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Published: 2001/10/25
by Dan Alford

Percy Hill’s Aaron Katz: Simplest Warrior

While Percy Hill is taking a break, their songsmith is
hitting the road with a new solo album on the way.
Aaron Katz has been the driving force behind most of
Percy Hill’s new material over the last four years,
and as drummer, he’s helped guide the band toward a
slick, funky sound. To his new project he brings not
only much of that material and mind-set, but a bag
full of new tunes and a handful of old friends,
including his Percy partner in crime, bassist John
Leccesse. Aaron is eager to spread his music and is
taking his band on fairly extensive tour that will
carry the quintet through mid-west during the next
month. For dates and information about ordering a
copy of Simplest Warrior, check out
www.aaronzkatz.com, and for more on Percy Hill and the
band members’ various side projects, check out
www.percyhill.com.

DA: What is the origin of Simplest Warrior?

Aaron: Simplest Warrior is based on the idea of
breaking ourselves down to our simplest form, then
relating to each other that way. The lines are,
"People think their so different from each other/
cannot see through the glazed on surface/ People
think, ‘I’m nothing like that freak,’/ Could not speak
the language of their heritage/ It’s easier to roll my
eyes instead/ Rise up to your animal/ Call me the
simplest warrior/ Rise up, you’re still an animal/
Call me the simplest warrior." It’s about how people
have trouble relating because they are so caught up
with surface features, rather than how similar we all
really are. The last lines are "People think there’s
a heaven/ That you could end in but only the chosen /
Only Snow White’s children/ so brand my back, pierce
my nipples with an ax/ Everybody’s bleeding underneath
their skin/ Everybody feels the planets spin/ Rise up
to your animal/ Rise up, you’re still an animal/ Call
me the simplest warrior." It’s about shedding the
surface and connecting on a different level.

*DA: The lyrics have that same bite, that same
intelligent critique that draws people to songs like
Ammonium Maze or Soul Sister.*

Aaron: Yeah, the light and the dark co-existing.

*DA: Let’s talk about the band. There are some
familiar faces.*

Aaron: Well John from Percy Hill is playing bass, John
Leccesse. Two different drummers right now are
playing a few different gigs. One guys name is Pete
Koeplin. The other guy is Dave DiCenso who is just
one of the finest drummers I’ve ever seen in my life.
He plays in a band, Two Ton Shoe. He was going to be
playing with us in New York City [the 9/15 show was
rescheduled for 10/26] and played on Aubade and he
played on The Now on the album. Then on keyboards is
Andy Gallagher. He’s playing Rhodes and synth and
saxophone. Josh Pryor from Earth Suits Off is playing
electric guitar. And I am playing acoustic guitar,
and I’m going to play some percussion and keyboards,
just to kind of get all around. The musicians I’m
playing with now are great. Dave DiCenso is so
inspiring. He is an amazing musician; the way he
hears the music, he brings a whole other feeling to
it. I also enjoy being able to sing the words
strongly. It’s the most important thing to me. As we
said last time we talked, it’s hard to do that
sometimes when you’re playing the drums, to really
have every limb of your body moving and try to sing
the words. So sometimes when I’m just standing there
I’m freed up from that and it comes across.

*DA: There is a lot of cross over between the Aaron
Katz material and Percy Hill material. Aubade, The
Now, Soul Sister.*

Aaron: I want to play those songs all the time. Those
are the most meaningful songs in my life. Songs like
Make Believe, The Now, Soul Sister were moments in my
life, just massive periods for me. I want to get them
out there.

*DA: What’s the difference in interpretation between
the two bands?*

Aaron: It seems like Percy Hill has. it’s just
different musicians always feels things differently,
come from different angles. Nate is so jazz
influenced, and compared to Joe, Josh Pryor on guitar
comes from a much heavier rock school- distorted
guitar. The drumming is much more powerful. [laughs] Strong, strong drumming.

DA: When is the album due out?

Aaron: As of right now we’re going to be playing some
colleges and the album will be out in November; the
first week in November is the date as of right now,
but that can always change so easily. We’re
self-releasing. We’re going to have some distribution
behind it and some radio promotion and a lot of
publicity. And we’re looking to do something with
Relix magazine. We’re just putting the band together
and starting to play some shows.

