Italian born Chiara Costanza has very quickly become a part of Melbourne’s top techno elite. She’s both a DJ and a live electronic music artist and she loves to collect techno records and try out new hardware. Her musical talents and ambitions are a very inspirational to me and it was great to sit down with her and have a proper chat about electronic music, being a female artist and the male dominated techno scene. We met up at Lounge in the CBD before heading upstairs to DJ at her show on the online streaming radio/TV station TRNSMT.
What was the first music that you ever listened to?
“It was classical music; I started playing piano when I was 7 years old. My parents used to listen to lots of classical music at home while doing household duties or when the whole family were together and I loved it. My brother is 10 years older and he was taking home all these records like Guns ‘N’ Roses, Eurythmics and Europe when I was like around 7-8 years old. I remember thinking ‘this is really good!’, and I loved Europe. My mom used to tell me that somehow when I was only 4 years old I was singing one of their songs in English; I knew it because I’ve been listening to it so much.
When I was around 10 years old I was into the pop band Take That; I even dragged my dad to the concert! From there I switched into black metal, trash metal and rock like Deep Purple for example. I used to have a band and play the keys and sing. I was full on Goth until I was 14-15 years old! When I was around 18 years old I got into Jazz, so it was kind of a progression through different phases. When I moved to Melbourne 10 years ago I got together with a guy who was a big collector of techno records. We used to go out and when we came home we listened to these amazing records he had. That’s when I started to get into techno. I’ve been listening to most genres and I’m really open, the only thing I’ve never really liked is country. “
Do you still listen to classical music?
“Yes, not as much as I used to but I do listen to it sometimes. I’ve been listening to a lot of Philip Glass; I’m really obsessed with his music. I’m listening to lots of soundtracks and experimental things as well because I want to make soundtracks for movies one day and a lot of it is classical music.
I actually don’t listen to much music when I’m home anymore because I DJ a lot and work with making music, so if I have down time I might just watch a movie or read a book and do other things.”
How did you end up DJing? You were playing in some bands before that, right?
“I used to sing in a kids choir when I was really young. Then I had the bands from when I was about 14 years old, which was the trash metal and rock phase. We used to do local gigs around town. I kept on singing and the bands kept on changing but it was mostly the same people. Later when I studied jazz piano and singing for 2 years I wasn’t really performing. Then my brother said ‘You should really come to Melbourne and try it out here as a song writer’. But when I moved to Melbourne I kind of lost all that because I started doing so many other things while being on the Working Holiday Visa like going out, working and so on. Later on I went back to university at RMIT and did the Sound Art course. That’s what got me into writing electronic music and using music software. After those 2 years at RMIT I was like “I’ve got all this techno and I’m so obsessed with it”, so I thought “Why can’t I just do it”? I started practising DJing at TRNSMT actually doing a weekly radio show because I didn’t have any equipment at home. Then I played one gig for Melbourne Techno Collective and I thought “this is awesome!” From there I just started to play more and more. That was around 1,5 year ago now so it’s not really that long. “
Can you tell how the techno music scene in Melbourne has changed since you came to Melbourne?
“I’m not sure because I wasn’t really part of the techno scene 10 years ago. I was going out, seeing internationals and learning about it, but I can’t really tell how the scene was back then. Now I can really see how it though and its huge, you know, it’s a huge community and there are a lot of underground parties and really, really good DJs with amazing records. If I would’ve been in Sydney it probably wouldn’t be like that though; I’ve heard that all the clubs their play very similar kind of music. So I think it’s really good here in Melbourne.“
When did you start to compose and produce music?
“When I started playing piano and singing I made my own songs and that was it pretty much it for a long time, I did my own thing. I started producing electronic music when I did the Sound Art course, and that’s when I started using Logic and Ableton. I got a drum machine from a school friend before she left to Berlin and it changed everything, it was so good! I use Maschine quite a lot when I produce, and I use the Virus TI synthesizer as well which is very nice. But now I want to move more into analog gear, because I find that I’m not getting the sounds that I want. I’ve been looking into getting a Moog Sub 37, I’ve sold my Elektron Machinedrum and I want to get the Elektron Analog Rhytm instead. There’s other stuff I want too but it’s all very expensive, but eventually I will get it all.”
What other hardware have you had?
“I had the Korg Volca instruments but I sold them both, I didn’t use them that much and they’re so small; it didn’t feel intuitive for me. A DJ friend of mine has the Roland Aira TR-8 and she said “I don’t use it at the moment, do you want it?” So I have to use it more before she wants it back!
At the moment I haven’t yet found what works best for the sound that I want. It takes time and you have to invest some money into it and try things out. “
Do you use a lot of plugins too?
“Yeah, I use the Omnisphere from Spectrasonics, which is really good for sound design as well. I also use the Maschine plugin version, Kontakt and Reaktor (from Native Instruments), I really like Reaktor and I’m using their granulator which is really fun. “
When did you decided to do live shows? Was that after you’ve been producing music for a while?
