As soon as I heard Altadore’s “Golden Hills” I knew it would be a colossal missed opportunity to review the record but not try to get an interview and find out some more about them. Luckily for me and you, lead singer David Katz said ‘yes’. What ensues is lengthy, but I hope you will agree, interesting. To entice you in, it also features questions from some notable musical icons, including Jimi Hendrix, speaking from beyond the grave.
Backseat Mafia: Whose input aside from your own/your band has been most important in shaping Altadore’s music ? And how have they done that ?
David Katz: I’ve played with a number of different musicians over the past 4 years or so. Some were permanently in my old bands and some were just helping me out on some songs and for a show or two. Leading up to the end of my old band, I had about half of “Golden Hills” roughly written. One of my friends, Mitch, who had been helping me out on lead guitar at the time, came up with the lead guitar hook in “Where You Go.” My other friend Justin wrote the lead part in the outro of “Moments.” My old bassist Teejay also wrote the bass lines for half of “Golden Hills”. Those 3 people have been pretty important in at least adding another characteristic to my music. Other than that, the thing that’s shaped my music the most is all of the bands I listen to and that inspire me. When I listen to music I pay attention to song structure and tones. Those two things are really important to me.
BM: How did you meet the rest of the band and how would you describe each of them ?
DK: I met Zach (drums) in high school through some mutual friends. He played guitar in my first band as well. Zach is such a breath of fresh air. Incredibly witty and smart and great to be around. He also has the nicest long hair I’ve ever seen!
I met Gabe (guitar) through the music scene here in the northwest. He used to play in a band in Olympia, WA. My old band played with them once and then they eventually moved down to Portland and we just kept in touch. Gabe is one of the smartest, nicest, and most articulate people I know.
I met Matt (bass) through Craigslist! Crazy, I know. I was looking for a bassist after my previous bassist decided to pursue other things, so I took to the internet and Matt replied to my posting. Matt is awesome. Really laid back guy who shreds the bass and loves to talk about music. I’ve only known him for a handful of months but he’s becoming a really great friend.
BM: Jeff Bond produced this record with you and, as you know, the sound is something that I particularly admire about “Golden Hills”. Is there a producer that you would like to work with ? And any reason why – work you have particularly admired or an approach you like ?
DK: I haven’t spent a lot of time looking into who have produced a lot of my favorite records/artists, but I know that James Ford has produced Arctic Monkeys’ last 3 records and they all sound incredible. I also know that The National self produced their ‘High Violet’ record which sounds beautiful. They created an incredible work of cohesive art that will stand the test of time.
Another band who constantly puts out cohesive records is Death Cab For Cutie. You can listen through each of their records, front to back, and each one always has it’s own theme. Its own set of tones and textures blanket over the record in its entirety. That approach always strikes deep with me.
BM: Come the zombie apocalypse how will you fare ?
DK: Probably not that well. I’ve never even scrapped before and have never used a gun. I’d probably take to a baseball bat.
BM: Can you tell me about the first time that you were stunned into silence, listening open-mouthed in wonder ?
DK: You know, it’s a real shame, but I can not remember the first time I experienced that happening. But I do know that early in my childhood, meaning around the age of 9, I had heard “Dream On” by Aerosmith and it totally blew me away. Then I followed it up with “Walk This Way” and I was hooked for a whole summer. Thanks for the killer use of your pipes, Mr. Tyler.
BM: Aerosmith huh? Who would have known ? Well, leading on from that, pick 5 more songs that have a special resonance in your life – what is the story behind them ?
DK: 1) “The Shadowlands” by Ryan Adams off of his ‘Love is Hell’ record is amazing. It’s such an adventure of a song. First half is only lo-fi piano and vocals, and then he gradually brings in full band instrumentation half way through the song and it just end with possibly my most favorite lead guitar tone of a all time. No story behind this one really. It’s just a beautiful song and struck deep when I heard for the first time.
2) “Passenger Seat” by Death Cab For Cutie. I remember exactly where I was when I heard this song. My girlfriend (at this time I had only known her for maybe 2 or 3 months) had made a mix of songs for me to listen to. So we took to the freeway and drove south toward the town where she grew up and listened through the mix. That song came on and I was in awe. That was the beginning of a really memorable night, full of adventure and great music.
3) “Oh, Providence” by His Name Shall Breathe. Tim Martin is a Portland resident as well and is the man behind His Name Shall Breathe. He is one of the most honest songwriters and lyricists I’ve ever heard. This wasn’t the first song I heard by him, but I remember it really sweeping me away for the entire duration of the song. This is off his record ‘There is an Earthquake Inside of Me’ and it’s hard for me to pick only one that resonates with me. I believe the following lyric references a local Portland hospital, and it talks about his mother, which I made a strong connection with. Not necessarily for the relationship he’s describing, but the fact that he’s seeking answers and opening up by personifying the hospital and asking it questions about his mother.
“Oh Providence, did my mother lay here in this same bed?
Did she say she would fight to get every breath she could breathe?
Well she always had a way of sounding so brave.
I wish some of it would have rubbed off on me.”
