First off, just want to thank you for participating in this edition of Infidel Interviews. Could you start off by giving a little information about you to the audience? Whatever you feel comfortable with, but name, age, and where you live would be pretty standard?
My name is Cat Hall Angeles- I am 46 and live a short distance north of Dallas, Texas in a town called Allen. I've lived in the DFW area since I moved here in 1994 from New York City where I lived for 3 years in Midtown and on the Upper West Side. Originally, I am from Shreveport, Louisiana. I love Geography, world travel, foreign cultures, and music. I've been fortunate to travel extensively through the United States and Europe, some of the Mediterranean, the South Pacific, Mexico, South America, China and Canada. I figured since I am here, I may as well see the place. :-D
How do you enjoy where you live? Is there a vibrant music community where you are? Would you say you find that your local scene influences your attitude and/or creativity?
The DFW area is nice in that it is diverse enough to be interesting for me- this means if I feel like having Korean food for lunch or Thai, or Turkish, or Bosnian, or Indian, or French, or, or, or... I can!! There are cultural events a-plenty! We have the third busiest airport in the world, and I find that a comfort in knowing that I can get to any other place in the world in fairly short order. The cost of living is relatively low for a major US city, so you get more bang for your buck when you buy a house here than you do in say, Los Angeles or New York. There IS a music scene here, but it has always been more geared towards guitar bands than electronic genres. We do have some clubs that indulge; my favorite being Lizard Lounge- they've been very supportive of the Darkwave scene through the years. I feel I am more influenced by parties further afield. I've always collaborated with artists in other cities- Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Madison, Phoenix, Sao Paulo, and Chicago. File transfer is an amazing thing- my most recent record was entirely file transfer- but it is always fantastic to be in the same room with the people you're working with.
Interview continues after this video and all streaming media thereafter...
Do you consider yourself to be part of a particular sound or scene? What are your thoughts on the nature of genres and styles, and do you have any particular ones which you find to your enjoyment more, listening and/or production-wise?
For lack of a better descriptor, Dissonance has been considered "Darkwave" or "Coldwave," although, I'm told our newest falls nicely into "Neofolk." There are always new classifications coming into play. Initially, our first record was classified as "Electronica" when it came out in 1997. When people ask me what our music consists of, I characterize it as dark electronic with lots of layered vocals and harmonies. My solo EP was more "Industrial." The sort of music I loved and was influenced by was what I was introduced to in the club scene in the late 80's. Post-Punk, Alternative Dance, Synthpop, Electropop, Industrial, Gothic. It all sort of fell under the label "Techno" or "Electronic" at the time. I also have had a longtime romance with film scores- my favorite score composers include Tan Dun (Hero), Hans Zimmer (Last Samurai), Elliot Goldenthal (Interview With The Vampire).
What would you say are your biggest influences when it comes to art and music? Are there any bands that you would say struck you with the chord that inspired you to peruse your current path of musical aspirations?
I could list MANY bands and artists that were influential- New Order, Ministry, NIN, Die Warzau, Bel Canto, Propaganda, Cocteau Twins, Curve... but, yes, there was one in particular- When I was young and impressionable, I was smitten with the fantastic style of Information Society. I saw them for the first time live in 1989. From the samples and pop sensibilities to the vocals, I was enamored. I was completely blown away. I was a groupie of the first order. I STILL am. It was Information Society, in several ways, that shaped Dissonance. I am honored to have called them friends for many years, and am thrilled to be on Paul Robb's label hakatak.com with them.
When it comes to fan and critic feedback, how much do you take it to heart, and how much do you feel it evolves, pushes, or holds your sound in place? Do you feel that the personal response and interaction in the live environment and the subsequent positive press you've gotten regarding both your live and recorded music has consciously encouraged you to do things a certain way?
I think it's hard for anyone not to take feedback to heart. Any creative endeavor is highly personal, and personal taste is always subjective. From the start of my recording career, I've sent _everything_ I've ever recorded to one individual for whom I have high regard- his criticism through the years has not always been kind, but it has been honest and has made me into a better singer. It means a lot to me that someone has been patient enough to listen to me evolve. I am always pleased to hear feedback from fans or critics because at least it means they listened to the record or song. Recently, I got a message from someone who'd heard Void- they really listened to and analyzed the lyrics as well as the intonation and phrasing. Their summation of the album was absolutely as I had intended the album to come across. They "got it." That was huge for me. It is meaningful when others tell you that your work has meant something to them or helped them through a difficult time. I feel so fortunate to have gotten feedback like that on each of my records. It's true that Dissonance has never become well-known, so our audience is small. I think one of the things they like about us is that no one really knows who we are. I guess the music seems more intimate that way.
