Jersey born Nikki Smash picked up his first guitar, aged ten, when he began by emulating his dad. Playing in a band named “Mr. Rusty” Nikki’s dad would play loud Cream and Zeppelin, while Mum would listen to her lighter pop, such as Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams and Mötley Crüe. Uncle would try to push AC/DC. He played his first red and white Fender till his fingers were raw and blooded and was an Eric Clapton fan till he discovered Nirvana and experienced, like many others, the grunge-revelation.
He wrote his first song, aged twelve, after suffering a wave of painful bullying in school: “I wanted to write about myself... me as the centerpiece... I knew I was different from other guys... a thin personality, not academically gifted, and I was lonely... I was very much aware that I was not like them, so I retreated into the songs to express my feelings of isolation... to express my distance from the main body. ”
Nevertheless, Nikki was an accomplished sportsman, a very talented sprinter and a rising star in Jersey Rugby Squad: “But even in sport I felt distant… and running the 100 metres was the definition of escaping the herd… to run faraway. I guess you could say that even then, when I ran my heart out, I dreamed about where I would go. I was never vague about my ambitions, I had a clear will to succeed.” So, on his own, the islander jetted to London, aged seventeen, to attend the Guitar Institute. But the man from Jersey witnessed a murder and the experience gave him an insight into city life, an insight he didn't want or need... the experience sent him into a wobble. Nikki left the inner city for the coastal town of Brighton, to continue guitar studies at the world-famous Brighton BIMM music school. He achieved a lot, despite his dyslexia From the beginning, Nikki wanted to form his own band, but was quickly absorbed by the creatives of the vibrant musical scene in which he found himself, and who needed his services as an accomplished and reliable guitarist. His quick ear and exceptional tone meant he was in high demand. Many months were spent doing session-work for numerous artists and bands, and all this while he perfected his craftsmanship. During this formative time, his first months as a professional musician, he created lots of demo recordings: “Making stuff had always me occupied me. I found that if I was not engrossed in stuff, my mind went haywire. I found, early on, the most efficacious pursuit, for me, was to make different sounds…”
“The time I spent as a session player defined me as a musician. I’m not merely “a rock guy”. And I'm proud of that. I play pop, country, blues… you name it. And, as I watched the “scene” in Brighton I learned, quite quickly, the “right way of doing things” and I saw people go wrong too. So I developed a keen eye for the “profession” of music as well as the craft.”
“I experienced recording, post production, tour management, engineering, the business side of things… everything that makes an experienced musician competent, systematic, capable and professional.... It’s those things: like mentoring, guidance and consultations, tips on running a band or advice on balancing a live set that I want to offer new musicians... I can tell them the inside story. The stuff I learned through hard graft...” Nikki has a perceptive sense of self : “Some people grapple with what's proper art... I just grapple with myself...” he says with a smile. And he's an analytical thinker too, who wears his heart on his sleeve: “I am an advocate of good mental health for men. My influence has been Ian Thornley [Big Wreck], one of the great unknown heroes of guitar who has spoken openly about the stigma of mental health.” “When I write my songs, I'm leaving myself 100% vulnerable... if I'm not honest, why bother writing music? ”
Nikki has a great understanding of the world around him, especially through his song-writing... a process that usually involves introspection plus an overheard remark that can generate an idea. And he loves finding practical solutions to problems: “Once I hear a sound, it buzzes in my brain until I think of a way to contain it... Then I can recreate it on stage or in a studio.” He's charming and attractive: “The most triumphant accomplishment of my life is my marital status. I've been wonderfully married for years-and-years and I'm the proud Dad of a clever son...” And Nikki is singularly ambitious, with twelve years in music, he's working everyday with his band “The Rocket Dolls” (who were recently chosen to provide the theme to KNK shows at British Empire Wrestling.) But he says he wants to juggle this activity with at least three other simultaneous activities: a solo recording project, some tour management and maybe some mentoring. “Music got me out of big trouble...” he explains. “I had uncontrollable, repressed energy, and that meant I had to find release... Others must be in the same predicament as me. That's why I want to offer my services...”
He's determined and persistent and still finds time to train twice a week (boxing and kickboxing) and shows courage without concession: “It's okay to be fucked up,” he declares. “I want to express this fact, from the rooftops, and to all the young people I know. My home island of Jersey has the highest suicide rate in the United Kingdom. I got away and now I want to be the voice of hope: to encourage all the young men out there, who are fighting and winning against depression, to keep going...” “My message is this: Be a dude, dude. It's not fine to hurt people and not fine to hurt yourself... but it's always fine to be a dude...” He has a single minded drive: “Just two years ago, after a knee operation that went wrong, my use of steroids shot me up to 18.5 stone [259 pounds] but I was grateful to be alive. I started on a strict vegan diet and I exercised like hell. I took an interest in the natural world and got involved in athletics again. Look at me now... slim and fit... and I'm in control. How did I get here? I'm a fighter. Because you do, don't you? You fight every day... for survival.” He has a determined personality: “I am grateful to the universe for allowing me to get this far, but I'm not lazy. I know that it's only my single-minded approach that helped me overcome the unpredictability of life...”
And Nikki's always brimming with fresh ideas. He switches on, with a unique sense of context, to new sounds: “That's how I discover my thoughts...” he says. “When I find a new sound I learn all about it... And you know what? I learn about myself too... ”
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