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MESS Commissioned Artists – August 2023

Composer collective STATHIS//DAVEY//KIM create large-scale, site-specific compositions. The trio – Katerina Stathis, Mads Davey and Sooji Kim – met during the MESS Professional Development Course in 2018, and are currently leading the MESS Synthesiser Orchestra to realise their composition for the Now or Never festival.

The MESS Synthesiser Orchestra led by STATHIS//DAVEY//KIM is co-presented by City of Melbourne and MESS for Now or Never.

How did you first start working together?

Katerina: We first met at a PD course in 2018 and subsequently enrolled in the 2019 Advanced stream the following year. At some point during this time, Robin Fox asked if we would like to collaborate with him and SOMA LUMIA art collective for a work described to us as Hypnos Cave, transforming the existing Dark Ride at the Penny Royal Adventure Park in Launceston into a psychedelic dreamscape inspired by stories of the afterlife in Greek mythology, where the dead would drink from the river Lethe—which flowed through the cave of Hypnos, the god of sleep—to forget their past lives and thus find paradise.

We obviously said ‘yes’  to this amazing opportunity and from there we branched out on our own. The following year we presented ‘Chairway To Heaven- A Suspended Symphony in the Sky’ at MONAFOMA, utilizing the iconic Launceston Chairlift as our apparatus to fill the natural amphitheater with sound. I think we realised, we quite enjoyed this idea of creating site-specific works using moving objects as carriers of sound, so it has become a bit of a thread in our work.

How would you describe S//D//K’s sound?

Katerina: I’d describe our sound as a bit of a moving feast. I think when you have three very different individuals coming together to collaborate, there is going to be a huge variation of sonic output and influences. Initially, I’d have described our work as a pastiche of ideas with distinct personalities coming together. Our current focus for this project, however, has been a more collaborative process. We might individually bring ideas to the table but these ideas can often be shaped in a way that is peppered with each of our personalities in the mix. Having said that, I think we are definitely still finding our collective voice, respecting that we each have very diverse individual sounds that we want to bring to the collective as well as maintaining the freedom to express ourselves as individuals. 

I’m not sure I could pinpoint a sound though. Because we consider the sites and audiences of our work, I’d definitely say that we could agree that we have that idea at the forefront of what we produce as a collective. We like to use electronic instruments in unexpected ways too, recognising that we are musicians who bring different influences from a variety of genres and cultural influences to our work. 

Where do you find inspiration, what motivates you?

Katerina:  I feel that we are pretty lucky to have each other for inspiration and to consider where we may be able to take our sound collectively as artists. It can be a lonely journey as a solo artist, and I think we felt it was the obvious move to come together and work our butts off to try and find opportunities that might be able to support us, seeded from tiny thought bubbles and attempting to evolve them to reality. Motivation is easy to come by when you experience tangible outcomes from the years of effort that we have put in, and we feel lucky to have the support of each other to lift us through the complex maze that artists seem to have to work through, both creatively (sometimes) and administratively. 

I think every time we get through a project and look to the future we feel inspired that we’ve been able to achieve what we have, so that propels us to think in a future focussed state of what we actually want to achieve going forward and inspires us to look towards other opportunities. 

Sooji: Each project so far has been the kind of dream job I could only have fantasised about doing, so there is no shortage of motivation- the only downside is that we have not really had ample time to reflect on how incredible it actually is that we are doing it! Also, the instruments are a constant source of inspiration-I am extremely motivated by learning and experimentation and the synths at MESS have so much to reveal, I’m pretty sure I’m in for life!

What’s been one of the most rewarding or satisfying moments of your journey together so far?

Katerina: It’s always exceptionally satisfying to see projects come to life and recognise that we somehow made them happen and come together. Propelling new concepts from ideas is also very satisfying. Reflecting on it, it’s unbelievable how much we have learned through MESS, the community of people we have been able to access for support, and the skills we have been able to develop to apply to our project-based work. I’d say it’s pretty rewarding to work alongside very skilled industry professionals to realise our compositions in whatever context they sit. It also feels pretty satisfying to be genuinely acknowledged for the skills we have as composers/musicians and supported and elevated in our craft in a way that aligns with our values. 

