Having revolved around similar spheres in Berlin, Katiusha steps up to deliver the 364th edition of the IA MIX Series weaving an hour of mind, body and ample rave textures to the finest degree, featuring tracks from J. Wiltshire, Pariah, DJ Rashad, The Source Experience, Eris Drew, gayphextwin and David Spanish.
Originally from London, Katiusha’s love for DJ’ing stemmed from her early encounters with the capital’s rave scene and the underground music communities found in Leeds and Oxford. Having relocated to Berlin circa 2017, Katiusha quickly joined the free-spirited ranks of Cashmere Radio to present Above The Clouds – a monthly broadcast soundtracking the infinite spectacle of cloud formations – with guest appearances from artists like Happa & Jabes, Tom Drew, Lewis Barnes and CCL.
Following recent appearances at Cosmic Roots Festival, ://about blank, HÖR and The Pickle Factory, Katiusha gets up close and personal to discuss her formative steps into the world of electronic music, turntabalism, music journalism, record digging and divulges how life in Berlin differs to London. Katiusha also shares insight into what scenes and collectives in Berlin are tantalising her earbuds.
Interview by Tom Durston
"For me, playing music, writing about music, and talking day in, day out with people creating and delivering music all contributes to an understanding of the scene’s quirks, whether good or bad… all in the name of creating these transient magical moments"
Hi Katia, thank you for recording this wonderful mix for Inverted Audio. It’s brimming with all different types of music and textures. Please tell us more about how you went about constructing it, where it was recorded, any tracks that you’re particularly happy to have featured and the overall atmosphere of the mix?
Hi Tom, thanks for having me! I recorded this at home in Berlin with 2x 1210s, a Xone 92 and my friend’s XDJs. First I did some mix sketches to figure out what was coming naturally and what I was more shoehorning in. I always start out trying to play everything and reluctantly narrow things down.
I was particularly sad to sacrifice a drum & bass edit of ‘Get Ur Freak On‘ by Missy Elliott, but from the survivors I’m really feeling The Source Experience – ‘Solaris‘ (been playing this one out a lot) and that swaggy rhythm on David Spanish ‘The Dripface‘. Was happy with how the Pariah, Posatronix, Kanyon all lined up for the 3-deck. Also ‘circle by circle’ or whatever the fuck that symbol is – shouts to Stephen Howe for the tip!
I’d say the overall atmosphere of the mix was ‘DJ ego death.’ No but seriously – I just wanted there to be a groove all the way through, and explore around that.
Where did you grow up, what got you interested in music and if you had any role models that helped shape your musical horizons?
I grew up in London. My parents are classical musicians so that was always a big part of life. They got me interested in wicked artists like Massive Attack, Prince, Röyksopp… then obviously I went to school and rebelled by listening to shitty chart music for a while. It was only at University that I met people like Chris Barrance, Rory Mangan, Alex T, Sam Jefferies (aka Tony Neptune), Adam Pits – friends who would rather die than stop playing music, and have always inspired me in that way.
When did you first start to experiment with turntables and what music were you playing at that time?
Actually, I learned to mix on turntables with someone else’s records (I was *obsessed* with the H.O.S.H. remix of Keep Control that year). Then I started using a Traktor control vinyl set-up to play more UK stuff, gazzy bass and Swamp 81, and didn’t get my own CDJs until a few years of playing. So turntables have always been the OG format – I don’t like mixing on just CDJs otherwise I get bogged down into scrolling and feel like I’m checking my emails in the club. Turntables keep you playing a bit looser, I find.
Do you remember the first record shop you visited and what you purchased (and do you still own the record)?
At the beginning I was mostly getting shit off Juno and Discogs… I think the first in-store cop must’ve been Sounds of the Universe in London? I bought a funny West Norwood Cassette Library record called ‘I Got It’ by Plastic Soul, and a Swamp 81 record of Funkbutcher and Zed Bias’ Funkbias project. I still have both!
Whilst living in London where did you tend to hang out, the scenes you were into, clubs you frequented and what music you were into at that time?
I think the first weighty club experience I had in London was a System:Sound night in North London. VIVEK was playing and some other Deep Medi heads and I had no idea who they were or what dubstep was but it was wicked. Other early experiences included Hidden in Vauxhall, Brixton Jamm, Phonox etc. but Corsica Studios definitely became the favourite spot. I had some friends who worked there so we used to go to the Jaded afterparties on Sunday. More recently it’s been all about Unfold, which is basically FOLD’s Jaded equivalent. Unannounced lineup, tough DJs, great sound, fun crowd—the best!
