Khiva: Getting Deep, Dark, & Dangerous With The Dubstep Diva
The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan once said, “Heavy metal is a universal energy… It’s earth shattering.” With that in mind, it’s no wonder international EDM producer Khiva found her way into dubstep via a passion for metal.
Khiva—real name Jessie Le Couteur—was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and would later settle with her family on Vancouver Island. Her childhood musical influence was sparked by her parents eclectic tastes, and they would encourage her to pick up instruments. Her attraction to music continued “organically,” and would go on to help shape her identity and aspirations as an adult.
As she grew up and entered high school, Khiva was drawn to the local metal and ska scene. The metal genre helped her discover what she truly liked and ultimately, an identity for herself centered around music. During this time, she would pen lyrics for songs, poems and even her first raps, furthering her personal connection with expressing herself through music.
“There are so many things you can do,” Khiva told MP3 MAG on a Zoom call while strolling through New York City. “So many variables you can control and explore.”
Around the age of 18 or 19, Khiva went to an art show with a girlfriend. The friend told her about the renowned Canadian music festival, Shambhala, and before long she was asking her mom to buy her a ticket. With no real idea what she was walking into, and without knowing any of the music, she ended up going for a weekend that would change her life.
She immediately became fascinated with the diverse and cultural ethos the festival scene had to offer. Her ears and preference would evolve over the years, but increasingly gravitated towards the UK dub sound of acts like J:Kenzo and Mala. After returning to the fest for several years, everything changed in 2013 after discovering iconic dubstep act, Truth.
Truth are New Zealand-based dubstep artists and founders of internationally successful label, Deep Dark & Dangerous. Their style and imprint encompass a unique take on deep dubstep, one that Khiva instantly connected with. Soon after, she set out to begin creating her own electronic music.
Khiva’s initial foray into production was stifled by a desire to replicate the sounds she was dreaming up in her head. Picking up DAW software FL Studio, she would spend the next few years perfecting her craft and dialing in all the little sounds she wanted to create. Early tracks almost always included her own vocals, but it wasn’t until years later that she was able to use her lyrical abilities to their full capacity. Her production skills were still coming along, and she lacked the experience to be able to perform them live in a meaningful way.
“I was definitely always singing before I was producing,” Khiva recalled. “My first early production always had a vocal, [but] I didn’t have the skills at the beginning to pull it off properly. I would think, ‘What am I going to do with this?”
In 2017, her career and artistry received a huge boost, as she made her debut with Deep, Dark, & Dangerous via the EP, In the Quiet. Aside from a full circle label placement, the Truth stars Tristan Roake and Andre Fernandez would provide an invaluable impact by bringing her into the DDD family. Surrounded by like-minded artists and a community interested in this left field sound, Khiva finally had the support and resources to take her artistry to the next level.
Truth’s cult-like label Deep, Dark & Dangerous is home to ravenous fans around the globe; an expanded audience made possible by the New Zealand dub act’s reach. With both production OG’s at her disposable and a large fanbase becoming increasingly aware of her brand and releases, newfound confidence found its way instilled into the young producer.
“It was hugely helpful to have a platform and like minded people that resonated with that [style of music],” said Khiva. “Now it’s part of my life.”
This boost led to her developing an ethos of her own within the dramatic, bass driven styles of 140. Her catalogue now dwells in a sophisticated take on low frequency soundscapes, using stark contrasts like melodic vocals and rhythms to create a riveting experience for listeners.
Earlier in her career, her vocals served as accents to the arcane, ominous rumbles of dubstep, but her longtime hope was to use the platform as a way to bring this side more to life.
Why can’t I make this sound how I want it to sound in my head?’”-Khiva
Following a year long pandemic and live touring drought, Khiva stormed back onto the scene in 2021 with aspirations to bring her creative dream to life. In April, she self-released a Hip-Hop/Rap track, “Swampmonster.” While the track features an eerie backing production reminiscent of the DDD world, it represents a ripe showcase of her potential to transcend deep dub and create her own lane of music.
“Those things were always there,” Khiva said of her vocals and potential to do them live. “It was just a matter of when am I ready to do that, is my production ready to do that, is my performance ready for that? Even if I wanted to do those things in the past, it wasn’t the right time for me as a performer or artist.”
Khiva’s prowess has become all but unavoidable several months into the return from the pandemic. She made waves with performances at The Untz Festival and Sound Haven, appeared at curated stops with CloZee and Truth, and has been traveling across the country for her own one-off tour dates.
Aside from being one of the more notable female electronic acts on tour, she’s added intrigue with her live performances of tracks like “Swampmonster.” Summer 2021 Khiva can be found at various points of the set out in front of the decks, rapping her own lyrics while electrifying the crowd from the stage.
The idea of rapping and performing during a DJ set would have been nerve-wracking before, but her experience as a producer and performer has allowed her to leave those doubts side stage. Khiva is now ready to grab the mic and fully flush out her potential in front of the masses.
Curating a vibe, experience and mood within a DJ set is something that has always resonated with her, but the ability to transcend and provide a tangible voice to the story is something Khiva also finds value in. While it’s nothing truly like the metal music that inspired her to join the music community, she’s seeing now how it all ties together.
“My music has never been a segue from rock and metal, it’s just my version of it,” said Khiva. “If you listen to punk or something like that, they‘re taking all these things, making it their own and saying the truth no matter what. It’s a rebellious thing… I’m not going to do the same thing as everyone else. I’m going to defiantly do my own thing.”
Fittingly, the producer finds herself breaking through at a time deep dubstep and electronic music continue to gain mainstream appeal in the United States. The genre continues to proliferate on festival lineups and venues around the country, all primed for Khiva to continue her takeover.
Aside from the career milestones and increasing notoriety, Khiva considers maintaining her integrity and creativity amongst her biggest personal triumphs. Her art has become clearer and more articulate, all due to the people, travel and experiences she’s gained along the way.
Catch Khiva on the road this Fall, including a special date at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater in Octobersupporting Ganja White Night alongside Mala. Click here for more ticket info.