Ashley Anderson has been producing music since the mid 90s. Along with fellow producer Illpickl (Michael Wright), they recorded Moonrock together, and were invited to submit songs for the Café Del Mar compilations. After Write passed away in 2001, Anderson took the moniker “Katalyst” and released a few titles that were issued on the “Dope On Plastic” series. In 2002 Anderson produced Manipulating Agent, a tour-de-force of laid back Aussie scratches and beats. Anderson sites the release of this record as one of his greatest achievements. “The way it was received, getting airplay, the reviews I got were all really positive, and that was the culmination of a few years work,” he says.
Anderson is also known for his remix work, remixing a range of artists such as Portishead, Dynamo Productions, Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) and Machine Gun Fellatio. About six months after Manipulating Agent came the remix album Agent Manipulated. “The remix album came about by quite a few people approaching me asking if I was going to do any remixes on 12 inch or whatever,” Anderson explains. “Also I didn’t get to put all the tracks I wanted to on Manipulating Agent due to running time, so I was able to put those tracks with the remixes and make a full-length release.”
The collaboration with Portishead saw Anderson strike up a friendship with the main man behind Portishead, Geoff Barrow. Seeing a gap in the market, they formed Invada Records, based both in the UK and Australia, to be able to give them “a lot of flexibility in a lot of other areas. Geoff has got his office in the UK, and that allows him to have his finger on the pulse in Europe and sign acts based over there. We have our ear to the ground here, and sign mainly Australian artists, and release them in the UK and vice-versa. We have a lot of phone contact, emails, MP3s, that kind of thing.”
Invada’s next big project is Jamaican born Australian artist R.U.Cl’s (Pronounced Ru-See-El) album Let The Music Talk. Due out the end of May, Anderson is quite thrilled by this new talent. “We’ve put a lot of time and energy into this,’ He states, “so we’re quite excited. His background means he’s got a bit of a different style for an Australian lad. He’s really talented, and we used some great producers on it, it’s quite a diverse product,” ranging in vibe from hiphop to dancehall. Anderson sees R.U.Cl being able to perhaps cross into the lucrative US market. “I think Australian hiphop is really good that is out there, but it’s not up to the standard of what’s coming out of the US,” he says guardedly. “I think it’s on par with what’s coming out of the UK and Europe, but I think the cutting edge production and most talented MCs in the world are American. America is very insular, and it’s hard to break into. But,” he continues, “the level of Aussie Hiphop is getting better and better. There’s lots of great new MCs I hear pop up on different tracks, and lots of talented young producers out there.”
You can get a taste of R.U.Cl on Katalyst’s first mix album, Dusted. This double CD contains a mix of funk, soul, hiphop and reggae, and includes some of Anderson’s all time favourite tracks. There were a few that he couldn’t get due to licensing problems, but Anderson says he expected that. “It’s not always the fact that people won’t or want stupid money for it,” he says. “It’s often a case of simply not being able to find the owners. That was the case in some of the more obscure tracks I wanted to include, which is a bit of a shame. It moved the direction of the compilation in some small way, but at the end of the day I had enough tracks anyway.” Anderson is also quick to point out the fact that it is all from vinyl isn’t an attempt to be wanky and elitist. “I didn’t mean to make a big point about it really. I was a bit paranoid about it because some of the records are a bit noisy, and it bugs me out sometimes if there’s a crackle. So I just wanted to get the point across – if there’s any surface noise don’t worry, I couldn’t help it. Plus,” he adds with a laugh, “it is all off vinyl because I don’t have many CDs.”
Many times you’ll see Katalyst performing not at hiphop events, but at big shows such as Ben Harper, and the up-coming show with Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd, G Love and Donovan Frankenreiter. “Obviously it’s a really different vibe,” Anderson says of these shows. “I’m there to play a different role too. I enjoy the Jack Johnson shows, because it gives me a chance to play different sorts of tunes that I feel I wouldn’t at a ‘Katalyst’ show in a club with a dancefloor vibe. I like to break up the sets, because they’re usually similar sounding kind of acts in the bigger picture, so it’s kind of nice to mix up different flavours for the audience in between them. I guess some members of the audience can’t relate to it, but if it broadens the mind of a few of the members who are there to see Jack and Xavier then that’s a good thing,” he beams.