Katerpillar Takes The Los Angeles B-boys Scene to a New Level
Katerpillar is a unique band on the LA scene in that it has a diversity within it’s genre that makes it difficult to define. Their sound ranges from funk to R&B to slow groove rock to Latin and everything in between. Every show fans come to will be different. I’ve seen the laid back bar type atmosphere where the crowd sits back to a slow rock groove and has a few drinks, to a full on–high energy dance show featuring a circle front and center full of breakers knocking out moves that seem impossible for the human body to perform.
Featuring a line up that includes DJ Hazze of The Movement and The Air Force Crew, they bring a unique new sound to the b-boys scene that undeniably takes it to a whole new level. Vocalist Rod Soriano and bassist Steve Henao take a break to tell Culturemob about their sound and style and talk about the LA b-boys scene.
CM: First of all, I heard that you do a lot of charity. I think that this is the most interesting aspect of your group, as most indie musicians rarely have the time or the willpower to contribute to the community in such a way. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
Steve: Lately we’ve been doing some charity work for an organization called Hazze Hip Hop Dream Center. We definitely want to support the community. There’s no doubt about that, especially if it’s going to keep kids out of streets and gangs. Teaching people about dancing and music…
Rod: Teaching people about Real hip hop. A lot of people think that hip hop is bad but…
Steve: Yeah. It’s definitely the media, definitely the media. They put it out there that rap and hip hop are about killing and violence when true hip hop is not violent. It’s not what the media portrays it to be. It’s just bad people doing bad things. I mean you’re not hurting anyone. Your showing your expression through art. You’re communicating and expressing yourself through your lyrics, just like any rock band, any funk band.
Rod: It’s kinda like b-boy, where the break dancing scene began in the late 70s early 80s and a lot of these crews, they didn’t want to fight anymore so they would battle on the streets with dance. And they would settle their scores that way.
Steve: Yea, they might go up to someone and say “hey, I like your hat, let’s battle for it.” Instead of fighting, they would dance. If you got beat well then, you gave them the hat.
Steve: Well that’s how it got started, and then it just evolved into something else. Now we have gymnasts doing out there doing Olympic type stuff. (laughs)
Steve: But its split down the line in the community because some people want it to be known as a sport, but some people want it to remain underground.
CM: Where did your influences come from? Tell me about your roots.
Rod: What Katerpillar is doing right now is we are grabbing all of that classic stuff, the stuff that we’re taking back from the old hip hop, the electronica, the funk and we’re putting it all together.
Steve: You know, it even goes further than that though. We are mainly a product of the nineties generation. We grew up listening to the music of the nineties. I listened to techno, rock, hip hop, to house music
Rod: hard core…
Steve: Yeah, hard core (both laugh) We listen to everything… Latin, salsa
Rod: Half of our members are Latin.
Steve: We bring that all together. We mesh it into something that is what we want to hear. We want to be that type of music where you can sit back at a bar, have a drink and still actually groove to it and be able to talk to someone. Or it can be that music where you actually get up and dance all night. We can do all that. We take it through all the genres. We feel that our music is a product of what we all listen to.
CM: How’d you meet DJ Hazze?
Steve: My brother went to high school with him. They used to do a lot of dj-ing and partying there. So I met him when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Then he started doing The Movement, which had that famous song called Jump. That kinda died out, and I got his number because I heard he was dj-ing the clubs again, so I started talking to him and basically just got us all together.
Rod: Yeah, Steve actually introduced me to DJ Hazze in 2000 or so and we started to incorporate a DJ to our Katerpillar groove rock stuff. Steve also introduced Tio (Jay Pac) to the band. He was originally the drummer, and moved to Latin percussion later on.
Carl Marralli, we met from Craigslist. That was one of the few times it actually worked. He brings us more of a rock feel, driving and edgy but with a certain groove to it. We met Dan Kay at a local house party in Lake Balboa at a friends house we were playing at.. . Danny always brought his trumpet with him and we started jamming out, from then on he has blasted out some wicked horn lines. There’s also Eric Jimenez, our old drummer who played drums on most of the recorded Katerpillar tracks. And we feature Lindsay Cole who brings that feisty, rebellious feminine side.
Steve: She can bring that R&B feel to it. She’s actually more professional than both of us put together (laughs). She comes in and does her stuff and it brings a different flavor to it, and that’s what Katerpillar is.
Rod: And we’re not shy about featuring artists. I think the more people we have in our family, the better.
CM: That’s right, you also work very closely with Lil Cesar of The Air Force Crew right?
Rod: The way we met Lil Cesar was through DJ Hazze. We were suppose to write music for a new Westside Story musical and give it an urban feel, sort of hip hop, funk, Latin, b-boy (funk-breaks) feel to it. Actually, that’s how we first started writing funk-break music. So now Lil Cesar has brought the addition of the Air Force Dance Crew to our live shows.
CM: It’s just amazing to see him dance to your music live. Your music is very funk and rock, and I’m not used to seeing them get down to this type of a jam. It’s great and fresh.
