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Chop Chop - Catherine Cavanagh Interview

Chop Chop were one of our favorite musical discoveries of 2008. Therefore, we very much enjoyed talking with Catherine about the band, music and other things.

Since this is your first interview for us (hopefully first of the many to come!), can you tell us the story behind the name Chop Chop? Chop Chop seems to remind us on old british comedy series!

It is honestly the very first name we came up with. I just wanted to "Chop Chop!" and get to making music. And also we all had the same initials at the time - CC. Now everyone who joins takes on a psuedonym with those initials when we play live.

"Screen" is your second album and is, at least for us, one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. It's really a nice collection of songs. What can you tell us about it? How was it all created?

Thanks! I really appreciate it! Gosh, I didn't even really want to start on a second album, but the guy who mixed the first album convinced me to start on it. I was all ready to settle down and have babies.

On this album, I really wanted to work on a contrast of live sound and digital. Practically every song has at least one live instrument - french horn, slide guitar, viola. I work from home in an attic, so I had a ton of guest musicians come in and play for the songs.
[ Catherine Cavanagh (Chop Chop) ]

Catherine Cavanagh (Chop Chop)

Where did you drew influences from? We seems to hear lots of various tidbits scattered around.

I grew up in the rust belt in the states in Cleveland, Ohio. In the earlier part of the century, the city was a huge industrial town, but when I was growing up, the city had started to decay. Its still a strong vibrant city, but also a city of bridges and old abandoned factories and old abandoned warehouses. I think the city itself influenced the kind of music I grew up on. I spent a lot of time listening to NIN, Ministry, Front 242, Curve. I also spend a great deal of time at clubs down town, dancing to German hardcore techno! How German Hardcore techno ended up in Cleveland, Ohio I have no idea, but it was super popular.

Now I listen to public radio stations, KEXP and KCRW, non stop. They play a wide range of music, more so than the commerical radio stations do. I don't own a ton of records, but when I do find one I love, I wear it out.

I'm also a huge fan of the producer Phil Ek, he helped produce some really great bands - Modest Mouse, the Shins, Band of Horses, and Built to Spill. I can recognize his work pretty quickly. I love the sounds he brings out in bands.

My biggest influence, though, are my friends. I think I got luck, especially during the creation of this album, by being a part of a great tight knit group of musicians who supported my work and my sound. I truly love the work by Freezepop, Boy in Static, and Skating Club, and a bunch of other local bands. The IOs and Venice is Sinking are darn good too.
[ Chop Chop ]

Chop Chop

There seems to be a Jekyll and Hyde element to your music. After the first few cheerfull tunes bordering on twee, the album switches of in completely different direction with dark electro pop. "I Met You At The Space Station" and "Fed" are rather sombre sounding tunes. How did these two Chop Chop sides came to be?

You know, I try to make happy music since my mom says so....seriously, I try, but I keep getting drawn to the darker elements of life. What can I say.

And how does it all work out live for Chop Chop? Unfortunately, being in Croatia stopped us from seeing lots of your shows but here's to future.

Well, maybe Croatia should be the next stop! Usually, I play guitar and Christy plays keyboard, then whomever wants to join us plays along. Sometimes we have live drummers, sometimes we use programmed loops. It all depends on how people feeling.

You have both website and myspace profile so what do you think about those services? Can they help a starting band to break through. The more we look at it, there seem to be something there. After all, it helped us discover you and your music and that can't be a bad thing!

I am so greatful to myspace and to the internet! Myspace is great. We've booked most of my tours through it. I've meet incredible people in all parts of the United States and in Europe. People I never would have encountered if I didn't have access through their pages on myspace. In fact, some German friends we met through myspace are probably going to do a small tour with us very soon in the states!

What is your opinion on all the release schemes going around these days? Do you think the future of music is online or that these are just clever marketing plots that work in a certain moment?

I still like to buy CDs to look at the artwork, but yes, the majority seems to be through the internet. My label has been more of a collective. A sharing of info, so I've never really released any work through the typical traditional ways. It is still important to get your work out there, but whether as CD or as Individual songs..it looks like individual songs are winning....

So what's in the future for Chop Chop?

I want to write a new collection of songs, and I'm still gathering ideas. I've considered writing a sci-fi rock opera, a stretch between Tommy and Flash Gordon. I'm also considering a collection of covers. I also want to be a hip hop producer...sigh.... I just met an opera singer recently and I may try to convince her to sing on a few tracks. Excitement.

And our final question, what are you reading and listening to recently?

Wow. Um, right now I'm obsessed with Kanye West's new album, especially the song Amazing. I'm listening to KEXP and KCRW a bunch. Some bands I really love are Lykke Li, the School of Seven Bells, TV on the Radio, Elbow ..the list could go on and on!

Reading? When I drive to work, I'm reading Carl Berstein's A Woman in Charge, a biography of Hillary Clinton. I'm reading at home, The Big Necessity, Buy-ology, and I'm trying to bone up my skills, so on my desk is Microphones for the Home Record, Studio Recording Procedures, the Savvy Studio Owner, and the Art of Mixing second edition. There is always more to learn. :)

kris // 19/01/2009


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