Interview: Natasha ‘Kitty Katt’ Probert

Edinburgh is a city well known for its cultural heritage, boasting the largest collection of contemporary art, museums and historical buildings in Scotland. Delve a little bit deeper and you will discover a vibrant, underground Disco scene that comes alive as the sun sets over this magnificent city.

Certainly one of the main contributors to this scene, very much injecting a new rush of energy and passion into the genre, is Natasha ‘Kitty Katt’ Probert. During the last 5 years, she has become one of the UK’s freshest young Disco selectors, launching her own record label, hosting a radio show and achieving international recognition through her work with Southport Weekender and Suncebeat Festival.

As if this wasn’t enough, over the last few months, Natasha has frequented the world-renowned Miami Music Conference, played a warm-up set for the legendary Louie Vega, along with a stunning set at Liverpool Disco Festival (as well as hosting one of the official after parties with her dad, Dennis Probert).

It was a privilege to catch up with the Katt herself and get to know a bit more about what makes her so passionate about the Disco scene. We talked about this and more – upcoming festivals, vinyl, childhood influences and Nina Simone.

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It’s so good to have a chat with you – let’s talk about Miami! What an amazing experience to be playing during the MMC – was there anything out there that’s really stayed with you?

This was my first year over there, and the thing about Miami is that it was absolutely stunning – from the sunshine, to the Art Deco buildings, the whole setting was just beautiful. To then add music into that setting was just another element of ‘Oh My God!’

But the thing that really stuck out for me was Do You Wanna Boogie? – I was playing there and that was one of the primary disco events. The thing you find with Miami is that it’s predominantly a House scene, so this was just so different. It heavily focussed on Disco.

It’s run by DEL (Robert Del Femine) and Francisco (Collazo). I thought the guys did a fantastic job with the outdoor set. One thing that really sticks in my mind about being outdoors and playing Disco is, that in Miami, you get sunshine one minute and thunderstorms the next. Normally, being outside in the rain, thunder and lightning – you’d think it would be awful but actually, the lightning seemed to go in time with the music – like it was part of it. I remember Victor Rosado playing Eddie Kendricks’ ‘Date With The Rain’ when it was pouring down with rain, it was fantastic, I loved it!

Also, on the first night, we were lucky enough to go to the Flashback party with Louie Vega – and this was another highlight for me. As I’ve seen him do before, he really mixed it up, and it was really, really good!

 Did you find that when you went over there, Miami’s music culture was very accepting of the Disco genre? Obviously as you mentioned, there are so many House and Techno focused events, but was Disco well ingrained into the mix?

With Miami, elements of it are heavily dominated by the mainstream genres – the EDM side of it is massive, but what you find is that even with the more commercial House side of things, there was a lot of disco being played. I find that recently, Disco is re-emerging. It’s really, really coming back – like it never died! There’s elements of it everywhere. Even at The Kings of House event, Disco undertones were there and I loved it, I’m a Disco fanatic, you know what I’m like! So yeah, I think Miami is embracing Disco, because everywhere you go you can hear it.

You mentioned Flashback with Louie Vega – how did it feel warming up for Louie at the Liverpool installment of Flashback?

It was really surreal. It’s like one of these things – when you start out DJ-ing in little pubs and then clubs – then it sort of just suddenly went from one thing to another and this happened. If someone had told me years ago “Oh you’re going to have the opportunity to warm up for Louie Vega”, I would have gone “Oh shut up, don’t be daft!” It’s amazing.

He’s such a humble and lovely person, really nice. His set at Flashback was fantastic. Getting to warm up for him – I’m not gonna lie – I was so nervous and like “Here we go! Moment of my life!” 100% my career highlight!

With Louie Vega

 

There is so much going on in Liverpool right now, with the Liverpool Disco Festival and the spin off events associated with it…

I’ll be honest, Liverpool is my favourite place to play. Out of anywhere, that for me is number one. I call it The Disco Capital of the World!  What the guys at Liverpool Disco Festival have been putting on has been absolutely unreal. For us Disco fanatics, and those just getting into Disco, it’s unbelievable. It’s flying the flag for Disco 100%. You find that there is such a mixed crowd there as well. You can go some places and there’s always an older crowd, with some of the younger people not getting into it as much. But now, in Liverpool, a really young crowd are getting into it and it’s great.

Do you think Liverpool Disco Festival is going to really take off, and step up the game in Liverpool then?

Absolutely. It’s one of these things that’s just going to get better and more massive! What I love about Liverpool Disco Festival is that it was like being back at Southport Weekender. It had that sort of feeling to it, all the music, the different spaces, and the people. I absolutely love it, and I think it’s going to go from strength to strength.

On the subject of Southport Weekender, obviously you’ve played at the legendary event itself, but how do you feel about being involved with their 30 year celebrations as part of the Southport Weekender Festival at Finsbury Park this weekend?

