SIKA Studios is a network of creatives, built from the underground up. Combining skate and graffiti culture with hip hop, grime and other underground musical genres, SIKA Studios are celebrating their 10th birthday this year.
As well as putting a spotlight on a number of homegrown artists over the past decade through their live events and SIKA Records label, SIKA Studios have also become renowned for their travelling festival stage – where the team have quite literally created a platform for underground artists, across a range of underground hip hop, grime, bassline, drum and bass and more.
the team have quite literally created a platform for underground artists, across a range of underground hip hop, grime, bassline, drum and bass and more
The SIKA Studios stage doubles as a working skate ramp, with skateboarders showing off their skills between (and sometimes during) sets from SIKA records artists and their extended family. After another successful stint at Balter Festival last month and with NASS festival coming up this weekend, SIKA Studios founder Chris explains how SIKA was born and what’s in store for the rest of the summer:
‘SIKA started because I was looking around me and seeing a lot of talent go to waste. There was and still is a lot of talent in the underground scene, whether that’s music or visual arts such as graffiti; but it was seen as more of a negative thing back then.
I was looking around me and seeing a lot of talent go to wast
‘I wanted to flip the whole thing on its head so that people could make a living from what they love doing. That’s when SIKA was born. We sparked a lot of new connections and ideas, in hip hop in particular, and quickly became an important platform within the rebirth of the UK hip hop movement.’
Amongst the clothing brand, graffiti and record label, one of SIKA’s most-loved conquests is their festival stages, which are famed for bringing an element of underground UK hip hop to festivals catered to all audiences.
‘We started putting on the SIKA stages because I felt when I was going to festivals that there was a huge gap in the market for underground hip hop and urban music in general. I was really enjoying the vibes and atmosphere at festivals, but the music wasn’t really doing it for me.
‘We were given the opportunity for our first ever festival stage at Aeon Festival, which is unfortunately not around anymore. They gave us a budget and a tent and we ended up putting on what I now know to be the first UK hip hop stage at a festival. That was probably around nine years ago now.
As hip hop was starting to level out, grime was really starting to blow up, which is something we have been involved in for a long time too.
‘It’s been a great experience to have been at the forefront of UK hip hop for all those years. But unfortunately, as with a lot of genres of music, it peaked and has now kind of dipped off, but thankfully we have always been quite diverse with the genres we are involved with. As hip hop was starting to level out, grime was really starting to blow up, which is something we have been involved in for a long time too.’
With Balter Festival and NASS now a regular fixture in the SIKA summer calendar, Chris breaks down what you can expect to see from the SIKA stage at either festival.
‘If you’re the type of person who likes to let loose and be as weird as you like and do whatever you want to do, then Balter Festival is the one for you. We have managed to create a semi indoor, semi outdoor area with a small stage – something you don’t really get to see much of at festivals – with a skate ramp.
‘In comparison, NASS Festival overall is a more commercial and a little bit more regimented, but our stage is a lot bigger and tucked away. We bring the Electrikal Soundsystem in to provide sound for our stage, who we really enjoy working with.
it’s all down to the artists being loyal with their pricing – we wouldn’t be able to do it without them
‘Our stage at NASS is a bit more of an open stage where we’ve got our own area and it’s got its own bar – it’s a lot bigger scale. We get to do a lot more of what we want regarding music and the type of acts. We’ve got some of the top names in underground grime, hip hop, bassline and drum and bass performing, including a full SIKA Records showcase, RLD Records showcase and Off Me Nut Records showcase. We’re really pleased with this year’s set up, but it’s all down to the artists being loyal with their pricing – we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.’
I’ve been able to travel and see the world with Devilman as his agent
Looking back at SIKA’s successes, Chris shares a few highlights since they first began ten years ago: ‘I’ve been able to travel and see the world with Devilman as his agent. One time when we were in Vietnam for a show, I managed to expand the SIKA clothing range by designing and sourcing our now-infamous ‘stash’ boxer shorts and bags, which you can buy online. That was a big highlight for me as I love travelling and working at the same time.
‘Generally though, I just love getting a load of mates and mates of mates together and having a laugh when we run a stage at an event or whatever other randomness we get up to. SIKA studios is an ever evolving family. If it wasn’t fun, none of us would be still doing it.
If it wasn’t fun, none of us would be still doing it… It’s an amazing journey through extreme stress, laughter, silliness and jokes whilst working on the SIKA stage
‘It’s an amazing journey through extreme stress, laughter, silliness and jokes whilst working on the SIKA stage and then finally we get to sit back and admire what we’ve built – at points it’s made me want to cry with happiness! It’s given me and the team so many memories and chances to meet lots of people. It’s been great to watch people progress to do really well in what they love doing.’
Before parting ways, Chris talks about the future of SIKA and whether or not he’d ever see himself running a bigger stage.
‘I don’t think I’d ever want to progress to a much more commercial stage. It would kind of feel like I was selling out and I want to continue booking the same people I have been working with from the very beginning. It wouldn’t be right otherwise. I’d feel like I’d be saying thank you to everyone who helped create our stage, but then not booking them anymore. Personally, I want to stay as loyal as possible to the foundations that have helped me and the SIKA team over the years.’
Photos by Martin Thompson // @thefacecollective