The JD ‘Forever Forward’ campaign is a celebration of creativity, resilience, and passion, aimed to empower and inspire the next generation. VIPER caught up with one of the stars of the campaign – and rising British music star – Nia Archives – to talk about her earliest experiences of JD and her biggest achievements in 2023.
Last year you won a MOBO Award, an NME Award, a DJ Mag Award and were nominated for a BRIT Award, but what’s been the highlight of your career so far?
That’s such a tough question. I’d have to say the NME award honestly. It sounds silly but I didn’t expect it, I was literally just starting. I’d only put out one EP. I really didn’t expect to get an NME award around all those amazing artists. It was a really special moment for me, I cried for three days afterwards. It was really pathetic, I cried so much because it was just so cathartic. I was just so happy after my whole journey to get to this point, with people actually taking in my music and being recognised as a producer; it really meant a lot to me.
I don’t think that’s pathetic at all, it’s a huge achievement, especially so early in your career.
I was so emotional, my manager got really sick of me. I remember we went to the park, and I was just crying uncontrollably.
It’s really sweet because it shows that you are so connected to your music and those are accolades, they’re not just someone liking your project, that’s a big industry co-sign.
It was a real moment for me.
Outside of industry accolades, was there an experience you’ve had connecting with your fans directly?
One of the best things I’ve experienced in the past two or three years was travelling, because I’d never left Europe before I did music. So being able to go to different places that I would never be able to go is special. Also being able to do that because of my music and connect with people who like my music in these countries is so special to me, I really enjoy it.
You started making beats because other producers were messing you around, how did you take those first steps into production?
I taught myself how to play instruments as a kid, just learning from YouTube. But I was working with producers as a singer, and I just felt like no one really cared about my art as much as I cared about it. So, I was like, “OK people are being long. I’m gonna try and learn how to do this myself”. I was really bad at it for a long time, but I just stuck with it. I was making bad beats for ages because I didn’t know how to use anything. I had to learn from scratch, but I’ve been producing for five years now so I’m starting to make stuff that I actually like. I’m still learning. It was all D.I.Y, I started off with a cracked version of Logic and I officially bought it last year, which was a real ‘We’re doing things’ moment; I’m legal.
How does your Jamaican and British heritage mix and merge to inspire you?
It’s a huge part of my identity, I grew up with my British culture really strongly, also my Jamaican culture. But I grew up in a village that was predominantly white, so I kind of didn’t really like aspects of my blackness throughout my whole childhood as I felt like an odd one out. As I got older, it’s been a real part of what makes me, me. I like that I’ve got that duality and aspects of both cultures. I’m really proud of that and celebrate that in my work as well. I’m very proud of being Jamaican, it’s a beautiful country and culture.
Was jungle the first genre that you experimented with and if not, what was it?
It wasn’t, I actually started off by making boom-bap style Hip-Hop. But my writing style was really depressing, and I felt really sad listening to my music. I just didn’t really want that experience. So I decided to double time it to jungle tempo, which is originally how they made Jungle music; speeding up old hip-hop records. I kind of accidentally did that myself and decided to put my writing style on these crazy chaotic, jungle drums. That’s how I found my little world.
Do you remember the moment when you realised it wasn’t working?
I do, it was 2018 and I was just like, “This is just too depressing”. I didn’t like it, I wanted to dance to my music and not cry to it, so that’s why I switched it up. Obviously, I like Jungle as well but initially that was my catalyst.
You were born after the peak years of Jungle music, when and how did you first tap into the sound?
Yeah, I was born in ‘99. But growing up Jamaican and going to Carnival, I’d always heard Jungle. It was always part of my Carnival experience, but I didn’t know the name of it for so long. As I got older, I gravitated towards Drum & Bass and Jungle tunes. I love the drums and the bass, even more commercial tunes like Emili Sandé’s ‘Heaven’; I loved that song when I was 12 and then I realised it was a Drum & Bass tune, that’s probably why I liked it so much. But Jungle started off as an interest that went into an obsession, and it’s completely taken over my life. I’ve watched every documentary, I’ve met everybody. I’m obsessed with it, and I’m not bored of it yet. It’s definitely my happy subject.
What do you think is the biggest difference between your style/sound and the 90’s style of Jungle?
Who I am. My drums are heavily influenced by ‘92-’96 jungle; the old-school sound and you can hear that, but I wasn’t even born in the nineties, I’m 24. I’m born in this generation, and I like other genres other than Dance music; I like Indie, I like Rock, I like Punk and Soul, different things. So, for me, Jungle is anything on a breakbeat, it’s all the fusions of all my loves. Jungle has to be made a certain way, I don’t really have that approach, I just do what I want to.
Men were heavily at the forefront of the genre decades ago, but a woman has revived it – have you noticed a change in the representation of women in Jungle in recent years?
I think so, there’s a more positive attitude to women in those spaces. It was a bit of a boy’s club, but that being said there were women Junglist pioneers, like DJ Storm and Kemistry who are my inspirations. As a woman in Jungle, they’re the icons. Plus people like DJ Flight, Mantra, MC Chickaboo. There’s always been women there but maybe they didn’t get as much spotlight back in the day. I definitely feel like there’s more emphasis on women in Dance music and in Jungle, it seems to be celebrated more and there’s a lot more diversity in the past couple of years.
Do you feel that even in the production world we’re seeing changes in the exposure women are getting?
I think there’s still a long way to go, but it all starts from decisions that people make. So, if you have a party and you book women then it’s only going to be good for everybody because diversity keeps things interesting. It’s boring to see the same thing over and over again. People wanting to have different experiences from what they’ve had for the past 30 years are pushing that diversity and including more women.