Rod: We are trying to take this scene to a new type of level. We catering to a new generation of b-boys, a new generation of funk lovers and rare groove seekers. We’re trying to show them that there is an alternative to the stuff they have been dancing to and create a new scene. BC One is great. They have a stage and an arena and it’s great. But LA… What does LA have?
Steve: underground stuff
Rod: They have the b-boys summit, which was back in October. They have their battles, other stuff, but they have no band incorporated into it.
Steve: We actually want to show them to that hip hop is not just about rap, it’s about music, funk and rock…everything.
CM: Your influence is very heavily Latin. You could dance in any way to it, not just breaking. It’s cool to see breaking to that type of music.
Rod: That’s all Tio. Tio is a vibe. I mean, that’s what we chose to put into it. I love percussion. Steve is from Colombia, I’m from El Salvador…
Steve: The thing about our music is that it has a bit of everything. He gives us more of that Latin sound and it clicks so much. But it’s open. We want to leave it open.
Rod: Yeah, we don’t want to limit ourselves.
Steve: We don’t want to be that band that only plays rock so they don’t confuse the people. We come from that generation where we used to listen to everything. We want it to be where we can be that everything. Our drummer came from a rock influence, and he gives it that other direction.
Rod: So we have the Latin with Tio, the rock with Marralli, and Dan Kay who brings the trumpet, and DJ Hazze just stands on his own. (Laughs)
Rod: But the most important thing about our sound is that we want to be motivators and bring that kind of music that takes your dancing to that next level. If we can provoke you with our beats to do that move that you always wanted to do but you couldn’t do before, that would make my day!
Steve: We still want to do that rock stuff too, we have a love for all the other music. We definitely want to be that band where you can come to our show Friday and it’s rock, Saturday it’s our dance show, Sunday is more laid back. We want to be able to do all kinds of shows and be that versatile. Like, right now, our DJ is in Europe, so we will focus more on our groove rock.
CM: Your kind of unique sound and versatility doesn’t really fit into the old music model. Back in the day, if you didn’t fill a niche, you were screwed. How do you think the recent changes in the industry affected your choices and your sound?
Rod: I’m kind of happy that the industry broke down, because it gave a lot of artists–that would never have had a chance back in the day–a new opportunity. Now-a-days we have so many more tools to work with. The internet is number one, the main tool for any artist to get their stuff out there. But you can not be asking for money for your music on the internet, because they will just get it for free anyway. In a sense, the music industry like Warner Brothers and Capitol, they are still around, but they’ve gotten smaller and given us a lot more room to play in their play ground.
Steve: Technology was the demise for them, because if you look back, record companies have been losing money ever since tapes came out. Now I can go buy a tape and record it for someone else, and that artist just lost a sale. They’ve always tried to fill in that gap, but technology has already surpassed them. So since the internet’s been around, now it’s all about creating that demand. If you can create that demand, you can go ahead and bypass everything. I could give out my music for free, and as long as I have a demand in Los Angeles, or where ever I am based, I can go book a theater, I can go book The House of Blues, because they know I can bring that crowd, and that’s where the money is coming from for the artist.
Rod: I think of it as freedom.
Steve: They have the freedom to be who they want to be. Back then they were subject to whatever this record producer thought would be the next hit.
Rod: In modern times you look at a band like OK Go for example. They were pretty much nobodies before they made that video on Youtube. That’s how this technology worked for them. It depends now on the artists and how far they are willing to push themselves. If you know how to work this new playground, manipulate the tools, work the numbers, that’s how your going to make it.
Steve: It does help the artist to have that business mind. At the end of the day, we are running our own business.
CM: You had to make your album on a pretty tight budget huh?
Rod: Afterglow, most of the songs from the first EPs, were done right here in the studio in my home.
Steve: Carl Maralli got us a place where we can go and record now. We get a pretty good rate. But we’ve only done one or two songs over there. We’re working on another one right now which is a remix of “In the Club.”
Rod: We’re going to do a live version of it.
Steve: Yeah, because that first CD “From the B-boys Vault,” had more of a dj feel.
Rod: Well, that was supposed to be for that movie, but the wind just kind of took it and it became successful I guess (laughs) in a sense because it has been placed in a movie “I Want Them Dead.”
CM: My favorite song, Collision, is actually from your other EP. Can you tell me what that’s about?
Rod: We usually try to keep politics out of our music, because we really want to be a party band, but that one was about certain sectors of life that don’t appeal to you and that work against you. It’s about the paranoia, about everybody looking at you, about everybody being involved in your stuff and our lack of privacy. Kind of like a Big Brother situation. The theme has been played out in so many ways so I tried to make it as vague as possible because everybody’s heard it before but I hope it still makes an impact on people and makes them realize that there’s stuff going on out there that we really don’t know about.
Steve: You know, the bottom line is that, when you get down to it, you don’t really know what’s going on but we definitely try to just enjoy our lives and that’s what it’s all about. Just enjoy it from beginning to end. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just had a heart break or you just lost your job… you still have to strive in life, and music is a great way to release. You can come down to our show and forget about that. Just enjoy yourself and dance. Forget about your worries, forget about what’s going on and enjoy that moment in your life.