Established as one of Chicago’s Top 10 DJs with cutting edge mixes and chart-topping house releases, musical chameleon Kate Simko, a post-grad student of Composition for Screen at the Royal College of Music who last year debuted her project London Electronic Orchestra and who is current with gigs in London this month, is definitely one to be psyched about.
“Electronic music producer, film composer, live performer, and DJ” – that’s quite a list! How do you do it?
Haha yeah, it does sound like a lot listed like that, but it’s all music so one seems to feed the others naturally. Also it keeps things fresh. When I feel a bit stir crazy I’ll shift gears to a new project.
From classical piano to jazz to underground and DJing at clubs and festivals – is there a favourite?
I grew up playing piano and that was my first passion, but then going to my first rave in Chicago when I was fifteen was a game changer. By the time I went to the university I felt a bit empty studying classical piano and was more into hanging out at the college radio station’s electronic music shows. I basically had an epiphany that I should learn to make my own music, and in time that’s grown to reflect a bunch of influences from Chicago, Detroit, classical and IDM.
Would you say you have a main focus, a main direction?
My main direction is composing and producing the music I’m feeling at the time. That might sound vague but honestly I go through phases and just make what’s making me tick, and what’s exciting.
Sure! And, generally, how much do visuals mean to you and to connecting your audience with what you are feeling at a certain time?
I love the combination of visuals with music. They’re another layer that engage people and create more of a journey, especially at a live show.
Talking a bit about your recent from Chicago to London, what has been the biggest change?
I moved to London in 2012 to get a post-grad degree in Composition at the Royal College of Music. I think the biggest difference is that there’s a much bigger electronic music scene in London. House music was born in Chicago, but it’s a pretty small club scene, and an even smaller pool of younger producers.
As someone who has studied and performed around the world, do you feel that different cities give different musical output and inspiration?
Yes, for sure! Whenever you travel you sort of see the world through a different lens. I love it and it definitely inspires new ideas!
And, talking about influences, how do you feel studying music has influenced your artistry?
Studying music helped me gain confidence with the technical aspects and music theory, etc. There’s no way I would feel comfortable scoring for an orchestra unless I had the safety net of a couple years experimenting with the instruments. I started DJing and getting into music at the college radio station, and was obsessed with getting new vinyl for the show each week. My show was on Friday night when people were getting ready to go out, and I started getting requests to play at bars in Chicago. But I really never expected it to be honest!
Can you tell me a bit about your new project ‘LEO’? It’s quite a “grown up” or musically “highbrow” project – how did you get the idea?
Honestly it’s not that high brow, it’s just electronic music with live players! When I was getting my masters at the Royal College of Music I experimented quite a bit in the studio. I started recording live players to replace synth parts, or live strings to add textures. The players loved it and I loved it, so I started writing more and more music like this. We had our first London Electronic Orchestra concert last March at the Britten Theatre, and since then have done Boiler Room for Jamie Jones’ Ibiza Sessions and iTunes Festival. The biggest challenge is organizing schedules, sheet music and everything else for everyone in the band. But with upcoming shows like the one on Friday 6 March at London Electronic Arts Festival at Tobacco Dock, it’s all been worth it.
No doubt! So, what’s up next?
I’m happy to be back at Village Underground in London on Friday 20 February, and looking forward to a great night of music alongside Shadow Child and Bodhi!
And finally, what will 2015 be about for you?
Apart from upcoming shows, I’m really happy to have some new music hitting in 2015. I have a full-length album with Tevo Howard in the first half of the year, and a couple other EPs, including the debut London Electronic Orchestra release. It’s going to be a busy year and I’m super psyched to get on with it!