Katie Gately‘s Color is set for release this Friday, and is one of the year’s most original ventures. In anticipation of the release, we’ve posed a number of questions for the artist, whose gracious answers provide a window into the creative process.
When played in order, your releases to date display an arc from the avant garde to the accessible. The distance traveled from “Ice” to “Color” (the track) is astonishing. Do you see Color as a progression or a different phase?
It’s definitely more a phase for me – I’m always making different kinds of sounds and songs but an LP seems to demand a more streamlined tone (even if my version of “coherence” is somewhat dubious!)
An industrial music influence seems to be present in your music, especially in its harder edges (in particular, “Lift” and “Sire”). What musical artists would you cite as influences?
They’re not quite ‘industrial’ but I am a massive Public Image Ltd. fan. The dissonance and aggression in the music is the Holy Grail for me. Also, I find John Lydon’s speak-singing extremely funny – is it deadpan or is it dead-serious? I choose to believe he’s being a bit silly.
Offsetting the industrial influence is a spiritual influence, apparent not only in the often trancelike nature of the rhythms, but the mantra-like nature of the repeated lyrics. Would you be surprised to hear that your music might be used as a balm or inspiration? Your statement that you like to “make things sound as beautiful as you can” seems to reflect this thought as well.
My first exposure to music was choral music. My mother played Gregorian Chant constantly when I was a kid as she spent many years working for the church. She also exposed me to pop and folk but I am definitely soothed by monks chanting monophonically. However, it’s ideal that I don’t speak / understand Latin because I would likely be turned off by the music if I understood the semantics. I’m very happy living a secular life. 🙂
Much of your material involves the collection and reorganization of sound. What are some of your favorite sounds (whether natural or technological), and have most of them made it into your recordings? What sound are you most interested in recording that you haven’t yet encountered (for example, one defined by its geography, such as singing sands or geothermal pools)?
I would love to record the whole world – singing sands sound amazing, as do geothermal pools.
That said, one’s own house offers so many options for exotic sounds – it’s unreal. Drag your foot or hand along a glass surface, turn on the washing machine, jiggle the gate hinge, turn on the old squeaky bathtub pipes halfway, pitch down the coffee brewer….it’s endless fun at home too.
Your songs display multiple layers of your own voice. How many Gatelys are present in the busiest moment of your most layered piece, and which of these facets of your persona are you most fond of? (For example, the happy one, the pensive one, the onomatopoeic one, the lyrical one.)
The facet of my persona I’m most fond of is actually the voice that doesn’t speak! The listener. Despite the decibel level of this kind of music, in life I am very shy . My music definitely reflects years of repressed thoughts!
Many of your longer songs suddenly break into short lyrical segments, almost like nursery rhymes (especially apparent in “Sift”). In these segments, your sound approaches pop without imitating it. What do you think the pop and experimental poles of music might learn from each other?
For me they are both playful expressions – abrasive or shiny – it’s the same pleasurable dance. Both pop and experimental music become more original when they allow each other in! Intermingling a bit….maybe even getting married and starting a family together!
Today I went for a walk listening to Ekoplekz and this Peruvian genius composer from the 70s named Arturo Ruiz del Pozo . Yesterday I went for a walk listening to Arianna Grande and Sia. I need all these sounds in my life just like I need to eat fresh fruit some days and ice cream sundaes on other days.
How long does it take to write, arrange and record a song such as “Pipes,” “Acahella” or “Pivot”?
Different amounts of time – the initial ideas can sometimes come together in a week but then the editing, processing and mixing of sounds can take many months. It all depends on how masochistic I am feeling!
Tomory Dodge is an incredible artist who lives in Los Angeles. I was looking at his work while I made the record and was so thrilled when he allowed us to use his image (“Untitled”, 2013) for the album cover.
The green patch in the middle is a sliver of play and light – a little invitation through a dark, rich wooded patch.
You seem to have a preference for one-word titles. How were the titles chosen? Do you collect words like you do sounds?
I let myself be so unhinged and unlimited in the vertical construction of my songs that I feel a responsibility to STFU in other areas of my life as often as possible. Perhaps to earn back people’s patience and good will!
Press photos display Spartan backgrounds, whether they be home, studio or yard. Is the density of your music a balance for the relative simplicity of your surroundings?
Yes! But also my musical heroes are the post-punkers. They made the most bombastic music but dressed like accountants. It was a covert, mundane rebellion against fashion, vanity and hype. To that I say: yes, yes, and yes!
A Closer Listen thanks Katie Gately for her time and thoughtful answers! Be sure to check out the album, released this Friday on Tri-Angle Records!