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Dustin Mitchell (Katagory V)

Interview with Dustin Mitchell from Katagory V
by Grigoris Chronis at 11 November 2007, 2:40 PM

Dustin Mitchell, bassist for American metallers KATAGORY V, is ready to be bombarded with a set of questions regarding the band's newest Hymns Of Dissension release. Not a new band, KATAGORY V have been serving 'technical' Heavy Metal music for more than eight years, but I feel Hymns Of Dissension is the album that can put them in the Metal map for good!

Dustin, sorry for not being aware of the KATAGORY V name till now. Reading that the band had already released three albums prior to Hymns Of Dissension, I was really shocked I knew nothing ’bout KATAGORY V before. So, please spread the band’s bio in brief!

No need to apologize Greg, it is just good to know that people like yourself finally discover us, really get into our music and understand us. A bio in brief? Well, we are just five normal guys from Utah, a big desert state located in the western United States. There are not a lot of metal bands here either, but it is a very beautiful place to live. We’ve been around for about eight years now and have released four albums, Present Day, A New Breed Of Rebellion, The Rising Anger and just recently Hymns Of Dissension.

I suppose the lack of European deal is a good alibi for those ’meeting’ KATAGORY V for the first time?

I would agree, yes. We’ve always been an import band for years, and most of our European fans would have to pay quite a bit of money to get our albums. So, even though there have been a lot of press for us in Europe in the past, it has always been difficult or expensive to get our albums. We’ve always had great support from what fans we have in Europe, even as few as there might be, oddly enough, our largest amount of fans seem to be located in Germany and Greece. Hopefully with our new album now being available in Europe domestically for the first time, it will get our name out there even more and expose us to new potential fans.

Is the deal with Burning Star Records to be extended for more albums?

Yes, it was for two albums. Although it is still a little too early to tell, things seem to be working well with Burning Star right now, and it probably helps that they are fans of KATAGORY V and know our history. We are confident that it will be a good working relationship down the road. We want to be sure that we are a good band for them as well as a good lable for us.

So, in the flesh: how was the period during which you wrote the songs for Hymns…? Are there any tunes dating back to older days? How long did it take you to compose the songs and how long was the recording process?

It was a fairly short period of writing as well as recording compared to our past albums, which in total only took about a year or so, which is fast for us. All the songs on the album are new songs except for the bonus tracks that are re-recorded and one of the other tracks on the U.S. release. We spent about 6-8 months writing the album and another 3-5 months recoding and mixing it. We actually had started writing it before our last album was released, and as of now, we are writing our next album right now and already have about four or five songs. We are a hard working band and like to keep busy.

Really, who handles the music and lyrics in the bands? Is there some kind of ’jamming’ style at times or everything is organized strictly?

It is a mixture of both. Me and Curtis are the primary songwriters in the band. I usually will come into the studio with a fully written song, mostly all the music, and sometimes lyrics or melodies. Curtis sometimes has full songs ready to go or a few select riff ideas and Marc will often times have a few riffs that just need to be orchestrated a bit. There are a few songs that come together by just jamming on a few riffs on the spot, but it is very rare.

Till I dig back to the band’s previous albums (I got some idea from your MySpace page), some info on possible differentiation of Hymns… in regards to your previous works would be really helpful.

Hymns… is a bit more melodic, with more hooks and also a bit more aggressive in nature, compared to our earlier albums. I think the songwriting has gotten better from album to album, and we’ve grown as musicians and songwriters over the years, and Hymns… is proof of this. Our first album, Present Day, is a really raw sounding album, almost like it was written and recorded in 1988 and a lot of the songs are very basic U.S. metal-style songs, A New Breed… was a but more technical, along the lines of WATCHTOWER-meets-HELSTAR, and had a thinner sound, but has some really great songs.

That album is often misunderstood due to its production, but those that give it a chance really enjoy it. The Rising Anger was a huge step forward for us, combining the best parts of the previous two albums only this time with a stronger production and sound. Hymns…  is closer to where we want to be in our sound and style, we are not quite there, but I think wee are getting closer to what we want now. I am certain that we will always be changing and experimenting with things and growing as time passes, but the bottom line is that each KATAGORY V album will be a true U.S. metal-style album.

