THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Michael Cathro of Ha the Unclear

 |   |  3 min read

Ha the Unclear: Secret Lives of Furniture
THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Michael Cathro of Ha the Unclear

On any given week Elsewhere receives at least half a dozen very interesting albums and about twice as many which are interesting enough to be worthy of attention. And then quite a few that -- very interesting or bloody awful -- just fall through the cracks . . . because of those dozens of others.

We do our best, but it's always a pleasure when albums step up for their genius, uniqueness or just plain "what the hell is that all about?" quality.

The album Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go by Ha the Unclear  (reviewed here) immediately came into the "what the hell . . .?" category, and is certain unique and quite possibly bent genius all at once.

It is quirky but poppy, is chock full ofd fascinating lyrics (some of which are left-field narratives or perspctives) and . . .

It's available to stream or buy from here and you should do yourself a favour and have a listen (with credit card in hand). Their website is here.

Okay, some facts. Ha the Unclear are a band out of Dunedin around singer-songwriter Michael Cathro who was previously in the local group Brown, and band members include a couple who play in Alizarin Lizard. It was recorded in Dunedin's Albany St Studios with producer Oli WIlson where it warmer and quieter than his bedroom where the songs and band sound were conceived.

Emma Smith in the Listener called the album "a mildly disturbing and distinctly local listen". We said that it was "not just the interesting lyrics, but how these songs are couched in clever, slightly familiar backdrops of pop guitars, sometimes sweet pop harmony vocals as a counterpoint to the blunt language, and a real integrity in his delivery. And the Kiwi vernacular."

Enough of this, let's throw the questionnaire to Cathro who says, “Hopefully we fit somewhere between the absurdist and the pop melodists" -- and gives us the rare and happy opportunity of running a Malevich image.

Oh, and there is a New Zealand tour coming, see the dates below 

The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .

My Dad had a bunch of Beatles cassettes that I used to play and rewind for hours copying down the lyrics and trying to decipher the words when I was a kid.

Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .

I went through a Nirvana phase in my teens. I started out playing bass lines on my guitar along with MTV: Unplugged in New York.

Lennon or Jagger, Ramones or Nirvana, Madonna or Gaga, Jacko or Jay-Z?

A hur hur Lennon, Nirvana, Madonna, Jacko

If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .

Psychology

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .

The Maybe Pile – Be Revolted

The Nerves – When You Find Out

The Mountain Goats – Spent Gladiator 2

Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?

For a sentimental person, I’m not very sentimental..

The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .

Bob Dylan – Chronicles: Volume One

If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)

Anyone who’d let me ruin their night by playing a trumpet. So probably playing my own interpretations of the Trout Mask Replica album with Don Van Vliet.

The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .

El Topo

Le Ballon Rouge

Memento

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

bad_premonition.jpg_BlogI can’t remember the last time I bought a CD.. but my last download was probably Kane Strang’s A Pebble and a Paper Crane

One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you in that case would be . . .

The theme song from Duck Tales

The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .

Half Figure in a Yellow Shirt by Malevich

You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .

A caricature of my face on my face

David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where, doing . . .?

haIf it was just me that had five years, first I would confess to causing the St Clair sink holes, then I would spend a lot of it in South Asia moving as slowly as possible and doing crosswords.

If it was everyone, I’d run around saying I told you so.

And finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”

It is by far the album we have put the most work into. We spent more time on the songs and we recorded more instruments, the songs are more fully realised and we ended up with something we quite like.

HA THE UNCLEAR?MICHAEL CATHRO TOUR DATES

18th September - The Perc, Dunedin (acoustic show)

19th September - Chick’s Hotel, Dunedin

25th September - San Fran, Wellington

26th September - Great Job, Palmerston North

4th October - Frieda Margolis, Auckland (acoustic show)

23 October - Whammy, Auckland (Halloween Show)

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   The Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire articles index

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: David Donaldson of Thrashing Marlin

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: David Donaldson of Thrashing Marlin

Bassist David Donaldson has had a very long career in New Zealand music dating right back to the first albums on the Braille label out of Wellington in the early Eighties. Donaldson appeared in the... > Read more

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Simon Thacker

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Simon Thacker

Scotland's Simon Thacker is one of Elsewhere's kinda people. He plays classical guitar but has his ears wide open to the world and mostly works in cross-cultural contexts with musicians from India.... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE BIG OYSTER by MARK KURLANSKY

THE BIG OYSTER by MARK KURLANSKY

One of the conspicuous growth areas in non-fiction has been in the genre of what we might call single-issue histories where a writer takes a seemingly mundane or commonplace subject -- be it tulips... > Read more

GUEST WRITER NICK SMITH gets blown away by Bach's little big one

GUEST WRITER NICK SMITH gets blown away by Bach's little big one

The history of music is the history of revolution. Sometimes the change is technological – the invention of the piano caused a massive upheaval in the way people wrote and played music... > Read more