It has been quite a while since I've performed live- actually the last time I did a live show, I was doing guest vocals for a band I love back in 2010, I think. It went well, and there were many kudos from the audience and that was a great feeling- singing with people you love and having their fans accept you doing it and complimenting you on it. I've also had some bad stage experiences. Having your voice crack on a high note is an awful thing to happen in an L.A. club. But these things happen sometimes, and we get past them and try never to think about them...
As far as my sound being shaped by feedback, I do not feel that I have been influenced stylistically; technically, perhaps. When I sit down to write, I don't begin by thinking "they wanted something darker..." or "this needs to be more pop..." I just write what flows. I do however think, "I need a melody line that has more variation..." or "I need to be more crisp on ending my phrases..."
If you could say there are underlying themes or messages that permeate throughout your discography, what would you say are the most important concepts and ideas you've tried to express throughout your artistic career, political, spiritual, or personal?
All of my work stems from my personal experience. I've had several experiences that left me angry or heartbroken or both. It's probably evident to the listener that I struggle with grief and depression. Writing is one way I try to exorcise those demons. I can never seem to eliminate them, I think, because the experiences were so impactful, and they continue to reverberate in my life. Some bad emotional experiences are mixed with deep love that I will always embrace, even though it pains me a great deal. I think a lot of people can relate to that.
When it comes to your musical self and your real-world self, would you say that there is a separation? Do you find yourself getting into a character or mindset when you create, or do you find your music is a representation of your day to day self?
I'm one of those quirky oddities that remains the same on and offstage. I try to be authentic at all times. What I write stems from what I feel. I react to what I feel on a minute to minute basis. That being said, there are those I've met through the years who hear my music for the first time and are surprised that I have a darker side. I come across differently in person than I do in pictures, apparently. Those who know me best see through to the real me. When writing, it is not a stretch for me to think about emotion. I am emotion.
Have you had any particular moment(s) that you would like to share, that you would consider to be a crowning achievement in your musical career so far, or moments that you would say truly continue to inspire you to pursue your artistic path?
I can't say that there is one moment in particular- it is more true to say that there is an ever-expanding series of moments that inspire me.
Playing live shows, recording new tracks, attempting to go live the life that gives you the experiences that inspires it all... it can be difficult to balance the time. Do you have any particular methods that you use to keep yourself focused or balanced in your direction?
I did have an issue with time and balance. For many years I essentially gave up writing and music because I did not make it a priority. It did not seem practical. In 2015 I came to the realization that writing music was absolutely essential for me. I had set it aside to "live my life" and woke up one day completely miserable not to be recording music. Fate has a way of taking a hand in things. I was unhappy with my boss at the time. I made the decision to quit my boss (not my job) and suddenly I had lots of time to write!! I still struggle for balance, but now it tips the other way. I am constantly working on music or promotion of some sort, and always looking to collaborate with more artists. This is a good thing. I am happy to be busy with it.
For fans who have not seen you yet, when it comes to your live show, how would you describe yourself thematically and visually? Are you an energy and audience-driven band in the live atmosphere? Or would you consider yourself to be more thematic or presentation oriented?
We were essentially, in the beginning, a keyboard band- we incorporated a live drummer and a guitarist at times for stage interest. That being said, Dissonance has not had a live show since 2000 or 2001. We disbanded for a while, and that while turned into a long while. When we (my original co-writer David Sebrind and myself) reconvened to begin writing again in mid-2015, it was short-lived. David decided he wanted to pursue other interests, and so I was obliged to seek other collaborators. I am a lyricist and vocalist. I need a co-writer or producer to write with. It was quite a journey to find Justin Burning, my co-writer for Void. He lives in Arizona, and I in Texas, and so while not impossible to do live shows, they would take quite a bit of arranging.
When it comes to performing, what are your favorite sort of venues to play in, and what are your favorite areas to tour? If you could tour with any other band in the world who would it be and why? What are some of your favorite memories of touring?
In the days when we were performing, we did mostly clubs- many in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas- Curtain Club, Trees, Galaxy Club, Lizard Lounge. We were invited to play in several other venues across the country and in Europe, and recently in Mexico at various music festivals, but by the time these offers rolled in, we were already disbanded. It took quite a while for us to be "discovered," and then when we were, we were no longer a working band. Dissonance is again, finally, a recording entity- a collective with many contributors across the world. I am not averse to doing shows or touring- I would love to- And my schedule now allows for it- I also am interested in collaborative efforts- I've done guest vocals in the past for other bands' live shows and would do so again with joy! I also recently collaborated with the wonderful group A Thousand Hours on their most recent release "Sleep." If they decided to tour, I'd be happy to accompany. So Cat Hall is a vocalist for hire! I'll do it simply for the joy of performing if asked. I have considered doing a solo performance, just to see how it flies, but I think people prefer to see a band- it's more visually appealing than a single presence on a stage.
