Officially Plugged In Interview with Cata9Tales

cata9tales-interview-2012

Jan (OPI): Welcome to Officially Plugged In, Berkley.

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Thank you. Always a pleasure.

Jan (OPI): In the past eleven months you have met Kreator (Kenny Perkins), created Cata9Tales, released two albums, garnered an international fan base, and have played live shows alongside some pretty amazing bands. Do you mind sharing how much your life has changed this past year?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): It has been such a blur, it’s a little hard to gauge. From the moment the last record came out it has been an everyday thing, working, playing, rehearsing. Kenny and I are at this every day. The biggest difference is that when we did the first record, Kenny and I barely knew each other. We had just met. Over the last year we have become friends. So the new record is the sound of two guys who are really friends and collaborators, not just bandmates. We’ve gotten more confident, which has led to us being more creative. But as far as everyday life, nothing has changed that much. We are pretty much gypsies, crashing on couches and living out of cars and suitcases. Kreator jokes that he’s shortening his DJ name to “Krea,” ‘cause he can’t afford the other three letters.

Jan (OPI): When your latest album “A Chameleon’s Dream” was released, in less than a day it received as many downloads as your first album. Where were you when you found out the news and who was the first person you told?

Cata9Tales

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): I was at home watching the numbers on the internet like a complete nerd. I think I told Kenny, then kind of moved on. It’s definitely awesome, but not something to dwell on. We’ve got a long way to go, so there’s that little moment of celebration, then back into the breach. I don’t think I’ve even told my parents.

Jan (OPI): How would you describe the sound of this album in comparison to your last?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): It’s a lot cleaner sounding, bigger sounding. We’re still using the same old crappy equipment; we’ve just learned to use it better. I don’t think it has quite the same old school hip-hop feel as the last one. It’s heavier in places, definitely more of an alternative record, at least to my ears. It’s not really an “album”… it’s an e.p., it’s nine songs and an interlude. We left a couple of really cool songs off of it due to time constraints; hopefully we’ll put out another e.p. or something in the near future with them on there. I deliberately put deadlines on myself. We don’t have a record deal yet, but we will, and I know that when you get into the art/business territory you often find yourself under the gun, so I’m preparing us for it from the jump.

I’m always thinking 100 miles down the road. I already plan on us getting a deal, and I’ve already got the album title for our first label-supported release. It’s just a matter of time, and we’ll be ready when it happens. We did the first two records in our living room, and I think they sound pretty good, especially this new one. Imagine what we can do with a little money and some decent equipment!

Jan (OPI): You share a lot of your heart and some pretty painful memories. Has sharing your own pain helped you find healing in moving forward past old wounds?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Oh, yeah. There’s great strength in throwing it out there. I don’t need therapy – I’ve got my art. I used to keep everything in, and I DID need therapy. The best thing I can do is wear my heart on my sleeve. If I write a song and it doesn’t mean anything, I toss it and go back to the drawing board.

Honesty has been a journey for me. I have a long history of trying to be something I’m not. What you see now is 100% who I am, no fabrication. Take it or leave it. I’ve been through some bad stuff, but it’s brought me to a really good place, and I’m proud of who I am and where I’ve come from. I also know I couldn’t have done it without God’s grace, so I take no credit. Everyone goes through tough times, everyone feels pain. Hopefully by sharing some of mine I can help someone else. But there’s more to the music than that. Some songs are cathartic, some are obtuse, some are just fun. A song like “Kaboombox” has a very sinister subject matter and undertone disguised as a fun little jam. I don’t know if people realize that I was writing that song from the perspective of a suicide bomber. Listen again.

Jan (OPI): Honesty is a very strong theme throughout this e.p. You even wrote about how you had to admit your own guilt and then pay the price. How much has the choice to remain honest to yourself and others changed your life for the better?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): I have nothing to hide. That’s the big difference. I’ve been hiding things my whole life – feelings, addictions, attitudes, you name it. Now it’s all out there. I still have to remind myself every day to be as honest as possible – because being honest means realizing you are NOT honest all of the time. Especially if you’re going to bring God into the equation. I get really frustrated with a lot of these television evangelists and people who going around talking about God and doing some pretty bad stuff behind closed doors. I never want to do that. God is a huge part of my life, but I’m still a hot mess, and if I’m not honest about that, I’m no good to anyone. God doesn’t want me to smile and pretend everything’s gravy and fill people with a bunch of bullshit. He wants me to bear my fangs and get down in the dirt. That’s my place. I think that line in “Ghettotron” really captures it: “I confess, I’m obsessed, God knows I’m a hot mess / But I’m trying to do better and one day I’ll be the best…”

Honesty is a choice. It’s a choice we have to make every day. But in many ways it is the most important virtue there is. And I’ve found that by being honest I’m a much more interesting person that anything I could have fabricated. When I was arrested for drunk driving, I didn’t hide from it. I stood up, admitted my guilt, took my blows, and with God’s help, channeled it into the music coming through your stereo. My demons are no match for my angels.

