photo credits Apurva Jadhav
With Kiss Nuka, Anushka Manchanda presents a voice that is unabashed and all-encompassing. It is a stage moniker she elevates with audio-visual pieces dealing with themes like the rise of the feminine and animal rights, and environmentalism to create cinematic storytelling for both the screen and the live setting. Her latest EP is called Serpentine, the remix of which was a result of collaboration, coming out in June. She tells us how she arrived at that name and how she found her voice below.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
My earliest memory of music is dancing with my parents. This was almost like a ritual. My mum had a wild collection of LPs from around the world. 70s rock and 80s disco, and they filled the house with music.
Can you tell us more about Kiss Nuka?
I knew I needed to create a separation between the work I had done for others, and the art I wanted to create myself. Much against the advice of many well-wishing people around me, I decided to rebirth myself with Nuka, a name connected to my childhood. My account was @kissnuka — I wanted to keep it warm and intimate. When some random artwork and music started appearing on streaming accounts under my Nuka, I added the ‘Kiss’ officially.
What’s your creative process? Walk us through a day in your studio.
My creative process is constantly changing. I did one season super healthy and disciplined — waking up at 5am, having time to stretch my body, reading, and shutting down studio work by 4/5pm. Last year I finished my EP Serpentine during the Goa monsoon in a haze, without any of my studio equipment, totally losing track of time, eating and sleeping at strange hours. The one thing that stays constant about my process is that I prefer to work on multiple music projects at a time. This helps me to keep perspective.
My dance floor electronic music is very feel-based. I mess around with a bunch of sounds until I find something I like. With my songwriting and the visuals connected to that part of my music, the writing and production are deliberate. I more often than not create the music and the visual narrative simultaneously, one meant to support and enhance the other.
You have this enigmatic, powerful energy to you when you take the stage… how do you prepare for it? Is there something fun you do right before you get on it?
It’s kind of you to say, and I appreciate it so much. Even though I have often toyed with the idea, I don’t have a stage persona. If you know me, I am exactly the same on stage as I am in life. Playing more intimate, underground clubs in a format that keeps me more invested in the technical part of my performance means I will spend the largest part of my time in soundcheck, tweaking my sound to sonically fit the space I am in. After the performance is done, there’s a fifteen-minute euphoric window of high energy, “Let’s do something,” which if I don’t tap into, comes crashing down and then I just wanna go sleep. In the more performance-based, expanded format of shows, I have a larger team, with 360 degree technical support on the ground. Most of my work then happens in conceptualisation and rehearsals. Before the gig, I need to do a proper physical warm-up and then a hot water soak right after I get off. In both cases, I need to have slept and eaten well!
Let’s talk about Serpentine. What inspired this EP and the remix compilation?
Serpentine was an extremely important moment for me as an artist. I had been shedding my skin in the few years before, testing and trying to figure out what it is I really wanted to create. Serpentine was both the end of that process and the beginning of a relationship of trust with my artistic self. The sense of liberation this gave me has been exhilarating, and Serpentine allowed me to break all the moulds I wanted, to experiment with sound without being restricted by genre or worse — by fear of judgement.
Serpentine Remixed EP is my acknowledgement and celebration of the artists and producers who have been an incredible source of strength and support for me on this path. Every artist has brought their A-game and I am telling you, your mind is about to be blown!!
How would you define its sensibility to someone who is new to your music?
My sound and my vibe is an amalgamation of all the music I have loved over the years and an expression of the things I believe in strongly. You will hear the grunge of rock and roll in my bass, the grooves inspired by the many hours I have raved on psychedelic dance floors, and when I am writing songs, you will hear very clearly how I feel about the world. Still, no matter how different my music pieces sound from each other in the sense of genre, or how I can sometimes twist them, you will always find warmth in them. That’s my heart.
Spending time in Goa and Spain, is there a difference in the music and the audience between these two places?
My life in Spain is just beginning and it is very promising! My partner lives within a community of artists in the mountains outside the city of Barcelona. The space they have created is wild, the air is thick with the contradictions of the past and the present, and it almost demands of you to push past your boundaries. In Goa, I have more space to connect with myself, which I have realised is one of the most important things I need for my growth and evolution. The Goa audience is inundated with music and gigs, so when they come out it is to have a proper dance, so you gotta deliver! Mumbai has a lot of restrictions in terms of spaces and activities, and I feel there is almost a stubbornness of wanting to go out and have a good time, no matter what.
What keeps you inspired in life to keep creating?
It’s the only thing I really know. My life is dedicated to creation. And inspiration comes from everywhere. That moment of needing to express the emotions, to put them into art and music, can come when I am out in nature, or when I’ve just arrived back home after an all-night rave. My home in Bombay is always teeming with musicians and creatives and there have been times when I have left mid-conversation because there has been a light bulb moment and I just need to put an idea down! Some days I wake up with an entire song in my head — those days I know my connection with the universe, outside of and within me, is the strongest. I am truly grateful for what I am learning from this life.
Words Hansika Lohani