I first became familiar with Chairman Kato via a scenic-route originally mapped out by My Panda Shall Fly, who asked if I had heard of Pictures Music, "I haven't" I replied, as I hadn't. A session of homework later and this anomaly was rectified, unearthing a few choice underground electronic acts, one of them of course being the capaciously dark sound from the chap that heralds from Birmingham.
The Wildfire EP was released earlier this year on the label and showcased a slice of electronica brimming with ideas and enveloped in urban disquiet; the kind of atmosphere-laden edge that is prevalent in a smattering of electronic glitchy artists', yet original in it's own right. Never 'sceney', more of a kindred spirit of accidental ethos. The reason why I participated in such an overt act of name-dropping in the first sentence, is that in a way this loose two-degrees of separation sums-up matters in a microcosm - a bunch of people who don't really know each other, who like music, sharing music with the wider world. End of, no pretensions
A few mixes and an exhibition with Underbelly later, and Kato has released another excellent EP titled Science and Romance on Awkward Movements.
I caught up with Kato who discussed film scores, omelette porn, DJ sets and Gaviscon.
You've frequently talked about your love for old film scores. How did this come about, and how does it feed into your music?
There's not many things that flick my switch more than a good combination of music and film. When I listen to music I tend to see it as shapes and colours, so when I see a film with an amazing score it blows my mind. I guess the thing about film scores is they are specifically designed to elicit an emotional response in a very short period of time. It's a really clever artform. So if you take the score for a film out of context and listen to it alone, the chances are it will still be a very evocative experience. To prove my point, invite a friend over who is easily scared by horror movies. When it's about 10pm and you've got the lighting right, put 'Rocky Mountains' from The Shining (by Wendy Carlos, no less) on loud and pretend you have to leave for a piss or something. When you return they will be a wreck. I've actually tried this and it worked a treat. And that's just an example of the sort of laughs I have round here.
Is it an ambition to score a film yourself one day?
Yeah I'd love to. It would be a whole new learning curve. If anyone wants to make Eraserhead 2 give me a shout yeah?
What was your musical upbringing like, and how did it evolve? Things such as first live experiences/records/inspirations etc.
Music has always been there. Can't get rid of it, as much as I try. There wasn't a strong musical bent in my family, it seemed to express itself randomly in me. Going out in a big city as a teenager (I'm from Birmingham and yes, it is big) and being exposed to loads of different sounds outside of my bedroom opened my ears to DJing and electronic music. I spent many years DJing and that was a natural progression to getting into producing. Hip hop was a really big influence when I started out. An obvious influence to cite, but the Stones Throw label back in the day continually blew my mind with its free approach to structure and the way it embraced raw ideas over polished products. I mean, listen to Madlib. His stuff sounds like it was recorded in a toilet, but who cares? It's the strength of the idea that counts and most importantly he had a sound. There's so much of that missing in contemporary electronic music in my opinion. I've definitely taken that lesson with me and try to craft a sound of my own, something that sounds like it is in another space and not just done on a laptop or something.
Talk us through your live set-up; how live is it? Please be as geeky as you wish…
My live set took me ages to get together because I insisted on finding ways to break out of the usual habit of basically doing a DJ set of your own music. I wanted to be able to improvise and deviate from a basic blueprint as much as I wanted, so that no two shows would be the same. The end result is me bashing buttons, because people like seeing buttons being bashed. Luckily those buttons also chop up audio and pitchshift in real time.
And do you have any live dates planned?
At the moment I'm just DJing. The live show thing is fun but a massive ballache. I love DJing anyway, I've been doing it since I were a lad and being able to subject a room of people to your music taste is endlessly gratifying. My inner music fascist gets to run riot.
What is your fascination with Gaviscon? Are we talking a full-blown addiction?
I got into Gaviscon initially through the party scene, like most people do at the beginning. It started off as a recreational thing but just led to harder stuff. My recent arrest (watch below) shows we need to change our attitudes to addiction in this country. Why do we treat addicts like criminals? I'm not saying I'm an addict though. Sure, some people would say that being unable to function without a substance implies a certain dependency, but again I think it's a question of perspective.
There's an evolution in sound from Wildfire to Science & Romance; can you expand on how this has come about?
For me making music goes hand in hand with life experience and therefore the it's always evolving, the things you want to say and get across to the listener are always changing. Those two EPs were very much inspired by my time early on in London. That's why there are quite tough I think because it took me a while to settle in. The stuff I'm working on now is faster and perhaps not as relentlessly dark. I'm living in an endlessly inspiring city and very much loving what I'm seeing and hearing. I couldn't do another EP like either of those two- not because I dislike them, but because the sound that is in my head has moved on and you can't go back. I always feel like a new EP is starting again in a way, as if nothing has come before it.
In production terms your tracks are packed with noise and layered sounds. Why do you take this, I guess, 'anti-minimalist' approach?
Ha, 'anti-minimalist', I like that. Isn't that just 'maximalist'? Yeah, I do tend to pack a fair amount of noise in there. That's because I really feel texture is important and again that's often lacking in what I hear. I think it's good to shove detail in that rewards repeated listens. All about shaping your own sound innit.
What future Kato plans can you tell us about, any EPs on the horizon?
Yep, currently piecing together a new EP. I reckon it's going to be about 6 tracks long. Hopefully I will finish it soon so I can get out and re-acquaint myself with the art of talking to people and maintaining polite conversation. I really think it's different to my first two EPs but what do I know eh?
Any plans of exhibiting your own work following your 'Purgatory' piece? Or future audio/visual collaborations?
Funnily enough I am working on something, yeah. It involves casting in resin so I've been learning from a sculptor bloke in Wood Green. I'm really looking forward to putting my ideas into practice and seeing the response. I don't want to say too much for fear of jinxing things but the plan is to make physical objects that examine notions of memory and experience.
And what inspiring exhibitions have you been to recently?
I thought the Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Tate Modern was mind-blowing. Likewise I really like the current Tacita Dean installation in the Turbine Hall there, it's mesmerising. Must go down there again and listen to some music next time as I watch it. Something like Phillip Jeck would do the trick I reckon. The Paul McCarthy at Hauser and Wirth is absolutely bonkers. I thought the recent installation by Monika Gryzymala that used miles of sticky tape was really clever. One of my best days out this year was an early autumn afternoon spent at the High Arctic installation at the National Maritime Museum, followed by some extreme park laziness. Unbeatable.
The obligatory 'what have you been listening to and enjoying this year' question.
The Machine Drum album is one of my favourite albums of this year. It's one of the only 'electronic' albums I've really connected with this year. There's so much energy and emotion in there, I love it. The Modern Love label have set high standards with their Andy Stott and Miles releases. 'Halcyon Digest' by Deerhunter was released last year but I've been rinsing that in 2011. They are another good example of people who have their own sound. I love how they combine songwriting with such a dense layer of guitars and noise. Really liked the Holy Other EP and want to hear more from him. Looking forward to hearing more from Objekt too, he's insane.
What culinary delight can you make better than anyone else?