Lors de son passage à l’UBU de Rennes le 3 avril dernier, nous avons eu l’occasion de rencontrer Cata Pirata, chanteuse et leader du groupe Skip & Die, et de lui poser quelques questions sur son travail artistique, à la croisée des chemins entre la musique, la mode et les arts plastiques.
MXXI – To what extent fashion and visual arts in general do influence or not your musical composition ? Is it a pure balanced complementarity or is one of them preceding or determining the second one ?
Cata Pirata – I think they are separated. Like fashion is separated from visual arts and is also separated from music, but they’re all different forms of inspiration. Let me just think how I write my songs. Well, for me the thing is I get to make the music videos which is a visual art form and I write the songs… and then together I work with a stylist to create fashion visual which is part of the story. The song basically consists out of different layers which is the written so the very like personal -the writing, the poetry- and then there is the visual that comes later because the idea of the visual is actually a completely different story to me. So first, I write the song, which is one world, and then, the visual is another world. And finally, in collaboration with the designer, it becomes another thing.
MXXI – Many people seem to consider your music as a sort of a very original patchwork of various influences and cultures, would you say that it’s the same for your visual identity ?
CP – Yes, definitely ! I think everything that I do as an artist is a collage really, it’s like an assemblage of odds, different informations and different experiences and different emotions and different cultures and different sounds… and they really trickles though, that concept trickles throughout the whole thing so we don’t really have one genre/gender of music but it’s a patchwork of different genres/genders all mixed up to one to create our own personal genre/gender I would say. And the same goes for the visuals, it’s always like cut and paste kind of the idea of it you know like the editing, the artwork for the albums…
MXXI – You do that yourself ?
CP – Yeah, I do that with my brother. We do it together. He’s a graphic designer and I’m a visual artist and we get to combine the work so that’s cool. It’s really fun !
MXXI – Are you somehow influenced by psychedelism, the seapunk movement, punk, grunge… and even kitsch maybe ? If so, in which extent are you integrating them to your style ?
CP – I would say that’s really like an organic process. I don’t really think “oh, what are the movements right now and let me get into them.” It’s just kind of the things that you meet along the way… we’re really lucky because we tour so much. Everyday we see different influences and we meet different people and I see interesting styles or I talk to people that tell me interesting stories and stuff like that, so… it’s a very natural process. I don’t really think “ok now I need to look at this style” or anything.
MXXI – It’s like a sort of collection..?
CP – Yeah, exactly ! It’s a casual collection. And also like with the seapunk movement, I think it’s a really interesting movement but I wouldn’t necessarily associate myself entirely with that movement.
MXXI – You wouldn’t say you are a seapunk princess or something like that ?
CP – No, no, no, no, no ! Not at all because I think, for me, I mean for a lot of people, maybe they’re hardcore in seapunk I don’t know but for me, that’s just, it’s merely just one element that interests me about a subculture.
MXXI – So there’s no need to categorise ourselves and it’s just natural ?
CP – No, I mean for me it doesn’t feel that way. I mean when I was younger, when I was like sixteen, I used to listen to a lot of rap so I wore baggy pants…
MXXI – So gangsta !
CP – Yeah, I was really like “rap” but I also listened to Nirvana and grunge and I had long hair and, you know, I was really like headbanging.
MXXI – It was a real non-sense.
CP – (laughs) Yeah, everyone was like “What are you doing ?” So I was never really stuck to one thing ever and people always thought I was weird because of that. Because I know it when you’re a teenager, people are like “I’m like in the hip-hop crew” or “I’m in the alternative” or “I’m -I don’t know- pop”… You know people, and kids especially, really like to identify and to be part of something. You really have to stick to one thing but I was always like “Hey ! I like this and I like that and I just like take it all and make it mine !”
MXXI – And don’t you think on that point that this new connected generation is more into this idea of picking up different elements and creating more complex and personal identities ?
