Twenty-six-year-old singer Karina Nistal doesn't let her day job at an investment banking firm get in the way of her performing around the U.S. and Europe. ("I'm in negative vacation days at this point!" she says.) The Klein High School graduate is part of Rebel Crew, a loose coalition of DJs, MCs, poets, break dancers and vocalists. Rebel Crew's Joe B produced Nistal's recent debut CD Nistyle.
Houston Press: For someone who hasn't heard your CD, how would you describe your sound?
Karina Nistal: I don't really think I sound like anybody in particular, but I look up to Gloria Estefan, Sade, Selena, Whitney Houston.
HP: What are some albums that have influenced you?
Nistal: The Score by the Fugees and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill.
HP: What's a song you wish you had written?
Nistal: "Tainted Love."
HP: What's a song you wish nobody had ever written?
Nistal: "The Macarena." I hate that song.
HP: You wrote most of the lyrics for Nistyle. Tell us a little about your songwriting process.
Nistal: Sometimes I write the chorus first, sometimes the verse. I was telling my friend the other day, "The beats speak to me." [Laughs] I just try to listen to the beats and write down what they say to me.
HP: What's your biggest gripe about the music industry today?
Nistal: The commercial music that our young people are being exposed to is really not conscious enough for them, it's not positive. Even though I have a lot of party tunes, I try to reach out to my whole audience and give them a positive message. It doesn't always have to be all about sex, drugs and alcohol.
HP: How has technology like MP3s and the Internet affected your career?
Nistal: I'm still an up-and-coming artist, so that kind of technology just helps me to get my music out to new people, even if it's for free. But for established artists, it hurts them because they're trying to sell CDs and the MP3s, all that hurts them. Artists make their money touring; you make three pennies per CD, maybe five or six pennies. To somebody who is only selling 1,000 CDs, that's not anything, but if you're selling six million CDs, then it hurts you. But for me, right now, it's only helping me to get my music out to a bigger audience.
HP: Okay, now we start with the slightly sillier questions...
HP: How many guys have you picked up with the line, "Hi, I'm a singer?"
Nistal: [Laughs] I don't. I'm the kind of person that thinks, "What's meant to happen is going to happen." I don't try to pick up guys -- not with that line or any other ones.
HP: If you didn't have to worry about money, what would you do?
Nistal: I would take my mom to Paris. She really wants to go there.
HP: If they made a movie about your life, who would play you?
Nistal: Salma [Hayek] because she is so hot.
HP: Tell us something that most people don't know about you -- like that you have six toes or you won your first-grade spelling bee.
Nistal: I did win my fifth-grade spelling bee, actually! Hmmm, most people don't know that I broke my toe, my second-to-last toe on my right foot.
HP: If you were a superhero, what superpower would you want?
Nistal: I would like to read people's minds, but I'm sure that would backfire on me.
HP: Bert or Ernie?
Nistal: Aw, Ernie.
HP: Who would you rather marry? Pee-wee Herman or Ronald Reagan?
Nistal: Pee-wee. He was funny. (Pause) For a while, anyway.
HP: If you could sneak into the FBI headquarters, what one file would you want to read?
Nistal: George Bush's. George Bush, Junior.
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HP: Tell us something about yourself that you never want anyone to know.
Nistal: Hmm...hey, wait! If I told you that, then everybody would know.
HP: Where can we see you next?
Nistal: Every month I host an all-female event, it's called Les Femmes de la Nuit. It's every third Thursday at Dean's, with female DJs, singers, poets, everything. For more information about Karina Nistal, visit www.KarinaNistal.com or www.myspace.com/KarinaNistal.