Dustin, does KATAGORY V play this kind of power/prog/on-the-edge-speed/thrash Metal mixture? Was it the initial goal to perform this – rather difficult – kind of music or things came on naturally?

Yes, it has always been our initial goal to combine several styles of metal, because we all listen to so many different types of music. We all grew up with many of the late 80’s early 90’s metal bands, but we also all have different backgrounds and musical tastes. Rather than try really hard to develop our own sound, we just write songs and let things flow naturally, if it sounds good, we keep it. If we write a song that sounds more like a hard rock song and then another song that is more thrash metal, we don’t care, it is more important to us to make sure that it is a good song and that we like it. For us, it is more important to have a variety in our music, rather than the same sounding formula throughout an album.

That has been a big problem for some metal fans since many like to hear the same thing over and over, and even for some record labels we have talked to in the past; they would hear one or two songs from us that they really liked and would want us to write 10 or 12 of the same sounding songs in order to get a deal, they did not understand our music or what KATAGORY V is about. We are not a band that plays by the rules when it comes to writing, and we definitely don’t want to be predictable or become bland. When we write an album, we want to be sure every song is different, or that there is a big variety of tempos, melodies, and styles. It keeps it interesting for us, as well as for our true fans. Regardless of the variety of metal styles we incorporate, we are, and always will be, a heavy metal band at the end of the day.

The music in Hymns… is both melodic and powerful, complex enough yet ’user friendly’ it reminds me – and so I wrote down in the album’s review – this band seems to sum up the feeling of many underrated(?) US Metal bands like NEVERMORE, (early-to-mid period?) FATES WARNING, ’organized’ JAG PANZER (meaning TITAN FORCE?), ’furious’ HELSTAR or ’mature’ VICIOUS RUMORS plus a couple of really underrated bands like ARCANE, APOLLO RA or TENSION. OK, the IRON MAIDEN influence is here, but I feel KATAGORY V tend to extend their sound and songwriting to something more multifarious but definitely ’metal’. Have you studied music in general?

Thank you, we take that as a very big compliment! Your initial description describes exactly what KATAGORY V is about and our music, so it is obvious that you understand what we do, and it is good to know you like it. Many of these bands are obvious influences for us, and will certainly come out in our song writing. We have also had the pleasure of sharing the stage with some of them, but our musical tastes extend even farther than that.

Curtis has had extended studies in music orchestration and composition, and I have also done the same, as well as a lot of music theory. The other guys in the band are pretty much self-taught without any extra collage instruction or schooling, so there is an even balance when it comes to writing. It is difficult to shake off all the rules you learn in school, so it is nice to have a different perspective from someone else who hasn’t been schooled, because they tend to go with the ’feel’ of a song rather than how it ’should’ be, which is a benefit, and it also works the other way as well… sometimes you need a more theoretical or practical compositional approach to make sure the songs works.

Not to forget: Hymns of Dissension will also include two very special bonus tracks. What’s it all about?

That’s right. Both the U.S. and European releases will have two special bonus tracks. This was more or less to appease the labels and to prevent crossing the territorial lines concerning sales, so that the album would also be differentiated between the two. When this was decided, we wanted to make sure each territory had songs that would be special to those fans. For the European release, we recorded a song called Anthems Of The Underground which is very much a U.S. heavy metal sounding song, so it will appease to the fans in Europe that really love U.S. metal, and we also re-recorded the song Evil Princess from our first album. This song was a bit of an underground hit in Europe per say, especially amongst our German fans, if you asked them about KATAGORY V, they will always mention this song. We wanted to update it with a better sound and production and give it back to the European fans that have supported us for so long.  

