JOHN KAADA | Bacteria Cult Interview

John Kaada is an extremely talented musician and composer, as of course is Mike Patton. So when these two wonderfully gifted, highly creative and experimental people come together one can only expect music to move the heavens....the earth or even hell.
Their second album Bacteria Cult does exactly that. It warranted only rave reviews from the press with it's majestic and often terrifying cinematic tones. Kaada himself sums up their collaborative music perfectly describing it “dwells in The Twilight Zone where spooky and seductive meet.” John Kaada is uncomfortable giving interviews and very rarely speaks to the press aboutn his work, so we feel very lucky that he agreed to talk with us about this astonishing record.

Photo | Observatoriet

Bacteria Cult is beautiful and ugly, welcoming in parts and yet extremely unnerving. You and Mike Patton are both masters of creating such varied soundscapes but where do your ideas come from? 

Yes, you are right, it is in the landscape between the ugly and the beautiful that good art can be born. Every piece has a dark catastrophe lurking hand in hand with something sweet and alluring. But what is ugly for someone, might be beautiful for others. We find beauty in the dysfunctional, and in misbehaving. 

It is over a year since the record's release, have you gone back and listened to it at all recently? If so are you critical of your own work? 

The experience with making an album is so exhausting and tough, and this is especially true when working with Mike cause we are both very detail-oriented. It can take days to get a detail just right. When the album is sent to the pressing-plant, it feels like I am done with it.  Very done. It’s like having run a marathon, or something like that. After a certain point of making a song, it all becomes technical. I don’t know if I can ever listen objectively to it again. If I listen to a previous album or song, it is probably because I have to do some rearranging or maybe prepare the song for live shows. 

Black Albino is a real triumph, surely a nod to the classic works of Ennio Morricone. Are compositions such as this born from your combined love of artists such as Morricone? 

There are so many factors at play when you make music. Sometimes a chord progression or a sound might set you down a path that might lead somewhere. The music that composers make is a product of who they are and what they have listened to throughout the years. Both Mike and I have probably consumed a lot of Italian film music, but it wasn’t like we were trying to sound like this or that. For this particular song, I guess the fact that we needed a clear and proud melodic instrument from the orchestra lead us to a solo trumpet, with lots of vibrato. Then you start to build the orchestration around this. And this particular sound is typical for those spaghetti western films, which then probably made us do certain orchestral choices that belongs in this genre.

When we recorded “Black Albino” we recorded the three trumpets separated from the orchestra, because we wanted them to play loud and proud.  All the other 93 musicians went for a break, and we moved the microphones far away from the players, and let them play as strong as they could.  After this, the trumpeters loved us highly. 

Could you explain how you expanded your original ideas to work with an orchestra on this record? 

The songs were written for orchestra from the start. It was in the initial drafts. First we programmed the album with midi-samples, and then it was written out as sheet music. Most of the samples were swapped out. The Kaada/Patton albums are both very colourful in terms of instruments and sounds. And the Symphony orchestra is a treasure box of exciting and not at least organic soulful sounds. Plus we love the grandiosity, and the fullness you get when 96 musicians play together.  

Both of us plays many different instruments on each song. Mike does most of the singing, and I kind of hum along in the background. The instrumental basis of the songs are a Symphony Orchestra, but we both did our very best to spice it up with all the instruments we have in our respective closets. 

The style is similar to the Romances album in many ways. We still have the same taste for things, and many of the sounds are related to what we did back then. I would say that the most striking difference is that on the Romances we played most of the instruments ourselves. Most of the songs were layered and put together in the studio, with lots of programming. This time things sounds more organic and grandiose. 

In my hometown Stavanger, where I am originally from, we have a fantastic symphony orchestra, and I kinda persuaded them to join in. I love working with them, cause I know them well, and I have used them on three film productions earlier. They also have a great hall called «Fartein Valen» with really great acoustics. 

The video for Imodium is a strange and disturbing film. Did you both have any input into Alexandru Ponoran's vision? 

All the visual ideas in the video came from Alexandru. We just had some inputs in the edit process afterwards. I helped out with some sound effects, and made a few changes in the music to make it fit better to the pictures. But other than that, it was 100% Alexandru's work. 

The video for Red Rainbow is on the shortlist for Best Animated Video at the UK's Music Video Awards. It's based on the animated short The Absence Of Eddy Table. How did you and Patton become involved with the film? 

I had been working on 'The Absence Of Eddy Table’ since 2013. To make these kinds of animations takes a hell of a lot of time. The resolution is insanely high, so it took several months and 40 super-computers to render. The film is pretty unique. At least I had not seen anything like it, so I asked nicely both the director Rune Spaans and Mike Patton, if we somehow could connect the film to the Bacteria Cult universe. Mike did Eddy's voice, and Rune made a special version of the film to accompany Red Rainbow. The video has several shoots that are not in the film. The idea is that the main characters dreams about what is about to happen. In the original short film, the story goes further, and you’ll see what happens to Eddy and the female alien in the end. 

Is composing for preconceived imagery a more challenging process for you than writing music which originates from your own ideas? 

Totally the opposite. It is much harder to make an album than it is to make film music. When working on films, you have imagery and directors telling you what you should do or not.  When you make albums you are on your own, with little or no limitations. 

We are huge fans of your fellow countryman and artist Martin Kvamme and his cover for this record is rather unusual. Could you explain his cover for Bacteria Cult a little? 

As always, Martin had to go many rounds with us before we landed the cover. We love working with him. He is an amazing and incredible skilled designer, plus he is very patient with us. The design is secretive. People should think for themselves what could be under the blanket. When Martin came up with this picture, we all experienced it as strong and a good fit to the music. From my own, personal point of view, I saw a link to the ongoing refugees crisis in Syria. But Martin and Mike experienced other things. And that is what I love about that picture. It doesn’t give away much. 

Live performances of Bacteria Cult would be a ambitious spectacle. Will we see any Kaada / Patton live shows in the future? 

There has been some nice offers lately, but so far it hasn’t been possible to pull it through.  We are working on it. 

How long must we wait for the next Kaada / Patton record? 

We’ll see, we’ll see. 

You are in the studio recording at the moment. What's next on your schedule? 

New solo- album!  My first solo-album in…is it nine years?  It is called “Closing Statements” and it is coming out early next year. Very excited! 

Read more about John Kaada HERE.


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