After enjoying one of her most prolific periods in the studio, Romanian techno DJ/producer Simina Grigoriu steams into 2022 with continued vigor, as she unveils her next EP, “Rooftop Ballerina / Pirouette.”
The brooding “Rooftop Ballerina” pulses with a booming kick and swirling keys for a wonderfully disorienting result. Meanwhile, the even-darker “Pirouette” works a snaky synth line over a rumbling rhythm accented with tasty effects. Out now via her beloved Kuukou Records imprint, it’s quite a pair of techno tracks. DJ LIFE MAG recently caught up with the Berlin-based talent.
Creatively, how did you approach “Rooftop Ballerina/Pirouette”? They’re two very different tracks – what was your process in creating them?
Simina Grigoriu: Both tracks were created around the same time, in the same studio with the same hardware/software. I feel they work well together because they are different. If tracks are too similar, they could complete for sales but these, being so different, would appeal to more than one type of listener.
What’s your main studio set-up?
Simina Grigoriu: Ableton Live. I have almost no hardware. I use an Akai APC Key 25 [keyboard controller] and a ton of plug-ins. I also love the Roland TR-6S [Rhythm Performer drum machine] and have been playing around with that lately.
Which producer/remixers do you most admire and why?
Simina Grigoriu: My husband [Paul Kalkbrenner]. He is a freak of nature when it comes to music, and I could watch him make music all day. He is self-taught and has the coolest tricks I’ve ever seen. He’s worked his ass off for over 25 years to get to where he is now, and he deserves every single bit of respect and recognition.
In the DJ booth, what gear do you use? How would you describe your style of DJing?
Simina Grigoriu: I usually play on the Pioneer mixers, but often on the [Allen & Heath] X:ONE because I love then both. I used to play with [Native Instruments] Traktor and swap out with vinyls every set, but have since moved on to CDJs. I need three to four players to keep it interesting and I figure the best thing to do onstage is smile and focus. Track selection is so important, but so is mixing style because, if you have wonderful tracks and can’t mix them, your DJ set is gonna suck and your audience will not appreciate that. But I also spend too much time on setting up playlists or running orders. I play “on-the-fly” and I play what I feel. Part of being up there is feeling free and that freedom is lacking when everything is perfectly organized and expected.
Which DJs do you admire and why?
Simina Grigoriu: There are so many electronic music artists I’ve looked up to over the past 15 years. Adam Beyer, Chris Liebing, Jeff Mills, Model 500, Richie Hawtin, Monika Kruse, Anja Schneider, Mistress Barbara, Danny Tenaglia, Dubfire, Cassy, Extrawelt, Sven Väth… I could go on. But I admire not only the music they play, but the individuals themselves. It takes effort, commitment and diligence to stay focused and work your way around the world to make a name for yourself. The artists mentioned above are also part of the group of pioneers who made it possible for all of us to do this today.
Musically, what were your first influences?
Simina Grigoriu: The Prodigy, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang and pretty much any ’90s East Coast rappers. As a kid, I loved Madonna and Paula Abdul. Bob Marley and Eric Clapton played all day at home. I also love Nirvana and Metallica and anything grunge or ska. I am a musical anomaly and I enjoy all genres. I could even jam out to polka music – I’m sure of it.
What made you want to pursue music?
Simina Grigoriu: I pursued music because I was interested in creating and changing sound. In my twenties, I played around with Ableton Live and completed YouTube tutorials during my free time. I talked with artists. I tested machines. I was genuinely interested in the craft. There were no “Instagram DJs,” only interested people wanting to learn. So, I did, in any way I could, alongside my day job as a marketing manager and my moonlighting job as a bartender in a club. I never went to school for music—this is why I’m not an engineer. I’m just a musical girl and I feel I still have a lot to prove.
How did you survive the lockdown in your city? Did you do it creatively or was it difficult for you to create?
Simina Grigoriu: It was definitely difficult to create, as I was pregnant and tired, and Isabella, our 7-year-old daughter was home on lockdown. I was happy to focus my time on being a mom and keeping her busy. I carved out some studio time, but the spontaneity of just going in the studio and booting up the gear kind of disappeared after having kids. It’s more about scheduling the time and just getting stuff done.
Now that clubs and festivals are back, to some degree, where do you see the techno scene going? Have you seen the fans come back strong?
Simina Grigoriu: Yes! Everyone missed going out and hearing music and dancing. Thing is, here in Germany, clubs are open, but partygoers are not allowed to dance! How ridiculous is that? So yes, around the world, it’s getting better, but definitely not here. My German agent is going nuts with this and any gigs I had in GAS [Germany, Austria, Switzerland] have now been cancelled due to COVID. I have high hopes for summer, and I really look forward to playing for you guys again.
What’s next for you?
Simina Grigoriu: I’ve got a bunch of releases lined up for 2022 and I’m looking forward to a South America/North America tour, an India tour, and festivals here in Europe in Summer.
Final Question: What are three tracks that are always in your DJ box?
- Extrawelt: “8000” [Traumschallplatten, 2020]
- Joyhauser: “Fierceness” [Drumcode, 2020]
- Simina Grigoriu: “Sycophantic” [ELEVATE, 2021]
Simina Grigoriu’s “Rooftop Ballerina / Pirouette” EP is out now via Kuukou Records
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