An Interview With The Grammy-Nominated Musician and Producer, VICTORIA KÜHNE!
Get to know the multi-disciplinary talent, artist and GRAMMY-nominated producer Victoria Kühne! She recently unveiled the video for her brand new song “Kings,” the second single from her debut EP Saints, out Wednesday, November 13th. Shining a light on her female empowerment mindset, the “Kings” video turns the patriarchy on its head and envisions a modern royalty where gender roles are broken.
“Kings” follows a Venus character on her journey to self-empowerment, exuding a badass confidence, taking complete control of her decisions and going after what she wants. “Kings” is a powerful statement of strength, with lyrics that find a woman at the end of a relationship referring to herself as a king, serving as a reminder that the most important relationship you can have is with yourself.
“The story of the video is very subtle but it’s about me coming out of a toxic relationship and coming out stronger and surrounded by these bad-ass girls, which are kind of like my coven,” said Victoria. “The video represents this unbreakable bond and sisterhood of girlfriends who are so connected and supportive of each other that everything one does and goes through affects the others as well.”
“Kings” follows on the heels of Victoria’s debut single “Vice,” which Popdust described as being “soaked in electro-dance melodrama.” Complete with ecstatic sexually-enlightened energy, “Vice” features an anthemic chant, shuddering synths, neon beats and fabulous fashion looks from the likes of Gucci, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and even some of Victoria’s own designs from her brand, Kühne.
Earlier this year, she received a 2019 GRAMMY® Award nomination for Best Tropical Latin Album – the only female producer nominated in that category – for her work on “Ponle Actitud” by Felipe Peláez. With impressive contributions across music, film, theater and nightlife, Victoria is now releasing her own solo music for the first time, inviting us into yet another facet of her boundless creativity.
Learn more about Victoria Kühne in the following All Access interview:
What does a typical day look like for you? What do you have scheduled the rest of today and this week?
There’s really no typical day for me because it all depends on what project I’m working on or what artist is recording at my studios and how involved I’m going to be in that particular project. I have two studios here in Mexico. Victoria Records, my recording studios which are open to other artists as well, and then there’s KÜHNE, which are my private creative design/art studios. If I wake up and feel more social and what I have to say needs to come out with melodies and chords and lyrics, then I head to Victoria Records. Other days, I wake up needing a creative outlet that feels more private and personal, so I feel more inclined to head to my design studio and draw or create pieces of clothing without the craziness of the recording studios. As a multi-disciplinary artist, I am lucky, and I appreciate having these options and spaces in Mexico. Plus, my entire family and friends are here, so I get to have a very balanced life which is the most important thing for me. Lunch/dinner is always with friends and family members. The agenda today is that it’s the final day of editing on the “KINGS” video, which is my upcoming single. Tomorrow I am a judge on a singing competition here that the government organizes as a part of “Festival Internacional Santa Lucia” and it’s a project really close to my heart. The winner gets to record at Victoria Records and perform at the festival in October. Then in two days I leave for London to do a bit of songwriting and for a quick girl’s trip, which I very much need since I’ve been working nonstop.
Now that we are more than half-way through the year, how has 2019 been treating you? What are some goals that you have had for yourself this year? How close are you to reaching them or did you already? What are you already excited about for 2020?
This was my first time ever putting out music in the US and I am so happy with how “VICE” was received. 2019 started off pretty amazing with a Grammy nomination for a project I co-produced. I was the only female producer in that category so being able to represent was one of the highlights of my life and career. I thought that would be the peak point of the year but then shooting this last video “KINGS” was such a fulfilling experience creatively. I wrote the treatment for that video, co-directed it, co-produced it, supervised every single look I wore and every single look that the dancers wore. I am completely involved in the editing process as well, which means today my day will be 100% about that. I think at this point I am so proud of my team and of our work this year that I couldn’t ask for more.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be in this industry? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
I grew up in the music industry. I was just 11 when my parents built the recording studios I now run, and I basically grew up surrounded by creatives. People around me were always writing and producing for other artists and I eventually joined in. It was very organic for me. It was never really a choice I made but more like the world I grew up in and everything I know and love.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
I always knew this was where I belonged and I am so grateful to have been exposed to so many different disciplines and to be able to work in music, film, fashion, as well as my nightclub/restaurant. Being a multi-disciplinary artist and a business woman feels like I am doing a million different projects all the time that allow me to have so many creative outlets, which makes me feel completely fulfilled.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? What has been the best part about it all?
The biggest surprise has been how nicely I’ve been welcomed to collaborate on so many different genres in both Spanish and English. It’s a blessing to be able to explore Jazz one week, Tejano music the next, Tropical Latin, then Pop… I never get bored. It’s always a good challenge to have as a songwriter and as a producer. The best part has been being able to represent women as we are still quite outnumbered by men in the industry in literally every area.
Let’s talk about your single “Vice.” What was the inspiration for this track? What was it like making the music video for it? How creatively involved with the making of the video were you? How fun was it to include all that incredible fashion including your own designs from Kuhne?
“Vice” was inspired by one of my favorite paintings, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Bosch. I am a very visual person and I found myself submerged in that painting during my whole writing process for this song. In the song I am temptation in the human form which is a concept I am obsessed with. I wanted the video to portray what the 2019 version of the Garden of Eden would be like if I were running the place. This video is my version of a modern Eden through my eyes and in my perception, it would be full of excesses and overindulgence. I needed each look in the “Vice” video to reflect that decadence and excessiveness, which was a really fun reference for me and my team to build from.
How would you say that “Vice” is a great introduction to your music and your forthcoming EP, “Saints”? How did you decide for it to be the first single released from the EP?
Ever since I started working on this EP, all I’ve wanted is to bring a full experience to people. Not just one single after another but a body of work and a concept that’s defined by the duality in all of us. If you listen to the lyrics carefully, you’ll find how the five songs are connected and are part of the same universe I created for this first EP, and “VICE” made sense as the first song to drop because it always felt like the first chapter of the story.
I am curious to know why it took so long for you to finally work on your own music and release your music? Why did you put your own personal work on the back burner for so long? Why did now feel like right time to release your music? How do you think your music compares to the other music that you have produced for others?
Being in the studio with other artists is my happy place. My safe space. My natural habitat. Eventually I just felt like I had a lot to say and felt the need to create my own sound after so many years of doing collaborations and working on other artists’ projects. This is me finally being vulnerable with my art and sharing my vision as an artist. It’s almost like I couldn’t hold back anymore. It had to happen. When it’s someone else’s project, I love a big group of people collaborating. When we got nominated for the Grammy earlier this year, my biggest joy was that I got to share it with so many of my best friends from this industry because we all somehow ended up in the same album and it was really dope. But when it comes to my own project and my own work, I am really protective of my art and I have a very clear vision of what I want to say and how I need it to look visually. I don’t like collaborating more than I need to, so what I am putting out ends up being extremely personal, fragile and vulnerable, which is what I think art should ultimately be all about.
Can you talk about starting your own label and recording studio, Victoria Records and how having it to release music under and given you more musical independence? Do you plan on representing other artists under it?
Having the studios and the dopest team of people with me at Victoria Records. It gives me the freedom to do a lot of collaborations and to work with a lot of artists I would not be able to otherwise. It also gives me the freedom to have full control of what I want to put out and when, which is extremely important to me because it allows me to be a completely genuine artist. I am grateful every day and know and understand how lucky I am to be in this position. I try to give back as much as I can by doing master classes in the studios and supporting music education in any way we can. Currently I have three artists signed to my label as well. I signed the first one around five years ago.
I’d love to know more about your mission to serve as mentor and create opportunities for women within the music industry?
The first time I was ever invited to speak and give a master class and be in the panel of something really big was during Berklee’s first Women’s Empowerment Symposium at their Valencia campus. That weekend changed my life and made me open my eyes to my mission in this industry. My team at Victoria Records and I recently gave a master class at our local university on music business and music production and it only confirmed to me that music education is one of my biggest passions and I was especially excited to stay for a few hours afterwards to talk to the girls in the audience about what it means to be a woman in the music industry today. At this point of my career I’ve made it my mission to represent the girls until the numbers are balanced out.
What do you think of women’s representation in the music industry right now? Who or what do you think is truly changing the environment these days?
We need to keep working hard until we make up more than only 2% of producers, 3% of audio engineers, 12.3% of songwriters and 22.4% of artists in this industry. We are responsible to change the environment. Those of us who are in a position to change these numbers must be doing something about it on a daily basis. With my film company, Victoria Films, we make sure every film crew in every project is 50/50 female/male. When I’ve been in studios in other places in the world, I always ask for a girl runner etc. It’s these day to day details that start opening people’s eyes. With my first single “VICE,” I had this idea in my head of it needing to have the female touch in the first and last steps of the process, so since the first step was that I wrote the song on my own, I wanted the last step to be that a woman mastered it, so we asked Michelle Mancini to do it. She’s like a unicorn to me as there are almost no female mastering engineers in the world, but it’s these types of decisions we make every single day that are gonna start shifting the numbers. I feel it’s my responsibility in a way and I don’t take it lightly.
Where can people see you perform next? Do you have any fall tour dates scheduled yet? Do you hope to perform these new songs of yours out soon?
Not yet but hopefully soon! For now, I will be doing two live sessions in my recording studios and those videos will come out later this year. A little taste of what the show and the live versions of the songs will sound like.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music?
I am a lot more curious now. Just today I spent half of the day looking for weird synths and toys I can include in the upcoming live session we are filming. I am a lot more open to experimenting and making mistakes. It’s a good thing.
How do you feel about social media? What has social media done for your career so far?
Social media has played a big part in building a name for my company, Victoria Records. It’s the only way people from the industry all over the world got to see my studios at the beginning. The amount of exposure the studios have gotten because of social media has been quite a lot. For me personally, I use it as another creative outlet to showcase my art and my process. It’s a great way for artists to come together.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Actually, the Spice Girls were my first concert when I was 11 years old and they really opened my eyes to what individuality meant. At the time I was at a super strict all-girls Catholic school, had to wear a uniform and wear my hair a certain way just like all the other girls did, etc. I was in complete awe of the Spice Girls and longed to be able to wear what I wanted, say what I wanted, break rules and really explore who I was and find my own style and personality just like they each had their own super defined style and persona. They were my first real taste of girl power and they will always be special to me. I would love to co-produce something with Jack Antonoff. I just did an internship with his sister last year in New York for her clothing line during fashion week. They seem like really amazing people.
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
Very close to what the “Promised Land” music video is gonna look like (which comes out in October). The whole video is in 3D and takes place inside a museum hall. It’s a concept I dreamed up and we’ve been working on it for months and months already. It’s gonna be insane.
Where would you love to hear a song of yours played?
The Oscars for sure. I love working on music for films. I’ve had the honor of working with Jonas Cuaron and Alfonso Cuaron in the past and it has been one of the highlights of my career, so something along those lines.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
In this first EP I chose to talk a lot about giving into sin, pain and pleasure, power and temptation. My close friends who have heard the full project tell me my songs make them wanna make bad decisions that make them feel more alive. I love the idea that my music could inspire people to experiment with life more and take charge of their bodies and their experiences. That’s what SAINTS is all about.