As so many talented DJs still lay quiet under the surface, Léa Ben Saïd’s Making Waves is back with an eclectic mix by Katiusha. Her selection of faster electro and techno tracks especially for this mix, while she effortlessly moves between genres and bpms, makes it a must-hear.
London-born Katia Mullova started getting interested in electronic music when living in Berlin. She furthered her interest at university and started throwing the not-for-profit Patchwork parties, and the decision to move back to Berlin after her degree came naturally. After experiencing life as a DJ in both the UK and Germany, she chats to us about the differences between the two, but also her influences, Objekt and Batu who she shared her first line-up with, and her ties with UK local scenes such as Leeds.
Waveform: How did you prepare for and record this mix?
Katiusha: The last time I recorded a mix was for Alex T‘s Rinse show, which was super stressful because I was still in a bit of a DJing dry spell after moving abroad. But this one came off the back of several gigs in Berlin and the UK which resuscitated my confidence a bit. I wanted to catch some of that feeling in a mix so I put together some recent favourites, promos, and friends’ tracks and set out to make something fresh.
I was at a friend’s place to record so I had about 50 records and maybe 100 digital tracks, recording on CDJs, 1210s and a Xone92. I don’t plan recorded sets but I enjoy the playlisting process loads – there’s such a knack to tailoring them so you’re not just rifling through genres all the time. In this case I made a new folder called ‘curves’ which I could refer to if stuff was getting too linear – I like prepping small details like that to remind myself what I want from a good mix.
Waveform: Did you have a specific idea in mind when you recorded it ?
Katiusha: I knew I wanted to include a bunch of tracks that I’d been shying away from playing out just because they were faster. That was the priority, giving those tracks some attention. More generally, though I realised that all the mixes I’d put up so far didn’t paint a wholly accurate picture of my taste – I had so many warm up sets recorded and nothing over 135bpm, which I think was a weirdly persistent hangover from playing smaller gigs. For this one I started at 135 and finished around 155bpm. Felt like a new woman!
Waveform: How did it all start for you ?
Katiusha: I lived in Berlin for my gap year and despite all intentions to improve my singer/songwriting I learned how to mix and spent a year swooning over average tech house instead (classic). Coming back to the UK I didn’t think twice about working all summer to buy my own decks. When I went to uni the person living in the room next door had loads of records but no turntables, and I had turntables but no records. Handy! We co-founded a not-for-profit party called Patchwork with two other friends and put loads of time into that.
I didn’t think about DJing that seriously until I was in my last year at uni. I go a bit loopy when I’m reading and writing all the time, and DJing was basically the thing that kept me sane. During finals I was still playing gigs and working revision into mix sessions with friends, and I couldn’t really imagine stopping and pursuing something else, so afterwards I just moved back to Berlin and carried on.
Waveform: Who have been your major influences ?
Katiusha: Taste-wise I’d say Batu and Objekt. They were both on the first line-up I ever played – until then I’d just been playing the occasional student party and buying loads of questionable records. Then that set came round and I was like, ah fuck, I need better records. I probably doubled my (small) collection preparing for the gig, and then I was converted. But yeah, I love their classy low-end approach, and they always play adventurously.
Maybe this sounds weird because she plays such different stuff to me, but when we booked anu from the Rhythm Section crew that was a turning point. She didn’t pay much attention to the beatmatching but she had the crowd practically foaming at the mouth. I loved the Dimensions Directory she did last year, too. Together with Beatrice Dillon, anu made me realise there was more to DJing than just mixing in time; I think that was when I started to dig and select more thoughtfully. Last but not least my friend Chris showed me what it was like to play music from the heart, which sounds cheesy but I can’t put it any other way!
Waveform: What records can we often find in your bag ?
Katiusha: Hmm… I guess one that often wangles its way back in is the Meteor EP from Shinra, which is a great piece of wax from the Analogical Force label. Then there’s a 6-track comp called Anonymous Delusional Eros – I only ever play one track off it and keep meaning to play the other five. Oh, one that’s been coming with me everywhere lately is a Photonz / Posthuman record off Acid Avengers – I bought it for the slowed down break sample on the B-side but there’s a wicked punchy stepper on the flip. And one that I’ve been waiting ages to play at the right time, but never have, is the Pariah edit of Banjo by Clark.
