Katie Kate exudes confidence – and rightly so, she’s the humorous, wildly talented, sonically appealing rapper and producer the city of Seattle is currently getting to know well. Her lyrics bounce and impress and her listeners end up wondering: how can all that music come from just one person? KEXP caught up with Katie Kate and found out what the MC, singer and producer thinks about Upstate, NY, what her favorite moments in the studio recording Nation were, and more!
You have an audience of many sorts of music lovers – from hip hop fans, to electronic to rock fans – when you were younger, before you ever performed, what aspects of music drew you in?
I’ve always been a performer, ever since I was a little kid, so it’s hard to pinpoint a time before I had ever performed. I’ve always been a musician; it’s something I have done for my entire life in various ways. I think it mathematically jives with me and I’m so fascinated by theory. I had really good relative pitch as a small kid, before I even knew what that was, and I’d try to figure out songs on the radio in scale degrees. As I became older and life became more challenging it was a huge emotional and creative outlet, my only escape at times. It was something I was good at and could rely on that was an integral part of my self. It was something I didn’t have to share if I didn’t want to, a private safe space. It sometimes feels like the only thing I’m sure about and have always been sure about.
Care to elaborate on what those “more challenging” experiences were? And how did the theory aspect of music help you through?
I won’t elaborate too much, but I had a very rough time at home during middle and high school. Music was a way to get out of the house – I was in literally every ensemble at my school. The classical stuff was consistent, there were rules to follow, I knew what was expected of me. Then I’d pop in my Weezer or Elliott Smith or Atmosphere when I got home and let that take me away. Theory wasn’t what got me through, it’s just something I’ve always been very interested in and have a knack for. In the 60-page booklet that accompanies Nation, I included a bunch of writings from my notebooks, and there are a ton of pages filled with seemingly random numbers. I don’t even remember what they mean, but it’s definitely music somehow. Maybe someone will figure it out for me.
Let’s talk influences – what did you learn from Weezer? What did you learn from Elliot Smith, from Atmosphere, that informs your style, your music and how you comport yourself?
Weezer taught me about how to construct pop music, and that it doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows. Pinkerton is still one of my favorite albums of all time, hands down. Elliot Smith is the king of sad bastard music, and the sensitivity and depth of his songs developed that in me, and really helped me understand the power of tone and lyrics. I also learned a great deal of guitar by learning his songs from internet tabs after school. Atmosphere was really my first hip hop love. I felt like it was very raw, the beats slapped, and I could tool around in my car and be as angry as I fucking wanted to be and there was somebody there being just as angry with me. The bass would shake things loose in my chest and I’d just scream and cry the lyrics. Probably not the safest way to drive, but it was Upstate NY, the risk was pretty minimal.
Oh, Upstate New York. So you were used to the grey terrain before ever moving to Seattle?
It’s quite beautiful in the summer (if incredibly humid), but yes – that tail end of winter when all the snow turns black and won’t melt. That’s fun.
You’ve done some collaborations with well-known Seattle artists lately. Any memorable encounters? Stories you’d like to share?
When Nacho and Jarv came to record on “Persephone” it was the last night of recording, right before Christmas. We sat around most of the night drinking and talking shit, they explained a lot about different types of grills to me, we told ghost stories – and then they both just popped in the booth and were done in one take. Those guys are crazy good. We spent several hours there, but the actual recording took two seconds. I loved it.
What was your favorite personal experience while recording Nation?
I think forcing the studio to buy a hot plate so that I could cook actual food and not live off KIND bars and frozen burritos.