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DB D&B! ROCK CHIC

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Niki Parrington leans into the digital revolution and helps to make the resort just a little funkier. Elizabeth Kerr reports
PHOTOS BY What The Fox Studio, [email protected]
MAKEUP BY Joanna Worthington, [email protected]

Despite the ‘frigid’ temperature swooping down on Hong Kong, Niki Parrington is sitting on the outdoor patio of a Discovery Bay coffee shop, not particularly over-dressed or distressed. Niki’s locks drape well below her shoulders, and are easily imagined held back by a pair of highspec headphones as she fiddles behind a console during a performance.

Niki’s here to tout an upcoming single, following an EP she released last May. Though to say she’s ‘touting’ is misleading. “I’m not doing this for the money. I’m not hardcore into marketing,” she understates of her second career as a drum & bass artist. “I know friends and family are listening, but beyond that I’m honestly not really sure.”

If that sounds low key, then it is. Niki is decidedly chill, contrary to the popular image of the musician, particularly one tuned in to all things electronic, and she’s as much at ease chatting about how soft a touch she is with animals (“At one point I had eight cats. A dog followed me home one day, so then I had a dog.”), as in admitting we all turn in to our grandmothers: “You can’t fight it. It’s going to happen.” Peter Jackson’s eight-hour mega-doc Get Back piques her interest. She’s not a huge Beatles fan, but a deep dive into the creative process intrigues her.

The London native who’s been living in Hong Kong since the age of nine has a pragmatic side to balance her artistic one. A student of psychology and holder of a master’s degree in neuroscience, Niki calls music her ‘other’ job; the one she does when she’s not working on her own business in medical writing and clinical research.

Niki, her web designer husband Ali, their six-year old daughter Maya and a pair of rescue dogs (see?) moved to DB from Lamma in 2018. “We had a kid, and I have MS, and that walk to the ferry pier was getting harder and harder,” she recalls. “DB was just more convenient.”

Convenient is also handy considering her family is scattered to the four winds: Her mother joined her four half-sisters and a half-brother in the UK last year. Ali’s family is now in Australia. Like most of us, it’s been two years since she last left town and saw any of them. “My mum and daughter really miss each other, because my mum used to take her out. They had a little Wednesday ritual. It’s hard. Of course, I miss my mum as well.”

TURING APPLES
But there’s always music to fall back on. Niki never studied music officially, but she developed a keen interest in it in her teens, when Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom were making waves. Eventually, she and a school friend, Rafe D’Aquino, started a band doing covers. 1993 was a turning point when a summer trip back to the UK saw her cross paths with a family friend who introduced her to D&B.

“It was jungle, and I thought it was amazing,” Niki remembers. “The next day I went straight to Camden Market and bought every cassette I could find. That was 1993.” School and work took her in and out of Hong Kong for several years, but when she returned in 2011, she and Rafe reconnected and committed to their shared love of all things electronic and digital. The duo formed Turing Apples – “like Alan Turing; we thought it was really clever,” Niki quips – and dropped their first EP in 2014. They performed at The Big Picnic twice.
At a youthful 42, Niki is willing to admit D&B (think Aphex Twin, Goldie, Pendulum, Roni Size) isn’t for everyone. “It’s a real love or hate situation,” she says with a laugh after debating the genre’s status as one long song.

She and Rafe continued working on new music, and Nikki took an extra interest in production in 2020, for the worst possible reason: Rafe had a sudden heart attack and, sadly, passed away in May that year. “We had been working on a bunch of stuff, but I didn’t really know anything about production. I would just sit beside him and be the annoying person saying, ‘Make it sound more like that!’ And I remember the last time we practiced together saying, ‘I should learn this stuff, shouldn’t I?’ And I got the look.”

Painful as it was, Niki was determined to finish the music they had started. She took some courses and got help from friends who knew the job. She released an EP, For Rafe, on May 4, 2021 (Rafe was a big Star Wars fan.). It’s a mix of trap, dubstep and D&B, which she got mastered by UK D&B titan Nu:Tone. She enjoyed the challenge of producing, and the intricacies involved in pulling all the parts together – music producers are viewed as akin to film directors for a reason – and it’s inspired her to commit to more.

“I’m really glad I got that out, because you can sit and tinker with something for an hour and it will sound no different to someone outside the bubble. Now I need to draw a line under the next one,” she states.

WITH RAFE D’AQUINO IN 2014
WITH RAFE D’AQUINO IN 2014

WHAT KUTOFF DID NEXT
For the time being Niki’s focus is on the next, nearly completed single, and while she’s no Prince, she’s trying her best to rival the Purple One’s famed unreleased catalogue. “I have a whole library of stuff to finish. There’s a lifetime of work in there,” she says.

Anyone who wants a listen can hear For Rafe on Bandcamp (similar to Soundcloud) by by searching Kutoff, Niki’s stage name; Turing Apples is there too. “It’s available for people who just want to listen and don’t want to buy on Apple Music and Spotify. But I encourage them to buy. I split everything – like HK$600 – with Rafe’s wife.” She rolls her eyes. Streaming really isn’t that great for artists. But that’s another story.

Going forward Niki is probably sticking with her beloved D&B, but she’s not making any promises. “I’m still experimenting with styles because I’m learning the skills. My library is a million different things but I think I’ve found my style. The problem is that people listen to this music in a club, late at night. And I have to go home at 10pm,” she says with a chuckle.

Niki maintains an interest in a broad range of music, as most musicians do, but she admits the last couple of years, since For Rafe, she’s immersed herself in D&B. She chuckles again. “Mostly just one long, two-year song.”

NIKI’S SOON TO CUT HER NEXT SINGLE
NIKI’S SOON TO CUT HER NEXT SINGLE

Nikki released her new single on February 1. It’s available on most music platforms, and for purchase at kutoff.bandcamp.com.

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