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Sonic Landscape with Berkley Priest

“Tiger in a Tropical Storm” is the first single off of Hello Maybe Everything the latest album from Cata9Tales. With a haunting chorus and heartfelt poetry Berkley Priest proves once again that he is a lyrical genius and Kenny “Kreator” Perkins is the master of sound. We caught up with Berkley to talk about the album, single, Warped Tour, and life since he hit the mic two years ago.

EV: Welcome back to Entertainment Vine, Berkley.

Berkley: Aloha! Salutations! Wocka Wocka! Hi.

“As always, expect the unexpected.”

EV: (laughs) Hi. The last time we caught up you had just released your first album Kick the Bad Love. Since then you released your second album A Chameleon’s Dream, signed with a record label, and are now preparing for the release of your latest album Hello Maybe Everything. Is it all a blur or do you feel like you have spent years working toward this album?

Berkley: I’ve spent my whole life working toward this album. Maybe not the record in particular, but to this point, where we are beginning to see things converge to form something beautiful. Like Voltron. Is it a blur? A little. But it has been very organic, nothing forced, everything at the right progression. I think we are having a very healthy climb.

EV: It has only been two years since you first met Kenny and formed Cata9Tales. It is amazing how much you both have accomplished in such a short amount of time. How has your relationship changed over the course of this crazy journey?

Berkley: Hah! We went from two very separate entities to a brotherhood. We definitely fight … we are yin and yang, and we both really care about what we are doing, so there are certainly moments of friction. But, we know that we couldn’t do this without each other. There’s a chemical reaction when Kenny and I create music together that is very special, and couldn’t be duplicated with anyone else. We are family now.

EV: What can fans expect from your new album Hello Maybe Everything?

Berkley: As always, expect the unexpected. It has elements of both our previous albums, but sounds like neither. It’s a darker record, more mid-tempo and moody, but I think the twelve tracks tie together to create a very interesting sonic landscape. I’m singing some on this record … it goes from rappy verses, to big rock/pop/goth choruses, and back again. There are sing-alongs, call-and-responses, lots of different voices. If the Joker had a Damascus Road experience, broke out of Arkham Asylum, and recorded a hip-hop record, it might sound something like this.

EV: So once again you have found a way to expand your music to include a mix of multiple genres. How would you describe the sound of this album?

Berkley: I have no idea! Vocally, I’m much more confident. It’s slinkier, more varied in rhythm and approach. The choruses are bigger. I don’t think it qualifies as a rap record, or a rock record. It’s the next logical step in our maelstrom of sound. None of it is planned, it’s just what comes out. Most of the choruses were written in five minutes. The verses, however, I slaved over quite a bit. I don’t think it sounds like anything I have ever heard, though there are definitely some influences that creep out. There are some songs that creep into Depeche Mode/Marilyn Manson territory, others that are light and almost – dare I say it? – country. It’s a cornucopia of madness.

EV: In “Tiger in a Tropical Storm” you have a beautiful, yet haunting, chorus where the heartbreak is felt to the very core. How did you approach blending the lyrics and music to create such an incredible amount of emotion?

“Kreator gave me a beautiful sonic tapestry for that track, and it opened up a world of metaphors.”

Berkley: You want the real answer, or the fun answer? The fun answer is magic. (laughs) The real answer is that it was trial and error. Really, it’s all very organic. It just happened. Often Kreator will bring me an instrumental and I will dive in from different angles, throwing everything against the wall and seeing what fits. I went through a break-up during this record, and that emotion is sprayed all over it. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so whatever I am going through comes out in the lyrics. Kreator gave me a beautiful sonic tapestry for that track, and it opened up a world of metaphors. It wasn’t intended to be that emotional … it just came out that way. Our guest vocalist, Tracy Joyner, killed that track. Originally I had sung the chorus, but when I brought her in, it created a beautiful push-and-pull between the verse and chorus that really gives the song a punch that I could have never achieved on my own.

EV: Your lyrics are visually descriptive such as “a parachute that never opened”. When writing do you find your words to be somewhat of a therapeutic response to what is happening in your own life, or do you borrow moments from emotion?

Berkley: It’s really a bit of both. I don’t need a therapist, because I throw it all into the music. It’s a catharsis every time. Sometimes they are colors and emotional anecdotes, but nine times out of ten my lyrics are autobiographical and reflections of exactly what is going on in my life, even when shrouded in pop culture metaphors and similes. Our sound has changed quite a bit, but we have tried to stay true to the elements that were there from the beginning, which means being honest. I haven’t always been honest in real life, but the songs are the freaking truth.

EV: This is the first time Kenny has created an entire album of original mixes. Did that change the way you both worked on the songs?