CP – Yeah, I do agree with that because I already see it. […] Cultures are very different. If you look for example the youth culture in Argentina, the kids are a lot more fanatic about certain movements of music so you have a lot of rock or emo, or you know really strong fanatics whereas more in Europe, in Holland for example -that I know the culture well as well-, they’re just like “Oh ! […]” It doesn’t matter. You can’t really tell by looking at a person what they like. So in one hand, it’s really… I appreciate both ways because I like, I love seeing passion and I love seeing kids that are super passionate about one thing and just like go for it completely. That’s beautiful. But I also like that idea that just if I look at you I don’t know who you are, I’ll have to really get to know you to understand the layers of the things that make you you.
MXXI – Who are your favorite fashion designer and visual artists ?
CP – It is so haard ! Well, I do want to mention one of my friends who is a young designer. Her name is Anne Van Den Boogaard. She recently made such a beautiful outfit for me, which is completely made of so many different layers. She made it in one and a half weeks. She’s completely crazy, beautifully crazy and she really made some beautiful stuffs I really want people to see.
MXXI – Where is she from ?
CP – She’s from Holland. She studied in the UK. So, really I would like to mention her because I have a lot of respect for her. If you google her, I’m sure you’ll find her website. Actually, a lot of my friends are designers and I really like working with young people that are living their passion and trying to make their dreams possible because that’s what I’m doing as well. So, that’s nice to work with your peers so you can all build up together.
Hmm, I’m really terrible in naming like bigger designers. I know when I see them, I like them but I don’t fucking remember their names (laughs). I mean I think I get more inspired by looking at paintings or visual art -installations and stuff like that-, I thing I get a lot more inspired than if I only look at fashion designers. So, for example, if I look at the stuff that Frida Kahlo made, that inspires me and also inspires my fashion. So, it’s not necessary that I have to see fashion in order to create a style : I’ll see a painting by Frida Kahlo that dreams gave me an inspirational mind, and then I’ll kind of like dress or make my outfit look like the dream or the feeling that I got from her painting.
MXXI – And do you sometimes create clothes yourself ?
CP – Yeah, I do actually ! I designed a shoe -green sandals- and I actually wanna set promoting those because they’re really fun and nice for the summer (laughs). So yeah, I designed a shoe. Now I’m making tie&dye clothes and I want to sell them in a webshop. These are like little summer dresses. I mean, it’s not an original idea tie&dye but I fucking love it ! I love the fact that you can choose the colours that you make, that’s really fun ! It’s also kind of like hmm… I like sewing things. It’s kind of a meditation moment, also making the colours. I do this with that ice dye : I put ice all over the t-shirt and the dresses and then I put the colour powder over, the ice melts and that creates a beautiful pattern. It’s fun, right ?! (laughs)
MXXI – Have you ever thought about publishing a big book with all your greatest photos and looks ? We think you should do that -with you hair colours and stuff.
CP – Oh yeah ?! I think that’s a really good idea, I never thought about that. I thought about publishing a book but more of writing, not really of my looks. I don’t know.
MXXI – You should, you should. That may sound weird but you should. For fashion students for example, I think it would be very interesting.
CP – Ok, cool ! I should think about that, thank you ! (laughs)
MXXI – That’s maybe my interpretation but I feel that you embody through your relation to music, dance, language, fashion… a sort of free, liberated and creative model of woman, do you have a special awareness of this and are you willing to have smoothly through art maybe a subtle political and social impact on modern women ?
Hmm… Yeah, I feel like there is definitely a wave of strong female that want to change the way that they’re perceived and change the way that they actually can live their lives and their place in the world. And yeah, I do feel I’m one of them just like you guys are as well you know. Like we are the women that want to have a change in the world. So, I see that as part of the core of what I do. I do always feel that there has to be some kind of message, not necessarily political, but I do think that most of the things that we do are political. Everything has kind of a social impact in some way or portrays something. So, yeah, I do think that there’s a part of me that can be very vocal as well.
