Cowlin Presents: Kate Simko
Having this lady on board for the Cowlin Presents series is such a pleasure. The Chicago Born DJ and producer, Kate Simko has been making unique house productions in the underground scene for years, which has lead to her recently collaborating with Jamie Jones. This track also features her new project London Electronic Orchestra – an ensemble of strings, harp and classical instruments – which was released on Lee Foss and Jonses’ label Emerald City.
In October she also released an LP with fellow friend Tevo Howard that was released on Sasha’s ‘Last Night On Earth’ imprint, she’s been making a strong impact on the scene.
Your LP ‘PolyRythmic’ dropped on the 9th October being released on Sasha’s ‘Last Night On Earth’ imprint. How does this make you feel releasing your LP which you have spent a lot of time producing being released on such a large label with such a good following?
I’m very happy to have a new LP on LNOE! You’re right, producing and bringing a full-length album into the world is a lot of work. It takes a lot of dedication and patience. So when Sasha ended up really liking it we were very happy to find a proper good home for it.
You’ve worked on this album with fellow Chicagoan Tevo Howard. How did you two initially meet?
We basically met because Tevo made an amazing track that blew my mind. He’d just released “Passion Sound” on Beautiful Granville and I couldn’t believe I’d been in the dark about his music and we hadn’t crossed paths. Tevo had his email address printed on the vinyl so I emailed him, and we arranged a record swap at Gramaphone Records.
What country did the productions take place in on this, or was there a lot of moving around?
We made most of the album together in Chicago, then added some parts in Berlin together (before playing at Panorama Bar together) and then final touches long distance via London and Berlin.
You’ve been in the studio with well established and recognised producer and DJ Jamie Jones. He asked you to collaborate with him, and then that single was released in August on Jamie’s and Lee Foss’s new label ‘Emerald City’. How did Jamie first get in contact with you, and what were the exact words that were mentioned?
He wrote me asking if I was interested in doing a new collab together. He knew that I was getting a masters in London in music composition and learning to write for orchestra etc. So yeah I remember it was in the middle of the night and I was up late making music and sort of in a lonely studio moment. The email was titled “interested” and I wrote back “yes,” of course 🙂
When working with Jamie in the studio, did you disagree to anything that was then removed?
To be honest, overall we pretty much agreed on what should stay or be removed. I recorded some extra strings that didn’t make it in, but that was about it. We’ve just started a new song together with strings and harp, so yeah the collab continues, which is cool.
When you first step into your studio, what are your steps to producing a track?
You know, I’m trying to find a new way. This newest song I made the chords first, then bass, and then when had a full arrangement filled in the drums. But a lot of times I’d start with a drum loop and bass line. I think I’ll try this new method with melody first for a while!
Talk us through your music production set up…
I mainly compose in Logic X using a 88-key keyboard. I also have a Juno 106, SH-101, Korg Karma, Virus TI-Snow, TR-8, and a few others in my studio.
You’ve previously been named one of Chicago’s top 10 DJs by XLR8R magazine. How does this make you feel being voted so highly?
This was years ago, but yes I was super happy! Chicago is full of amazing DJs so I took this with a grain of salt to be honest. But it was an honor to have xlr8r say that.
How did you first get into DJing?
I started DJing on the radio when I was 19-years-old. I was lucky and got the Friday night 9:30-11pm time slot. That was perfect because people were at home getting ready to go out, or just finishing dinner or en route to a club or bar. So yeah, I’d go out after the show and people would say they heard me. And I guess that made me step up my game! I was buying lots of vinyl and then started getting requests to DJ. It all happened quickly and naturally. My biggest DJ influences were DJ Traxx, Diz, Jeff Mills, and Derrick May at the beginning.
I’ve read about your love for classical instruments, talk us through how you got into the love for these? How do you involve these into your house productions?
Yes, I’ve really been loving working with live strings and harp in my project London Electronic Orchestra. It’s been cool to write for these instruments in new ways, and combine them with electronics. I’d never written for orchestra before moving to London in 2013 to do a masters in composition at the Royal College of Music. Although I knew music theory and could play the piano, I’d never tried to orchestrate. To be honest, I was thinking it would just be a new skill, but then I completely fell in love with the process. These instruments sound amazing and I’ve become addicted!
What was your first festival that you played at?
Detroit Movement Festival in 2007. It was called DEMF back then. I played a live set and then Heidi DJ’d after me.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline you’d like to inform us of?
I have a new solo EP that I’m happy to be wrapping up now, and then biggest news is the debut London Electronic Orchestra EP and album that will be out in the first half of next year. That project has been a labor of love the past two years, and I’m really excited for it to hit the world. Besides that the only other new collab is the continuing with Jamie Jones. Our new track features a pretty well known singer, who absolutely killed it on the vocals.
If you could work with anyone out of the underground scene, who would it be, and why?
Hard question.. Well I just saw Jeff Mills perform with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was intrigued and inspired by the philosophies behind his music. So at the moment getting into the studio with Jeff and maybe making some new music for beats and orchestra sounds pretty amazing to me.
Your favourite booking this year and why?
That’s a good question.. just did a little rewind of the year, nice!
My favourite booking overall was playing live with London Electronic Orchestra at HEART Ibiza. We shared the bill with Francesca Lombardo and it was a great night of music start to finish. It also was a lot of fun to travel to Ibiza with the musicians.