Published on June 18th, 2020 | by Al Geiner0
Q&A with Mike Sarto the Creator of Kish Kollectiv & South Central Positronics
Born of Italo-Celtic stock into a slowly rusting northern England in the throes of Thatcher-era de-industrialisation, the young Michele Sarto (“Mike” to those closest to him; other people just can’t pronounce the name properly) was bitten by the horror bug early. After having been “encouraged” to sit through an uncut version of Lucio Fulci’s surreal schlock masterpiece “City of the Living Dead” at the age of 6 by mischievous elder cousins, a lifelong fascination with the darker side of fiction was born. Equally haunted and excited by aftermath images of reanimated corpses, horrific “skull-crush” kills and a young woman literally vomiting out her innards, another element of that particular production was to make an indelible impression on the young Sarto; the maestro Fabio Frizzi’s masterful synthesizer-driven score.
What is your “backstory”?
I’m from a northern English working class background and had a fairly typical provincial upbringing. I was born into an era of industrial decline and a certain amount of civil unrest as the government dismantled the mining industry, the implications of which are still discernible today in the communities that once depended on those collieries. My mother worked as a sales representative and my father – who died when I was a child – worked in a number of disciplines over the course of his life, including motor mechanics and sales management. I was educated in a state school and was lucky enough to make it to university in an era when it was still fairly atypical for individuals from my background. I then worked in the UK media industry in various roles for many years, but gradual de-regulation increasingly led to the buyup and consolidation of TV and radio operators, a stark decline in the number of jobs available and a tendency toward centralisation in London and other southern cities – so here I am!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
Tempting as it is to invent something fictitious for the sake of entertainment, as my “glittering music career” involves playing with synthesizers, guitars and a drum machine in the spare-room-cum-recording-
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m just applying the finishing touches to the music videos for the latest Kish Kollektiv project, “Elevator Game”, which is available on June 22nd from Amazon, Bandcamp and various other outlets. It’s something of a “semi-sequel” to “Children of the Cambion” (2018), which was an imaginary soundtrack inspired by the “black-eyed children” urban legend. In “Elevator Game”, the paranormal investigator Ruscara Laudanski from the earlier story reluctantly returns from self-imposed isolation for one last paranormal investigation when her wild, thrill-seeking cousin goes missing after unwisely dabbling with the so-called “Elevator Ritual”, a way of accessing a mysterious and deserted parallel Earth via – you guessed it – an elevator.
Who are some of the most famous people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
In my media industry days, I actually crossed paths with a certain number of (mostly British) famous folk like KT Tunstall, James Arthur and Abi Titmus, but the most starry-eyed I got was when I met Rick Astley (the chap who sang the international eighties hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”), whose music I liked as a pre-teen. I’ve never been one for posing for selfies with celebs (because I’m shy really), but I thought my 7-year-old self would never forgive me if I didn’t make the effort to meet the man. Annoyingly, even though he was pushing 50 at the time, he somehow managed to look fantastic in skinny jeans. What witchcraft was this??
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
This will probably make me sound very politically correct in the current climate, but the two names that leapt straight to mind were Malcolm X, because he was unshakeable and unapologetic in the face of clear and present personal danger (particularly in his later years) and Nelson Mandela because of his extraordinary capacity for forgiveness and his vision of reconciliation in his country. I suspect he must have died a very disappointed man, but he dared to dream big I suppose. I also admire the German army officer and nobleman Claus von Stauffenberg, the leader of the “July 20th Plot” against the Third Reich in 1944, who took such bold, selfless action to try to end World War II (in the West at least)…and, along with his co-conspirators, paid the ultimate price. If I had one tenth of the fortitude of people like these, I think I’d be doing well.
What would you advise to an aspiring artist who would like to emulate your career?
As it’s so much easier to set up as an independent musician these days without selling a kidney to raise the money, I’d say “go for it”. Make sure you have a steady income of some sort or at least money behind you and try to keep your overheads down wherever possible (I always try to acquire used or reconditioned equipment for example); it might be a very long time before you recoup your investment…if at all. If you’re serious about making your passion into a full time career one day (or at least increasing the possibility) and if you can spare the money, you might want to enlist the services of a professional publicist. The downside of the accessibility of the music industry is that there are now so very many acts out there, all screaming to be heard as well; hiring an expert might give you an edge. The other thing I’d say is to be patient; some of the biggest bands and artists on the planet only reached that level through dogged persistence and determination, although I think we all get frustrated and dispirited sometimes. You could liken it to competition winners perhaps – they all have the same thing in common…they actually entered the competition. We have no right to feel cheated if we didn’t play the game.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Wow, that’s quite a question. Framing myself as an artist working in the horror genre for the most part, if horror provides escapism and even a form of therapy in the face of a dangerous and uncertain world, I suppose I’m playing my part in that way! Tenuous, I know.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Keep everything you create – even if you hate it at the time, you might stumble across it again, lurking on your hard drive months or even years later and find a different use for it. You might even fall in love with it the second time around or it might spark a whole new creative direction.
2) Avoid false economy – it’s tempting to buy old equipment if it’s attractively cheap, for example, but if it’s in poor condition or doesn’t last long, the cost of replacement or repair can rack up and keeping overheads as low as possible is paramount if you’re an independent operator.
3) Try not to throw the towel in if you’ve hit a creative brick wall, or you’re having a bad recording/composing session – it’s tempting just to pack up and watch TV or something if you’re struggling, but some of the compositions I’ve been happiest with come from a breakthrough born out of bloody-minded perseverance.
4) Don’t feel restricted by your genre – don’t be afraid to “cross-pollinate” musically if it feels right. All genres are a synthesis of those that came before and introducing influences from outside your “comfort zone” could send you down a new and interesting path.
5) Don’t settle for anything less than your best – by which I mean, if there’s an aspect of something you’ve created that you’re not happy with in the first instance, your hatred of it will only grow with time as you develop as an artist; you won’t “get used to it”, it will just bug you forever. Even if it’s a hassle, even if you have to blow it up and start again, do it before you “publish” – it’s worth it and you will never regret it.
Is there a person in the world you’d love to have Brunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
Probably David Icke! What a journey that man has been on. His perception of the world is what you might describe as “unique” to say the least, I’d love to pick his brains about the finer points and specifics. It would be a long brunch, I suspect.Tweet