Photo by Patti Miller
Last week, Natasha Kmeto let loose the Dirty Mind Melt EP on Portland label Dropping Gems, an eclectic collection of vocal-driven tunes that balance precariously on the precipice of a number of contemporary electronic music genres. We were lucky enough to catch up with Natasha and get the lowdown on the new EP, her favorite “Ableton performers” and her upcoming Sophomore LP. One might expect such a new, yet highly respected artist to feel some pressure going into only her second official release, but Natasha was/is as cool as ever and is ready to take on the world. Plus this girl loves to dance. Read on below to get the inside scoop on a truly inspirational musician…
Hi Natasha, where are you right now?
I’m just chilling in my apartment in Portland.
So you just finished up a little tour of Colorado and California, how did that go?
It was good. I had four flights in five days so it was a little bit brutal for travel, but I had fun.
Despite your traditional musical upbringing, your music is decidedly experimental, what has influenced you to think outside of the box in that respect?
I’ve always been more inspired as a fan—with all forms of art—with art that’s more progressive and trying to break new ground. I think the idea of doing something that’s trying to be different is just exciting for me.
Hit the jump for the full interview…
Your music isn’t beholden to one tempo or sound, does this reflect your listening habits or is more of a conscious decision on your part?
It goes by whatever I’m inspired by at the moment. I try not to box myself in too much. It’s definitely changed slightly since I started playing for club-wise, it’s definitely something I’m more conscious of, BPM and generally where I keep things at. I like to try and go for a genuine expression emotionally, which is kind of my first priority
Do you go to a lot of clubs?
Yeah, I love to dance. I love going to shows. I love hearing electronic music played out. Definitely an inspiring experience for me to hear electronic music in that way.
Have you seen any memorable sets in the past few weeks or months?
I was able to meet Erykah Badu at Decibel Festival in October last year. She’s really awesome. I’ve been able to see Machinedrum a few times and do his thing with Sepalcure, which was really, really amazing. He’s definitely one of my favorite producers right now.
How did you get in with Dropping Gems label/crew?
A couple years ago me and a few of my producer friends started a producer meet up kind of thing where we would all just listen to each others tunes and try and learn from each other. You know, just talk about production in general. I was able to meet a couple of the crew members that way and that was the first time I met Aaron. Portland is a big city, bit it’s also pretty small in a lot of functions so if you run in one particular scene, you’re bound to run into people. Aaron approached about having a track on Gem Drops, which is a compilation the label puts out every year. That was the first time we worked together and then when I was putting out my EP The Ache last year I had the idea to put it out with them, because they’re killing it and they’re local and just kind of awesome to work with. It just kind of blossomed from there. I got to know a lot more of the crew and it’s really fun to put on shows with them, so it just spiraled from there.
Stream: Rihanna – “We Found Love (Natasha Kmeto Re-Cover)”
Where do you see the Portland/Northwest electronic music scene progressing in the coming years?
I think it’s definitely growing, which is really exciting. I think there’s a lot of really cool producers from Portland and Seattle making really good music. It’s also really awesome that we get to see some really amazing acts come through here in both cities, internationally. I think we’re already starting to get more national recognition as a place to be, as a place to look for electronic music. Previously people looked at the Pacific Northwest as more of a rock kind of scene, but I think it’s going to grow to a point where people are going to see good electronic music coming out of this part of the country.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about your live setup and how it has developed since you debuted it a few years ago?
So I do come from a more traditional music background and have always played in bands and done a very traditional live setup with all my musical projects. When I moved to Portland and started making this music, I had no idea how to approach playing it live. I feel like with a lot of this music, to change the sonic quality of what I was playing would involve changing the writing. You know, if I changed to live drums, it would change the music too much. That’s when I started learning about controllers and seeing people down on MIDI controllers as a live instrument basically, using it as a live resource. I was kind of able to teach myself [Ableton] Live through trying many many varieties of different controllers and different mappings. I was really able find a setup that I like, which is pretty lightweight right now. I have my Macbook, an Apogee Duet, my Akai MPD32, which is the controller I use, and obviously a mic. That’s my set up right now. I’ve recently been toying with adding more live synths to my set up if I have the ability to carry it, but with traveling and stuff like that, it makes it harder to have that stuff when you’re by yourself so I try and keep it relatively compact.
Who are some of your favorite “Ableton perfomers” beside yourself of course?
Haha! The best person I saw murking shit was Nosaj Thing. I think I saw him years ago and it was one of the first times I had seen someone look they were actually performing something. Baths does a really good job with it too and is really inspiring to watch, because he also runs his vocals through Live, which I thought was really cool. When I started, I had never seen anyone else do that actually, but I played with him years ago before his first record came out and I remember finding it cool that someone else had the idea to do that too. Daedelus is amazing with his controller in Live.
Stream: Natasha Kmeto – “Dirty Mind Melt”
So your Dirty Mind Melt EP is coming out on Tuesday if I’m not mistaken. How does the process of crafting this EP different after releasing your debut album, touring and getting some international recognition? Were there any expectations going into it?
Nothing that serious for me. I’m releasing the LP in May also so I’m feeling a little more pressure on the LP to be honest. The EP stuff I really feel like is mostly the culmination of starting to play more clubs and wanting to make more dancefloor friendly stuff and having stuff that has a certain tempo range that fits nicely in that setting. I don’t ever feel pressured to make any specific music. Dropping Gems is really cool about letting their artists express what they want to express.