Simina Grigoriu is a Romanian-born, Toronto-bred and Berlin citizen, that has been in the industry for more than a decade. Even though she initially started as a DJ in Toronto, she owns her own record label called Kuukou. We are excited to have a chat with her as by watching her on social media and listening to her sets, we admire her down-to-earth attitude, positivity, thirst for life and playful personality. Being a techno DJ, producer, mother and wife, Simina is a power woman, destabilising many stereotypes about women in the industry.
Hi Simina! I would like to thank you for your time! For starters, I want to ask you how are you feeling at the moment and where are you playing these days or weeks?
Hey! Summer has been a whirlwind. I’m home in Berlin mitte at the moment and feeling great. Just dropped off the kiddie at Kindergarten and sitting in my studio doing THIS!
Is there a wider idea or concept behind your Kuukou label?
I founded Kuukou Records in 2016 after taking a yearlong break to have a baby. My pregnancy was so rough that I had to cancel many gigs and stop touring earlier than expected. I had nothing else to do with my time other than make music (and eat. A lot.). I produced an album which I later decided to split in to EPs and start my little techno label. I started with “Techno Monkey” (a track dedicated to my dear husband Paul) and “Ninja Princess” (a track dedicated to our daughter Isabella Amelie).
At the recommendation of my manager, my booking agent, my husband and pretty much everyone I spoke to, I have decided to spilt my album into EPs because for today’s generation of music enthusiasts, the concept of the album is beginning to become obsolete. It just made more sense this way. We now have 21 awesome releases including top remixers and I am very excited about my now two-year-old label.
Kuukou means “airport” in Japanese. When I traveled to Japan the first time, I felt like I could live there my entire life. I kept hearing the word “Kuukou” (pronounced Kuu-kwo in Japanese) over the intercom at the airport and it sounded cute and funny. I kept it in mind. It was not until four years later that I decided to found my label and then this word popped up in my mind.
As a self-proclaimed aviation junkie, I love to fly. I love planes and machines and airports and am obsessed with the hustle and bustle of what it means to run an airport—especially a hub. I’ve been traveling my entire life—back and forth from Toronto to Bucharest for the summer as a kid—and it shaped me. I became independent at a young age and I realize that this was, in no small part, due to my extensive traveling as a child and young adult.
It only seemed fitting to intertwine my love of aviation and music. It seems to have become somewhat of a theme for us because as DJs we are always traveling. An airport can make or break your trip, especially if you get stuck in one for a long time. So yeah, Kuukou!
I have read and also have seen from your social media, that Berlin is a creative inspiration for you. What do you find appealing about the city?
In Berlin, you’ll often see ravers and punks walking around mid-high among corporate business people and mothers pushing strollers. Nobody cares. It’s not judgy like Toronto, pretentious like New York or stuffy like London. Everyone just does their thing and you can’t throw a stone without hitting a DJ. Shit! Everyone AND THEIR GRANDMA is a DJ! There is art everywhere. Everyone seems to speak at least two languages and there’s no stigma about having a beer at 10 am. It’s the techno capital of the world and in the summer you really notice this—an estimated 20,000 tourists come here each weekend (and 19,000 are trying to get into Berghain! :))) )
I just love everything about this city! It’s been my home for a decade and even if we were to ever move away, I’m sure I would call it home til the day I die. It’s a part of me now. Ich bin eine Berlinerin!
Growing up, you studied classical instruments and freestyled with Hip Hop, how did the turn to techno happen?
I was always a fan of electronic music. The interest sparked when I was a teenage raver in Toronto and I was mesmerized by the scene. I started playing records for fun at home in my early 20s while I held down a corporate job in print production, and doing it professionally only came to me during the second half of that decade. I was playing little gigs in Toronto but it was not until I moved to Berlin in 2008 that I made a career of it. Same goes for producing. I was being mentored by a few friends but only hunkered down and produced my first records in 2008. It’s been over a decade and I will always continue learning.
What is techno to you?
