A few days ago my buddy and I were sifting through the vast expanse that is underground music and we ran across a slew of lo-fi sounds, most of them being terrible. The thing about making lo-fi music is that if it's good, it's usually REALLY good, and if it's not good, it's hard to listen to. This is something that applies to Pop in an equal light. While it is not simply Lo-Fi, nor is it simply Pop, Macho Distorto (Christopher Kelaart) is an example of lo-fi and Pop done right, as well as a couple of other genres. When a person is put in a situation that is essentially out of their control, if they decide to resort all of their strength into a single project, the outcome will be exceptional – and that's exactly what his debut album To My Dead & Beloved is. The album was a project Kelaart began in 2010 but quickly turned into his passion in life after being diagnosed with cancer. It is one of those albums that requires a second or third listen – not because it isn't good, but because it is intricate to the point that one must re-examine it to fully understand the depth of it's message. From the opening track to the last, To My Dead & Beloved by Macho Distorto provides a soundscape for the soul, and will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. The album is due for release on Vinyl November 18.
Kelaart was kind enough to let me pick at his brain for a bit. Below is the interview (with a few tracks for download spread within) where he talks about family, music, swimming with sharks and fending off intruders with an XLR Lead Cable.
First off. Explain your name. What is the meaning behind Macho Distorto?
The name came about some years back. It was kind tongue in cheek name really that came up in a moment when we needed a name to bill ourselves under on a couple of hip-hop shows in Sydney, which at the time consisted of mostly dudes, rhyming about mostly dude stuff. Our performances under that name were just a lot of beats, synths and noise set to old 8mm footage Todd had dug out from his family stock, accompanied by vague warbling poetry. I always loved the sound of those words together, and wanted to use it again, so when I started this thing I resurrected it.
Tell me a little about yourself. What got you into music?
I guess family firstly. Most of my uncles and aunties play instruments and sing, and most of our family get togethers revolved around some kind of family band. We had a lot of parties. Also, like most every other kid back then, I listened to a lot of radio, and both my dad and step-dad were music nerds, so they actually collected records and constantly schooled me on my musical history. Through them and radio, pop music took a hold of me.
You're from Australia correct? What's the wildest animal encounter you've ever been involved in?
In my dream last night I fell off a pontoon in to waters that were swarming with whale-sized sharks. That was pretty scary.
Haha I'd imagine that would be a bit terrifying… Talk to me about your album. From start to finish- how was the vision behind it changed after your diagnosis?
The first track I wrote for the album was "Asakusa." It sounded right on, and gave me the confidence to start writing more stuff in that vein, simple, pop structured and electronic. I'd flirted with this sound over the years, and for most of last year I found myself getting increasingly bored with guitar music and way more excited about what I was producing in the digital realm. From there I would basically have an idea, flesh it out on keys or guitar, then start recording. I like to hear the finished product asap, so generally I'd have everything done for the track by the day's end. At the time I was living and recording out of an amazing basement set-up under a friend's house, who also happens to be a talented piano player and vocalist. I wanted female vocals on a particular track and she hooked it up. I think that was pretty much the only collaboration on the record. My cousin Shane is a sound engineer by trade, so he gave me a lot of feedback on my mixes, and provided the bed for "Coldest Summer."
The track "Dearest Earl of the Cosmos" was actually written as payment for the artist who designed my covers, both for vinyl and digital. He's amazing, and that was a great way to write something a little further outside of my realm and pull it off. Once I had a bunch of racks I really liked, I would just listen to them on different stereos. The car, on headphones, whatever, make notes and come back to the mixes until I was satisfied. Before finishing the record, I was diagnosed with Cancer, which kind of threw a spanner in the works. I had specialist visits, consultations to attend and three plus months of treatment to look forward to – so I ended up letting the record sit for a while. My life kind of came first and I wasn't really thinking about the record so much.
How has dealing with cancer affected the way you spend your time, especially in the studio?
After the initial shock, my brain went in to survival mode. I just accepted the diagnosis, my doctor's plan to treat it, and decided I was gong to pull through. I had a bunch of beautiful, sincere and loving people around me for support, so that made it easier too. It enabled me to dedicate more time to seeing the record through as some kind of goal to work towards. It also helped shape the theme of the record, as it made me really take stock in the people I love, and to reflect on the friend's that I've lost. I was faced with truly examining my own mortality and though I never took it for granted previously, this solidified my desire to do what fulfills my soul and the souls of those around me within the short time I have here. Making music is one of those, almost unavoidable things for me. During treatment the studio was and still is my holiday. I'm at my best when I'm creating music. The Cancer just helped in concreting that idea.
You've done past work with 1-2-Seppuku and it looks like you'll be doing work with them again soon. Anything we can look forward too from you guys in the near future?
We just got back together after a long time sleeping. I'm pretty excited about it. As much as I love the Macho stuff, and will continue to, there is nothing quite like exchanging frequencies at high volumes between 5 people. Seppuku is so natural and it shows. We've set about to record some old material, so we can release it and move on to higher ground, bringing our experiences over the last few absent years to the creative pool.
That should be excellent – looking forward to it. Speaking of bands, who's your favorite band, on the air, right now.
Just one? Pop – I have Bjork's new song "Crystalline" on repeat at the moment. Otherwise probably High on Fire.
Ok. This is a strictly hypothetical question: If I chose to break into your home, and you could only use one of your instruments to defend yourself – which instrument would you choose and why?
I would choke you out with a sturdy XLR lead. Durable, personal and more sophisticated than a beating or stabbing.
I was expecting to be bashed by and electric guitar, or taken down by some sort of blunt instrument- but I like the stealth approach. Less of a mess… Freestyle battle: Me vs. You. Who wins?
Me, no doubt. Words are my pets. I command them.
Look for To My Dead & Beloved on vinyl November 18, and be sure to check out his site and some of his other work through the links below.
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