Interview in Modart Issue no. 19
Zachary Mastoon is also known as "Caural" and his musical creations are legendary in the Hip Hop, Beats, and Downbeat scenes. He makes lush tunes with a totally unique edge to them. Unlike a lot of the wash of downbeat that is around, Zachary manages to inject personality into his tracks and even give them an age.
He's opened gigs for James Lavelle, Daedelus, RJD2, Aceyalone and many more, along with racking up a massive discography of his own. He also has a large amount of remixes under his belt.
We haven't heard from him in a while and I wanted to introduce him to the readers of Modart both for his music and visual art. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Q: How did it all start for you?
Whether it was my dad playing Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder records when I was 3, or my infatuation with early 80's bands through MTV (I'd record songs off the television with a Fisher Price cassette recorder), I just fell in love with music immediately. My cousin Andy got this Casio PT-80 keyboard and, primarily out of jealousy, I got one too. We started recording music together when I was 4 years old or so, and I can't find the tape for the life of me! Anyway, my across-the-street neighbor Stuart Bogie and I began working together on some music soon after that. I had a sparkly blue drum set, an acoustic guitar, and that keyboard: For a six year old, I brought the heat! Stuart would rap on top of it, and I actually put one of those early songs on my first album, Initial Experiments In 3D. Things progressed from there, and I still work on music with Stuart to this day.
Q: How is the industry NOW compared to say the era when the PAINT EP was out in 2001?
Well, it's sometimes hard to separate how I *felt* about the industry at such a young age from how it actually was outside of my wide-eyed and naive perspective. Back then, the internet wasn't as robust in terms of getting music out there. There wasn't a Myspace; I don't think file-sharing was as popular and mainstream as it is now; And I feel like everybody and their mother wasn't a "producer." In the last ten years, the way that technologies have emerged has irrevocably changed the industry and kind of leveled the playing field, and I suppose that is both a blessing and a curse. While it's wonderful that music software and social networking sites can turn anyone into the next big thing, it also bleeds a torrential amount of fucking garbage into cyberspace and makes sifting through it something I have little desire to do any longer. I am still a fan of music, and I still love creating it, but I really couldn't care less about the industry side of things any more.
Q: Your recent "Sorry Underground Hip Hop Happened 10 Years Ago" track contains how many "Yo's" from various hip hop records?
It's hard to say exactly because some of the individual samples have multiple "yo"s within them, but there were roughly 450 samples stiched together to create the final piece.
Q: How long did that take?
Including the time it took to listen through my rap collection and actually extract and edit the audio, I'd say the entire process took me in excess of 4 months. Granted, I wasn't working on it every day... If I had, I would've driven myself completely insane! Nearly every single hit or chord within each bar was from a different record, and so a lot of it was determining which snare sounded best next to which kick drum or hi hat. And then of course you needed to take into consideration incidental noises and/or tones within the samples, and sometimes that would make or break a small passage. It was the most tedious thing I've ever done in my entire life, but I felt compelled and excited to finish it nonetheless!
Q: It's not a track one could particularly rock a club with ... why make it?
That's a ridiculous question, but I think it is indicative of what a lot of people look for in electronic music nowadays. My fascination with sample-based music - and music in general - has nothing to do with making people dance or have a social experience. Instead, I want to evoke an emotion or a thought. "Sorry, Underground Hip Hop Happened Ten Years Ago (for Regan)," was meant as sort of a bitter joke and a mindfuck, but ultimately it is a tribute to what rap music was to me.
Q: You're living in Chicago, correct? How is the scene there these days, it's a pretty legendary city for music?
Well, I just moved back to Chicago from Brooklyn and, to be totally honest, I've never really been part of any specific scene here. There are a lot of amazing musicians, and there's definitely a lot to take in. Right now, I've been most interested in listening to live jazz and improvised music; Next to the Blues, I'd say that is one of Chicago's richest scenes.
Q: What's on the horizon for you in the near future?
Instead of making a proper new Caural full-length, I've been investing time in different sorts of pieces and really challenging myself over the past year. I made a sound piece as part of Cody Hudson's gallery installation in Los Angeles, and hope to do more work along those lines. I have been finishing new material with a friend of mine here - a side project called Boy King Islands - and we hope to have a record finished within the next few months. There are a slew of remixes and compilation appearances slated for release, and I am going to begin work on a new Caural record very soon... After nine years of using a hardware sequencer, I've started seeking some new ways of making art, and so the next record may be a complete departure from what I've been doing thus far... That's the way it should be.
Q: Have you enjoyed yourself here at Modart?
Yes, and thank you!
Zachary Mastoon aka Caural
(Interview by Jon Kennedy)