One of dance music’s most unique and standout artists, Kate Simko shines through with her modern Chicago-influenced sound. Kate was welcomed into the dance music scene via the iconic Spectral Sound label alongside Matthew Dear, Ryan Elliot, Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss, and Benoit & Sergio. Since then her catalogue has grown to include releases on Get Physical, Hello?Repeat, The Vinyl Factory, Leftroom, No.19, Sasha’s Last Night On Earth imprint, and Jamie Jones’ Emerald City.
A classically trained musician with Chicago roots, her diverse musical background emanates throughout. Whether remixing Philip Glass to Guy Gerber, touring an interactive audio-visual live set, forming her own electronic-classical ensemble, scoring a feature film, or launching an electronic-hybrid show for 70-piece orchestra with Jamie Jones, Kate pushes the boundaries of dance music. Named one of Chicago’s “Top 10 DJs” by XLR8R Magazine, Kate has performed at some of the world’s leading locations such as Berghain, Panorama Bar, Warung, fabric, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Movement Festival, MUTEK, Eleven in Tokyo and Fuse in Brussels. Now she takes 5 minutes out of her busy schedule to dive into the sound behind the headphones.
You are a classically trained musician but back in the early 2000’s, you started DJing on WNUR Radio Chicago. What possessed you to move into electronic music and was it a big change?
I started going to underground raves in my teens in Chicago and fell in love with house and techno. Every weekend was an insane lineup of Detroit and Chicago legends, as well as Europeans flying in. I went to the university radio station on my first day. I initially asked to sit in on one of the electronic shows. It all started from there!
You are from Chicago a city rich in musical heritage. How influential has the city been on your output over the years and do you think you have moved further from those Chicago influences as you have matured as a musician or are they still prevalent in your work?
Chicago is a huge influence on my taste, both as a producer and DJ. I grew up hearing soulful music on the radio, in public, etc, and then at raves, it was proper jackin’ music with a raw edge to it. I love a raw funky vibe in dance music to this day, rather than a more polished European sound, or banging Belgian techno, which is popular right now. Whether I’m DJing or making music for my orchestral projects, having a sense of soul is key, and that’s definitely from Chicago.
Your first big splash on the scene was when you were signed to Spectral Sound alongside Matthew Dear, Ryan Elliot, Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss, and Benoit & Sergio. How important was this for your career and what was it like coming through with such household names?
Yes, that’s when I got started. We were all living in the Midwest (Detroit and Chicago) and super young, finding our way. Spectral Sound was a big label at that time, with the biggest party at Miami WMC etc. I learned a lot from those guys, and we’re still really close friends.
Your work has taken you around the globe many times over. Is there a place, story or time that stands out above the rest?
That’s a tough one! So many just came to mind. I guess living in Santiago, Chile for two months in 2004. I flew down there to record a second album with Andres Bucci (Pier Bucci’s brother). There was a MUTEK Chile festival then, and that’s when I met Ricardo, Luciano, Cassy, Dandy Jack, Sonja Moonear, for the first time, as they were also there for a month or so. I was so young and really heard a lot and saw a lot in those two months, and made an album.
For any aspiring artist if you could give them one bit of advice what would it be?
Be yourself, and believe in yourself.
Let’s talk about Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra. How did that come about and how well-received has it been?
I formed my ensemble London Electronic Orchestra when I was getting a music masters degree at the Royal College of Music in 2014. It was £20/hour to record at the student studios, so I was in there as much a possible, experimenting putting classical instruments into electronic backdrops.
In March 2014 I did a graduation concert in the opera theatre and there was a manager there who signed me and helped bring LEO into the real world. From there we’ve toured, released a self-titled album, and have an orchestral-electronic collaboration ‘Opus 1’ with Jamie Jones.
You have achieved a tremendous amount during your career. How difficult is it to stay motivated and set new goals?
Ah thank you, it still feels like an upwards battle! Since having my son two years ago, it’s been a challenge to cover childcare and keep things afloat in London. Actually it’s made it easier to set goals and be selective about my projects – no choice! It’s a double-edged sword living in London. It’s so expensive, but there are so many amazing opportunities, and it keeps me on my toes.
Finally, what does the future hold for Kate Simko?
The future is a mixture of DJing, producing, film scores, and orchestral projects. Right now I’m pitching to score a feature-length music documentary out of LA, working on new solo material and with Jamie Jones and Jem Cooke on our project Opus 1.