Dark, destroyed, overdriven: An interview with Catnapp

44460847_2327651907305978_7296198577389305856_nCatnapp combines R&B, rap, breakbeat, pop, drum and bass, and other genres, resulting in an intense and sometimes nostalgic atmosphere with fat beats. Songs run through the simplest “girly” lyrics with a 4/4 beat to the deepest and scariest childhood memories with huge, compressed pads and synths to create a unique and original sound. Now based in Berlin, Catnapp is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2017 she founded the label NAPP Records. Having released four EPs, three LPs, two remix albums, and two singles, she has performed at many events, including Boiler Room and Rokolectiv Festival.

You’ve just returned from a South American tour, and you grew up in Argentina. Can you talk about the music scene there?

There’s a lot happening, but there’s also a limit to how much you can grow. For me, there’s a lot happening (gigs, interviews) because I hadn’t been there for two years. But if I stayed there for a year, things would slow down. You can do stuff, but that usually doesn’t take you anywhere. No one really invests in artists making something different, or takes risks. Because no one really has the money to do it. And those who do are safely investing in the same working formula over and over. And people keep consuming it. Because it’s known. It’s easy to digest and a “common place”, a “comfort zone” maybe.

You’ve been making music for a while.

I’ve made music my whole life. The Catnapp project started in 2010. First, I made more drum’n’bass and breakbeat, using a lot of distortion on my voice. I remember my first gig, which turned into a mosh pit. That was amazing. My music was more aggressive, and then it mutated into something a bit more hip hop-py. Then it changed into something really dark, talking about my childhood and my fears – it was more Fever Ray-ish. And now I returned to a kind of breakbeat, but not THAT aggressive. I really wanted to go back to having an intense live show and album.

In what way?

Something that makes you want to jump and dance and scream the lyrics, and that gets me more connected to the audience. I like more chill stuff as well, but I wanted to pump it up a little bit.

These changes probably also expressed your development as a person.

It has always been hard for me to keep the same project because I’ve always wanted to do different things. Because I change inside, I also change how I feel I want to make music. I used to just start a new project when I wanted to make something different, but this time I said to myself “No, I will do this, it’s a bit different. But it will still be Catnapp”. Maybe this project will be characterised by change.

There’s a description in your bio about “girly” lyrics. Can you talk about them?

Girly lyrics maybe had a meaning in 2010. By girly lyrics I meant that I was singing about boys, going out – things young people do. I really enjoy talking about simple things – there are some songs that are about this, but there are also other songs that talk about deeper subjects.

You also mention childhood memories. Is there anything specific?

These are memories and feelings that I have, from when I was a kid. Sensations. There is a track called “House Is Gone”, which talks about my childhood house. One day, I went back there wanting to see the house where I grew up once more, and it wasn’t there. No one in my family had told me that it had been destroyed because I was the most sensitive of all of them. When I called my mom she was like: “yes we all know”. Apart from that, it’s abstract feelings that I get about places that I’ve been to. We have a really old beach house which looks like it’s from a movie. Being in some places, like that one for example, makes me feel a certain way, and then I make a song with that feeling, even if I’m not specifically talking about it.

Could you talk about how you make a track?

Sometimes I make a song when I have something I want to transmit. I’ll be inspired by someone or something and I’ll write lyrics about it. Or it could be that I find a sound that I like and try to match it with words. Sometimes I start by randomly making a beat, and sometimes I randomly open Ableton and start scrolling through the presets until I find one that I like. Before, I used to start with the drums every time, and now I might start with the synths and add the drums later. It’s not so often that I start writing because I’m inspired by someone or something, I just start because I want to make music. Those songs that I write after being inspired by someone or something are usually the deepest and the strongest in terms of the lyrics and content. Lately my sound is kind of dark, destroyed, and overdriven.

Could you talk about your label, NAPP Records?

I started it last year, and managed to find artists that were interested in taking part and that I completely fell in love with. I cannot believe that they actually came to my small label and told me that their music fit. This year I’m going to put out releases from new artists, maybe some of my own stuff also. I’m super happy about it. Now it’s production time – getting all the artists together, preparing their releases. It’s just me in my room with the internet, and help from friends, learning how to do it. It’s a huge job and it demands a lot of knowledge. I would love to help other “strange” and special artists show their music through Napp.

