Many years ago, I lived in Lubbock, Texas during the languishing mid-1990s electronic music scene. Then a weary and confused underground music scene populated by high fashion that waits for no one. David Sebrind, a friend that I admired as a cohort in a rapidly evolving and highly fashionable Dallas club culture invited me to attend a live music performance in which his band DISSONANCE was one of the opening acts for the chanteuse Gitane Demone, who had been the vocalist covering a song entitled “Gloomy Sunday” on even then a dusty old album by Christian Death. Me and Billie Holiday were never fated to meet. So, the chance to hear this song performed live by Demone would have been satisfying compensation for the six-hour drive required to get to the venue. However, no one was expecting that a night out at a Deep Ellum/Dallas dive bar we called The Galaxy to become that diamond in the rough experience that despite a series of electrical disasters proved to reveal the strength of vocal abilities for both the headliner and for Cat Hall. As the second act, DISSONANCE quickly dominated the stage and sound system with high-viz energy, and deep bass electronic composition. While I was indeed pleased to see how well my friend David could dance on the keys, I was also delighted by the deep and sultry hot Summer vocals provided by CAT HALL, and quickly realized how this is really her band. My memory fades on the timeline, but I believe that this might have happened just before HAKATAK International contacted Cat Hall about joining the music label. Years later, I would see Nilaihah Records release the next DISSONANCE album, REINCARNATE. After that album, I had taken a very long hiatus from all things industry related until very recently, when I was returning to Texas amid the Stay-At-Home after-parties that never happened. 2020: And this history-making moment finds DISSONANCE very proactive. So much is happening right now and with at least several hot irons just seething in this Summer heat, Cat Hall is just warming up! Grab a cool beverage; stay a while, and listen:
Chain D.L.K.: How would you describe the new music that you are releasing right now?
Cat Hall: Precipice, Trials, and Ephemeral are all very emotional pieces. Each song was written about specific experiences that I’ve had. “Precipice” addresses the gut-wrenching physical and emotional pain I had several years ago when I was told I had cervical cancer and needed surgery. The surgery would prevent me from ever being able to have kids of my own; something I always thought I would do. The emotional pain lasted for years after the physical scars had healed; I still carry it. “Trials” was written when I witnessed a friend going through a crisis. There was nothing I could say or do to soothe them; it was all I wanted to do. I would have given anything to take away the pain and hurt they felt. I was in agony because of their suffering. I wished that my love and care would have been enough to help them through, but it was not. “Ephemeral” was written right after my father died. I was very close to him; he is a huge part of who I am. The song is even more emotional, as my mother followed a year after my father. We all go through periods of strong emotion; I deal with them by writing. This has been a season of many woes for me. My lyrics and melodies are purely emotional; especially these three songs.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about the latest new music by CAT HALL / DISSONANCE.
Cat Hall: Precipice Maxi-Single is the most recent release by Dissonance- It debuted on Bandcamp (6/26/20) and will be fully released to all outlets (Amazon, Spotify, Apple music, Deezer…) on 6/29/20. Originally, I wrote the piece to be part of an album with Void co-writer Justin Burning, but we wound up completing only three songs before he was pulled away to work on other things, so I decided to release it as a maxi-single, with remixes from some of my favorite indie artists. The release has the original track and five remixes; I also included one b-side; a remix of my cover of “Murder of Love” which was originally featured on my Ascent EP that was released in 2019.
Chain D.L.K.: How does Precipice fit in with other music to be announced later this Summer/Fall?
Cat Hall: Precipice is the first of three maxi-singles that will be released this Summer/Fall. The other two, Trials and Ephemeral, were also to be part of the album with Burning; they were too good to let sit on the shelf, so I saw it as an opportunity to showcase some great remixers. I also did these in a different way than most remixes; rather than send the remixers the music stems, I sent only the raw vocals. This allows the recipient complete creativity with the music; I wanted each remixer to do something completely different from the original; they accomplished this with flying colors!
Chain D.L.K.: If it wasn’t for this moment brought to us by COVID-19, what would you be doing right now?
Cat Hall: First of all, I’d probably have been able to celebrate my 49th birthday (back in March) properly with friends and loved ones. I’d also be able to feed my creative side with travel. Travel is my passion; I love experiencing new places, cultures, foods, traditions. I was fortunate enough to be able to complete a trip to Israel and Jordan at the first of this year. Places inspire me.
Chain D.L.K.: STAY AT HOME protocols; What is your creative process like NOW?
