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September 25, 2017 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Interview with k2k

k2k is an Auckland-based electronic musician making marvelous melodic house tunes and bestowing bangin’ DJ sets on the New Zealand public left, right, and centre. Salient sat down with her recently to discuss her music-making methods, elitism, and womanhood in a dudey industry.


Your new EP Sugar just dropped and it’s full of stone-cold bangers; I’ve been particularly enjoying bumping along to “Malibu” on the bus and in my car! What kind of approach do you take to creating a new track? Is there a certain element that tends to come first, i.e. a sample or a melodic line?

Often I’ll start humming some sort of melody and record it on my phone. When it comes time to make a track I’ll start with one of those melodies and start playing around with an acapella on top of it, layering it with delays, reverb etc. Sometimes I set out by trying to make a track that captures a certain vibe — with “Malibu” I was trying to make a house track that could fit into one of my DJ sets. 


What kind of musical influences have you experienced throughout your life that you feel really have an imprint on the music you currently make?

Growing up I listened to a lot of ’90s pop and RnB. I remember listening to the local polytech radio station in Nelson and making mix tapes, and ordering in lots of tunes I’d hear on it to my local record store. I definitely think pop sensibilities have made their impact on my tunes — I love sentimental melodies and great vocal hooks. Most of the samples I use are from ’90s RnB tracks — Aaliyah, Ashanti, Brandy, Mariah. Probably gonna get sued one day for sampling so much but every time I try to record my own vocals they sound so terrible in comparison that I just end up going with what sounds best!


What kind of hardware setup do you have when you play live sets?

I don’t play live sets, I do DJ sets. My tracks are generally made over a month or so in front of a laptop and that doesn’t translate super well into a live set. I could split a track into 20 stems and trigger each stem at the appropriate time to attempt to get it sounding like the final MP3, but that doesn’t seem like too much fun to watch or play. I think at some point I’ll try to get something together, potentially singing or playing live keys, but at the moment I’m really loving DJing. I love being able to pick tracks from the last 50 years, from many genres, and mixing them together in ways that can create different feelings on the dance floor. There doesn’t seem to be a huge DJ culture here — and the one that exists is mainly DnB/EDM — but over the last few years I’ve seen the house/techno/boogie DJ scene growing quite a lot and it feels really exciting to be a part of it.


What has your experience been working with Margins, a very grassroots and locally focused label?

I’m friends with the guys who run it, Kelvin and Joe, and when we were on tour last year I told Kelvin that the only way to get me to make music was by giving me a deadline. So he gave me a deadline! And I drew it out by months and months, but it culminated in this release. They’re both lovely guys and I think what they’re trying to do with Margins is vital for NZ electronic music right now, so was stoked to release with them. 


I’ve found that often, as a woman, you’re sort of assumed to be somewhat incompetent by many people (often men) and then met with surprise when you can actually do your job well, although this is definitely improving as more talented women keep emerging. Has this been similar to your experience in quite a masculine industry? Or is gender something you’re not particularly aware of?

I’m definitely aware of it as 90% of the time I’m the only female on a lineup. Promoters are increasingly aware that diversity isn’t just “nice to have”; in 2017, it’s crucial. I think I’ve benefitted from that, show-wise, and I’m definitely going to take advantage of it as long as I can. Visibility is key, and if I’d seen more female DJs and producers growing up I think I would have started making music way earlier. There’s always the occasional shitty experience — being asking if I’m waitressing when I’m literally behind the DJ decks for example — but overall all the guys that I’ve worked with have been really welcoming and haven’t doubted that I know what I’m doing. 


What kind of issues do you think affect the electronic music scene in New Zealand at large at the moment?

As mentioned before, definitely diversity. A huge percentage of the electronic music scene are white guys, and that’s not always a super welcoming environment for people who don’t fit that mould. There’s also a financial barrier to entry — I’ve seen DJs being super elitist towards people using DJ controllers over CDJs when you’re looking at a $500 vs $3000 cost. If the whole scene was a bit more open and inclusive I think it’d benefit hugely, in the way that the indie rock/noise/shoegaze scene has flourished in NZ over the last 20 years.


What kind of non-musical aspects of your life serve as inspiration for you music (e.g. visual art, friends)?

Honestly I think all my inspiration for my music comes from music related things! I’m influenced by my emotions to make certain sounds, and sometimes influenced by people, but mainly it’s hearing friends make amazing tracks and dancing all night to my favourite DJs that inspires me. I’d love to make more nature-influenced ambient songs, and have used samples of NZ birds and oceans in my tracks, but that’s probably the extent of it.


Are there any artists that are particularly exciting to you at the moment?

Yeah definitely, Peggy Gou is an incredible Korean producer and DJ that’s blowing up at the moment and I can’t wait to see what she does next. Same with so many amazing women who are getting a lot of hype — Octo Octa, Powder, Jayda G, all of the Discwomen crew. I think the push for diversity is shining a lot of light on people who might not have been given the same platform, and the music and DJing coming from that is super inspiring and exciting to me.


What is the future looking like for k2k?

Hopefully releasing another EP soon and attempting to put out tracks more regularly. I’m also planning to start a radio show on BFM sometime soon, so that’ll be a good chance to get more radio experience. And it’s not really under my k2k project but I’m starting a record label and party series with a few of my close pals who I ran Inky Waves with. We’re having our launch party on October 6 with Chaos in the CBD and are gonna release our first record in early 2018. 


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