By Myki Angeline
Victoria Kühne is a multi-faceted entrepreneur and Grammy-nominated producer whose creativity reaches beyond music, to film, clothing, and the arts. Born and raised in Mexico, Victoria’s exposure to music came at age 11 when her parents built their music studio in Monterrey, Nuevo León. The studio started out as an artist developer for EMI music. In 2011, Victoria took over the studio (Victoria Records) expanding it into a Mexican record label, management company, publisher and recording studio which as worked with artists like Korn, MIA, The Natives, The Strokes, Jonas Cuaron, Pedro Fernandez and Intocable. Victoria Records was featured on Mix Magazine’s “Class of 2018″ list of the year’s coolest studios.
Adding to her list of accolades, Victoria also founded her own clothing brand (Kühne) and film company, Victoria Films. For the video, “Kings”, her recent single, she had creative control over every aspect from choreography and costume, to set design and concept.
One of her missions has been to serve as a mentor and create opportunities for women within the music industry, using her position as a female studio owner, producer and songwriter for many artists in Latin America as a platform. This has earned her invitations as a guest of honor at Berklee College of Music’s Women’s Empowerment Symposium, and the Art of Institute of Houston to instruct master classes and host conferences. I reached out to Victoria to learn more about her newest single, “Kings”, to find out where her inspiration comes from, and what mark she wishes to leave on the world.
WiMN: Your video for “Kings” is full of symbolism that pairs with the lyrics utilizing blood, dance, and art. What inspired your direction, and what impact were you hoping to have on viewers?
VK: When I started writing “KINGS” it started out as a breakup song, but I decided to approach it from a much more powerful angle in which the woman keeps referring to herself as a “KING.” “When you were running with me you were running with K-k-k-k-kings.” There’s something super badass and strong about saying that to the guy that just left you. I really wanted this second video (after “VICE”) to showcase other aspects of me as an artist. When I was writing the treatment for it, I included the opening scene where I’m doing graffiti, a choreographed dance scene, a scene in which I play my minimoog synthesizer. I wanted it to be much more dynamic than the last video “VICE,” which was supposed to feel very still, just like a painting, while this one is full of movement and power. About the video concept, I wanted to stay away from the cliché that because it was called “KINGS” it had to be something ostentatious. I did not want something predictable and tried to reference more of what a modern king would be. Some details, like the Gucci chair, which in my head would make for a modern king’s throne, or the minimoog synth (but the limited-edition version that’s covered in gold), tiny details like that that I played with but without falling into the obvious. The story of the video is very subtle but it’s about me coming out of a toxic relationship and coming out stronger and surrounded by these badass girls which are kind of like my coven, but I wanted the whole look to be more modern minimalist and cult-like not like cartoon witches. I’ve always been fascinated by magic and wanted to explore that a little. I wanted to reference the blood related lyrics that I wrote as part of this song but in a more pop art way, which is where the red monochromatic desserts came into play. During the last scene when I am in the middle of this kind of ritual of eating the cake and the “blood” that’s inside of it, you start seeing the other four girls getting covered in this same “blood” even though they are apart from me. Representing this unbreakable bond and sisterhood of girlfriends who are so connected and supportive of each other that everything one does and goes through affects the others as well.
WiMN: Your lyrics for your single, “Kings” is about the ending of a love relationship, but can also be referencing one’s career in music. Was this intentional?
VK: I had never even looked at it from that point of view until this question. That’s so sick. So it was not intentional at all but that’s what I love about being a songwriter. Each person can interpret my lyrics in a completely different way.
WiMN: You are a multi-faceted entrepreneur. Which one of your accomplishments came first, and how did the others come into fruition?
VK: Music came first. I pretty much grew up in the music industry. I was just 11 when my parents built the recording studios I now run, and I basically grew up surrounded by creatives. People around me were always writing and producing for other artists and I eventually joined in. That led to some amazing things for me, including a Grammy nomination for a project I co-produced and other really cool experiences and moments. Eventually I just felt like I had a lot to say and I felt the need to create my own sound after so many years of doing collaborations and working on other artists’ projects, which led to me finally being vulnerable with my art and sharing my vision as an artist, like I’m doing now with this upcoming EP. By nature, I tend to be multi-disciplinary and have many creative outlets, which is how I ended up also writing the treatment for the videos. With “KINGS,” I co-directed it, co-produced it, supervised every single look I wore, that the dancers wore. It’s the most natural thing for me to crave and to have complete creative control of my work.
