California based Real Music released part five in the Elements Series by keyboardist / composer Peter Kater. Featuring 7 tracks, and clocking in just under one hour, the 2015 CD release of Etheria is filled with memorable and enchanting instrumental music from the Hawaii based Kater. Following in the footsteps of Kater's earlier Elements CD titles Air, Fire, Water and Earth, Etheria is actually the 5th album in the series even though there are only four elements so far known to man. Commenting on the album in the Etheria CD liner notes, Real Music director Terrance Yallop explains, “Wanting to create a new project, Peter and I kept referring back to the series until realizing the answer was right there in part of our conversation. If only there was a fifth Element! From that arouse the concept of creating an album representing the vast environment containing both our planet and its elements. And so Etheria came to be.” Peter Kater’s Etheria is overflowing with majestic instrumental music made crystal clear with his signature piano / synth sounds and enhanced by Native American and bamboo flutes and other heavenly effects. The cover art of Etheria is quite intriging and overall, the entire CD fits in well within Real Music's approach to ethereal and healing New Age instrumental music.
mwe3.com presents an interview with PETER KATER
mwe3: Where do you live now and what you like best about it?
Peter Kater: I’m in Hawaii right now. I’ve lived all over the place. I had a little concert tour here a few weeks ago.
mwe3: Your latest CD on Real Music is called Etheria. What inspired the Etheria album and how does it compare and fit in with the other albums on your Real Music “Elements” series? I heard you found a fifth element for Etheria.
Peter Kater: Well it’s the fifth one. It’s just part of the series. It depends on what culture you come from. In the western culture there’s four elements. In eastern culture there’s at least five. The fifth element in eastern culture is usually either metal or it’s ether. Terrence didn’t want to call it “ether” because ether implies… it could be poisonous. Etheria… I came up with that name. It’s kind of ethereal… the cosmos...
mwe3: Do you research the elements before you write about them?
Peter Kater: You just think about the qualities of the specific element that you’re working on. Water is already fluid and liquid and changeable. Fire is kind of hot and quick and transforms things. You just think… and Earth is more grounded and substantial. You just think of different qualities and you go for it. You make certain decisions about what the record is going to feel like, and what the instrumentation is going to be like. It’s largely an intuitive thing but you kind of use your head to guide you in the right direction.
mwe3: Do you write all the music before you go into the studio or do you go into the studio with basic ideas and then flesh it out more fully?
Peter Kater: It really varies per project. Every project is different. Some projects lean towards improvisation and just develop organically. Other projects are more structured and you come in with a melody and some music and some specific ideas and some projects are more free flowing. It’s always different. The creative process is something you can't put your finger on. It’s always changing. There’s a lot of people that don’t really know what that is but if you’re really connected to being creative in the true sense of the word, then anything’s possible and it can happen in any number of ways.
mwe3: You have your own studio I presume. Where did you record Etheria?
Peter Kater: Uh-huh. This one actually was recorded in Colorado.
mwe3: How did you get the choir like effects on the first track on Etheria, called “Heaven’s Window”? Do you like to use real voices?
Peter Kater: Sometimes I use real voices and enhance them with sampled voices. It varies a lot per project. This project kind of came out of the vocal idea to a large degree, in the first place. So I kind of built a lot of the ideas around the vocals.
mwe3: Are you very much into the New Age philosophy of Real Music or do you see yourself as more of a modern day classical composer.
Peter Kater: My music is a reflection of me. It’s a reflection of where I’m at, what I’m feeling, what I’m learning in life and what I feel like communicating or exploring. So I don’t try to be anything other than myself. Certain projects work better for different labels. I didn’t know what I was going to do for them when they brought up the idea of doing a fifth record. And I think we were both actually expecting something different than what actually happened. Fortunately, they're open to what it is, that I did, and I think it turned out really good. I’m more committed to my muse than anything else so whatever is coming through at the time is what I go for. I don't really try to manipulate it too much. I try to keep true to my creative instincts and passion and do what feels like the next thing to do rather than try and control it.
mwe3: Some musicians say they’re just a conduit for the music. They just let the music flow through them like a channel.
Peter Kater: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m saying.
mwe3: You’ve been on a number of music labels. So how did you become involved with Real Music? Did they seek you out or did you seek them out?
