Cat Temper / Digital Soul + Interview

Echosynthetic takes a look at the new Cat Temper album, Digital Soul, along with a full interview with the man behind the whiskers....

April 25, 2019

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January of 2019 played host to one of the biggest synthwave debuts I've seen since I started Echosynthetic. The impressive splash was made by none other than Cat Temper with his album Purring for Vengeance. Not only was the album well received by the synthwave community, Cat Temper himself dove in like he'd always been here. It's like he's a friend you grew up with that moved away but came back to town and everyone picked up right where they left off. To say that I'm excited about his follow up to Purring for Vengeance would be a severe understatement. On that note, let's dive into the new music!

Digital Soul establishes itself as its own album right out of the starting gates. Dodging all of the sophomore jinx trip-ups, Cat Temper has crafted a record that almost pretends that its predecessor doesn't exist...carving out a space of its own. I think this is important, especially as he attempts to grow his brand in the world of synthwave. There are so many artists out there that minorly tweak what they've already produced and churn out soundalike albums like it's nothing, or worse, copy other producers. Cat Temper is showing he's got real songwriting chops, can handle multiple styles of music, and is deft in the way he handles his business behind the scenes. It's obvious there's a longview intact for this project.

As I mentioned, Digital Soul isn't a direct follow-up to Purring for Vengeance. Instead, it hangs its hat on the immersive and atmospheric soundtracks of the 70's and early 80's. This is an artform that has almost been completely lost on modern cinema so I think it's a big deal that the world of synthwave has artists that are keeping this sub-genre of synth music alive and kicking. Cat Temper takes the listener on an existential journey in Digital Soul where a digital chess program forces a human programmer to question the nature of reality. Not only is this a great concept, it's a plot device that fits in very well to the time period that soundtracks like this were the norm. Like I said, Cat Temper isn't phoning this stuff in, and like a chess match, he's three moves ahead of us.

What better way to celebrate my debut here at Nightride than to interview a hot new artist like Cat Temper that should be on your radar. After all, it's what I love to do, and if there was ever an artist worth shouting from the rooftops, it's Cat Temper.

Thanks so much for spending some time with Echosynthetic! How are you doing today?

Purr-fectly good, thanks! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Cat Temper, from the aesthetic to the sound, is a very polished venture. What is the inspiration behind the cat? Both musically and visually.

Long story... Once upon a time I played heavy synths in goth and industrial bands. After a while I got disillusioned with the whole scene. I yanked out my power cables and quit doing music for a spell but eventually returned with renewed spirit and a project that surprised me as much as anyone else. Twink The Toy Piano Band was my outlet for making fun sparkly tunes over a dozen releases, a lot of cool collaborations, and placements on a long list of TV shows. According to press sources like NPR I helped kick off a whole Toytronica movement and genre, though I'd say its reach is pretty humble.

I had a small appreciative following but plenty of grumpy trolls couldn't stomach the unironic joy of that project and let me know their displeasure on a regular basis. I rolled with the negative feedback as long as I could before switching gears once again.

The mascot for Twink was a happy bunny so it seemed an obvious choice to face the naysayers with the persona of a more antisocial animal. What creature cares less about what people think than a feline? I designed an aesthetic and sound that reflects both the "bad cattitude" and mischievous nature of my new direction.

Your last album, Purring for Vengeance, was very well received. Did you expect to be so embraced by the synthwave scene?

It really surprised me! Especially as I was rebelliously returning to the tools and sounds of "fake music" that I was chastised for enjoying and playing by my more rock-focused peers growing up in a small town.

Cat Temper borrows bits from a variety of things I've loved over the years, including early Synthpop and New Wave, Electroclash and Digital Hardcore, Chiptune and 8-bit video game theme songs. It's fortunate that the resulting mix happens to sit somewhere within the range of the Synthwave movement which has welcomed me warmly.

After being involved in several rather constrictive and competitive scenes I'm constantly amazed at how friendly and encouraging the Synthwave community is. You'd think by definition it would be a rather limited genre but I've found its artists and fans are quite open to experimentation and boundary pushing. It also tickles me that the scene has co-opted so much of the 80s metalhead aesthetic, considering the hesher kids that wanted to delegitimize my interest in synth music way back when.

Cat Temper has a new album that just came out. How does Digital Soul differ from its predecessor?

I love many styles of electronic music and am eager to explore different things with Cat Temper. "Purring For Vengeance" was a somewhat blunt and cheeky self-aware debut statement. "Digital Soul" is my dive into the more introspective vibe of late 1970s/early 80s conceptual synth soundtracks by artists like John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream. It strays considerably from that realm but was the core inspiration I built upon.

In between those two I released another album that I've dreamed about doing for decades. David Lynch has always been a big influence since I first saw his movie Eraserhead at a young age. I finally had the nerve to record my own alternate score for the film. It's both a fan tribute and a reinterpretation through music and sound. The album can be downloaded on Bandcamp and synced up to a DVD or blu-ray of the film. "Henry (An Electronic Soundtrack to Eraserhead)" has a pretty limited audience by design but it's a passion project I was compelled to pursue.

Another new album will be released later in 2019 which will be a stylistic follow-up and evolution of "Purring For Vengeance." I'm excited to let that one loose.

If we were to hit shuffle on your current playlist, what might we hear?

LOTS of Synthwave artists, too many to name without fear of leaving some out. My tastes are really varied and also I'll bounce between snotty Punk bands (Absolutely Not, Color TV), Doom Jazz (Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Dale Cooper Quartet and the Dictaphones), funky Afrobeat (The Budos Band, The Heliocentrics), Bollywood revival (The Bombay Royale), Dreampop (Beach House, Elephant), bratty Synthpunk (Dear Deer, SYZYGYX), gothic Alt-Folk (Chelsea Wolfe, Emily Jane White)...I could go on and on but don't want to bore everyone. Ha, too late?

If you were stranded on a deserted island with only ONE movie to watch for rest of your days, what would it be?

Eraserhead for sure. I must have watched it about 500 times just while working on my alternate score. I know that movie inside and out, but that doesn't mean I understand it any better than the first time it blew my mind apart.

Any parting words before we go?

Thanks for letting me ramble on, and stay rad!

You can find all of Cat Temper's releases at Bandcamp (physical copies too)!

James Mitchell

Published April 25, 2019

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