I remember when I first started receiving Peter Catham’s material how blown away I was by his music and also the presentation he put into his album/ tape covers. One was in a 7” open reel box, another came bundled with a cardstock paper device you were to build and put over your head to listen to the music. And it actually worked! It created a focused type of sound that directed his songs and deposited the vibrations smack in your ears.
Peter disappeared for almost 25 years and when I came upon him again I was delighted to see that he was now active again after a hiatus of all that time. The later stage Catham was using Garageband for his backup band and even credited the songs to “Peter Catham and His Apple Loops”.
His music had evolved but the basic nature of his songs was still intact: the satire, the sadness, the socio-political nature of the lyrics still made one think. Plus, he just has a knack for a catchy tune. I am certainly glad that we are back in touch. Check out his feelings about the past and the present in the interview below.
LA Peter Catham interview
How and when did you find out about the underground tape scene ?
IN ABOUT 1978 GROUPS BEGAN RELEASING THEIR OWN 45’S.
DEVO AND REM HAD DONE IT, AND GOT PLAYED ON THE RADIO.
BY 1981 THIS WAS REALLY BEGINNING TO HAPPEN, AND WITH THE NEW SONY WALKMAN CASSETTES WERE WHAT PEOPLE PLAYED THEIR MUSIC ON
.I RELEASED MY FIRST CASSETTE ALBUM “I TASTE FLOOR” IN 1981,
AND BEGAN ADVERTISING IN MAGAZINES LIKE “OPTION”, AND SENDING THE ALBUM TO COLLEGE RADIO. BEFORE THE INTERNET THIS IS WHAT YOU DID.
I WOULD SAY FROM 1980 TO ABOUT 1990 WERE THE MAJOR YEARS FOR THE UNDERGROUND TAPE SCENE.
And what appealed to you about it?
IT WAS SOMETHING I KNEW I COULD DO. I HAD HAD A TAPE RECORDER FROM THE AGE OF 11, AND HAD BEEN RECORDING FOR MANY YEARS.
I FELT AND STILL DO THAT SONGS NEED TO BE RECORDED.
PLAYING LIVE IS FUN AND IMPORTANT, BUT A RECORDING IS FOREVER.
What were your early musical influences, things that really moved you as a younger person?
I STARTED BUYING RECORDS IN 1962 WITH THE 4 SEASONS, MOTOWN,PHIL SPECTOR’S “GIRL” GROUPS,AND ALL THE ROCK THAT HAPPENED PRE-1964.
WHAT REALLY MOVED ME WAS THE BEATLES, ROLLING STONES,AND THE MUSIC BETWEEN 1964 AND 1974. THEN AGAIN FROM 1977 TO 1994.
HOW ALL THAT MUSIC WAS RECORDED, AND HOW EACH ARTIST HAD THEIR OWN TAKE ON WHAT ROCK MUSIC IS.
Although the songs on your various early albums do not seem connected conceptually when I look at the total presentation of each one it seems like you had some grand idea or concept. The visual and tactile effect of your various releases ( on LP, cassette inside
a 7” open reel box, inserts such as that crazy thing to construct and put over your head to listen) suggests an artful and considered approach. can you talk about how you approached each album conceptually?
AGAIN WHAT I DID WAS INFLUENCED BY THE BEATLES, AND HOW THEY MADE THEIR COVERS WORKS OF ART.
AFTER MOST OF THE MUSIC WAS DONE THE COVER IDEA WOULD HAPPEN.
“I TASTE FLOOR” WAS VERY INDUSTRIAL SOUNDING. SO THE BURNT STOVE IMAGE JUST SAID THAT. EACH ONE WAS HAND DONE.
“GUM” ( THE 7”BOX ,ALSO HAND DONE ) WAS TO GIVE THE LISTENER A CONCERT AT HOME. PICTURES FOR SOME OF THE SONGS. THE CRAZY THING FOR YOUR HEAD.
“PINCHED AWAKE”HAD A CONCEPT OF MUSIC TO WAKE YOU UP. THE COVER IS STARK SO YOU JUST HAVE THE MUSIC TO LISTEN TO.
“ A MAN’S MOUTH” WAS GETTING AT ALL THE THOUGHTS THAT WERE PULLED OUT OF MY MOUTH.
AS I SAID I TRIED TO MAKE EACH ONE A WORK OF ART, AND LOOKING BACK I THINK THEY ARE.
