KATALYST INTERVIEW


Producing since the mid nineties, Sydney based Ashley Anderson aka Katalyst first worked under the moniker of Moonrock, then in 2002 saw the release of the Katalyst’s debut album “Manipulating Agent” which was the first release for Invada Records, a label formed by himself and Geoff Barrow of Portishead fame.

In 2007 Katalyst released the long awaited follow up album “What’s Happening” enlisting guest vocalists from the US, the UK and Australia including J-Live, Stephanie McKay, Steve Spacek, Supernatural, Hau (Koolism) and more. The album was picked up for worldwide release by tastemaker label BBE Records in the UK and the collaboration with Steve Spacek on the album was in Giles Peterson’s top 20 tracks for 2008. Katalyst went on to form a group with Spacek called Space Invadas with their debut album “Soul Fi” released in 2010 worldwide on Invada / BBE Records.

His third and final album in the Katalyst trilogy was entitled “Deep Impressions” and released in 2011 on Invada / BBE. Guests included Stephanie McKay, Bootie Brown (Pharcyde), Buff1, Steve Spacek, Coin Locker Kid, Kween G and more. 2012 sees Katalyst taking a new direction musically, starting with the release of Quakers on Stones Throw Records in March. To be followed later in the year by more beat orientated projects including Coin Locker Krew and more.

What are your earliest memories of music?
I dont think anyone has ever asked me that in an interview so GREAT first question. It was when I was around 4 or 5 from memory. My stepdad sold Hi Fi so there was a bit of focus around the stereo from time to time. I think one of the 1st things I remember hearing was Bonny M.

Who were your musical influences growing up?
Again they were initially from my step dads record collection and then through friends etc. My father had some Jazz and some pop stuff but the record I will never forget was Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon. I feel in love with that album.

Then was into a lot of English music from The Specials, to Heaven 17, Joy Division and then people like Lou Reed. All through friends older brothers really. Then came things like Bob Marley and Public Enemy and the Hip Hop bug got me.

How did you first get into production?
I was shopping a lot at a Hip Hop specialist store called The Lounge Room. I had finished Uni, got a job in town and spent most of my wages on Hip Hop vinyl. I became friends with the crew at the store. Which was also home to the Easybass crew of which Illpickl was the producer. He had a set up in the upstairs room that consisted of an Atari, a Akai S1000 and a 4 track. I saw him take a sample and loop it up and my brain kinda freaked out. I had never seen a sampler before and started saving straight away for one. Its was around $5K from memory so it was no joke.

You originally got attention as part of Moonrock alongside Illpickl (RIP) how do you look back on that release?
Well from that Easybass stage everyone went their separate ways for a couple of years. And I ended up doing that album with Illpickl, Moonrock. That release was early days for me and to be honest I will always be a bit disapointed with it because I had to go away just before we mixed it and I was never happy with how it was mixed. There was a lot of things going on behind the scenes with Mike and the label etc and so it was mixed by the inhouse label engineer in the end, alone, who didnt really know how we intended it to sound. Fraser Stuart was his name and he went on to be a partner with me and Geoff in Invada Records, help me mix “Manipulating Agent” and keep all my gear running for the last 15 years so it wasn’t all bad…haha.

Having said all that. It was an amazing time of my life when I look back at making that album because I had no idea about the music industry and what I was doing in it and that sort of innocence never comes back. We also had a track we wrote in those sessons licenced to Cafe Del Mar Vol 6 which sold around 1 million coppies at the time so it made music a reality for me.

“Manipulating Agent” was the debut solo project through your own label Invada Records. Was it an easy transition from working with someone to going out on your own?
It was actually, producing can be quite a solo affair and I work best that way a lot of the time. Its nice to have people to bounce ideas of and collaborate but its also nice to follow your own inspiration. Mike and I were going down different paths musically by that time anyway.

You formed Invada Records with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow how did the connection come about and how does the label operate between you?
I met Geoff here in Australia through a mutual friend. He was here on holidays and we hung out and became friends. He came out for around 5 years in a row and over that time I had finished my record “Manipulating Agent” and didnt really know how to put it out. So we decided to start a label and Geoff went on to start Invada Records in the UK also. I really look after things in Australia and he takes care of the UK is that basic breakdown of how it works.

What are the pros and cons of running a label in today’s digital age?
So many cons and not enough pros. Thats a massive question that I could write 4 pages on, but I won’t. Pros are being able to release digitally with low manufacturing costs, reach many more people etc, the cons are music seems to have little or no value in society at this point and so much stuff is being made and released its hard to keep up. But is much of it any good?

