A quiet word with Catalina

SEBBY PERERA-SLATER interviews Catalina about her journey from bedroom DJ to Printworks

Sebby first met Catalina during Rare Cuts X SAVAGE Sounds’ first night at The Pickle Factory. The intimate venue has hosted all manner of UCL talent. The Savage Listen curator wanted to hear what this electro DJ had to say about her experience of UCL’s DJ scene, her favourite spins and the Smirnoff Equalising Music Initiative.

When did you first get into DJing?

I’d say I started at the end of 2016. My boyfriend bought a Pioneer DDJ-SB2 Controller. I was a bit intimidated because he was also a DJ but when he was at home I’d ask to use it. From then on I began downloading all my own music and really getting into it. I bought my own controller for when I’d be at home during the holidays, started playing around, decided I liked it, made some mixes, played at parties and finally thought why don’t I get involved with Electronic Music Society? Last year all of my friends were on the committee so I thought if everyone is here to support me why don’t I just play at XOYO or Work Bar.

image courtesy of Catalina

What do you enjoy spinning most?

Electro, but honestly for me I care less about categorising things into genres. I didn’t like techno for ages but now when I find songs I’m not gonna avoid it just because it’s techno— if it works with what I want to play then I’ll play it. Electro is what I want to play most at the moment, just because it can be both heavy and groovy. I started out with house so most of my online mixes are house but I got really bored. To be a really good house DJ you need to know the music so well in order to blend them properly. Whereas with electro it’s a case of getting the drum beats to match nicely. I focus mainly on following labels and the production side of music. 

image courtesy of Catalina

Tell me about playing Smirnoff Equalising Music

I liked the idea behind Equalising Music and figured I had nothing to lose. So recorded a mix, chose Honey Dijon as my mentor and got through to the final 10 applicants. Honey Dijon was a diva when I met her. She was an hour late to a 3 hour session asking where her ice bucket full of Dom Perignon was. All she’d say was “oh you don’t know how to do this? oh you can’t do that? you should know how to fade this”. I think anyone doing it next year should choose the right mentor; Artwork for example actually cared and even asked his DJs to play at Art’s House. That aside, I did still get to play Printworks through Smirnoff – I was also offered a slot at Lost Village from it but couldn’t do it for personal reasons. I find Printworks too overwhelming for clubbing compared to smaller spaces but they put me in the Dark Room. I had all my friends there and got to play at the time Peggy Gou would have been on —by some gift of god she didn’t show up. The event itself was heavily commercialised though; it felt like all the professional photos taken had to show people drinking with the cup logo facing the camera.

If not London, then where in the world?

Amsterdam, I think it’s open to a lot of stuff: a lot of genres, different parties, different radio shows. You’re given more opportunities in Amsterdam than in London. I think London it’s a lot about who you know. If you wanted a slot on the radio you could email in two weeks ahead. I think it’s hard in places which are so oversaturated; so maybe Bristol would be good. The New York scene kinda intimidates me. Everything happens just so underground like maybe Berlin was 10 years ago. The people I know in New York seem to go to parties in Brooklyn basements and they party for 24 hours. All really rich, shaved headed, designer goths who “only listen to Industrial Techno”. Before what came around the music was more important, but now there seems to be some inauthentic image around it.


What issues do you find doing all this alongside your degree?

I’m not at the stage where my DJing is fully realised, so that’s why it’s not my priority and I focus more on my degree. I can still DJ, whereas I can’t study part-time and DJ full time. Looking for music is a full time job – when I do it it takes me 3 hours to do properly and even then I’m not fully satisfied. If you’re DJing enough that you need to be on it every day – responding to emails, talking to promoters, looking for music – then definitely pull the trigger on that. If you study a less time-consuming degree you could do a weekly radio show or go on nights out and network with promoters. Although you can’t really generalise it, it should be taken case by case.

Catalina’s latest Electro mix “Retrosynthesis 3” is available here: https://soundcloud.com/djcatalina/retrosynthesis-3

Feature Image courtesy of Catalina