Romanian-born, Toronto-bred Simina Grigoriu has been steadily racking up accolades during her decade-long career. Starting off as a DJ, she’s made the transition as a producer and kicked off her own label Kuukou, a home for techno-forward productions, where she calls all the shots. In this time she’s also transplanted to Berlin, a place she now calls home and the major source of her creative inspiration, a source as diverse as her influences.Following a juggernaut remix for Hollen’s ‘Acid Tear’ EP on Prospect Records at the end of September and her critically-acclaimed collaborative EP ‘Double Trouble’ with BB Deng back in August, Berlin-based boss Simina Grigoriu now returns to her esteemed Kuukou Records imprint with her first solo outing on the label this year. Out now, Simina’s two-part Mama Ayahuasca EP is another masterclass in dark, trippy techno from an artist at the very top of her game. DMCWORLD caught up with her to find out more…
Hey Simina! Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with us there at DMC World. How are you?
I’m doing great! Thank you! It’s a pleasure to speak with you guys!
Where in the world are you currently?
I’m at home in Berlin. It’s been my home for the last 11 years and I love it!
For those of our readers that may not know you, please can you give yourself a quick intro?
My full name is Ana Simina Kalkbrenner (aka Simina Grigoriu—my maiden name) and I’m a DJ and producer. I also own the techno label Kuukou Records and on top of juggling all of that, I’m also a dedicated wife and Mommy. I was born in Romania, grew up in Toronto, Canada and moved to Berlin in 2008.
How did you first get into electronic music?
I’ve always been into music. As a child, I played piano and violin and I was in choir. As a teen, I started rapping and writing rhymes. There was never a day when I didn’t have music blaring in my Panasonic Shockwave headphones or blasting from the subwoofer of my little black Jetta. Actually, now that I think of it, it was quite dangerous playing such loud music while driving! Sorry, Mom! As for my musical education, I never officially studied music production. In my 20s, I started learning Ableton during my free time (outside of my 55-hour workweek in marketing and print production) and I did so from tutorials and with mentors (who were and still are my good friends). I’ve had the great luck to be able to turn my hobby into my job but I still consider myself a student! It took a long time to learn the basics of music production and I’m still learning new skills every time I go into the studio. I often work with my brother (and engineer, Moe Danger) and he’s always introducing me to new and cool plugins and hardware. Thanks, Uncle Dan! I remember working at a bar in university and I kept looking at the DJ. I was not only interested in learning the skills, but I was also interested in changing the music! So I got myself some decks and a XONE:92 and started to learn to mix. A buddy of mine told me that the hardest style to mix is jazz and classical (no real beats) so I started with that. I was also blessed with awesome friends who gave me tips and showed me the ropes. After university, I was working a full-time corporate job while still raving about and mixing on weekends but it wasn’t until I moved to Berlin that I decided to focus on music full-time. I love what I do and encourage others to follow their passion. One of my goals with my label, Kuukou, is to provide a space for artists to experiment and showcase their music, the way so many label bosses have done for me, too.
Your label Kuukou Records has been going from strength to strength this year, with releases from the likes of Fabio Florido, BB Deng and a brand new EP from yourself confirmed for November. Can you tell us a bit about the label and why you set it up?
When I was pregnant with our daughter, Isabella, I was home a lot. I was bored, I couldn’t tour and fly and party. I was confined to the comfort of our home as well as my home studio. So I used that time to produce an album. Upon thinking of how to release it, I decided that starting my own label and splitting up the album into EPs with top remixers was the way to go. “Techno Monkey” was the first release with remixes from Klangkarussell, Ron Flatter and Citizen Kain. It’s been a lot of work but I’m lucky to be working with Grise Agency to manage the label and the influx of music we deal with on a daily basis. It’s my little passion project and it makes me happy to work with such wonderful people and talented artists.
Kuukou means “airport” in Japanese. I am an aviation junkie. I love to fly. I love planes and machines and airports and am obsessed with the hustle and bustle of what it means to run an airport—especially a hub. I’ve been traveling my entire life—back and forth from Toronto to Bucharest for the summer as a kid—and it shaped me. I became independent at a young age and I realize that this was, in no small part, as a result of my travels.
I also love and appreciate Japan, its culture and its people. When I traveled to Japan the first time, I felt like I could live there my entire life. I kept hearing the word “Kuukou” (pronounced Kuu-KWO in Japanese) over the intercom at the airport and it sounded cute and funny. I kept it in mind. It was not until four years later that I decided to found my label and then this word popped up in my mind. It only seemed fitting and it seems to have become a theme for us because as DJs we are always traveling. An airport can make or break your trip, especially if you get stuck in one for a long time.
What can we expect from your upcoming Mama Ayahuasca EP?Two dance floor bombs! I was incredibly inspired after starting my Ayahuasca journey. My music got better. My mixing got more dynamic. My entire life took a turn for the better. Ayahuasca has taught me A LOT and therefore I’m dedicating this EP to her: Mama Ayahuasca.
What’s the vision for the label moving forwards?
We’re releasing every six weeks or so and we like to feature upcoming artists supported by big names and give them a boost. There is so much talent out there but the music industry is inundated and it’s not going to get easier. With advancements in such programs as Ableton, anyone, really, can make music—one just needs inspiration and motivation. We want the passionate artists who know what it’s all about—the ones who are in it for the music. The hype is boring, and it sucks cause the hype has a huge influence on the audience.
Any up and coming artists we should be keeping our eyes on?
Moe Danger from Toronto, BB Deng from Taiwan/China, Jägerherz from Bristol, Deysa from Bucharest, Red pig Flower from Japan, Borderline Girlfriend from Austria, just to name a few.
If you were to pick one project or moment you were most proud of over the course of you career, what would it be?
“Edge of the World” is still my favourite track I’ve ever produced. I can’t seem to get sick of it which is saying a lot cause who the hell likes to always hear one’s own music? Not me! But this one I’ll play every time.
Top 5 favourite records right now?
Stiv Hey – Waves of Light (Filterheadz Remix) Kuukou
[ Wex 10 ] – Torsten Kanzler – Follow Me – EXE
Anna Unuysan – Hidden Life – Ballroom Black
Sara Simonit – Furia – ELEVATE
Rebüke – Rattle – Drumcode
What does the rest of 2019 look like for you in terms of new music and touring?
Easy. I have only a handful of gigs left and then I’m taking time off to spend life at home and in studio. Christmas is also around the corner so I want to be Supermom for Izzy (I already feel like a clown juggling life so this is my chance to slow down). I love my job—it’s the best job in the world! Getting paid to play music and travel? Yes, please!—but I also love home. Family is always the priority.
Any final words for our DMC World readers?
Stay in school. Don’t do drugs. Don’t believe the hype.
Thank you! I really love what you guys are doing. Keep up the good work!
Mama Ayahuasca EP is out now…