Tell us about what provoked you to relocate from London to Berlin? And how life and music in Berlin differs from being in London?
The pace and vibe of London never suited me, it felt a bit too fast and image-conscious. When I first moved to Berlin in 2013 to explore living somewhere else, I was like ‘wow what is this wonderful tech house you speak of?!’ Everyone went out for a billion hours and no one gave a shit what you wore, and it just felt like home from the get go.
Apart from the classic four/four vs. breaks thing, the main difference I’d say is stamina. In Berlin clubs are open for ages so the crowd aren’t pulling out gunfingaz every time they hear a nice blend. In the UK people are just gassed to be out until 3am or whenever, but that time limit can also make the crowd-DJ connection feel tighter.
How did you come up with the name of Katiusha – is there a meaning behind the name?
It’s my Russian nickname, so was a bit of a no-brainer as an alias. I almost changed it cause of how many times it gets misspelt or mispronounced but figured if SHXCXCHCXSH and ‘circle’ symbol person are doing alright, Katiusha is probably ok.
In February 2019 you presented your inaugural Above The Clouds broadcast on Cashmere Radio, and have continued to deliver a monthly residency ever since. Congratulations! How did you get involved with the Cashmere crew, what’s the concept behind Above The Clouds and (for those that have not attended) what makes Cashmere such a unique institution in Berlin?
Thanks! I went to Cashmere the first week I was in Berlin and ended up going a lot once I moved to Lichtenberg. I was doing the bar every weekend, mixing after-hours there, housesitting there, dropping my phone in the fucking toilet there… it was definitely a second home. And those feisty Italians! Porco madonna.
Above The Clouds came about as a way to soundtrack and celebrate clouds, which I think are massively under-appreciated. If you think about it, it’s wild we have something so expressive in the sky. Imagine if you’d lived on a planet where there were no clouds, then you came to earth for a bit and saw all the clouds changing from day to day, hour-to-hour. So it was a cool sonic palette to explore music with.
I love Cashmere for it’s community radio spirit, and how nerdy people get about radio as a format (last year’s feedback instillation springs to mind). They have a wide range of hosts and shows, and they’re pretty unbothered by the more glamorous side of Berlin’s DJ scene, which I like. Plus their Lichtenberg space (RIP) was really above and beyond in terms of cosiness and vibes.
"I think people have a hard time with plurality - we tend to glorify creatives who only do ‘one thing’ because we like the romance of an art practised obsessively. But as time goes on I increasingly respect the mettle it takes to balance multiple things"
In terms of DJ’ing, what’s your ideal setup for a club night or festival?
I usually prefer to mix on an Allen & Heath but I wouldn’t say no to a Pioneer because of the delay / echo fx. I like a rotary but they’re not so friendly to the fast cuts, so would never request one for a set. 1210’s are great — for a recent set in Czechia they had MK7s with a +/-16 pitch fader, which I enjoyed a lot. Quadraphonic sound system with ceiling tweeters are a touch.
I also love an eye-level booth and level (rather than mounted) CDJs. Being able to see your crowd properly is so important, so raised stages and CDJs that block your view tend to make me feel less connected to the audience.
Have you started to experiment with producing your own music? If so we’d love to hear more about how that is developing?
Yeah, I’ve been producing on and off for a few years but my current rhythm is unfortunately completing about 1 track per year haha. In terms of vibe it’s a bit all over the shop – drum & bass, house, EBM, dub, more recently some bassline with Stephen… i’m still treating it as an area of play rather than like ‘I need to put out a record so I get more gigs’. Jury’s out on when it’ll happen!
Other than DJ’ing, you dabble in music journalism for Stamp The Wax, writing features about Exclusivity Contracts and the impact of COVID-19 on the music industry. You also work for Hype Filter PR in Berlin alongside Hypercolour label boss Jamie Russell. You certainly have many strings to your bow. How has this helped shape your relationship and mindset for understanding the electronic music landscape and community?
Ufff, often it feels like a lot, which I’m obviously not alone in feeling. Are you even a DJ if you don’t have a side hustle? Especially after COVID, it’s like ‘don’t quit your day job… ever’. There have been times when I’ve been coy about the different stuff I do, like all those things have to be separate personas or it takes away credibility.
