This summer, Loft Studios opens its doors to Casablanca, an incredible series of Sunday afternoonsessions of disco infused electronic explorations. Breathing a new and discerning type of sound and musical integrity into London´s electronic music, Casablanca steps in line with the world´s clubbing capitals, and stirs sleepy Sunday afternoons alive, with a string of seminal artists and labels.
The perfectly formed summer series runs alternate Sundays from the 1st July right through to the 14th October. Summer is just around the corner, and Casablanca is doing it in style – this is not a Sunday morning after-party, this is a Sunday afternoon worth going out for in its own right. We caught up with Kate Simko to get an insight into the lady who will be playing Casablanca for the entire day on 19th August, seducing the crowd into a musical coma with her gloriously melodic house and techno beats…
Hi Kate, how are you?
I’m doing well, thanks! These days I’m just wrapping things up in Chicago before moving to London next month.
What was the first record you ever bought, and do you still have it?
I have all of my old records, but I’m not exactly sure which one it is. It’s probably an old one on Peace Frog, Chain Reaction, or Perlon, as that’s what I was into when I first started buying vinyl in ‘98.
What were your musical influences growing-up?
Classical music from my father, 60’s pop music from my mother, and the pop, hip-hop, and more commercial dance music that was on the radio in Chicago in the 80’s and 90’s. Then I got into underground electronic music around age 15.
How did you first get into music and at what point did you decide you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I’ve been playing the piano since the age of five, so music have been into music pretty much my whole life. As far as dance music, I threw my first underground party (with Traxx, and a few other house and drum n bass DJ’s) when I was 18, but honestly I never thought I’d become involved as a producer or DJ. I started DJ’ing at the university radio station, and that’s how I learned a lot more about house, techno, IDM, etc, and eventually that’s what led me into producing music, and playing music at bars and clubs.
You jumped in head first with a full-length album, ‘Lights Out’ last year. How did it feel releasing your first album?
It was a relief to finish it, to be honest. Once I went deeper into the album, I felt like it was a larger statement that was going to define who was I was as an artist. I’ve spoken to other artists who said their first albums were the toughest too. Once it actually hit I was just glad the music was out there!
How long had it been in the making?
It took about a year and a half to make, then about 9 months to get it released.
What was the process for getting the album released through the Hello?Repeat label?
I decided to go with Hello?Repeat because they were very excited about the music, and up for releasing it on a double-pack vinyl and CD. The album was an artistic project for me, not a money making endeavor (not than any of my music has made me a lot of money!), so having the proper packaging was important to me. The original label I was going to release it on, Spectral Sound, was heading to a digital-only direction at the time.
You use a lot of analog-based elements on your ‘Lights Out’ album. In a rapidly evolving digital era do you think analog will ever become extinct? And why/why not?
I don’t think analog synthesizers and music gear will ever become extinct. Software synths and drum machines emulate original analog palettes, but the original sounds will always be richer. For example, on Lights Out, I used a Roland 505 drum machine for some of the congas. The way the congas were playing off the drum machine inspired the groove for the track. If I had just dropped in individual 505 conga hits it wouldn’t be the same as the machine having it’s own say in the percussion groove. I hope this makes sense ….
Whats your favourite track off the album? And Why?
Mind On You. This was one of the last songs I made for the album, so it best represents the vibe I’ve been into more recently. I tried to make a song that’s emotional but not too melancholy – dark Chicago house I guess
It’s the audio-visual live set to accompany the album release that made you really stand out, how did the idea for this come about?
Jeffrey Weeter and I have worked on a few different A/V projects over the past few years. In summer 2010 we were throwing ideas around to create a project with interactive HD video. At the time, we were thinking it might be an installation, or a new performance. Jeff came up with the idea of me taking the new interactive HD video display on my album tour. It worked out great.
Is the performance part of being a DJ very important to you? Would you say you like to create quite an experience from you sets for the audience?
Absolutely. Most of us have had transcendent, collective moments in dance music, and it motivates us to keep going out. You can go out to ten blah nights, but then if you have one magical night, it gets you inspired and enthusiastic about having another experience like that. As a DJ, I try to bring my best each time, and I leave any drama at the door. There’s a lot that makes a magical night (the venue, the people, the sound, how the stars are aligned, etc) but I am always rooting for a great one.
Your remixes for the likes of Guy Gerber and Laura Jones have been very successful in the DJ charts. Is remixing something you enjoy/ like to focus on? Or do you prefer your own tracks, made from scratch?
