progression and structure and apply it to my setup. Developing a song in its rawest form allows me to adapt its natural feel and rhythm. A song should be as tasteful in its rawest form as it is when production is incorporated into it. It’s all ear candy after that.
Now, take a listen to NKRIOT’s ‘REALITY PAGES’ :
You’ve said you’re “not a DJ.” Please explain what you mean by that.
The definition of a DJ is a disc jockey. Though the term “DJ” has begun to be more commonly used in modern music, it still is defined by this term. Disc jockeys as past and present DJs are considered, use the material specific to their craft: vinyl, CDs and controllers. NKRIOT does not have a controller, nor any of the tools used by a “DJ” in his setup. Therefore not making him anything close to a DJ. I consider myself more of an artist and producer who performs live with the equipment on which he created the music. Just because one plays electronic music does not make him or her a “DJ”. Would you consider early Aphex Twin, SquarePusher or Daft Punk DJs?
You don’t seem like you’re making music to try to achieve riches and fame. Are you?
Riches and fame are limited in the sense of time. Being a pioneer, mentor and teacher to future generations is everlasting. I have to thank my grandparents for raising me in a way where you are always grateful for the little things that you have, because one day they just might not be there.
Tell us about your roots, where you grew-up, and about your ties to your community.
I grew up in a gang-infested area that was filled with constant drive-by shootings in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I lost multiple friends because they joined gangs or from drug overdoses. I was a community activist and by the time I was 19-years-old, I was holding music workshops for kids who dropped out of high school, workshops for middle school students to teach them sound design. I was teaching myself electronics and taking apart radios, toys and anything that had circuits in them to see how they worked.
It seems you have a small but devoted following amongst the arts community in Los Angeles. Can you talk about your personal and professional ties to the artists around you?
Many of my supporters are non-musicians. I seem to have a small following but almost everyone in L.A knows who I am because I flooded the scene with a lot of shows between 2014 and 2017. We are a tightknit community out here and everyone seems to support in any way he or she can.
How would you describe your sound?
The music I develop is not a cookie-cutter sound that you would hear in the mainstream. I’ve had to accept that. But, I get to set the outline and blueprint for something entirely new. I get to be myself. That’s where GOJI comes in, the sound I describe myself as. More than just a genre but a lifestyle, where any artist who wants to be themselves can be. It’s a title of independence, it’s a title of DIY, it’s a title of being yourself. If you don’t fit into any genre, make your own.
GOJI involves a combination of synth, prog, and electronic beats, armed with a chromed out electric guitar.
What’s next for NKRIOT?
I am currently reinventing myself for the next phase of NKRIOT. I am set to release my new single, “Shogun 8.0” on March 2nd, with a music video being curated and filmed by Maraca Studios in Venice, CA. After that, my sophomore album release and a string of remixes I will release from underground artists ranging from trap, rap and indie pop. Creativity is based off the element of water; always keep the current flowing, never be stagnant.
We hope to see you at Exchange LA, pick up your tickets for the Art Battle for just $15 by clicking here. Finally, make sure to add his limited-edition tape, ‘RIOT’ to your music collection and keep up with Kristopher Escajeda’s next moves and innovations by following him on his social media handles linked below.