Miss Kittin: Stretching out her claws
Thu 21st Feb, 2008 Featuresin
A consistent fixture on the scene while electro was rising towards its current state of dominance, both as a DJ/producer as well as providing the seductively detached vocals on tracks like Felix Da Housecat’s seminal Silver Screen (Shower Scene), Miss Kittin is one of the gutsiest female presences in dance music. So it shouldn’t be surprising that she’s decided to stretch out her claws and go it alone. Frustrated with the compromises involved with releasing her music on a major label, for her sophomore solo album BatBox she’s decided to release it independently on her own record label, appropriately named Nobody’s Bizzness.
So the Kitten is back, as edgy and unmistakable as ever. She hooked up Emily the Strange creator Rob Reger so that he could bring his unique vision to the album’s artwork, and the Kittin herself has dressed up to match. ITM has a chat about what went into putting together her latest solo release.
Your second album BatBox will be released on your own label Nobody’s Bizzness. What was the reason for this? Did you have also offers from other major and/or independent labels?
Yes, but nothing exciting enough to be honest. This whole craziness got on my nerves, and I decided to throw all the offers away… I was scared to be on my own, but still, I sleep better at night knowing it’s done the way I want without any compromise.
You affirmed that: “BatBox is a redemption. Let the bats in my head fly out. I was saying goodbye to old ghosts”. Which ghosts do you refer to?
Oh, you know, we all hold on to things or people that are not good for us, just because they are part of our life since such a long time. Let’s say I am too sentimental and it’s hard sometimes to move on. Also we all have a dark side, and instead of fighting it for so many years, I decided to make friend with it. It’s all about making peace, and it’s a liberating experience.
What do you like so much about cats and bats? Is it because they’re active at night?
I am more into cats than bats, but they are both cute, and extra-sensorial.
You changed the co-producer and wrote BatBox with Pascal Gabriel. How did you work together in the studio?
I realized I had a lot to learn from him. We got on well and we are very close friends now. I enjoy so much being around him in the studio, he’s a lovely person, and that’s a big part of the job. We both worked when we had free time, mostly according to our feeling, after a good meal. We would switch on some keyboards and start playing and see what happens. Sometimes we would start from a bass line, or a loop.
The originator of the Emily the Strange Rob Reger created a 12 page foldout booklet/poster for the CD. Is he the ideal person to illustrate your music and image?
I think so, because we have a similar approach to create. He’s very instinctive and comes from an alternative background. Emily represents a certain type of girl, dreamy, rebel, deep inside romantic, eternal child, she likes cats, ghosts and bats, and of course I feel close to that world. Maybe it’s a bit obvious, but at the end, Rob and I fit well on that project. I am very lucky to have met him.
How did your collaboration with Rob Reger start? Do you own some of his Emily the Strange accessories?
Yes, I knew his stuff and I had his books. I was introduced to him after I made some photos for the brand and did a DJ set for his exhibition in Paris.
You said BatBox is a return to light but the image inventory involving the whole work (starting from the cover design) goes back over the Goth image inventory. How does light and darkness live together in Miss Kittin and in her music?
It’s not so much to be taking that seriously about Goth. It’s not because there’s a few bats on the cover that I am Goth. It’s more about the light and the shadow. I mean, it’s an old philosophical theme, Plato and the cavern. Extremes always live together. In my music too. For example, if I write a sweet melody with a sweet voice, I will like to sing darker and deeper lyrics. If the music is heavier, I will sing lighter things. I always tried to write not obvious things in not an obvious way. I don’t know how to write simple pop music with basic lyrics like you hear on the radio. With this album I realized I could write my thoughts more straightforward, like on Grace.
Kittin is High, the opening song off BatBox: from where you stand, what can you see looking downwards?
I see a big sunshine. Kittin is High was the statement I wanted to make to start the album. It describes very well the happiness of having fun. And being conscious about it you can keep this vibe much longer, as long as you can, for the harder times. Or you can see it more horizontally: looking back feeling so much happier now that you used to be, like a victory on yourself.
