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Since its implementation in the ’50s, the concept of rock’n’roll has been presented in significantly differing forms. Whether it be the punk movement of the ’70s or the Grunge movement of the ’90s one thing has carried over, linking all of these different sub-genres together.

Attitude.

In essence, all rock music revolves around attitude. As important as the music itself may be, the lifestyle is equally as essential. One era in particular that undeniably epitomises this rock’n’roll attitude is the glam metal movement of the 80s. Glam metal was about the sex, it was about the drugs and of course, it was about the rock’n’roll.

KAATO is a Sydney-based rock’n’roll outfit that definitely falls into this genre. The music, the make-up and the lifestyle are all summed up in the pairing of bass player Mika Nuutinen and singer Kurt Lowney – along with their ever-changing roster of talented musicians, who fresh off a Japanese tour took the time to speak to us.

“Aerosmith, Boston, Cheap Trick, The Darkness,” Nuutinen listed off excitedly as he explored some of the group’s influences, with Lowney expanding this further to express the musicians that shaped his musical journey.

“The incestuous mutations of rock n roll like power pop and then hard rock… all the way to funk.”

“It sounds cliche as fuck but Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac – The main person who sort of got me into music was the lead singer of Powder Finger, Bernard Fanning… I saw him at The Great Escape festival when I was younger… It changed my life.”

In an ever-changing musical landscape, the popularity of rock’n’roll fluctuates constantly. Having toured Europe, Asia, and the USA,  Nuutinen expressed the place in which he believes the scene still exists in its purest form amongst musicians.

“I think the purest is Nashville – There are so many people living there that you didn’t know lived there.

Old rock stars… If you’re in Nashville you’re there to play music – There’s no egos, just passions. I think Nashville’s the place to be for any band.”

However, as far as pure fandom goes, Lowney and Nuutinen agreed that Japan was the place that celebrated rock’n’roll in the most unique way.

“As far as crowd support goes Japan is crazy as fuck… The thing is they didn’t even know us. They were just passionate about rock’n’roll. They wanna go out, they wanna get drunk. Everything is so well integrated in Japan… People went as far as researching us and learning our songs just so that they could come along to our shows,” reminisced Lowney.

Japan will always be a special place for the band, with the name KAATO coming to fruition as it is the Japanese translation of the lead singers first name.

“I went to Japan a lot when I was a kid and I always really loved it there. It was creative. The fashion was awesome, the music was awesome. I fell in love with it. It was always a constant goal to get back to Japan.”

As far as the rock’n’roll lifestyle goes however, Lowney expressed a far more subdued indulgence into the drug-fuelled antics many glam bands would have partaken in back in the 80’s. However, life on the road can be taxing and sometimes it’s hard not to give into certain temptations.

“I don’t drink just to be clear… I really don’t drink that often but we were in Grimsby. It was an extremely stressful environment and I got shitfaced… Double-shot, double-shot, double-shot… Mika tried to soothe me with some tunes as I threw up… Singing along to Baby Come Back [Player] as I’m vomiting… Then I passed out on the pavement for two hours.”

Although this was very much a one-off scenario for Lowney, Nuutinen on the other hand, is a very different story.

“Japan was fucking intense. But we’re just not gonna talk about Japan. I might get killed,” he laughed.

“Mika caused some ripples in the Shinjuku Underworld. Let’s just say that,” explained Lowney, the two of them clearly recounting the same incident with a combination of humour and cautiousness.

“You can write that shit down but I’ll finish that story when the mics are off,” Nuutinen went on before telling me of an off the record story that although hilarious, made me completely understand why he would want this information withheld.

Let’s just say it involved the bass player pissing off a certain group of Japanese gangsters.

Although Lowney and Nuutinen are the two recurring members of the band they also have an impressive roster of session musicians, including drummer Christopher Williams from German-metal band Accept and Phillip Shouse and Jeremy Asbrock, guitarists from Gene Simmon’s solo project.

“It’s me and Kurt all of the time but in England, we brought a guitarist along called Hunter Lovan. He’s an 18-year-old fucking rock god from Nashville… He’s definitely starting to look like he’s going to be a long-term member. We do have a lot of professional musicians that are in and out of rotation,” Nuutinen explained.

On what it is that makes Nuutinen and Lowney’s musical chemistry flourish to the extent that they are the only two permanent members, Lowney expressed with enthusiasm, “It’s fucking magic. Mika and I weren’t too fond of each other when we first met and just throughout the evolution of KAATO we realised that we actually liked each other more than we liked anyone else. It’s been the same ever since and honestly – we piss each other off. We’ve fucking punched each other in the face. We’ve been through hell and back together, but we love the same music – we love doing the same things – we connect on stage. Have you ever heard of stage fucking?”

I had not in fact heard of stage fucking but Lowney was quick to explain, “We fuck the shit out of each other on stage – We have Japanese people drawing erotic fan-fiction. On stage, we are actually fucking. It’s all about the non-physical connection between musicians on stage that’s always been so strong between Mika and I.”

“We’re like Steve Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith. We’re the fucking toxic twins.” Nuutinen interjected.

The duo wrapped up the interview expressing what it is about rock’n’roll that resonated so purely and magically with them.

Lowney, in a mixture of passion and enthusiasm, explained, “Rock is real. Rock is something that isn’t formulated. I see a lot of bands out their now that are calling themselves rock’n’roll and hate to fucking break it to them but they’re not… Rock isn’t formulaic. It isn’t trying to be anything. It just is. It’s a big fuck you to the music charts. People connect to it because they’re connecting to something that’s real. It can make me feel happy it can make me feel sad. It can make me want to punch a fucking wall. It’s everything in the middle. It’s a beautiful combination of everything that exists in music.”

“I love being able to put make-up on. I wanna put on some high heels – take my shirt off,” Nuutinen interjected leaving me with perhaps the most rock’n’roll statement I had ever heard.

“Why do I love rock’n’roll? Because I get to put make-up on every night and stage fuck my best friend.”

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