From the tender age of four, music has been deeply etched into the skin of Melbournian Adam Katz. Since learning the piano as a wide-eyed infant, Katz hasn’t looked back for a second. From leading jazz ensembles to lending his talents to other artists, Katz is now beginning the exciting journey and stepping out into his own spotlight as an electronic producer.
With his debut ‘Waterfall’ EP already pencilled in for the 6th of April (out via Dot Dash Recordings), Katz today unveils the project’s first single “Hollow”. Co-written with good mate and abundantly talented producer, Japanese Wallpaper, the cut sees melancholic lyrics seek refuge on a bed of hopeful soundscapes.
Opening on tender drum pads and sustained keyboard drabs, Katz’ subtle, downtempo arrangement is soon joined by the mellow vocals of Charlie Lim, combining to form a track that’s simultaneously delicate and quietly assured.
We had a quick chat to Katz about his musical upbringing, the new single and project and the year to come:
Best Before: You’ve been playing instruments since you were four years old. Did you grow up in or around a musical household?
Katz: My mum plays, and my grandfather played, the piano, so there was always a piano around growing up. I started playing classical music at a very young age, but I was never great at reading music. I had a really strong ear, which led me to pop music, and then jazz, where I could improvise and get away with not playing things note-for-note. My parents were always playing music around the house or in the car when we went on long drives. Some of my early musical memories involve the music of Billy Joel and Elton John. I think they were the ones who first made me realise you could be a frontman and “rock out” even from behind a piano. Also, my dad had a pretty varied and eccentric record collection which I would regularly flip through.
You’ve moved from making jazz to electronic. What artists soundtracked your teenage years and what do you find yourself listening to these days?
Much like these days, my teenage years saw some pretty big variation – Billy Joel to John Mayer, jazz to hip-hop. These days I’m always listening to a lot of Australian electronic and pop music – Kllo, Jack Grace, Mallrat, Woodes and Hatchie have all been on high rotation lately. Lately, I’ve also been listening to a lot of Frank Ocean, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, Travis Scott, Kanye West, Haim, Jack Antonoff, Charli XCX. And I’m always coming back to my favourite jazz piano players (Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett), and bands and artists like Steely Dan, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder.
What inspired the new single? How did it come about and what did the songwriting process look like?
Gab (aka Japanese Wallpaper) and I wrote the instrumental very quickly one afternoon at my Collingwood studio. It was a collaboration in the most literal sense – when we made the demo we were both recording parts on the same keyboard at the same time. I’ve been playing in various bands with Charlie Lim (who has an almost cult-like following in South-East Asia) since 2008. I thought it would be interesting marrying electronic pop production and a catchy melody with an introspective, wistful perspective about relationships that have gone on for enough time for a couple to get “comfortable”. The lyrics also have a few clever turns of phrase (comfort inconvenience, baiting for a reaction etc).
You’ve got some very talented friends (Woodes, Japanese Wallpaper and Fractures), some of which you’ve worked with on the EP. Was it a conscious decision to work with so many collaborators on your debut EP or did it kind of all just fall into place?
It was a conscious decision to work with collaborators, and particular vocalists, as I don’t fancy myself a singer. But the collaborative process was very organic. I would usually almost completely finish a track and then send it to a vocalist-friend who’s voice I thought would suit the instrumental. We’d then just come together and see if we could make some happen. I’m lucky to be able to call these collaborators my friends, which definitely helped things fall into place nicely, and avoid the need to cold-call anyone.
What would the ideal 2018 look like for Katz?
I’m already writing new material and working with new collaborators, particularly vocalists. I’m planning on releasing another EP and working on more videos. I’m hoping to start putting together a band and playing live shows. I’d like to make the live show as “live” as possible, with an emphasis on real instruments played by real people.
Hit play on Katz’ debut single, “Hollow” below: