Kataan: An Interview

Kataan is a band from New Hampshire.

Lush and evocative waves of guitar. Blasting and crashing percussive explosions. This is the stuff that forms the core of Kataan's sound. We had a chance to chat on the eve of their EP debut on Prosthetic Records.

(photography credit: MeiLing Boland)

Weirding: Words like "vast" and "expansive" come to mind when listening to your music. You seem to create these landscapes of sound.

Nick: A lot of times I find myself getting the beginning of an idea rooted in some personal experience; be that a specific memory, a dream, or something that just makes me think. I like to take that and explore it, let my mind run with it and see what mental imagery it generates.  

Weirding: So, I'm interested when putting together a song like 'Abyss', are you creating a sound that represents a place in this world or is it representative of something beyond?

Nick: I’m not a believer in anything but science, but writing music is the one time I want my mind to wander into these unreal landscapes.

Weirding: Makes sense.

Nick: I’ve always found the notion of any other form of reality to be very dark and fascinating.

Weirding: Speaking of dark and fascinating, talk to me about the album cover art. It feels both in motion and frozen in place at the same time.

Nick: All the credit for the artwork goes to Travis Smith. 

Weirding: I’ve always thought about him as someone who is able to evoke something of the sense of the music in his art while the artwork itself sort of guides the listener into the world of the music. [ed. — Smith has worked on design and album art with many metal luminaries, including a relationship with Opeth since Still Life. His artwork graces the cover of In Cauda Venenum and probably his most well known piece is the cover art for Death’s The Sound of Perseverance.]

Nick: He immediately understood exactly what we were picturing and we were both blown away at how the artwork and design came out. I like sort of intentionally vague imagery that makes you look hard at it, that you have to figure out for yourself what exactly it means.

Weirding: It sort of links up with the rush of the music.

Nick: If the art and the music together can evoke some kind of feeling in people, nothing makes me happier. Because I know how that feels from the other end — and there’s nothing like it.

Weirding: So, you both have significant musical experience. In starting up this new project, did you have a sound and concept in mind and then built towards that? Or did it develop over time?

Nick: This definitely developed over time. It was a long process getting these songs to a place where we were completely satisfied, but I don’t think we could be any happier with the result. When the EP was complete, we both had a feeling of “Oh, so that’s our sound”.

Weirding: Music question here… Brett, in playing and recording both drums and bass on the new EP, I'm wondering the extent to which the drums influence your approach to bass whereas so often in metal the bass follows the guitar (often to a fault).

Brett: I've always had an affinity for the bass. I can really appreciate when a bass player creates that bridge between the rhythm section and the harmonic structure of the music. 

Weirding: The drums are very central to these compositions and on repeat listens I'm hearing so much interlocking of rhythms and accents between the two.

Brett: There were times where I would want to really attach myself to the kick drum, and make that the backbone of what I was doing rhythmically, while seeing what would make the chord structure a little more interesting with what Nick was doing on the guitars. 

Weirding: At the same time, the tone on those big bass notes sometimes has the effect of a deep droning synth.

Brett: It's a fun exercise and I'm happy Nick gave me the creative license to mess around a little bit from the norm of metal.

Weirding: It definitely works for the best. And it sounds like things came together and you all have laid down a substantive foundation upon which to build your sound.

Brett: Something definitely clicked at that point, and we’re very excited to continue writing new songs in a more focused frame of mind.

Weirding: JF and I write as a duo, so I'm always interested in talking to duos — especially about the songwriting and recording challenges duos can present. The tracks on the EP have this huge and complex sound that definitely comes across as sort of a full band approach to songwriting. So I'm wondering how you manage and to what degree you each are wearing a number of different hats (if not feeling like you have multiple personalities) as you manage that amount of complexity as two people responsible for the writing, performing, production and whatnot. 

Nick: I would say that both of us are wearing all hats for the band. Brett is definitely the mastermind when it comes to bringing the songs to the next level, but writing is very much a joint effort. 

Weirding: So tell me a bit more about how you all handle songwriting duties between the two of you.

Nick: Generally (up to this point) I’ll bring a guitar song to Brett and we’ll workshop it from there.  In the future you’ll see even more of a split in the writing. We’re not concerned with who has to do what.

We’re just focused on whatever it takes to get everything to a point where we’re satisfied.

Weirding: So, maybe it might be more liberating to be working together this way as opposed to dealing with a larger group?

Nick: I agree with that statement. I find it a much better process to write with just two of us involved. It can get hard to try and take multiple people's ideas and opinions and make that work without warping the original idea sometimes in a larger group. That’s not to say that it can't have its benefits, but the two of us have a very clear vision for Kataan and are generally on the same page, which is great.


Kataan is Nicholas Thornbury (formerly Vattnet Viskar) on guitar and vocals and Brett Boland (Astronoid) on drums and bass.

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