You’re a producer, singer, songwriter, filmmaker and DJ, which medium do you find the most exciting right now?
At the moment I’m making my album and enjoying focusing on song writing. I focused on production for the past three years because I really wanted to prove myself as a producer and I wanted people to take me seriously. People now know that I do produce because I was getting questioned a lot at the start of my career and people couldn’t believe that I could do it. Now they know, I feel I can return to writing songs that mean a lot to me so I’m putting more focus on that right now.
‘Bad Gyal’ was a great single, is your project going to be all that kind of sound?
It’s the total opposite, it’s all just songs. It’s not really club bangers; I don’t know how that’s gonna go down as an album. But I want to listen to music and get on the train, walk to the shops, I want to live my life with that as a soundtrack rather than all bangers. It’s a banger to me but it’s not like a traditional dance music banger.
What brings out the best side of you when performing, a street party or a field rave?
I actually love festivals! I went to so many festivals this year as a punter and went to general admission camping. I really enjoy the kind of togetherness that festivals bring, sometimes the street parties can be a bit chaotic, which is fun, but I really enjoy going to festivals and seeing all of the stage design.
How did the link up with Jorja Smith happen for the ‘Little Things’ [Remix]?
We met up at the studio and we hung out, chatted. She showed me her album and she was like “I want you to remix this song.” I was like, “Yeah, of course!” I really got on with her and then we did a fun visual for her, it was good vibes.
Is there another artist you would love to work with?
I’d love to work with Damon Albarn or Thom York because I really love Blur, the Gorillaz and Radiohead; that would be a dream come true.
Has the demise of London’s club scene impacted your career?
I moved to London after that, but I do party a lot. I’ve done my northern partying as well, which is top tier. I don’t feel like I missed out, but it would have been cool to go to Plastic People and those spaces, I would have loved to party there.
How do you tap into the authentic rave scenes that still exist?
I like to reference the past quite a lot with little things. Like we’re in Manchester and in the 90’s in the Hacienda nightclub they used to have these little rave membership cards. I always thought that was quite cool because it’s a little souvenir that people can take to remember this night when they didn’t really have phones. They’re remembering the memory with something to hold. I’ve got this party that I called ‘Up Your Archives’ and we have these little membership cards. I was giving them out at the smaller gigs but I’ve got this whatsapp group with too many people in now, so it doesn’t really work anymore, it just crashes. But sometimes I’ll give free guestlist spots to someone who’s got a membership card if they send me a picture. It’s my way of building community and remembering people that have come from the beginning. Also, I always give out whistles, I just like to give out free shit basically.
What are your plans for next year?
I’ll be releasing my debut album which I’m super excited about. I really want this year to finish so I can crack on with that. I’m going to Australia at the start of the year for a tour and then I’ll probably just tour for the rest of the year. That will kind of be my life next year; album and tour.
Do you have a bucket list dream or career goal?
I’d love to release an album, that’s huge for me. I want to have something that I can say was my stamp. There are so many goals, it’s difficult to put them down. Once I’ve done the music thing, I’d like to do some more visual art for people because I really enjoy art and stuff. I’ve got to do the album first; that’s my main focus at the moment.
What kind of art?
Videography. I creative direct all my projects and I’ve directed quite a lot of my videos. Fka Twigs has done that quite a lot and what she’s doing is really cool because she’s an artist, but she does other things as well; I want to do something like that.
Is that what inspired your artist name?
Yeah, I love VHS and I was really shy before I did music, I never used to talk to people. My way of socialising would be like, “Oh can I get a video of you?” That’s how I met all of my friends, and it was like trying to create a sonic archive, which is the music of my life. I wanted to document my life and the people around me, that’s what it was supposed to be. It’s different now, people’s archives now are social media, your Instagram archive or your posts are your archive. But it’s not real, you can’t hold it or anything.
What’s your earliest memory of the JD bag and what does it mean to you?
My earliest memory of the JD duffle bag was probably getting a pair of shoes from JD and then proceeding to use it as my PE bag for six months. It was the cool thing to do at school, you had to have a cool bag and for me that was the JD bag. It was getting used at school a lot.
What was it like to be asked to be in the JD Forever Forward Christmas ad?
It’s quite unexpected for them to want me to be in the advert, it’s cool; I hope my brother might think I’m a bit cool for it. It’s really lovely, I’m super grateful that they had me on board. I got to meet Ewan Spencer today, I wasn’t fan-girling. I kept it together, but I was really excited because I love his work.
What are your style essentials?
Grills, rings, I like getting my nails done.
How would you sum up your style in three words?
It’s always changing.
What does community mean to you?
Community to me is togetherness, being amongst people with a feeling of belonging. Not just taking, giving and acts of service.
When it comes to making change happen, what do you think is important about community and culture?
Having more people behind something definitely has more impact than a solo mission. ‘It takes a village’, as they say.
What are you wearing for the JD campaign?
I’m wearing some Air Force Ones, which have a groovy pattern and a full Nike tracksuit.
What was your favourite trainer to wear this year?
I really enjoyed wearing 97’s
What’s your funniest Christmas memory?
My funniest Christmas memory would be two years ago. I went to Brighton to spend Christmas with my friends and they peer-pressured me into swimming in the sea on Christmas morning. It was so cold, my manager was there who had a Santa hat on in the sea. It was so funny and a really good Christmas.
Do you have any Christmas traditions?
I’ve been going to Brighton for the past couple of years and that’s been a nice new tradition, so hopefully it keeps going.
To shop what Nia’s wearing in the JD Forever Forward campaign, head to JD.
Photos by Ewen Spencer for JD.