Just who is Katherine Ellis? Working with the highest caliber of dance producers – Roger Sanchez, Lee Coombs, Meat Katie, Mark Knight, Tom Stephan, Freemasons, Plump DJs, Dylan Rhymes – Katherine sings and writes the top lines and the melody and lyrics for many of the biggest club anthems. Releasing twenty-two records in the past year, Katherine is the ultimate chameleon; you may not always realize that you are hearing her voice as you are sweating on the dancefloor.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Just looking over the list of songs you've done, it's just
amazing. Let's start at the beginning, how did you start as a singer?
Katherine Ellis: I always wanted to act as a child as there was quite a lot of actors around me – including my mother and sister. I didn't really realize that I wanted to sing until I was about thirteen when I started showing off on the bus on the way to school and realized people actually liked listening to me. Around that time a friend of mine's mum lent me three albums - Meat Loaf "Bat Out of Hell," Janis Ian "Between the Lines," and Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits. Now I don't know what would have happened to me had those three albums been different, but those were the albums that influenced me. I loved the power of Meat Loaf's music with him just belting it out. I loved Janis Ian's songwriting, it's just second to none with such amazing stories. That really inspired me, and I learned the whole album as I sat in my bedroom with my record player. Helen Ready was a sort of passionate woman who shared her convictions through her music. I learned old songs and I used to perform them to my friends. A girl at school called Sarah took it upon herself to get crowds together at lunchtime and I just kind of liked the attention, so it sort of went from there, really.
RS: How did you discover dance music and become part of the dance
Katherine Ellis: It was accidental, in all honesty. Although I love all types of music, I suppose I started off with more rock-based ambitions because I loved guitars and bands with big, noisy guitars. Dance was what people wanted to pay me for, and although I've always loved dancing and have been clubbing since I was thirteen, it never really occurred to me to make a career out of it, so it was sort of something that kind of evolved naturally over the years. My first commercial dance release was in '91 on the Boy's Own label, "Don't Dream It's Over," and it's just sort of grown from there. It's just kind of snowballed over the years. I suppose my first big hit was with the Ruff Driverz and that was about ten years ago now. Although I have done other things, I've mainly concentrated on dance music. I love the performing and the music and it's a really easy way to work for me because I sit at home in London with my computer and people eMail me tracks from all over the world. I sit here and bash out ideas and eMail them back to them.
RS: Actually, this is really funny because "Dreaming" by the
Ruff Drivers is one of my all-time favorite songs and a friend of mine
said Arrola was the lady who sang on all those great Almighty records.
It was hard to believe, because you sound one way on one record and
you sound another way on another record. How have you developed such
an amazing range of vocals?
Katherine Ellis: I've always had a talent for mimicry and I've got a very good ear. I have had some opera training and but I don't read or write music as much as do everything by ear and it's just from listening and copying. So I've just always enjoyed putting on voices really, which has been a hindrance in the past when I was in my twenties and sort of trying to get the big album deal. The labels were always like, 'but who are you,' but it depends how I feel and it always irritated me that record companies wanted to pigeonhole you, and unless you were Sade or Belinda Carlisle, who are both women that I love who had distinctive voices, they weren't interested. I'm not that kind of singer as I'm very versatile. That's another reason why I love dance so much, because I can cross over all the genres. People don't know it's me and I do have a lot of sounds and a lot to express, I'm very emotional you know.
RS: For example, I got a radio sampler and it had the Roger
Sanchez "Lost" track on it and it had the Mark Knight song
"Insatiable." I was like, is this the same singer?
Katherine Ellis: One thing about the "Lost" record, that it is actually me and Lisa Pure. Lisa Pure is singing the verses and some of the chorus, but I'm sort of basically singing the chorus and doing eighty percent of the ad lib. Look at the Ruff Drivers track, which is in Spanish, and then I did a trance release called "Alive" which you would never know was me and I just enjoy experimenting really. Having said that, over recent years, I suppose since "Salty" and "Shiver" people have realized that I can really belt it out. People ask for me to belt which has been really nice because there's nothing like just screaming your lungs out and letting it all out.