kate simko

Welcome to the future, or one iteration of it.

Synesthesia is what they call the association between sight and sound and other sensations, and for most of us it’s involuntary. But Chicago’s Kate Simko and Jeffrey Weeter are working on that: a live A/V performance that goes beyond “video DJing” or other video effects. Kate and Jeffrey’s new project is an “interactive HD movie” programmed by Weeter and controlled entirely by Kate’s live set, and broadcast right in the club.

And you can see it yourself at Mercury Soul, a “21st century salon” at Metro this June 15, 2012 – a one-of-a-kind event itself with a blend of electronic music interspersed with performances by Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians.

5 Mag recently chatted with Kate Simko and Jeffrey Weeter about their new project.

How did you come across this blend of audio and visual that has become the “live cinema” experience?

Kate: Jeffrey and I began working together in 2005, where he was a VJ at my monthly “Wake Up” night in Chicago. In time, we wanted to push things beyond the standard VJ visuals, so we worked on a project where the kick drum affected Jeffrey’s visuals real-time in my live set. Last year we started this “live cinema” concept where we use HD video footage from around the world, and Jeffrey has created a platform that responds to many different parts of my music in the live set. We decided to go with HD video.

You’re playing live – are the images also being generated live? I’m thinking of something strange like an old Brian Eno Headcandy CD-ROM I acquired recently. Are these filmed images? Are they being manipulated?

Jeffrey: The original footage was taken by commissioned videographers. They shot video based on direction from Kate and I. This video was then edited by me keeping in mind the nonlinearity of the final programming and look of the show. The program that is running with Kate’s Ableton Live set was programmed in Max for Live. The end result of which are live images that are manipulated in real time. What you see does change from night to night based on Kate’s performance.

The first thing people are going to ask me is how this is different from a “VJ” set. In fact, I have a frequent Italian correspondent who is certain that I disrespect VJs by omission and this interview will drive him crazy. How is this different than what people might have seen in terms of A/V in a club setting before?

Jeffrey: Well, there are many differences. I began working with Kate as a VJ and I certainly do not mean for this project to be any kind of disrespect to that art form. In fact, much of what I learned from my live VJ work with Kate has made it into this show. The main difference would be the fact that it is a coordinated show. There are not two separate performers doing their own thing. The video and music are being generated in real time from one performer on a single laptop. The show was conceived as a whole with certain looks for each song within the show. It is also programmed so each song in the set can be performed in any order. This allows Kate to do what she’s best at, which is creating the right kind of vibe for the moment.

Is there any mechanism for recording this? Or does it exist as a unique artwork each time it’s performed?

Jeffrey: Documenting this work has been difficult because it is an ephemeral performance, and it’s difficult to set-up a recording device. Also, how the work is perceived changes once it is viewed out of a club environment. That said, we do hope to have a recording of the full show soon!

You would think something like this had been done in electronic music before, but all of the examples I can think of (Joy Division in Belgium, etc) come from rock, and were rather stilted or pre-fabricated at that. Are you aware of any predecessors? Do you have any that you’d claim as an influence?

Jeffrey: I remember seeing Cornelius’ Point tour at the Park West and being transfixed by the precise performance linked to the videos from the album. It was great but something very different. Of course, what was missing was any deviation from the DVD playback or ability to improvise. I think Kate’s set has more in common with the live performances of Ryoichi Kurokawa, Plastikman and others.

And based on the response you’ve gotten at the European dates, how is the audience response? Is there a lot of “observing”? Do you notice a different reaction than in previous live sets you’ve done?

Kate: I’ve played the new audio-visual set a few times since it debuted in February, and each show has been different. Overall, while I’m playing it has seemed the same to me; I look out and see people dancing and swaying to the music. But, when I’m done there are a bunch of comments about the visuals and how people feel like it’s a journey, and that the visuals are telling the story of the songs. This is our intention, so it’s great when we get that sort of feedback. Thanks for the interview. Hope to see you at Metro on June 15!