WiMN: How do you advise other women to embrace their strengths and sexuality, particularly those who suffer from sexual trauma, or find themselves trapped in a controlling relationship?
VK: I find it hard to advise women on something like experiencing sexual trauma as it’s something I haven’t been through and I find it delicate to give advice on something I haven’t experienced firsthand. I do know what it’s like to be in a relationship that turned controlling at one point and what I learned is that it’s impossible to be in a controlling or toxic relationship if you are fully confident and happy with yourself. What I’ve learned firsthand is first you need to work on the relationship you have with yourself. That is the most important one you’ll have in your life. I always tell my friends, you want someone to be crazy in love with you? First you gotta be crazy in love with yourself and who you are, and what you do. You should be your number one fan in life and once you have that relationship settled and stable, then all the other relationships in your life become easy and amazing. Once you know who you are and what you’re worth, that’s the energy you put out in the universe and it boomerangs right back to you and defines your entire existence. So make sure you are in a great place with yourself first and everything good will follow.
WiMN: With your debut EP Saints being released this Fall, will you be touring in support of the new music?
VK: I don’t have plans for it yet, but hopefully it will happen soon! For now, I will be doing two live sessions in my recording studios and those videos will come out later this year. A little taste of what the show and the live versions of the songs will sound like.
WiMN: You are so driven and busy! What is your favorite way to recharge and center yourself?
VK: Travelling always helps me reset and I always come back full of new ideas. I’ve been in London for this past week for the opening of the Antony Gormley exhibit. He is one of my favorite sculptors and his art is always centered on the human anatomy, specifically his own body, which I find so dope. I just think going away like I did these past two weeks before the single came out was the perfect thing to do. Now I’m back fully energized and creatively recharged and ready to drop “KINGS.”
WiMN: What is a random fact about you?
VK: That I was a theater kid. Musical theater is probably my biggest passion. I think growing up in Mexico as the only redheaded little girl around who happened to love musical theater, I just did not have a lot of kids around me that I could easily identify with. It was when I was 14 and auditioned for the show “The Sound of Music” and got my first job and contract that I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. It was like, “Oh, I get it now. These are my people. These theater kids are exactly like me.” It never once felt like I had a job or was actually a professional actor working because it was pure bliss for me. I feel doing professional musical theater at such a young age gave me all my confidence and discipline. I always say there’s no greater form of discipline you’ll ever learn than doing professional theater. Everything feels easy after that. I don’t think most people know that’s where I got my start and that is actually where my love for the arts initially came from. Being around music, acting, sets, costumes. My identity, who I am today, is primarily derived and built from those musical theater experiences.
WiMN: Is there an artist you are looking forward to producing, and why?
VK: I can’t think of someone super specific at the moment, but I do know I’d love to produce someone with a very defined, artistic concept and who will let me get involved not only in producing the music but in creating the artwork, directing the videos, designing the stage costumes. That would be a dream. Whenever I am just a producer on a track, I never feel satisfied enough.
WiMN: How would you like to be remembered?
VK: I’d like to be remembered as someone who opened a lot of doors for women in the music industry. At this point of my career, I’ve made it my mission to represent the girls until the numbers are balanced out. When I got the Grammy nomination as part of the project I co-produced, it was shocking to be the only female producer in that whole category. We need to keep working hard until we make up more than only 2% of producers, 3% of audio engineers, 12.3% of songwriters and 22.4% of artists in this industry. We are responsible to change the environment. Those of us who are in a position to change these numbers must be doing something about it on a daily basis. With my film company, Victoria Films, we make sure every film crew in every project is 50/50 female/male. When I’ve been in studios in other places in the world, I always ask for a girl runner etc. It’s these day to day details that start opening people’s eyes. With my first single “VICE,” I had this idea in my head of it needing to have the female touch in the first and last steps of the process. Since the first step was that I wrote the song on my own, I wanted the last step to be that a woman mastered it, so we asked Michelle Mancini to do it. She’s like a unicorn to me as they are almost no female mastering engineers in the world, but it’s these types of decisions we make every single day that are gonna start shifting the numbers. I feel it’s our responsibility in a way and I don’t take it lightly. I really hope to be remembered as someone who played her part on changing the game.