Calista from Voice of Aiko
IT is not often I get to speak….
with artists who are speaking on behalf of a collective. In this case, Calista Kazuko has been chatting with me about Voice of Aiko and the new track, Prescription Dream. I ask her what Voice of Aiko entails and symbolises - what we can expect from the upcoming film promotion of Prescription Dream.
She discusses why the new single supports several different charities and what comes next; what her personal favourite album is; whether she gets time to unwind away from music; which rising artists we should get involved with; what we can expect from the upcoming album, Empress – Kazuko ends the interview with a great song choice.
Hi, Calista. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! Things are FABULOUS, of course. How are you?
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure! My name’s Calista Kazuko I’m a singer/songwriter from London and I’m representing Voice of Aiko today. Voice of Aiko is a new creative collective of musicians, filmmakers; dancers and artists joining forces to campaign for change. An artistic army on a mission!
Can you talk to me about the idea behind ‘Voice of Aiko’ and what it symbolises? How did it come together?
Voice of Aiko was born out of the artists’ shared passion and belief in the power art has to help and heal. Aiko is a family name on my mother’s Japanese side. It can be directly translated as ‘Child of Love’. My dear great Auntie Aiko is in her late-nineties and now in a nursing home in California. This project is dedicated to her and to give her a voice. Our mission is to ‘give the silenced a voice’.
Prescription Dream is released on 28th September. What was it like recording the song?
This song was a total dream to make! I made it in Berlin with the incredible producer musicians Samim, Miguel Toro and Jack Brown as part of a set of five songs (more to come!) We had a totally wild, magical time making it and the music making was totally free and organic: not trying to ‘fit’ in to any mould. It was very special indeed!
I believe it support the charity, MIND. Is its themes of prescription drugs, and the reliance some people have on them, something you felt was under-represented in music?
We are working with charities REST, MIND and APRIL to raise awareness on prescription drugs which can have potential devastating side-effects and cause dependency. In England alone, there are an estimated 1.5 million people suffering from doctor-induced Benzo drug dependency. In 2017, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Dependence (APPG) warned that in England more than 1 million patients are taking dependence-forming drugs unnecessarily. Antidepressants are also a major problem and statistics show that roughly fifty Americans die from prescription painkiller overdoses every day. Stopping medication (even low doses) cold turkey can be dangerous, even fatal.
The figures are scary and often people won’t realise it’s a medication they are taking, or have stopped taking, that is causing physical or mental changes or that they have become dependent on a medication. There are great resources online to find out more at:
We wanted to address this issue because we feel it’s under-represented not just in music, but in society as a whole. We live in a prescription world and are often quick to medicate perhaps unaware of the potential side-effects and often without exploring other alternatives first. I personally had no idea about the potential dangers of prescription drugs before starting this project so now am able to make more informed, careful choices before popping a pill. If we can get more people talking and thinking like this too, our mission will be complete!
There is a film to accompany its release. What is the story behind it?
The accompanying film is made by amazing filmmaker Enya Belak Gupta. Enya and I met and quickly became friends - she’s a total babe! When I told her about this project she immediately got it and wanted to get involved. Her powerful film beautifully illustrates the feelings of confusion the protagonist is feeling, trapped in her ‘prescription dream’.
We used love hearts to represent this idea of a pill being a ‘quick fix’: this pill will make you feel ‘perfect’; this pill will make you ‘smile’. Having shared several peoples’ stories about their experiences of prescription drug dependency and withdrawal; repeated themes were those of feeling confused, trapped; half-asleep and alone. Enya has done a remarkable job at capturing these stories and it has been an absolute honour to work with her.
The release party for the track/video is on 29th September in Aldgate. If we were to come along; what might we expect in terms of the evening and who will appear?
Expect a night to remember! Voice of Aiko are taking over the amazing Leman Locke hotel in Aldgate for a magical evening of live music, art; dance and discussion. We will open the event with a conversation room with amazing representatives from the partner charities who will be explaining more about prescription drug problems; what we can do to help and answering any questions. This will be followed by a live performance from stunning musical artists Bumi Thomas and Sera EKE.
