Kane Chattey: Self Construction
Review & Interview
by L.A. based writer and
photographer Alex Free
Photography by Elena Cremona
SELF CONSTRUCTION is the debut EP of London-based artist Kane Chattey. The opening soundscape of LOVE ALMIGHTY, the track that begins SELF CONSTRUCTION, is a series of sustained tones, each succeeding the other and stretching out until they fade and are replaced. It replicates the slow progression and recession of solar flares: sun traveling through black space. It illuminates empty spans and spare figures, and loops back into itself. This introduction is gradually replaced by strummed guitar chords, their abrupt and harmonic and short quality juxtaposed to the preluding soundscape. It creates an overall effect and impression of humility, in earth tones and colors.
In this world of we, tell me who am I. In this universe of you, tell me what are we.
Juxtaposition is one of the many binding aesthetic staples of the album. The variety of influences that appear on this record weave in and out of each other fluidly, creating texture without calling attention to their differences. All seem to occupy the same cosmic space. They create vivid sonic brilliances, from the appearance of jazz horns and 80s synths on IT AIN’T LOSING, to the keys on LONER with their distinct funk groove. We occupy an entire textured soundscape, from the field and the dirt with its flowers, to space itself, a duality of rootedness and spatial detachment present throughout the record. Kane goes on to sing in LOVE ALMIGHTY:
I am bounded by my roots, and the questions I can’t ask.
The record as a whole expresses an existential yearning that seeks both expansion and limitation.
Kane’s voice, confident and melancholy, sings ballads of the self: looking for the definite parameters of the truth and the place that the self takes inside it, while asking if there are any true limits on who we are and our creative expression beyond those we tell ourselves. The songs, both self-affirming and self-negating, understand the singer and all those who listen as paradoxes of outwardness and inwardness. They are love poems. They are poems of motion and grace and hesitation. It tells us this message with compassion: We can not ask enough of ourselves and of each other if what we are asking is love. It is an album of brilliances. Each track offers something to enjoy and surprise, something unexpected and pleasurable. And always we are hearing clearly the mind and heart of Kane Chattey.
Kane speaks in his own words on the album, below. The music speaks for itself. I leave you with an image from the series shot for the record in collaboration with photographer Elena Cremona:
The singer, face obscured by the mirror they hold, reflects a flare of sun, while they stand in the middle of an endless field, their feet and arms and legs swallowed by flowers as they stare up, unseen, into the sky. Our souls, little suns, held up to the clouds.
AF: What was the initial impulse or context for this record?
KC: It began at a point in my life where I had kind of reached the end of an illusion, and the illusion was that I didn’t want to make music. Or that I didn’t want to take music seriously, that was an illusion. It all started with those drums that you hear at the beginning of IT MUST BE ME. I thought, ‘This is different from everything that I’ve been making before. This is different, this feels funky, this is moving, it’s making me move, and it’s calling up words and images. I followed it from there, and it took me 2-3 weeks to get most of the project down. It was literally just pouring out of me. It was quite scary, to be honest. It was humbling but also terrifying, because I’d be walking home from the studio, quite late at night, and I’d be riddled with anxiety. I’d be so on edge. There’s a weird feeling of violation that came with it, because for the first time in my life I was just allowing whatever was passing through to just pass through, and that was quite like a depersonalizing experience. It was quite an unnerving period of time, but fruitful. What you hear is a product of that.
AF: Did you feel like you were losing yourself or finding yourself, more?
KC: That’s the part we have to sort of agree on before we start talking about that sort of thing—what do we mean by the self? I can say I was both losing myself and finding myself and still be right, because I was losing this illusion. I was losing this self which was just the construction of a personality—essentially reactions to experiences, and memories—I was losing that, because it was defining me as somebody who wasn’t able. And I was finding myself, a higher version of Self. I was constructing myself in the image of this much more free person.
AF: Where did the title of the EP come in?
KC: There title came from bumping into someone that I used to work with on a train, and I told him that I just lost my whole project, my hard drive, and that everything was fine. Don’t worry, don’t cry for me. I was just building it from the ground up. And he was like, ‘I wouldn’t expect any other way—that’s been the literal story of you since I’ve known you; destroy and rebuild, destroy and rebuild.’ I thought it was interesting that someone sees me that way, and isn’t surprised when I say that that’s happening, or that that’s naturally happened. I was just walking to the studio one day thinking about it, that it was such a cool idea, to constantly break yourself down and build yourself back up.
Self-destruction is such a common phrase. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the antithesis of that. I’ve never heard or seen the other side to that coin. Whenever we talk about the self, in modern culture or popular culture, in our everyday language, it’s only destructive or negative things. Selfish, self-destructive, self-indulgent. I’ve never heard self-construction, and as soon as I thought the word I thought it was so new, so bizarre.
AF: It’s really wonderful to me that that came after you lost the initial hard drive full of your original recordings. The entire project was essentially done, and then had to be rebuilt. And this is where the binding, the name of it, comes in.
