Interview: SISTO Dips into His Lore and Rise in the Dubstep Scene

While photographing and taking in the atmosphere of North Coast Music Festival, I had the pleasure of sitting down with SISTO, one of the most exciting dubstep artists to make waves in the past two years. Nick, the artist behind the SISTO moniker, hails from San Jose, California. His signature stacked sound design boasts his obvious talent and attention to detail. In the past year, he has gained the attention of several big names including Marshmello, Excision, Nghtmre and Svdden Death. His releases in 2022 include Chainsaw Parade, Unfinished Business, and most recently, the Fools Gambit EP.

The faceless figures of his cover art and logo fashioned from gnarled, disembodied fingers are an indication of how deep and dark SISTO goes to make the thickest, and most menacing, moshable tracks. The lore surrounding SISTO’s brand is vast, listening and watching it unfold with each track release is something fans are undoubtedly looking forward to with bated breath. Below, SISTO delves into the inspiration behind his latest release, and we talk about the real dead bodies that inspired his brand.

Thanks for sitting down with me! Can you give our readers a little bit about your background and why you became a DJ?
Growing up, I always found myself listening to music and it kind-of just became like a part of my identity and for a long time it was kind of my coping mechanism just with doing everything in life to keep me happy and keep me like motivated. At some point I just decided that I wanted to start trying to do it myself and it was about five years ago six years ago...? That I was just like kind of doing ‘whatever’ stuff, I wasn't super happy with it, I was trying to learn how to do it. About three years ago I started actually being happy with what I was producing so I just started taking it more seriously trying more branding stuff. I studied marketing in college and so I really tried to nail down my whole image I wanted to portray and once I learned the music tools to the point where I was happy with them, I tried to connect the two ideas together and now I'm here.”

Yeah, you’re really doing it, you’re doing the big thing now. Rolling into that, you’ve had your tracks played by some kind-of huge artists like Excision and Marshmello can you tell me about the first time you heard someone play or ask you for a track?
The very first person that hit me up that like blew my mind was (Marshmello); I posted a clip on Twitter of a Trippy Redd I Miss the Rage edit and he commented on it. His comment blew up and then he DM’d me, then he asked me for more music, and I see that he plays it in like every set now and I was like, ‘Oh my God’ - I was freaking the F*** out.

That is so cool, I can’t even imagine.  
That was like the first time a big artist ever contacted me. I mean, I've been listening to him for 5-6 years so I was like almost in tears 'cause I couldn't believe it, yeah... that was crazy.

What is your favorite part about collaborating with other artists? As a DJ when you're making music, it seems like a solo deal but when you’re collaborating, how does that work and what do you like about it?
Like collaborating on the music or during a set?

JIQUI & SISTO - Photo by Shaela Johnston

Both, I’m curious about all of it.
Making the music is always cool because what ends up happening, at least in my experience, is the people that you end up collaborating with are your friends. All the people I have collaborated with I've gotten to know and at some point, we end up making a track. Being able to see the creative perspective of someone that you mutually respect is really cool and that's been my favorite part; just understanding how people's brains work when I'm working on a track with them. It kind of goes with the sets too I mean like the JIQUI set (referring to the set played earlier that day at the Vega stage), I'm best friends with Jordan (Jiqui), so doing this was like when we've done one other back-to-back in Denver at First Bank Center. When we did our first one it was awesome so, at the end of the day it's all about friendship, really. That’s the best part, just people.