MXXI – And do you think maybe about other feminine artists in music, singers… who are for you personalities who are changing that too ? What do you think for example about Lady GaGa ? Is it just commercial for you and you don’t like it at all…? Because she has a connexion with fashion that’s really a process and what she’s doing is very specific…
CP – Yeah, exactly. I think she’s definitely taking an extreme path, which I think can be a good thing definitely, because it shows a completely different way to be able to go instead of just sticking to one model. And creating this new model, I think that is very interesting, I mean you can love or hate what she does but she does create something that people have to form an opinion about or it sparks some kind of interest or dialogues, and I find that very interesting. I mean, it is really like her sound is so pop and it’s not my thing but I do respect her for pushing her boundaries, like Madonna pushed boundaries as well. But I think, there are a lot of women in a more underground scene that are doing it in a much more organic way, that are not necessarily saying “Oh, I need to go completely extreme to do things !” But that’s a funny thing I guess, the more extreme you go, the more people look at you. On one hand, that’s cool but on the other hand, it’s also cool to be yourself and just kind of gradually push your message forward and stuff. For example, for me and a lot of my friends, it feels quite sustainable, we can survive with what we do and we’re like planting our seeds all together, you know. For me, I don’t want to put on a façade and I feel sometimes that if you go to a complete extreme, it’s kind of like a façade to take on this one singular role and you’re saying “Ok, this is who I am”, but actually it’s not. You know, we’re so layered as human beings. What I personally try to do is to show the different layers of myself. You know, I can be a strong woman but I can also fucking cry. I can be in touch with my femininity but I can also be badass. (laughs) So it’s nice and I embrace all these different emotions.
MXXI – What do you think about this general tendency of creating global art and shows with music, dance, videos, photos, drama… getting more and more mixed together in shows ? Do you include yourself in this movement ?
CP – Oh yeah, completely multimedia. I love it ! And yeah I feel so. I used to do all the visuals like live visuals for Skip&Die as well. At a certain point, I stopped because it was too much like I wanted to focus mainly on doing the show and not doing the visuals and the show as well. It was just too much. But I would like to bring the visuals back into the show at some point and it also depends on the shows that we do ; sometimes, it’s more intimate and sometimes, it’s much bigger and you don’t have that much power over how you present the show, you just have to do a show… But I also like for example doing, as an artist, sit down in lot of performances in museums. So, it’s really fun to take it to different settings and see how people react and also how you feel, you know, sometimes, there’s a stage and sometimes there’s no stage so that has a different feeling. So, it’s an interesting process.
MXXI – But do you think that, to be more efficient, we have to use art in many ways at the same time to touch people more ?
CP – I don’t think so… I mean, there is the danger that we all become so immune to stimulate because we’re stimulated 24/7. You know like on Instagram, you don’t even actually look at a photo for more than one second, you scroll. You’re really scrolling and you’re taking up all those informations and you’ve seen the entire world in like five seconds. So, there’s the danger there that it’s not actually capturing you. I mean, you can see one image out of 500 images that you think “Hey ! Oh well, this is interesting ! Hmm, I’m gonna look into that.” I think it’s some of a danger because it does make one think “Ok, I need to do this and then I need to do that and then add this and if I don’t have like confettis and if I don’t have everything going at the same time, people will lose interest.” I think that’s a big fear, you see like lots of big shows that need to have everything like cannons and like balloons and then big bubbles than you can roll into the audience with. I mean, that’s fun and it’s entertaining but that’s also overstimulating all the time. And what are we doing to ourselves psychologically if you think about it ? How are we gonna start reaching each other and us being connected to ourselves with the over-stimulation all the time in our faces ?
MXXI – Are you afraid maybe of losing yourself and the other people in the crowd ?
CP – Hmm, no, it’s not that necessarily. It’s an interesting question in our social culture like “How is this over-stimulation actually affecting the psyche of a culture ?” That’s more what I mean. But I don’t have the answer for that it’s just something that I honestly do think about. Like “Do we need more on the stage ?”
MXXI – And then you’re sometimes too focused on the details…
CP – Yeah, exactly. I mean, when you play a show, it’s also if you just like do shows that are really intimate in small places where all you have is the acoustics instruments ’cause that can suddenly feel intimate if you take away all the different, crazy layers. It’s nice to think about the different ways of presenting something.
MXXI – Do you think maybe one day about giving up music to concentrate and focus on your fashion and visual projects ?
