Interview: Simina Grigoriu, behind the scenes
Romanian-born, Toronto-bred Simina Grigoriu has been steadily racking up accolades during her decade-long career. Starting off as a DJ, she’s made the transition as a producer and kicked off her own label Kuukou, a home for techno forward productions, where she calls all the shots. In this time she’s also transplanted to Berlin, a place she now calls home and the major source of her creative inspiration, a source as diverse as her influences.
Safe to say the coming months will provide a plethora of amazing releases, performances and surprises from one of Techno’s most dynamic ladies.
Only recently we had a chat to talk with Simina Grigoriu about her life as a DJ/producer/Label owner. As a leading lady in the industry, she knows how to pick her battles. Please read on.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Thank you for having me!
How are you doing these days?
Fantastic! Busy as hell but happy and productive!
We got to premiere two of your tracks this year. Awesome work. How do you combine all the work: DJ, producer, label owner, mom?
It all comes down to scheduling. There is time for everything. With our little girl now in pre-school, it’s much easier to get things done during the day. Days are dedicated to producing new tunes and doing label stuff while afternoons and nights are for my family. I go on tour on the weekends (but not every weekend) and have become somewhat picky about my gigs, so it really comes down to quality over quantity. I also have a great team to help me manage Kuukou as we roll out the records; I am eternally thankful to the guys of Grise Agency for doing all the label admin so I can put my good time towards being creative in the studio.
Moving to another country and leaving my entire life behind was not easy, but I did it for love.
You are around for about a decade in the music scene. What were some of the ups and downs along your way?
I’ve been around a lot longer than that! I only came to Berlin in 2008 but have been playing and producing music a lot longer—unprofessionally, but for a long time. Moving to another country and leaving my entire life behind was not easy, but I did it for love. Having made such a huge change, it was challenging to create new contacts and get my music heard. I am very grateful to Paul (Kalkbrenner) for giving me the chance to open his tours for several consecutive years which gave me the platform to showcase my music to many more spectators. My dreams are big and I feel I still have a lot to prove, so my journey is not even close to its end. But, I will keep at it and give my best. Ups and downs are part of life and there’s no need to dwell on them. Keep on moving.
What about your childhood was unique and most contributed to the adult/artist you’ve become?
We immigrated from Romania to Canada when I was only 3 years old and after the revolution, we travelled back home every summer. I was exposed to different cultures and a wide range of music. We also travelled all over Europe during those long summers and were dragged to every church and historical site known to man. It was the “cultural experience” as my parents used to say. My brother and I hated it at the time but looking back, I realize that having had those impressions as a child was crucial to my personal and artistic development. It sparked an interest in the world and what it has to offer and I am not an adventure enthusiast.
Was dance music always your main influence when you were younger? And, how did you ultimately end up in dance music scene?
I was always a fan of electronic music. The interest sparked when I was a teenage raver in Toronto and I was mesmerized by the scene. I started playing records for fun at home in my early 20’s and doing it professionally only came to me during the second half of that decade. I was playing little gigs in Toronto but it was not until I moved to Berlin in 2008 that I made a career of it. Same goes for producing. I was being mentored by a few friends but only hunkered down and produced my first records in 2008.
I was being mentored by a few friends but only hunkered down and produced my first records in 2008.
Where do you draw your creative influences from?
Everywhere. But my mood determines what I will do in the studio. Sometimes I want to use fluffy, housey vocals, other times I go really dark. I am the self-proclaimed sample queen! It started out cause I didn’t really know how to use MIDI so I was all sample-based but by sampling. I also found some really cool sounds and ways to incorporate, say, a Nirvana-bassline to make a techno sub bass. Stuff like that.
I am the self-proclaimed sample queen! It started out cause I didn’t really know how to use MIDI so I was all sample-based but by sampling.
What’s next for you? Any releases we need to look out for?
Yeah! I just wrapped up my Una EP with remixes from Carlo Ruetz and Jade. I named it UNA for my best friend, Helen Una, from Toronto. We’ve been through so much together so I wanted to honour her with this. The EP will come out on my label, Kuukou, in July. I also have some remixes coming up for Klakngkarussell, Cosmic Boys and Lazarusman as well as new productions up my sleeve. Can’t say too much cause it’s too soon but yeah, I’m busy.
And with the summer coming up, a tight schedule?
Yes but we must also make time for fun. We’ll combine some gigs with holidays and bring Isabella with us. Gonna be fun!
A strong set truly can be more than the sum of its parts. How, do you feel, is the music transformed in the hands of a DJ? In which way are you actively trying to create an experience that is more than just stringing together a few excellent records?
You mean other than hands in the air and finger hearts? Yes, well, if you love what you do, it will show when you do it. I feel this way about music and about playing so I’m always in a good mood on stage (even if I wasn’t in a good mood backstage). The music fills my veins and I’m instantly happier. If people see this, it can become contagious. I’m in a good mood and so is the crowd. I see the opposite sometimes, too! Really arrogant DJs who never smile and think they’re God’s gift to ravers. This attitude, this ME ME ME drive does nothing for the crowd. They are there for you and you should be there for them. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that actively being part of the club experience will foster involvement and lead to mixing a better set.
Work your ass off. Know your music. Get producing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Lastly, as a label manager, what do you say to aspiring producers out there trying to find their voice and identity as artists?
Work your ass off. Know your music. Get producing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are not alone in this. Although I am self-taught artists I have relied heavily in the past on the knowledge and expertise of my peers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t get discouraged. It takes tens, maybe even a hundred emails to get one record or track out. Shopping around for labels is key and labels are not the fastest in responding to demos. This can be discouraging sometimes and in this case, all I have to say is Keep Your Head Up.
Alfred Heinrichs – Dreamcatcher (Simina Grigoriu Remix) is out now on her Kuukou label. Grab it here »
Check out our premiere of Alfred Heinrichs’ Dreamcatcher in the Simina Grigoriu remake »