Salt Lake Underground: Electro lays low on purpose

written by: Christie Marcy

Photos by: Natalie Simpson

There was a time when I thought I could hear every electronic sound that was ever made,” says electro musician Chris Nielson, stage name SIAK. “I’ve gone through different phases of punk and indie, but in my heart it’s always been electro.”

And while Nielson defines his music as electro, he concedes the “electro” has become a blanket term that doesn’t reflect the history of the form. “I think that word has been hijacked by artists, but to me it means artists who are inspired by Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaastaa, Herbie Hancock and Cybotron.”

“It’s an ‘80s kind of sound,” he continues, “So, electro references science fiction, breakdancing, robots and the like,” and, he says, though the masses may think of electro as a European thing, the music is steeped in the history of Motown. “All techno comes from Detroit. It’s an American tradition—believe it or not.”


Nielson says a misconception persists that electro music and spinning records behind a DJ booth are the same. Actually, they are very different animals, “It’s my music,” he says, who on occasion spins. “DJing is playing to records and mixing them together. I have all my own machines and essentially all the parts I’ve compiled to use as my instruments become one large instrument that I play. It’s all original music.” The parts vary, but involve a sampler, drum machine, synthesizer, sequencer and  effects processors, working together to create a complex wall of sounds and music.

Nielson accepts he’ll never get rich playing electro music. In fact, part of the charm of this music, he says, is the fact that it always has been and always will be underground.

“The stuff  I play is all underground and that’s the way I like it,” he says, “If it’s above ground, it’s called EDM, and it’s really bad.”


Chris Nielson is so passionate about electro that he recently took over ownership of Squarewave Sound, a store specializing in the sale of electro musical equipment. 1321 E. 3300 South #9, SLC, 801-915-1729,

If you’re interested in finding an entry point to electro, Nielson holds court at Diabolical Records once a month on the third Thursday for Squarewaves Sound night—during Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. 238  S. Edison St., SLC,

Christie Marcy
Christie Marcy
Christie Marcy is a former managing editor at Salt Lake magazine. Though she writes about everything, she has a particular interest in arts and culture in Utah. In the summer months, you will find her at any given outdoor concert on any given night. In the winter, you will find her wishing for summer. Follow her on social media at @whynotboth.

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