is Romanian-born, Toronto-bred DJ and producer, who also stays behind her own label Kuukou. In an exclusive interview for ONLY TECHNO, she tells us about the best aspects of living in Berlin, her hip-hop roots, fascination for Asia and connecting.
You were born in Romania, grew up in Toronto and moved to Berlin in 2008. Did you find here your “Place on Earth”?
Well, my “Place on Earth” IS the earth. I won’t be done until I see as much of it as pissible, but, for all intents and purposes, absolutely! I love Berlin. It’s where my family is and where I’m supposed to be. I can’t see myself living in Toronto ever again. Musically, there is nothing there for me. Only friends and family and I’m desperately trying to convince them to come here. (smile) At the very least, my mom surely has to spend more time here. She just retired and Isabella is always asking for her Buni (Grandmother in Romanian).
Berlin as a multicultural city, favourite spot for living for lots of artists from the whole world seems to be like „New York of Europe”. What’s the best aspect of life in Berlin for you?
Nobody gives a fuck. You see ravers coming from the club at 8 am as mothers are leaving the house pushing the kiddie buggy. There are no stares, and if so, they are less judgemental here. Everyone is different and those challenges are welcomed and accepted her. Chances are that those moms know more about 90s raves than the current ravers, anyway. Maybe we don’t all understand each other but we respect each other. Culture is a huge topic here and in contrary to America, where you find the melting pot philosophy—the one where your cultural background gets slowly dissipated and you become fully American—Berlin is more like Canada’s “tossed salad” where we all live in the same place but hold onto our heritage and culture. Another challenge that’s welcomed and accepted.
You started your adventure with music with classical instruments and then fell in love with hip-hop culture and freestyling. Do you still write rhymes? Who was your favourite raper back in the day?
Ha! That’s the best question! Mobb Deep are my absolute favourite rappers. I loved them in the 90s and I love them now. When Prodigy died last year, I holed myself in my room and cried. A lot. Which is not really understandable as I’ve never met either of them, but knowing that era is over—that they’ll never have a concert again—was difficult to swallow. I still remember when I saw them here in Berlin at Astra Kulturhaus a few years ago. I was the only girl in the audience spitting along to every single track. I had to pee so badly but would not leave my “prime real estate” spot in front row centre. And then they came out to sign records. Now THAT was a moment!
I don’t write rhymes anymore but I often use spoken word or mini-recordings for tracks I produce. Mixing styles is fun and adding some injections of rap in a techno track can totally spice it up. It’s about using what you have—your voice, your skills, your time, whatever! Just use what you can to be creative and it will happen.
Do you remember the first electronic track that you have heard and thought that this music is gonna influence your whole life?
The Prodigy – Charly – XL Recordings (August 12, 1991).
I just knew. I was 11 and had the cassette, then the CD (four times broken and re-bought), and now the vinyl.
You are also fascinated by the Japanese culture. Do you think you might have lived in Asia in your previous life?
I think I WAS Japanese in a previous life. The word “Asian” is a big scoop of a word. There are hundreds of cultures and languages in Asia. I’ve not traveled extensively there, but I have been to China, India, Japan and Singapore. I love all those places but somehow identify with Japan. The calmness and seriousness with which they approach life is spectacular to me. I practice mindfulness and meditation in an attempt to achieve that same way of life. I really need to go there again soon. WIth Izzy and Paul, of course. I want to immerse her in culture, the way we do here in Germany, with my Romanian heritage and pretty much everywhere else we go.
The name of your record label „Kuukou” also comes from Japanese and means „airport”. Most of the DJ’s seem to be tired of the way of life they practice: between clubs and airports. But you do love aviation and living on the road, right?
Yes! I can honestly say that the travel is exhausting but also exciting! Also, we are not living on the road. I have so many DJ friends who are gone for months at a time but those guys don’t have kids! Stability is what we foster and we are only gone for a day or two at a time, and otherwise home.
I love my job but being away from my family is not easy, although, for my career and my peace of mind, the alone time is crucial. A day of hectic traveling makes one appreciate the comforts of home so much more.
As for the love of flying, well, that started when I was young. My parents got divorced when I was 11 and after that, my brother (fellow producer, Moe Danger) and I flew alone between Toronto and Bucharest quite often. Those long haul flights fascinated me. The fact that in a few short hours I could be across the world, in a different land with different people—it opened my eyes to what was out there. We flew so much that I started to learn about the machines and names and specifications of various aircraft. At one point it was a dream of mine to become a pilot. The dream is not dead, just dormant. Perhaps I’ll go to aviation school in the next chapter of my life. Anything is possible.
What was the key of collecting the tracks for your “Best of Kuukou Compilation”?
Yes, the ones that made me dance the hardest 🙂
You also have some fresh releases upcoming on Elevate, Set About and Kuukou on to way to be released in a few months. Can you tell us a bit more about the forthcoming records?
I really can’t. They’ve not even been announced but I can tell you I worked my ass off to make this happen and I’m so thankful that my “dream” labels have taken a chance on me. Exciting things coming up! When I have solid release dates I’ll let you know but it’s all coming up fast and furiously!
You are an artist, DJ, wife and mom – is it difficult to connect professional work and travelling with family life? What would you advise to other women that plan to start a DJ-career?
Umm, well it’s not always easy. I often feel like a clown juggling it all but balance is key. I forgotten about my hobbies as I spend all my time with Isabella and Paul and I only work when she’s at kindergarden—not after school and not nights. I workout daily to keep my body and mind in check and keep those energy levels up and I choose my gigs carefully as I believe the ancient saying of “quality over quantity”. Being married to someone who understands the serious demands of the job is also amazing. Paul understands me. He understands that sometimes I have to accept opportunities that take me out of the county for a few days and that’s ok, because Mommy has to go to work, too! I can only hope that our five-year-old stops resenting me for leaving and will one day understand that it’s important to do what you love and take those opportunities that make you grow. It’s part of life and it helps me be a better mom to know that I’m fostering these values.
The advice I’d give to ANY Dj, female or not, is keep your head up and keep on working. You will hear 100 Nos before you hear a YES and that’s totally normal. It’s even harder now to be a DJ because it’s “trendy” and anyone with a ripped version of Ableton can make a track. But his is the beauty of it, too. The world is limitless. If you make a hit, you have an in, then you work your ass off and tour around to create a name for yourself, but it all starts with the production. Also, very important, is to be able to ask for help. I was (and still kinda see myself as) a junior producer. I work with engineers and producers I trust to learn more and refine my studio skills. This is what it’s all about,— just don’t stop.
What are your 5 favourite club classics from the past that still work on the dancefloor?
Extrawelt – 8000
Paul Kalkbrenner – Atzepeng
Plastikman – Spastik
Jeff Mills – The Bells
Cajmere – Percolator