Electro vixen Miss Kittin spins under the stars

Ahead of tonight’s Igloofest set, French DJ, singer, songwriter and producer Miss Kittin told Cult MTL about her upcoming solo album, visiting magical places, longtime Quebec connections and prepping for a DJ set in the deep-freeze.

Miss Kittin. Photo by Phrank

Most of us got acquainted with Miss Kittin (aka Caroline Hervé) when she was the first lady of “electroclash,” that early aughts burst of performance-first electro-pop that blended some of the best elements of ’80s synthpop and ’90s techno. Her French-accented deadpan vocals graced records she made with the Hacker and Felix da Housecat — despite the underground status of the movement, one of the songs from the latter collab actually charted in Canada.

Since then, Miss Kittin has branched out, DJing all over the world, making more music with the Hacker and other famous friends, releasing mix records, becoming a solo artist and singing. Actual singing! (Hear it on her latest release, the Life Is My Teacher EP, here.)

On April 22, she releases Calling From the Stars, a record that features her signature style on Side A and experimental ambient work on Side B, much like David Bowie’s Low. Last week, we exchanged emails about the genesis of that record, and so much more.

Lorraine Carpenter: I understand that your upcoming album is more of a solo creation than any of your previous releases. Why did you decide to DIY at this moment?
Miss Kittin: Yes, I totally wrote and recorded everything on my own, except a couple of tracks. I was writing sketches in my studio, only sketches. When I brought them to my friend Pascal Gabriel, he said, “don’t touch it, it’s done!” I was completely surprised.

That’s how the album came true.

I was also working on some electronica material since a while, for an eventual other project under another name, but one morning I woke up, it became obvious I had to release it together with the first material. I thought it would be great to release a double album and bring people back to electronica with the first pop part. I am quite sure this second part will become like a second Radio Caroline, kind of.

LC: There’s a pretty big difference between [your 2008 record] Batbox and this album.
MK: Huge. Pascal Gabriel, with whom I worked on Batbox, taught me so much. He also gave me the confidence I needed, to believe I was able to work on my own after so many years collaborating. I am very proud of this.

I heard so many times people say, “Hey, but she doesn’t make the music herself.” I was always very active in the studio, I know how to use synths and programs, make arrangements.

On a more artistic side, I am mature enough to be able to write quite straightforward about deeper things. It’s a difficult thing to do, but if you don’t ask yourself too much questions and focus on your feelings, it works. I try to share my clear vision of life, in general. How we grow, find our place in the world, find beauty in little things, connect with what’s around us. With Batbox, I was more in the cleaning process of it, still fighting with darkness. This album is much lighter, brighter and very simple at the same time, musically.

LC: Who are the guests on this record?
MK: I included a few tracks I did with friends, yes. Like Gesaffelstein; we’ve known each other from the very beginning, when he just started to make music. Last year he sent me a track, asked me to put vocals, and he suggested I take it for my album.

There’s also few tracks with Pascal, which we did some time ago in the country.

Other than that, no guests! I wish I would have more guests, but I did so many collabs, I think nobody will blame me to go solo.

LC: The album artwork depicts you in [North American] native dress — does this tie in with the theme or spirit of the record?
MK: There’s definitely a big shamanic-cosmic touch to the album. We can talk about this for hours but I don’t think it’s appropriate here! The pictures were taken in Ibiza, for press, but they turned out so good and fun, we kept them for the album and did some more last summer.

LC: What does the album title mean to you?
MK: My dad always told me, if you feel blue, look at the sky and the stars — you’ll feel so small, everything will come back to the right place.

I also lost the dearest person to me recently — it’s a very spiritual experience, and I feel connected to the stars more than ever.

The bizarre thing is, it was not the original title. I like that kind of accident.

LC: Reading your blog, it sounds like you had some kind of life-changing experience in Peru.
MK: Ha-ha! I have life-changing experiences all the time! I am always searching for that side of life. A bit too much!

Peru didn’t change my life, but it’s one of these magical places in the world where you reconnect with everything. You don’t think, you just observe and feel. You don’t have to do anything. I won’t forget the women; their eyes will stay in my mind forever. I thought, I am travelling around the world, I have this crazy life, for what? They have nothing, but they know everything. Big lesson. You go back to the party world, see DJs in their ego fights — ridiculous.

That’s why I am so thankful for being a musician, to discover the world.

LC: Having toured fairly regularly for over a decade, how do you stay so upbeat about life on the road?
MK: Well, I actually hate the transportation, but once there, yes, it’s the biggest school of life. Travelling makes you a better person, if you keep your eyes opened. I got my sharp mind from there; since I was a child, first thing my family made me travel. The other side of travelling is that it’s extremely exhausting: time changes, food, constantly with other people. You need quietness to digest all the information you see. You have to be well-balanced because travelling is unbalancing too.

LC: What have your experiences playing Montreal been like?
MK: Oh, I played many times. My first time was for Tiga at Neon: unforgettable. The whole stay was amazing!

Later on I played in an old theatre I can’t remember the name of. Beautiful venue.

I have to tell you my family has a strong relationship with Canada since 50 years. My grandparents had dear friends in Quebec we are still in touch with. I went many times to Canada for vacation, especially in the Laurentides to travel with mushers. I wanted to sleep with the dogs. My brother later on did a music school in Montreal for four years. So every time I come to Canada, it’s special.

LC: So you’re DJing outdoors in Montreal in January. Have you done a cold gig before? If so, what do you do to prepare?
MK: I don’t mind the cold. I have family in Finland as well so I am ready! I am set! ■

Miss Kittin plays Igloofest with Ellen Allien and Alicia Hush at the Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port tonight, Thursday, Jan. 24, 6:30 p.m., $18.50

Get an eyeful of Igloofest’s first weekend via Cult MTL‘s photo gallery, and check back tomorrow for another gallery from tonight’s show.

Leave a Reply