by Silke Hartung

Neekoh: From Finland With Aroha

by Silke Hartung

Neekoh: From Finland With Aroha

As a nation made up mostly of migrants, we often forget what some people leave behind in their home countries to live in NZ. Vibrant pop artist Niko Helenius, aka Neekoh, may be a newcomer to our shores and ears, but in his home country of Suomi/Finland, he is famous enough to have the dubious honour of being regularly referenced in local gossip columns. Seeing that we can claim him these days, Silke Hartung was curious to find out more.

You’ve built quite a career for yourself, on many levels, in your home country of Finland. How did you end up here in Aotearoa?

Yeah, it’s interesting where life can take you. I first came to New Zealand for a holiday back in 2016. During those few weeks, I met my current partner. It’s a funny story though as neither him nor I were looking for a relationship, so it first started just as a friendship. However, I’d recently divorced and so by staying in touch with him and through the discussions we had on many levels, we fell in love with each other. It was a bit hard time for me as everything happened quite fast but I thought I had to check this out. I felt it in my heart that it’s the right thing to move to NZ to give this relationship a shot. So, here I am and I’m so happy I made that decision! 

The chance to reinvent yourself as musician and artist must be interesting, but also of course, a challenge. What’s your battle plan? 

I have put a lot of time to reflect and to listen to how I feel, what feels right and what I really enjoy doing. I think being really clear on who I am as an artist and what I want to do is a key. My battle plan is to take all the quirkiness in me and put it into who I am as an artist. I’m a very visual person and I love haute couture, and how your style can tell a story. It’s always been a part of me to create or put together outfits and looks, so it felt natural for me to take it fully on board as part of who Neekoh is as an artist.

Performing as Neekoh is also a change for you – what’s the idea behind the new stage name?

I think words evoke images and names creates personas and makes them memorable. I was looking into the history of my birth name and came across the phonetic spelling of Niko. I liked how Neekoh looks visually. Neekoh also means ‘Victory of the people’, which resonated with me. I see music as a piece of shared emotions, so to me, the ‘Victory Of The People’ means sharing these emotions and the ‘we’re in this together’ type of mentality. 

Have you already met a few locals to give you some guidance, and what advice have you been given?

Yes, I have. It’s amazing how supportive and helpful everyone is. One of the first advice I was given, was to start creating your story locally and be authentic. It’s not necessarily always as effective trying to reach the moon from the sky straight away. Although, it’s good to have big ambitions, it’s important to work hard, step by step towards that moon.

You described your last single, Dead City, with its ’80s synth-pop sound as the start of a new era for you as a musician. What was the music you did before?

I’ve been finding my home musically from metal to punk and from hard rock to pop. Before I went solo and started doing pop, I had a pop-rock band that was inspired by 30 Seconds To Mars and Linkin Park. I feel that I’ve found a playground in pop, where I can just create and explore the artistry without limitations, which is really satisfying.

We’re a little different to other countries here, aren’t we? For example, having a ‘look’ as an artist isn’t necessarily something a lot of Kiwis go for, which is a bit of a shame. What other differences or similarities between the music scenes have you noticed?

Yes, I’ve noticed that ,and it’s something I put lots of thought into for myself as well. I suppose being visually quite ‘out there’ can create the tall poppy syndrome, however, I believe that being a bit different is ok, as long as you’re humble and authentic. 

I’m blown away by the support from other artists and the industry as a whole, and how we have so many platforms, services and venues in New Zealand to seek help and guidance, especially for independent artists like myself. I love it how Kiwis are so happy and approachable and laid back. In Finland, we don’t really have a small talk culture as such, so people can be very private and hard to get to know, until you actually get to know them.

Has any NZ music stood out to you that you particularly liked? Anyone that inspires you that you’d like to work with?

I looove NZ music! Katchafire, Six60, Wulfie, Drax Project, Prins, Vikae, Missy, Tomorrow People, Benee, Navvy, Nika, TheAJsound… there’s so many great and absolutely amazing artists and producers. I love Wulfie’s sound world in his EP ‘Paralysed’, so working with him would be really cool. I also love Missy’s style, she’s an amazing producer. There’s also JJ Mist… oh I could go on and on, hahaha…

What’s the story behind your brand new single Falling?

Falling is about hopelessly falling in love with a stranger. The strange phenomenon where you feel entirely drunk on someone you don’t even know, which is terrifyingly beautiful. It’s about following where your heart tells you to go and the only thing you can do is to hope your heart won’t be broken too badly.

What’s your aesthetic vision for the sound of Neekoh? You’ve got a whole EP coming up, what can we expect?

The upcoming EP ‘Dark Light’ is about love, sex and heartache we all experience in our lives. It delves into the emotions when things are not working in your relationship. It’s about the challenges and celebrations whilst finding new love and the passion and lust that wraps it all together.

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