The CA Contemporary Dance Company led by director Adrian Del Arroyo will be performing a truly unique commissioned piece inspired by the event‘s Prescription Dream theme and the night closes with a very special guest D.J. set, drinks; dancing and delight! 50% of all ticket proceeds will go to REST and APRIL, supporting people with prescription drug dependencies. Tickets available here:
Will there be more material coming down the line?
YES! Voice of Aiko are excited to start working on our next project straight away with the aim of releasing in late-January 2019. This project will be focused on refugee and asylum seeker children; drawing a spotlight on the children who were left in Calais after the Jungle was destroyed. We have some truly incredible artists and collaborations lined up, more to be revealed soon!
(Taking off the Voice of Aiko pink wig, this is Calista Kazuko talking now…)
If I was to travel back to your childhood; what sort of music would I find in your collection?
I was literally obsessed with Freddy Mercury - to the point that I would draw on a moustache and wear spanx as a child, sure. Other obsessions included Kate Bush, Supertramp and Nas!
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
By the end of 2018, I will have finished my album, Empress, which is due for release in spring 2019. I am having SUCH a blast making this album with my fave collaborator film composer Guy Dagul. A history of empresses throughout time, this record will be a rollercoaster ride of epic sonic soundscapes! Drawing on my Classical and Jazz training at the Royal Academy of Music, and many musical influences and loves, the album is shaping up to be a total musical melting pot of yumminess!
The album also explores the adversities women have had to endure throughout time and the relationship between powerful women and sexuality. It’s been really fun entering the different worlds of the various fabulous empresses and I can’t wait to finish it and unleash it unto the world! Empress the album is available for pre-order exclusively at PledgeMusic.
I’m also beyond excited to be writing my first musical(!) with phenomenal playwright, fellow Royal Academy of Music graduate and all-round boss lady Stephanie Martin. It’s called Mary Quake and tells the story of a young woman’s inner-turmoil and ultimate self-discovery as she enters the world of British feminism in the 1960s and '70s.
Steph is the most remarkable writer and woman; it’s totally inspirational to work with her. She teaches me so much on creativity, work ethic and just generally being fabulous! We hope to have a first draft complete by end of 2018 and cannot wait to see our baby come to life.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Playing Wembley Arena as a teeny-bopper, chart topper (no jokes!)
Which one album means the most to you would you say (and why)?
Kate Bush - The Kick Inside
Kate Bush is a goddess - and this album was the soundtrack of my childhood. My dad led the Medici String Quartet and they are playing on this album and on Wuthering Heights. Pretty cool, no?! Kate Bush and this album probably inspired me and shaped me as a young musician the most.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Fiona Apple. Everything she wants in the world cause she deserves it!
Might we see some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?
YES! I will be doing a show in late-November at the Century Club in Soho (date T.B.C. v. soon). I also hope to tour the EMPRESS album with my amazing band Fred Claridge and Sam Weston when it is released next spring. Watch this space!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Be yourself and know that it’s ok that ‘yourself’ changes all the time. Don’t make music to try and please people: not everyone will love what you do and that’s totes ok. Don’t expect to make millions from your music - you probs won’t.
Prepare for a bohemian life of baked beans and romance. Have a thick skin and an open mind. Figure out what drives you and what you value as success…then reach for the stars, baby!
IN THIS PHOTO: Sera EKE
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Sera EKE - profound, daring; innovative and brave. Sera mixes music, film and dance to create groundbreaking new art.
Bumi Thomas - honest, ethereal; powerful and beautiful. Bumi’s music transcends the physical and touches the soul. She’s a true artist in every sense of the word.
Both these amazing female artists are representing Voice of Aiko and performing at the Prescription Dream Launch Event at Leman Locke on 29th September!
IN THIS PHOTO: Bumi Thomas/PHOTO CREDIT: @kajagwincinska
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Netflix and chill, ya dun kno. Escaping to the country with the hubby and leaving all technology in London. FOOD!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Supertramp – The Logical Song
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