So much has been said, and it sometimes feels that every word combination has been taken. As a lyricist myself I know the pain of how hard it can be to articulate something in a way that is both engaging to the audience and uniquely artist. How do you find inspiration for your lyrical poetry?
True that no one ever experiences a new emotion that has never been felt by someone else- we all love and despair and hate and long and grieve and suffer. We all crave and hunger. We all feel joy and elation. We all sink beneath the floor. We exist to express emotion. As long as feeling stirs inside, new ways and means will be found for expression. When I have a feeling, sometimes it is as if it will explode from my chest if I do not express it. Some friends and loved ones of mine can attest that I express with great frequency and perhaps too much. It takes me longer to get over things- I dwell too deeply- I read about something recently- a genetic disposition referred to HSP. Something on the order of 20% of the population have this trait- These people reflect more deeply, feel more deeply, are more empathetic. They process everything to a much greater extent than the other 80% of the population. It can be overwhelming. It's my theory that those who write poetry have this trait. I know that I do.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?
I am still wrestling with anonymity. When you create something, you want to share it- the challenge is getting it in front of a listening audience who will appreciate it and support it. Many truly gifted artists simply get overwhelmed with the task of promoting- I am daunted by it daily. Those who are on major labels or who have financial resources and are able to hire publicists to advertise for them and spread the word. I rely on word of mouth- social media- I do not have money to spend on publicists or advertising. I do my best to post in music groups, and I ask people who like the album to share it on their pages- but this does not usually translate into sales. It is a hard business. It is a labor of love. I ask everyone who likes our music to spend $7 on Bandcamp or the music service of your choosing to buy our record so I can continue doing this. Support the artists you like. Tell your friends about an album you love. Ask them to buy it also.
Your musical style has evolved quite a bit over the years. How do you feel about the evolution and progression of your own sound, and have you found that the influences for your project have changed with the sound of the project?
Certainly what an artist focuses on colors their work. My sound has progressed and changed based in part by who I work with, as every co-writer brings a different flavor to the table. I think that by taking the long break from working on music altered my focus a bit. If anything, I am more comfortable with experimenting with different vocal styles and techniques. Working with a producer can teach you many things, as can broadening the number of those you work with. I also like to challenge myself by occasionally doing a cover of another artist I admire. Recently, in my work with A Thousand Hours, we covered the Cocteau Twins "Crushed." Very challenging, but I think we did a good job of it, and it stretched me as an artist. It is good to be stretched.
When it comes to making music it can be difficult to balance atmosphere, song progression, musicality, and excitement. Do you have any tricks, techniques, or methods that you commonly use to help your music sound coherent and engaging?
As a lyricist and vocalist, I can tailor my vocal style and what I write to suit the track- This is where it is beneficial to write with another person. You can bounce ideas back and forth- I frequently seek feedback in the middle of writing- sometimes I'll send a track in progress to a non-musician friend to see what their take on it is- does it evoke the emotion I am seeking or feeling.
Musical composition nowadays can be aided by so many different tools and devices. Do you favor a complex approach of using lots of different instruments, or are you in the keep it simple until you have to boat of refining certain elements to their maximum potential? Or would you say your philosophy lays in between?
I have a very simple set-up. I use an Oktava MK-319 mic that runs through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 into a Macbook Pro on which I run Logic ProX. My voice is my instrument. My many co-writers favor a dizzying array of instruments, so my set-up, by comparison, is very simple. I do not like to use pitch correction software because I do not like the audible evidence of it. I prefer to hit the notes as intended, unaided. I do like the effect of stacking multiple layers of vocals together, and this is a signature of my sound.
Do you find that when you are working on projects where you ended up learning new techniques during the process?
Absolutely! While working with Paul Robb on my solo EP, we experimented with layering shouts with singing- shouting in key, as it were- it worked very well for the purpose intended, and on occasion, I use the technique to this day- it is most recently featured on "Break Myself," a track co-written with Junior Kain on my forthcoming album.
What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?
In the immediate future, I am waiting for Jim Marcus (Die Warzau, Pigface, GoFight) to complete production on my new record- He's producing and mastering all tracks. It started out being an EP, but has grown into an album and will feature several remixes from many artists I have worked with over the years. This album harkens back to the earlier tone of Dissonance, as it was begun with my original co-writer David Sebrind. It has morphed into something greater and multi-faceted with the addition of work by Jim Marcus, Chrys Anthem-Wozniak, and DJ Junior Kain. We are hoping for this record to be released on Hakatak before the end of the year. In addition, I am working on another record with Justin Burning (co-writer for Void), and continuing further collaboration with Red Collier of A Thousand Hours.
