Up and coming DJ, producer, and model MK Ultra took some time after playing at Dim Mak Studios in Hollywood and just before leaving for her maiden American Tour (which she is currently on) to help us get to know her better and share her upcoming schedule, new music, and dive into plenty of other topics. Her mixture of electronic sounds, mostly hard dubstep, are making waves in the EDM world and judging by her likable personality, there is plenty of charisma to match.
Follow her on instagram @MKUltraOfficial, Facebook and Soundcloud at “SheIsMKUltra.”
When did you get started making music?
I’ve been making music since I was very little. I always had a recorder and would record songs. I had a lyrics book since I was really, really, little and I was in this little girl band that I created with my best friend in the neighborhood Ashley Walker called “Galaxy Girls” when we were seven. We would write these lyrics and god knows what those lyrics were about, probably heart ache or something else we had never really genuinely experienced. I’m sure they were probably really stupid. But we would sit our parents down in the living room and we would sing to them and play on our fake little drums made of cardboard boxes, pans and other various assortments of random household things. I’ve always had interest in making music but I’ve played guitar, drums and sing for the longest. Music to me has always been everything. If you’re upset, happy, or excited… it always kind of comes out in music and writing. I like to write as well. I’ve been recording songs for as long as I can remember. Majorly production wise I’ve been working for a while but only now have I been seeing results as far as being a little more satisfied with it. There’s no instant gratification with learning sound engineering and Music Production. There’s a lot to learn and it’s a never ending learning process which is really exciting to me because you always have something to keep getting better at. It’s been a long time that I’ve been working on music and I’m just more and more excited to learn, process and get better. You can do anything you want to do.
What is your setup at home?
I’ve got Ableton, I’m looking at getting logic for mastering, I have Maschine hardware, a midi keyboard, Rokit speakers, and a Samson Gtrack Microphone. My setups pretty simple. You don’t really need a whole lot to make music honestly. If you really wanted to you could just do it on your computer with a little midi keyboard and you really don’t have to have that even if you’re really trying to rough it. I think what matters your speaker quality and Headphones quality. If you’re using crappy speakers it’s like everything you’re doing is a lie and you think it sounds balanced and then you’ll throw it out live and it will sound like a dying blowfish. You don’t have to have this elaborate studio setup to make good music, but I do think it matters that you have good speakers and a creative and determined mind.
Tell me about your (upcoming) tour and where you’re going to play.
Well I’m very excited because it’s my first tour. It was put together by my manager Josh from LA, he runs DJ Factory. I’m on tour with Ariok whose known for his heavy heavy dubstep tracks in Denver and my best friend Deidre is coming along with me so this is super fun and easy. I don’t feel home sick, it’s a big adventure to me right now. We went from El Paso to LA. Currently we’re in LA right now as we sit and have this interview.. then we go to Pomona, back to Texas to go to Austin, College Station, Houston, New Orleans… and then we end up going to Atlanta to go home. That’s our last stop at Iris which is our home base. I love Iris so I’m excited to show Ariok what Iris has to offer because they throw the best events in Atlanta.
This is my first time in LA, I’ve always wanted to come here since I could remember, I’ve wanted to be in California. I don’t know if it was just an ignorance of what California seemed like to me but honestly its everything I expected and everything I’ve wanted and I’m going to move here at some point! Haha I love it here and I promise you that I’ll definitely be living here at the right time in my life. I love how you have mountains, deserts, and ocean. You’ve got everything here and you’ve got so many cool things to see and cool interesting museums.. there are places to hike and camp everywhere. The stores here are insane! I love shopping here! Melrose Avenue is amazing.. I went there thinking it was going to be like Rodeo Drive and I was so wrong. I guess I had them mixed up but I was pleasantly surprised to find street wear instead of la renta and Gucci like I expected. Melrose is basically a full street stretch full of clothes I want on my body right now, I was so excited! You couldn’t find clothes like that in Atlanta. If I had access to the clothes on Melrose Avenue in Atlanta, I would be the happiest little girl in the whole world and I would be so broke. It wouldn’t even matter to me, though. I could just build a house out of Melrose Avenue Clothes, sleep in my Melrose Avenue Clothes Bed, and invite Melrose Avenue Clothing friends over to sip Melrose Avenue clothes wine. Dream life complete!