Peter Kater: I don’t remember who sought who out first. When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, it’s kind of a small world. You kind of know everyone and you kind of know a lot of the labels and what they’re doing. Like you said, I do projects for a lot of different companies. I like it that way. I like diversity. I like being able to do whatever I want. I don’t like being told what to do creatively. So it works for me to have different outlets and have different projects coming out on different companies at different times.
mwe3: When you started recording you were into contemporary jazz. How and when did you make the shift to more New Age instrumental music? Is jazz still a part of your style?
Peter Kater: The funny thing is, I never really studied jazz and when I started charting on the jazz charts, and all that kind of stuff, it was kind of a surprise for me. And that was really the early stages of my career. I was still kind of exploring what it is I wanted to do and I was getting a lot of feedback, like I should do stuff that’s more upbeat and more jazzy, so I kind of walked down that road for a while. I did it pretty well but I didn’t really find it particularly satisfying. When I met R. Carlos Nakai and started working with him and started doing more introspective, mellow music, I felt a lot more happy inside, and actually sold a lot more too. So I was happy to let go of the contemporary jazz thing because I kind of felt that it wasn’t really me…on a deeper level.
mwe3: Were you influenced by progressive rock when you were younger or were you coming from more of a jazz / classical background?
Peter Kater: I was largely influenced by progressive rock and originally classical, which I wasn’t particularly into but you have to respect it. And then a lot of progressive rock, like you said, YES and Genesis and all the pop-rock bands of the ’70s and ‘80s. And classic rock. Then I started listening to some jazz, like Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, a group called Oregon, The Paul Winter Consort, Dave Grusin... I really loved a lot of their stuff. I was largely influenced by Keith Jarrett as far as piano players are concerned, along with all the other rock and pop piano players like Elton John and Billy Joel. I like everything. I kind of like good music. I don’t care what genre it is. There’s certain things I like and certain things I’m not attracted to. I imagine that all effects what I play or don’t play.
mwe3: You’ve also done a lot of work in the soundtracks genre. And I know that soundtrack artists very rarely get the proper recognition. Do you think soundtrack artists are often overshadowed by the very film they’re scoring for?
Peter Kater: I guess you could look at it that way. But they’re doing what they want to do and they’re paid pretty well for it. A lot of times soundtrack artists make more money than jazz musicians do. Not as much as pop and rock artists who are successful. They’re just doing what they want to do and they don’t bemoan it. But certainly, soundtrack artists they won’t make their name, unless they’re, like Hans Zimmer or some really well known guys that you see on a bunch of movies. But I know what you mean.
mwe3: You’ve also done theater scores. Do you prefer writing for movies or Broadway theater shows?
Peter Kater: I like it all. Diversity is what I really enjoy. I like it all. I like doing my records. I like doing stuff for film and TV, theater… It’s all about the quality of the project and who you’re working with, whether it’s enjoyable and whether it’s creatively interesting. I’ve worked on some film projects that were a total nightmare because the directors and producers weren’t on the same page for what they wanted and then put me in the middle and it was really a bummer. And I’ve worked on other projects that were really a joy to work on. It all depends.
mwe3: What were some of the favorite soundtracks that you worked on?
Peter Kater: Well I tend to like what I worked on most recently but there was a movie called Sirius that I did the music for not too long ago, which was kind of a documentary about the energy crises, extraterrestrial information and involvment and our growth as a planet. I thought that was really interesting and fun. And then I did a film called Ten Questions For The Dalai Lama that was just really beautiful. I really enjoyed working on that. I really like it all. I tend not to pick favorites.
mwe3: How do you balance your writing and recording with live shows? Do you pick and choose live shows and do you ever go on tour? Do you like touring?
Peter Kater: I kind of do what I want to do. I’m in charge of my life and my own schedule. I don’t do things I do don’t want to do for the most part. I just arrange my schedule the way that it’s comfortable for me. I have a balance between recording and touring and time off. I’ve been doing it for a long time… been doing it for 35 years.
mwe3: So what’s coming next? Etheria came out a few months ago. Do you have other plans for recording and writing new music?
Peter Kater: I’m always working. I have a bunch of concerts planned for the summer. I’m playing some more. I might go over to Japan in August. I’ve got some concerts brewing in Europe in October. I’ve got a record coming out in a couple of weeks. I’m going to be working on some stuff towards the end of the year. Pretty busy.
mwe3: Are you hopeful for planet Earth. It looks like a rough year. Are you hopeful for the future?
Peter Kater: Yeah, I’m optimistic. I think humankind is a survivor and we make mistakes but I think when it comes down to it we have a good conscience , we share information. Stuff like that is awkward and hard but I think we’re going to pull through.
mwe3: You make a lot of people happy with your music. That’s what it’s all about.