From a young age, Drover demonstrated prodigious musical talent, immersing herself in classical music, jazz, and blues, playing instruments such as the piano and saxophone. Her musical journey evolved as she discovered a fondness for Lounge, Trip Hop, and Acid Jazz, drawing inspiration from iconic acts like Tricky, Portishead, and Massive Attack. Sneaking into dance clubs and illegal raves at just 16, Drover witnessed how DJs controlled the energy of the dancefloor, sparking her fascination with the art of DJing. With a natural ability to seamlessly blend diverse sounds, Katie’s impact was immediate, spanning the entire spectrum of the house genre—from minimal and deep to disco and electro. Influences ranging from Billie Holiday to Nils Frahm and Matthew Herbert to DBX shaped her distinctive style. A favorite among Melbourne’s audience, Katie held enviable residencies at renowned clubs, showcasing her versatility. Her popularity extended beyond borders, allowing her to travel to interstate and international parties, earning the dancefloor’s resounding approval. Now based in Berlin, she has held down monthly residencies and played regularly at some of the biggest clubs, contributing to the city’s vibrant DJ scene. Katie’s passion for dance music extends to various facets, including hosting and guest appearances on radio shows like Triple J and Kiss FM. She shares her expertise by teaching DJing and production classes and runs her own record label, Dokutoku Records. With recent notable productions on labels like Lobster Theremin, Dial, and Serialism, Katie Drover’s limitless potential is evident to all.

With a background in classical music, jazz, and blues, how have these early influences shaped your approach to electronic music?

I think jazz has probably been the biggest influence on my approach to electronic music. The performance attitude of jazz is arguably quite similar to that of DJing in that it embraces a freeform approach. Of course, as a DJ, you are playing fully formed compositions from other artists, but you are improvising and putting the whole thing together on the fly. And very often the individual moments don’t make sense until you look back on them as a whole. With production, you are using a very structured and standardized basis (ie 44 times, particular phrasing, etc.) on which to build a bit of an experiment. When making music, I usually lay down the beat first and then just jam over it until I find something I like, like a solo in a jazz performance. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and I think that is the beauty of it. 

Sneaking into dance clubs and illegal raves at 16 is quite an adventurous start. How did those early experiences influence your perception of DJing and the energy you bring to your performances today?

I was a complete nerd with some cool friends whom I used to tag along with these things with. I had a great fake ID and was able to go out pretty young, so I can’t claim it was adventurous of me; probably more me being an opportunist, I’d say. I think what was most exciting for me at that age was not only to see behind the closed doors of overage events but also to experience the palpable collective energy of a huge crowd of people being carried along on their own journeys with the music. Again, I think the whole freeform, no start/no finish kind of experience was captivating. Before that, I had only ever consumed live music at concerts where there was a set performance, and they were relatively short. Still, with clubs and raves, it is a bit endless, and you can choose your adventure and be as involved or not in the music or the surrounding activities. I liked the freedom of it, the inclusive, no judgment attitude, and the general counterculture feeling to it. 

How did living in Berlin influence your musical style and approach as a DJ?

I am very heavily influenced by what is going on around me, a bit too much sometimes actually. I’m very suggestible. Living in Berlin has been quite transformative. The scene and possibilities here are so much bigger than in Australia. We have incredible artists and events in Oz, but it is a bit more of a struggle if you are more on the fringes, as there are fewer opportunities and fewer people to hold up the scene. I loved to DJ so much that I would take a lot of gigs that I probably shouldn’t have, played music I didn’t love to please the crowds, and ended up confusing myself along the way. To this day, I still find it so hard to say no to playing. I also realized I should have trusted myself more in my earlier career. I love that you can play anything here, and as long as you do it well (and even often if you don’t), the crowds are up for it. The crowds here seem to prefer to be educated as this scene can be more of a lifestyle for people, whereas, in Australia, I found they wanted more to tune out and listen to things they were already familiar with, and clubbing is more a phase than a lifestyle. Both are good and bad in their ways. In Berlin, I found I had a lot of room to be artistic, while in Australia, I worked more on my technical skills and got good at reading crowds and working with different rooms. Australian DJs are some of the most technical and versatile that I know.