Mads: We’re all equally hard-working, dedicated, and ambitious, which means when we think of starting up a project, it usually starts happening pretty quickly, and then all of a sudden we’re deep in it, in disbelief of what we’re actually doing. That’s pretty rewarding, considering other collaborations I’ve experienced aren’t as equally weighted with drive. So the speed with which happens, and what we get to cause of it, is incredible. 

Sooji: This journey is constantly offering opportunities for learning and growth, its why I love it so much. Also, we are supported by the most incredible community of artists from Mess and beyond, so not to be too corny but there is always this well of inspiration right there. 

And the most challenging?

Katerina: Hmmm. It’s definitely challenging trying to sell your concepts and continually look for where your next project/ source of income might come from. A lot of what we have done, we have absolutely thrown our blood sweat and, at times, tears into and we feel like we have worked non-stop, late into the evenings and with very early starts, to get to this point whilst holding down other paid jobs, and for Mads and Sooji, having children, and trying to have a social/ family life outside of what we do as a collective too.  

Collectively, it hasn’t always been easy either. We each have differing ideas and approaches to the way we work, so respectfully navigating where we each have strengths has been  and supporting each other with ideas that don’t always see eye-to-eye on is a big aspect of understanding how to continue this work for the long-term.  

Mads: We come up with projects that are so huge, and we get excited about the idea of them, then we’re doing them, (which is great) but it is all consuming when it’s on, and it’s on pretty much most of the time! It’s hard to find a balance. I really want to find a balance between working solo and collaboratively, and there’s been no time to do anything solo for so long.  

Sooji: Each project has been incredibly challenging on many levels. Juggling it all,  trying to maintain a balance in life to sustain you through the project, whilst balancing the dynamics of a collaboration can push you to the edge and back. But doing this kind of work gives me superpowers – energy that gets me through. I am constantly astounded that I am still standing, given the amount of energy these projects take.

The MESS Synthesiser Orchestra is using many pieces from the collection – do you have any favourites? Or any machines that you particularly wanted to use in this large-scale live context?

Katerina: I really wanted to see the Ondes and Transaudio perform a delicate work together. I love the similarities they have in timbre and the harmonic overtones they produce when the sounds are blended even though they are completely different in the way they present themselves, so I really wanted to have an opportunity to grow that concept. Other than that, I fell in love with the Prophet VS earlier this year, so I wanted it to have a little moment too, and it will 🙂 

Sooji: All of these instruments are my favourites, for different reasons. So many of these instruments could sustain a performance of symphonic proportions just by itself. In an ideal world, we could indulge in a solo Moog 55 compositional work one week at the Melbourne Town Hall and a Serge Paperface the following! I am just really looking forward to hearing the instruments do what they were made to do via a full-sized sound system. I feel like we have gathered together all the Jaggers/McCartneys of synthesiser history for the best comeback show ever. (Does this even make sense? I am delirious at this point.)

Mads: I really love the Serge Paperface, it’s the synth I’m looking forward to spending heaps of time on when this performance is finished. I also really love the Ondes, it’s a really beautifully playable instrument, and I feel an affinity with it.  I also love the Novachord, which we couldn’t bring into the Town Hall, but it has something old and otherworldly in its character and I love writing on it. But also my favorite synth is usually the one that I’m playing at any given point.

If you could give yourselves one piece of advice when you first started working together, what would it be?

Katerina: Be prepared to be pulled in directions you never thought existed for the love of creativity and be prepared to work harder than you ever have to achieve things you never envisaged possible. Also, don’t be afraid to put your ideas in the ring, even after multiple rejections. What you have to offer in a collective space is a seed of an idea. If it’s cared for, it may grow into something beyond your wildest dreams.


Mads: Every idea S//D//K thinks of, calculate the time you think it will take to complete and multiply it by 10.

Connect with STATHIS//DAVEY//KIM

STATHIS//DAVEY//KIM lead the MESS Synthesiser Orchestra at Now or Never

Date: Saturday, August 19
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: The Melbourne Town Hall