Waveform: You play for a lot of different events and with collectives with whom if feels you have really tight links. How did you first start getting involved in the electronic music community, and how did that change when you moved from the UK to Berlin ?
Katiusha: Well starting Patchwork was my catalyst for getting into the scene, and I was also involved in a DJ organisation which was all about supporting local independent nights. Then I met my boyfriend who’s amazing at working with other DJs in a really selfless way, so he became my example in that. Chatting to people online and sending each other music was also invaluable – that’s how I got to know Alex T. We’re now very close mates and I’ve played for his night a few times.
Berlin has been quite insular in comparison – not running a party means I can’t book people I’m into, and people don’t have afters as much because the majority prefer a club that’s open all weekend to a flat where neighbours might be an issue. Seriously, if I moved back to the UK it would definitely be for the afters (and the little triangle sandwiches). Another thing I’ve found hard here is the scene being so saturated that it’s easy to spread yourself thin. For me the exception is Cashmere, a radio station I help out with (also not-for-profit). That was the first place I felt at home here; it has such a warm vibe.
Waveform: How different is your experience as a DJ in Berlin than it was in the UK ? What are the key differences between both places according to you ?
Katiusha: Generally speaking I think it comes down to licensing. Whether it’s London or Glasgow so many places in the UK have crap licensing hours so it’s all about getting lots of energy into a short space of time. In Berlin people are out for literally days so you need to cater for their stamina. They’re also a bit more reserved – you play one banger and Brits are like “woiiiiioiiiiiii fuck offffff!!!!” whereas Germans will find a spot to discuss what the music’s doing for them.
For some reason I find it harder to play to UK crowds now, maybe because they’re more reactive so it’s more obvious when you lose them. To be honest I always feel nervous playing anywhere. Unless it’s The North.
Waveform: I have only heard your mixes but do you also produce, or is it something you would like to get into and maybe release yourself at some point ?
Katiusha: I do produce – I’m very slow though! I’m not the kind of person who can make something in a day; I need breaks to get some perspective on what I’ve done so far (story of my life actually). It’s something I angst over as well: compared to my other interests (DJing, writing, and visual art) production has this kind of unyielding quality. You can make something that sounds really expressive but because it’s electronic the imperfections don’t get as much poetic license.
I could just be saying that because I’m learning, though… Maybe in five years’ time I’ll be monologuing about the mathematics of grain delay to hapless strangers at after parties, and having nightmares about the days when I didn’t know what side chain compression was. Anyway, I’ve made some tunes and the plan is to make more tunes.
Waveform: Are there any artists you think we should keep an eye on ?
Katiusha: Alex T for sure. I’m trying to persuade him to get an agent – he’s got a bloody coral reef named after him but still no agent – and of course he’s being all coy about it. He is really quite fucking good though so I wouldn’t just keep an eye, I’d straight up book him if I were you.
Leeds has bags of talent bubbling away under the surface: Equaliser, Brudenell Groove, Love Muscle and Superhexagon are doing really cool things just to name a few. There’s a DJ in those circles called Luce who I’m particularly excited about, I’ve not seen anyone play a record like her. Production-wise I’m always keeping tabs on Arctor from Glasgow; Cavanaut from London and skinsdub in Leeds.
Waveform: Do you have anything exciting planned ?
Katiusha: Well someone approached me online in September saying she wants to help me get my stuff out there, and despite feeling like maybe she’d got the wrong girl it’s something I’ve decided to take up. Her agency is called Delia Bookings and it’s totally new, so that’ll be a fun little mutual venture.
Cashmere have also spoken to me about a regular radio show, which I would be so psyched about – it’s like a second home so any excuse, really! November’s looking to be a good month as well, with another gig at Suicide Circus, one at About Blank, maybe one in London and back to Leeds for On Rotation playing after CCL.
You can keep up with what Katia is up to on Facebook.