The prolific producer and live performer discusses her influences and the importance of collaboration
You mentioned you studied classical piano at Northwestern. When
where you first introduced to the instrument and why did it appeal to
There are a number of pianists from my father’s side of the family. His
mother is a pianist and her father was an organist in Czechoslovakia,
etc. So, it was a priority for my family that my brother and I learned
how to play the piano at a young age; I began lessons at age five.
Although practicing the piano was pretty much required of me growing
up, the instrument did appeal to me on a personal level. Learning to
play, along with the theory and technique behind it, came very
naturally to me. Playing the piano has always appealed to me as a
release and an outlet.
How did it lead to your involvement with electronic music production?
Basically, the transition happened while I was studying at the
university. I began college at the University of Miami, where I was
studying classical piano on a much more intense level than what I was
used to previously. I practiced an average of four hours a day – never
missing a day. That first year of college I learned a Beethoven Sonata
and a more obscure Brazilian piece by Heitor Villa-Lobos, among other
pieces. I really grew as a pianist and musician. At the same time, I
began hanging out at the radio station there, WVUM, and started hanging
out with the Schematic guys. My main passion for music at that time
(since about ’94) was electronic music.
Seeing the lifestyle of my new friends – making things happen with new
electronic music (they were just signed to Warp Records) – while
viewing myself as secluded playing classical piano, led to me deciding
to give up the idea of playing classical piano professionally. Instead
of interpreting the music of the classical masters, I decided to move
towards making my own music and finding my own musical voice.
So, I left Miami and moved back to Chicago where I began learning jazz
piano and studying at Northwestern. Eventually, I transferred into the
Music Technology program at NU. This program was super small and super
cool. There were about six people in the entire undergrad program when
I entered it. My first class involved learning how to make patches on
the Arp 2600 and splice sounds from tape. From that point on, I’ve made
a gradual transition from classical piano into solely producing
electronic music, incorporating a lot of piano work into the tracks.
How did you find yourself in Chile? How did you meet Andres Bucci?
I found myself in Chile studying abroad during my fifth year at
Northwestern. By this time, I felt that I would grow more in a new
environment. I had to give up a lot to go, but it was worth it. So, I
left the WNUR / Chicago scene to go study music composition at the
Universidad de Chile in Santiago. Also, my goal was to
have a lot more down time to work on music on my laptop and create new
music of my own.
After realizing that music gear is insanely expensive in Chile, I
started looking to buy a used keyboard from someone. To make a long
story short, I called Atom Heart, who referred me to call Pier Bucci
(Andres’ brother), who a while later played a piano cd of mine for
Andres. That’s how we met.
How did you get involved with Traum?
When I returned to the states from Chile, I sent out our material to
the different people I knew with appropriate labels in the U.S.
Everyone seemed swamped, or a bit conservative after September 11, so I
ended up sending a second wave of demos to Europe. We heard back from
Traum that they wanted to put out the record, and things progressed
from there. Andres and I felt that the music we recorded was worthy of
being released, but Chile is very disconnected from the rest of the
world in many ways (geographically, to start). That’s why almost all of
the Chileans that put out music live in Germany or the states.
What are you listening to for inspiration these days?
As far as electronic music, I’ve been listening mainly to the Tied and
Tickled Trio (Morr Music) and various releases by Jan Jelinek (~scape).
I’ve also been listening to a soon-to-be-released vocal album by Juana
Molina, and I always listen to John Coltrane.
At the Danny’s performance you were using Abelton Live but you
perform with Andreas as Detalles with live keyboards. What mode of
performance do you prefer?
I prefer the Detalles performance with Andres performing also. It’s a
more accurate representation of our musical roles and process in
collaborating. Also, no matter how live I’m playing in Ableton, the
performance has a more unique and live feel when Andres is working in
Abelton or on the MPC and I’m playing the keyboard. Plus, I haven’t
figured out a way to manipulate the beats and textures in our tracks
while I play the keyboard parts. I’m working on that….
Kate Simko has a radio show on WNUR 89.3 FM (Northwestern) in
Chicago and has a release on Traum as Detalles: “Shapes of Summer.”