Berkley: Oh, yeah, We lost our crutches. It was scary at first … we sat there for several months with nothing coming out, thinking “how do we do this?” Then the song “Welcome to the Jungle Book” happened, and the flood gates opened. We were very sample-heavy before. Kicking that element out made us better songwriters, and really forced us to be more creative and step out of our box, which was pretty large before. It just made us better writers, plain and simple.

"I want to get better, and reach more people. But most of all, I want to have fun."
“I want to get better, and reach more people. But most of all, I want to have fun.”

EV: How have you grown as a creator, musician, singer and person through the process of this album?

Berkley: It’s a little hard to gauge when you’re in it – only in hindsight, and through other people’s feedback, can you really see what happened. Obviously our confidence has grown dramatically, but not in a cocky way at all. I have been through way too much bad shit in my life to ever get cocky again. If anything, it’s incredibly humbling – we never really thought people would care to hear us, and now that they are starting to, I feel a very grave sense of responsibility. I want to perfect my craft. I want to get better, and reach more people. But most of all, I want to have fun. If it stops being fun, we are finished.

EV: What do you hope people take away from Hello Maybe Everything?

Berkley: Oh man, I don’t know. I don’t make records for other people. I make them for myself. I think Kenny would tell you the same thing. I hope people can find something to latch on to, but I can’t, won’t, and don’t predict those things.

EV: You signed with Monarchy Records and this will be your first album under a label. How has this experience changed the way you have approached the business side of Cata9Tales?

Berkley: It’s definitely taught me more about the business side of things, but it hasn’t really changed our approach. Here’s the thing – I’ve already made it. I made it when I put that first record out. This was never about fame, or money, or cars, or women, or any of that crap. This was about legacy, about leaving something behind we could be proud of. We have made our best piece of art yet, but not our best ever. The best is yet to come. I’m a happy person. After all that I’ve been through, and fighting through that, with God’s help, I’ve reached the point in my life where I can say that I’m truly happy. And appreciative. And humbled by every little thing we get, because it’s not of us, it’s of God. We are just channeling it. We still have much to learn business-wise. We still don’t have a manager.

EV: This week marked your first show with everyone’s favorite summer concert the Van’s Warped Tour. Do you mind sharing a little about that experience?

Berkley: So. Freaking. Incredible. We got a stellar reaction, made some new fans, and proved to ourselves that we can compete on that level. It felt like home. We slid right into it like a second skin. I hope we get to do it again. We fit in there. I remember telling Kenny last year at this time, “We need to be on Warped Tour.” And then you’re there. And there are no nerves, no fear, nothing but net. It works for us. That’s our scene.

EV: What were some of the challenges you faced performing in a multi-stage environment?

"We are goofy, crazy, colorful and a hot mess of epic proportions."
“We are goofy, crazy, colorful and a hot mess of epic proportions.”

Berkley: I think the biggest challenge is capturing the attention of people who are moving between bands and stages, especially when you are an unknown. You have to find something special, something to capture people’s attention. You have to sell yourself. But, I don’t really know what I’m talking about, because I haven’t done it enough. Ask me again next year.

EV: Last question, where in the world did you find those pants?

Berkley: HAH! I can’t give away all my secrets, now can I? We are just having fun. We aren’t trying to be cool. We are the misfits, the longshots, the ones that on paper, shouldn’t work. But those are the ones God uses. We aren’t a praise and worship band, and my lyrics definitely go into dark places, but I know that none of this happens without Him. We are goofy, crazy, colorful and a hot mess of epic proportions. But somehow, to me, that actually does make it cool. The fun answer? Magic. The real answer? Ebay.

EV: (laughs) Thank you so much for hanging out with Entertainment Vine again, Berkley. We look forward to hearing more songs from Hello Maybe Everything.

Berkley: Thank you so much. I really hope you enjoy the record. It comes out October 1st, and we are really proud of it. We can and will do better, but we’ve done the best we can do, with what we’ve got. This is where we are now, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.

*For more information, or to pre-order Hello Maybe Everything, check out “Tiger in a Tropical Storm” drops Tuesday, July 23.

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Jan Ostegard

It's been over four decades since I first discovered a passion for movies. One momentous evening in 1977 my sister and brother introduced me to Star Wars and it forever changed my life. I relocated to Los Angeles after receiving a BA in Theatre and lived in the valley for nineteen years. Besides acting and writing I enjoy movies, music, theatre, relaxing at the beach or in the mountains, mastering racing games, traveling around the world, and hoarding chapstick. My husband and I are currently enjoying life back in the States after spending three years living as expats in the beautiful city of Shanghai, China.
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