What advice would you give to young artists that are starting out now?

A lot of people ask me why and how to do things. I would like to tell them that it’s not about right or wrong, it’s just about doing what you want to do. For instance, I would say it’s wrong to make music only so as to find the best technical solution or way to do it (unless that is your main goal of course). Everyone should do what they love and feel, and not be asking what is technically correct, or how to get somewhere artistically. Follow your gut.

Your music was also featured in a Hollywood movie. How did that come about?

They were filming a movie called Focus, starring Will Smith, in Buenos Aires. The guy that was in charge of the soundtrack asked me to send him some music by Argentinian artists that I liked. So I sent him a lot of material from my friends and producers and also included a track that I made with Marciano’s Crew and P.Lopez. In the end, it got selected. It was crazy. I had to go to the cinema alone because I probably would have had a panic attack if I was with someone. It was so nice to hear the music on the big screen.

Is it something that you’d like to pursue in the future?

Something that I really want to do besides being Catnapp is making music for science fiction movies.

Photo: Tatiana Avila

SHAPE book nominated for “Most Beautiful Czech Book of 2017″

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The SHAPE book of interviews – gathering talks with SHAPE alumni between 2015 and 2017 – designed by 20YY Designers and published by MeetFactory, has been nominated for the title of the “Most Beautiful Czech Book of 2017″.

The design competition aims to highlight the best book design in the Czech Republic each year. The nominations in six categories for the 53rd year of the annual competition have been announced in early February 2018. The international jury selected from 255 publications submitted by designers, art schools, cultural institutions and publishers. The award ceremony will be held on 19 April 2018 in Prague, Czech Republic. The competition is organised by the Czech Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Memorial of National Literature.

 

Tesa

TESA is a three-piece band from Riga, Latvia, formed in the end of 2005, which tries not to classify their style of heavy music in any particular way and give the listener a free choice of interpretation by mixing different styles and sub-genres, creating something unique and passionate. Since 2005, the band has gained much attention with numerous tours and festival appearances. TESA released several albums on labels in Latvia, Russia, France and Germany over the last 10 years. Their releases demonstrate a passion for experimenting with genres and sound textures, mixing dark melodies with feathery soundscapes, ambiences, psychedelic loops, and even noise music, abstracting themselves from mainstream standards of heavy music.

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Photos: SHAPE x CTM Festival 2018

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The 19th edition of the annual showcase of cutting-edge music and digital art – and a club affiliate of the discourse-oriented Transmediale – took place between 26th January and 4th February 2018 in Berlin. This year, the festival explored various facets of their theme, Turmoil, and its various manifestations in music: from gabber through post-club and harsh, EBM-influenced sound. Once again, several SHAPE artists performed over the course of the week: Borusiade, Nene H, NAKED, Swan Meat, JASSS, DJ Morgiana, Olivia, Moritz Simon Geist, Pan Daijing.

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Photos: Camille Blake, Stefanie Kulisch, Isla Kriss

JASSS

JASSS (S. Jiménez Alvarez) is a sound artist and producer raised on the Northern coast of Spain. Her parents were passionate about jazz, African and South American rhythms, which became some of the most formative influences in her life. From an early age, her fascination with sound drove her pursuit of understanding the relationship between music and people. She left Spain to launch this endeavour, leaving behind a social and cultural landscape from which she felt increasingly alienated. Feeling fractured in focus, she began shaping a theme from the distractions, channeling it into new works. The punk and hardcore roots of her youth evolved into a deep plunge in industrial, dub and experimental music—worlds of sound that were evocative in mystifying, inaccessible ways. After moving to the Netherlands in 2010, she began editing field recordings and probing the worlds of electronic music and soundscapes. She moved a year later to Berlin, where she scored several experimental films.

In 2015 she made her first appearance as a DJ with a distinct, eclectic style that would become her signature approach. After a few years of studio work, her first 12 inch, Caja Negra EP, was released on the American label Anunnaki Cartel. Her second record, Mother, was released that same year on the Italian label Mannequin Records, followed by Es Complicado, on the same label. These days, she is focused on the experimentation of sound and spaces, working on several projects including electroacoustic pieces, live, and audiovisual performances. Her first solo album, Weightless, was released in 2017 on the Swedish label iDEAL Recordings.

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Golin

Rin Suemi, alias Golin, is a singer, producer, classically trained pianist and performance artist born in Tagawa, Japan. An alumni of California Institute of the Arts, her performances are ridden with improvisation, carrying a strong and visceral focus on the body and its possible movements, as well as containing an instant spontaneity that turns her shows into perpetually surprising cinematic experiences. Through her inspiration in folkloric fairy tales and fragmented memories, a variety of layered voices and samples transform her songs into dreamy fantasia.

Golin recently released her debut EP ‘Momo’ on 12” vinyl through Belgian label Midlife Music, and is currently the associated artist of Brussels cultural house Beursschouwburg. As a performer she has worked with artists such as Yoshiko Waki, Ula Sickle and Donna Huanca. Furthermore she composed the soundscape of Helena Dietrich’s installation ‘Elastic Habitat’ that premiered at STUK in Leuven for last November’s Playground festival.

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Every Thing Isama Zing

Isama Zing FixinelaIsama Zing is a producer, DJ and member of the Mäss micro collective. By deconstructing compositions, the Isama Zing project refers to the diversity of subcultural dance styles, which not only naturally penetrate the underground scenes of capitals, but are also defined by independent labels, cloud servers and contemporary art. The latest Isama Zing EP cover, with a figure covered in a black burqa wearing white sunglasses, leads us to a contemplation about the construction of an artificial subject. She becomes the open listener or even the creator of the music herself. The sound of the recording is based on realistic impressions and shaping of specific sounds credible in their references to surviving organisms as well as apocalyptic scenarios. 

“The Isama Zing project refers to the diversity of subcultural dance styles, which not only naturally penetrate the underground scenes of capitals, but are also defined by independent labels, cloud servers and contemporary art.” So you place the project within the context of urban subcultures at large? 

What I really like about the current climate in the so-called “post-club” scene is the absence of genres. There are no fixed rules that would define the music. And there is also a strong connection between the world of contemporary visual arts and the music scene, often coming from the same background. Maybe the only common factor is the idea of deconstruction. So yes, I would say that my music somehow works with the deconstruction of urban subcultures, even though I don’t intend to fit into any particular one.

The person on the cover of your EP is veiled, covered in a black burqa with white sunglasses. Your moniker, Isama Zing, also evokes Arabic (although also a form of “is amazing”). Was this a conceptual intention, or rather something else?

The name originally comes from a poster that my girlfriend and I had on the wall when we lived in London. It said: “Every Thing Isama Zing”, I really liked how by dividing the word differently, one can create completely new connotations. It suddenly became an Arabic sounding name. In Slovakia, where I come from, many people are racist and xenophobic, and when the migration crisis was at its peak, most of the people were scared of refugees and they literally went nuts about it. So the name and the whole “Arabic” concept was also a way how to mock these people and show how stupid it is to be afraid and hateful towards those running from war.

Can you talk about the music production of your new Isama Zing project? In comparison to your other solo project, Pjoni, Isama Zing draws from the world of (post)club music. 

It could sound strange, but for me the separation of my more club-oriented side and my more improv/experimental music oriented one seemed necessary. I really like to work with rhythms and grooves, however shifted and warped they seem to be and suddenly I had this whole EP ready and I just felt I had to release it under a different moniker. Back when I was creating this Isama Zing EP (around four years ago) I wasn’t even influenced by this new trend of deconstructed club music. For me, it was a very natural process and the EP was its result. And I think this is often the case that many new genres/trends whether in music or other arts, are the result of collective ideas that culminate in society and suddenly when the time comes, they burst. Often simultaneously, but independently, in different parts of world and in many minds.

You have been active in various project since many years – you started your very first music project as a 9 year old in the band Tucan. Can you take us through your musical development?