What’s it like being a female DJ in this industry?
I don’t see myself as a female DJ. Obviously I’m a female and I DJ and I’m just me. I don’t really think of it like that. It’s clear that it’s a male-dominated industry but my viewpoint is I’m going to go after it ‘cause I want to and I love it and nothing is really going to stop me. Being a female is the last thing that’s going to stop me. My mindset stays true to wanting to go as far as I can with this and try to get to the top of whatever makes me happy and try to make other people happy. As far as looking up to other female DJ’s, I really like Reid Speed. She’s really cool, really sweet, and really genuine. I look up to her as a person not because she’s a female DJ. I respect any female DJ that doesn’t ride on sex appeal and I think that if you are riding on sex appeal as a female DJ then, sure, good for you, but I won’t be doing that and there are other people that aren’t doing that and I genuinely, extremely respect those women. Like Reid Speed and Speaker Fox, they’re both killin’ it and they’re both hot, sexy, women, but they don’t rely on it and they don’t need to because they’re talented. If you ride on sex appeal, it’s only so long before your career goes under. In my opinion it’s not about sex at all. It’s about love for something and ambition. I get this question a lot and I think it’s the toughest question to answer only because I don’t see myself that way, but I am happy when other girls tell me I inspire them to be themselves and to be a strong women. I think that’s what it means to me to be a female in a male-dominated industry, to stay positive, do you, and hopefully inspire other women to do them with out a second guess or a doubt in their mind that they can do it too.
Talk about what you’re working on and the song you just came out with, We Came as Romans.
Well I really like We Came as Romans (the band) and I actually got to meet them at Warped Tour this year because my friend John from Run DMT was at Warped Tour playing and I got to hang out backstage and meet We Came as Romans and Bring Me the Horizon which honestly was the best moment ever for me because since I was fourteen I’ve been stalking Oli Sykes. I don’t even care for that to be off record. As far as my music goes right now I’m wanting to work into more electro and house sounds because I want to be a little more worldly. I like dubstep, I like a lot of genres, and really a lot of different kinds of music.. so I want to get into more than dubstep alone. I was thinking about doing more live stuff with my own vocals and loops. Let’s get weird! People have suggested that to me for a while so I’m thinking about it. First I’ll have to see if I have the balls to put myself out there so much with my vocals. I don’t know why I feel it’s such a personal thing but I feel vulnerable when I sing in front of people. We’ll see. I tend to put myself in situations where I may not be fully mentally ready but because of the fact that I have to be up and doing it, I do it perfectly fine, because I just have to.
Talk about the set with Porter Robinson for Sirius (UMF radio), how did that opportunity come about? What was it like?
I love Porter Robinson, I’ve gotten to play with him twice in Atlanta and I’ve always had a little baby girl crush on him since I first heard of him in 2011. I played a Halloween show with him two years ago and I remember dressing all cute in case I got to meet him and I ended up being too shy. I met him when I played Counterpoint festival with him in 2012 and he was lovely! Now I’ve played with him on Ultra Music Festival Radio!! It’s like I took a Porter Robinson stepping stone each time haha! It was just amazing, I was listening to the UMFR show on Sirius radio when it came up and he gave me an amazing intro. (The intro) was so killer and exciting and they put my instagram or my @sheismkultra which is actually now @mkultraofficial… It was amazing because I was sitting next to my mom and my mom recently got really sick and she almost died really recently.. really all of a sudden.. she had cancer that came out of nowhere and she had severe sepsis. It’s one of the top ten killers in America but I had never heard of it until then. But you know what she’s not dead and she’s still here and it was crazy because the whole time I was most excited that she was there with me seeing this progress with me when only a few weeks ago it was likely I would have been hearing it with out her. it’s just been amazing having her still as I’m getting to go to new cities and places. I get to share my experiences with her and it’s really exciting for me to still have that. UMF was amazing! I couldn’t have been more excited and honored to play with Porter Robinson. It was incredible publicity for me and I’m very grateful and excited that I got to do that. I respect Porter Robinson greatly and I respect UMF Radio for how hard they work and I appreciate them greatly for putting me on that.