KC: It’s a nice sacrifice. It shows the importance of sacrifice to me, anyway. Even in the ashes and embers of whatever it is you’ve lost, in there somewhere is something incredible if you can find it. Or even if you’re willing to stare at it, just stare at the decay of everything you’ve made and poured your heart into and loved, it you can stare at it after it’s gone and figure out a way to appreciate it, then you’ll benefit. The record is more personal, really. It’s more about reconciling all these previous versions of myself to make room for all of the next ones that are to come. That’s it in a nutshell, for me.
AF: There are lyrics on the record that seem derivative of a religious background or spiritual practice. The EP is about the self. Can you share your thoughts on the idea of spirit, or the soul, in relation to the album?
KC: There are these Pink Floyd lyrics in the song ‘Breathe’ that go, ‘And all you touch and all you see / Is all your life will ever be.’ Looking at the material world, there’s a general consensus that this is all there is. And regarding this absolute interpretation of the world, I feel the illusion, a little bit. It’s the best way to describe it. There’s a very deep but silent part of me that kind of looks at everything and goes, ‘yeah, I hear you, I see you, but, you know, there’s an origin to it all. It’s all connected in some way.’ It’s this thread of continuity that I see and identify with in everything else. And I feel that everyone feels that.
There’s a spectrum of intensity for sure, and I guess that’s where it all comes from—that’s where the questions come from, that’s where the curiosity comes from. But in terms of spiritual background or whatever, Its essentially non-existent. I came from a young mum, and there was no time to think about anything other than the here and now survival, really. The here and now part is spiritual in itself. There’s some schools of philosophy or spirituality that that’s all they preach, but for my background it was more just to survive, I’d say.
I didn’t have the luxury to contemplate god or the spirit because survival was the primary focus. As I grew up, of course, and I’ve had to take responsibility and control of my own comfort and security, that changed. I guess kind of like de-weeding a garden, you see all of this space to grow new things. From there I’ve really dived in head-first. Religion’s not really something that’s ever spoken to me, because it’s not about being given the answers for me, it’s about the process of figuring it out for yourself. Seeing what resonates with you personally. So I try to think the best things I’ve learned about religion and apply it to a more universal perspective.
So yeah, spirit. Soul. It’s interesting because the word soul literally means ‘sun,’ in Latin. You can’t get a more literal representation of life force than sun. And it’s quite poetic to imagine a small version of the sun inside of each and every one of us, I guess. I don’t know. I believe in the spirit, enough to dedicate my life to it. There’s no way to summarize it better to me.
AF: And is that the higher version of self you referenced earlier?
KC: Yeah, the universal Self. It’s whatever this all sprang from. People will criticize that viewpoint because it’s anthropocentric to believe that it’s consciousness of self that all of this sprang from. You know, I’ve been to the deepest reservoirs of my mind, or my own capabilities to figure it out, and that’s always where I end. So, you know, I don’t have a better explanation for it than that. As I’ve grown, and experienced a lot more, actually everything that’s happened to me has served a higher purpose, has served to get me from one place to another. It’s alchemy, is what it is. If at the end of the day you can turn whatever it is you have, suffering or not, into gold, then you’re absolutely fine.
AF: So it’s more like your personal choice. Do you choose a fear or love reaction?
KC: It’s what you want it to be. And some people want it to be fear because it provides a great excuse to not do the things you want to do but are also extremely afraid of.
AF: What was the kind of call to music, then? And how was that your answer to this suffering question, I suppose. Or is it?
KC: There are two answers, the first an esoteric answer in the sense that it’s what has resonated with me. It seemed like a language that I understood completely from the second I started listening to it. And there’s a more personal and inward answer. One day the same question came to my head: why is it music? Out of all of the modes of expression, why is it music? And I think that maybe, actually, it was watching my mum use music to escape her own pain, her own suffering. Coming down the stairs, or coming into a room and seeing my mum cry listening to a certain song. It was what resonated with her, and with me it associated expression, true emotion, with a medium of art.
I’ve held the theory up to a number of my friends who are artists, and it seemed like there was a theme behind the first time we associated the arts with expression and emotion was when we saw someone when we were younger react to it. So for me, I think that’s where it realistically comes from.
Stream SELF CONSTRUCTION + get to know more about Kane below:
About The Artist:
Kane, after a couple-year hiatus learning to play instruments, has most recently reinvented himself as a musician after previous fruitful adventures as a Promo Director for artists and brands such as Skepta, Banks, Stromae, Will Smith, JMSN, Tom Misch, BJ The Chicago Kid, Apple Music, Chevrolet, making a name for himself with his unique and creative approach to film-making. Kane also spent a few years as Creative Director of internet media powerhouse SBTV.
Seeking a new challenge, he then created and hosted the podcast 'So, You Wanna Be An Artist?' featuring artists such as Hollywood star Will Poulter, Ray BLK, Jesse Boykins III, Etta Bond, Denai Moore, Rosie Lowe amongst others, peaking at #3 on the iTunes chart and amassing 300,000+ listeners along the way. Kane, continuously seeking the limitations of his artistic ability, more recently has turned his attention to music after single releases of 'Writhing', 'In Her Hands' and 'It Must Be Me' and the upcoming release of Self Construction. With a sharp eye and ear for Truth and Beauty, Kane attempts to inspire all with his artistic endeavours and implores them to ask ‘if he can do it, why can’t I?’.