Stella Katsoudas is no stranger to the Des Moines scene, though a large number of people may not actually know her by her full name.
The Chicago native was first introduced to Des Moines audiences in the mid- to late-’90s by the pioneering minds at the dearly departed 107.5 FM. Back then, she was performing the dance/pop/electro act Sister Soleil and got radio play in town with high-energy singles like “Red.” Then, in 2001, Universal Records rebranded her as Stella Soleil for her album “Dirty Little Secret.” And though she would go on to score her only Top 40 single with “Kiss Kiss,” it remains the most artistically disappointing point of Katsoudas’ career.
“I’m embarrassed by it,” Katsoudas said of the album. “It’s so disappointing that the record I hate most is the one that’s most successful. It was a very dark period of my career.”
Six years later, after being released by Universal and dropping into a sort of semi-retirement, Katsoudas would find herself being re-introduced to Des Moines, this time courtesy of Slipknot drummer Shawn Crahan. Crahan, along with current Snacks members Michael Pfaff and Jeff Karnowski, was looking for someone to front his new side project, Dirty Little Rabbits.
“It didn’t have a name at the time,” she said, recalling her first conversations with Crahan. “But here was this full band, waiting for me to move to Des Moines.”
“We toured Europe,” she continued. “We did Warped Tour and toured the U.S. I think Dirty Little Rabbits was the best band I was ever in.”
Crahan’s Slipknot schedule proved to be too hectic for the band to ever really find its footing, however, and Katsoudas moved from Des Moines to Omaha to record new Sister Soleil material. She self-released that album, titled “Eskimo,” in 2011, but she admitted to never feeling fully invested in the material. Since then, she has moved back home to Chicago, gotten married and started working on the next phase of her music. Now, Katsoudas is ready to say hello to Des Moines yet again, this time as DubWitch.
“I came up with (the name) because I loved dubstep at the time,” she recalled. “I also really enjoyed this sound called ‘Witch House.’ So I thought, ‘What if I wrote the soundtrack to a horror flick?’ So we wrote this record over the course of a year.
“We pressed a few hundred copies, and they sold right away. I was like, ‘Oh, shit. I didn’t think people were still interested.’ I told my husband, ‘We need to start playing out. People are going to want to see this live.’ So we got together with some DJs from Chicago and produced the show.”
Much like DubWitch’s first album, its first Des Moines show has come as a surprise to Katsoudas. Earlier this summer she posted to her Facebook page, asking how many of her Iowa friends and fans would be interested in a capital city date. Within minutes, the post had 100 comments and likes. Clearly, it was time to come back.
She has been here before, under many guises. Now, Katsoudas is ready to show Des Moines a different side of herself. But while the names might change, Katsoudas’ passion remains a constant.
“I always put out the best possible creation that I could possibly make,” she said. “Whatever I do, it’s with full passion. Even (‘Dirty Little Secret’), I really, really tried to make a good pop album. I can honestly say that, with every project I’ve done, I gave it my all. That’s all I can do.” CV