So back do what you were talking about with the marketing... your branding is more alternative I've noticed, and I love the finger logo, I think it’s so cool.  Where does the darkness and that branding come from?
A lot of other artists have a lore to their brand. Growing up, I always liked creating stories in different mediums so, in music, I wanted to create some sort of story. Obviously, we're making dubstep so it's this dark vibe. The finger logo aspect of it actually came from being in college and doing kinesiology. For two years before I switched (majors) to marketing, I was doing Anatomy and Physiology. I got to actually see cadavers and real dead bodies. That in itself totally changed my whole perspective on life 'cause I was just like holy shit we are the most incredibly advanced things that exist. Once I came into marketing I was like, ‘how do I make a logo that will grab someone's attention’, then I can write a story on it. (The logo) was instantly something to do with the human body, so I did a lot of different body parts and what I settled with is fingers. I did different symbols on the SISTO logo, there's five different symbols, and then five rings. I'm in the process right now of writing a whole story for the whole SISTO lore. I'm super excited about it 'cause I'm I'm hoping next year I can really start telling the story through clips on social media, my visuals at shows, the titles of songs... and hopefully people will catch on to it 'cause that's like the hardest part is getting an audience to understand what you're trying to tell them, so you kind-of have to start simple. Once you have them then you can make it a little more broad. I'm still trying to get to that basic ‘this is what's going on’. When I think of film, it starts with a wide shot that gets closer and closer and then (the film) starts. So right now, I want to create the environment. That’s the whole idea.

JIQUI & SISTO - Photo by Shaela Johnston

That's really cool, very creative. You just released your EP on Subtronic’s independent label, Cyclops Recording, in July called “Fools Gambit”. What was the story or inspiration behind that?
So, Fool’s Gambit EP, that came from the main characters that are going to be in (SISTO) lore; the main characters are called the faceless which is why a lot of my artwork right now is a bunch of faceless characters. A lot of the main story that I have right now is about people who are selfish, and they make decisions based off of what they see at face value. A gambit is a choice you make... how do I explain it... so, a fool's gambit is like making a selfish decision for yourself that you know is not gonna work out in the long run, so that was basically where I started. Fool’s Gambit was the title track, Shattered Crown basically represents a hierarchy and the people who think that they're the highest part of the hierarchy (make fool’s gambits) and their crowns are shattering. Unbound represents that they feel as though they're unbound, when, in reality, the whole world is keeping them tied together, and then Dead Poets just explains itself. That was the whole concept with (the EP).

Again, so creative. I’m excited to learn more of the lore as it comes out. This is your first festival, right? You also just finished your first tour?
Yeah, first festival I’ve ever played and first tour with David (YAKZ). He put me on this year; he's amazing, I love him so much. He's such a kind heart and for him to do what he did for me was amazing.

That's awesome, do you have any crazy stories about being on that tour?
Too many, too many.

What kind of things on the horizon for you?
I'm playing Lost Lands, that's like the biggest thing for me right now, in like three or four weeks. I'm getting a whole pack of visuals made, I'm rewriting parts of the story to create that environment like I was talking about. I have self-releases that are coming out and I’m talking with DPMO (brand turned record label) right now. Next year I'm really just trying to solidify the story and get the branding to be where I want it to be; I'm very happy with where my music is, so now I need to lean more on that side.

Your fans are going to go crazy when they figure (the lore) out and then you’ll have SUPER fans. Do you have any final thoughts to share? It can be about literally anything, doesn’t even have to be about music.
Treat everyone as equals and don't forget to tell your family you love them regardless of how they treat you. Remember that your mental health always comes first.

I wasn’t surprised by the thought-provoking nature of Nick’s final thoughts by the end of our time together. His conviction and passion were consistent throughout our short time together and as we spoke, he demonstrated some great thought organization. I could really tell that there was so much information he wanted to get out at once, but with such a complex lore, story, and brand, he wanted to convey the most important points which I felt came across clearly. Nick is an intelligent person who is on the fast track to blowing up within the dubstep scene. Between his recent releases, tour, recognition from huge artists, and general focus on making his vision a reality, SISTO is a name people will start to widely recognize as more than just the last name of the actor who played that one guy in Clueless.

This interview with SISTO, who performed at this year's North Coast Music Festival, was written by Shaela Johnston. You can see more of her work here.

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Shaela Johnston

Shaela is a West-Coast born freelance photographer and writer, relatively new to Chicago as of 2021. Specializing in live music photography, Shaela can be found attending concerts several times a week when she isn't traveling or working on her Bachelor's degree. In her free time she listens to metal, hardcore, hip-hop, and likes to chill at home with her hairless cat named Soup and wife Courtney.