It’s an honour. Do you know what, I’m so grateful for the opportunities they have given me. I pinch myself when I see my name on any sort of flyer, I go “Is that really me? Is this happening?” The line-up is serious heavyweight stuff, the pressure is on! These guys are always forward thinking, always moving their ideas forward and I’m just loving every moment of it. Being a part of these incredible events is something I never dreamed of. Well, I did dream of it, but I never thought it would actually happen! But it has, and I’m so grateful.

 Southport Weekender

 

What about Suncébeat? Have you also got a lot of love for Southport Weekender’s sister European festival and what it has to offer?

I love it! Now, regardless of how pale I am, and that I look like a ghost, I love Croatia in the summer! Suncébeat for me, is another highlight of my year. It’s lovely because all my best friends go, my mum and dad go, so all of my friends and family Suncebeat (2)are there for me! I’m from such a musical family, so having all the people you’re really close to there, the music you all absolutely love in a setting that’s unbelievable – well, what more could you ask for? It’s absolutely stunning.

Obviously your Dad (Dennis Probert) has a big part to play in your musicality. Have you got any memories of growing up with him that stand out as musical milestones – some that have maybe inspired you?

I grew up in such a musical household, so my whole childhood really. Ever since I was wee, I can remember my dad being a serious record collector. He’s passed that all on to me! I remember the old 45’s and the soul records – proper soul. Having him play this music in the house, in the car – all the time, was an influence. Bobby Womack was an artist that really stood out in our household, as well as Loleatta Holloway and Thelma Jones. There were just so many artists he introduced me to as a child – I owe everything to him! My mum loves it as well, Teddy Pendergrass she loves! All this stuff playing in our house and I was listening to it going “What’s that?” and learning. Ever since I was wee, the music is something I’ve loved.

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So do you think being surrounded by records and vinyl in their physical form throughout your youth played a part in inspiring you to ‘go for it’ and set up the record label (Ghetto Disco Records)?

Yeah, because I’d been doing the Ghetto Disco Radio Show with my dad (on Starpoint Radio) we’d invite some guests on every few weeks. So Serge Gamesbourg came on and did a guest mix for us.

Before that, he’d done some tracks. I heard these tracks and we started wondering about the idea, because we love vinyl so much! I really wanted to get them pressed because I thought they were brilliant.

So we both thought “Well why don’t we do it?” So here we are and we just want to keep on going – we’ve got the next release coming out soon with a couple more lined up, which I’m really excited about. I can’t wait to share them with everybody.

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The first release was quite a limited pressing too, so you’re actually creating new, rare vinyl.

Yeah, that’s exactly what we wanted to do. For each release, we want to do a limited pressing of just 500 copies, and we won’t be doing a re-press. We want to keep things unique, exclusive and special.

 

Serge Gamesbourg – Bring Them Back Together. Limited Pressings available on Ghetto Disco Records.

 

You’ve also been busy producing yourself, releasing a track in collaboration with Cazz Ear (Shaun Samuel) earlier this year. I love that record, it’s just so soulful. Obviously, Nina Simone has a huge influence on that track. As a person, what does she bring to your work? Is she quite a prolific role model?

Absolutely! The thing is, she was such a strong character. Even during times when her cards were against her, she still fought through it. With me, there will be times when things are against me, but I will still always try to do what I believe. She was someone who was very passionate about what she believed in and I’m the same.

The inspiration for our track (Birthday of Blackness) came from watching a documentary on Nina Simone. I’d known about her before, but this showcased this other side to her that was just so captivating. I thought “Wow, she’s such a powerful character” – one of these people that can just speak, and it works. Like Martin Luther King – when he speaks, you can identify a part that can fit on a track. Something powerful. Nina Simone is the same.

She was from that era of people that believed in themselves and fought hard to be themselves, being aware of who you really are. Stuff like that really resonates with me. I like to think of myself of being strong minded and doing the things I believe in.

Birthday Of Blackness (Club Mix) – out now on Tribe Records.



After collaborating with Shaun Samuels on the track, you ventured down to London to play at the Dope Disco Boat Party (on the Thames) with him and Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson. Parties can get really intense with Paul really quickly – and you were all stuck on a boat together. How were the dynamics on that boat, can you describe the kind of energy on that vessel?

It all kicked off! The energy was immense. Paul is fantastic – the energy he brings to the table is unreal, I kept thinking “Oh my god, this guy is unreal!” Obviously I’d heard him play before, but hearing him again there was unbelievable. I loved every minute of it. Such a great thing to be a part of.

So, to round up – just one random question for you. If you could have dinner with 3 people, who would they be?

Oooh, I have to say Nina Simone. Going back to her, yes absolutely. Also, Bette Davies – I just love Bette Davies! Then I’d say Loleatta Holloway. Quite a weird mix there, but those would be the three. I can imagine it now – some strong characters there! We’d have a good time!

Catch up with Natasha at Southport Weekender Festival on Saturday 10th June at Finsbury Park, and Suncébeat 8, 19th – 26th July at The Garden, Tisno, Croatia!

Tickets available here through Skiddle!

 

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