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The Call of the Rock

Nash Kato's unexpected musical career examined

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One of the most stylish scenes in the film Pulp Fiction features a languid Uma Thurman dancing to a rough rendition of Neil Diamond's classic "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," before mistakenly snorting enough heroin to kill an elephant and falling to the floor.

The voice crooning in the background while Uma lies with blood trickling out of her pale, beautiful nose belongs to Nash Kato, former front man for North Dakota band Urge Overkill. Kato, known for his decadent taste in everything from sunglasses to his metallic blue '73 Cougar, is currently touring solo with Cheap Trick, in support of his latest album, Debutante. Kato graciously discussed his life with the Indy during a recent phone interview.

Indy: First things first -- what's it like to be a rock star? Big cars, pretty girls ...

Kato: I don't know if I qualify. It's the only job I've never been fired from, so that's why I've stuck with it. You can't just make this stuff up -- you have to live some of it. And my car does look good with someone of the female persuasion riding shotgun.

Indy: So, did you play in any other bands before Urge?

Kato: No, it was a gigantic mistake that I even fell into this profession. In college, I was majoring in some useless shit, art history or something. One day I heard the call of The Rock, and I dropped everything and went with it. I was 18, pumped full of testosterone. But this was not supposed to happen.

Indy: Are you glad it did?

Kato: I am when I'm up there singing, and people are into it. I'm making people happy. It wouldn't be bad [to have an everyday job], but it's just too late for that.

Indy: Okay, so what's the deal with the band?

Kato: Well, we're smart fuckers. We know better than to shoot ourselves in the foot by declaring a formal breakup. It's ours to regain, to come to some sort of agreement at the right time. We've been doing it for over a decade, I don't think many people realize that. We burned out on the project and each other, but I can't imagine us not doing something in the future.

Indy: After Quentin Tarantino used your song, did life change much?

Kato: We were already touring worldwide, and here comes this demo of a Neil Diamond cover recorded years earlier, and it winds up in this runaway soundtrack to this smash hit movie. This one single propelled us around the world. All of a sudden we're first class, getting the full-on red carpet in four-star hotels, with TV spots, in markets that previously we couldn't even get our foot in. For this one ridiculous cover of a Neil Diamond song. It's a great song, but [ours] is a really shitty version. The way they used it, in context, it makes sense. Everything that was so horribly wrong with our version seemed so hauntingly right [in the film].

Indy: Your new album seems rooted in '70s rock. Did you have any bands in mind when you recorded it?

Kato: Not particularly. When I used to listen to music, which is rare now, I remember the elements of it that I enjoyed, like strong female backups, keyboards, certain hooks. ... I don't know if '70s rock is a lost art form, but it's hard not to feel like you're reproducing a relic.

Indy: How come you don't listen to music now? Are you sick of it?

Kato: Well, you really start appreciating silence.

Indy: Off subject, are you a big reader?

Kato: I swapped music for reading. When I listened to music, I didn't read shit. I read the TV Guide. I'm happy to say that I am once again literate.

Indy: What do you read?

Kato: I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I'm a sucker for biographies. I just got a handy tour-version paperback copy of Roman, by Polanski for $3. I'm so excited. It's like, 'Reading, where have you been all my life?'

Indy: Has reading influenced your music?

Kato: I've always struggled with lyrics, I always do them last because I have a fear that I have nothing to say. It's hard for me to pretend I do. I found that once I started reading again, it became less of a burden. The words just flowed more readily. It's helped with subject matter.

Indy: The subject matter of Debutante seems to be "women." Are you going to try something else next time?

Kato: Well, I'm kind of stuck. I can't just write more songs about women. I think I covered all the bases on this one. So, if your readers have any ideas, please e-mail me.

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