Caton Diab, resident of Canadian island town Port Hardy, creates in his music something comparable to his wild, remote surroundings.
C.Diab uses a delicate blend of bow guitar, trumpeting and tape manipulating to produce a story about a moment in his life. It draws clearly from the expansive natural woodlands in which he finds himself, but also from the thoughts and emotions that come with being so close to nature, and the absurdity of us being here at all.
A close friendship with Ian William Craig sparked that flame that would see Diab’s debut album, ‘No Perfect Wave’, become the first physical release for new London label, Injazero Records. Craig’s a profound musician in his own right and came on board to help produce NPW.
In the lead up to the album’s release, we have been provided with an exclusive premiere of ‘Lying in The Back of The Car on Highway One’, taken from No Perfect Wave. We also took some time with Caton to find out a little bit more about his musical processes.
Mike: There seems to be a three way relationship between yourself, your surroundings, and your music. What are some of the ways they work together to influence the music you make?
Caton: Most often, I don’t really consider myself and the music as a separate entity, and tend to treat my instrument more as an extension of the self rather than a tool for achieving something apart, but if I think about it in terms of the three way relationship, I think the music probably exists in the middle, between myself and surroundings, as a sort of communication attempt and also as a vessel for understanding, taking in all of it and spitting it out again through sound. Our surroundings are so weird, if my guard is down and I allow my mind to wander even for a second, then something as simple as the act of walking becomes almost overwhelming to think about. “Do I really have these two pieces of flesh sticking out of me just carrying me around the place?” Music is my best bet in an attempt to internalize what I see, and spit it out again, to give something back.
Mike: What led you to start making the music that you do?
Caton: Growing up, on the street my family lived on, I had a friend who had many years on me, and he composed long form instrumental guitar pieces for acoustic guitar. He took his music making very seriously. It was (and still is) very important to him to write something which was beautiful and true to his experience, and when I watched him play, even when I was a child, I knew he was tapping into something far deeper down than the sort of music I was used to hearing at home on muchmusic (although that stuff has its place in my heart too, I can still throw on Bran Van 300’s Drinkin in LA any time of day and slow-groove around the kitchen).
I wrote music for guitar and voice as a teenager, but was never truly satisfied with what I created. I’m not a word-smith, and what some people can express in one line of poetry, I couldn’t in 7 minutes of a song. I needed to make something which was a part of me, not as a craft, to really justify my being around at all. That led me to the bow, and it all started to flow out, and it felt like I finally had my beginning. The dam burst, I guess.
Mike: How did No Perfect Wave come about, and how did you approach making the record?
Caton: NPW was written over the course of a few months in the summer and fall, and I wanted to take a new approach to the recording. I’m truly useless with any real sort of technology, I don’t even own a cell phone yet, so for proper albums or big projects I need somebody who really knows what they’re doing to switch the buttons on and off. The most important part is to have somebody who understands what the hell I’m talking about, since my knowledge of recording equipment is not exactly broad, somebody who can take whatever I’m saying like, “ya it’s good, but can you make it sound more like a tree being bent by a sun?” and translate that into actual sound craft.
Ian was essentially perfect for that. He is a very close friend, so he understood what it was that I wanted to capture, he also had some really good ideas of the different angles we could approach the recording process, and we also wanted a chance to work on something together. We set up in my apartment and recorded the album over the course of a weekend. It was lots of fun. On the Sunday we got so deep into it that we forgot to eat or drink. He did a super great job.
Mike: To me, the record is used as a bit of a canvass for different instruments to construct meaning through melody and rhythm/ often in a looped based fashion. Even the song titles allude to a theme or moment in time. Are there over-arching themes or ideas in No Perfect Wave, or is it intended to be more of a sonic story?
Caton: For me, making an album is bundling up a period in life, and creating a sort of summation. It’s kind of like autobiography in that way, and for me creating an album is like dropping a beacon in time, a way to draw myself back and remember what it was I was thinking, why I was doing a thing, what I felt about that thing. Change can happen radically fast and it’s often easy to forget where you’re coming from, and music I think is the most important thread one can use to draw themselves back through time and meet with your past self. NPW is certainly that, so it is purposefully telling a sonic story in many ways. I suppose I’m a little sentimental sometimes, gotta work on that.
Mike: Injazero has spawned from a dynamic seed – one half a house producer, the other an instrumentalist. Do you feel like your music relates to this dynamic at all?
Caton: Totally, those two are driven musical warriors. It’s not easy to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to the cultural elements, let alone start up a record label from scratch and release a bowed guitarist from some place in the woods on the other end of the earth. For me, any sort of music, whether it be house or post rock or hip hop or Tuvan throat singing, what I truly love in a sonic creator is when they expose through their music a sense or mortality, and the short bust we all get to have. That’s the number one thing I look for, and those two certainly have it in spades.
Mike: Being the first artist to have a physical release on the label, do you think your style will set the precedent for future releases on the label?
Caton: Only time will tell! I know that some planned future releases by the label exist in a similar vein, and one in particular I love so much that I’ve pretty much had him on repeat since first hearing it. Certainly bright things in the coming years.