Introducing: salute

The Vienna-born Manchester-based producer and DJ talks about how they got their mates together to help craft their latest energetic album, which boasts collaborations with Disclosure and Rina Sawayama.

8 min
Introducing Beatportal Header Salute
Jun 24, 2024
·
By
Ben Jolley

By salute’s own admission, their career has been a “slow burner”. However, Felix Angyumanu Nyajo is refreshingly honest and surprisingly appreciative of their journey. “I’ve had the time to dig deep into who I am,” the Vienna-born Manchester-based artist considers. “I've made mistakes creatively, and I’ve figured out exactly what I want from this project,” the producer and DJ adds. “I think I had to experience that to realise what it is I wanted to do creatively.”

Such artistic honesty is rare to find but, after a decade of making and releasing music, Nyajo is sure of their sonic identity – though that’s not always been the case. In fact, it wasn’t until 2018 that - having started to swap the sparse post-dubstep of his early releases for bubbling synth-led club heaters - they felt “totally in tune” with themselves.

“That era of releasing music was probably the first time I wasn’t trying to be anyone else,” they say. “I was just trying to be the best version of myself and, as a listener, I think you can tell when an artist is really tapped into themselves.” The ecstatic beats of 2021 - released hits "Want You There" and "Joy," as well as euphoric festival anthems "Wait For It" and "Peach" - which dominated the UK festival season in 2023 - certainly prove Nyajo’s point.

Salute Beatportal interview

They've undoubtedly been on a winning streak of late - from playing massive festival and club shows to the “huge honour” of being nominated for Best Electronic Artist at the 2024 MOBO Awards - but the internal push-pull he once faced likely relates to the “melting pot” of music they listened to in their early years. Their church-going parents played soul, funk, gospel and reggae, and their older brother shared his love of R&B and hip-hop (particularly artists like Ciara, Aaliyah and Nas). Though Nyajo’s calls themselves an “R&B baby”, Nyajo was drawn to “more aggressive forms of music”, particularly metal, electro-house and, as he reached their early teens, drum ’n’ bass, jungle and dubstep.

“I think it was something about how weird and strange it felt to me at the time,” they reflect, adding that they liked the rawness of such sounds. Aged 13, Nyajo “stumbled into making music” after watching their older brother play keys; feeling inspired, they started having lessons and their “fascination” with dance music took over. “I was interested to learn how all these different sounds were made,” Nyajo recalls. Watching beat-making tutorials on YouTube excited Nyajo and helped them realise ‘I want to do that!’

Nyajo soon began to make d’n’b on their own, however it wasn’t until they turned 17-years-old that they realised ‘maybe I could do something more with this’. Although making music for fun, they also “took it very seriously because it was the one thing I loved doing and was good at”. Nyajo started DJ’ing around the same time, and enjoyed it as much as producing. After landing bookings in Austria, Nyajo started making a name; gigs in Germany and meeting new friends followed.

Moving to the UK aged 18 and embedding themselves in the club scene strengthened their passion for electronic music. Having only seen grime performances on YouTube, they state that being in the midst of a 2014 Butterz night in Brighton that Elijah, Skilliam and Novelist “made me realise how much I had missed out on. The culture and sense of community is so much more than the music itself.” Seeing Rustie go back-to-back with Hudson Mohawke at Leeds Warehouse was equally “unbelievable.” 

Being front and centre for shows like - and releasing several EPs under the moniker of salute - resulted in Nyajo making many connections. A handful of these artist friends proved instrumental in the creation of his forthcoming album, True Magic. These included Karma Kid who, having known since they were 18, executive produced the album, Adam from Bondax who played bass and keys, producer Lxury, and vocalist/songwriter LEILA who wrote some of the songs that feature on the record; she is also the voice of "Joy" and "Wait For It."

Having rented a house in the Kent countryside for a week, Nyajo invited them all to join them and work on some demos he had started, as well as create songs from scratch. Although it was a far more collaborative approach than they had been used to, Nyajo found this more “pop-leaning” way of working - with a bunch of writers in the room, all adding things - beneficial for several reasons. “If I’m in the studio and run out of ideas then my friends can just suggest something and we build that into the tune, rather than me struggling alone. It’s a nice way to work,” he adds; “and it makes you feel less like you can't move any further if you run into a dead end."

Disconnecting themselves from the outside world, including all social media, proved positive, too, as it allowed the unofficial band to fully focus. “The house was surrounded by forest, so there was nothing to do out there apart from write music.” He adds that “it was a really good crew of people. We know each other’s musical identities inside out, so it's nice, on a personal level, for them to be a part of something that means so much to me.”

Away from the house in the countryside, Arguably the biggest name to feature on the album is alt-pop artist Rina Sawayama. “I’ve been friends with her for 10 years,” Nyajo reveals, adding that the pair met “before anyone really knew she was”. Having done some production work on her first album, they say Sawayama expressed an interest in wanting to do “some more dance-y stuff; she’s obviously been so busy absolutely dominating the pop sphere but we got together last year and she absolutely killed it”, they say of their track, the euphoric "saving flowers."

Introducing salute Beatportal 1

Sawayama isn’t the only huge alt-pop name to lend their voice to True Magic, however. With a similar dance-focused aim, Empress Of became another collaborator. “I have been obsessed with her music for years,” Nyajo reflects, “and I assumed that she probably didn’t know who I was.” To his surprise, she was keen to work with him and, when the pair met up in LA, they “got on like a house on fire”, resulting in ‘one of those nights.'

Having many mutual friends, Nyajo also worked with Disclosure, who have been longtime supporters of their music as salute. How they ended up working together was “pretty random” however. “Guy text me saying ‘hey, I’ve just seen you in LA. Come to the studio tomorrow’.” Of course, he did, resulting in them creating several tracks. Since then, they’ve been playing DJ sets together and working on more music which, Nyajo says, “has been a nice way to get to know each other”.

This collaboration in particular is a full circle moment as Disclosure’s debut album, ‘Settle’, was one of Nyajo’s favourites when they were 16-years-old. “That album did a lot for dance music, especially crossover pop-dance music,” they say; “and the way I viewed this album was to be in the same lane”.

Undoubtedly, salute has achieved that goal with True Magic. Full of upbeat technicolour production and ludicrously catchy singalong choruses, its 14 club-ready dance-pop bangers present a full-bodied showcase of the artist they've become (with a little help from his friends). “I don't think I would have been able to make this album any sooner than I did,” Nyajo concludes. salute’s patience has certainly paid off.

salute's album, True Magic, is slated to drop on July 12th via Ninja Tune.



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