i-D's music class of 2017: klein

We meet the writers, thinkers, players, and performers who are creating, crafting, and composing the future of music right here, right now.

by Hattie Collins
10 January 2017, 8:35pm

Klein wears jacket Stone Island. Top, jeans, necklace, and shoes model's own. Bag MCM. 

Situated somewhere within the realms of electronic music, Klein's take on pop is seriously mysterious, and increasingly admired. Her disordered, dystopian offerings — scattered statements on identify — include the EP Lagata and the album Only, which have made fans out of Arca and Dev Hynes. One thing you can be sure of is there's nothing quite like Klein, who was raised between London, L.A., and Ibadan, and counts Andrew Lloyd Webber as an influence.

Name: Klein
Age: I'm not allowed to say.
Occupation: I'd say I'm a musician. And then I guess I produce. And then I guess I sing, so vocalist, too.
From: London, but when I was seven years old we moved briefly to Maryland. But then my grandma fell ill, and we went to visit her in Nigeria and ended up staying for four and a half years. We would commute to Ibadan, where my dad is from, he sort of runs Ibadan. My dad's family are chiefs and don't really do… much. So I would commute there to see my dad and his many wives, his many jisty babes [laughs]. I came back to London around seventh grade and I've been there since.

How did you find living in Nigeria?
It was really nice; we all lived in my grandma's house, she had seven kids. She was born in, like, 1926, so she was so old; she lived until she was 80. My grandma was really lovely; she used to play me a lot of music but her taste in music was so jokes. Lots of peaceful gospel, and my dad's family was into party Arabic music, like hi-life, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, a hefty dancehall equivalent. They were religious but they liked to party.

What do your parents do?
My mom is a nurse and my dad is a socialite. Literally.

So you've only recently become a full-time musician? 
I just quit my job a couple of months ago, but before that I had lots of sporadic temping work in hospitality. I was making my last EP and I was feeling gassed, but I thought to myself, 'if I thought what I was doing was really lit, if like Pavorotti or Andrew Lloyd Webber would really rate it, then quit and make music your job.' It was me taking a chance on myself. I'd spent years trying to play and get shows but it was really difficult. A friend of mine, James Massiah, told me to do Open Mics so I messaged the New Cross Inn, but they told me I had to do covers, so I did Carly Rae Jepson on the bontempi organ, an unnecessarily droned out version. Someone from somewhere said I should play it at the Old Blue Last, so I did, but I didn't really have a name for the music, it was just to get in. 

I started making videos myself and then two months ago, Akinola Davies said we would all chip in and take a day out and make a video. I was really reluctant to put myself out there. The electronic music scene is so male-driven and so serious, and I'm not. I use a dictaphone and chop it up on Audacity, or I record loads of my own samples on my phone and chop it up and add some chords or play the guitar. It's not that hard! It is long, but it's not hard, but a lot of these electronic guys make it looks so hard with their equipment. I'm always trying to show people that anyone can do this; it's not as inaccessible as people make it out to seem. Anyway, Akin directed a video for "Marks Of Worship."

You mention Andrew Lloyd Webber. Why?
I watched Phantom the other day, and I was like, 'Why you trying to send for me Andrew?' I want my next record to be Phantom. I want a monologue. That will gas me so much. I always look up to people in production that compose like that, fusing the past with now. I did a song with this ridiculous classical violin, but you can still tell it was made in 2016 — it has banter. It's all a mish-mash of me trying to have fun.

Your music is weird. Can you describe it?
People say how strange Lagato, my EP is. It does sound weird but it's likeable cos I'm still singing melody. I didn't realize until a few months ago when my cousin told me I made electronic music, 'cause I never related to that sound, really. I really love pop and pop hooks. I get my music sources from the Breakfast Club and Hot 97, so it is really weird that I make electronic music. I love Brandy, Darkchild, he's my favorite producer. I only sample Love & Hip Hop Hollywood now. But my stuff is more R&B, classical, pop vocal, but anything instrumental — noise and disruptive.

What do you want to say through your music?
It changes. With Only, that was me going through so much stuff. Identity issues. I made lots of songs about myself, love songs dedicated to myself — 'you're ok, you're annoying, it's ok.' But Lagato was more a fantasy world where I'm happy and trying to help out my friends. Lagato is my most out-there work, but topic-wise it's pretty straightforward.

Who is the most important person in your life?
Recently it's been myself. Taking it easy, taking time for myself, not partying everyday. Sometimes it's good to take time for yourself. Take time to get to know who you are.

Who is your favorite Londoner?
Actually, Nigella Lawson. She's so adorable. How is she so jisty?

What are your thoughts on the UK post-Brexit?
I think it made me realize how much we live in a bubble in London. Everyone was so shocked, but no one spoke to family or friends from Manchester or Cornwall. Us lefties can be a bit presumptuous and assume everyone has the same opinion. All those towns like Aberystwyth felt abandoned because we didn't really engage with them. I'm constantly side-eyeing Theresa May, but I feel so far everyone's pulling through.

Who would you most like to work with?
It's good to speak things into existence. Andrew Lloyd Webber! Imagine, if I cameo'd in his musical, got a Tony award, then that would be my intro to work with Beyoncé. I'm joking! Beyoncé is too jisty for me. He would be great, Solange would be cute, Dev Hynes... When "Marks of Worship" came out, he tweeted the premiere, which was really cool, then he messaged me, invited me to New York, although I could barely afford to get from north to south London. Then my EP came out, and someone commented saying they had bought two copies. It was Dev from a secret account. He said 'girl, we should work together.' I was like 'I want to go to opera class,' so he said 'lets go to Juilliard and do opera class.' Then I was going to New York anyway, and Boiler Room got in touch for me to do a show with him, so that happened. He's too much. He cracks me up. To go from working in hospitality to doing something for fun but that's proper, it's overwhelming.

Who are you tipping for 2017?
Jacob Samuel, from Lancashire. He's too much. He could be the future.


Text Hattie Collins
Photography Hanna Moon
Styling Max Clark
Hair Maarit Niemala at Bryant Artists using Moroccan Oil.
Make-up Athena Paginton at Bryant Artists using Kryolan.
Set design Mariska Lowri.
Photography assistance Alessandro Tranchini, Ilenia Arosio.
Styling assistance Bojana Kozarevic.
Hair assistance Benjamin David, Mikaela Knopps.
Make-up assistance Billie McKenzie.

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