“My music needs loneliness” – an interview with Ankathie Koi

Ankathie Koi (c) Johannes Jelinek

KATHRIN ISABELLA WINKLBAUER aka ANKATHIE KOI is a Bavarian Viennese by choice who has been celebrating 80s flair and mullet hairstyle with her solo project since 2015. She is eye-catching and yet inconspicuous, elegant and yet as awkward as the eponymous fish – according to the singer herself. The music of ANKATHIE KOI is also ambivalent, namely calm and acoustic as well as wild and rocky. She proved this not only in July at a “FM4 Acoustic Session” and her fifth POPFEST gig this year, but also on her new album. “Prominent Libido” was released on August 13, 2019, on the Swiss label “Radicals”, the cover has already been censored on several social media platforms. In an interview with Julia Philomena Baschiera, the artist talked about energy and excess, the silence that is necessary at times and the need to write about important female figures.

After excess follows reduction

“I’d rather offend people than have them be indifferent to me,” you said two years ago in an interview with the press. Is the statement still true today?

Ankathie Koi: That is definitely still a leitmotif. But I think it’s most beautiful when music arouses positive emotions. If I still had to decide between being indifferent and disturbing, then clearly I would rather disturb. I think the worst punishment for an artist is not being relevant enough to evoke some form of emotion. I don’t want people zapping me off.

A leitmotif that applies not only to you, but also to other musicians? Together with Gerhard Stöger you curated the Wiener Popfest in 2016. Which criteria were essential for the selection of the bands?

Ankathie Koi: Of course, there are many bands that don’t suit my taste, but still trigger something in me. On YouTube there are such horrible comments by people who presume to judge that a song is horrible. I hate that. You can express your own opinion, but you can’t make it a universal one. I don’t think everything is super myself, of course not. But as a listener I try to differentiate and to reflect. Sometimes there may be envy or fear or something else involved. There we are again with negative emotions. Hate, anger, aggression can lead me to something else, away from the actual music to an inner journey that catapults me into a creative process. This requires a strong trigger, an external stimulus. You don’t write the coolest song in the world when you’ve been sitting on the couch for weeks staring at the white wall. But maybe you write it after listening to music that you thought was really horrible.

“When we perform, the stage is required to be torn down.”

The album “Prominent Libido” is stylistically very diverse, yet it has a pull, maybe an emotional common thread?

Ankathie Koi: The word “suction” describes my process quite well. For a new album I actually write the songs very fast. Lyrics and music are then easy for me to write, because the thoughts have been buzzing around in my head for ages. I’ve wanted to write about love relationships, the sexual aspect of my life for quite some time, or add it to my theme pool. And it’s very big. Every number is different, tells its own story, because I am not only a musician, but also a human being. I am very active, nervous, funny and exhausting. I get lost all the time. I am airy like a grasshopper. This energy, this tempo, this madness fit well with the band. When we perform, the stage is torn down. I did it once and now we consistently pull it down. Very beautiful, but very intense.

On the album, despite my love for diversity, we succeeded in creating a common thread, probably an emotional one, yes. It’s mainly about female figures in my life. These are women who have accompanied me lately, who really exist, but who I am or want to be myself. “Viktoria”, for example, is about qualities that I would very much like to have. She’s brave, she’s crazy, she watches flamingos at the lake. If you get involved with her, everything will be fine. She is very strong, but doesn’t belittle her opponent, and you can profit from her strength. Another character, in the number “Shanghai Maze”, on the other hand, is insanely anxious, lets herself be influenced by her surroundings, lets herself be carried away by the drama without wanting it.

All such qualities are very close to me and very far away at the same time, they interest and captivate me. But I have not only been influenced by qualities. Shanghai as a place itself totally fascinated me. For example, it’s common for people to queue up at Ikea in the morning to go to the bedroom departments and go to bed for a few hours, rest and sleep. The apartments there are so small and overcrowded that one always sits with the whole family in one room, thus continually having to confront the family. And that’s what the song is about, that you can’t distance yourself from your surroundings, from other opinions.

The album also tells the story of two Annas …

Ankathie Koi: One Anna is in the context of love, the other Anna is a childhood friend whom I lost in an accident two years ago. Both women are very free, but in a completely different way. My need to write about these women, about their peculiarities, worlds and feelings, has definitely become the common thread. Because today I am much more concerned with writing about women than I used to be…

“I think you can feel and see that I lead a very feminist and emancipated life.”

When you write about women as a woman, is it a conscious decision? Keyword feminism or empowerment?

Ankathie Koi, Cover “Prominent Libido”
Ankathie Koi, Cover “Prominent Libido”

Ankathie Koi: Unconsciously most likely. I know I’m giving a certain empowerment, but I think the more unconscious I do this, the more it’s appreciated. If I forced it, it might be much weaker. It feels nice when universal statements suddenly become an anthem, my fans sing along and an exchange of energy can take place at concerts. I think you can feel and see that I lead a very feminist and emancipated life. I don’t think that I have to hammer this home all the time. Apart from that, it’s the most beautiful and strongest thing for me anyway if you understand each other wordlessly, if you agree wordlessly.

