Born and raised in rural Thailand, Nakadia hadn’t even heard of dance music until a fateful trip to Germany in 2002. That trip transformed her life and through grit and determination, she thought herself to DJ and got herself gigs. Fast forward to 2016 and Nakadia is the jewel of the underground scene with a mind-blowing tour schedule playing venues around the globe alongside the cream of the Techno world. This month sees her land in the Netherlands to play with Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin and Alan Fitzpatrick at Loveland Amsterdam.
UK Editor Simon Huxtable caught up with her to talk about her journey, life on tour and living in Berlin.
Hi Nakadia, it’s wonderful to meet you. Your story is one of hope, ambition and following your dreams, and for me, it’s incredibly inspiring. Firstly, can you tell us a little about your life in Thailand? We understand you had no exposure to dance music there, so what music did you listen to?
I left my parents house when I was 15. Until then I had grown up in rural Thailand with hardly any contact with the outside world. We lived without running water and only had about 5 dollars per day for a family of 7. But I have to say, I had a very happy childhood and I missed nothing. When I got older I wanted to explore what the world had to offer. I wanted to do as many jobs as possible and ended up managing an internet cafe in the city of Korat from the year 2000. That is where I first got in contact with ‘international music’.
I played music for my customers from my computer and I looked up music on the internet. At night, I would go to the local club and dance. The room I was living in was next to the club, so I had no chance to sleep anyway until the club closed. I still had no clue about what the world had to offer and about all the music that was out there, then I discovered European pop music and I thought I was totally cool listening to it.
Then as fate would have it in 2002, through your job, you travelled for the first time to Europe. Can you remember back to how you felt being so far from home; so far from what you had considered ‘normal life’?
Exploring, trying new things and discovering new things…that was what I always wanted. So when I arrived in Europe I was overwhelmed with all the new impressions. Everything was new for me. Sebastian – my manager ever since – invited me over, he was managing Chinese acrobats on a European tour and I joined the tour for a few weeks across Germany and Austria. After this tour, we travelled to Italy and France and Sebastian showed me the Cannes Film Festival. It was such an extreme – from the poor countryside to the high society world of Cannes. I didn’t even realise back then what was happening, I just enjoyed it.
It was while in Europe you first encountered Techno. Can you talk us through the experience? Where were you, who were you with and what did you think of this strange new music?
During my first week in Europe, Sebastian took me to a Techno club in Karlsruhe, Germany as his friend Marusha was playing. She was a big star at that time and my first impression of that night was the long line outside the club. All these people were coming for a DJ and I could not believe it! When I was looking over Marusha’s shoulders I was fascinated. Later, on the dance floor, the virus caught me. The atmosphere was overwhelming: these sounds… the energy in the room… the vibe and the DJ having total control over the dance floor. That was the moment I knew that this was what I was looking for. I found myself in Techno and I had to become a DJ.
You’ve taken the Techno scene by storm with over 1200 gigs across 60 countries so far. Where has been your favourite destination?
It’s difficult to pick a favourite if you are playing at nearly 100 different destinations every year. In terms of nature, the island of Reunion impressed me the most. The perfect club for me would be D’ Edge in Sao Paulo and my favourite crowds are in Eastern Europe. The people of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, they guarantee unforgettable nights. Berlin and Ibiza the best places to live and meet friends… so many favourites.
A hectic touring schedule can play havoc with the body and mind, how do you relax and switch off from the music?
It feels like my relaxing time only happens on the plane at the moment, but honestly, I try to rest as much as I can while I am on tour. Sleeping enough hours and eating healthy is very important to keep the energy. If there is a chance to stay two nights somewhere, I do it, but I can’t really wind down during summer. Even if I have a few days off in Berlin, I spend them in the studio and the off days in Ibiza are filled with parties. In earlier years, I used my time in Thailand to relax, getting massages, cook food or go to the beach. For the last 3 years, this has not been possible as I’ve started promoting my own events and play every weekend around Asia as well.