I like to do both. The remixes of Guy and Laura, and the most recent remix I did of Francis Harris, were all cool because they had a lot of melodic parts. I like to layer new melodies and harmonies in a remix, when possible. I love making my own music too, because that’s the most intimate expression.
Who would you most like to work with in music? And why?
That’s a really good question. I guess it would have to be a younger, accomplished female artist. Joanna Newsom, M.I.A, or Lady Gaga would all be pretty amazing. They are all talented songwriters coming from very different musical angles – it would be awesome to be in a band with any of them and learn a ton.
Tell us about your new release, ‘Kabuki Drop EP’, on Matt Tolfrey’s Leftroom. Have you got a good relationship with Matt?
‘Kabuki Drop’ is my first solo EP on Leftroom. It has two original tracks, and a remix by John Tejada. The B-side, Go On Then, features vocals by Jem Cooke. Matt Tolfrey is a close friend, and I sent him “Kabuki Drop” to just check out when it was just a 30-second loop. He immediately got excited (Matt style J ) and said he wanted me to finish the song for Leftroom. I was finishing up the B-side in March, before WMC, and Matt hooked me up with Jem to record vocals. She wrote the lyrics and created all of the melodies – immediately fell in love with them!
Also, you’ve got your new A/V live set for 2012. What is the set up with this? What is the concept?
The concept is “live cinema” because my music controls the HD video. It’s completely interactive. It’s like an HD film that evolves based on what I’m doing in my live set. Each song has it’s own visual theme from somewhere in the world. Some themes are more abstract, and some are almost unaffected videos, triggered by different moments in the set. Max/MSP for Live manipulates the visuals, which consist of original HD video, taken by videographers we’ve hired while I’ve been traveling the past couple years. On the music side, I’m using Ableton, an analog drum machine, and I play live keyboards.
Do you enjoy touring? What can’t you leave at home when you’re setting off for a long stint on the road/air?
Yes, I do enjoy touring. Honestly, the list of things I can’t leave at home keeps growing! There are so many travel comforts that make living out of a suitcase more bearable. One of my favorite additions is a “wrinkle release” spray, which I use instead of ironing my clothes when I’m in a rush heading to a show.
What is your favourite city/ place to play and why?
Chicago, Detroit, New York, London – because the crowds are up for a full range of music, and keep you on your toes
You’ll be playing in London over the summer and playing at Casablanca’s Summer Sessions. How did you get involved in this?
I’m moving to London in mid- July, so I think the curators of Summer Sessions wanted to welcome me to the city, and get me involved in this innovative series. I’ll be playing music and creating an atmosphere in the courtyard the entire day on August 19! Really looking forward to it.
How do you feel about this wave of outdoor, afternoon parties that are hitting the capital?
I’m not a Londoner quite yet, so I’m not really in the know about all the daytime parties. But overall I love them. I love playing music for a diverse crowd and new people.
Are you a day raver or more of a night owl?
Day raver by choice, night owl by occupation …
Female DJ’s seem to be compared to each other a lot more than their male counterparts. What is your view on this?
You’re right, female producers and DJs are definitely compared to each other a lot more than to the guys. I’d rather be compared to men, as my standards as a DJ and producer are based on the overall landscape, not limited to what the other women are doing. I’m not in competition with the other women – I want them all to succeed. We’re all on the same team, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve noticed this is the general consensus, and you’ll see that in how Anja Schneider and Ellen Allien, for example, have continually supported up and coming women in the scene.
What is your main ambition in terms of achievement before you retire?
I’d like to leave a legacy of music behind that isn’t lost in the shuffle. Having your music stand the test of time is the greatest achievement, in my opinion.
What else have you got planned for 2012? Anything in particular you are really looking forward to?
The major news is I’m moving to London, where I’m starting a Masters program in music for film. I’m looking forward to spending the summer in London and getting a chance to play more around Europe too. Tevo Howard and I have a new Polyrhythmic record coming out this summer, and we’ll be doing our debut live set at Panorama Bar in Berlin in July, and a couple other shows. Besides that I have an EP in progress for Supplement Facts, and there’s talk of Laura Jones and I working on some tunes this summer too. Thanks for the interview. See you soon in the UK!
KABUKI DROP ON BEATPORT
CASABLANCA ON FACEBOOK
KATE SIMKO ON FACEBOOK