Unicorn Kid is an openly gay musician who has helped to define a generation with his chiptune infused pop. But determined to avoid any of the clichés that making dance music implies, the 18-year-old’s aim it to infuse his gamewave, chiptune bleeps and blips with a classic music writing style to make big pop tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Radio 1 a-list. The end result is massive stadium anthems with rousing choruses that are both uncategorisable and also make for an exciting new sound.
Interest in Unicorn Kid is now reaching fever pitch after having supported Owl City on his Fall tour in North America as well as Hadouken! on their UK tour recently and ripping up SXSW in July! Not only that but he has already secured residency at Bestival in September alongside confirmed dates for Underage Festival, after a successful 2009 supporting legends Pet Shop Boys. Add to that an incredible 1.5million hits on MySpace and it’s easy to believe the hype…
Matt Roy had the pleasure of interviewing the young cutie for the Jancember issue of V-Rag.
I’m always curious about names. What’s the story behind “Unicorn Kid”?
There’s sadly no big story behind the name, when I was 16 I was really into unicorns, that’s kind of passed now and I’m left with this name.
When did you first start creating music and remixes?
I first started messing around with electronic music when I was 15, I had a bunch of toy Casio keyboards and spent hours layering drums and samples from them to make songs, they weren’t any good but I guess that’s where I first started experimenting with those sorts of sounds. I started doing music under the Unicorn Kid moniker a year later. I did my first remix during the school Easter holidays in 2009 which was for the Pet Shop Boys’ single ‘Did You See Me Coming?’.
You’re so young! Have you found that your age prohibits you with producers and colleagues, or is it simply a testament to your talent?
It hasn’t been a huge problem for me so far, in fact I’d say my age has actually helped me get the initial attention that I did, the only issue I’ve ever had is getting kicked out of my own shows for being too young.
With so much future ahead of you, do you have a clear idea of where you’d like to go, or are you just taking things as they come?
When I was talking to labels last year I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do or what direction take this in, it caught me off guard a little as before then I’d never thought about music as more than a bedroom hobby. I’ve started working with some vocalists on the album, it’s been cool working with them as they are all artists I have admired throughout my teens, people I never thought I would get to work with. Having been at home writing for a while I’m now into the swing of things, a bit more focused and have a clear concept/vision for the record, I’m really looking forward to letting people hear it and to start touring the new tracks.
At your age, you’re definitely fronting the next generation of music, art, and pop culture. What do you foresee as possible trends to come?
I spend a long time on Tumblr, which is a sort of micro-blogging website mostly used by teens and 20-somethings. It seems a bit like it has overtaken Myspace as the go-to place for people to flaunt their ‘personal brands’ and show off artwork and creative projects. Something that seems to be getting a lot of widespread attention now is ‘net art’, artwork based around the exploration of Internet culture, history and the aesthetic and imagery people associate with it – the majority of stuff posted to my Tumblr dashboard right now is 3D CAD-style landscapes and animated hot dog gifs. I feel like it’s something that might eventually get adopted by big business and become the next big trend, the new Urban Outfitters logo looks a lot like it was made in Word Art, so I guess it’s perhaps already happening.
What has been one of the highlights of your short but explosive career thus far?
Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters came a show I did in London a while back and I met up with him afterwards which was pretty cool, also supporting the Pet Shop Boys was rad too. I’ve mostly just really enjoyed the travelling I’ve gotten to do, seeing a lot of the US and Europe has been so cool for me, I’d like to go the US to do the second album.
Electronic music is pretty much mainstream now, and even chip sampling from video games and other media has been done. What’s different in the way you approach creating electronic music to make it sound new and fresh?
I think most people’s perception of music that uses chip sounds is that it is simply ‘video game music’, and often video game references and imagery go hand in hand with that, potentially causing people to consider the music kitsch or niche, and in turn perhaps not take it as seriously as say, a conventional guitar band. I guess what I’d like to do is take that lo-bit aesthetic and place it in an entirely different, more modern context, with both the music and the visual aspect of the project.
What is it about old technology and sounds—essentially archaic—that is appealing to you?
I played the Sega Megadrive/Genesis for most of my childhood and never really moved on from there, it was the only console I ever really played before I discovered the Internet, so I guess like many people there’s a big nostalgia factor there. There’s something so blatantly electronic about that lo fi console sound that I like, the textures you can create are just so nice to me, it’s a unique kind of sound that is immediately and universally recognisable. I couldn’t imagine working with any other kind of soundset, I don’t even think I’d know how.
Who and what have been your influences?
I listen to music all day long, most of it being new music from other electronic artists coming out at the moment, I love so much of what is coming out right now. I listen to it and it reminds me to keep pushing forward and improving my own music, I try not to measure myself up against other people but I can’t help it, I think it’s what drives me forward though.
Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with or tour with?
I’ve been lucky enough so far to work with artists on the album whom I really love and respect, the people I’m working with are kinda dream collabs for me, though I don’t think I’m allowed to say who they are yet? If I was going to work with somebody besides those guys It’d maybe be Rostam from Vampire Weekend – cause I’ve been crushin’ on him for yeaaaaars.