Which release has been your favourite on Invada and why?
I would have to say the 1st release was the best simply because there were no expectations. So that was my album “Manipulating Agent”. Koolism’s followed and that album that won the 1st Urban Aria which was a milestone.

To be honest as we started Invada the value of music steadily declined with digital downloads and torrents etc and within a few years I realized how much time it was taking up and how little I was writing and I have since tried to address that balance by not really releasing many record Im not directly involved with creatively.

Describe the process of making a Katalyst record. Do you have an artist in mind when you make a beat or do you finish the music and then think about vocals?
I usually make the music first then think about who I would like to collab with on that track, who would suit what I had in mind for it vocally. But sometimes I write with the vocalist, so it just depends i guess.

What do you look for in an artist in order for you to work with them?
I guess I have to be moved in some way by what they do. If Im feeling their music and visa versa then its on. Simple as that.

Quakers is the new project you are about to release on Stone Throw featuring some of the world’s best MC’s. How did the project come about and was it hard getting all the vocals back from the artists did you get everyone you wanted?
Well the project was an idea Geoff had, he pitched to me as we sat around his lounge room one afternoon a few years back now. We slowly started between all our other projects and got a bunch of good beats together then started looking for new MCs we’d never heard of, initially on Myspace etc. Also as people that suited the project toured here and the UK we’d try hook up with them if they were down and work on a track and then some was just online hitting peeps up, giving them the rundown on the project, sending them a beat and seeing if they were feeling it.

There was no real money so peeps had to be into the project because they believed in it. And that made it harder to get stuff back sometimes. Mostly peeps were really good and if anything we were the ones getting distracted. I was making and touring Space Invadas. Geoff was doing Beak, ATP festivals and touring Portishead etc. As for peeps we didnt get. Diamond District were down, had picked the beats but we could never quite get the raps back. YU had a bad run with some stuff going down and he was who I was dealing with but I’ve since linked with Oddisse and I think we’ll get down with them in the future on the same tip.

You have worked with a number of local and international artists. Who have you most enjoyed working with and why?
To be honest the person I enjoyed working with the most has been Geoff. I was a fan of his music well before I met him. So it was almost weird that I’ve now made a record with him. I enjoy working with him for many reasons. Firstly because I think he is an amazing talent, and I respect what he does on many levels. Secondly because he is so uncompromising. He tells it as he see’s it and artistically sometimes that can be hard. But its pushed me to push myself and without his honesty and candor I wouldn’t be making the quality of music I am today.

You are one of the few Australian artists that has your music released worldwide through BBE Records and now Stones Throw. How did the deals come about and what has the response to your music been like overseas?
Ah the deals kind of came about through the music I guess. All the deals have been struck on the strength of the music which is the way it should be. Mr Thing but me in touch with BBE actually. I just sent them the CD and they were feeling it. The reaction overseas is always surprising to me because we are often so busy with looking after the release here in Australia that I dont look much past my own backyard. When you do you realise you are reaching a lot more people than you think it’s nice. I have had a lot of love on radio in France on the last record and only knew because of all the French love on the Youtube clip..haha

What inspires you to make music?
Music and also the desire to create I think. Its a great buzz making something as we all know. Whether it be a sandcastle at the beach as a kid or as an architect for his work. Music is no different. In this world of out of control, ever growing consumption, it seems rewarding to create something as well.

How would you describe the Katalyst sound?
I think its changing actually. Over the past 2 to 3 years especially. So perhaps just that, a constant evolution with Hip Hop roots.

At this present time who impresses you musically?
Just got onto Dabrye recently. Just copped that beat he did with Dilla and Phat Kat on the mic….. Game Over think its called. I was sleeping on that shit, it reminded me that Dilla was the sickest MC as well. A lot of people impress me musically but no “of the moment” names spring to mind. I’ve been checking some of that Kendrick Lamar stuff people are hyped on and as an MC hes got something. Some of the music leaves me a bit flat however. But good stuff is coming out. Just cant name drop it tonight, it is 1.42am.

You have been making music for over 10 years what are your thoughts on how the Australian Hip Hop has evolved over that time?
Its developed a massive fan base from a new generation of kids that have grown up listening to Hip Hop. So thats enabled many artists to develop over the years I’ve been involved so its good to see. Hip Hop’s in the pop charts in Australia now as well. Pop means its popular.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to an up and coming artist?
Keep pushing yourself to do better, and believe in your goals. Sounds corny right? Shit’s real.

What does the future hold for Katalyst?
Just have to see where the Quake takes me from here. Theres lots of plans so see how they all pan out once the dust settles so to speak. More music soon is for sure……

What’s your definition of Grindin’?
What we do every day man, pushing yourself to do the best we can with that we got.

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