Waterford’s Katie Kim has long been tagged as one of the rising stars of Irish music, sharing time touring with The Waterboys with a burgeoning solo career that’s seen her championed by Donal Dineen, tagged with the grimy genre-label ‘slowcore’ and release an album in ‘Cover And Flood’ with enough tracks and imagination to be two (the follow on, as it happens to a less expansive but equally memorable debut, ’12’. Katie’s always had an air of mystery about herself and her musical direction, dabbling in soundtracks and collaborations along the way. Here’s Katies take on musical life so far, and her up and coming YouBloom performance:
Katie Kim is a musical pseudonym. What made you decide to perform under a different name?
It all stemmed from the band i was previously in, Dae Kim. People tended to refer to me as “Katie Kim” so it ended up sticking with me and it does somehow in an indescribable way, seem to create a distance from me writing the music in our space and then performing it as “Katie Kim” live or on record. It just feels comfortable.
The music industry can be notoriously fickle. If you had just a couple of minutes to grab people’s attention, which song would you direct them to?
Wow. Um. I don’t know. The songs that I prefer on either of my records always seem to clash with other peoples opinions. “Radio” was really the first track that I started getting positive feedback from and I never even wanted that song on the album, but since then, I suppose I’m quite proud of “The Feast” or “Heavy Lighting” as an overall reference to where its all going.
What appeals to you about YouBloom?
The chance. Giving people the chance to play in front of people that care and who take an interest.
You made a film soundtrack a couple of years back for Cork’s French Film Festival. How was that different to your normal album writing process?
Germaine Dulac’s “La Coquille et le clergyman” . It was very different and extremely enjoyable and exhilarating to have the freedom to put your compositions, which can ultimately change the entire atmosphere of a piece of work, to something as outstanding as that film. The process for me, when I’m writing for myself is quite solitary and I tend to bring almost finished pieces into our studio and then the others in the band add their own touches and it turns out the way it does. But this was completely collaborative. Me, Joe Harney (Deaf Joe) and John “spud” Murphy, all went in and composed the soundtrack from start to finish. It’s taking a while, but we’re releasing a multi media package of the whole thing at some stage in the Autumn.
You performed on Jools Holland with The Waterboys a while back. Was that the highlight of your career so far? What other big moments have you had?
It was a highlight for sure. Ive been watching that show since I can remember, so it was quite surreal to be in the studio where I had watched some of the most amazing performers and performances on television. So I’m obviously extremely grateful to Mike Scott for inviting me to be part of their world for the last few years. That also falls into the category of big moments. Touring with them. Its brought me to places I had never been and taught me a lot about myself as an artist.
Your second album seemed to grab you an increased level of media interest and a few big gigs. How has your sound developed since your earlier efforts?
I think I have a better grasp of what I’m making. I have a clearer picture of what I want to make now and how to get there. “Twelve” was me making something because I had to. Otherwise I was close to giving up. I have a lot to thank Donal Dineen for. He really championed that album and I really don’t know where Id be without him. But that’s a familiar tale amongst many musicians. He was a pioneer.
Your sound is often tagged with words like ‘etheral’ and ‘haunting’. Is there an element of exploring your own dark side?
The music I make is the music I make. If “haunting” fits the description then I’m happy with that. I was drawn to all kinds of music growing up, but when I met Terry Cullen and joined Dae Kim, he introduced me to Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Throbbing Gristle, Mazzy Star, Sonic Youth, Suicide etc and I just found all of that profound. It really made me go ” aaahh ok”. So maybe that was some turning point in the way I recorded my first demos. But I do prefer exploring the darker side of things. Creatively anyway.
Twenty tracks is pretty hefty as albums go. Did you simply feel ‘The Cover and the Flood’ shouldn’t be limited by convention, or was there more to it than that?
I didn’t think too deeply about it. It had been 2 years since I had released anything, but I had all this material that I had recorded along the way. So when I was compiling everything, the numbers kept adding up. It still runs under an hour, so I don’t think its too self indulgent, but I look at it like a personal diary/compilation of sorts. The next album will be a bit more structured.
You’ve said you have a preoccupation with the number twelve… is there a story behind this?
There isn’t really…Its just always been there. Since the start…So I thought it may bring me luck for my debut album.
What are the best and worst things about being involved in music as a profession?
The Best. You meet some of the most amazing people. People that are involved in this “business” because they cant do anything else and its a passion. Not just performers. But engineers, tour managers, promoters, fans, artists etc… Its extremely fun and exciting and terrifying.
The worst. The only thing I can really say is the financial side to it. But honestly and I AM being honest. If I cared about that at this stage, Id have given up already. So I’m in for the long haul.
In previous interviews you’ve talked about ‘mystery’ and ‘trying not to have your face in too many pictures’. Is a level of fame something you struggle with, or would you simply prefer the music does the talking?
In the beginning, I said I was only going to release records and not play live and I foolishly thought that was a possibility, but times have changed and if i want to keep funding new records, playing live is the main source of income for a musician these days and I really enjoy playing live now. But Id still like to bring that element of mystery to the live performances in the future. Before Twitter, we didn’t know anything about the people we looked up to and now we know everything and I miss that innocent wonder.
How do you adjust your style when you play with a live band, compared to the solo version of your set up?
Well it’s more of an acoustic set up with me solo. Me, my loop station and layering etc. And its difficult to work in a lot the album work acoustically because I really miss the backing, so I tend to play a lot of material I haven’t released… But with the band, I can almost pretend I’m recording an album and I still feel a little like its dress up when I have everyone behind me. Its alot of fun.
A few years ago you spent some time in Canada. How international has your musical experience become? Is it important for you to make an impact outside Ireland?
Were planning our first tour of Europe for this winter at the moment. But until now, its been quite in house, although to my surprise, even though we havent toured extensively yet, I still get orders from Brazil, Poland, America, Australia and so on, so its always nice to see those coming in. So its finding its way to people, which is the greatest thing to me. Thats the great thing about the internet I suppose.
Katie Kim plays The Grand Social, Dublin at 10.30 on Sunday June the 30th 2013, as part of YouBloom@Dublin.