Diggers Directory: Katiusha

Photo Credit: Daria Shvartcman

There’s an elegance and grace that exudes from Berlin-based Katiusha. Qualities that translate into her creative endeavours, be that as a writer (and a bloody good one at that) or as a DJ: her words and selections are immersive and measured, laced together with fluidity and vision.

While her DJ sets – which have seen her play at venues and festivals like Dimensions, Griessmuehle and Cosmic Roots – explore deep and driving electronics, her regular show on Cashmere Radio is more conceptual, focusing on music in relation to the different elements of the clouds above us.

From deep undulating electronics to driving techno, her vinyl mix explores her fascination with dreams and the routes they can take into disorientation and darkness, without becoming nightmares. This sits alongside an interview which traces her relationship with records…

DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?

My mum, dad and stepdad are all classical musicians by profession, so it’s kind of weird I never laid eyes on a record until learning how to DJ. We sessioned a lot of music, though (sometimes to the point of a whole album getting banned) – ones that spring to mind are Massive Attack Mezzanine, Prince Diamonds & Pearls, Faithless Outrospective, and Röyksopp Melody AM. But I’d say the main influence they had on me was sharing their uninhibited love for sound. Each of them would go nuts over a single note in an 8-minute long track, and that enthusiasm is something I’ve always really rated. 

People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?

I learned how to mix using my flatmate’s records and when I moved out I just thought, I’ll get the same set-up won’t I. So I got my hands on some turntables and figured I’d use a DVS to save money. The more I used the DVS, the more I realised it wasn’t for me – I found the visual aspect too absorbing – and by then I’d acquired some records. Most of them were pretty rubbish: I didn’t have a good local record store, and I was totally unsavvy on Discogs. Then I discovered Juno and it was game over. 

Now I have plenty of record stores around me but I don’t buy as many records, partly as an act of self-control (“are you going to cherish this for the rest of your life?”) and partly for environmental reasons (I got CDJs last year). But I wouldn’t cut them out completely, just because I mix differently with records. There’s more adrenaline and consideration with a vinyl mix: the contact is more subtle, and the selections are more risky and unknowable. I still don’t use Rekordbox on my CDJs because I like that quality of cueing a track without knowing exactly what’s coming up. I think it translates to a sharper sense of focus.

Where do you store your records and how do you file them?

My storage system is pretty boring! I keep them in 4×4 Kallax, plus one record bag that’s always full from the last gig. I group them by energy and genre, with one section for weird stuff and another one for waifs and strays. My favourite thing about my set-up is probably the pictures I have in front of my decks: a couple of my illustrations, little drawings from friends, plus a postcard with a slightly judgmental-looking lady on it.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

My favourite store in Berlin is Sound Metaphors. I like the fact they don’t have too much stuff, and their stock is decent. They’ve also got some banging second-hand bits, as I think they have some bigshot DJs passing on their old records in batches. Also I love the fact that everything’s presented really neatly, it makes the sensation of digging really pleasant!

In the UK it has to be Tribe Records in Leeds – mainly because that’s where you’ll find local terror / internet sensation Alex T and his boss Gentle Si. Seriously though, even if they weren’t such great company they have an impressive track record for getting the right records into their customers’ hands. And you can get a cup of tea across the road for a quid.

Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?

That’s a hard question for me to answer, as I didn’t do much in-store digging before I moved here. Obviously I’ve already mentioned Alex and Si. The Rubadub lot are also super sound – friendly staff and some very nice finds (if I remember rightly one of them gave me a record for free, which actually made it into this mix). While we’re on Glasgow there’s another record store called Palais de Danse, which is tucked up a super narrow flight of stairs over a kilt shop or something like that, run by a nice lad called Dennis. Oh yeah, and Jules from Record Loft before Record Loft was reincarnated – he’s a good soul who I’ve really enjoyed talking to when we’ve hung out.

Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?

I try not to dwell on the records I can’t find… if it’s unaffordable but I can’t stop thinking about it I’ll save it as a birthday present request. So last year my brother and sister clubbed together to get me this radiant disco record by Paris Bis. I don’t really play disco but after hearing it out with some friends I just couldn’t shut up about it, so I thought it was best for everyone I got my hands on a copy. 

The last record I craved super badly was this insane acid electro record from Luke Warmwater, which my boyfriend Rory was savvy enough to find despite it not being up for sale on Discogs (he’s a real gem).

Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?

If I’m on a mission to find some music I prefer to go alone. I feel like there’s less time constraint, and no pressure to buy something you don’t 100% want just because your friends are leaving with a big stack. At the same time people usually want to go to all the Berlin record stores if they’re visiting, so it’s become a standard excursion when catching up with people who are over for a weekend. It sort of depends on the day, as well. Sometimes it’s super fun to pass the headphones and watch them listen to something you’re into. Rory’s probably my favourite person to dig with.

Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?

I used to try and cast the net as wide as possible, but now I prefer to stick to one or two specific sections, plus a second-hand bin if they’re stocked separately. On some days I’ll go after stuff I recognise, whether it’s the label, artist or person who mastered the record. Other times I’ll try and pick out bits that don’t have much information on them, which often yields some nice surprises… if there’s a phone number on the record or it’s a promo I’ll give it a whirl. But for me the most important part comes at the listening stage, being able to recognise qualities that make that record worth taking home and registering when something connects on a deep level. 

How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?

You know what they say: don’t judge a book by its cover! I know diggers who use album artwork to guide their process but I have too many records where the sleeve doesn’t reflect the music for me to have that approach. I can’t bear the thought of missing a big tune because the producer or label couldn’t get their hands on some mint graphics. Having said that, I’ll definitely check out a record wrapped in a beautiful illustration – just to see if it adds up… 

Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?

At the moment I’m playing gigs that mostly lean towards pacey dance music, plus a monthly show on Cashmere Radio which is more conceptual. So my record collection is quite club-oriented, but since cutting down on records I’ve been accumulating more bits of wax that appeal to me in a different way. 

Going through those records, as well as some older ones I’ve not had the chance to play out, I started forming the idea for the mix with dreams in mind, but not just in a euphoric, floaty sense. I’m really fascinated with the way dreams can take you into darkness without becoming nightmares, and with the disorientation that comes with longer dreams that venture into different phases. So I started to play with the idea of time expanding and contracting, while venturing through disembodied vocal samples, weirdo synths and loopy melodies. I also wanted to acknowledge the dance aspect of my collection with beat-led music and techno rather than just off-kilter stuff or ambient records. I got to play a lot of darker bits that have adopted a kind of loner place in my record collection.

Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?

It’s hard to whittle them down… I guess an obvious one would be the Microthol record (around 43 mins), which is basically impossible to mix well because some of the perc is completely out of time with the melody. It fit perfectly with the dream theme because it makes sense at the same time as making no sense at all. It’s also quite a random record, featuring a hip hop track and electro number on the flip. 

There are quite a few in there that I bought when I started to DJ – Mud Diver is a good example of an EP I didn’t know what to do with when I first got it, but I was interested by the wiggy textures and was glad to rediscover it. The heavy techno numbers (a Function remix of Alex Coulton, followed by the Sharpshooter release on A Colourful Storm) have also been a long time coming. The last one I’ll shout out is the Banlieue release by Watching Airplanes, which is a fantastic LP loaded with eccentric material. Oh, and the Jon Hassell record I finished the mix with – I love his work so much. 

Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?

I don’t have much of a sense of who’s a vinyl enthusiast, but to name a couple of people whose sets make me want to sprint home and stay up late on Discogs: Lena Willikens and Batu. Their selections are always super fresh and I’m just constantly itching for track IDs throughout. I’m definitely missing more but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?

There’s an obscene crowd of collectors in Leeds, who all deserve shout outs but that would result in a very long list indeed. It includes Josh Craven, who’s got a mint collection of dance records but is being selfish and refusing to become an out-and-out DJ. My friend Chris Barrance is also a permanent unsung hero in the eyes of anyone who’s heard him play. He really knows how to tell a story, not just when he’s mixing but also when describing his records and how he came to discover them. I have to mention Alex again because he really is just a walking encyclopedia and he has a mean collection of bangers. Lastly, Rory is a dab hand with Discogs and always has some wicked bits up his sleeve.  

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

Next weekend I’m going back to the UK to play a gig in Leeds with Bruce, and we’re going to take part in a panel discussion about mental health beforehand which I’m well up for. Then I’m playing a super-secret gig down South the next day, but I can’t say where… I’m very stoked for that one. Other than that I have some stuff lined up in Berlin, as well as doing a takeover of Alex’s Rinse show in March.

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