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?sessions Mix #009 - Katie Cooper

?sessions Mix #009 - Katie Cooper

For our first ?sessions Mix of the year, we had the honor of sitting down with Manchester native, Katie Cooper. Growing up in Manchester with Sound System culture and being heavily involved in the UK scene, Katie Cooper relocated to China in 2016 and came out with a bang in Shenzhen with her enviable collection of UK Garage, UK Funky, Grime & Dubstep.

Katie's versatility and foundation in UK bass music made her a solid contender in South China’s booming electronic music scene. In a short period, Katie also garnered attention from other regions in Asia, performing in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kochi in Japan, as well as Seoul, Korea, and all over China. After running her regular event, Vextra, at the internationally acclaimed Oil Club in Shenzhen, before relocating to Hong Kong in 2019.

Since 2021, Katie has resided in Toronto, Canada where you can now find her smashing it out in clubs, festivals, and warehouses across North America.

Katie Hooper - 1
Katie Hooper - 2

A: So, tell us a little about yourself, where you're from, what you do, and what your shoe size is.

K: I'm Katie Cooper, I am originally from Manchester, UK. Outside of DJing, I do a lot of stuff. I'm working in marketing, and I love photography. I haven't done that for a while. I'm just a very creative person all around.

My shoe size is a UK 6, I guess that’s like 8.5 in the US and 39 in European sizing.

A: What kind of marketing do you do?

K: So I currently work for a company called Bushbalm, and they're based in Ottawa and I've always worked in E-comm marketing. I feel like that helps with marketing yourself as a DJ as well. I've always been in brand marketing.

A: You mentioned photography as well?

K: Yeah, I used to do film.. well I still do film photography, back in 2016 when I lived in Manchester I would do press shots for people. I did some press shots back in the day for IAMDDB, Murlo, and the Swing Ting guys. I want to pick that back up for sure.

A: So, what inspired you to pursue DJing?

K: It wasn't until I left the UK. So when I was 16, I bought my first decks and they were belt drive Kam vinyl decks in my room and I just bought them with my birthday money. I put them in my bedroom and I bought tons of vinyl and learned how to mix with them – the mixer was terrible. It was a broken two-channel mixer from cash converters in the UK, which is sort of like ‘pawn shops’ where you swap things.

I was dating a DJ at the time as well, he taught me [how] to mix which was really sweet. It wasn't until I was 24 in 2016 that I moved to China and I was living in a city called Shenzhen and I was like “Yo.. the music scene here is trash.” It was all EDM and it was that horrible EDM in the clubs that [makes your ears] bleed. I was walking through this club complex, it's called Coco Park in Shenzhen and I just heard some cool techno coming out of a club. I walked in and was like “I bet that guy's British”, walked up to him, and was like “are you from the UK?” And he's like “Yeah I'm from London” and I thought, “I knew it because of the music you’re playing” and then we became friends. Through him he told me “With your knowledge, the music you know and love, you should start DJing here.” His name is Daniel Power, he’s a huge inspiration to me and he was someone who gave me a platform to DJ at his event which was called “Unchained”. S/o to him cause he’s incredible. I’m very grateful to be friends with him and to have done events alongside him.

That's where my DJ career blossomed and bloomed from, the need for some good music in Shenzhen. In 2017, a well-renowned club called Oil opened and they encouraged people to do their events by not charging them a lot of money. So promoting out there was also something I started doing and I had my event called “Vextra”. I did about three or four [events], brought out RoskaGoth-TradKiller P & Swing Ting from Manchester. We had some good names, that was between 2017-2021 – it was really fun!

A: In terms of DJing, going from the UK to China, and then Toronto, what were some of the challenges with moving to different countries?

K: Always having to buy new equipment is a challenge. It's a case of buying and selling stuff, I wanted to avoid traveling with loads of equipment.

In terms of culture, I wouldn't say there was much of a challenge [moving] from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Because the cities were so close to each other, the scenes were almost interlocked and everybody knew each other, but there was a big challenge of hopping from Asia to Toronto. I was very lucky to already know a couple of people here through the music scene, and when I was working for “Unchained”, we had signed a Toronto-based artist called Groves, who I'm still friends with now. Shout out to him for staying in touch with me because that was a good entry into what's going on in the [music] scene in Toronto.

I had to learn fast about who is who and who does what. I met Josephine in 2021 through Ahadadream, he introduced me to Jayemkayem (Josephine) and Freeza. After that it was just a case of networking. Everyone in Toronto has been so welcoming over the past three years I've been here – but the first year was the hardest to get started and keeping an eye on all the events and [thinking] maybe one day I’ll have my own event here. The challenge is that you're looking at a very different economy and a very different cost of living from Hong Kong and China.

Musically there's no challenge because in England, the “UK-based garage sound” is so oversaturated that I would not get booked in the UK, but in Toronto it’s niche and it’s a novelty, especially being from the UK, having the knowledge of the music, and growing up with it. If anything, it's something people want to hear more of, which is great.

A: Can you tell us what it was like for you growing up and how that influenced your sound?

