How did you first get involved with synths and electronic sound?
I’ve always had an interest in electronic sound and have always loved the use of electronic instruments in music. My earliest memories of synthesisers were seeing my brother buried in a manual trying to unlock sounds of a Casio synth in the 80’s but I was too little to truly grasp the complexities and preferred the immediate nature of acoustic instruments. Coming from a classically trained background and having an interest in the tactile nature of sound production as an extension of human expression I found it rather difficult to connect with more affordable accessible forms of making electronic music, eg through a laptop and DAW software. I enrolled in a few electronic music production courses but was still bamboozled by the workarounds that took away from my process of making music, so kind of thought it wasn’t for me.
When MESS opened, and I saw that there was an accessible way to engage with physical electronic instruments I could manipulate to create my own sounds, I enrolled in one of the intro workshops in 2016 and I was introduced to a whole new world of sound expression.
Starting very simply from connecting cables from a sine wave oscillator to an output on the Moog System 55 and feeling the sonic capabilities and textures connecting to different parts of my body, I guess from that point I became hooked and haven’t looked back.
How would you describe the sounds you make today?
I’d describe my sound as deeply personal and emotive in trying to connect and make sense of the world around me. My sound has a mixture of taking listeners into a reflective space with moments of containment and, at times surprising sounds which can jolt listeners into a curious and present state. Lately, I’ve been trying to bring more of a pop sensibility into my work, invoking lightness, something I’m looking forward to exploring more in this journey in sound.
Where do you find inspiration, what motivates you?
I find inspiration in creating personal and reflective space from the multitude of inputs we have wired into us in day to day life which then allows me the ability to connect more deeply with myself and the people and things that I care about. Having a solid sense of self usually goes hand in hand with my desire to connect to the world. Having said that, when things become more chaotic than usual in my life, I find connecting with making music the most effective way to bring me back to equilibrium. So it probably comes as no surprise that MESS is a constant source of inspiration both as an organisation and the self-directed nature of harnessing an untapped compulsion of creating music.
Other than that, I feel like I’m inspired and motivated by all of the usual things people love: the ocean, nature, I also find inspiration in food :), and new frameworks of seeing things within the context of stability. I’m also inspired by very banal things like shopping for and cooking with fresh ingredients, and the interactions I have when I go to the market for my weekly shop. I love movement and nourishing experiences like connecting with people who see the whole self in a person and can recognise and appreciate the individual strengths and quirks that we can all bring to a collective experience and I’m motivated by the possibilities that social encounters can bring. I am deeply connected to my family. My parents are a constant beam of inspiration, having supported this musical journey from an early age, and whilst not always understanding my relationship to it, always recognising how important it has been for me to pursue.
What’s been one of the most rewarding or satisfying moments of your journey so far?
I think finding a community of people through MESS who actively support each other’s artistic development and growth has been the most rewarding and satisfying moment of my journey so far. Being given a place in the MESS PD course was probably the most significant milestone I’ve achieved in having my capabilities as an artist recognised and fostered for genuine growth. Also recognising that there is a community that exists to support others in their craft, which I’ve never felt so strongly in my career. I feel fortunate that MESS exists in my home town and eternally grateful to be able to be part of it.
And the most challenging?
Hmmm… well, the vulnerabilities associated with releasing music that is deeply personal and performing for others who have certain expectations of musicians and artists in the performative context has always been something I have found difficult. I mean I very much enjoy the process of connecting with audiences and the interplay that happens within the live and receptive context, but it can sometimes also be a barrier. I’m working through it.
Do you have a current ‘go to’ set up at MESS? Any favourite machines or combos that you’re currently digging?
Lately I’ve been exploring impulse through my sound and having spent a lot of time trying to unlock modular synthesis with the big boss machines, I’ve been reaching more for instant gratification. The Prophet VS, Transaudio; Hyrdasynth have been wonderful for this. Instant banger makers. I’ve also been enjoying exploring the Mad Chiller and the Make Noise Black and Gold Shared System if I want to dig a little deeper.
Are there any machines in the MESS collection you’ve had your eye on but haven’t tried yet?
The GRP – A8. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve tried it multiple times and I still can’t get a decent sound out of it. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. So, I’d like to unlock it’s potential. That and the Fairlight.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you first started what would it be?
In relation to accessing the collection at MESS, my main piece of advice I learned pretty early on- that when you get stuck, and you can’t unlock a sound you like that it’s ok to just sit and listen to your body. Close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, refocus, unpatch, try again and tune into a sound that resonates. Or, ask a MESS supervisor! They’re the best!
Katerina Stathis performs at Sonorous VII
Date: Saturday, July 29th
Time: Two performances 6pm-8pm or 9pm-11pm
Venue: The Substation
Sonorous VII is presented by The Substation and MESS. This MESS Commission is supported by the Besen Family Foundation.