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A MOMENT OF YOUR TIME: KATE SIMKO

DJ Mag spoke to Kate about her recent classical-tinged performance

Tell us more about London Electronic Orchestra...
“London Electronic Orchestra is a new project featuring me on electronics alongside an orchestral ensemble. The overall sound meshes the lush textures of classical music with the rhythms and soundscapes of electronic music. The core players are a London-based all-female string quintet (two violins, viola, cello, bass) and harp. From this smaller ensemble we can re-orchestrate and expand up to the size of a large orchestra. 

“It’s pretty amazing, we can just email the PDFs of the sheet music to an orchestra in another city, and I show up and play electronics. The LEO features my original material, and orchestral versions of electronic music, pop, and other genres, as well as collaborations with composers and DJs whose music is brought to life in a new way. I’m also launching a new label, Black Book Recordings to release the first LEO EP later in 2014.”

What gave you the idea to combine electronic music and classical delivery?
“Well I went from classical piano to a degree in Music Technology, so this is my main background and passion. The first real world experience I had with combining classical and electronic music was remixing Philip Glass in 2005. I played two shows with the Philip Glass ensemble, and honestly it was amazing, and lit a spark in me.”

You’ve incorporated visuals into this performance, you’ve touched on this before in a previous project, is this now a realisation of the initial ideas or in fact something totally new?
“In the past I’ve worked with Jeffrey Weeter on a number of audio-visual projects, including a live cinema tour for my album a couple years ago.

Last year, Bruno Levy (of Sweatshoppe) and I had a collaboration called Crystals that was an interactive piece for a 20-piece orchestra. For the LEO project, I wanted a brand-new style, so I approached Adrien for Masomenos to create interactive visuals. Masomenos is working towards creating a live theatre event, so the show in the Britten Theatre was a perfect way for us to explore ideas. Adrien loved working with the live orchestra, and it was great to work with him.”

In terms of the kit and technology, what goes into an LEO performance?
“For the show at the Royal College of Music I was using Ableton Live to trigger the click track for the orchestra (via headphones) and the backing track beats, synths, and textures. I exported MIDI parts from the music notation software Sibelius, which Masomenos used to trigger the visuals. So basically the orchestral parts were triggering the visuals in real-time.”

Is it important to combine visuals to play alongside these performances to really immerse the audience in the experience?
“It’s great to have visuals, but there will be smaller London Electronic Orchestra shows that just feature the music in a more intimate setting. The project is based upon the music and collaborating with artists in other mediums whenever possible.”

You’re also performing at the National Gallery Friday Night Lates…
“Yeah the performance on 6th June at the National Gallery will be myself alongside a smaller LEO ensemble of harp, violin, viola, cello, and upright bass (the core LEO group). Very happy to do another show at the National Gallery as part of the RCM's Belle Shenkman music programme there. This time I’m in a British room, with some amazing historic paintings set to inspire the performance.”

Has working alongside so many top-flight names within the scene helped you to develop what you do and how you work in the studio?
“Yes, I think it has definitely helped. When I was just getting started, the Bucci brothers (Andres and Pier) taught me a lot about organisation and making things happen with little resources, I also did some stuff with John Tejada, and more recently Tevo Howard.

Currently I’m collaborating with Jamie Jones and just seeing his choices in production has taught me quite a bit. I’m also working with Hot Since 82. It’s all a learning experience (as is all of life) and always fun to work with new people. Actually I’d also love to collaborate with more filmmakers and A/V artists.”

What does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
“I’m graduating the RCM masters course in July, and then will be free to tour and be out and about more again. I plan to start violin lessons and get some more gear, I’ll spend some time in Ibiza this summer, and some time in Chicago with my grandmas and family.

Then this fall my album with Tevo Howard (as PolyRhythmic) will be released, and I’ll be releasing the first LEO EP. Looking forward to it, no matter how the story unfolds…”

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