“ I TASTE FLOOR” FEB 1982
“GUM” OCT 1983
“PINCHED AWAKE” DEC 1984
“ A MAN’S MOUTH” MARCH 1987
“ I TASTE FLOOR”
Early Tests On Dogs
Not A Congo Line
Fatty Patty 2 × 4
Sounds Of Cystic Fibrosis
Hans Aboard The Mayflower
Note In Edgewise
It’s Greek To Me
From Lake Titicada
Put A Nose On It
Tax The Church
One Twenty Eight
Loose These Subjects
Now Its Your Turn
His Life Sentence
Spit & Pencils
Everyone Takes Something Home From Where They Work
30 Yrs. Act Of The Trees
Chicago (Via The Archer Express)
“ A MAN’S MOUTH”
(But Meanwhile In Another Part Of The World)
The Six PS
One Morning, Some Afternoons, Most Nights
Percussion Of Two Bodies
Charismatic Or Asshole
(Think) Now He´s A Father
Playing The Beard For Harry & Louise
Using God Like Ketchup
Oops I´m An Indian
56 SONGS IN TOTAL
Do you remember some of the first people you traded tapes and music with? Are you still in touch with any of them?
ONE OF THE FIRST WAS SCOTT BECKER OF “OPTION” MAGAZINE. SORRY TO SAY I LOST CONTACT WITH HIM IN THE LATE ‘80’S.SO MANY PEOPLE WERE PART OF THAT GROUP BACK THEM. I AM SURE MOST OF THEM STILL DO MUSIC .
YOU ( DON CAMPAU ) REMAIN FROM THE 1980’S, AND IN 2008 DYLAN KIVINEW THE THEN 10 YEAR OLD SON OF MIKE KIVINEW OF WYOMING MICHIGAN .WHO HAD BOUGHT”A MAN’S MOUTH” IN COLLEGE GAVE THE ALBUM TO DYLAN.HE WANTED TO KNOW IF I HAD NEW MUSIC.
FROM THAT THEY FOUND ME ON-LINE, AND HAVE ALL MY NEW MUSIC AND VIDEOS.
What have you learned about yourself from your art and music?
I’VE LEARNED I MUST WRITE, AND RECORD SONGS.
I AM A STORY TELLER. WITH STORIES TO TELL.
IN 1994 I WAS DEAD BROKE, AND HAD TO SELL ALL MY MUSICAL AND RECORDING EQUIPMENT.
I WAS MISERABLE FOR TEN YEARS.
IN 2004 I FOUND APPLE’S GARAGE BAND, AND LOOPS.
THAT GAVE ME A WAY TO CREATE AGAIN.
I HAVE NEVER LOOKED BACK.
Would you consider yourself a perfectionist? Do you get an idea in your head and then try to execute it…or do your songs grow “organically”, that is, they become what they are as you create them?
I AM NOT A PERFECTIONIST. I START WITH THE IDEA/STORY, AND THINK OF WHAT MUSIC I CAN MAKE TO BRING IT TO LIFE.
I LET THE SONG TAKE OVER. IT TELLS YOU WHAT IT NEEDS.
WHEN IT’S DONE. IT’S DONE. NO NEW PARTS FOR OLD SONGS.
How do you feel when you listen back to your earlier material? Pleased? disappointed? Or what?
I AM PLEASED FOR THE MOST PART. I WAS GOING FOR SOMETHING YOU HAD NOT HEARD BEFORE. I CALLED IT “NEW POSSIBILITIES “.
I AM PROUD OF THOSE ALBUMS. SOME OF IT STILL SOUNDS LIKE STUFF YOU’VE NOT HEARD BEFORE.
You have released a lot of new songs in the past couple of years. Will you bundle them together to make a released album, like a CD? Or do you see a new model for yourself? Do you post these songs on soundcloud or make them available online? Give URL for our readers if you do.
WHEN I STARTED RECORDING AGAIN I MADE A FIRM DECISION TO DO ONLY SINGLE SONGS. POSTING THEM ON-LINE, AND MAKING A FEW HAND MADE HARD COPIES.I HAVE THE TIME TO DO FOUR SONGS PER YEAR, AND I HAVE BEEN DOING THAT SINCE 2006. THE BEST SITE TO HEAR THE BULK OF WHAT’S OUT THERE IS
I ALSO HAVE VIDEOS ON YouTube SEARCH PETER CATHAM
8. Question: have you ever done music collaborations by mail, or by file exchange? Would you like to?
SO FAR I HAVE NOT DONE ANY COLLABORATIONS. I WOULD BE OPEN TO DOING SOMETHING . IF WAS APART FROM WHAT I AM DOING NOW.
A SIDE PROJECT. WITH IT’S OWN NAME AND SOUND. MAYBE I WOULDN’T SING. JUST BE A BACKGROUND PLAYER.
9. Question: Do you use social media at all? Why or why not?
I DO. IT IS THE BEST PLACE TO PUT YOUR MUSIC OUT THERE.
I AM ON FACEBOOK,YouTube,TWEETER,REVERBNATION, AND A FEW OTHERS.
I LET PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT MY WORK THERE. PLEASE JOIN ME.( SEE BELOW )
10. Question: what is the best way for people to discover your music and to get in contact with you?
THE SITE THAT HAS THE MOST OF MY SONGS
ALSO FIND MY VIDEOS ON YouTube.com (SEARCH: PETER CATHAM )
E-MAIL ME DIRECT AT firstname.lastname@example.org