You have released quite a few records over your active musical years. What has been your favorite album you have put out so far, and how do you feel your music has evolved over the years?
Ooooh. Each album is favored for different reasons. Each represents a time in my life and brings to mind different characters and stories. We were on numerous compilation cds- some I don't even have copies of- I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. My first record Dissonance - Dissonance on Hakatak.com ( http://dissonanceband.bandcamp.com/album/dissonance ) has all the verve and excitement of a newly discovered artist- it was produced by Paul Robb (Information Society), and so has a touch of Insoc. Recorded in Minnesota in November of 1996- I had bronchitis, but managed, and the work is none the less for it. A very exciting time.
My second record- my solo EP also produced and co-written by Paul Robb, Cat Hall - Come To Mama on Hakatak.com ( http://cathall.bandcamp.com/album/come-to-mama ) has a much more industrial rock feel to it- sort of like Dissonance meets Marilyn Manson. :-D I had a GREAT time recording this album in Santa Monica with Paul. Bottles of wine, cigars, and good times.
The third record I did was the second Dissonance album, Dissonance - Reincarnate. This was recorded in Cross Plains, Wisconsin in the studios of Oneiroid Psychosis and Signal 12 and produced by Lars Hansen. It came out on another label- Nilaihah Records, as Paul was busy with other pursuits on Hakatak. ( https://open.spotify.com/album/4w7cK8nli0XXrk5fOSpCDY ). We had the audacity to do a Beatles cover on this one- Eleanor Rigby- one of the most lonely songs ever written.
I did a side project with Abid Hussain over several years from about 2005 to about 2010- it was called Chlorophyll- this work resulted in an album's worth of material- all recorded in Dallas- and can be heard here: ( http://music.nebulae.com/album/chlorophyll ).
Most recently, Dissonance - Void was released on Hakatak.com. ( http://dissonanceband.bandcamp.com/album/void )
The music was recorded in Phoenix with Justin Burning, and the vocals recorded in my home studio. This was an excruciating body of work- my most emotional album to date- I must say that it is sometimes hard for me to listen to it, as it reminds me of a period of great pain. It is a beautiful album- some of my most intricate vocal work. I hope, if your readers have not heard it, they will give it a listen.
Outside of electronic music, what other genres could you see yourself composing music in? Or should I say, do you see yourself inspired by?
My heart has always been in electronic music, however, I have worked with other bands that were guitar-based- and I have enjoyed those works immensely. I can express myself in many genres, although, my voice is not particularly suited to R&B.
Outside of music, what are some of your favorite past times and emotional engagements?
I have a passion for travel and foreign culture. I love foreign foods and cooking- I enjoy trying new things- My husband's family is Filipino and I recently managed to try balut. It was challenging! I will try anything twice- the idea being that if I tried it once and didn't like it, I may just not have been ready for it- :-D I am an avid swimmer and snorkeler. I love movies- favorites include anything directed by Zhang Yimou, the classic "Lawrence of Arabia," any number of SCI-Fi movies- I also have an extensive kungfu movie collection and am a big fan of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Stephen Chow.
Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?
I really enjoyed sharing with you. I hope everyone will now go like our band page ( www.facebook.com/cathalldissonance ) and buy our records! :-D
Download their music on their official Bandcamp:
Dissonance got their start when Cat Hall (lyrics / vocals) caught the ear of Paul Robb (Information Society), who was starting his label Hakatak International (www.hakatak.com). Robb produced her first self-titled album (Dissonance Dissonanceband.bandcamp.com/album/dissonance) and released it on Hakatak in 1997. In addition, Cat Hall worked with Paul Robb on a solo EP in 1998 which was also released on Hakatak (cathall.bandcamp.com/album/come-to-mama). A second Dissonance album (http://www.nilaihah.com/reincarnate.htm) was released in 2001 on Nilaihah Records.
After this, the group took time to explore separate interests/side projects. In 2016, Cat resurrected Dissonance with Justin Burning (Fall of Empyrean, The Liquescent Horror) on board to co-write a third album entitled “Void.” (dissonanceband.bandcamp.com/album/void)This latest release, due July 9 via Hakatak, combines “lyrical poignancy … amid atmospherically rhythmic and celestial electronics,” in “a triumphant comeback for Dissonance” (ReGen Magazine, June 2017). Cat also recently completed two tracks (onethousandhours.bandcamp.com/track/crushed and onethousandhours.bandcamp.com/track/bleach) on the new A Thousand Hours album "Sleep."