Simina’s two-part Mama Ayahuasca EP is another masterclass in dark, trippy techno from an artist at the very top of her game.
We caught up with her to discuss how the EP came about, her plans for 2020, and her thoughts on how the techno scene has changed over the years.
T.H.E – Hey Simina! It’s great to be speaking to you! How has 2019 been treating you to date?
Simina Grigoriu – Hey guys! Great to be here! 2019 was fabulous! Tours were great and I had the pleasure of releasing music on some of my favourite labels including Prospect Records, MIR Music, Time Has Changed, FORM Music and my own Kuukou Records imprint. I’ve worked with talented and respected artists and feel like I’ve made strides not only with my music but also concerning my own personal growth as a human, a mommy, a wife, a businesswoman. It’s all a bit of a circus. Juggling work, family, travel and the label is not always easy but it’s all worth it and all in all, I’m very happy with 2019.
T.H.E – You recently released a brand new EP titled “Mama Ayahuasca”. What was the inspiration behind it?
Simina Grigoriu – This is a very special record for me. I made it with intention and I had a clear vision going in. I can honestly say that I’m dedicating this to her: Mama Ayahuasca. Since I started my path almost two years ago, my whole world has changed for the better. I was already a happy girl but I was holding onto so much from the past I wasn’t able to move forward, not with my thoughts nor with my music. Since starting with this medicine, I have become the person I’m meant to be. I’m better to myself and to my family and she manifests herself in other ways, too.
So yes, this one is for Her.
T.H.E – You are releasing your EP on your label Kuukou. Could you tell us more about the label and what was the idea behind its name and its vision?
Simina Grigoriu – When I was pregnant with our daughter, Isabella, I was home a lot. I was bored, I couldn’t tour and fly and party. I was confined to the comfort of our home as well as my home studio. So I used that time to produce an album. Upon thinking of how to release it, I decided that starting my own label and splitting up the album into EPs with top remixers was the way to go. “Techno Monkey” was the first release with remixes from Klangkarussell, Ron Flatter and Citizen Kain. It’s been a lot of work but I’m lucky to be working with Grise Agency to manage the label and the influx of music we deal with on a daily basis. It’s my little passion project and it makes me happy to work with such wonderful people and talented artists.
Kuukou means “airport” in Japanese. I am an aviation junkie. I love to fly. I love planes and machines and airports and am obsessed with the hustle and bustle of what it means to run an airport—especially a hub. I’ve been traveling my entire life—back and forth from Toronto to Bucharest for the summer as a kid—and it shaped me. I became independent at a young age and I realize that this was, in no small part, a result of my travels.
I also love and appreciate Japan, its culture and its people. When I traveled to Japan the first time, I felt like I could live there my entire life. I kept hearing the word “Kuukou” (pronounced Kuu-KWO in Japanese) over the intercom at the airport and it sounded cute and funny. I kept it in mind. It was not until four years later that I decided to found my label and then this word popped up in my mind. It only seemed fitting and it seems to have become a theme for us because as DJs we are always traveling. An airport can make or break your trip, especially if you get stuck in one for a long time.
T.H.E – You’ve been around in the industry for over a decade. According to you, how drastically has the techno music scene change over these years?
Simina Grigoriu – Well, the industry is ever-changing and that’s to be expected but in general, I think we’ve made a move back to the old school. Everyone seems to be playing acid again—which is both awesome and annoying—and the new wave of ravers are actually listening not only to new techno and fresh releases but also to the stuff I grew up with.
The old school vibe has also brought along with it a new wave of vinyl enthusiasts! I hesitate to say “vinyl is back”, as for me, it never left, but looking back, it’s interesting to see how things have changed. 15-20 years ago DJs were trading in their turntables for CDJs and digitizing their vinyl collections. Traktor Pro was all the hype, then came the controllers. We digitized everything. I’ve noticed, however, more and more DJs playing vinyl again.
My good friend Hito has only EVER played vinyl. She finds her favourite new tracks and presses blank vinyls of freshly released digital records—and she is probably the only one in our industry with this level of dedication to wax. I love this about her, and I appreciate her respect for the craft.
With the 90s in full trend these days DJs like Hito as pure inspiration, it’s no wonder the world is going back to vinyl. It’s awesome to see artists rekindling their love affair with tangible records, bringing old EPs on stage and giving them another chance to impress.
Another big change I’d like to mention is this undeniable movement towards female DJs. I love this. I love that more and more ladies are interested in learning the craft and bringing their talent to the stage. We support each other and respect each other. Women bring a different vibe to the stage and I find there is more balance in the industry than there was, say, 20 years ago.
There is, however, the blaring role that image plays here. Although I am delighted to see more women getting involved—most of us really are doing this for the music—there are unfortunately some (female) DJs who are actively lowering the expectations of what a DJ (or female DJ)—should bring to the stage. There are many brands dedicated solely to female DJs, and, at first glance, their websites and social media presence look more like a modelling Agency’s roster than anything to do with music. There is such a heavy emphasis on image that often, the music gets immediately overlooked if one doesn’t have “that perfect image”. There is a lot to consider here. And sure, image plays a hand in one’s branding but the common denominator among us artists has to be a love of music, not a desire to feed your Instagram in an attempt at instant fame. This is our time. We are the future. Let’s show the world what we’ve got! And that means dedication, hard work and only then will the talent flourish as it should. We need to stop placing so much emphasis on looks, although, in the Instagram age, that’s almost impossible.
T.H.E – What were some of the challenges you had to face in your initial years as an artist? What would be your advice to up and coming artists?
Simina Grigoriu – Well, we can start off with the crippling anxiety of nobody knowing your name. Everyone wants “the big artist” and it’s incredibly hard to even break the ice. But I’ve found persistence and determination are your best friends. I’ve heard a tens of “NOs” before I heard a “YES” and that made it so much sweeter when those records were released, or when I played on those big stages after paying my dues for years.
Also, do not underestimate the power of proactivity. Don’t wait for someone to find you! Call the promoter. Send it your demo. Ask for feedback. Got to the label party. Expand your network.
Don’t know how to produce? Get a trial or even a bootleg! copy of Ableton. Watch tutorials. Try stuff. Mark mistakes. Ask friends. Go online. Ask more questions. Dive deeper. Your community is out there, you just need to tap into it. There are opportunities everywhere.
T.H.E – What does 2020 hold in store for you?
Simina Grigoriu – I’m in the studio a lot these days and planning a steady stream of releases in 2020. As for tours, a South America tour soon is in the works and then the usual club grind up until Festival Season! Family planning is also in the works so keep your fingers crossed for another Kalkbrenner baby in 2020! (Wish us luck!) 🙂
Thanks so much and have a lovely day!
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
Stream Simina Grigoriu’s “Rocket Fuel” EP, here.