We understand you’re due to play Loveland Festival in The Netherlands this weekend. The line up for your stage is pretty stellar, how do you control your nerves when you’re in such high-class company?
I am very excited to play at Loveland. It’s one of my favourite festivals and the line up is mind blowing. The first few times I played with artists like Sven, Richie, Dubfire, Luciano or Jamie Jones I was super nervous, I still remember that. But I got used to it over the years, and now I play with the biggest names pretty often. For example, it will be the 7th time in 18 months that I’ll share the stage with Sven Väth. We’ve became good friends and I’ve learned a lot from him, besides, it’s a lot of fun every time so no need to be nervous!
“It’s funny that many people don’t care when there are men behind the decks. They don’t really care if the set is good or not, they don’t care about little technical mistakes. But the moment a girl takes the stage people start to care and concentrate on her set, doubting that she is up to the job.”
In terms of your DJing you’re totally self-taught; beginning on vinyl. With the advancement of technology, do you think that core learning has been beneficial to your current technical requirements, or do you like many older DJs, battle with the need to have some degree of tactile control over the music?
I am very happy that I had the chance to start the old school way. The first 6 years I only played vinyl, then I switched to CD for a few months, followed by Traktor and now I am very happy with my USB sticks. I think every DJ that knows how to use the turntables loves vinyl. It feels, smells and sounds great, but only when the DJ booth is set up right for it. That’s often not the case today. Digital media is so much more convenient, so instead of carrying 50 kilos of vinyl I am happy to carry my sticks to the club.
One thing I really don’t like is the sync function. Whenever a DJ uses sync I can hear it; the music sounds sterile and mechanical. I believe the little corrections I make during mixing gives the mix a soul. Most of my mixes go over minutes. I love the energy when 2 or 3 tracks run together and mixing them manually gives life to the mixes. As much as I love the idea of working with external equipment, working with Ableton and using stems during the set, it would not be me. Instead of creating new tracks on the fly, I love to search for the most beautiful music and mix these tracks together telling a story; taking people on a rollercoaster ride. That’s my way of DJing.
It’s no secret that female DJs find it hard to progress their careers like men and while steps are being taken to level the playing field, in reality not a great deal has changed. What have been some of the challenges in your career and how have you overcome them?
It’s funny that many people don’t care when there are men behind the decks. They don’t really care if the set is good or not, they don’t care about little technical mistakes. But the moment a girl takes the stage people start to care and concentrate on her set, doubting that she is up to the job. I had my history with doubters and haters, like most other girls. Being a girl means you have to prove yourself every night over and over again.
Being a girl means you have to prove yourself every night over and over again. And being a girl from Thailand makes things even harder. Nobody believed I would be able to play a good set, bookers never wanted to give me a chance in the past until they heard me somewhere. This is the story of my career.
Lucky for me that haters and doubters mostly turn into fans pretty quick when they hear me play. In this case, I could turn the disadvantage into my advantage and every booking got me several new ones. I’ve never been hyped up by somebody and never had the support of a big agency or label, but I still filled my tour schedule to the max every year. I believe that proving talent and hard work is the best way to show the world that DJing has nothing to do with gender.
You’re now based in Berlin, a city synonymous for Techno. How has being surrounded by music inspired you?
It has inspired me in every way – the first few years I went clubbing a lot! It showed me clearly what my musical direction would be but taught me what I didn’t want to do. So many nights I heard very boring sets and I promised myself I would never bore people on the dance floor. Also, during the week, I was surrounded by artists and inspiration on every corner around Berlin. Companies like Native Instruments, Beatport and countless studios are all around my house and in Berlin Techno really is a lifestyle. Berlin made me the artist I am today.
Nakadia, its been wonderful to meet you, we wish you every success in the future. In closing is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for the interview and I hope you guys enjoy my mix…