*DA: There was a great deal of texture and variety of
styles at the Berkfest set. Is that intentional, or
just a result of the material. I’m sure you could’ve
done all ballads or.*

Aaron: That was the first gig the band has ever played
it we’re just learning to stand on our feet and
experiment with different sounds and feels. But I
never write anything with any intention. I sit down
and it just starts to happen on its own. I’ve learned
to allow that, to allow it to take its own course. I
get very inspired by different sounds that turn into
some sort of words which then sculpt the meaning.

*DA: What’s influencing you now? What are you
listening to?*

Aaron: I really don’t listen to a lot of music.
Haven’t really been listening to much at all, just
writing a lot.

*DA: Well, whenever we talk about songwriters Paul
Simon comes up. But with the exception of Chrissy
Reid, I don’t sense any straight line.*

Aaron: I love him, but there’s not. We’re doing that
a lot differently in the new band too- more of an
edge. But I like that he’s such a smooth singer.
Like velvet. I’m also very influenced by Donald Fagen
a lot, and Dave Matthews- he’s very emotional. All
the music I’m exposed to, Pat Metheny, Phish, of
course, and all the other worlds of music; all the
songwriters out there and some heavier things. I’m
into Radiohead. But I don’t listen to a lot of music. That is the honest-to-God truth. I spend a lot of
time with a piano or a guitar, not listening to
anything at all. I like silence a lot.

*DA: What’s up with circuses? Imagery abounds in songs
and earlier tonight you made a circus comment.*

Aaron: Being a circus animal. Well, in The Now I use
a circus as a way of describing the scene where you
are just sitting there, taking everything in and
you’re very present. How to be present just by
describing everything that was happening all around
me. "Circus family," I guess that kind of sums up how
I live, wandering around a lot, nomadic.

DA: Did you go to circuses?

Aaron: I didn’t go to a lot of circuses. I went to a
lot of theater. My mother is an actress. Shows and
lights and energy. Theatrical drama. I come from a
lot of theatrical drama.

*DA: What will be happening with Percy Hill in the
future?*

Aaron: Things. Joe and Nate are busy right now. Joe
is teaching and Nate is in school mastering his
instrument and writing a lot also. Hopefully things
will be happening in the future. Some type of
recording maybe.

*DA: What happens to material like Masterful Reminder
that seems to fall by the wayside? I was listening to
the great acoustic set from 2-18-99 today.*

Aaron: Oh, that’s coming back. That, and also the
whole Geminatrix side of things which had a lot of
compositional writing going on. Geminatrix was trying
to take some of the forms we already had developed and
turn them into that house music setting. It’s always
talked about. Everything is always talked about.
It’s just a matter of finding the right time and place
to do it.

DA: The Percy shows this year have been really strong,
and getting better and better, but Berkfest was
outrageous, drawing huge crowds. I particularly dug
the Soggy Weather Skunk > The Now on Sunday.

Aaron: Yeah. That was the perfect time, the perfect
setting. That was one of my favorite Percy Hill gigs
ever. Those moments, those are the moments when you
are most in tune with your listening. You are really
interacting with each other. It’s more of a
conversation than, "We know this song. We know we’re
coming into it. Let’s pause right now and break into
the intro that we play every night." That moment was
letting it go, listening, feeling very comfortable and
just going with whatever presented itself at the time. And that was such a great way to set up The Now
because that is all about getting away from thinking
about the past, thinking about the future and finding
a real sense of happiness in where we are right now.
I really felt that while I was singing it that day. I
was beating the drums. I was kicking it out- we have
to be this way. It’s the only way.

DA: What else lies ahead?

Aaron: I’m playing with all kinds of people. Mode
Three is a band, friends of mine, they play all
techno, original music. I’m going to be helping them
produce their record. They kind of have a
Geminatrix-y sound, a similar set up to Percy Hill.
That’s another way of expressing without necessarily
doing all the writing and singing. I’m interesting in
instrumental writing because I always want to use my
voice to express the melodies. Like Open Up. But
there is a lot of that stuff; it's just waiting.

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