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The City Journals

SIAK: The Underground Effect

Jun 13, 2016 09:18AM ● By Alisha Soeken

SIAK performing at Diabolical Records —Karl Jorgensen

By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]

Born in Cincinnati, raised in Atlanta and currently residing in Murray, musician Chris Nielson commands the sphere of Salt Lake’s underground electro.

Eking from under the city’s sophistication comes the deep thumping sound of electronic music. Its culture is small, yet its supporters are loyal and rising. 

“I like electro because it is mysterious and funky. It’s appealing because it has science fiction references like artificial intelligence, space travel and robotics,” Nielson said.

Nielson was introduced to electronic music in first grade. He absorbed it while at the roller rink, enjoying soundtracks from movies like “Beat Street” and indie film “Breakin’.”  

The mastery of electronic music is no small feat. It requires a proficiency in synthesis, sequencing, music theory and sound mixing as well as expertise in synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, turntables and mixers.

“I use a lot of hardware and have to learn a different operating system for each piece, so I spend a lot of time reading manuals,” Nielson said.

Nielson then transforms that knowledge into sound, producing and performing as SIAK. That inimitable sound is what snares his enthusiasts, one of those being Jesse Walker, founder and editor of

“Chris is one of those rare artists who innovates while preserving the origins of electronic music. His ability to harness sounds from a vast array of vintage synths and drum machines is impressive. He’s one of those rare analog craftsmen in an age of laptop producer DJs,” Walker said. 

Loyalty to electro’s origins is principal to Nielson. 

“I dislike how people use the word ‘electro’ now. Electro used to mean music directly influenced by Kraftwerk, Afrikaa Bambaataa, Cybotron, Anthony Rother and Dynamix II. Now the word has been hijacked by mainstream dance culture as a generic term for all electronic music including electro house, which doesn’t sound anything like classic electro,” Nielson said.

As opposed to diminishing, Nielson’s authenticity to electro classic origins enhances his sound and presence on stage. It also attracts crowds. 

“SIAK has a presence that often draws listeners in when they see the workstations he has. It is an organized mess of wires, drum machines and synthesizers that he programs fluidly during his sets. It’s a tangible way to see the music that is often hidden behind a record, CDJ or laptop,” local house and techno DJ Matt Daufenbach said. 

SIAK performs at festivals and local venues such as Diabolical Records and the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. 

“I like hearing my music through a club system, and it’s fun to see people enjoy and dance to it. It’s also interesting to see what makes people move and what doesn’t. I aim to have music that will get you to move.” Nielson said. 

And move people he does, not merely from the composition of his music but from the inner music that makes his personality gravitational. He achieves what all musicians hope for: to affect their listeners.

One of those affected is Jonathon Higley, musician and producer of SHSHA.

“SIAK is really everything that the premise of electronic music promises. Using technology, he pushes boundaries of melody and groove that send you into places that don’t exist in this world or the next. He does it with an alien funk, warm darkness and kinetic power that is like no other,” Higley said.

In person as well as craft, Nielson is like no other, and his advice to future artists reflects that unapologetic individuality. 

“You don’t need expensive gear to make great music. Keep your head down and be true to what you want to make. Don’t follow trends just to make money; be true to yourself,” Nielson said. 

Nielson lives by his advice, and his assertion is working. In 2010 SIAK was in the UK Street Sounds Top 20. World-famous techno DJ Dave Clark of the BBC radio featured SIAK on White Noise Radio, and Nielson was recently nominated for City Weekly’s Best of Music 2016.

Nielson’s success attests that as the underground effect of electro seeps into our city, his part will be eminent.