By: Filip Sandström Beijer
Photo by: Zeina Idris
If you're out and about in Berlin, it's likely that you've come across FKA.M4A behind the mixers. For Playful, they tell their story of growing up in London, their love of traveling and food as well as their goals of dominating the electronic music scene, and a relatively new and special friendship with Peggy Gou.
Born and raised in London, they were a quiet, withdrawn kid who didn't have many friends. In their teens, an interest in fashion and clothing developed, much thanks to their mother. And you can safely say that they've got "the look".
"Plenty of my fashion interest came from her and started from young age. I go for quite simple and comfortable things, but also vibrant. My mum is my fashion inspiration."
Their mother, whom they describes as an extravagant person, didn't only inspire with her style, but also with the music, which she introduced to her child even before they were born.
"When I look back, music has been there for as long as I can remember. When my mum was pregnant, she used to hold headphones to her stomach and played music to me through them. I grew up in a house of music.
They started playing their own instruments when they were around 11-12-years old.
"I started playing Piano, but I found it really hard for some reasons. I also wanted to be a drummer, but my dad convinced me out of it when he said that it would mean that I wouldn't get to stay and talk to the girls at the end of the gig and also that I would have to pack down the drum kit '. But now I'm like well, neither of those are relevant anyway. There are no girls In my life, at least not in that way," they says and laughs.
Instead, they started their musical journey via YouTube and began singing.
"I used to open YouTube tabs and I started to play instrumental in one tab and do it acapella in another. That was what I was doing as a little awkward teenager".
With pop influences from the family and a love of nightclub life, they started DJ: ing in London and quickly felt that it was something they wanted to continue with.
After a trip to Berlin, they immediately felt that this was their domicile of choice.
"It's kind of hectic in London compared to Berlin. In London, a lot of people don't have a quality of life. Here in Berlin, I think people are having a better balance"
As a Berlin tourist in the middle of the summer, it was a little shock when they finally moved here three years ago and arrived in the city in the middle of winter.
"I felt like I was catfished. I had only visited Berlin in the summer, and I was like 'Oh my God this is amazing!' And then I moved here in January. I didn't see the sun for two months ".
Even so, the love for Berlin came immediately.
"I've always been searching for my home. In Berlin, I fell in love with the possibility to sit at a table with ten people where everyone comes from a different part of the world. And just the mix of so many cultures and different kinds of people! I've learned so much from cultures and people since living here. Berlin just makes me happy."
Musically, it was also an obvious choice, after getting a taste of the electronic scene as a tourist.
"I wanted to challenge myself and make a name for myself on the European electronic music scene. I have a love and connection to Amsterdam and other places, but I really wanted my Berghain booking. And I said, I'm gonna move here and focus on these goals, with the main focus to dominate the music scene.”
Under the artist name FKA.M4A, they're now on their way. Despite the pandemic and it’s closing of the club scene, FKA.M4A has managed to play at Panorama Bar, closed Buttons and played as a support act for Peggy Gou among many other memorable gigs. In addition, a good friendship has been built between FKA.M4A and the latter, much thanks to a DM from Miss Gou on Instagram.
"I was just at home one day, chilling. Suddenly I got a DM from Peggy, asking if I would like to come and play at the release party for her new single. And I was like, wow, that's quite big and I said yes. And then she was like 'Are you also available this weekend? Because I'm doing a gig in Mannheim and I would love it if you could come and open for me, so that we can get to know each other a bit before the release party'".
They consented again and boarded the train to Mannheim, and this became the start of a good friendship – and also a learning experience. .
”She basically become a mentor for me. She takes such good care of me, giving advice and support about the industry and music production. And it’s crazy – back in 2019 I was listening to a lot of her music and having it in my sets, and now we're friends.”
It's clear that FKA.M4A:s inspiration and admiration comes from female artists.
” I really admire a strong woman who is at the top of the music industry and killing it. Especially someone like Honey Dijon, a black trans woman.As people of colour, we have to work two or three times as hard for less of the success. I really admire the strength that women and people of colour have, making It through the industry”
In normal cases, when there is no pandemic going on, FKA.M4A is often on tour.They like to travel, but not just for the concerts. Food is also something that is close to their heart.
”I mostly travel for the food. I love to eat. Eating is my biggest passion besides music. It's not to the benefit of my health because I eat what I want, and I don’t work out or anything. I really love touring. This year I was grateful for the break the fourth Covid wave brought me, of course not for the clubs having to close down, but for me personally. I’ve learnt my lesson this year, I learnt to start saving money by now”.
As a touring DJ and food lover, we can't refrain from asking about their best food tips in Berlin.
"Korean food is my favourite food in the world. There's amazing fried chicken in Berlin, even if the Korean kitchen is so much more than that. My favourite is Kokio, by Danziger Strasse and I'm actually heading there after this interview", they laugh.
Besides the happiness Korean food brings them, it seems like the feeling is leading the way even on stage.
"Everything I play always roots in happiness and motivation. The fact that I'm pretty much smiling through my whole sets, looking people in the eyes, and that I do occasionally drop classics where everyone sings along. That creates the vibe on the dance floor", they says and continues;
"I think the Berlin sound, and electronic music in general is quite pretentious. Sometimes DJ: s take themselves too seriously. Just relax, I want my music and my sets to be as unpretentious as possible. I don 't like the vibe of it feeling forced. "
At the dinner table with FKA.M4A
Grill Royal (€€€) - This is my favourite restaurant for the best possible meats & seafood I could enjoy. Everything is prepared to the highest standard and has the best service i’ve experienced in Berlin!
Kokio (€) - For super fast & easy Korean fried chicken, there’s several different Korean Fried Chicken spots across Berlin, but for me this is #1. The Soy Wasabi flavour is the absolute best!
Arirang (€€) - The best Korean BBQ in Berlin I would say, it has a very homely feel and it’s extremely laid back. It’s in a residential part of Prenzlauer Berg or Kudamm and I like that it’s a bit hidden. Food is always super delicious!
Five Guys (€) - it’s so simple & easy; but for me it’s easily the best Burger & Fries combo here in Berlin!
Lucky Star (€€) - The best Chinese restaurant in Berlin, in my opinion - it’s in a super busy neighbourhood, but usually the vibe is just 100% perfect! The food is spiced incredibly (if you enjoy that) and the drinks are extra strong!