4) “Cold Desert” by Kings of Leon. There’s a line where Caleb sings “Jesus don’t love me. No one ever carried my load.” The first time I heard that, I stopped in my tracks. It was such a brutally honest and raw lyric. He wasn’t sugar coating it or holding anything back. He was just saying it like it is. It resonated with me personally. I think I can relate. But that’s another story I’m still trying to figure out.
5) “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles. His version is absolutely beautiful and conveys such a connection to his birth place of Georgia. Especially after watching the movie ‘Ray’. Just a great piece of songwriting.
BM: What’s it like trying to make music, and to make a living through music, in this day and age ?
DK: I have no idea what it’s like to make a living through music in this day and age because it’s so damn difficult. With the music industry transitioning into a digital age full of conduits to free entertainment, record sales obviously go out the window. Bands end up investing usually thousands of dollars into a record and hardly see that money come back.
Of course, putting money into recording music isn’t always necessary, like if you have a home studio. I applaud the ones that do. But that’s not the easiest to attain, let-alone operate correctly and well. Bands may be able to write songs, but they don’t always know how to engineer a record and/or mix and master. So bands take to the road to make a living off of door/ticket sales and merch sales. That includes transportation, which is not cheap. Just look at gas sales and the cost of purchasing a van and possibly a trailer. And on top of all of this, you have to have a fan base.
So many great artists never make it. They never attain a huge fan base. Of course, I could be totally biased or maybe I just have terrible taste in music and wonder why I’ve seen so many artists bite the dust, who knows. But I do now that with this day and age, everyone is so fast paced. It seems like everyone has ADD. If your song doesn’t catch and keep someone’s attention in the first 5-10 seconds, chances are they’ll move onto a different song. That can be very disheartening, especially if you write songs that aren’t 3 and a half minutes or less, or songs that aren’t completely upbeat.
BM: Is there somewhere special that you go to write ?
DK: Anywhere really. I write best late at night. I get a lot of ideas while driving in my car or while I’m going to bed.
BM: Have you always lived in Portland ? If not where did you grow up ?
DK: I was born and lived in Portland until I was 5 and then my family moved to Vancouver, WA where I lived until I was 20. It’s a suburban town. Good to grow up in and good to raise a family, but not the best when you get out of high school. Part of the reason why I moved back to Portland. I just recently moved back to Portland a little over a year ago.
BM: We spoke to another Portland band a few weeks ago, Foreign Talks – have you heard of them ? Do you feel connected to other bands in your area ? We also interviewed a Danish band, Vinyl Floor, who felt, as an indie rock band, pretty isolated in their home country but, when recording in Sweden, found a real sense of community and mutual support – lending instruments, sourcing players etc. how does that sound ?
DK: I have heard of Foreign Talks. I’ve seen them getting some buzz lately. I don’t feel too connected to bands in my area though. I’ve only played a handful of shows as Altadore, so I haven’t shared the stage with a ton of local acts. But it would be great to gain some connection with some other bands. I’ve been told from some friends that my music would do better outside of Portland, but I don’t know where. Hopefully when Altadore takes to the road and starts touring, I can find some connection elsewhere. However, I love Portland as a city so it has a pretty good hold on me currently.
BM: How do you go about planning your set list for your concerts ?
DK: This is usually pretty simple. We’ve recently brought some new tunes into our set which is really fun. We’re playing about half of Golden Hills and half new songs. I think the key (and this is mainly targeted toward up and coming bands who are trying to grab new listener’s attention) is to keep your set pretty upbeat for the most part. Have some ebb and flow but don’t stoop too low.
BM: Album covers. Do they still matter ?
DK: I think they definitely matter to a certain extent. Honestly, I think as long as the artwork has a color palette that is cohesive to the tones and sounds of the record, and the content isn’t completely off from the band’s style and sound (i.e. Coldplay would never have a mutilated animal as a cover. A bit morbid, sorry!), then I think the playing field is pretty open. However, if an album cover is 100% cohesive with its record counterpart, then that’s pretty cool and deserves admiration.
BM: Are you a hard-working musician ? What do you work hardest at ?
I am a hard-working musician. I’m always thinking of the next thing to be doing. And being a musician today means you need to be multiple other things as well in order to present yourself professionally and progress. I think I work hardest at marketing and networking, at least currently. I also create all of the visual work for Altadore, i.e. Promotional Ads, Album Artwork, Merch Designs, etc. However, I hope to move some of that work into other hands eventually.
BM: What’s your party outfit and music ?
DK: I’ll throw on a nice collared shirt and do my hair. That’s about it haha. Probably “Don’t Fuck With My Money” by Penguin Prison.
BM: If you had to turn out your pockets right now what would we find ? What would it tell us about you that’s true ? What lies would the contents tell ?
DK: You would find my iPhone, a guitar pick, and my wallet. Everything is truthful to who I am. No lies!
And that’s it, except for these vitally important celebrity guest interview questions:
Jimi Hendrix: Are you experienced ?
DK: Not like you.
The Beatles: Why don’t we do it in the road ?
DK: Cars, construction, pebbles in your bum.
REM: What if we give it away ?
Nihilism. Nothing matters anyway. Right?