Psykhi on journey to the very top with his thrilling rap-tinged psych punk
Every once in a while, an artist emerges that makes you instantly stand up and take notice.
Meet Psykhi – the Ghanian-born rising talent whose heady mix of psychedelia, punk, grunge and rap, has transformed him into one of the most thrilling new acts around.
The 21-year-old, who now lives in London, splices the expansive psych of Tame Impala, the scuzzy riffs of Nirvana, and the rap cadences of Playboi Carti for a formidable sound that engrosses you from the first hook.
And it’s not just Psykhi’s sonics that impress. Lyrically he touches upon personal experiences, symbolism, human concepts and relationships for inspiration that flows from melodies he conjures from his guitar.
Take the excellent single White Picket Fence, a hypnotic, grunge-esque cut which represents a critique on the nuclear family dynamic.
“Everyone’s part of the human experience. It’s all frequencies”, Psykhi told Daily Star. “I don’t want to make my music something that focuses on one person that’s going through stuff, who that has done something mad. I want it to represent real life and be realistic.”
Psykhi’s love of music was born in his native Ghana, where he lived with his teacher parents and siblings. Talking to Daily Star, he vividly recalls listening to Elton John on his grandad’s radio and listening to the Ghanaian genre highlife around his village.
After moving to Dagenham at the age of 14, his musical horizons expanded as he explored Tame Impala’s Currents, Jimi Hendrix, Stone Roses, Wire and Bauhaus.
“When I got here I saw Currents by Tame Impala and it literally changed the way I view music. The psychedelic vibe of it all”, he added. “I kind of took my name from psychedelia a little bit. The effect is so amazing that I wanted it to be synonymous with myself in terms of listening to music and taking it elsewhere.”
He dropped the mixtape Psykhi Pills in 2019 but his stock is set to soar with the release of his new EP Young later this year.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with Psykhi to talk about his journey so far, his singles, influences, and his ultimate goal.
Hi Psykhi. Tell me more about yourself. When did you get in to music?
“I’ve made melodies in my head from way back as far as I can remember.
“I first started writing songs around the age of 11 in a small notebook. Later I gradually wrote about stuff around me.
"It wasn’t a regular thing, there was no routine to it. I’m just a musical person you could say.”
How did it feel when you realised you could do this so young?
“I had a bunch of friends in school that had notebooks and were trying to be artists. I remember one girl in particular had a tiny notebook and would just write lyrics in it. That’s my first memory of wanting to get a notebook.
“From then I’ve been writing, listening to riffs and instrumentals.”
You’ve released the singles White Picket Fence and Rat Poison. Tell me more about how they were written. What are they about?
“I’m so proud of them. I put my headphones on and played a riff for each song on repeat. I wrote what came to me. The feeling I get from the instrumental, the emotion I channel based on what I’m listening to, and how I’m feeling at the time is what I write. I don’t really come in with a process necessarily.
“The first few melodies on White Picket Fence reverberated through my whole being. I was sitting at the end of the park next to the train tracks with my notepad open. It’s taken on a bunch of different meanings over time.
“It started as a sarcastic look at the ‘white picket fence’ outlook but panned away into the growing descent in the nuclear family dynamic. Like a sense of disappointment.
"I don’t want to delve too much into the personal stuff as it would bring different meanings, but I haven’t always lived in the nuclear family dynamic. I used to live with just my mother and my dad was living here. White Picket Fence stands a representation of me hoping to be in that dynamic at some point.
“I was having some relationship stuff going on as well that I brought into it.
“I don’t push what I call a ‘narcissistic narrative’. I’m just analysing things and giving context and exploring it without too much of a personal story. There are different emotions and perspectives within every human concept. I’m attempting to create musical worlds that will reflect that.
“Everyone’s part of the human experience. It’s all frequencies. I don’t want to make my music something that focuses on one person that’s going through stuff, who that has done something mad. I want it to represent real life and be realistic.
“I wrote Rat Poison in 2019. It’s a freestyling process, sort of. The songs mean something to me after I’ve sat back and realise what I’ve written. It relates to something in my life or someone else’s life, or this is something that has a moral ideal in it.”
You grew up in Ghana. How has the nation moulded you as a person and a musician? Your grandad’s radio played songs by Elton John, Michael Jackson and Nirvana to name a few. Did that inspire you even more to pursue your music dream?
“Ghana has a strong sense of community. Just living there, people in the street would just talk to you and say ‘good morning’ to you. They might even stop you for a conversation. That’s how they are as people – they respect you as a person, a member of the community. It’s a very normal thing to say ‘hi’ and walk on casually.
“It taught me to show respect to every person I came into contact with. The mythological culture they have in terms of fables and stories they have about concepts in life. Random things in life like relationships. They centre around moralistic ideals. They’re stories that require a bit of thinking to truly appreciate.
“My grandmother would tell me those stories in the evenings when I was around six. They gave me a sense of wonder and wisdom – learning about the world.
“Sacrifice by Elton John is a very nostalgic song for me. I associate it with rain falling into barrels from aluminium roofs. I literally have a moment where I was there, with the water falling and Sacrifice playing. It’s crazy.
“I heard it again in my early teens. I Googled the lyrics and I didn’t even know who Elton John was when I heard it on the radio. I love the sound of music coming from my grandad’s radio. It provokes a sense of euphoria.
“Just hearing the music alone didn’t make me want to be a musician. I realised I loved music and it gave me a feeling nothing else could really give.
“I don’t remember Michael Jackson playing on my grandad’s radio but I watched his funeral live. He was on telly all the time around the time he died. I was very inspired by his story about his family and the way he was being taught to be a musician by his dad everyday. Both of my parents are teachers, so I’m kind of used to be in the home life environment where I’m learning something every day. I related to that at the time.
“I loved his music videos and the horror mash-ups he did. He would add elements of horror into his music videos and music. I tried to do something like that in Rat Poison, that comical fun, Halloween vibe, which I think is very interesting to be able to create a story out of nothing.
“Michael, Elton John, Nirvana for sure. That music was a proper foundation for my love of music.”
You moved to Dagenham shortly after you turned 14. You later discovered the likes of Tame Impala, Wire, Stone Roses and The Cure to name a few. Can you describe the feeling of immersing yourselves in these acts for the first time?
“When I got here, I saw Currents by Tame Impala and it literally changed the way I view music. The psychedelic vibe of it all. I kind of took my name from psychedelia a little bit. The effect is so amazing that I wanted it to be synonymous with myself in terms of listening to music and taking it elsewhere. Escapism. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing.
“Listening to him (Kevin Parker), it expanded my mind to many different melodies in how music can be done. I heard guitar in The Cure, proper insane guitar riffs and progressions, a whole world of sound.
“Like in Sonic Youth where they use so many different guitars, tones, and effects to create this big world of music. I would sometimes start making melodies on a Sonic Youth instrumental. I would listen to it and make melodies for it.
“It’s amazing to listen to new music. It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, it teaches you a lot as a person and a musician.”
How would you describe the Psykhi sound?
“I wouldn’t call my music punk. I would say it’s smooth psychedelia with a punk expression.”
You released Psykhi Pills in 2019 and you’re releasing your new EP later this year. What can we expect from that?
“I released 10 songs in 2019. It was a very nihilistic time for me. I was trying to figure myself out. I didn’t really know what I was doing.
"Even in Ghana, I didn’t form a stable life in terms of ‘this is where I live, these are my friends, these are my activities’. My life has always been a bit interrupted.
“I had just finished sixth form and I was thinking about going to uni to do music. I made this mixtape. It had White Picket Fence and Rat Poison on it, and another song from the EP. I’m going to be releasing the current EP Youth I’m working on.
"I’ve taken some of the songs from Psykhi Pills and I’m looking at that time as one of formation for my stance in the world. I’m compiling some of the songs into this project to have a time capsule of the confusion and weirdness of my life.
"There were so many inconsistencies and it’s just trying to piece that altogether into one EP.”
Who would you say your main influences are, either personally or musically?
“The Clash were big. I remember listening to them in the park. I would listen to London Calling over and over.
“The Smiths were a big influence. Even on White Picket Fence, the way I’m singing, the melodies and the smoothness of it, I would say I learned that from The Smiths.
“Tame Impala for sure. Playboi Carti is an artist I’ve listened to a lot and learned a lot in terms of the rap cadence.
“Nirvana, Soundgarden…I listen to a lot of stuff. I haven’t listened to anything from a childhood point to say that it’s influenced me into who I am today. It would be a bit unfair to say that because I’ve listened to these bands over the past five or seven years.
“Some African Highlife influences me of course.”
What’s next for you? Do you have an ultimate goal?
“I want to be this person that gives a musical experience. In the future I would love to make some crazy shows that incorporate so many things and create this world on the stage.
“I want to create art. I want to do paintings. I want to do shows and other things that centre around my music as something that binds it into a world of life.
“I want to create a musical world that represents all these concepts.”
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