Cat Temper | An Interview - Feline Lucky
Sharpening his claws on the Scratch post of Synthwave we have the meowsician with Cattitude 'Cat Temper'. As mischievous as Mistoffelees he has the uncanny ability to leave us all grinning like a Cheshire after listening to his back 'cat'alogue!
Cat Temper is the exceptionally entertaining alter-ego of a one Mr Mike Langlie. A Bostonian with an absolute flare for all things Synth. Don't believe me? Go listen to his tracks 'Catnip addict' or 'Black Meowgic' from his forthcoming Album..'Curiosity thrilled the Cat' which incidentally surpassed its recent Q-Rates goal with time to spare and still available to order!
I stopped by the Sand-pit to chat to the cat himself, take a peek....
Tell us a little about you, where you’re from and how you got started in Music?
My name is Mike Langlie, a musician living near Boston, MA. I learned to play drums and percussion growing up in upstate New York in the 1980's. My interest moved to electronic instruments as I got into synthpop, electro and new wave artists of the time. Over the years I played keyboards in a variety of bands that included elements of punk, no wave, goth and industrial before going solo. I'm currently releasing music as Cat Temper.
How has your sound developed over the years? & has the current market been of
any influence in that?
My first and longest running solo project was an experiment in combining toy instruments and electronics. Press outlets like NPR called me the “Father of toytronica” and I had a nice following despite working in a very niche invented genre. After taking that as far as it could go through a dozen albums I decided to return to my Synthy roots and the kinds of sounds I loved as a kid. Fortunately my mix of retro synths with hints of metal got noticed by the Synthwave crowd which has been very supportive. I adore the scene's artists and fans but I don't purposefully tailor what I do to fit in. I'm just making music that appeals to what I
like to hear and is fun to play.
How would you describe the music you make?
Cat Temper is playful and energetic with sudden bursts of aggressive hissy fits. Most songs have weird angular melodies, quirky sounds and a lot of thematic shifts. It has elements of synthpunk, dark synth and Synthwave but doesn't comfortably fit in any of those boxes. I call it "meowave" though a definition of that is up in the air!
Who are your influences in music today? Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
I've always explored lots of styles from pure pop to experimental noise. Some of my earliest and long-lasting influences include DEVO, Paul Hardcastle, Laurie Anderson, Trevor Horn, Skinny Puppy and Big Black. Most of my music consumption these days is on Bandcamp where I get easily lost in rabbit holes of weird sub-genres. I'm constantly discovering artists that make me think about music in new and unexpected ways. There's way too many people in the Synthwave scene to list that inspire me in their approach to music, work ethic and
how they positively relate to others.
Is there anything new you’re working on currently that you’d like to share a little bit
Since going solo I've collaborated with lots of musicians for instrumental songs. Enough listeners have told me to consider making tracks with vocals that I finally started writing material with that in mind. I reached out to a bunch of singers I like and to my delight many of them said yes to working together. Some of them will be familiar to Synthwave fans and some have voices that people wouldn't normally associate with the scene. Everything they've contributed has been a fun surprise and made the whole experience extremely rewarding. Plus they all wrote their own cat-themed lyrics! We're finishing up an album with 10 vocal guests that should be out by the end of 2020. It's going to be a fun one.
New Album out soon: 'Curiosity thrilled the Cat'
What sound do you love the most?
This might be a weird answer... I used to buy a lot of albums from Aquarius Records in San Francisco, a goldmine for strange sounds before closing in 2016. One of my best finds was "Mantra" by Jean-François Laporte, a 22 minute recording of an ice hockey rink compressor. It begins with the motor starting up and becomes a slowly evolving low drone. The closest thing I can compare it to is a Tuvan throat singer or Australian didgeridoo with occasional rattling like a cat purring in your ear. It's minimal enough for meditation and has interesting
dynamics and harmonics. Guaranteed to lower your heart rate and soothe your mind.
Do you have a day job? How do you balance this with the passion for creating the
great music that you do?
I'm a graphic designer and illustrator for a tech startup. Viewing the world through
the filter of design has definitely influenced my approach to music. It's more like sonic sculpture than songwriting sometimes. Cool packaging is one of my favorite things and a big reason I wanted to be in a band was to create posters, t-shirts and album artwork. I was depressed when we lost that part of the listening experience in the MP3 revolution so I'm thrilled that the vinyl comeback has reignited interest in artwork and design for music.
Favourite Movie and why?
I stumbled upon David Lynch's cult classic Eraserhead at a young age and found
it simultaneously fascinating and scary, like a glimpse into a dimension similar to
our own but just slightly off. Strange and disturbing things take place while
everyone plays it straight and mundane. It made me a life-long Lynch fan and
molded my taste for surreal films.
A notable thing about Eraserhead is the lack of traditional score. It has brilliant atmospheric sound design but only the occasional song or musical cue. For years I've thought about doing my own take on a soundtrack for it and finally dove in after my first Cat Temper album. It was a fun way to get out of my usual songwriting habits and offer my own interpretation of the movie through music. The album "Henry" (named after the lead character) can be downloaded at my Bandcamp page and synced up with a DVD or blu-ray of the film to experience it in a different way.
Who or what got you into the Synth scene initially?
Early MTV music videos of new wave bands were an exciting introduction to wild sounds and styles, both music and visual. Around that time more and more film composers experimented with synth-based scores proving you didn't need to mimic traditional instruments to create mood and tension. Artists like Jan Hammer, Harold Faltermeyer, Giorgio Moroder and Vangelis blurred the lines between the pop music and soundtrack worlds. All those things combined with the new ability to create my own futuristic sounding music at home with relatively cheap gear and a primitive MIDI sequencer paved the way to an obsession with making electronic music. I grabbed my Casios and never looked back.
How do you feel about the popularity of the Synth Genre as a whole and the new Generation of Producers who keep evolving?
Synths and drum machines were never cool where I grew up so it's hugely gratifying to see synthwave exploding in recent years. As I said I'm into many kinds of music and experimentation in general so I'm not a purist when it comes to genre definitions or constraints. The "formula" of synthwave is a sound I love dearly but it doesn't bother me to see people taking it in new directions. Despite some heated arguments on forums about what makes "true synthwave" I've found the scene to be more open to new ideas and boundary pushing than any other I've known. Bring on the weirdness!
What type of Hardware/Software to you use, do you have a preference?
I started with several vintage synths and a Commodore 64 and built up a modest collection of gear but eventually sold most of it to downsize during moves. For a while I've done most everything in Reason on a laptop. It's great for someone like me with a long work commute. Over the past year I've picked up a few new pieces of hardware that I'm eager to record with. Things like the handheld Pocket Operators by Teenage Engineering, Roland Boutique Series of small classic synth recreations, and miniature Korg Volca units that fit nicely a desktop and provide a lot of bang for the buck. I also can't resist funny toy keytars and keyboards
including the kid-friendly BlipBlox.
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