Cat Hall: My creative process consists of collaborating with others. I rely on co-writers or producers for music. I do lyrics and vocals; my focus is stacking harmonies and layers. Since 2015, Dissonance has been largely, if not entirely, a studio entity. I am not bound by the confines of it, rather, I use it as an opportunity to reach out; usually way out. The first two Dissonance records were made with co-writer David Sebrind, who also lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. The past six Dissonance releases and my side project, The Insatiable Disquiet, have featured writing partners from far corners: Jim Marcus in Chicago, IL; Justin Burning in Phoenix, AZ; Junior Kain in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Nicolas Pierre Wardell in Brighton, England. I like to work with people everywhere, especially if it gives me a chance to travel. Usually, all the collaborating can be done remotely. I worked with Kurt Larson of Information Society on Poison Kiss, from my Ascent EP. We collaborated on vocals, lyrics, and did a video together, all remotely. So in effect, the stay at home order limits me not at all. It merely frustrates me for a change of scenery.
Chain D.L.K.: I have been struggling with cabin fever. List anything that you have been binging on lately.
Cat Hall: One thing that has brought me comfort, not simply from cabin fever, but from the overall discord of the past few years, has been to revisit every single episode of every iteration of Star Trek. All series. I have enjoyed sitting down and relaxing in an atmosphere of exploration, learning, inclusivity and diversity, and scientific discovery for the betterment of all, rather than the enrichment of the few. I will also admit to having binged Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and several seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.
Chain D.L.K.: What got you into music in the first place?
Cat Hall: When I was in high school and college (my club-going years), I saw Information Society live; they were UNDENIABLE. I adored them. I loved the style and the way the vocals were done. I loved singing with them; I wore out several copies of Hack (actually, all of their first three albums got CONSTANT play in my headphones). I had the amazing luck to meet them on a few occasions. Paul Robb decided to start an indie label. He called me up and asked me to be on it; I said HELL YES!! The rest is history. Granted, my style is considerably darker. I have a tendency to write about my passions and heartbreaks; I’ve had a lot of heartbreak. I relate to darker themes. So, I suppose if you take Insoc, throw in heartbreak, anger, and depression, and give it a female voice that sometimes shouts, then you get me.
Chain D.L.K.: What sort of relationship did you have to music growing up?
Cat Hall: Music was a part of my upbringing. I was in choir at school. I participated in solo competitions. My father was a beautiful tenor, and often sang with his Pavarotti records. I took a bit of piano- enough to know my way around, but voice is my instrument. This is why I sing and write lyrics rather than doing the instrumentation.
Chain D.L.K.: What (or WHO) inspired you to make music?
Cat Hall: See above gushing about Information Society. In addition, I had a friend I went to school with who started a band; he knew I could sing, and got me involved, Bob Durham. He has gone on to do amazing things with Duradero Drums and other things.
Chain D.L.K.: Describe HOW you have been challenging yourself, and continuing to grow as a new music artist.
Cat Hall: I get challenged by the material I get to work with consistently. When you work with several people, their styles obviously vary, so I need to be adaptable. It’s mostly about genres for me. I have been called darkwave, synthpop, industrial, etherwave, gothic, and a few more. My main goal is to make sure the vocals fit with the music, but remain ME. I do write in several styles, but my vocals are always the unifying factor. If you compare the music from my first two albums [DISSONANCE and REINCARNATE] to that of Void or to Ascent, or my more shoegaze work with The Insatiable Disquiet, you can see they vary vastly. Often I find myself wanting to go to a comfort zone; wanting writers to send me a specific style, but part of the fun is creating something unexpected.
Chain D.L.K.: Describe “social anxiety”and what that means NOW within whatever has become of this Brave New World.
Cat Hall: I’ve always had a level of social anxiety, I suppose. I hesitate before making phone calls because I’m afraid to interrupt someone’s day. I can play live with no issues, or could, when I had an actual band. And I’m not afraid of interfacing with people or doing interviews. What I don’t relish is doing a show on my own. Many artists are proving quite successful at doing live sets via formats like FB Live and Twitch. I just don’t know how many people would be interested in watching just a singer. If people want me to sing live, I guess I’d do it.
Chain D.L.K.: I’m really interested in how decisions and outcomes regarding the arrangements evolve. Give an example about how things work well together or simply don’t and why.
