TikTok has turned into the go-to social media platform during the COVID-19 pandemic, and among the many trends to emerge so far is the usage of Wuki’s “Better.” Fan videos have turned “Better,” a collaboration with Valentino Khan, into a viral sensation, with over 1 million made to date.
Yet, Wuki – born Kris Barman – isn’t a viral-hit wonder in the same vein as Baauer, the EDM-trap producer who quickly gained fame with the viral videos around “Harlem Shake” back in 2013. Instead, his music career started as part of electronic rock band Innerpartysystem, for which he produced, played guitar and synths, and sang backup vocals.
Innerpartysystem broke up in 2011 after four years together, and from there, Barman, under name Wuki, started remixing other artists and producing his own works. That dichotomy still illustrates his career today. His WUKILEAKS series, which kicked off with bootleg remixes for the Chainsmokers, Galantis, and other artists, continues to gain attention, and earlier in 2020, Wuki’s official remix of Miley Cyrus’ “Mother’s Daughter” earned him a Grammy nomination.
Then, as a producer, Wuki has racked up collaborations with Diplo, Skrillex, and Halsey, and, during quarantine, started a weekly advice stream via Twitch. Off the momentum of “Better,” Wuki recently released “Bad Girl Drumma,” a collaboration with Juvenile.
Making the most of his time sheltering in place, Wuki spoke with us about his current projects and upcoming release.
Let’s talk about your WUKILEAKS remix series: What’s your approach when reworking another artist’s track, and how do you make it distinct from the original?
So Wukileaks are usually bootleg remixes, edits, or mashups, meaning I take out parts of the song in an unofficial way. Usually, I try to find one sound or vocal that has a lot of identity, and I make an entire edit completely out of that one sound. I’ll also maybe mash it up with something else.
You received a Grammy nomination for your remix of Miley Cyrus’s “Mother’s Daughter.” How does it feel to be nominated for a Grammy?
It’s amazing…it’s like a giant stamp of approval for all the decisions I’ve made in life!
About that remix, what drew you to “Mother’s Daughter” to add your own take?
I have always been a huge fan of Miley. I love her vocals so much, and when I first heard this, I knew I could flip it really well because of all the cool adlibs.
Your musical background includes starting on guitar and playing in the band Innerpartysystem. How do these factors influence your tracks as a solo artist?
So, I think that’s where I learned that a good hook is so important even in dance music. It can be an instrumental hook or even a hooky drum pattern, but no matter what, songwriting comes into play there.
These days, what’s your approach for putting together a track?
I definitely try to have some kind of idea or concept before I make a song these days. I feel like that way, it will come out as much more of a statement.
You’ve collaborated with several heavyweight EDM performers. How has working with Diplo, Skrillex, and others influenced how you produce?
Being in the studio with Sonny is a massive influence. The way he just keeps the creative juices flowing is how I really started to approach music.
Since many went into quarantine, you decided to use Twitch to provide feedback to aspiring producers and do fan Q&As. What made you decide to start this weekly streaming show?
I realized how many amazing young producers there are out there now, and I wanted to lend an ear. It’s actually been so cool to see some of them take my advice and come back with a better idea!
As well, you’ve done a few other livestreams. What’s it like DJing from your home for fans?
It’s something we’re all getting used to, but I actually really enjoy it. Somehow I feel more connected to my fans than I did before. I think when the post-COVID era starts, this will be something I will keep on doing.
You just released a standout track with Juvenile “Bad Girl Drumma”. How did you two get linked together and what was it like working with Juvenile?
I basically told my manager to figure out how I can get him on a song, haha. I had New Orleans bounce style track and I knew he would be perfect for it!
Has the success of “Better” on TikTok surprised you?
Haha, yes! What a crazy time. Who would have thought that one person in Korea could start such a viral trend?
You’re gearing up for a full-length album this fall. What can fans expect to see from the album?
I’ve always been known as a multi-genre producer, so this album will feature all of my favorite genres I like to produce. I really feel like I have stepped into my “sound” this past year, so I’m so excited to show the world!