Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Morning Show Host John Richards, is “Copenhagen” by Katie Kate from her debut album, Flatland, on Out For Stardom.
All week we’ve been celebrating the top 500 songs of all time as part of our Fall Membership Drive. We’ve heard from the DJs, listeners, and even many of the artists themselves how much KEXP and the music they hear on the station means to them. KEXP is a place where the music really does matter and the music you hear on this station not only provides enjoyment and entertainment, but it can also provide inspiration to the new generations of artists.
One such artist is Katie Kate, an up-and-coming hip hop producer and emcee out of Seattle. Prior to her in-studio last month on Audioasis (check it out on the KEXP archives), she blogged about how excited she was for it.
“This is literally a dream come true. I used to listen to KEXP in New York, thinking I was very cool, and in the back of my brain I dreamed of being on this station. I’m so thankful!
With all the recent attention on Seattle’s hip hop scene (thanks to Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars, Macklemore, and many more), it’s prime time for Katie Kate (aka Katie Finn) to release her long-awaited debut. And it’s made sweeter by the fact that Finn has some really compelling factors that will, hopefully, attribute to her success. She rolls with the crew from Out for Stardom which include the likes of Mad Rad, Fresh Espresso, and Metal Chocolates which as a collective, represent some of the hardest working and most talented folks in the hip hop scene and really do a lot to help each other out. She also has a strong background in music. She’s a classically trained composer, which makes for interesting inspiration for the beats she puts together for her music. Finally, she has a underrepresented voice (ironically, today’s song is an instrumental track) as a female hip hop emcee and vocalist.
All of that aside, her music reflects an array of instrumentation, driving beats, fun pop elements, and the interplay between sweet vocals and clever lyrics that provide an insight into her world. Today’s song, spotlights her skills as a producer and call to mind the song’s European inspiration.
Katie Finn shares some of that original inspiration along with her thoughts on the draw of pop music, being a female artist in a male dominated scene, and being in control of her music and her career.
How does being classically trained as a composer feed into what you’re doing with your solo work as Katie Kate?
Classical composition for me has always been about the holistic nature of art. Parts relating to other parts, and the entire work relating to society in a way that is harmonious, intelligent and (hopefully) profound. I carry this sensibility with me to my pop music, but add a more guttural element in my beats. I think going to school for classical music is what drove me to pop. I was studying very esoteric subjects and artists and finding myself thinking “ok, so... what?” It was beautiful and interesting, but I really found myself missing the world of pop music. Whatever music I was listening to in my car in high school was easily one of the most important elements of my life. It touched me, molded me, got me through the day. I love classical music, but I am so deeply in love with pop music and the profound effect it has on society, culture, and individuals. Let’s not forget, Mozart was the new hotness at one point too. But my classical training and that sense of viewing art in a specific way, making things cohesive, self-contained, and expressive is what really inspires me in my beat making.
You make your own beats as well as write and perform, is it more liberating for you as an artist to be a one person army or do you sometimes long for the group atmosphere and collaboration a band provides?
I’ll be honest, I’m a total control freak. I’m not really used to collaborating. I have done it, certainly, and will continue to in the future, but I’ve always been kind of a lone wolf. Allowing Dash EXP to mix and master my record was actually really hard for me, but I chose him because he has the same sensibilities that I do and allowed me into the process. He showed me what he was doing and how to do it, and offered really important editorial advice on the tracks. He is outstanding. In general though, I don’t really miss working with others. I miss hanging out with others sometimes, but such is the life of a solo producer. Maybe when I have a full studio I’ll be one of those people with a posse and a fridge full of ice cream and everyone can come party in the other room while I work, so I don’t feel quite so lonely.
Seattle has a thriving hip hop scene and a pretty tight knit community (especially artists involved with Out for Stardom and Sportin’ Life). Do you feel a lot of support from the hip hop community as an artist? As a female artist?
I think the hip hop community has some of the most open, supportive and talented people I’ve ever met. It may be due to the fact that it’s a fairly new phenomenon, everyone is just trying to be as supportive as possible because we all want each other to make it and for Seattle hip hop to get the shine it deserves. I have always felt greatly supported by many of my fellow artists. As a female, I think there’s a whole lot of people underestimating me. There always have been and probably always will be. What’s important to me is that people actually take time to listen to the music and learn a little about me before jumping to the conclusion that I’m Ke$ha.
What can you tell me about “Copenhagen?” What was your process for putting the music together and for making it an instrumental?
I made Copenhagen while I was actually in Copenhagen. I would go every morning to Bang & Jensen, a cafe in Vesterbro that reminded me of a Danish version of Joe Bar, and would bring my computer to write. I wrote this track and kept it around for a while, and when the time came to start assembling the album I played it for Dash EXP. I was discouraged because I liked the track, but everything I wrote over it lyrically sounded totally wrong, tacked on, and didn’t mesh. He told me to put it on the album as a beat, which I hadn’t really considered as a possibility. But he insisted that it was done, and that’s why no words would fit over it. It didn’t need them. He gave me the confidence to actually put my produced beats on the album as stand alone tracks, and I’m really glad I did. Copenhagen is really just an expression of the feeling that city gave me. It was cold, shiny, lush and dark.
You can catch Katie Kate TOMORROW 10/8 at the Sunset Tavern as part of the Reverb Festival . She’ll also be part of the City Arts festival later this month which will also be her CD release party featuring Mad Rad, Helluvastate, and Slow Dance. More dates and info available on her Myspace page.
Here she is performing “Hunting” earlier this year: