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In his newly released video, Spleen, from his debut EP, Anaesthesia, the 25-year-old experimental electronic artist Katuchat transforms his mental and bodily scars to otherworldly landscapes and complex sonic sounds. His personal project shaped in the form of an EP and released by Roche Musique challenges the negative connotations attached to having a chronic illness by turning it into hopeful musical pieces left for interpretation.
French, young, and named Maxime; we don’t know much about you. Can you give us some extra words to place on you?
I’m 25, I live in Tours, an hour away from Paris. I have blue eyes and I have trouble seeing without my glasses. I’m passionate about electronic music.
What are the main similarities and differences between Maxime and Katuchat? Where does the name come from?
Katuchat is much more patient and meticulous than Maxime, who’s much messier. Katuchat in a way is very similar to Maxime, very passionate – a bit too passionate sometimes. I spend my time making music, whenever I can, anywhere. It can be overwhelming in day to day life. The name Katuchat doesn’t mean much, it doesn’t have any story behind it, it just sounded good (laughs).
Your debut EP, Anaesthesia, is not only a new step in your music career but also an echo of personal matter. Titling several songs around bodily parts, systems or functions, it’s clear that it’s related something both physical and private. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Yes, the EP revolves around my health issues. I wanted to shine a light on my life as someone with a medical condition instead of hiding it – it wasn’t healthy to internalize it. It’s the most accessible thing for me to make music about since I struggle with it daily. I have a rare genetic disorder that sparks tumour growth in my whole body. Eyes, kidneys, brain, spinal cord, etc. Actually, in every organ of the body. I have to take a lifelong treatment and undergo numerous extensive tests frequently to check if anything changed.
How does your illness affect you in your daily life, and how have you learnt to overcome the obstacles/challenges it causes?
My illness affects my physical and mental state on a daily basis. It is sometimes very hard to deal with, especially in the music industry. I haven’t really learned to properly overcome this, I don’t know if you really can. But my mom has the same disease so I’ve always lived in this atmosphere, seeing her in and out of the hospital, the long stays… I’m used to it. Surrounding yourself with people that love and support you is probably the best remedy (for everything).
It’s fascinating that you’re able to channel this struggle to a musical dimension. When and why did you decide to use music as a therapy and as a means of expression? Was there any particular moment where you said, let’s do it, or was it a longer, more organic process of reflection and experimentation?
My interest in music sparked after my first heavy surgery six years ago. In that moment, I knew that its repercussions would affect the rest of my life. It flipped my world upside down. So I delved into music and creating to keep my days and my mind busy, and I never stopped.
Anaesthesia includes five songs: Kremlin, Hypertension, Spleen, Endocrine and Flatline. Through their titles, I can imagine there’s a narrative thread: from the inner, most vital and centric part (the Russian kremlins include the ruler’s palaces, churches, and other essential buildings) to the end – death. How was the creative process like and what’s the overall story behind the EP?
I learnt that I had to undergo brain surgery shortly after I started working on Anaesthesia. I chose to gravitate around my illness and the procedure to create a story through the titles and the art direction. It’s loosely based on the different stages, from my surgery to my recovery, still leaving a lot of room for interpretation, so anyone could make up their own story with the few elements that I gave, just like you did. Kremlin is simply the name of the hospital where I had the surgery, the Kremlin Bicêtre in Paris. Hypertension was one of the symptoms that unveiled my illness a long time ago, in particular the dysfunction of my adrenal glands, which are endocrine glands, thus the title. I’ve had them removed in 2012, and I still struggle with the repercussions daily. Spleen is a reference to Baudelaire’s spleen, a state of deep melancholy, pensive sadness, that I went through during those events. It’s also obviously an organ, but that’s unrelated, it’s just a pun. Flatline is the only thing that I haven’t experienced physically, and all the better for that, but I thought it was a nice conclusion to the EP.
The songs are very complex sonic explorations with a highly technical aspect. They don’t have lyrics and must convey messages only with sound. How would you describe your musical style?
To me, electronic music is very abstract. I think everyone can make up their own interpretation of the sound through the mood it conveys or the way it makes them feel. Mine doesn’t have any lyrics and doesn’t really tell any story, so it’s really hard for me to describe or label it. I don’t really like categorizing it.
How was the exploration of your own sound? Since this is your first EP, I’d like to know how the process of finding your own voice was, and how did you know that Anaesthesia was finished.
That’s a really hard question. My influences have changed so much since I started. What I listen to has always had a big impact on the music that I produce, so exploring the music I really enjoyed helped to know what I wanted my own music to be like. I learnt how to put my own spin to it and it shaped the way that my music sounds. It took me a long time to figure out what I really liked and what I really wanted to create. I still discover new artists every day that probably will influence my music in the future, which is a good sign – for my music to continue to evolve, I guess.
In the music video of Spleen, we can also see how important image is to you. Set in an otherworldly location, on a faraway planet, you say it “depicts, in a dreamlike chaos, the inner battle that shook the creative process” of the EP. Could you elaborate more on that? How does Spleen translate the creative process of Anaesthesia visually?
The music video is a visual depiction of what I went through before, during and after the brain surgery. As with the titles, I liked that anyone could make up their own story. The beginning of the video shows me being anaesthetized for the procedure, so everything that happens after could either be a dream, a depiction of what was happening inside, my mental state or my inner battle. I left creative freedom to the team that worked on the music video; I liked seeing their own abstract interpretation of Anaesthesia knowing the story behind it.
It represents the loneliness that I sometimes feel in regard to my illness, even though I’m far from having to face it alone, but also the feeling of overcoming this hurdle. Through the creative process of Anaesthesia, I wanted to share a bit my story implicitly, hinting at the real story behind everything, but always leaving room for interpretation. In this way, I could let anyone enjoy the music and the visuals as a musical project arising from a real experience without only having to focus on the backstory.
After debuting your EP, what projects are you currently working on? A tour, more music on the making…?
I have loads of demos to work on, probably loads to delete as well, but I try to work on them every day. A new EP, an album? Probably! I’m also performing DJ sets. We’ll see what 2019 has in store for me, I’m really looking forward to it.