Untethered Conduits — Episode #1: Kat Kalkman
For Untethered Conduits, I approach artists within my own network with emailed questions, only to take these questions out and leaving their side of the correspondence intact in the form of quotes. Interspersed with the artist’s work, I hope to show an honest, unprocessed manifestation of both creativity and personality.
Kat Kalkman currently performs in Rotterdam-based outfits Neighbours Burning Neighbours and Nagasaki Swim, as well as their own beat making vaporwave-inspired project maushaund. They are also a filmmaker, animator, and illustrator.
“I have long been aware that I have creative and less creative periods in my life. Sometimes I spend weeks making music, drawing, animating — and then another month, or a few months almost not at all. These fluctuations are very extreme. When these fluctuations occur — and why — is still a big mystery to me.”
“I was recently walking in the dunes. In a panoramic view I — maybe subconsciously — wondered what would appear behind the next dune. Even more dunes? Or trees? Maybe a castle, or a portal to another reality? My brain begins to fill in the unknown and I think that is often the beginning of inspiration or ideas.”
“I rarely go back to something I used to listen to. It always ends up sounding very different. Of course, you listen to music with more than your ears. There are memories, there is a whole other context. There isn’t much music I used to listen to that I can’t stand anymore, but an album that’s very important to me isn’t really there. For example, I had a period when I listened to Foo Fighters a lot. I especially loved the first record. If I listen to it now I still think it’s cool. I haven’t heard anything new from Foo Fighters for years. But I won’t come back to such records. Once, Tool’s Lateralus was the greatest masterpiece that ever existed for me. If I listen to it now I still think it’s fine. Some things are probably better than others. But generally speaking, no, I am not very interested in listening back to things.”
“In my last year at the Willem de Kooning Academy, I wrote a thesis on “bricolage”. The idea that nothing is new, and that all ideas come from somewhere else. If that is done consciously, it is a homage, pastiche, or perhaps a parody. But if the process takes place unconsciously, it is called bricolage. Anyway, that’s something I really believe in. That means it is very important to get a lot of input. Not only through media, but also through stories that others tell, through reading books, and through walks in nature. All those things become some kind of soup in my head I think. And then when I start making something, I just start my process. Then what comes out is just what comes out.”
“Visual media is a big part of the vaporwave-genre. Lots of references to 90s culture, such as commercials, but also the whole “aesthetic” of course. But that’s led to genre conventions more so than some kind of inspirational thing. On the maushaund songs that use samples from visual media, for example, “f a v o r i t e c u p”, are from things that I personally like. In the case of this song example, it references the great Adventure Time series, so it is a kind of homage. But the instrumental part of this song is also a tribute. The music is originally from an organ piece by composer Louis Vierne and it is called Berceuse. My father played this piece sometimes and I also performed it myself last summer during an organ concert that was organized to commemorate my father.”
“I still have trouble finding the right balance. Because, for me, being a band member of Neighbours Burning Neighbours is just about the most important thing in my life. It can take a lot of time and energy. Especially when I’m busy with artwork, it almost seems like a full-time job at times. “
“Last year I felt really bad because my heart had just been broken. I started making lo-fi hip-hop because I needed something to do. And it really helped! In no time I made a couple of songs which I released as my first EP we’ll meet again. People responded positively to it, and I also enjoyed the creative process myself. Specifically, quickly achieving a good result. That is different when you are in a band, where the process from songwriting to releasing a record usually takes a very long time.”
“I was thinking a lot about gender — especially with regard to myself — at the time. I still am, by the way. And because I had — subconsciously — already created a kind of romantic persona, I could put a lot in the music too. Maybe not necessarily obvious to the outside world at first. But I did link those things together. That didn’t necessarily change how I wrote the songs, but it did change everything else around it.”
“In the end, I really chose to make this project “personal” and present myself in a particular way. It might also make things easier for me, like coming out openly as non-binary and changing my name. I don’t know how much that has to do with maushaund, but at the very least I feel like I have claimed space to be myself. Because as a performer you get away with more, I think. To give you an example: I would never walk down the street wearing a dress right now, even if I might want to. But if we were to perform with Neighbours, I might summon the courage to stand on stage in a dress.”
“Making music therefore also fulfills a very important function for me. In a way, making art is a form of self-exploration anyway, I think. That is why this is also a difficult period. No shows! I took full advantage of the little things I could get, for example, the radio shows with Nagasaki Swim. Before that, I did my best to show that part of myself. And that made me feel better right away.”