Really I'm just excited to see all these new things happening. I honestly think if you're just positive and you know what you want and you're willing to keep believing in it, literally just picturing something in your head does wonders and it is called manifesting. It really just starts to come into play for you when you manifest things with a positive mindset and attitude. And I've watched that happen for the last two years. Everything's starting to really pick up and I always just kind of thank the universe and ask the universe to help me get where I want to go and where I'll be the best me and the best for people… where ever that is I want to ask the universe to take me there almost like how some people ask God to put their lives in his hands, I do the same thing except I'm asking the universe.
How did you come up with the name MK Ultra?
MK Ultra is “Project MK Ultra” and the government used to do illegal experimentations on peoples minds using a bunch of different things. MK Ultra is a huge topic, you could talk about that forever… It’s basically a government conspiracy where they use drugs and things to fuck with people’s heads to try to create mind control. MK is mind control.. and that really did happen and that’s still going on. All these shootings and things… MK Ultra has come up in the News a lot lately and the idea is that you can hypnotize people to kill people..it’s Illuminati related. I’ve gotten so many messages from guys that say, ‘do you even know what MK Ultra means?’ and its so ridiculous. I even got one on the way here to LA that read, ‘I bet you don’t even know about what MK Ultra’ means…” and I was kind of like, what do people think? I just found this name and decided, Oh this sounds pretty? But it’s okay. A lot of people have messaged me saying “I just finally looked up what this means and this shit’s crazy.” It’s interesting. I wanted to bring awareness to something. I only had a few hours to choose the name and I thought it was a cool name while being just a little feminine and not being too feminine because I wasn’t trying to ride on a gimmick and I wanted something right off the bat that wasn’t going to be a stupid, extremely feminine name and I didn’t want to use my name either so came about MK Ultra. I found the subject very interesting and the more I read in to it the more I felt the name was mine.
I went to college for psychology. I’m really interested in how people’s minds work and what makes people do what they do, I like to study child development. I like figuring out how the world works in that way. I like to read informative Books and bios. I like to watch informative videos. I find no interest in reality TV and I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not watching TV. I don’t watch a lot of TV in general anyways. I wouldn’t say college made me who I am at all. I came from parents that raised me right. We’re very real and down to earth and my parents are very logical people and very reasonable. My mom is so smart. She’s been through so much and knows how to help anybody through anything. My dad’s very left-brained and with his government background he taught me a lot on being realistic, safe and logical. Logic over emotion any day. I think that if you play off that you’ll always be good. People have breakups and they’re all emotional but when I have a breakup I just realize that it’s over and it’s fine and I keep going. Logic wins over emotion.
Let's talk about (your work with) Tomorrowworld TV, I saw you interviewed Steve Aoki. How did that opportunity come about?
Tommorowworld TV started for me when Andre Perry, who actually does the voice of Tomorrowworld which is like that “Welcome to Tomorrowworld” *in deep fairytale voice.* He does the voice over for Tomorrow World TV. He has good connects with Tomorrowworld I suppose and they were asking him, “do you have anybody that you think would be good to interview people?,” and he said ‘yeah, I’ve got two people,” and he brought in Steve Garza who owns Prototype radio with Andre Perry, which is a radio show in Atlanta that does EDM interviews. Steve does this for a living so I automatically thought, ah I don’t know if I’ll get it. But it was between me and Steve and we are really good friends and he’s really good to me and very swee though everything. Prototype Radio and Iris have my back like no other and that’s something I will never forget. I have a deep and genuine family love with those people that won’t change. TomorrowWorld TV was a really good experience for me because I’ve never done anything like that before and they just kind of trusted me with it… I had no idea what I was getting into but it ended up being one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had because I had little experience before. I wasn’t sure if I could do it but I never really think twice about taking an opportunity so without a doubt I was like, “”if I get the Job I’m doing it,” and I got the job. They basically gave me a DJ bible and gave me some questions to learn and concepts to touch on. The next day I was interviewing people and they said they were going to start me off easy with R3hab, Steve Aoki, Tiesto, and Benny Benassi! I was so excited and a good bit nervous because these guys are obviously some of the biggest artists in the game and I was going to interview them and have to not sound stupid and nervous. But it was fine. It was an amazing experience and my nerves were calmed very fast with the fact that I could do it. I really learned to be myself and to believe in myself. I learned that you can do anything you put your mind to because I was watching the interviews from Tomorrowland, the girls interviewing the DJ’s, and some of them had a lot of extreme energy and I just don’t have that very very outgoing and loud personality, so I wondered ‘is this going to be okay? Am I going to be able to do it?’ And it ended up being okay and they actually told me, ‘there’s something about you and we need to bring that back’ so it seems like I’ll have the job next year for Tomorrowworld interviewing and they even mentioned going to Belgium. Can’t say for sure of course but I have a really good feeling about it.
That was the first time (Tommorwworld) in Atlanta. What do you think the reception was just living there? In general do you think it was a successful festival? How do you think everyone responded to it? How did you feel about it?
Everyone had been talking about Tomorrowworld since six or seven months before it happened. Everyone has been raving about it, our whole community, Atlanta, and really everyone in the country knew about Tomorrowworld coming to America because it was by Tomorrowland and that was the biggest festival for EDM in the world. We were absolutely enthralled by the excitement, there were a lot of DJ’s (in Atlanta) thinking maybe we’ll get on the line up! So we were all lookin' forward to seeing how it turned out. It really was amazing stage production, music, and all around atmosphere! For the most part, I spent a lot of my time in the artists compound where I interviewed people. My shifts were pretty much all day until 11 pm and right about at 11 pm when they cut me to go frolic and play I would go run to the main stage and just catch that hour and a half of joy and happiness that was left before it was over for the night.. I thought it was amazing and everyone was extremely happy with it. I know a lot of people talked about it being life changing to them so that’s really exciting that they made such a large impact on people. It’s really exciting and it’s definitely inspiring to the DJ’s in Atlanta. We all want to be on Tomorrowworld, man. We get to see these huge DJ’s on these huge stages just killing it in front of packed out ginormous crowds, it doesn’t get better. We’re super excited to try to do that one day!
What’s the EDM scene like in Atlanta? It’s a hip-hop dominated place for the most part over the last decade.
Atlanta is awesome, it’s super saturated with a genuine and deep-rooted love for EDM. There are so many DJ’s and so much talent, so many amazing people there. I think it’s a great place to start out as a DJ for sure. It’s my home and my favorite place to play…there are so many places to play out and there are so many people who are excited to see you. I don’t know if I could say it’s majorly hip-hop haha. Maybe it was at one point but as far as EDM goes it’s hella heavy dubstep and trap. There’s some house and electro of course, there’s everything. You’re going to always have everything but I would say that we are flourishing in dubstep at least in the areas that I’ve been playing.
Some of my favorite EDM artists are from Atlanta like Heroes X Villians. Do you like trap? Is that something you want to get into? There’s a lot of variety in your music.