K: I was very lucky, from age 14, I was immersed in Sound System culture, which comes from the Caribbean and Jamaican influence in the UK. It's huge in London, but it's just as huge in Manchester and I was lucky enough to have friends with sound systems throwing free parties, and raves.

At the time, I didn’t realize how privileged I was to be amongst that kind of upbringing. I thought it was the norm, [and] everywhere had a music scene like that. But Manchester is very special. I would attend these events, and I thought “I'll never be too old for this. I'll never grow out of it.” Obviously, at 15, 16 years old, you're still underaged, 18 is the [legal] age to go to parties, but we would find ways to throw them without being in clubs. We'd be in warehouses or whatever we could do. Then I hit 18, and that's when I started to go and see the artists that I adored. One of the artists I've seen the most is Mala. I remember the first time I saw him in a club called “Sankeys” in Manchester and it blew my mind!

A: How would you describe your playing style now?

K: It has changed a lot over the past seven or eight years. I started out loving 140 [bpm] and UKdubstep when I was a teenager, and then as I started to play out in clubs, I started to mix in a lot more 130 [bpm] stuff, which would be like UK-garage, UK-funky. Because I was living in Asia, I wanted to bring that UK sound and make sure a lot of what I was playing was in that UK-based kind of genre. Now, I even incorporate footwork and some Jungle into what I do too. A genre that I enjoy playing is grime, although it doesn't fit me aesthetically, and I don’t think people expect to see it come out when I'm playing, but those are the genres that I love to play the most and still do in my mixes.

A: Outside of music, where do you turn to for inspiration?

K: I'm heavily inspired by film and TV. I find that they go hand in hand, if you watch a powerful movie with a good score, I get moved very emotionally by the music, scores, and movies. I'm very much looking forward to the Oscars coming up, I make sure I watch all those movies and the performances from the actors and stuff. All of that is inspiration for me. 

A: I love the scores from Arrival or even HER.

K: Yes! Love that. Even something like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, the score is sick. It's from the nineties and it's just so good. 

A: So obviously you're well traveled, what is your favourite destination to travel to and why?

K: It's between Japan and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is like home for me, if I could go anywhere right now it would be Hong Kong. I’d just go for the food, for the people, and my friends are there.

If I had to choose my number one destination, like if I was just allowed to go anywhere it would be Japan. I'm lucky enough to have DJ'd in Japan and had some fantastic experiences, but the people, the food, the culture, I just always leave feeling whole and satisfied.

At the time, I didn’t realize how privileged I was to be amongst that kind of upbringing. I thought it was the norm, [and] everywhere had a music scene like that. But Manchester is very special. I would attend these events, and I thought “I'll never be too old for this. I'll never grow out of it.”

A: So off-topic, you've been asked to DJ a 45-minute set but you’re only allowed to use three records. What selections do you bring to the table?

K: One of my favorite records of all time is this “Pound Cake Remix” by Moony. It's like a garage remix of that instrumental from Drake, I'm just obsessed with it and whenever I play it it fits anywhere into a set. I think right now there's Bianca Oblivion and Onhell’s track called “Sinais”, that track just pops off on the dancefloor. They've recently released some different remixes, but I’d probably choose The Glitch Mob remix. And then shoutout to Kaizen, Madam X’s label too, love a lot of tracks off her label! The final track, I think would be Youngstar’s Pulse X, one of the most classic grime instrumental tracks ever and always pops off!

A: Can you discuss the role of technology in modern DJing and its impact on the industry.

K: Yeah, it's interesting. I would have had to carry records around and now you just carry USBs. For example, my parents don't understand that. They say “You carry just headphones in a USB?” and I'm like “Yeah, that's it!” Looking at the equipment, it's getting better and better. The 3000’s now are just amazing. I've seen some people DJing without headphones and I'm thinking good for you. I love having headphones, I love mixing in the headphones, and when I am mixing I sometimes just have a little bop by myself. It's more like I'm enjoying myself from what I'm mixing, but I've just upgraded my headphones to Sennheiser HD 25s for the first time after two years. Before that, I was just using crusty-dusty headphones. If something's not broken, I wouldn’t think to upgrade. I'm not that technical. I never really care about the technical riders and that comes from living in China, where mixers, decks, and CDJs wouldn't work. The channels in the mixer weren't working, the cue buttons were broken, and I'm like “I've got to make do with what I can, here. I'm in this club, in the middle of nowhere in China, and the equipment's not been updated for 15, 20 years. When I came to Toronto, people were asking, “what's your Tech Rider?” I'm like.. *violently shakes head*.

The only thing is Allen and Heath Mixers - if you've ever heard of or used them, there was one club in Hong Kong called Social Room and it had an Allen and Heath mixer. It had like six channels, it's mainly for techno mixing and there are no effects on it like a pioneer mixer. That was one of the most challenging things playing with an Allen and Heath mixer at events. I won't call them out, but I know DJs that have on the rider “No Allen and Heath mixers” and it’s for good reason.

A: Are you a purist? Do you think people should learn to spin on vinyl first before CDJ’s?

