Argentinian born and Berlin based artist Catnapp comes from a musical family, however has forged her own distinctive path through a mixture of pop, R&B, rap, thick electronics and bass, amongst several other elements that her feline instinct has. She has performed at some of the most renowned festivals in her own country, as well as Boiler Room in Berlin and released her EP Fear on Monkeytown Records earlier in the year. When she performs it’s so energetic that she actually turns into a lion. In this interview we talk about her past, present, and future.
Tell us where you are now, and how’s everything over there.
Catnapp: Right now I’m in Berlin, where I’m currently and have been based for the last 3 years. Everything is quite amazing. Spring is here, the cold greyness is finally fading away. So our chins are up.
It’s been some time since you moved to Berlin. What was the hardest thing about leaving your country?
The hardest thing was moving so far away from all my friends and family. As the years pass I can definitely feel the distance growing in me. It’s also very hard to make real deep friends in a city that is so fluctuant, where everyone comes and goes all the time. Myself included.
Was it what you expected? How would you describe the so called ‘scene’ over there?
It was definitely not as easy as I thought it would be to get inside the scene. I never had to move to another country before, so I didn’t know what it was like to start from zero and build your whole career again in a different place. It took time and a lot of hard work. Apart from that, Berlin is much more than I could have ever expected. It’s an amazing place to live and to grow personally. The scene is 90% electronic music. “My” scene is not so big. There are live acts, but R&B and breakbeat is not exploding so much as techno for example. Fortunately I feel that it’s changing and the scene is now opening up to other alternatives. Don’t get me wrong, the scene is super diverse and open. It’s just that the main focus is not pop music.
Congratulations on your release on Monkeytown! Would it be fair to say that this is an essential moment in your career?
It was definitely a big accomplishment for me, because It was one of my main achieved goals throughout my career. It was quite amazing, we met by accident with Leo (Modeselektorʼs Tour Manager) at one of the parties Monkeytown does at Ohm, where I usually work at the wardrobe. We talked about music and eventually about mine. He asked me to send it to him, and so I did. Some weeks after that I traveled to Argentina for a tour and while I was there I received the news that they wanted to release an EP with me. Plus it would come out in vinyl. So yes, it was indeed a pretty exciting thing. I had to finish the album and shoot its videos in Argentina, so that when I returned to Berlin Iʼd release the album right away. Its a very warm feeling to finally have someone appreciate my music like it is, weird, changing and emotional, and decide to support it.
Which were your best experiences performing live?
My favourite experiences are always in the smallest darkest creepiest locations. I guess it matches also the vibe of the music I make. The shows I enjoyed the most took place at Madame Claude and Urban Spree’s basements, definitely. Madame Claude is a 5×5 soundproof, 100% concrete, 100% sealed, sweaty, hot and red-lighted basement. Urban Spree’s basement is a bit bigger (just a couple of meters though), with very industrial pipes throughout the walls. Both are super inspiring and relaxing places for me to perform at. I think it just seems real there, and people are less than 1 metre away from me, which I love.
But you’ve also played festivals, and on your current tour there will be some highlights as well, like Melt. How to transmit all this to a larger crowd?
Well, playing for a larger crowd gives you also more energy, because of the amount of people you have listening to your set, and feeling it, and giving you back what they get from you. If you get a large crowd hyped with your energy, that is definitely going to be a fire show. Imagine receiving the heat of thousands of people vibrating to your tracks.
How’s your live setup nowadays, and how did it change throughout time?
In the beginning I used to perform together with Dj Loder who played each of my tracks as a selector + some serious scratching, while I’d sing and rap them. I think it was a pretty classic hip-hoppish vibe. Selector + Mc. Later Nico Castelli aka Tufi Meme joined and Loder left. At this point Catnapp turned into a more eclectic act. Nico had more control over the music with a controller mapped to Ableton, where he could dub and apply FX to all separate instrument layers for each song, while I was controlling my vocal Fx live. After a few years I decided to move to Europe, so Tufi and I had to drift apart. Then Nico Wussy, who was living in London at the time, joined Catnapp for a couple of months. It was still hard because I wasn’t living in London, but in Berlin. So eventually I started performing alone, doing everything by myself. At the moment I use a keyboard controller, and a knob-fader controller, both hooked to Ableton. I dub and change my tracks instinctively during every show + manage all the effects on my vocals, both things completely live and mostly improvised.
Iʼve also always loved to change or remix my tracks for every show, to create a more dynamic presentation, so most of my tracks are not in their original version when I perform them. This way I also get to miss them, and eventually go back to the original version.
If you had to choose a few pieces of equipment, which ones would they be, and why?
Right now I’m dying to get David Smithʼs Mopho synth. I tried it out some years ago and It’s spacey sounds drive me crazy. Still too poor for it. Iʼd also get the Roli synth. I love how the keys “moosh” and it’s super inspiring to produce with such a different approach. Iʼd choose those two… and just beatbox lol.
What was the hardest thing you had to overcome to dedicate yourself to music?