Jan (OPI): Even though “Amy’s Song” was one of your first recordings you waited until this e.p. to release it. Lately it seems as though the public has become rather unsympathetic in regards to addiction, however you have kept hope woven within these lyrics. How do you explain addiction to someone who may have unrealistic expectations on recovery?

Cata9Tales

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): I was one of those unsympathetic people until I went through it. Now I get it. “Amy’s Song” was the first track we recorded after the release of “Kick the Bad Love”…it was done the same month that record came out, the night Amy Winehouse died. It was so fast…written and recorded in a couple hours, but it had to be. It’s capturing an emotion that was pure, and if we had spent time coloring it or obsessing over it we would have lost the momentum. It’s gotten a great reaction across the board, even for people who are hearing it for the first time on “A Chameleon’s Dream.” I’ve performed the song so many times that it’s become old hat, but it’s still connecting with people, which is awesome. Addiction is a terrible thing, but for me there is always something beneath it. It’s never “just” addiction. It’s never just the drug. It’s always something deeper, uncovered. Sure, people can be unsympathetic to someone who destroys themselves on something so synthetic, but if you peel back that first layer, you’ll find you have a lot more in common with the addict than you thought. We’re all addicts in different ways. And we all hurt. Most addictions begin with a sense of celebration and end with a sense of torment. You never recover. You’re always recovering. But it’s the journey that’s important. Believe me, if I can come from where I did, anyone can.

Jan (OPI): I have to ask, you seemed to have branched out a bit from your normal sound to throw in a, dare I say, pop song. Yet, somehow even its dance beat fits in perfectly with this e.p., and to be honest it’s probably my favorite. How did you come up with “Ultralife”?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): You know, that’s probably my favorite, too. Crazy. I may even get the word tattooed on me. Kenny brought that beat in like 2 days before a show, and we decided to push ourselves and get it ready, and we did. We are huge Ramones fans, and Kenny had been scratching the “Hey, ho, let’s go!” from Blitzkrieg Bop for a while, so it naturally fell together. I wrote the words in like a half-hour, and they are some of my favorite lyrics on the record. “Ultralife” was a term from a play that I had written years ago in New York. In the play it was a metaphorical name for purgatory…I’m not going to give too much away in case the play ever comes to life! But it’s a term that I’ve thrown around for a decade or more, and the time was just right to use it. The toughest part of that song was for me to get the “sleep all day” lines sounding right. That’s my voice, overdubbed a bunch of times and pitched down. I bet I recorded that part 30 or 40 times over a period of weeks and was never happy with it until the 11th hour. But that’s my favorite part of the song. The rest of it I recorded in like an hour.

In my mind “Ultralife” is a piece to a much larger puzzle. It shows us branching from hip-hop (which we are on the fringe of anyway) and going somewhere else, which is exciting. I never want to be pigeonholed. We’ve tried to go places lyrically and musically that we didn’t on the first record, and we’re always pushing ourselves to be more creative, more innovative. You have to embrace who you are and make it work, even if it’s dangerous. “If you got a tiger, ride it.”

We listen to a lot of different music; only a small percentage is hip-hop. We’ve added a guitar and bass player to our live show. We are rock guys at heart; we just happen to make hip-hop infused music. The lyrics can be pretty heavy, but hopefully people can see that we are having fun, and that we are not serious people at all. We are two of the biggest goofballs you’ll ever meet.

Jan (OPI): Speaking of goofballs, I just watched your video for Officially Plugged In and it is absolutely hysterical. What are some of the behind the scenes antics that ended up on the cutting room floor?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Hah! I could tell you but I’d have to kill you. A lot of raunchy humor and partial male nudity. We are not saints! A lot of cutting up, Kenny dancing around, and the cameraman yelling directions at us which we would promptly ignore and do the opposite. Rehearsal at Cata9tales Headquarters is the equivalent of a 5th grade birthday party. Kenny is the comedian. Most interviews with both of us end up with a lot of me rambling and then he’ll step in with a one-liner and everything will fall apart. We are total yin and yang. So what’s on the cutting room floor? A lot of ad-libs, and some definite PG-13 (at least) material. We’ve been talking about putting out a video of us just fooling around, rambling about town, that kind of thing, so people can see what we’re really like. Which is mildly brain damaged.

