Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Cat Temper is the musical project of composer and cat pun enthusiast, Mike Langlie. I've been a long time fan of Mike's past music output. I thought it was time I investigated this very talented musician who may have created a genre of music known as, Meowwave. 

Without further ado, here's the interview with Cat Temper/Mike Langlie conducted via email. I hope you dig it more than a litter box.

1. How did you get the idea for Cat Temper?

My previous toytronica project was all happy bunnies and rainbows. A little bit tongue-in-cheek but mostly un-ironic joy made from simple instruments, catchy melodies and hyper arrangements. Not everyone got what I was going for and I learned to ignore the trolls bashing what they considered to be non-serious music. I took it as far as I could – some might say too far – and took a break to figure out what to do next.

I went back to my roots to explore the sounds I liked as a kid getting into music in the 1980s. Synth-heavy Electro and New Wave, sloppy Punk, bombastic Prog Rock, and a bit of ridiculous Hair Metal. Even 8-bit sounds from early Atari and arcade games became an ingredient. The idea of an unpredictable semi-feral feline seemed to embody the spirit of this crazy mix, and was also a contrast to the friendliness of my previous outing.

2. How would you describe what your genre is? Are you worried about being restricted by a genre?

As Cat Temper was getting off the ground I discovered the 80s Synthwave revival which I absolutely love. My music doesn't exactly fit that mold but Synthwave fans picked up on the retro elements and welcomed me into the scene. It's a diverse evolving genre with branches like Darksynth, Vaporwave, Sweatwave (emulating 80s aerobic video soundtracks) and other niche styles. Someone jokingly labeled my stuff as "Meowave" and it stuck. I don't mind being in a genre of one band!

Even with my previous project which had a specific palette I didn't worry about stylistic constraints. I like exploring different themes with every album and seeing where my sound develops. I get bored quickly which may also explain why most of my songs are like a car crash of genre mashups.

3. Is there a musician/band that most inspires you in your Cat Temper work?

Its DNA has traces of 1980s electronic music oddballs like DEVO, P-Model, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Alien Sex Fiend, and Futurisk. More recent influences include Skinny Puppy, Mindless Self Indulgence, and Nine Inch Nails which is obvious if you've seen the song titles for my latest album "Kitty Hate Machine".

4. How do you go about creating a Cat Temper song?

Almost all of my tracks start by playing with sound design. Each song is almost an excuse to find uses for weird synth patches, combining them as characters in musical conversations. That approach guides where songs go more than a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, for better or worse.

I fully embrace the low-brow nature of this project. I'd much rather see how far I can take a "dumb" riff and idea than stress over creating a masterpiece. I love happy accidents and unexpected detours that pop up. Nothing ever comes out as planned, it's always a fun surprise for me.

5. The first Cat Temper "Purring For Vengeance" album was released in 2019. Since then you've released seven more albums. How are you able to create so much exciting music in such a short span of time? Many major bands release one album every few years.

At my age I feel like I have to accomplish as much as possible before the meteor hits! Working mostly in the box on a laptop speeds things up compared to previous projects. Thankfully I don't often get writer's block. I have a notebook full of concept album ideas I'll never get around to doing. Everyone is over-saturated with entertainment options these days – especially music – so I'm trying to slow down a little and "only" release a couple albums a year to let people catch up!

6. Your second album "Henry" is an alternate soundtrack to the movie Eraserhead. What made you think you could meld this type of music to such a stark film?

David Lynch is as much of an influence on my music as any bands. His first film Eraserhead blew my mind at a young age and opened me up to enjoying strangeness and offbeat humor in both movies and life in general. I also love seeing musicians do alternate soundtracks for films to reinterpret a story and characters. I always wanted to do that and only recently had the confidence to attempt it.

Eraserhead is my favorite film but a tough one for many people to get into. Everything about it is unconventional – the story, sets, acting, and soundtrack which is mostly industrial drones and noises. A big motivation was to help people find a way in with a more approachable hook. Since there's little dialogue and music it lends itself to being treated like a silent film. In no way do I want to compare what I do with "Henry"  (named after the main character) to the genius of Lynch. If my re-score helps people appreciate the film or rediscover it in a new way then I consider the experiment a success.

7. On one album you've had collaborators. How did that come to be? Anyone you've tried to work with but haven't gotten a collar on yet?

One bit of feedback I got with every album is people want to hear my songs with vocals. I finally gave in and asked a bunch of my favorite singers with different voices and styles in the electronic music scene to collaborate on the album "More Than a Feline". It was an opportunity to work with cool people whose work I admire. Not everyone I invited wanted to play but I'm thrilled to have worked with the people who did.

Writing music for vocalists is strange for me and I'm sure what I gave them was a challenge! My only guidance was to write cat-themed lyrics and I can't believe the great directions everyone took. I'm still in awe of the talent and generosity that each person put into it.

Of course working with 10 people was a bit like wrangling cats due to busy schedules and priorities. The album took over a year to complete and I learned a lot during the mixing stage. I don't know how soon I'll attempt something that ambitious again with other people involved. It's much easier and faster to do everything myself, but I'm extremely happy with the process and results of the experience.

Two singers I'd love to collab with are Ivan Doroschuk of Men Without Hats and Nina Hagen. Call me back!

8. You released "Kitty Hate Machine" on cassette. Some of your releases have been on vinyl. Why did you go with cassette instead of vinyl? How different was it to prepare the album for a cassette instead of vinyl?

One of my dreams as a kid fascinated with records was to release my own music on vinyl. I'm happy that I've been able to do that several times now, and have it in people's collections.

Vinyl is expensive to make, takes a long time to get pressed, and requires careful audio mastering to sound decent. I've been fortunate to have help from a small label (thank you Lazersteel Records!) and some crowdfunding campaigns.

I had a big cassette collection growing up and when CDs came around I thought that was the death knell for tapes. The recent cassette resurgence was a real surprise and it took a while for me dive back into the format. There's obviously a huge nostalgia and novelty factor. Tapes are relatively cheap to produce, especially compared to vinyl, and there are fun packaging options available. Plus it doesn't require special audio prep. I see alot of cool looking tapes on Bandcamp and wanted to experiment with releasing my own. The "Kitty Hate Machine" cassette sold really well and I increased my order to meet demand. I'm considering releasing a bunch of older albums on tape for people who like the format, plus so I can have my own copies for pure vanity's sake!

You can check out Cat Temper here!