Ten Questions for Kate Miller

Over the course of the last few years the name Kate Miller has been passed around the DJ booth watercooler in hushed tones like a coveted secret. A firm favourite amongst DJs and tastemakers alike, Miller’s sets are far-reaching and noted for their diverse brilliance. Whether she’s playing in the broken beat residue of early House or rising to celestial heights on tribal plains, Miller’s mixes evoke mood and occasion, and moves freely between the basement and the open air, depending on what the situation calls for.

She spends her time between Melbourne and Berlin today, taking on all manner of influences from these two remarkable cities as she evolves through her career. As a youngster she played piano, which formed the backdrop of her musical education, before moving into DJing. While living in Melbourne, Miller found herself in a residency at New Guernica, but with limited possibilities in a small scene, she made the move to Berlin around 2011 and a DJ career beckoned.

Shortly after moving to Berlin, Miller got  her first gig at Golden Gate and from there it didn’t take long before she became a resident for Stattbad. Venues like ://about blank and Ipse followed suit and even in the competitive landscape of Berlin’s DJ world Kate Miller’s star was on the rise. She eventually caught the ear of Oscillate and joined the crew’s ranks, helping call in three years of the Berlin event series at ://about blank recently.  

Her last mix for Oscillate’s podcast series was RA’s mix of the day and she’s been lauded by DJs and media outlets alike  for her uncanny ability to jump across genres over mixes. “Her choice – cold, funky Electro cuts – surprised us a lot more than all the good taste that went into it”,  said Groove Mag of the mix that she did for them while her mix for I.D traversed the world in search of unknown musical curiosities.

Kate Miller is nothing but a musical chameleon and with her featured appearance at Jæger coming at some short notice we were eager to find out more so we asked her ten questions in preparation. 

How did you get involved with Oscillate and how has the event series influenced your career?

My partner and agent, Mato, started Oscillate 3 years ago with his best friend. At the beginning I was just throwing booking suggestions out there and they slowly started coming to me more and more for advice. After Mato’s partner stepped out of the project I slipped into that role. Being able to play at a party that you also organise, in a club so close to home, where we would normally spend our weekends off anyway, feels so comfortable and gives me more freedom to explore new genres and sounds whenever I play there. It’s definitely inspired me to be more daring with my selections and I am so grateful to have a solid base and residency in Berlin. Something which is becoming rather rare these days.

It seems you split your time between Melbourne and Berlin. How do those two cities compare musically for you?

6 years ago when I first left Melbourne, I don’t think it had really found it’s feet yet, which is one of the reasons I initially left. But over the last few years it’s become by far one of the most inspiring, rich and musically diverse cities in the world (in my humble opinion!) There’s a lot more live music, and the club-crowds seem hungrier for new sounds. The sunny weather means things still err on the side of house and disco while Berlin is still very much techno-focussed. That darker energy in Berlin also feeds into a stronger base for the avant-garde with festivals like Atonal and CTM. They’re both incredibly inspiring cities for different reasons. I like the fact that in Berlin you can spend hours in a club and not feel guilty because it’s grey and cold outside anyway. But then Melbourne has fantastic day parties and festivals! They’re like night and day. I love having both of them in my life.

I believe you started playing the piano at a young age, but what was it about electronic club music that first caught your attention?

I still play the piano and I love classical and jazz music very much, but after a couple of teen angst years listening to Radiohead I discovered Ministry of Sound (ha!) and thought to myself ‘I’m allowed to be happy’. It totally changed my outlook on life. I went from a mopey kid to a cheerful little raver overnight. As the song goes: “not everyone understands house music, it’s a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing”.

What were the tracks, the artists or the labels that lead you on a path to a career as a DJ?

That’s a big question! I started DJing 10 years ago. The people who put me on the path to DJing were mostly Australian DJs and artists. Seeing DJ Kiti and hearing HMC and Late Nite Tuff Guy tracks all the time. I used to play almost exclusively house music. I was really into Move D, Moodymann, all of the Chicago and Detroit ‘godfathers’. As well as some other things I’m not so proud of. My taste in music has changed dramatically since then!

What was the catalyst in Melbourne that took you from the dance floor to the booth?

The first DJs who initially inspired me to take up mixing was Otologic. They put on a monthly club night in Melbourne at The Mercat (RIP) called C Grade where they would play b2b with Lewie Day (now known as Tornado Wallace) for up to 12 hours at a time. That sort of thing was unheard of in Melbourne in those days. It was so inspiring to listen to those guys digging through their endless bags of records playing everything from disco, to wave, house, acid, electro, techno and more.

How has that traditional musical education factored into your selections as a DJ, if at all?

It probably set me on a musical path and got my ear tuned in to rhythm and tone early on, but the two are pretty separate, I think. What I learnt technically from playing the piano doesn’t really translate into DJing, I think mixing and beat-matching is pretty technically simple, I don’t muck around much with looping or effects. It’s more about taste and being able to tell a story than anything else for me.

There’s a rumour that you’ll be moving into production soon. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Oh, where did you hear that?!

There was mention of it in your interview with The Commission.

Well I have been playing around at a friend’s studio lately but don’t get your hopes up too soon. I am making progress slowly, but not putting any pressure on it :)

I like music which is both optimistic and melancholic.

Your mixes are quite diverse and are spread across genres from House to Techno. What’s the common denominator through your selections?

It’s really a feeling more than anything. I’m terrible at describing music with words but I think in general I like music which is both optimistic and melancholic. I never want to be a DJ that gets stuck in one genre. I really like all genres of music and I like staying open. I rely on feeling rather than genre to guide me. At the end of the day I don’t think there’s a huge difference between house, techno, electro, as long as you find a common thread and play them together in a way that makes sense and develops into a complete story.

How would you describe your sets to the uninitiated?

Oh that’s a tricky one. Every song is unique and beautiful to me for different reasons. I hope that the way I put them together makes sense and forms a tale, leading the listener to a place they weren’t expecting to end up in, but are happy to be there all the same.

Lastly, can you play us out with a song?