I Make It Look Easy.
Don't be fooled – I make it look easy. Being WhiteCatPink takes dedication to one's craft, an astute realization of one's tasks to make the whole thing work properly, and a willingness to wear several hats at once. There are many layers to what is seen as the final product that is WhiteCatPink. People often ask me why I am a solo act – wouldn't it be easier to have a band? My reply is, yes and no. Of course, delegating tasks such as online social media maintenance, website and poster design, tour bookings, merchandise sales, keeping tabs of monies earned as well as receipts for tax purposes, gas, food, and car maintenance expenses on tour, etc. is more easily accomplished with five people than one. But in terms of the artistic vision and mission of WhiteCatPink, it is best suited for myself only, and, like Kraftwerk‘s Kling Klang Studio, I am largely in control of the product that the listener will ultimately hear. I dislike the thought of creating something just to get it out there, and I prefer quality over quantity. The final product that reaches my audience must represent WhiteCatPink and what I do in tangible form. As I said in last week's blog, I am a solitary hunter, and I prefer to be left to my own devices to create and channel the sound that I'm after. Indeed, I have worked with people in the past, a full band, the occasional guitarist here, the bass player there, and even briefly a cellist and all contributed to the path of WCP, but ultimately none really kept the vision intact. I venture that the rigors of WCP rehearsals, the drilling of songs over and over; not to mention getting used to the notoriously unforgiving electronics and the precise sound that I am looking for, might have been demanding. But, the magic for me is when I get to breathe life into what are otherwise cold, precise electronic frameworks. Some have made the claim that 'drum machines have no soul', but I would argue that I have learned a tremendous amount from working with live drums in such a rigid musical framework, most notably how to hone my time while adding dynamics, placement of specific drum patterns and considering which cymbals to play and when. The music has further taught me that I am to serve it, not the other way around, and that, in most cases, less is more in terms of drum parts. This all has to be considered and worked out in rehearsal, and the Cat doesn't like to have his time wasted. Further, contrary to manifold assumptions, I do not partake of any drugs or alcohol, do not smoke cigarettes, nor do I consume meat. This does not make me ‘better‘ than someone who chooses to indulge in these things - rather I choose to do this to keep the spiritual channels open so that I can be in tune and send the sound through me that comes to me from a Higher Source - drugs, alcohol, and meat block this connection from me. This has sometimes caused friction with the musicians I have worked with, in terms of conflicting priorities and life styles. Nolo contendre... Okay, so what does a typical 'day in the life of the Cat' look like, you ask? Let's begin with writing a song, which I will expound upon in more detail in another blog – but for the sake of illustration, I first map out the backdrop in Ableton Live. Once that has gotten to where I like the sound, I then think about what the lyrics and title of the song should be, and what mood I am going for in the music. Lyrics written, then the challenge comes of pairing these with a drum part – usually I will run the song several times with just the drums, and once I am comfortable with the drum part I've worked out, then I will try adding the vocals in. That's tricky business, singing and drumming, because breathing properly is of paramount importance in order to hit the notes and make them sound good, but one has to economize breathing while flailing one's arms about the drums and getting winded, trying in tandem to think about placements, where that nasty little break comes in, etc. Soon I find myself spinning plates, and also trying to remember the lyrics, which are not always sung in English, as I am proficient in Russian and know bits of Finnish, French and German. This seems like a gargantuan and unsavory task to undertake, but it is this challenge that appeals to me, which is yet another reason for the solo argument. Keep in mind I'm doing this in a full Cat costume with a facial mask that restricts my vision. Also, I am electrified with in-ear monitors and wireless headset, which can do funny things as well, and soon, it does become, no pun intended, like herding cats. For costuming, I have to usually set aside a couple of hours to get the Cat looking good and to do my makeup, which I learned to do myself to save money from having someone do it for me – one of the fringe benefits of working for Sephora for several years. I had a wealth of tutors in the girls that I worked with, and was able to pick up tips and tricks to get the makeup on point. Doing WhiteCatPink shows with cabaret girls also shed some light on this most mysterious art. So, now I've got a bunch of songs that I've woodshedded and I have a distinctive look, but that means nothing if I don't apply some stagecraft, because the most important thing for me to consider is ultimately the audience, and if I am not careful, I can easily wind up just being a spotty fellow playing drums in a catsuit, which isn't the most inspiring of things. I have learned that my audience wants several things, three of the more pertinent being to be captured and engaged, to experience moments in the songs, and to have their lives changed in some way. Lately, I will usually have someone come up after the show and say something to the effect of, 'That was absolutely incredible. I've never seen anything like what you just did...' which indicates that I'm on the right track with it. I've had to learn how to do this, through trial and error, mostly error, watching films of my live performances, listening back to recordings of shows, and adjusting accordingly. For a period, I was relying too heavily on the bells and whistles of the show, i.e. girl kitties, lighting, etc., because I was not confident in this arena and felt that I needed something more to capture the audience. But what I found through time was that my show has to kick ass on its own and I've got to believe in it before I can add these other elements. Once the cake is suitable, only then can one decorate it with icing. So, combine the aforementioned costuming and songwriting elements with the task of presenting a finely crafted product on stage, bringing in all the nuances of remembering lyrics and to give life and energy to the music through use of dynamics, choice of cymbals, etc. and there is a lot to consider. But this challenge, again, is precisely what keeps me interested in what I am doing in the realm of this particular project, and new things are elucidated to me all the time about how to play the music, and to be the biggest cheerleader of what I do – if I don't stand behind my music, why should I expect you to? But nonetheless, I do make it look easy.