Published: August 16, 2013
By: Jordan Calvano
I got the chance to sit down with Natasha Kmeto before she performed a 90-minute DJ set at What The Festival in Dufur, Oregon. I talked to the Portland based producer/singer about her recent album, performing live, how she started making music, and her favorite albums of 2013.
Lovin’ the new album Natasha. Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process and how Crisis came about?
It was the first time that I limited myself to a time period and to an actual sonic palette, and I wanted to make something that was very cohesive. I was in the midst of a pretty torrid love affair, so I wanted to capture the moment of that, being in the midst of a lot of personal transition. I wrote it inside a period of two months, and it was the first time I actually limited myself to a set of instruments that I would use.
And what were some of those instruments?
I knew that I wanted all my backbeats to be claps and snaps, and referenced a lot of 808’s and 909’s. I used pretty much exclusively from my synthesizers my Roland R3, which emulates a lot of cool 80’s synths, a lot of odyssey bass. I kind of came up with a couple tracks that I liked and that established what the palette of the whole record would be from there.
Did you do anything different on this release compared to your last efforts?
Not that different. Just that I wanted it to be really concise.
Do you have any odd rituals you perform before stepping into the studio, whether it’s to produce, record vocals, or play shows?
Actually no, not too many odd rituals. Just that I like to be really alone.
Let’s back it up a bit. How did you originally develop a passion for creating music, and did you start producing or singing first?
I was a singer at first. I started playing piano and guitar when I was five, then started focusing pretty much on vocals when I was a teenager. I always sang in bands and co-wrote with other musicians, then got to a point where I really wanted to write on my own. So I went to school at Musician’s Institute, and part of my program in studying keyboards was learning digital production, which actually took a lot of focus. I got completely captivated by beats and doing digital production, and it all kind of snowballed from there.
Which female artists, in any genre, have continually inspired your musical journey?
Starting off, Missy Elliot was like the first female producer that I knew that actually produced. There are plenty of female vocalists, but not as many female producers. Björk and all the people she drew in were also a big influence, and recently tUnE-YArDs has been huge for me. There are a lot of female singers from Aretha Franklin to Ella Fitzgerald to Billie Holiday, all those people singer wise. But production wise, there aren’t that many female producers. Although Toki is inspiring, there are ladies definitely doing their thing. Mimi Page is also my dear dear friend, so of course she’s a big influence. We went to school together and sang in class together.
You’ve had the opportunity to perform at a number of well-known festivals and venues, along with sharing the stage with countless acclaimed artists? Is there a certain performance that stands out in your mind as the most memorable?
Recently, my album release in Portland was fucking amazing. I sold it out at Holocene, people came out, it was awesome. Also my last performance in Portland was at PDX Pop Now in Portland, they do like a free all ages show. I got to perform in front of like 500-600 people, and that was amazing also. I’ve had some awesome performances there; I’ve also had some really good performances in New York and Detroit. I had a really good time at SXSW.
I know you opened for Flume. How was that?
That was amazing, actually that was really amazing. Seattle’s always been really good to me. That was actually a really fucking awesome show. I’m so blessed.
Also on the subject of live performances. Is there a specific goal you hope to achieve each time you step on stage?
Mainly just to communicate with the audience and connect. If people can vibe on what I’m trying to express, and I connect with people, it doesn’t even matter if there’s ten people in the room or 500 people in the room.
What do you love most about Portland, Oregon, and can you tell us about some of your favorite artists from the 503 right now?
The culture, the support of the arts, the people, the food. The support of the alternative culture, the support of craft and trade. The quality of life for how much it costs is amazing. Also the moodiness of the weather. I make really dark music, and so I like how dark and moody the weather is. In terms of artists, Magic Mouth is probably my favorite band out of Portland now, they’re amazing. Ghost Feet, there not completely out of Portland they’re out of Olympia; but they’re my label mates and are amazing. Minden is someone I’m also really into; they’ve blown me away. They’re rad and such a good band. I like what Tope is doing. It’s pretty original.
2013 has been a big year for electronic music, specifically relating to countless artists releasing impressive full-length albums. Are there any recent releases you’ve been extremely fond of?
James Blake. His album was disarmingly beautiful. Guilty pleasure, I love Disclosure’s record. It’s so good. Although I haven’t seen them live yet, I was in Miami when they were in Portland and I was very very very very upset about it. Because it was a great gig that I was playing to miss it, but that was the bummer about it. I like the new Lapalux album, the new albums from Baths and Mount Kimbie also. Although James Blake is the one that is really grabbing me, of like the entire thing being front to back amazing.
Thanks for the interview Natasha. What does the future hold for you musical career? Any big plans you’d like to share with us?
I’m looking to tour more. Looking to write new material and be on that constant effort to get my music out to different countries and different states. I’m very very passionate about getting on the road, I love performing. Just look out for more dates and I would love to get a new release out within the year, maybe some B-Sides from Crisis might come out by the end of the year.