A Soundtrack to Redemption – Interview with Berkley Priest of Cata9tales

Berkley Priest of Cata9tales

When Berkley Priest and Kenny (Kreator) Perkins met earlier this year, two extraordinary talents merged to form a powerful and raw band called Cata9tales. With undercurrents of love and hope they shy not from the truth, but rather embrace it with their whole being. Armed with brutally honest lyrics and an old-school beat, Cata9tales lights the path for all of those who have been lost or forgotten in the chaotic pages of life. Their debut album is available for FREE download at their official website www.cata9tales.com.

EV: Welcome to Entertainment Vine, Berkley. Thank you for taking the time to discuss Cata9tales and your debut album “Kick the Bad Love.”

BP: Absolutely. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me! We’re psyched that people are embracing the band and record the way they have, and we’re honored that you would ask to interview us.

EV: When did your love for music first begin?

BP: Oh, wow. I think it’s always been on my radar.  I mean, it’s on everyone’s – who doesn’t love music?  But I think I recognized pretty young that it was a viable form of expression for me.  I remember writing my first song in 5th grade…it was all about love and death.  Pretty heavy stuff for a 5th grader! I’m not a dark, heavy person, but maybe that’s because I get it out through my lyrics.  As long as I can remember I’ve been starting bands, long before I ever learned to play.  I was just in love with the idea.  My folks said I would run around with a guitar doing Elvis impersonations from the time I could talk.  I started playing drums when I was 12, and from then on I was either drumming, singing, or both.  I’m a much better drummer than I am singer, but that rhythm became ingrained in me, and I’m very theatrical – I love to perform – so my singing became rhyming, and the bass drum became my heart.  I’ve always been a music nerd, so has Kenny, the other half of Cata9tales.  We haven’t known each other that long, but the more we talk, the more I realize that we both come from very similar musical backgrounds.  We can have in-depth discussions about the tiniest nuances of obscure albums like only music nerds can do.  So the short answer is always, though it has reared its head to different degrees throughout my life.

EV: Is there a specific type of music that inspires you? Or do you have a go-to band you listen to while working on new material?

BP:  I actually try to stay away from listening to other bands when I’m writing.  I’m like a sponge, and if I’m listening to something for inspiration it will inevitably bleed over into whatever I’m working on.  I try to clear my head of all that and let all of my influences get a fair shot at my brain wave.  I don’t really listen to a lot of hip-hop for that reason, at least not when I’m writing and recording.  If I hit writer’s block I’ll go find a good singer-songwriter album, or a punk or metal-core record that will jar my senses.  When I was writing this record, I was listening to a lot of Every Time I Die, My Chemical Romance, and The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s funny that the music I listen to the most is not at all the music I make, but I like to think it helps me come from an original angle. I’m not trying to be a rapper.  I’m a lyricist who rhymes and is influenced by hip-hop, but I don’t think I possess any of the traditional earmarks of a rapper.

EV: Not too long ago you were practicing law. Would you walk us through the incredible journey that led you to pursue music and create Cata9tales?

BP:  What a long strange trip it’s been (laughs).  Basically music has always been my first love, though I have been an actor, writer, graphic artist, producer and attorney at various stages in my life.  To me, being in a band or being a musician in today’s media age is the perfect platform to use all of those skills.  You have the music side, you have the promotion side, and you have the business side.  I lived in New York and Los Angeles for years as a total bohemian artist before I went to law school. I went to law school just to give myself some business sense because I was so far on the artist side that I had no idea how the machine really worked, and because I realized that if this was going to happen for me I was going to have to do it myself, and I would have to be armed.  I actually played in bands all through law school – I was not your typical law student at all!  I was vocalist for a band called Primitive Minds, kind of a jam-band, 311 type thing.  Law school added to my arsenal.  I never intended to be a courtroom lawyer, but when I finished school I found myself massively in debt, so I took a job in Virginia Beach working for an attorney that I actually knew from my hometown.  I wasn’t doing what I loved, but I was making a lot of money and thought, “well, I guess this is it, this is what I’ll do.  I’ve become the status quo.”  Honestly fear had a lot to do with it.  I was taking the safe path, which is not my style at all. God had other plans, but He was going to take me through a dark place to get there.

I had been practicing for about six months, working for my friend/law partner and renting a room in his house, when I came home one Monday afternoon and found him hanging from the ceiling.  No note, nothing – just the lifeless body of someone that I had spent the last six months working and living with, pretty much being around him 24/7.  I didn’t see it coming, and it hit me hard.  I think that’s when the seeds for my struggle with alcohol were planted, but it would take a while for them to fully blossom into a beast.  I poured myself into work, but I was a hot mess.  Soon after I met a girl who I had gone to high school with but never met before.  We met in church.  I was pressing in to God but definitely was not sold out, and she showed up in the right place at the right time.  I thought everything was going to be ok, that this was a life raft that had been sent my way.  We were married three months when she up and walked away, and told me God had freed her from the marriage.  I don’t want to go into that much further out of respect for her, even though she probably doesn’t deserve it.  She was just up and gone – refused counseling, refused to try to work it out, gone.  I was a mess – everything I had been through with the death of my roommate and all the heartache of her abandonment came crashing down on me.  I actually haven’t seen her since the day she walked out.  I handled the divorce.  But I was a disaster, and pretty soon I was a full blown alcoholic.  I was frightfully depressed and honestly, suicidal.  I crashed a car one night and got a D.U.I.  I went to rehab, got clean and went back to practicing law, but within the year I relapsed and got another D.U.I., though I wasn’t actually driving a car.  I was on a scooter of all things – I at least had the sense not to get behind the wheel, though I apparently didn’t have the sense not to get on the highway.  So there I was, a divorced, lonely, overweight, depressed, suicidal mess, and I was going to jail.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is rock bottom.

But something funny happens when you’re at your lowest point.  Just before I went to jail I felt the strangest calm wash over me, and in the strangest way I welcomed the experience.  I set goals for myself:  I was going to read the Bible cover to cover, I was going to lose 30 pounds, and I was going to reconnect with God.  I did all three.  Three months after I went in, I walked out of jail 35 pounds lighter, a Bible beaten and worn from being read twice, and a new spiritual focus.  I was facing four months on house arrest, but I had a new goal: I was going to release an album.

I had been playing in a rock band called All The Young Lions during the entire drunk, depressed period before I got locked up.  But I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to put my experiences into lyrics and I knew I had to perform them to bring them to life.  I’m not a great singer, but I can rhyme.  And by the grace of God I met Kenny right when I got out of jail.  So over the next two months, while I was on house arrest and working ten hour days doing construction, Kenny and I wrote and recorded what would become “Kick The Bad Love.”  By the time I was off house arrest the album was out and we were on our way.  So basically the music was always there, it was always a part of me, but it took going through that incredibly dark period to give birth to what I feel is the best musical partnership I have ever been a part of.

I am happier than I have ever been.  I have embraced the darkness and come out of it a better man, a better musician, and a firm believer in the power of God.  It’s only by God’s grace that I got through it and have done what I’ve done.  It’s by no strength of my own.  That calm I said I felt before going to jail – that was God preparing me.  And I knew I was going to do Cata9tales long before I went to jail – the seeds were there, in my head, though it hadn’t taken shape yet.

These songs are a catharsis.  I’m so thankful that I met Kenny when I did and that his music was SO good…it made it easy for me to focus on the words and create a soundtrack to redemption.  The songs have darkness, but they also are filled with hope.  God is in this project, I know that for a fact.  And I truly believe that as long as I keep Him first, this group will fly.


EV: After pouring so much of yourself into each song, do you feel that this album has been your lifeline or more of a way to make amends?

BP:  I think it’s really a statement more than anything.  A statement that God is real, that you can overcome the darkness in your life if you give Him the reigns, and that there is hope, even when it seems that there is none.  You find hope in the strangest of places.  I found it in jail.  I couldn’t find it on my own – God had to get me alone to work on me.  I’m hardheaded.  He had to give me a spiritual whipping.

I wouldn’t call it a lifeline – God is my lifeline – but it is definitely an expression and a soundtrack to my life.  I don’t know where the music is headed from here.  We are definitely going to keep going, and I think we’re off to a good start.  As I grow as a person I want the music to grow with me. I have made amends, but the songs weren’t really about that.  They were about reaching out, and being vulnerable.  Showing all my warts and scars.  And showing that these scars are stories, and that if we press into God and hold onto each other we can all take the elevator to the top.  Above all, this album is honest.  That’s what my real goal was.  Honesty.  This album and this group are a part of me, and hopefully just a hint of what’s to come.

EV: You are living proof that people can change. What advice would you offer others who may be struggling with addiction or depression?

BP: Get help.  I tried to deal with it myself, and it only made the addiction and depression worse.  Be honest with people, but more importantly, be honest with yourself.  Honesty was never my strongest suit.  I always was kind of two people: the real Berkley, and the Berkley I led people to believe I was, the guy who had it all together, the man with the plan.  Going through what I did forced me to be honest.  Frankly, it forced me to deal with my own bullshit. And only by confronting the ugly truth and embracing it – being honest with yourself and everyone else – can any progress be made.  For me God was the integral part of that, a full surrender.  Only then did I start seeing and feeling results.  Some people don’t believe in that, but they have to figure it out for themselves.  Honesty, whether you believe in a higher power or not, is the first step to overcoming addiction and depression.  And let people help you.  It took a long time for me to get there.  But when you’re honest people will forgive, and people will help.  So start there.

EV: The first video off of Kick the Bad Love is “Loveletters, Bloodletters.” How does it feel to see your words and emotions come to life?

BP: It’s definitely kind of crazy.  When I was recording the record I wasn’t allowing myself to think further than that, to videos or anything like that.  But that’s why I said earlier that being a musician is the greatest platform to use all of my skills.  Kyle Shotwell and Atlantic Hush came to us and wanted to do the video, and we had been thinking about it anyway, so it was totally a God thing.  I’m quite pleased with it, especially for a first video.  I think we captured the vibe of the track, and it came together pretty quickly. It’s exciting, humbling and rewarding to watch it come to life, and to see other people connect and embrace it.

EV: You’re a drummer, vocalist, lyricist, poet, and artist. Do you have any other hidden talents?

BP: Nothing I can put in print (laughs).  I think all of my greatest skill sets lie in the arts.  I’m a lyricist first and foremost, and everything else falls under that umbrella or is an offshoot of that.  I do all of our design work, ads, t-shirts, posters, all of it, though I hope that this will blossom to the point that I can focus solely on the music and don’t have to handle all of that.  Kenny has his hands full with the music, which is the guts of the whole operation, and I handle the rest.  I’d love to pass off the promotion and business stuff to someone else so I could just write and record, but I’ve got to hustle to make that happen.  But it’s like Erma Bombeck said, when I reach the end of my life I want to be able to tell God that I have no talent left, that I used all that He gave me.

EV: If you could play poker with five musical greats who would you choose and who do you think would win?

BP: I definitely wouldn’t win.  I’m a terrible poker player.  But just for the experience I would say Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, and Jimi Hendrix.  I think Bob or John would win, because they seem the most shrewd, and probably because everyone else would be too drunk (laughs).  But those guys are legends, and all attacked music from different angles, but did it very intelligently.  I don’t remotely put myself up there with those guys, but I think we’re cut from a similar cloth.

EV: We look forward to hearing more from Cata9tales and hopefully you’ll be playing in a city near us soon.

BP: I’d like nothing more than that.  Thank you for your time and interest, and for digging into me so deeply.   I needed that.  See you soon…and go download the album free at www.cata9tales.com.  We’ll hopefully see you on the road soon!

 Loveletters, Bloodletters by Cata9tales

[vimeo width=”500″ height=”300″]http://vimeo.com/29176469[/vimeo]

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