Shredding the Octatract: A Q&A with Kraus
with Ian Duggan
Prolific psychedelic music producer Kraus (a.k.a. Pat Kraus) is playing at Never Project Space this Friday, 20 November, and has a new track on local compilation 'In Thrust We Trust'! We spoke with Pat about the equipment he uses to produce his 'golden age' electronic sounds, what songs from his last 18 albums we might expect to hear on Friday, his inclusion on ‘In Thrust We Trust’, and more!
Kraus: Well if I had to pick one, it would probably be “Why Oh Why” from “Grip the Moon”. This song was my set closer for about 3 years, and it’s got all the elements I like: a hypnotic, thuggish drum loop, brain-melting electronic guitar sound, and a soaring pentatonic melody. I think a characteristic sound combo that I do is: real earthy drum sounds mixed with super day-glo bright electronic sounds. I never get tired of that contrast. You can go HARD on that for a whole career I think. Well I hope so.
HUP: Your music is recorded with lots ‘Golden Age’ electronics sounds. Can you describe for us some of the equipment you use?
Kraus: I have an analogue modular synth that I built from scratch 10 years ago, plus a bunch of guitar pedals and a spring reverb that I built into a biscuit tin. I love the sound of analogue tape, so I’ve done a lot of work recording with tape, and making tape loops on a couple of old machines I have. Unfortunately my beautiful reel-to-reel four-track recorder is dying (it’s from 1974), so I only use that sometimes for loops and tape-echo now. But actually, in the last 12 months I’ve gotten real excited about some digital gear. I got a wavetable synth and an FM synth, and started doing stuff with MIDI, which is actually quite mental when you get into it. So I’ve really blasted into the future, i.e., the 1980s hahaha.
HUP: How challenging is it to present it in a live form? Is the equipment you use transportable?
Kraus: It took me a while to figure out how to do live shows that presented the range of sounds that I use in my albums. Analogue synths are bulky, and also they don’t have memories, so it’s hard to do a range of songs in one set. This is one area that modern, digital equipment shines – it’s portable AND can remember stuff. So my current approach is to sample analogue gear and work with those samples. Recently I got an AMAZING modern sampler, an Octatrack. It’s kind of a mega-looper, and so I’ve been able to take what I was doing with tape loops, and move that over to this new machine, which is designed for live performance. It’s very exciting to use this thing. I got it in February and I’ve developed a whole new set with it.
HUP: What can we expect from a Kraus live performance?
Kraus: I have this new material based on shredding the Octatrack, with some super danceable rhythms that fly around the stereo field. I’ve got some rich analogue synth sounds in there, combined with this great hippie Mellotron flute stuff. I think it’s fun music. I describe my music as psychedelic, and one of the things I love about psychedelic music is it’s real broad, you can draw on a lot of different sounds and traditions, from medieval lute stylings to power noise to bongos to 80s voice synthesizer, it can all go in the soup. And a sampler is the perfect tool to bring all those things together in a musical and expressive way.
HUP: You have released 18 albums to date, the most recent being ‘A Golden Brain’ in April this year. In your live shows, do you play songs from across these albums, or focus on the more recent?
Kraus: My current live set is mostly new material, post-“A Golden Brain”, but I will do a couple of songs from that album. I’m really excited about what I’m working on right now, every day in the studio, with the new equipment I have. So the set is very much about what I’m discovering and exploring, rather than a retrospective. Next year I’d like to do some shows covering material from my whole career. That would be a good way to celebrate album number 20, which I’m planning to release before the end of next year.
HUP: You have had the fantastic track ‘Rainbow Blue’ included on the ‘In Thrust We Trust’ compilation, which I think is pretty indicative of the sound of your recent work. What is the story of you coming to be included on that compilation?
Kraus: Oh thanks! The compilation is a benefit for Hamilton musician Dean Ballinger, who is dealing with Motor Neurone Disease. I’ve played shows with Dean's band the Hollow Grinders, e.g., my band The Maltese Falcons played with them at Biddy Mulligans a few years ago. One guy in the audience asked us if we could play the song "Wagon Wheel". And the bar staff were VERY adamant that sound-check must not interfere with the rugby screening. I don’t think that will be an issue this Friday. I’m really looking forward to checking out Never Project Space; I’ve heard really good things about it.
See Kraus on Bandcamp -> HERE <-