K: I don’t know why I did that. I think it’s because it was cheaper at the time. Buying Belt drive vinyl decks was all I could afford. It wasn't even a case of being a purist, that's just all I could afford. CDJs were expensive and the CDJ 800s back in 2010 when I bought these decks for the first time, I just couldn't afford them. And that wasn't USB, that was CDs back then. CDJ’s only took CDs, I didn't want to burn hundreds of CDs so I was like, I'll just buy records.

Learning to mix with vinyl is a really good thing because it helps you to understand music so much better. When it came to buying my first controller in China, it was a DDJ-SX2 that had to connect to Serato. That's what the S stood for; I felt a bit like a laptop DJ, and I didn't like that. I've never wanted to be in a club with a laptop. I did that at home and that was me learning to use the controller for the first time, which was a good segue into all of the club CDJs, and equipment.

A: Top five live shows you've ever been a part of or seen?

K: Number one, the Spice Girls. I saw them back in 1996, that was my first ever show with my mum and it will always be the best concert I ever went to. Hands down. Number two has got to be Beyoncé. I saw her in 2013 and I was gobsmacked. I saw her 10 years ago, and she’s still as good now. She's just a performer and it's one of the best live shows I've ever been to. Number three is gonna be Blink-182. I saw them last year and then I saw them back in 2004. I have to say the 2004 show was better. That was the pop-punk era, they were my favorite band then, I was 13 years old and it was the first concert I ever went to alone.

These are my musical inspirations, my music tastes outside of electronic music. My fourth favorite show was Deftones. They're my favorite metal band and number five is Slipknot, another one of my favorite bands. A really big range there when it comes to live music. I'd say Red Hot Chili Peppers too, but they'd be number six. 

A: I love Blink-182. We would have shows like the “VANS Warped Tour”.

K: Yeah we didn’t get Warped Tour in Europe. I was so jealous of North Americans

A: What particular event or party that you've been a part of has stood out in your career?

K:  One of my favorite shows I put on in China was when I brought Roska over. It was very memorable for me because we filled up the club. It was my first sold-out show, which as a promoter everybody wants to sell the club out to a full crowd. It was so busy that people couldn't even get in, I thought to myself, “We did that,” and it is still a feeling that I can remember to this day.

The second best show that stands out to me was when I brought Goth-Trad, he's Japanese so it was very easy to bring him to China. We brought him to Oil Club and his set was so bass-heavy it smashed the glass of the club.

A: No way..

K: I have photos of it, the glass shattered. They have a Funktion One sound system in Oil, which is one of the best American sound systems and then they imported it to China. You could hear it, and the fact that the club’s glass windows shattered, the club owners found it hilarious. That's what's so good about it. They were taking pictures and videos – Goth-Trad destroyed their club and they loved it hahaha..

I also got booked to play with DJ Soda in Osaka. She's like the Kim Kardashian of Korea and being on a bill for DJ Soda was insane because she's a huge celebrity out there. I went for dinner with her and just being with her, watching people screaming... I thought, “This is mad,” but she's really nice. She's so sweet and she still follows me on Instagram even though she's huge. That was a weird booking because we're miles apart musically. But hey, I got to go to Japan and play with her.

A: Go to pairs of sneakers and what you like about them.

K: I am a Nike Air Max girly. Air Max everything. I like Air Max ‘90s, 97s, and ‘95s, they're my favorite Air Max’s, I think. And then I do love a good Converse, the traditional Chuck. The ones I have, I've been wearing for the last few years are, they're furry on the outside. I got them from a thrift store in Tokyo. They're gorgeous.

I remember when I was a kid when I got TN's and that was a status thing when I was a kid. I was like “Mum can I please have some TNS like please!” It was like if you had TNs in England, you're pretty hard, you know what I mean, only chavvy kids wore TNs. I remember getting my first pair when I was a kid and I loved them.

A: How many pairs of shoes do you have right now?

K: Not a lot, I had a lot more when I lived in China. I think I've got about five pairs of sneakers right now. I've got one limited edition pair from Hong Kong. These are my rarest shoes, they’re pretty sick and on the bottom, it says ‘HKG’ and the sole says ‘852’ which is the area code in Hong Kong so it's pretty cool. They're metallic and they're like really cool shoes. I hardly wear them because I don’t want to ruin them.

A: Five pairs?! That’s a shock.

K: Because I travel so much that when I came here, I only had two suitcases. I have more pairs of shoes, but trainers I only have five right now. Yeah, as I had to get rid of maybe 20 pairs of shoes to move here. Sucks.

A: Are there any other DJs we should be looking out for?

K: Yes, big ups to Mia Salav making massive waves in Toronto. She's doing big things at the moment and I love her. I’ll always shout out to my girl in Hong Kong Just Bee, she's a very talented DJ and producer and she's always doing incredible stuff in Hong Kong.

A: Cool, and lastly, is there anything upcoming that you wanted to let people know about?

K: Any shows I have on my Instagram. I've got some shows in March, April and hopefully, across the summer. look out for me at some festivals. That's it!

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