Nina Belief – An Interview With Miami’s Dark Wave Queen
By: Vanessa Haim
For over a decade, Tushna, also known as the artist Nina Belief, has been creating her synth-heavy, minimalist sounds out of the Magic City: Miami. A self-taught musician, Nina Belief was born from her journey into music making. Embodying her goth, post-punk roots, she’s a worldwide sensation in the darkwave scene and beyond.
I caught up with Nina to discuss her origins, vintage synthesizers and upcoming return of her infamous party Monotone.
Early on in your musical career in 2007, you were in the electronic group RONIN. Why did you decide to go solo?
Back in 2007 I found myself buried in manuals trying to sort out synthesis. I’d been making tracks with Carlo for Ronin on an occasional basis, but it was more dabbling in the medium. I found it difficult to arrive at the same sounds I’d accidentally created so I gave it a go and decided to learn and understand the process in a more technical sense. Each time I learned a new parameter of a machine I tested it out on a track. That’s how the lessens became ingrained in my memory. Nina was born out of self tutelage.
Nina Belief embodies your love of dark electro, described as “analog synth underground”. How would you describe your style of music?
When I spend time in my studio the pendulum can swing left or right depending on the machines I’m using. I can be easily swayed to make a synth-punk style track or something a little more electro depending on my mood. Most people will call it minimal synth or electro since I rub shoulders with many artists in those genres, but if you listen up there’s a lot of post-punk and death rock undertone. People won’t hear it at first but I’m reaching out to their roots. Don’t be fooled by the bass drum boom!
What artists influenced you and your work?
All of the greats! Too many to list. Even if you don’t consciously think an artist has influenced you there are traces of style and technique that will creep into your composition. So much of what I grew up on and currently listen to is ingrained in my psyche. So, you tell me what you hear.
You play original 1980’s analog synthesizers and drum machines. What drew you towards the older models and what other instruments do you work with?
Before the current revival of analog gear, vintage machines where my go to. Each machine has a voice and it’s sort of like listening to your friends. You get to know them by ear and gravitate towards them, seeking them out. A lot of vintage synths and drum machines became popular because they created that nostalgic sound. These days I care less about the gear and use whatever I desire to play. I’m not interested in being known for my collection of machines. When all of that is stripped away only the music remains. No one enjoys looking at a painting simply because an artist uses a certain paintbrush.
Nina Belief – Severance music video, 2007.
Any challenges you run into as a female artist?
No, I just push that noise aside. I’ve earned the right to stand amongst all humans.
You’re signed to Berlin based record label No Emb Blanc Records. What’s the music scene like in Germany compared to Miami?
I’ve traveled to several countries and our Minimal Synth Family is tiny. Around the world the party is the same. Small group of people, usually under 100 at the venue. They have a deep passion for the music and when you meet other musicians making this type of sound you feel you’ve known them for years. I truly believe it takes certain cerebral mechanism for folks to be in love with this genre. So when I meet them I feel an instant kinship for sure.
Aside from music, you and your husband Carlo started the party Monotone, which showcases dark electronic music, goth and all things synth. How did that come to fruition?
Monotone started back in 2004. We were traveling to Europe often just to go to festivals or see bands play. There we would hear people playing the same records we had at home. Each time we’d return feeling empty, knowing no party existed like this in Miami. Up until that point we’d get together with our friends and spin tracks. Finally we decided it was time to cultivate a new experience and stop caring what people thought about our sets. Monotone was born as a house party really but it grew with legendary nights of risk and debauchery. Groups of new people were introduced to genre which back then (and even now) we call Minimal Electronic. People would loose themselves and those early nights were magical. We began seeking out venues to throw the events once a month as to stop hosting dance parties in our home.
What can we expect for the return of Monotone at Gramps, Saturday, March 17?
Firstly Monotone is now a seasonal party with solid live acts. The first one being with one of our favs, Automelodi. I’ve been trying to book this band for 7 years now. Finally Miami gets it’s turn. Carlo, our DJ is curating a special selection to pull from. I’d say he’s our best kept secret in the sense he’s an underrated DJ and isn’t only interested in playing a night full of hits. It’s about experiencing tracks you wouldn’t necessarily have a chance to discover or hear over a proper sound system. I find his current sets emotional and poetic. He continues to sweep me away.
Nina Belief – Indigo, 2018.
Any other plans for Nina Belief in 2018?
Yes! Of course. I’m off and running this year with an LA show, followed by Monotone and then I head out on a mini tour to play France and Germany. This year I’m booked at The Gothic Pogo Festival and we just announced Monotone is bringing Rational Youth to Miami! Plus we have two other shows that are unannounced, but solidified. We’re also throwing another club event (not Monotone) that’s in the works. Lots of action coming our way and an exciting year for the Monotoners!