By Nora Rothman
Dot (she/her) is the alias of producer, vocalist, & multi-instrumentalist Kate Ellwanger. Whether providing cutting edge beats as part of LA beat collective Team Supreme, or fulfilling her role as founder of the womxn-focused music label Unspeakable Records, Ellwanger is a champion for the often unsung female producer.
Why do you do what you do?
Just love. I love everything about music—creating it, sharing it, listening and contributing. Love is the driving force behind every aspect of my work, from music production, to business, to education, and everything in-between. I just want to make the absolute most I can with every gift and blessing that God has given me in this life.
What advice do you have for other aspiring artist / producers?
Make music every day. Period. No excuses. Having a consistent practice will give you everything you could need. Discipline, self-control, better music, and a solid anchor that you can return to no matter what part of the rollercoaster you’re on that day.
What was it like coming up as a female producer in LA?
I never really know exactly how to answer this question. I feel extremely lucky to have been involved with a supportive collective of producers (Team Supreme) during my formative years in LA, and participating in weekly beat cyphers got my chops up to speed far faster than making music on my own. And while I have SO MUCH LOVE for these guys, I can’t say that it was easy to be the only woman in a group of 19 men with strong personalities. It took me a little while to gain the confidence to find my own voice and step out on my own. They’re my big brothers for life, but I deeply longed for a stronger connection to the women in my community, which is why I ended up starting Unspeakable Records and getting more involved in music education.
Why did you start your all-womxn label, Unspeakable Records?
I just wanted my own self-sufficient platform to create and share music. I wanted to be my own gatekeeper, and not seek anyone else’s permission or approval to release my work or other music I felt passionate about. I also wanted to provide another space where womxn artists felt celebrated and free to create and promote their work however they wanted to.
What is your favorite thing about yourself today?
My confidence! It’s something that I’ve worked the hardest to develop within myself, and life feels so much better when I’m not following every action with some sort of apology or excuse. I still have my moments of insecurity, but when I compare my 17-year-old-self to me 10 years later at 27, I see two completely different women.
Tell us about this new mixtape.
Atomic Age is a collection of songs and instrumentals created during my past two years of extended travel across the US, Europe, and Africa. This mixtape resulted from some drastic shifts in the way I’ve been living my life over the past couple of years. In 2017 I downsized a lot of my material possessions to prioritize travel and education, and wanted to challenge myself to create music using as few tools and resources as possible. Working from a backpack-sized recording setup, I traded the traditional studio environment for ease of mobility, and set out to create sonically-maximal songs using minimal equipment. All of my production and sound design work is created using a blend of field recordings, digitally synthesized sounds, live instruments, and meticulously-layered vocals.
How do you think we can get better representation for womxn and gnc folx in the music industry?
Create our own industry. Be more active in building the infrastructure to support ourselves rather than trying to fit into a system that was designed in part to suppress our voices. Work with people you love, and don’t make compromises.
What have been some of your best collaborations so far?
I’m mega excited about the EP that you and I just recently finished, Nothing New. While this was one of the most challenging projects that I’ve ever worked on due to time and distance constraints (I was mostly working on the record from Spain while you were recording in the US), it’s ended up as some of my favorite music of this year.
I also still love the song I did with SZA a few years back called Euphraxia—that beat came out of me super quickly one afternoon, and the whole song has an effortless, underworked quality that I still strive to replicate in songs today. I feel that I’ve grown a lot as a producer since then, but there’s some magic in this one that doesn’t depend on technical ability to come through.
So, cat’s out of the bag: you produced my forthcoming EP. What excites you most about that project?
Honestly, I’m such a massive fan of your songwriting, and the way your voice carries these melodies so effortlessly … I wanted to use extremely minimal production techniques that let those elements shine through without any frilly distractions or sonic clutter.
Who’s one other artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
Full disclosure: this artist is also on Unspeakable Records, but everyone needs to go follow Amy D! I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her and witnessing her growth for nearly 10 years now, and she is an absolute beast of a musician and live performer. She worked with Michael Aaberg (also producer for Goapele and Lalah Hathaway) on her upcoming album Like You, and I’m so excited to see her career take off this year.