Friday, July 10, 2015

Interview: Katie Kim

Katie Kim (Photo by Terry Magson)
"I believe taking risks keeps you young": The G-Man talks to Katie Kim ahead of her Sirius Arts Centre appearance

The following article was published in the 18th June 2015 edition of Cork's Evening Echo.

A calm control permeates Katie Kim’s music, a coolness that completely shrouds the listener from the stressful financial hurdles overcome throughout its recording. Despite grappling with debilitating Dublin rents and exhausting working hours, the mild-mannered musician somehow maintains her status as one of contemporary Ireland’s brightest, most dignified creators. Three years since the release of second album Cover & Flood - recently labelled a masterpiece by The Irish Times’ Donal Dineen - a new record, Salt, is nearing completion. Just days after a Body & Soul appearance that provided a “nice injection of enthusiasm”, Katie somehow finds the energy to discuss the new album, collaboration and good press.

What kind of sounds can we expect on the new record?
Katie Kim: I produced this album with my friend and bandmate John "Spud" Murphy at our Guerilla Sounds studio so it was nice to step outside my comfort zone this time and experiment with percussion and electronics. Some pretty incredible synths I borrowed from Paul G. Smyth played a heavy part in the album too and I just tried to enlarge and distend things this time round. We had been listening to a lot of KTL, Sunn O))), Nurse With Wound that definitely coloured the album too.

Past recordings have had your vocals, not in the background exactly, but not dominating the foreground either. Going by ‘I Make Sparks’ and ‘Really Far’, is the emphasis in the new songs placed a little more on the voice and the song itself?
Those versions you probably heard are demos. But with Salt and with the production on most of my records, really and in general, I like to make the vocal an instrument in itself. I’ve recently had a a bit of criticism in that area but I’m always happy with the way they turn out and it’s why I decide against outside producers a lot of the time.

When an album is finished you would think the hard work’s done but then comes all the PR. Is your approach to make a great record and then simply see where it takes itself or how do you try and get your record into people’s ears?
I have used the "see where it takes itself" method mostly in the past and to be honest, I’m okay with that. I grew up admiring people like Stina Nordenstam and I can never recall any significant advertising campaigns for any of her albums or tours and she had and still has an unfailing following. Of course I'll let people know when the album is out and when I record or discover a song I haven’t released as it’s nice to stick it up online and let people own that for a short time, because that still seems personal and I like it that way.

Donal Dineen recently described Cover & Flood as a “masterpiece”. What went through your head when you read the article?
It came at a time when I was working a lot and putting the release of the record on hold and feeling like a lot of friends who are also trying to make a living through music are feeling these days - a bit unenthused. So when Donal has something like that to say about a record I had almost abandoned, it was quite emotional to be honest. But I’ll never tire of expressing how much I admire and owe that man so much. He’s the genuine article amongst a class of tricksters.

From the House of Cosy Cushions collaborative album to singing on Adrian Crowley’s last record - not to mention appearing on Later...With Jools Holland with The Waterboys - what do you get from working on other people’s songs that you might not working on your own?
It’s always nice to be asked in the first place and when it's someone you admire, that's even nicer. It takes you out of your comfort zone, which I’m well used to being in and it's also fun to not sing your own songs for a while. I asked Margie Jean Lewis and Maria Somerville to join me onstage this year and they agreed, so I’m pretty radiant about that. I admire what they do considerably.

Do you feel playing music - or creating art in general - keeps people younger, at least in spirit?
I believe that if you are creative in any way you were most likely always that way, so yes. It may keep you "young" in the sense that art, poetry, literature, music etc. often focuses on the past; your own past, your youth in some cases. And anyway, it provides escapism, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe because people who choose to play music or write or create art in whatever way are always taking a gamble because it’s an unstable living. But it's something you have to do and I believe taking risks keeps you young.

For a 2014 interview with Katie Kim click here.


For more on Katie Kim visit:


- Katie Kim and Roslyn Steer play Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh on Friday 10th July
- Doors are 7.45pm and tickets are €12 and available via the box office (021 4813790) and online at www.siriusartscentre.ie

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