On the album cover you lie – all painted in gold – in the midst of other naked people. Maybe also a cinematic allusion to the James Bond classic “Goldfinger”?

Anathie Koi [laughs]: No, not at all, funnily enough! I was rather inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. Otherwise, it was just important to me to show nudity and do something that might be a little more exciting than standing in a meadow with the band.

“I have great respect for other artists, probably that’s why I like working with many people.

Ankathie Koi: I’m actually very cinema-orientated, that’s why I love to make music videos. On the basis of my lyrics there are of course always a few guidelines from me, but I’m not a director. I like to pass on ideas or thoughts about colours, places and moods to filmmakers, but otherwise I am very humble towards good filmmakers. I have great respect for other artists, which is probably why I like working with many people.

In 2011 you met Judith Filimónova at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and founded the band project Fijuka with her, which has since dissolved. What approach did you have to music at that time and to what extent did it develop? How do you work with your music videos? Who has the last word?

Ankathie Koi: For me it was always clear that I like to write songs. I like to write a song that someone can play on the guitar. Our tracks already had electronic elements, but there was always a classical song structure. What has crystallized over time is my love for speed. Maybe that’s why Fijuka dissolved, because I had so much excess energy in me and wanted to try something more danceable. Or I had to. I want my audience to be able to spend as much energy at the concert as I do on stage. That both sides stagger home bathed in sweat.

“Today i am both, disco queen and kitschy pianist.”

In July 2019 you played an intimate “Acoustic Session” for FM4. Music, outfit and performance were very reduced, also at this year’s Popfest appearance.

Ankathie Koi: From the excess to reduction. In the last few years I’ve been so exhausted, actually very spent, that suddenly the need for the reduced has become especially important. Maybe also because I can now focus on only the voice or only the guitar. I couldn’t do that a few years ago. It annoyed me so much that people sat there motionless at concerts. To be so well behaved. Today I somehow manage to connect both tendencies, both sides. Somehow the quiet and the wild Koi coexist. Today I am both disco queen and kitschy pianist.

You studied music. To what extent has a professional approach influenced you?

Ankathie Koi: My jazz phase before my jazz studies had the strongest influence on me. I come from a conservative Bavarian small town, but jazz is promoted a lot there. So I researched and understood my craft even before I went to university, I knew where I wanted to go. Today I know my voice, my body so well that I am actually always ready for action.

Would you recommend studying music to the new generation? Or are you advocating a DIY culture?

Ankathie Koi Either way, I like people who master their craft. There is no recipe for success, but studying music can’t hurt, I think. Especially not if you already have a plan, if you know what you want. If you already know your strengths and weaknesses, you can use the essentials of the lessons for yourself.

To just think music is cool, to let yourself be carried away in a course of study, that doesn’t do much good in art, I think. Conversely, you have to take care at art schools that a certain perfectionism doesn’t become pathological. That you don’t become too strict with yourself, too critical, too anxious. This probably happens less often to people with a more natural approach.

“My music needs loneliness. Absolute loneliness.”

Regardless of an educational context: Where do you get your artistic nutrient from? 

Ankathie Koi: The most important nutrient for my creativity has indeed become calmness. When it’s loud, hectic, chaotic, I immediately lose my concentration. Then I’m distracted and can’t work. Chaos is inspiring, but not when I want to work. I have to be all alone for it, an absolute rarity in the music business, I can’t see anyone and I can’t hear anything. My music needs loneliness. Absolute loneliness.

On a deserted island?

Ankathie Koi: I like to go to Crete on my own once a year and then vegetate a bit there. Unfortunately time doesn’t allow it much more often, although I like to travel. Although I don’t necessarily work or write well on the way. In Mexico, for example, I spent days looking for a quiet place. Then I found the absolute silence on a boat. And when I found it, it bubbles out of me. Things come very quickly.

On the other hand, people, stories, hustle and bustle are important sources of inspiration for you. How can that be united? Does this work in a similar way to your preference for different musical genres?

Ankathie Koi: I have several souls within me that can actually be united well, not only on stage or musically. But I’m probably already in danger of drifting into absolute confusion, and many people already find me very confusing. People like to know what they’re dealing with, and I don’t really know. That is very difficult for many people. And for myself too. I often question my decisions, I am uncertain. Why do you take the difficult turn and not the easy one? Why left and not right? I don’t know. But I can’t get out of my skin. I cannot bend myself. And the truth is often exhausting – but actually very good.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Julia Philomena Baschiera – translated from the German original by Elisabeth Kelvin, 2019

Ankathi Koi (facebook)