CP – I don’t think I’ll give up music. Maybe doing less, that I definitely would like to do in the sense that I would like to have a different structure of the tour. For example, now we’ve had two years of full touring and it’s really intense. You’re never in one place like, you’re always in different places, so it’s kind of like your soul is somewhere you have to keep like getting it. It’s like you’re in the bus but you left a part of you still there and you’re kind of pulling it on tired days, you know the days that are really intense. Other days, you’re just full of life and you’re meeting people and you’re “Woaw, this is a new place, different culture so amazing !” But it can really get intense because you only sleep like five hours a night and then you’re travelling and everything. So, I would like to restructure the tour, maybe tour for two months and have one month to focus on myself or different art forms, and then tour again for two months… Taking it back to a different kind of life-style. And yeah, then I would like to focus more on making films -that’s something that I’d really like to do. Because now I make all the music videos, but I always make the videos and then I don’t feel satisfied with them because I always have to make them while I’m on tour, so it’s a rush so obviously when I’m in the tour van, I’m thinking about it, I’m making the concept, making the mood board you know, doing everything like that but then it’s like “Ok, when you get back from tour, you have two days to make the video and then go to the next thing.” So, it always feel somewhat like I’m not expressing myself entirely the way I want to express myself. Always kind of rushing. So, I would love to have bit longer period of time to actually really develop a film -short film, but really develop more the characters… So I’d like more time for that.
MXXI – Is that your ultimate goal ?
CP – Films and more writing I think, release and publish a book or something with imagery as well.
MXXI – About your life ?
CP – Hmm yeah, I would say not a novel but more like the way I write my songs which are more fragments. Poetry, thoughts then with imagery. A sort of diary…
MXXI – So you’ve got two books to write…
CP – (laughs) Exactly, yeah !
MXXI – And about the film, there would be drama, dialogues… or it would be only music ?
CP – Oh no, there would be dialogues. Yeah, definitely dialogues.
MXXI – Do you have friends in cinema ?
CP – Well, my parents are film makers. I’ve always been into making films. I also studied documentary. I did a year of documentary film making. So, I do have the background, I just don’t have the time (laughs). It’s also like “Do it yourself” kind of idea. That’s how, as an artist, I like to approach things. I mean, we’re all very capable of doing things, you just have to want to do them or create a concept. As an artist, I always think I can do anything, not everything very well (laughs) like Rembrandt paintings, I will never do that but I could try and then it would be my own kind of painting. But, I think, if you have an idea, there are so many different ways to express it.
MXXI – What are you currently listening to on the tour bus ?
CP – Let me just look on my Spotify ! (laughs) Well, when we’re on the tour van, we don’t actually listen to that much together because I have a ukulele and Gino has a guitar so we play a lot and then sing and stuff… That’s really fun ! Yeah… I was recently listening to… (looks at her phone) It’s not new, it’s actually really old. It’s really cool. It’s an african artist called Francis Bebey. If you listen to it, there’s this one song, it’s really beautiful. I really really enjoy it. The song is called Forrest Nativity.
Oh ! And what I’m also listening to, it’s not music or it’s not like a band or anything. It’s basically a frequency. It’s 528 Hz and basically it’s to repair your DNA. It’s really cool to listen to that. I do before I go to sleep, and it really like puts you into this kind of a trance. It’s similar to white noise but it has a specific frequency. Because, sometimes, you just don’t want to listen to any music. I mean, I’m very sensitive so when I hear a song and the lyrics really affect me, they can change my complete mood. So, if I hear a sad song, I’ll start feeling that way because I would tap into my own emotions, and then I’ll just be like “Urgh, I was in a good mood and now I’m just like heartbroken ! And I’m not even heartbroken !” (laughs). So, sometimes, you don’t want to listen to music because it’s just like too powerful (laughs). So, there’s always this kind of longing…
MXXI – But don’t worry, listening to Skip&Die makes people happy ! I slept only three hours tonight and I felt pretty terrible and then I put your tune on and it was perfect !
CP – Yes ! Good ! Oh good, I’m glad ! (laughs)
MXXI – So we were sad when they delayed the French release of the new album [Cosmic Serpents] because we were expecting it…
CP – Yeah, I don’t know like they have different times for different territories. I think they say like “Ok well Friday works the best in England. Monday, people will buy more there…” (laughs) I don’t fucking know !