Everything. My job. My love. My escape. My craft. My demon. My angel. My saviour.
What do you consider as the biggest challenge in the techno industry?
Staying true to the music. I see so many new artists that are “famous” for nothing more than their looks or their connected entourages. It’s unfortunate to see “artists” (especially girls) who don’t make their own music getting big bookings because they magically have racked up hundreds of thousands of followers but having little to do with music on a daily basis. Underground artists should get more love and attention and in my personal opinion, if you can’t make your own bassline, you really shouldn’t be calling yourself a producer. Just sayin.
What in your opinion makes an artist great, besides talent and dedication?
I’m pretty sure it’s just those two things above! Talent is one thing, but you can practice 10,000 hours and be more talented than someone who has natural affinity for said activity. But if I had to sum it up in one word: PASSION. One can have talent and dedication but it’s passion for the craft that will push one to work hard and concentrate and get it right. Nothing good comes out of half-assing art.
We love your playful and creative relationship with your daughter! Is it challenging to balance motherhood with djing and producing?
Yes, but I love it! I choose my gigs carefully and I only work in studio when she’s in kindergarten. I don’t go out at night and I’m really only away one or maybe two days a week on tour at which point she’s either with Paul at home on off weekends or with Grandma and Grandpa, in which case she doesn’t even realize I’m gone! Ha!
As a family, we are always together. One thing we can never get back is time so I make the most of RIGHT NOW cause Izzy will never be as young as she was yesterday. It’s important to cultivate as best a home life as possible; Quality time and routine are very important, especially at a young age. We want Isabella to have a very happy and regular childhood and she is and will always be our first priority.
Which is the most memorable experience you had when touring?
Oh wow! Where to start?! Well, the people are the most memorable experience. Who wants to play for an empty room, or even worse!…grumpy ravers!! Good vibes and great sound make the difference. Love and positivity are key. Cliche. I know. But it’s the truth.
In terms of my favourite experiences, I can list you my top five, with many more close contenders. I love my job so it’s hard to say which was the best festival or location but here are some of my favs:
Great Wall Festival – GREAT WALL OF CHINA! It was raining and misty and I felt like I was in a Kung Fu movie.
Awakenings Amsterdam – A DREAM to play ahead of my darling Paul at one of the best festivals in the world!
I Love Techno – ANOTHER DREAM! Nuff said!
Footwork Toronto (now CODA) – HOME BASE TORONTO! Can’t get better than having your closest 200 friends cheering you on! 🙂
REG Festival Reunion Island – PARADISE! This trip inspired me to produce “Shark Island” with my brother Moe Danger, which came out on Kuukou just two weeks ago (with remixes from Paul Kalkbrenner and K-Paul!). Shark Island is what the locals call this tiny french Island in the Indian Ocean. Let’s just say I was very afraid to go in the water, but I did! :)))
What are your artistic inspirations? (can be art, music, films etc.)
Old music and dark spaces. I love grit and grime and I feel at home in tiny dirty techno clubs. I love history and history of music and architecture.
Also, Berlin! Berlin and it’s raw, dirty vibes, its inhabitants and its history. And, well, of course, my travels! My travels inspire me constantly.
What advice would you give to emerging female artists?
Stop playing the female card. We want to be treated equal, get rid of “DJane” and “SheJ” and “Female DJ”. Just be the best DJ you can be. I’m all for girl power, but Please!
If you could eternally be stuck in one year’s music scene, which year would it be?
What is one subgenre you think doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
Rominimal! The Romanians are ON FIRE and this country—my country—is slowly getting the credit it deserves. Just look at Sunwaves Festival! I’m very proud of my fellow Romanians. Keep up the good work!
What is one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you hear it?
Extrawelt – 8000. Best track EVER!
What do you try to communicate to the audience through your vibe?
Happiness and unity through good music. Music is a language and we all speak it. It brings people together. Just look at what happens all over the world at big festivals. People of every race and background are brought together through.. MUSIC. Don’t talk, just listen. It’s magical.