“When I had Machinedrum I had this experimental group with two school friends and I played live with them. We tried different things out like running the drum machine through their software with crazy effects. The group was called ‘Wrong Room’, so funny. We were playing a few shows around and that was the first live electronic shows that I did. My boyfriend Kit was like, “why don’t you start doing your thing under your name and play live?” So I got booked to play live after Clark [Warp Records] 2 years ago and I had two weeks to prepare myself for the show, but I did it! I can’t say it went well, but it was interesting and it was my first live show. From there I just continued with more shows, and I want to do more shows later this year as well when I’ve got my new set up. It takes a lot of time to do live shows and at the moment I’ve got lots of work and DJ gigs on so I’m happy to wait a bit and start again later. “
How do you prepare your live shows?
“I use Ableton and usually I have different clips there and the base of the kick and drums that I work from. I’ve been using Machinedrum where I have the drum patterns recorded so I know which one I’m going for, then I change the original drum patterns live with filters and effects. It’s similar with the Virus TI where I have my sounds pre-programmed. Some shows I’ve done have been more improvisation and others I just have Ableton and a controller to trigger things to keep it really simple which is nice too. I saw Clark playing live when I played after him and he was doing the same thing too; he had his tracks and clips in Ableton and also a Moog Voyager he played live on. He also used the mixer to bring things in and out.
Some people say that a live has to be 100% hardware but it’s not ture. It can be and it’s good, I’ve done that too, but it’s good to experiment with things and use stuff that makes it easier for you. Another thing I like with live shows is that you get to test your music in different situations as well. I’ve played some shows where it’s been working really good and others where hasn’t been. When you DJ you can do that too but you have so many more directions to choose from when you’re playing live which I think is really exciting. “
What’s your big music dream?
“After I finished the Sound Art course we didn’t get many directions about where to go from there and it’s hard to get work in the music industry whether it’s making music for movies, commercials or making your own tracks, touring and DJing. There are a lot of people doing what you’re doing so it’s really tough. When I finished the course my boyfriend Kit encouraged me to leave my corporate job and send e-mails to sound studios and ask if it was possible to do an internship.
I didn’t think it was going to be possible at first and that I didn’t have enough experience like a lot of other people I know have, but then I found a job at a sound design studio, and from there I went on to another studio called Electric Dreams. It’s been going really well and I’ve got to try different things. In a way that’s part of my dream – to be able to make a living out of music and doing what I love. The next step is to keep working with as many projects as possible and my big dream is to make a soundtrack for a movie, that would be amazing. It’s something about working with vision that really works for me; it’s very inspiring. “
You’re working on releasing an EP, right?
“Yeah, I’ve released a track on Gutterhype Records previously and I’ve had other people asking me if I want to release something on their labels. At first I thought ‘no I don’t want to’ but then I went ‘fuck it, let’s just do it’. I’m really critical but I know it doesn’t have to be perfect. I think when you’re doing this job you tend to give a lot of importance of what other people think. You’re always putting your art or music out there and people are always going to say that it’s great or shit – and it’s normal. I used to be a lot more emotional about it and taking things really badly if I think I did a bad live show for example. When it happens you just think that you’re shit and wonder why you’re doing this, but then the next day you can do the same live show and it goes really well. It’s the same for everyone though, and you see artists doing some amazing songs and some less good ones. It’s human to not be perfect, except for Philip Glass!
I think it’s also a part of being a woman; I’ve thought about this quite a bit. People say all the time ‘You’re a woman and you’re electronic music, how do you find it?’, ‘Why are there not enough women doing this?’, ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ and ‘The world hates women!’ But it’s not like that! I think it’s because we’re much more sensitive than men and we take things more at heart. We’ve got more emotions involved in everything that we do, so it’s harder to detach. Sometimes you just have to do it, literally detach yourself from your work like it’s not your own. That’s part of the hard thing I’ve found and the reason why you do it most of the time is because you want other people to enjoy it as well.”
I can totally feel with you there! You’re probably right; guys must have it easier to detach themselves from what they’re doing and not take it as they’re bad if they didn’t do well enough.
“The other reason why there are not that many female artists or DJs is that the bookers are only booking males at festivals and DJ gigs. I must say that in Melbourne and probably everywhere else 90% of the scene is male, and especially in the techno and electronic music scene – it’s very male dominated. But people have still been very welcoming to what I’m doing so I can’t complain, it’s been great. “
Okey, last question before we go and play at your radio show on TRNSMT! What music projects do you have planned this year?
“First off I’ve got this EP that I’m releasing in a couple of months, and I’m going to release more tracks on other labels too but I can’t tell you which ones right now. So that’s the main plan right now; to release more music. I don’t know about a whole album but definitely a few EPs with 3 or 4 tracks each, and I really want to have a nice vinyl with my own tracks on. As I mentioned earlier I’ll get back to doing live shows later this year when I’ve collected more hardware. “
Submerge yourself into Chiara Kickdrum’s exclusive track “Distance” for Whono’s below – and don’t miss out on the FREE download!
UNRELEASED SERIES will feature music producers who will share an unsigned track exclusively at Whono’s Music. This first round will be a Melbourne edition with 6 local producers, 2 each month from January to March. Each blog post will contain an interview with the producer to get an insight into their musical world and who they are.