MXXI – So you’re playing songs from this new album in your show tonight ?
CP – Yeah exactly ! That’s really nice because we’ve toured for two years just with one album, and now we have two albums. So, it’s nice to have some change. And it’s also really new so it’s very exciting still for us because, you know, not everything goes 100 % right all the time because it’s still new or we’re still like trying different things out. So, it’s still exciting and it’s nice to be excited again because if you play the same songs, which is also fun ’cause you start to hear different things in the same songs as you play them every night so you start playing them in a different way or you feel more power because you know the songs so well. But now, I kinda feel like a child again with all trying new things. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn’t (laughs).
MXXI – So you prepared your French for tonight for your song in French [Maloya Magic] ?
CP – Ouuh, I don’t know if we’re gonna play that song ! It is a very nice song I like it because it was with our friends from La Réunion.
MXXI – Where do you go after tonight ? France or other countries ?
CP – I know we are in France for two weeks and then we’re going to Germany and then Spain, then Holland and Belgium…
MXXI – You’ve basically seen every country in the world now !
CP – We’ve done Asia but not that much. We’ve only done South Korea and then China.
MXXI – Is there a country where it’s complicated, because of a more restrictive culture, to make your stuff ?
CP – I know when we went to China, we had to send them all our lyrics to see if they weren’t too much propaganda. We sent them some lyrics but not all the lyrics (laughs). So, yeah, that was interesting because they can say if you get your visa or not to go on tour there. And yeah Russia also. I was a bit nervous to go to Russia but I really wanted to go to Russia because when we did the tour in Russia, it was during the same time as they put the law about propaganda and homosexuals. I feel very strong about that topic and it really, really makes me angry, but I knew I had a lot of fans there that wanted us to come and a lot of people were saying “Boycott Russia !”. I was like “no, I don’t want to boycott Russia because I know we have a lot of fans there that I want to support”. One thing that I was scared about is that as a lot of our fans were in the same place, you don’t know what can happen, as there were a lot of kids being beaten up at that time. So it’s kind of scary if we say “Ok, we play here and love everyone” that hooligans and that kind of mentality people would come to the show because of that. So, I was a bit nervous about that, especially since we released the “Señorita” video then I was kind of nervous what kind of repercussion it would have but I really felt strongly about going there.
[Jori comes in with a very colorful t-shirt from Columbia looking for his backpack and then leaves] MXXI – People aren’t that colorful in France…
CP – Really ?! I mean, the stereotype of France is that they wear black yeah. Elegant, very classic, timeless.
MXXI – That’s changing with the new generation. We dye our hair pink too in France ! (laughs)
And what will you do next with your hair ?
CP – Me ? Shit, I don’t know..! I like what I have now actually !
MXXI – Another question about your hair : is it like “In one month, I’m going to do that and then that..” or is it more “Fuck it, I’m drunk, let’s cut it out !”
CP – (laughs) No, it’s more I look in the mirror like “Fuck ! What the hell is going on with your hair ?! You need something radical and you need something to happen now !” But I must say I really fucked up my hair because I bleached it so often so that I could put a new colour on it. It really fucked up so I’m really sad about that. One day, I was bleaching it and then just like a whole bunch of hair, like the ends, came off. What I have now is just safer for my hair because I can just take care of it. I’m not dying it like I just let it grow.
MXXI – Do you have like your own hairdresser ?
CP – I have one of my girlfriends who does my braids and stuff like that yeah. She’s really good and really nice. So I just go at her house for like four hours and she braids my hair (laughs).
MXXI – Many of your friends seem to be artists…
CP – Yeah definitely… It’s just like you go to certain places where interesting things happen and they turn out to be artists. I mean, I don’t discriminate, I’m even friend with doctors… (laughs)
MXXI – Do you have a final word to say ?
CP – I feel like I’ve talked so much… (laughs)
MXXI – Thank you very much !
Propos recueillis par Héloïse Guéguen et Eléna Tissier