I think people have a hard time with plurality – we tend to glorify creatives who only do ‘one thing’ because we like the romance of an art practised obsessively. But as time goes on I increasingly respect the mettle it takes to balance multiple things.
For me, playing music, writing about music, and talking day in, day out with people creating and delivering music all contributes to an understanding of the scene’s quirks, whether good or bad… all in the name of creating these transient magical moments.
You’ve been part of Cosmic Roots Festival since it first started. Having personally attended and reviewed the 2021 edition, I was beyond impressed with the festival. What defines and makes Cosmic Roots special to you?
On paper I guess Cosmic Roots is kind of a boutique festival in the sense that it’s small, it’s cute, it sells day tickets to people coming up from London on the Saturday – but they’ve also grown massively from year-to-year in terms of lineup, event production and crowd-size, and each year it’s got so much better. The people running it really, really care. I like the fact they prioritised sound right from the beginning, and their line-ups have always been nicely curated. The site is great, too. Those woods have a special place in my heart!
I assume that you remained in Berlin during the lockdown, which must have been challenging. Looking back at that period, what did you invest your time into and what did you learn from that experience?
Actually both lockdowns I was in London. The first one came just after Alex passed, so being stowed away at my family’s place having time to grieve and no obligation see anyone was kind of perfect. The second time, I had just come off the back of realising I did way too much stuff without really knowing why.
I took a life architecture course run by Aequa, which made me decide to strip away everything. For two months I woke up every day without pressure to mix or write or anything. Apart from my day job, I ended up just writing poems and playing my parents’ piano, which was ironic, like ‘thanks, the stuff i seem to most want to do is totally non-lucrative’… but it was a real palette cleanser, and helped me figure out a lot of internal truths, including wanting to do less journalism and more creative writing, and become a more purposeful digger.
You’re currently represented by Suo Motu Bookings – tell us more about the team behind the Berlin-based agency and what it means to you to be part of their roster?
Ahh I can’t say enough good things about Suo! It’s run by my friends Jo and Carl, who are both utter sweethearts and also extremely good at what they do (Carl sends me these quick one minute voice notes where he inevitably apologises for rambling at the end, which are great.) They set up just before the pandemic and have gone from strength to strength despite all the setbacks. They have a lot of UK artists on the roster so it feels like home, and I’m also happy to be in the company of more experimental artists like FFT and Meemo Comma.
What’s the most exciting thing, event, collective, label, happen in Berlin at the moment?
The Headbangerz crew have done some pretty sick events recently— the last one was over Easter weekend and everyone was like ‘damn… ok!’ It was very vibey. The Super Hexagon label in Berlin (which Suo artists Jacob Wiltshire and FFT run with Arthur Scott-Geddes) are making some great music—the second track in this mix is from Jacob). I’ve always enjoyed REEF, too, the party they put on with Batu in November was insanely good. And then I have a lot of love for Awkwardly Social as well.
Finally, what’s next for Katiusha?
I have big plans after my DJ ego death, which funnily enough all look like playing more DJ gigs… I have a gig at Paloma this week with Marco Shuttle, and then one with Job Sifre at Dissident the week after, plus some stuff in Bristol and London in summer, Lecken. I’ve temporarily laid the Above the Clouds series to rest so I can concentrate more fully on gigs, writing, and sending a billion emails every day. But my main hope is to DJ more intentionally, follow my nose, and remember to enjoy it.
1. Lifted – Tongue Trip
2. J. Wiltshire – Resa
3. Soreab & KRSLD – Butoh
4. ◙ – ◙ [EOD tracks]
5. Pariah – Frogspawn
6. Posatronix – Shake Dat Thang
7. Kanyon – Dr. Track
8. Nara – Ipse Dixit (Air Max ’97 Remix)
9. Flore – The Switcher
10. DJ Rashad – On the Flo (DET Version)
11. Champion Sound – Total Ravin
12. Deniro – MPC Tracks 4
13. The Source Experience – Solaris
14. Eris Drew – Pick ‘Em Up
15. Oldboy – Get Em Up
16. SPD – Ferment (Fonzo Remix)
17. David Spanish – The Dripface
18. Chris Brown – Run It (Mask Organ Dub Remix)
19. gayphextwin – saunter
20. Manse – Bang Tap Borrow
21. Ben Pest – Greta Recognise
22. diessa – fuck me (Sobolik Remix)
23. Repart – Xanadu
24. Nathan Surreal – A Feeling of Ikigai