"I try my hardest to create music that I hope will be timeless"
Katia Val is definitely one to watch from the cohort of upcoming Australian/French talent. Her musical selection and good judgment has dared borders. The productions and dj sets by Katia are powerful statement, emblematic of her no-holds-barred approach. We caught up with her to discuss her accelerating DJ and production schedule, and the many influences behind her music.
Hi Katia! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day?
Right now I’m living in Paris. I should actually be visiting Australia but my flight was cancelled due to the pandemic so I don’t know when I’ll get to see my friends and family. My day started out early which is nice. Confinement has turned me into a morning person which I didn’t think was possible.
What was your first foray into the world of electronic music?
Growing up, I didn’t listen to electronic music that much. It wasn’t until I turned 18 and started going to clubs that I started paying attention to it. There was a little club we sometimes used to party at called Trinity Bar in Canberra. It was the only non-commercial venue in the city at that time and it opened my ears to electronic music like house and techno. It’s actually where I decided I wanted to become a DJ.
I see that you also play with many instruments. With which of them do you feel more comfortable?
Definitely the synths and keyboards, especially the Korg Minilogue. I love coming up with new melodies and just playing for myself. I’m not classically trained in music so I don’t actually know how to play, which means I have to rely on my ears but I am planning on learning theory this year. I wish I could have brought my synths with me to Paris, but I unfortunately had to leave everything behind in Australia.
How has your stay in Australia influenced you?
I’ve spent the majority of my life there so it played a big part. I grew up in a small city called Canberra where I felt like people are expected to follow a certain path. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, it wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted. So as soon as I finished university, I moved to Sydney. There I found a job in my field as a graphic designer, pursued DJing as a hobby, met wonderful people, ran parties and was presented with amazing opportunities. Everything was going well on paper, but that same feeling I had in Canberra came back. I then decided to move to Melbourne where I felt I could breathe a little easier. I continued to work as a graphic designer, played in clubs, started producing, met more amazing people but it still wasn’t enough. A big portion of my time was dedicated to design, not music. So I worked like crazy and then blindly moved to Paris to try my luck. Australia is an amazing place, but it showed me that it’s not the lifestyle I personally want long term.
Could you imagine a world where you are a full-time DJ? Or is it important for you to have a separation between DJing as a passion and regular life?
I can definitely imagine myself as a full time DJ. However, I think it’s important to have a side hustle as well.
When did the idea of starting a project begin to take shape? Has it always been something you’ve wanted to do?
It started at the local club I mentioned before, but that’s all it was for a long time, an idea. I used to drive around in my car, play loud music and pretend I was DJing. It’s embarrassing and cringe to even think about. I eventually worked up the courage to purchase a controller to practise with. It was fine for a while, but when I moved to Sydney, I invested in a proper set up. From then onwards I practised after work as much as I could and started going to clubs alone in the hope that I would run into the right people. It somehow worked and that’s when I started taking music more seriously.
Which artists have your interest these days?
IC3PEAK, Ascendant Vierge, Tsuruda, TR/ST (huge crush) and BONES. Confinement has given me time to explore many different genres.
How do you manage to combine such disparate genres? How do you manage to give them unity and harmony? What do they have in common for you?
I love to experiment! It’s mainly trial and error. I spend a lot of time in Rekordbox messing around with tracks to see what works and what doesn’t. Most of the time it sounds like garbage, but every now and again you find that perfect transition between tracks that couldn’t be more opposite on paper. For example; techno followed by instrumental hip-hop, bass music or synth-pop. The most important thing for me is the mood. If the mood is right and the transition is smooth, then it’s all good!
How would you define your sound?
My sound is a mixture of a variety of genres in terms of structure. I just happen to put my emotions in it which are mostly moody and dreamy. I try my hardest to create music that I hope will be timeless.
What is it about breaks, techno, trance… that you like so much?
Each genre is special to me in its own way. It’s hard to describe using words why I like each one so much. It’s more about the feeling they bring me and that’s how I make them fit into a set.
When did you start doing Undulate events? What have you learned doing events?
We started in 2017 in a small warehouse. It was a literal sweat box but it had the best set-up and sound. I saw DJ Stingray play there once and thought, ‘I have to have this space’. Everything went well, but I quickly learned that running events is very stressful. We then tried running Undulate 02 under a bridge which was shut down by the police before we could even start the music. That was painful because we invested a lot of money into it. Then we ran Undulate 03 with Hodge from Bristol as the headliner and this was the last one. At this point there was a lot of tension between organisers and the police and many venues, even legal ones, were being shut down. We only ever did it for the love of music, but the constant uphill battle was too much in the end.
What has your time on platforms like Rinse FM, Upperberry or Triple J given you?
Each one of these opportunities presented themselves during pivotal moments in my life. Upperberry was the first podcast that exposed me to an international audience, which for me at the time was huge. It boosted my self confidence and gave me the motivation to keep going. Then Steel City Dance Disks approached me for Rinse FM when I had started taking producing more seriously. This gave me the chance to use one of my original tracks in a mix — the feeling was unreal. And finally, my Triple J mix was released a few weeks before I left Australia. So it was kind of like my last hurrah.
Have you picked up any records recently that you have been playing in every set or have been listening to every day?
Yes! Julian Muller and Ascendant Vierge on repeat.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
I recently recorded a set for a new podcast series called ‘No Borders’ run by Shaven. This one is very trance inspired and energetic. I don’t have a set up at home because I had to leave everything in Australia so I record my podcasts at the local music studio.
What makes a good mix to you?
Diversity and experimentation! I think it’s important to try to go out of your comfort zone, especially for a podcast.
In which clubs have you played and have you felt at home?
When I was living in Australia I played at Club 77, Lounge, The Sub Club and Revolver to name a few. There were also warehouses and park parties which were my favourite and where I felt most at home. I remember playing at an old war bunker near a big cliff overlooking the ocean, that was really something. In Europe I played at Elipamanoke e.V. in Leipzig, ://about blank in Berlin, Nexus in Paris and Hangar FL in Bordeaux. They are all so different to what I’m used to, was a bit of a shock to be honest, but in a good way!
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
Formel 1 Trance - Tonni 3000
What makes you happy?
Music! But apart from that: my cats, my friends, and nature. I really miss all three right now. My cats are back in Aus, my best friends are scattered between Aus and Germany and I’m seriously craving a beach right now.
Can you tell us something about your current or future projects?
I have a few unreleased tracks that will be coming out over the next couple of months. There’s one that I’ve been dying to release for a while and I feel like now is the right time. In the future, I plan on experimenting with different genres, potentially under a new alias. I was very inspired to do this during confinement.