Meeting Miss Kittin in person is exactly as you would imagine: black hair, black clothes, black nail polish, tattoos creeping from the bottom of her sleeves. What is surprising, however, is how relaxed and friendly she is. Her voice is high and she sounds almost Russian, although she originally comes from Grenoble in France. Besides that, she also has a very charming and mischievous look in her eyes, like a naughty little girl which, let’s face it, she probably is!
Miss Kittin seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. The last eight years have seen her connected to everyone from Felix Da Housecat to T. Raumschmiere and her debut album (‘I Com’ with partner-in-crime Hacker) made her an instant success all over the world. When I ask her about this, she describes it all as a ‘happy accident’ and tells me that she doesn’t even enjoy being the centre of attention. “I hate people looking at me, which is why I prefer to DJ when I can. Behind the decks I can dance, have fun and be safe.” I tell her how ironic it is that often the very people who shun the spotlight have fame thrust upon them. She merely smiles, shrugs her shoulders and sips her peppermint tea. As a DJ, Miss Kittin is known for hard, fast techno and for getting the party started. Even on her website she writes that DJing is her ‘first and main love’. She definitely seems to know what the crowd wants, proven by the fact that she is being booked now more than ever to spin all over Europe and even America. It is difficult for most artists in the music business to keep one career alive, let alone two, but like everything with Miss Kittin, it all appears quite unintentional. “I love all music – playing it and making it.”
The new solo album ‘Batbox’ is the first time she will be releasing her music independently without the support of a major label behind her, but she doesn’t seem at all worried about sales. “If people like it, they will buy it and if they don’t, it doesn’t matter,” she says. “I’m not doing it with the intention of selling.” The music on Batbox is quite different to I Com, it’s far less electronic and more song-based than anything she has done before. A lot of this is to do with the fact that she made the album with producer Pascal Gabriel (www.melophobia.com) who has previously worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Boy George and Sophie Ellis Baxter. She tells me “At first I was very hesitant to work with him. I’m really not into pop music, but when I saw his studio and how he works, I realised I’d been very judgmental and it was actually a very creative experience.” The album was pieced together in Pascal’s studio in London over several months and Miss Kittin had the opportunity to really experiment with her songs before committing them to tape. “Pascal is very crazy and very free in the way he makes music. He never told me what to do; he just let me play with everything and encouraged me. He even let me play bass guitar on a few tracks even though I don’t consider myself a real musician at all. It felt like the right way to create something fresh.”
The result is fresh – an unusual but cool blend of beats, dark synths, deep bass lines and very clear vocals. In fact, Miss Kittin’s voice has never sounded better. She tells me: “Until I worked with Pascal, I never realised how vocals were even meant to be recorded. Before him, I used to record everything so fast and simple. It was a joy to be able to have the time to do everything so completely.” The lyrics are almost gothic at times – although she disagrees when I use that word – and always slightly paranoid. Sometimes, her voice sounds like an alien calling from another planet…
‘Eyes staring at me, people looking unhappy, let’s be deaf and blind….’
This is highlighted by the vocal effects on many tracks, using delay and reverb to make the voice sound ghostly and distant. At times, the arrangements are a little eighties, perhaps not so unusual for a man who once worked with S-Express, but it never sounds cheesy or too trashy. To my ears, it is electronic music for people who don’t normally like electronic music. She agrees with this statement and tells me “People would be surprised, most of what I listen to is guitar bands or mellow things like Nick Cave. I grew up listening to punk music, that was my first love and even today I would prefer to listen to something made with real instruments than techno.” The best thing about Batbox is that is really well produced without sounding commercial, which is perhaps one of the hardest tricks to pull off. What will be interesting to see is whether the music is embraced more by the electronic community or by the mainstream. Miss Kittin does not seem to mind either way: “I make my music only for myself. If I like it then that is what’s important, not how much I sell or to whom.”
The artwork for the album also has a special story as it was made by Rob Reger, creator of Emily The Strange, the little dark animated girl who has in past years become an icon. If you haven’t heard of Emily before, you should definitely google her and have a look. She actually kind of looks like a teenage Miss Kittin! “Rob never usually makes album covers, though everyone has asked him in the past,” Miss Kittin smiles proudly. “It just happened that I was playing a gig in San Francisco and he was there. We got talking and he’s a fan of my music, so the discussion just came about naturally. I love his work, so of course I was thrilled when he told me he would do it.” She tells me that most of the good things in her career have developed in the same way, connections becoming friends, and friends helping each other out. “There is no longer so much money in the music industry, so it’s important that everyone helps out when they can.”
All too soon, Miss Kittin’s manager sticks her head around the corner and informs me that my time is up. Ironically, the screaming children have just left the cafe and Miss Kittin herself is getting very relaxed, telling me travel stories and reeling off a long list of what new bands and artists she has recently discovered. Before I leave, I ask her about her upcoming gig at TAPE club in Berlin. She says “Berlin was one of the first places I ever played, way back in 1999 with Hacker at Club Discount. The people here are tough because although they are relaxed, they have high expectations, so you have to be good. So I’m looking forward to it, but I am little nervous!!” I thank her for the interview and she feigns wiping sweat from her brow and smiles that naughty smile back at me “Mission accomplished!”
Miss Kittin’s Batbox will be released on February 1, 2008.
TEXT BY JASPER GREIG