At just 20 years old, Kate Ellwanger is a trained classical composer and an opera singer currently studying at Chapman University’s Conservatory of Music, California. But that isn’t the world where she feels rightfully at home.
“It seems that people in the classical world tend to view their peers as competitors,” she said in dismay during this interview, “whereas artists in other branches of music see their peers as potential opportunities to collaborate or to share ideas with.”
Her pseudonym, Dot, is in fact a pot shot at the cut-throat politicking she saw in the classical music world.
As Dot, Ellwanger escapes into the world of electronic music, and with the recent release of her circus-inspired EP, ‘Calliope’, Dot will be flying over (for the first time) to Singapore not only to drop beats at Home Club on 6 October, but also to mentor at the FFF Girl DJ Bootcamp at Zouk.
We caught up with the talented young upstart ahead of her arrival and talked about her EP and how the world of bass-music compares to her classical music education.
Your seven-track debut bass-led EP, ‘Calliope’ utilises familiar sounds heard at a circus or a carnival. Why that particular sound?
I like to play with darker imagery in a lot of my music, so I was drawn to using sounds that have really strong visual connotations. I also wanted to make something a little different from what most people might expect a ‘female producer’ to sound like.
You cite Gaspar Noé and Tim Burton films as a source of inspiration. Was it tricky to make sure that your EP didn’t get too dark, too whimsical or too much?
I suppose it was a little tricky, but at the end of the day I just trusted my ears and made music that I wanted to listen to.
The album comes off as mischievous in a delightful way. Was it a by-product of your education in classical music on top of your current electronic music leanings?
My classical background has certainly contributed to the style of my music, but I think the playful or mischievous qualities come from my personality more than anything else. I definitely have a darker sense of humour that gets reflected in a lot of what I create.
You got your first taste of the world of electronic music while in Chapman University. Tell us how that happened?
I hadn’t had much previous experience with electronic music prior to moving to Southern California (nor was I very familiar with the LA beat scene), and Steve Nalepa (her music professor) was one of the first people to introduce me to beat-making and DJing. He exposes his students to a lot of great music they may not have heard before, and he stresses the importance of developing your own unique sound.
And you are a trained opera singer too! Put all the chops you got into a ‘live’ set and that’ll be so out of this world!
I will definitely be incorporating singing and ‘live’ vocal effects during my beat sets sometime in the near future. Singing is my first love and a very personal form of expression, so I want to involve my voice much more with what I’m currently making.
You’re 20 this year, still studying, got an EP out, and playing across the globe. What do you think about that?
To be quite honest, I still can’t wrap my head around everything that’s happening in my life right now, but I’m so thankful for these opportunities! Producing requires a lot of hard work, self-discipline, and long hours in the studio, but I’m so grateful that I can share what I love most with people all around the world. That’s still mind-boggling to me.
And you’ll be in Singapore not only to play at Home Club but also guest mentoring at the FFF Girl DJ Bootcamp. What will you share with these aspiring female DJs?
While I love making (and listening to) softer melodic beats, don’t ever think that you’re limited to writing or playing ‘feminine’ music just because you’re a female DJ or producer. That’s bullshit. We can make bangers even better than the boys can! Hopefully our gender will be less of a novelty in the electronic music scene sometime in the near future.
Dot plays at Home Club on 6 Oct, 10pm. Entry is at $15 (includes a drink). The event is organised by audio-visual collective, Syndicate, and will also feature music by Kiat, Ko Flow, Darren Dubwise, Gema, Rah and Vandetta with visuals by Afiq Omar.
Entertainment writer Zul Andra (@zulandra) has his finger on Singapore’s nightlife and drinking pulse. He has also interviewed hundreds of local and international artists in the last five years from the likes of Carl Cox and Lamb of God to BBC TV presenter Simon Reeve. Previously a staff writer and web editor at I-S magazine, he currently writes for major hyper-local publications, The New Paper and inSing.com. Having expanded his reach regionally with articles in Travel + Leisure and Scoot in-flight magazine, he is also considered a respected opinion-maker with columns in JUICE and Esquire. His work has appeared in TODAY, Time Out Singapore, Nylon and ZIGGY, and maintains an award-nominated blog, Kiss My Culture.