At first I didn’t know how I felt about trap and it honestly grew on me the more I hear it the more I’m liking it. I think that with any genre when it starts out a little more minimal as people start doing it more and practicing it more it gets to be what I consider a thicker sandwhich. What I mean by that is as time goes on every genre tends to get more intellect as people are becoming more talented at their genres creating a larger spectrum for that genre. I feel like dubstep was more minimal and has grown to be super epic and heavy in the same way that trap is kind of evolving. I can dig trap. I was thinking that I want to do more.. not just trap but maybe house and electro and make a different sound. I think it’s important to stay versatile and I’m excited to try new things. I definitely like electro and house a lot and trap is definitely growing on me. I’m going to keep trying and keep going until I’m satisfied. It’s hard for me to stay stagnant so I’m excited to grow as an artist.
I look up to Heroes and Villians greatly. There’s a lot of people out of Atlanta that I genuinely look up to, him being one of them for sure. Not only is Daniel Pollard the coolest with his style and he’s got his own little swag and I genuinely respect that but I also think he’s sincerely and openly such a good person. He’s so good-hearted and he means well. He’s definitely someone to look up to and look out for because he’s killing it. I look up to a lot of people like from Atlanta as well like Mantis and Must Die. Must Die because he’s such a good person and he’s so sweet and energetic and smart and super talented. That guy deserves everything he’s getting right now. This is only the beginning for him and he earned his way and really deserves it. I think I’m most happiest to see him to doing so well. Mantis is killing it as well! They just got signed to Sub Human and sponsored by Jagermeister! I couldn’t be more proud of them because they work so damn hard and it shows. They’re really coming up. Le Castle Vania is from Atlanta, he’s obviously has grown to do very well for himself, touring with Deadmau5 and Skrillex and all these people. I just look up to anyone who chases what they love to do and if they’re achieving they’re dreams and trying then that’s all that matters to me. If you love something and you’re chasing it, I’ll look up to you no matter who you are or what you’re doing.
Who are your other influences artist-wise when you were growing up? I had an impression that you would have a punk rock background. How’d you get into electronic music to begin with?
I love metal music, I’ve always loved metal music. I never really liked mainstream pop radio music all that much. I found my old Ipod the other day right before I left for LA and I was so excited because it’s got all this music that still people don’t even know about and I lost it and I couldn’t have been more excited to have it again! ‘yes!’ this will be an easy trip. I spent the whole time listening to all these old artists that I still love. I was still really excited to see that l still loved them. I still knew every word to the songs that I used to listen to in high school. I like Screamo, I mean I can’t tell if I’m growing out of it yet. I respect it. I definitely like heavy music… (in high school) I listened to all those girlfriend bands like Bring Me the Horizon, Asking Alexandria, We Came as Romans, and As I Lay Dying. I like Between the buried and me, the list goes on forever, Mogwai, Bear vs Shark. I listened to a lot of music. Folk music, I love old blues music. I like all music except country to be honest with you. I’ll give anything a shot except for country. They say it has to grow on you and I don’t want it to.
Halloween plans? Did you dress up in recent (years)?
Halloween is my favorite holiday, I like to dress up bloody and gory. Last year I had just flown back from Seattle and I had to go play a show in Atlanta right when I flew back in. First I was a Ninja Turtle where I had this cool Ninja turtle back pack and the whole get up! I was obviously Michael Angelo! Then the next night I played a show that was actually on Halloween where I had a Chelsea Grin and I was the Black Dahlia. I had a Chelsea smile that I made out of latex and blood and things, bruise blood and everything. I had a black leotard dress that was mad hoodwitch and black thigh highs with my “shit kicker” spiked boots. I love Halloween, it's the best. I think you can be anything you want to be for just a night. I can’t wait to see how many ratchet VMA Miley Cyrus costumes pop out this year. An army of nude latex bikinis, Merica! Anyways, I’m very excited about Halloween and I’m very excited in everything that’s happening in general! There is a lot in the works and I’m very excited to get to share all of the great news with everybody when it’s time! Keep your eye out!
Soundcloud library from MK Ultra!:
Special thanks to MK Ultra and Josh from DJ Factory for the support.