The U.S. version contains a song that was recorded during The Rising Anger sessions called, Enemy. It is a very good, progressive and technical song, with that FATES WARING-esque vibe. We didn’t release back then, but after hearing it once more we decided to add it as a bonus track. The other song on the U.S. release is a re-recoding of Sands Of Time which was from our 2nd album  A New Breed Of Rebellion. Again, this is one of the fan favorites and we wanted to do it justice with a better production job. This version of the song is how it really should have sounded, and is very, very heavy and sonic.

Hey, have you lined up any dates yet in support of Hymns…? US Metal bands are not that easy – I think – to tour outside the US, but what’s the status so far?

No, not at this time. Touring is a very expensive endevour unless you have the proper support or unless you are touring with a much larger band, and at this time we have no offers or plans to do so. However, we are looking to book dates for a few select metal festivals over in Europe, so at the very least we will be making efforts to get over there for some one-off dates at some festivals.

Do you keep yourselves up-to-date with what’s going on in the current Metal scene? Are you ’into’ any extreme or Goth/Nu Metal stuff that’s dominating the worldwide Metal market at times?

I am probably one of the only guys in the band that is current with what is happening in metal. Marc is also semi-current on things as we always talk about a lot of bands at the studio. Curtis, Matt and Lynn usually don’t keep up on things as much unless me or Marc happen to let them hear something and they happen to like it, they are very picky and see the glass being half-empty when it comes to the current metal scene. I personally listen to a lot of extreme metal like death and black metal, but I don’t really listen much to the NU-metal or Metal-core bands that are really big right now.

Most of my listening tastes range from 80’s hard rock to 70’s progressive rock, but I also enjoy a lot of extreme metal, thrash and most any metal that came from the 80’s or 90’s. As a song writer, I try to listen to a lot of different things, as I don’t want to become stagnate in both my listening tastes as well as creativity. I do my best to keep up with a lot of the new bands when I can; I am always looking to hear something new.

Hymns… is a good chance for European fans to get familiar to the KATAGORY V sound, but I don’t see if and how younger metallers (teenagers, mainly) can be ’seduced’ by this style? You feel you can win young Metal fans in some way?

We are always hopeful that we can win over younger fans with our music. But it is sure to be very difficult thing being that we don’t have an ’image’ or a ’gimmick’ to sell like many of the younger bands that are popular right now, we only have our music to offer. It has always been the case that image sells the band more than the music, there are a lot of below average bands that are really big right now because they have the ’look’ and the financial backing, but they seriously lack in songwriting talent. That is a very difficult thing to overcome, especially here in America. DRAGONFORCE would be a prime example of this. When they emerged about eight years ago, Who would have thought they would have become so huge here in the States amongst the younger generation?

They have a look and a gimmick with excellent publicity and tour promotions which have garnered them some real popularity in the states, but in my opinion, they are extremely skilled on their instruments for sure and a decent metal band, but severely lack in creativity concerning their songwriting.  At the end of the day, although impressive to a point,  I could care less what a band looks like or wears, or how fast or flashy a band plays, it all boils down to how well they can write songs and keep my attention. But that is my own personal taste and opinion, and that is not what younger metal fans look for they tend to be attracted to image and gimmicks.

Really, what does ’KATAGORY V’ stand for? Is it some kind of code?

It is funny really, but we get asked this all the time. Sadly there is no story or meaning and nothing interesting about it. When we came up with the name, it was because we could not agree on anything, and this name was one that a majority of the band at the time liked. We had a list of 20 or 30 band name ideas and this one was the only one we could get three out of five guys in the band to agree on. However, it was originally spelled correctly as Category 5, and I told the other guys in the band that there are already too many bands with that name. So we collectively decided to misspell it on purpose so we could use it, sort of the way SAVATAGE or KATAKLYSM do. However, when looking back, it didn’t mean anything then, but I think the name actually has more meaning now than it did back then, especially to our fans. At least, in a more sentimental way.

Dustin, thanks a lot for your precious time. Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for the interview Greg, we appreciate the support! We hope anyone reading this has a chance to check us out and pick up the new album. We’d also encourage everyone out there to help spread the word of KATAGORY V, and drop by our forum on our official website or myspace page and say hello!


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