Running your record label is a significant undertaking. What inspired you to start Dokotoku Records, and how do you approach curating and releasing music on the label? 

I started Dokutoku honestly because no one would release my music, and I thought it would be a good way of getting the ball rolling and giving myself some exposure. There used to be a real challenge when you wanted to get music out as often labels wouldn’t take a chance on an unknown and then you get into an impossible cycle. I just wanted to get some music released to get people to start taking me seriously, hopefully. I wanted to release it on vinyl as I am a big fan of the medium. I started DJing on vinyl, and there is something so satisfying when playing records. Unfortunately, though, I think I was a bit too late to the game as it was getting increasingly tough to sell records when I launched the label. So I pushed 5 releases through and then took a bit of a break. I also started to have a bit of a moral dilemma as I saw my unsold back catalog piling up and was feeling so guilty about the waste. I investigated pressing on recycled vinyl, but there is a slight reduction in quality, and it’s still quite a wasteful way to release music when you’re not sure you will sell out. I then decided to do a digital VA compilation when Covid hit, which was really lovely but life got a bit different, and the label has been a bit on hold since. I have plans to reignite it soon, but it just really needs to make sense. In terms of curation, it was really just about working with people I admire and those who make good music (in my eyes).

Can you share some of the philosophies or values that guide the direction of Dokutoku Records? 

It’s pretty simple: I just want to work with good people who make good music. 

Your recent productions on labels like Lobster Theremin, Pleasure Zone, and Carpet & Snares have received acclaim. How would you describe your production style, and what themes or emotions do you aim to convey through your music? 

My production style is pretty loose. I love working with samples, and I work mainly with my computer. My husband is outraged that I don’t use machines anymore, but I just work in the way I am comfortable. I often go and sample his machines, jam a bit, look for sounds in sample banks, and then see where they take me. I have found that working like this usually results in music that has my identity, even though there are some quite different styles. I seem to end up with more ethereal and moody music, which usually doesn’t work on a dance floor. I very rarely play my own productions and always tell myself I need to make some more party-friendly tracks. I describe myself as more of a mixtape producer 😉

Are there any upcoming releases or projects that you’re particularly excited about? 

I’ve had a little bit of a break over the last year as I just had a baby. I thought I would be back playing a lot sooner, but it turns out my little one needs me close a lot more than I was expecting. I can’t be away from him for more than a few hours, so it makes playing (or doing anything) a bit tough. As soon as he has a bit more independence, I will be back in clubs for sure, I’m missing it like crazy and have had to turn down some great opportunities, which kills me. I have squeezed in a few gigs here in Berlin and when I was back in Australia over the past months, which has been so lovely, but it’s a bit distracting knowing you have to race home as soon as you finish. 

I really want just to do things that I enjoy and with people that I like. As you get older, you realize life is too short to waste your time. I have spent too much of my career taking myself too seriously and grinding at things that don’t make sense, only to make a tiny bit of progress. I just want to have fun and help others enjoy themselves.

With an impressive journey so far, what are some of your goals and aspirations for the future, both as a DJ and as a label owner? 

I really want just to do things that I enjoy and with people that I like. As you get older, you realize life is too short to waste your time. I have spent too much of my career taking myself too seriously and grinding at things that don’t make sense, only to make a tiny bit of progress. I just want to have fun and help others enjoy themselves. The one thing I am sure of is that I absolutely adore the people aspect of DJing and making music. It is my happy place, where I can turn off my chattering mind and relax. 

How do you see the evolution of your sound and style in the ever-changing landscape of the scene?

Luckily, while the scene always evolves it somehow also swings back to old trends. So once you have been around for long enough, you can just recycle your experience. I am a bit unsure of the future, though, I’m not sure how long DJing in its current form will be around. With AI and crazy music software and algorithms, you can get a computer to do 70% of your work. Obviously, that last 30% is the most important (in my opinion), but there are a lot of contexts where the human part is not necessarily needed. I think, like all art forms or media, there will always be a niche where it will exist, but our ability to make a living will probably be diminished (again), like when digital music and streaming came in. I do have hope, though, and I can’t wait to still be doing this thing when I’m 70.

Check out her exclusive mix HERE:

Talent: Katie Drover

Music editor/director: Joiah Luminosa