Jan (OPI):
Can you share anything about your super top-secret video shoot you’ve been filming?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Hah! Only that it has been incredibly frustrating. It’s a dark, creepy video for “Ghettotron,” which to me is probably the least accessible song on the record, except for maybe “Phoenix Weather,” which is pretty dissonant. But it’s also one of my favorite sets of lyrics I’ve ever done, and Kreator made that music from scratch. There are no samples in it, except for the ones I stuck in at the end to color it, movie quotes and whatnot. But the music is all Kreator, and I feel like it’s a tough beat to ride, and I rode it pretty well.

We haven’t had much luck with videos…last time around we were doing a video for “Give ‘Em the Boot” and our director disappeared. Still haven’t found him. This time we’ve run into issues as well, though never on our end. We are always prepared. Hopefully our luck will change soon, and we’ll get this video out. We’re going to start making our own out of sheer frustration, but we’re going the comedic, viral video route with ours. We’re not professional filmmakers by a long shot, but we’re not going to sit around waiting either. So I hope “Ghettotron” will be out really soon. Keep your fingers crossed.

Jan (OPI): In regards to songwriting, do you have a specific process? For instance do you work out the lyrics first and then bring Kreator in later to add the mix? Or do you pretty much hear the music as you’re writing?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): It’s different every time. The last album the process was that I would write lyrics on my own, Kreator would write music on his own, and then we’d just slam them together. This was different. There was a lot of collaboration, and I didn’t write a single word until the music was done. I let the song influence my words instead of trying to make something fit. A song like “Open Letter to Generation Adderall” went through 6 or 7 versions before it was finalized. I still write words whenever I get inspired – on notebooks, receipts, pizza boxes, whatever – so I usually have a pretty large backlog of lyrics when I get started on a song. But the process on this album was that we would finish the music completely, then I would pace the room freestyling, and jotting down whatever was good. Then from that skeleton we’d build the track, and if we had to go back into the music to make it fit what I was doing, we’d do that too. But there’s no formula. There are no rules.

Jan (OPI): How has social networking changed the way you and Kreator promote your music? Do you find that it is easier to connect with fans by running your own pages?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Oh, it’s huge. In this day and age it’s invaluable. There’s nothing like playing shows and getting fans the old fashioned way, but the internet has allowed access to people worldwide that we would have NEVER had otherwise. In a way, it has killed the age of the rock star. The mystique is gone. But in its place are channels that I could have never imagined 10, 15 years ago. Today, with hard work and networking, we can all be rock stars. Andy Warhol was right. In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

Jan (OPI): Your new e.p. is called “A Chameleon’s Dream”. Chameleons are known for adapting to their environment almost becoming invisible within the surroundings. What is the most bizarre situation you have found yourself in where you had to be a chameleon?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Hahaha! Every day! Man, the most bizarre? In my hard-partying days it was nothing for me to completely create a new persona, back-story, everything and convince people I was someone else. Total party crasher. I’ve talked my way into many a club, meeting and situation based upon sheer bravado. I don’t do that anymore. But I’ve always been really quick to adapt to my surroundings. I can work with anyone, fit in anywhere. It’s a great gift if used properly. It can also be really damaging if used recklessly. I was convincing people I was a rock star long before I’d ever recorded a note. When I was in jail, I found myself having to be a chameleon every day. On stage I’m a very different person than I am in private. There’s a lot of Jekyll and Hyde going on, only now I don’t fabricate anything. I adjust to whatever situation I’m in or to whoever I’m working with, but it’s always still 100% me.

Jan (OPI): So you were successful in blending in.

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Almost too successful. You know, I remember being on my own for the first time, living in New York City, and every day pretending to be this reckless bad-boy, wishing to become like the larger-than-life celebrities I read about in magazines. Careful what you wish for. What you pretend to be, you often become.

Jan (OPI): You just re-launched a new and improved website. What can readers find in addition to their FREE download of “A Chameleon’s Dream”?

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): I think the website is really cool – but people need to check it out on a computer to get the full effect. There is a mobile site for people who just use phones or can’t get flash, but the official online computer website is where it’s at. You can download the new e.p. and the old record there. Tons of photos, links, all that. You can order CD copies of the new e.p., and we’ll have a bunch of t-shirts and stuff up there in the next few weeks. I think from first glance it’s very obvious that you’re dealing with a different creature. We’re growing into our own. That’s what this e.p. really is – it’s to mark where we are as a band, and to allow listeners a glimpse into our world. I’m sure the next record will be totally different. I have no interest in repeating myself.

Jan (OPI): Congratulations on the new e.p. and we can’t wait to see your new video. Thank you again for hanging out with Officially Plugged In.

Berkley Priest (Cata9Tales): Thank you! We love the site, and are honored to be a part of it. Thank you for taking a chance on newer artists like us, we really appreciate it. Look forward to talking again soon!

Download “A Chameleon’s Dream” FREE right now! http://www.mediafire.com/?ue32veu5jy4q825

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