I guess it’s the fear of not achieving my goals or being a mediocre artist. Through the hard times (and also sometimes the good times) it’s hard to believe in yourself. But actually that’s the key, and I know it sounds cheesy but, no matter what, you have to believe in yourself and in your art. That’s the base of everything. If you donʼt, itʼs probable that no one will.
Have you ever faced a period of no inspiration? And if so, how do you deal with that?
Of course! This happens very often. There are different ways out of it in my opinion. The first one is that you just patiently wait for it to go away. There are moments in which we just can’t create, it’s not the time to stay inside and channel your feelings into a song. You just have to wait until that blocking moment is gone, and focus on other things in the meantime. Or just cry deeply in bed because of how much of a bad artist you feel you are haha.
Another option is that you can’t make anything ’cause you still donʼt have those feelings to create a song about, or you can’t find them. So you have to go outside and look for inspiration, stories, sounds that give you new input to make something out of it. You can also just choose to push yourself thought it, working and not giving up, just looking and looking for new combinations, trying crappy melody after crappy melody until you find something good… But it’s true that when you are not really inspired, it’s much harder for you to recognise potential in anything, even if it’s actually good. When I’m very inspired probably the 1st preset I listen to will be AMAZING and I make an entire song with it. But when I’m not, I’ll just go through all the sounds in the world and hate them all. When Iʼm inspired, Iʼm open and receptive to ideas. When Iʼm not inspired Iʼm kind of artistically blind.
Tell us about the experience of working on your own label Napp Records. What did you expect before making it, and what happened after releasing Flame Bitch? Are there plans for this year with the label?
When I decided to create Napp, I got together with all the people that I thought could bring in some light on the subject: Friends that also had small labels, people from the industry that had to go through similar things. It was amazing how these people just accepted to meet, have a coffee and tell me all they knew about this. They were not necessarily friends, and some of them I had never met before. It seems like they knew what a struggle it could be, and were more than willing to give out a hand. For this I’m forever grateful. I actually had only a slight idea about what running a label was. I had the experience of promoting and releasing myself, so I knew a few things, other things were explained by the people I met, and some other things I had to learn along the way (I’m still learning).
I was surprised by the amount of artists that approached me and offered their music for Napp even though to the date I only released 2 Catnapp tracks on it. This was great! I am at the moment preparing some of the first releases other than my music that the label will have. This is SO exciting. The quality of the music from this guys is insane. I am very thankful that these artists have reached out, given me the change to help them and work together with Napp.
I’ve noticed the shift on the lyrics of your album ‘A Cliff On An Eyeblink’ compared with your previous works, and also with ‘Back’. How would you describe the narrative that you’ve been exploring from your first songs until the last ones?
The style of my lyrics tends to change and evolve, just like me and every other human. I am not afraid of exploring new horizons and trying out new feelings. And of course anything I am, or anything I discover that changes me personally, will also change my music. My music is a direct expression of who I am and what I feel.
In general the subjects of my songs are love, anger… “A Cliff in an Eyeblink” was a detour in all of that and was more about nostalgia, sadness… and the door to Fear opened too. It was a very sensible moment of my life. I think nowadays my tracks are a big fusion of all those feelings. You can still feel the “Cliffness” in current songs like Fade, and the anger in others like Armed. It’s more natural for me to channel Anger instead of nostalgia. Anger comes out very fast. But nostalgia.. I think this is a more intimate process and requires time and introspectiveness. So I think what you could normally expect from me is a lot of aggressiveness in my songs, and every once in a while a soft, sad nostalgic piece will be able to emerge to the surface.
Would you agree that writing lyrics is always an unintentional autobiography? Have you ever tried to escape that concept?
I think the previous question answers that directly. I never try to separate what I feel from my songs. All the opposite. My music is indeed an autobiography for sure. I mean, whoʼs isnʼt? And why would she/he try to escape that..
I know that your grandfather (Ruben Lopez Furst) was a jazz legend whose legacy still remains on many countries. Any memories to share about him?
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about my grandfather now is the smell of coffee in his studioʼs telephone. I used to play “office” there. He had a telephone/fax, and every time I picked it up to “make a call” it would have that coffee grain smell and I would love it. I remember thinking as a child “I hope when I am a grown up I will like coffee”. I also remember being very nervous every time we went to see him play at a big concert. Scared that he would make a mistake and play the wrong key. I asked him once, if he ever made a mistake.. He said no. Lol.
What’s the latest thing that blew your mind?
That you can store 1.000.000.000 Tb in a gram of DNA.
And the latest great thing that you’ve heard?
JPEG Mafia. Those beats and lyrics. I love clever and funny rhymes. This guys have such a flow and content in their songs. Plus the beats are so original and sharp, combined with a trashy, overdriven and noisy vibe. Just the perfect selections of elements at my taste.
Plans for the rest of the year?
Iʼll be releasing new material soon, together with new videos (of course, I’m a video addict). Iʼll be performing in plenty of the big festivals here in Berlin for the first time like Melt and Fusion, which is very exciting!. And probably a Latin American tour at the end of the year, looking forward to that one!!
photo by Antidoto28