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Ashnikko on ferocious new single ‘Maggots’: “The incel movement makes me so f**king mad”

The US rapper-singer on raging in music, mental health and her “very guitar-driven” debut album

By Charlotte Krol

Ashnikko poses in a white dress
Ashnikko, 2021 (Picture: Press)

Ashnikko has spoken about how her new single ‘Maggots’ was inspired by online abuse she has faced from the incel community online – and has provided an update on her anticipated debut album.

The rapper and singer, who is based between London and LA, told Rolling Stone UK how the single sees her channel experiences of abuse from the online subculture: misogynistic young men who frequently target women.

On the track, her heaviest effort to date, she fantasises: “But I’ll fuck an incel up / And wear him like a sweater.”

She explained of the lyric: “Sometimes I get bombarded with these incel maggot parasite-like creatures on the internet. It makes me so fucking mad. I just needed an outlet and luckily my outlet is music. And I love angry femmes in music so that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to release my aggression: my pent-up aggression through the medium of music. And yeah, I’m trying to rage, I’m trying to start a mosh pit.”

The artist added that she wanted to funnel that energy through music because she doesn’t “feel very comfortable in regular mosh pits”.

“I don’t really feel that comfortable in crowds generally, really,” she said. “I get super claustrophobic and just anxious, which has increased by tenfold since the pandemic. But yeah, with this song it’s supposed to be a safe space mosh pit, you know? A place for women, a place for femmes to release some anger because the world is tough.”

Ashnikko, whose real name is Ashton Nicole Casey, is also readying herself for a North American and UK headline tour in the coming weeks (see dates here). The preparations have followed a busy couple of years in which she released her debut mixtape, ‘Demidevil’ (2021), which spawned the single ‘Daisy’ (106 million YouTube views and counting) and ‘Slumber Party’ featuring Princess Nokia

‘STUPID’ featuring Yung Baby Tate from her third EP ‘Hi, It’s Me’ (2019), became a TikTok smash upon its release with hundreds of thousands of song placements in clips. She released a string of EPs – ‘Sass Pancakes’, ‘Unlikeable’ and ‘Hi, It’s Me’ – between 2017 and 2019, and last year was selected to support Doja Cat on tour before the pandemic squashed plans.

Ashnikko has declined to confirm whether ‘Maggots’ or her other new single, ‘Panic Attacks In Paradise’, will make it onto the debut album that she said she is currently working on. The rapper has been hesitant to label her next project an “album” due to the undue pressures that it places on her art but said that something will “definitely” land in 2022.

“We’re warming up to the word, ‘album’. It’s all right, we’re getting there. We’re working our way closer,” she told Rolling Stone UK. As to the inclusion of the singles on it: “I just kind of go with the flow. We’ll see. I don’t want to promise anything.”

Casey added, however, that the “album” is “very guitar driven” and has a thematic throughline. “I would say it’s kind of concept, high concept. There are so many different genres on this album. So it’s very non-committal to one sound or genre which is kind of how I like to keep it. There is a theme running through it…that’s a secret.”

She also addressed what is arguably her most vulnerable song to date, ‘Panic Attacks In Paradise’, which she released simultaneously with ‘Maggots’ last week (September 29).

The single, which for the first time doesn’t contain any rapping, is an acoustic, emo-influenced song about trying to cloak depressive episodes and anxiety that is “definitely very autobiographical”.

But Ashnikko has been keen not to throw too much promotional weight behind it for wont of commodifying or undermining mental health. “I feel like sometimes writing about your own personal struggles – like putting whole like campaigns behind very personal songs about your mental health – can minimise the importance of what the song is actually about. I dunno, it can just come across as a little in bad taste sometimes. So I’ve been very wary putting this song out so that there’s not a huge campaign behind it,’ she said.

Some of the lyrics on the song read: “Panic attacks in paradise / Hyperventilating under candy skies / Telling myself that this is fine.”

“I think the most lonely thing in the world is when you’re really depressed but you feel like you can’t really articulate it or when you don’t really feel like you have a reason to or deserve to feel that way,” Casey explained of the song’s lyrical thrust.

Ashnikko performs live
Ashnikko performs live at Leeds Festival 2021 (Picture: Alamy)

“It just fucking sucks. And I really dislike having such tumultuous brain chemistry. Funnily enough, I actually wrote this song before the pandemic. It’s like, ‘Damn, if only you knew what was actually to come!’ I wrote this when I was on vacation and was actually still with my mind for one second. I’d been just going, going, going for seven years, just hustling as hard as possible, trying to make this music thing happen. And I was still for one second and realised that my actual mind, my wellbeing, my spirit was severely damaged and I hadn’t been taking care of myself at all.”

Is she feeling happier about things now?

“I feel like the pursuit of happiness is very elusive; it’s hard to come by. I really envy people who have just really steady emotional states that don’t rollercoaster up and down like mine. But yeah, I feel like I have happy days, for sure. But I also am a workaholic who forgets that sometimes it’s okay to just be a human being and just hang out with my dog and go for a walk. Being still is something I’m not very good at.”

Beyond music – particularly any anticipation for her debut album – Ashnikko sees a bright, varied and studious life ahead of her. “I’d love to get into acting. I would love to write a musical. I write a lot of short stories, so I’d love to do something with that. But yeah, I just love songwriting.

“I’m also really interested in mushrooms, so I really want to go to school and study mycology. I have a lot of interests. Life is long, so I would definitely love to do a bunch of different things.”

Ashnikko’s ‘Maggots’ and ‘Panic Attacks In Paradise’ are out now