Being nominated for a Grammy is a huge achievement for any artist, but for Kris Barman, known to dance fans as Wuki, his recent nod for Best Remixed Recording is extra personal.
Barman got his start in the industry as the synth player and guitarist for electronic rock band Innerpartysystem. After a major label deal and few hits in the underground, the band fell apart, at which point he took the name Wuki and started a dance music project of his own. Since 2012, Barman has built a reputation as a producer’s producer, handling any and all party vibes. Diplo called him one of his favorite DJs in 2017, adding “his unique trademark sound blends it all.”
Barman started his label Wukileaks in 2018 and is about to drop a collaborative EP with Nitti Gritti called Ro Sham Bo. The friends will support the project with a co-headlining tour this spring, but first, he’s heading to the Grammys, where he’s been nominated for his remix of Miley Cyrus’ “Mother’s Daughter.”
Always the busy bee, Barman put together a special Road to the Grammys mix — combining hits from and remixes of his fellow nominees — especially for Bilboard Dance. Check it out, and read our chat with Barman below.
First and foremost, congratulations.
It’s pretty crazy. Now is the time I can really enjoy, because the announcement happened and no one knows who won yet. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’m also really excited. I’m just enjoying it.
Where were you when you got the news?
I was actually sleeping. I’m on a pretty late schedule because I stay up working on music ’til, like, 4:00 in the morning every night. People found out probably around 7:00 in the morning here. My girlfriend woke me up and goes, “I know something about you,” really happy. I don’t think I grasped it all at the time. I was kind of out of it from being tired.
You have been working really hard for a long time. What does it mean to be acknowledged in such a way?
It’s hard to put it into words. I’ve been in the industry for almost 14 years now. I started out in a band, probably one of the last bands to sign a major record deal, in 2002. We signed to Island Def Jam. That was my whole life for a good six or seven years, touring with the band, making albums, working with engineers, all that stuff. That all fell apart, but it was my foundation in the music industry.
I learned a lot, and I just had to start all over with a brand new project. It’s validation that I’m doing something right. I’ve made a couple hard decisions. I changed management and moved out to L.A. Three years ago, my agent dropped me. This is a badge of honor. I weathered the storm.
You’ve worked with pop singers on remixes before. How did this one with Miley come about?
It was completely through management. I think these labels know I’ve done some bigger, poppier remixes before. I had a Chainsmokers one that did pretty well. I did one for Lost Kings featuring Tinashe. I think whoever is putting out feelers for remixes knows that I’m pretty good with pop vocals. I think they were happy to have me try it out, and I delivered pretty well. I flipped it around in a week. It all happened pretty fast — the fastest I’ve ever dealt with a major label. They even put it out within two weeks, and paid me the same week.
You put a really cool flip on it, like a collage of zones and influences. What was your creative process?
Since the theme of the song is women empowerment, I imagined the breakdown or “the drop” being a part where Miley is just dancing like crazy. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m doing. I just start messing with some vocals and seeing where it can go. One little tidbit; in the drop right where it goes “back it up, back it up,” that is actually not Miley’s vocal. That is a vocal sample that I tweaked a whole bunch to make it sound like her.
What makes a good remix good?
It’s important to keep the essence of the original song. I personally think it’s really important to keep the vocals pretty intact. I’ve seen some remixes where it’s just completely chopped up. It could come out cool, but you’re supposed to enhance the song or bring a new perspective to the song, instead of just making a cool beat and taking one sample to cut up in there. I used to do that, but now I really try to look at it as like, “how can I put a different perspective on the actual song that was written?” So many people go into writing the actual song. To me, it’s almost a shame to chop it up too much.
I’m really interested in this mix with Grammy nominated artists. That’s a wild undertaking.
I’m definitely used to doing dance [songs] with intros and outros. It was really fun just picking the music, going through all the Grammy nominations and realizing how much good stuff came out this year. I didn’t even realize until I could look back on the year how much I heard them. It’s a hybrid with pop, hip-hop and dance remixes, like my Miley remix. It’s more about song selection than how the whole thing transitions.
I love that idea of celebrating everybody at the same time. It’s less competitive, like you all already won.
I definitely had that same thought looking back on all these songs. It’s pretty amazing to be at all considered on the same level as any of these guys. It’s humbling.
Are you gonna head out to the event and get all fancy?
Oh, yeah, we’re getting fancy. We got a pretty big entourage. My girlfriend, my managers Ryan and Jason, their dates, and also my agent and his wife.
I know you’re not just sitting around waiting for the Grammys to happen. What else is keeping you busy?
I have a lot of things keeping me busy. I have the tour with Nitti Gritti. We have a full EP dropping this week. I have my monthly radio show on SiriusXM’s Diplo’s Revolution. Also, I can announce that I am working on an album, and I’m going to drop it this year. What I really want to do with this album is hone in what the Wuki sound is and show how I could go pop, I could go hip-hop, I could do whatever I want and do it all really good.
That’s a great attitude for a debut. Is there anything else you want to say or mention about this nomination?
I’m super grateful. This is a really inspiring time for me. I’m stoked on dance music in general. When anyone in the EDM world gets nominated in Grammy world, it’s a win for all of us. I’m so inspired by all my dance music peers. I hope it could fuel the fire for everyone to just keep grinding.
Listen to Wuki’s Road To The Grammys Mix and check the full tracklist below, then tune in to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards Sunday, Jan. 26, at 8 pm ET on CBS.
Wuki’s Road The The Grammys Mix Tracklist
1. Miley Cyrus – Mother’s Daughter (Wuki Remix)
2. Rufus – Underwater (Yotto’s Dusk Remix)
3. The Chemical Brothers – Got To Keep On
4. Bonobo – Linked
5. Meduza – Piece Of Your Heart
6. Billie Eilish – Bad Guy (Tommie Sunshine & Bitch Be Cool Remix)
7. Camila Cabello & Shawn Mendez – Senorita
8. Skrillex ft. Boys Noize, Ty Dolla $ign – Midnight Hour
9. Taylor Swift – Lover (DJ Mike D Edit)
10. Lizzo Truth Hurts (CID Remix)
11. Khalid x Disclosure – Talk (Disclosure VIP)
12. Ariana Grande – 7 Rings (Mike D Remix)
13. 21 Savage & J Cole – A lot
14. Dreamville, J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, & EARTHGANG – Down Bad
15. DaBaby – SUGE