Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
I’ve been living in Berlin for the last 10 years. The music scene needs no introduction. It’s Technoland.
You have taken on a new raw approach with your upcoming release “Una” on your own label Kuukou which comes out on 25th June 2018. Where and when did you record?
I made this track “Una” for my best friend, Helen Una, who lives in Toronto. We did everything together as teenagers and she was my rave partner and confidante. Then we grew up and went to the same University; She studied Architecture and I studied Graphic Communications Management and Marketing. I wanted to do something to honour decades-long friendship so I made this track. The feeling is dark and gritty but also groovy and bouncy—an homage to the many stages of our lives. Plus, it’s pretty good on the dancefloor.
How did the remixes with Jade and Carlo come about?
Both Jade and Carlo are artists I admire. I’ve known Jade for 15 years since we met as club kids in the Toronto music scene. And, in fact, she also knows Una! Jade has a unique sound and productions are warm and groovy. She did a great job.
Carlo has been well-known in the European techno scene for years and I’ve been following his work for a long time. I’m really thrilled to have him on the label and his remix is so powerful on the dancefloor. We’re honoured to have him on Kuukou.
How did you first start DJing and producing?
I was always a fan of electronic music. The interest sparked when I was a teenage raver in Toronto and I was mesmerized by the scene. I started playing records for fun at home in my early 20s and doing it professionally only came to me during the second half of that decade. I was playing little gigs in Toronto but it was not until I moved to Berlin in 2008 that I made a career of it. Same goes for producing. I was being mentored by a few friends but only hunkered down and produced my first records in 2008. It’s been over a decade and I will always continue learning.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I hate this question. There are too many to name.
What equipment and programs do you use?
Ableton. Sylenth. Massive. Lots of samples. Like, lots. And Melodyne.
How would you describe your producing style and what influences you?
My producing style is simple. Because I am self-taught—I never went to school to learn production or engineering—I try not to overcomplicate things. I start out with really powerful kicks and sub basses and then let that groove drive the direction of the track. It always starts like this. I also do extensive field recordings and mess around with samples in the studio. I am not a purist. I do not have analog machines at home. I have my laptop, a midi controller and some keys. I normally work digitally and then move over to an engineering studio for mixing and then send it out for mastering. I am a creative person and can work the fundamentals of building a track but when it comes to engineering, I let the profis make it sound fat. For the last few years, I’ve been working closely with Moe Danger to refine my sound and step up my production game. He is a genius. Word.
Please tell us about your label Kuukou, where did the name come from and what inspired you to start your own label?
Kuukou means “airport” in Japanese. I am an aviation junkie. I love to fly. I love planes and machines and airports and am obsessed with the hustle and bustle of what it means to run an airport—especially a hub. I’ve been traveling my entire life—back and forth from Toronto to Bucharest for the summer as a kid—and it shaped me. I became independent at a young age and I realize that this was, in no small part, as a result of my travels.
I also love and appreciate Japan, its culture and its people. When I traveled to Japan the first time, I felt like I could live there my entire life. I kept hearing the word “Kuukou” (pronounced Kuu-kwo in Japanese) over the intercom at the airport and it sounded cute and funny. I kept it in mind. It was not until four years later that I decided to found my label and then this word popped up in my mind. It only seemed fitting and it seems to have become a theme for us because as DJs we are always traveling. An airport can make or break your trip, especially if you get stuck in one for a long time.
What are the greatest challenges and benefits of running your own label?
Timing. I find that since opening Kuukou, I’ve had less time to be creative and need more time to do boring administration work. I had no idea how to run a label and for that reason, I have a very good label manager. Grise Agency has been helping me for two years to run the show and having someone who knows what they’re doing in the office frees up my time to be able to go into studio and do what I’m meant to do: music.
I love working with different artists and I love to be able to help newcomers. Someone has to believe in them and with so much music and artists flying around the scene, it can be hard to get noticed sometimes. We like to give artists the attention and respect they deserve, whether it’s their first release or their hundredth album. It’s nice to build a rapport with others in the industry and see where our musical collaborations can take us. We all have to help each other.
What do you have planned for yourself and for Kuukou for the remainder of 2018 going into 2019?
My EP “Una”, including remixes from Carlo Ruetz and Jade (CA), is coming out in on June 25, followed by my collaboration with Moe Danger, “Shark Island” with remixes from Paul Kalkbrenner and K-Paul. Up next is Torsten Kanzler & Robert Egenolf, Bjoern Torwellen, Doc&Martin, Daniel Boon, Fabio Neural, Moe Danger, Stefan Biniak, Jonas Woehl and Thomas Lizzara. We’ll also bring out our next VA compilation, Passengers Vol. 3 and we’re working on some label showcases this summer and fall but it’s all in the works at the moment. Whoa. It’s a lot. But busy is good! 🙂
Away from music, what do you most enjoy doing?
Playing with our little daughter and doing “boring” mom things. It’s so cliche but she really is my entire existence. I love my job but techno won’t keep you warm at night. I cultivate as best a home life as possible. We go on tour on the weekends and I want Isabella to have a very happy and regular childhood. She is and will always be the first priority.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Sushi on our rooftop.
Pizza in front of the TV with an awesome comedy to watch.
Wine in the park.
Tequila on stage.
Champagne in the bathtub.