Lightmaker, the last song on BatBox. Who or what inspired you?
I was thinking about my best friends, I wanted to thank them for being around, and give them hope and light in hard times the same way they did it for me.
Which song was the easiest to make on BatBox and which one was the hardest?
The one that came to me instantly in a kind of magic was Grace, the words, and the bassline I played myself on a bass guitar, shortly after I bought my guitar and I never played before in my life. It was a great moment.
The hardest, I don’t know, they were all kind of easy and nice to do.
How would you describe the difference between your first solo album I.Com (which came out four years ago) and BatBox? What has changed, musically and personally for you since then?
Life changes. I am enjoying life more instead of working too much. I.Com was made in more stressful conditions, living in Berlin and DJing a lot. Since, I moved back to Paris, went to London anytime I was free, and I was more serene, on a personal point of view, happier.
What’s Miss Kittin’s style, on and off stage?
I am very quiet: I need a lot of silence, and order. That’s valid on and off stage. I don’t like mess and chaos, aggression, violence. It’s kind of a miracle I can DJ being like this. Maybe that’s the mysterious part of my success, being able to create a certain peace in a party, a string, something that makes sense. You know what I mean?
Two years ago you moved from Berlin back to Paris. What was the reason for this?
Mainly friends. I missed them.
You were guest vocalist on many club hits in the early 00s but in the last few years you didn’t do this anymore. Why?
Because nothing really interesting came to me. What’s the point to make always the same thing? Maybe it was more surprising not to make any collaboration. But recently I was in London to record a cover version of Suicide with Primal Scream.
Do you agree when people say you’re one of the originators of ‘Electroclash’ or do you dislike labeling like this?
I don’t care. It’s for sure nice to have such a reputation. I just think there was other very important people we never talk about, like I-F or Dopplereffekt.
You did a comeback with The Hacker in June 2007 with Hometown EP and a live tour in Autumn 2007. How did it go?
The tour was great, fun, we learnt a lot and we now can do things we weren’t ready to do before. We gave the EP for the 10 years anniversary of the Goodlife label and for our future LP, we still don’t know. First we need to finish it…
Since two years you do only a few DJ gigs per month. Do you want to have more time for you and your friends?
Exactly. To be on rotation, always on the road, living for music, I need more than that to breathe and get inspiration. I am really happy I did this turn because I have more distance on what I do, I DJ better and write better songs. A happy artist is a productive one.
Why do you love DJing?
I love DJing because I love to play music of other people and dance on it.
What sensations have you experienced during your worldwide touring? Do you think the rave scene is still fragmented?
I think there’s something for everyone’s taste and that’s a proof of a still healthy scene. When I travel, I don’t see so much the professional side of it, it’s a more global vision of how people live, what they need to express when they come to a party. I feel I am just a small element of that. But traveling became so exhausting as I grew older, I had to slow down, and I think the busy DJ years are behind me. I still love to travel, but I separate more now the work from leisure.
What is your favorite venue/club?
At the moment it’s my living room. It’s very cold outside and I love to light a candle, make a cup of tea, and record a CD for my friends for example.
Do you remember the track or song that made you want to make music on your own?
Not really. I never thought I would make music. But both, The Hacker and me were totally ecstatic when we heard Scientist from Dopplereffekt.
How important is humor for your work? And how important is style or fashion?
Humor is more the way people take my different layers of understanding. I never see things 1st degree, there is always many ways to see life, and how nothing should be taken too seriously, like keeping the child inside of us alive. Fashion? I like it as a customer, but I don’t really wish to be part of it as a musician.
What was your favorite record in 2007 and what other music were you listening to recently?
It is probably Depeche Mode Everything Counts, the Oliver Huntemann remix. I also played a lot a track from Johnny Future. Recently I’ve listened to the new album of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, italo-disco compilation I-Robots, the last Dave Gahan album, Roxy Music, We are Scientist, Eagles of Death Metal and some other new electronic music releases.
BatBox is in the stores through Nobody’s Bizzness/Inertia, for a taste check out the clip below for Kittin is High...