I think I started my first making music attempts when I was three. I was hitting the strings of a guitar and singing some very weird lyrics to it. But my very first band was Tucan, I was playing cello and singing and my friend Adam (Ink Midget) was playing drums. It was all quite absurd, but we got to play a lot of concerts around Slovakia and the Czech Republic. That was how we got involved in the experimental scene which centered around the cultural space called a4 in Bratislava. They have also released our CD back than. Later, we both started to veer towards electronic music and we established our solo projects, mine was called Pjoni. I started blending cello with electronics and soon got involved in many improv projects.

Not long after that we got back together with Ink Midget, this time under our new monikers Pjoni & Ink Midget. It was a weird fusion of techno, avant-garde music and hiphop. We also started to play DJ sets and that got us more involved with the club scene. Then I moved to London to study there. That’s where Isama Zing was born. It started as an audiovisual project with Misa Chmelickova. I returned to Bratislava shortly after I finished my studies and we started organising label/club night called Mäss together with Ink Midget. Actually today, as I’m writing this, we are hosting our friends Ashida Park from Vienna.

Already at that early age when you started with Tucan you were part of a very specific scene in Bratislava, the alternative & experimental scene around the A4 club and Next Festival, which is quite unusual for such a young age. How did you find it, and how would you describe the current state of Bratislava’s underground music scenes?

It remains a very defining environment for me. I’m not sure if I can even measure how much of influence it has had on me. Many concerts and performances I’ve seen there were very inspiring and progressive. Also, the people I’ve met there were wonderful and I can’t really imagine where I’d be without them. A4 still remains one of very few places of underground and experimental culture in Slovakia. In Bratislava, there is one other club called Fuga, which is also where we organise our club nights. There is a thriving experimental scene in Bratislava, just to mention a few names: Jonas Gruska, Vritti, Casi Cada Minuto, BZGRL, …, but I can’t say the same about the club scene, unfortunately.

Can you talk about your plans with Isama Zing as well as any other projects for 2018? 

Under Mäss, we are planning to release a compilation of young, but super talented artists from all around the world, probably in April. I’m planning to release a new EP as Isama Zing soon after that. It is slightly inspired by avant-garde music of Stockhausen, Edgar Varese or the Futurist movement, mainly sonically, but I’m also trying to put a new context of club oriented tracks it into. And I’m planning to return to the audiovisual concept of the project, so we are working on new visuals with Misa Chmelickova. As Pjoni, I have a short video EP ready, I just need to find a right way to release it.

Listen to our January show on Resonance FM

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The latest edition of SHAPE platform’s monthly Resonance FM show introduces the initiative’s new artist roster, focusing on two idiosyncratic projects, in particular: London duo NAKED and US post-club project Swan Meat that explore the notions of physicality, extreme sonics, politics and power. You will also hear tracks from SHAPE’s new year, including Slovak producer Isama Zing or Italian modular fiend Caterina Barbieri.

Sourdure

Under the moniker Sourdure, Ernest Bergez works within a hybrid sound field, combining raw electronics (modular synths, feedback), acoustic instruments (violin, voice, foot percussion), and non-musical sounds (field recording, spoken voice). As a guideline, he keeps an underlying effort to melt experiment into popular music and vice versa, taking traditional songs and dancehall themes from the French Massif Central area as the starting point for experimentation. Sung in French or in Occitan, his songs give an odd sense of temporal distortion, blowing off the frontiers between the old and the new, original and traditional.

Ernest Bergez also plays in Kaumwald, Orgue Agnès and Tanz Mein Herz. With Sourdure, he has released two albums: La Virée (on Tanzprocesz / Astruc), and Mantras (on Standard In-Fi). A third album will be released in spring 2018 by Pagans and Les Disques du Festival Permanent.

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Nkisi

As co-founder of NON Worldwide, whose raison d’etre is described as “a collective of African artists and of the diaspora, using sound as their primary media, to articulate the visible and invisible structures that create binaries in society, and in turn distribute power”, Nkisi’s ethos and music is imbued with a certain punk sensibility along with a political push back against conformity. Her DJ sets draw from a wide range of influenced forming a fast paced and exhilarating experience in the dance. Her production reflects deeply in these influences also and provide a sound that is equally relentless and evocative.

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