Cat Hall: At times, as a singer, I get to a point in a song that is in process, and in order to convey the lyric, or mood, I need to ask that eight more bars get added of chorus; or, maybe the music feels flat to me, and “needs” something; like a pad sound or strings as a descent. It truly depends on your relationship with the person you’re recording with; how you communicate with them. It can be remedied easily, or they might not be able to see your point at all. Sometimes, I am able to fix the issue vocally; changing the melody line or adding a harmony, but oftentimes, it is the collaboration that is the problem solver. I worked with someone once who sent me a groove; it was good, and could easily have been worked up as a chorus for a song, but it needed variance; it needed a verse and a bridge in order for me to continue with it. He thought that what he’d delivered was a completed song, ready for lyrics, ready to be recorded and done. It’s true, you can write a song based off of one chord progression, but in that case, the instrumentation needs to vary, otherwise, you have monotony.
Chain D.L.K.: And… If you could provide vocals for any other music artist?
Cat Hall: I have done for Insoc [Information Society] on a few occasions, and that was huge fun for me- Really, though, the answer is whoever wants to work with me. I love collaboration. I love singing.
Chain D.L.K.: How are you able to monetize new music ‘singles’ to generate any income?
Cat Hall / Dissonance: I’ve never been in music to make money. Alas, unless you are a master with social media or marketing, or can get into the film industry by doing soundtracks, those days of making money with music are done. I am lucky if I can cover some of my recording expenses. I am just as happy to release a body of work as I am any singles. Actually, I turn a single into an “album” by going the maxi-single route. I love remixes; I love to see someone else’s spin on my work. I was always the kid at the record store buying all the 12” singles for the remixes. I’m sure I’ll do more albums, but one thing singles have going for them is that they are “instant gratification”. It takes much less time to produce a single than it does an album.
Chain D.L.K.: Collaborations with?
Cat Hall: I’ve been very fortunate to work with several of my heroes! You learn from everyone you collaborate with. There are several people I’d love to work with. I recently got a remix from Joe Haze, and am excited to work with him some more on production. I am a fan of the works of Chris Vernna, Sean Beavan, Trent Reznor, Brian Warner; as you can see, I’d like to explore a more aggressive sound.
Chain D.L.K.: I love cooking; that’s my outlet. What allows you to re-focus on what’s most important to your creative process?
Cat Hall: I also like to cook, and have perfected a smashing French Onion Soup. Cooking, travel, walks out in nature where I can smell the earth and grass… I take lots of pictures; my Instagram account is full of bugs I’ve spotted… and my three Manx cats (Lilikoi, Poi and Mango).
Chain D.L.K.: Define & describe: introverts vs. extroverts; where do you believe that you fit into it all, and what is that like for you?
Cat Hall: I’m probably 65% extrovert. I like being the focal point; that’s why I chose to be a singer. On the other hand, I like to give equal time. I’d not be singing if it were not for the music. I’m not overly shy or private in my personal life. I do express my opinions easily. Not having anyone else actually in the band is a blessing and a curse; I do all the talking, but then again, I have to do all the admin work as well; and there’s amazingly a lot of that.
Chain D.L.K.: What is one message you would impress upon your fans?
Cat Hall: Right now, in this divisive climate, I’d tell them to be more selfless and care; our world needs it. Be kind and inclusive. Care about the Environment and Science. Care about Education. Care about those less fortunate.
Chain D.L.K.: What is the most useless piece of equipment that you have? And why does it still have a place in your recording studio?
Cat Hall: I have an old, beat up ADAT. It’s a piece of history; some of my old masters are on ADAT. I also have the Walkman DAT machine. Kept some DAT masters as well.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you have any upcoming LIVE shows planned at all?
Cat Hall No. I’m a studio gal. I did actually have a live show in October of 2019; it was a small venue. I was still learning to walk again after ankle surgery. I had my pal Will Loconto from T-4-2 on keys and the amazing Rody Hillman on drums; it was fun.
Chain D.L.K.: How has music media impacted the music business?
Cat Hall: Everyone is a musician now; everyone has a band or project. There are millions of us. It’s great that it’s so accessible. On the other hand, there are millions of us. The market is saturated. We’re lucky if we get anyone to listen at all.
Chain D.L.K.: What is the best advice you’ve been given? How well does it apply for you today?
Cat Hall: “If you can’t hit the note reliably, then don’t sing it; choose another” <– that is a good one. Also, when I first got into this biz back in the 90s, I was told by a mentor to “never pay for anything”- meaning never paying a label or service to listen to your demo. I didn’t, and as it turns out, I didn’t need to. There are still “pay for play” services out there where you pay to be heard or to get on their roster. I’ve never used one.
Chain D.L.K.: Which music media platforms play your new music?
Cat Hall: I’m old school, so the platform I’m on most frequently is Facebook. I also have some material on YouTube. As far as music streaming, my distribution covers most major outlets: Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s next for CAT HALL and for DISSONANCE?
Cat Hall / Dissonance – online terminals: