Piano-playing singer-songwriter Kate Schrock and drummer/percussionist/producer Todd the Rocket met last year when both were panelists at a Portland Music Foundation event. A conversation sparked a mutual interest in playing together and within weeks, they played their first show as Kate & The Rocket. That was followed by a summer-long regular gig at the Brunswick in Old Orchard Beach.

Skipping ahead to this past May, the duo performed as part of the “Two” series at Port City Music Hall, and sound engineer extraordinaire Jim Begley recorded the show. The resulting EP, “PCMH,” which contains five of those tracks as well as a bonus remix, is being released with an upcoming show and party back at Port City. That show, too, will be recorded with Begley at the helm, and should the stars and funds align, we’ll see a full-length live release down the road.

Performing with Kate & The Rocket will be former Wailer Glen DaCosta, who worked with Schrock on her “Invocation” album and is here in Maine for the next several weeks. At the very minimum, you’ll hear flute and saxophone from DaCosta, who told me during my recent visit to Rocket’s lair that he plays a half dozen or so other instruments, so who knows what’s in store.

During said visit, I asked Kate and Todd about their collaboration, the “PCMH” EP and the extremely satisfying remix that Rocket did to Schrock’s song, “Water’s Edge.” 

The EP sounds fantastic. In a nutshell, what makes that recording sound so good, because not all live stuff does?

Kate: The room, the equipment, the engineer and also the configuration of the instruments. And the moon was right. Jim (Begley) is an excellent engineer. He’s worked with both of us before.

Todd: He has an intimacy and a connection with not only the material, but with us as people. So I think that really gets conveyed in a recording; connections and threads that tie things together.

Kate: That’s why music is not an exact science; it’s a human science and it’s a human experience.

Let’s talk about “Water’s Edge (Rocket’s Re-Love Single Edit)” for a second. I love it, but the first 20 seconds into it, I had a moment of thinking this is sacrilegious; Kate Schrock’s been remixed. But after those 20 seconds, I got over that and realized what I was hearing was really freaking cool. Kate, I want to know what you thought when Todd said he wanted to remix one of your songs.

Kate: I’m someone’s who’s pretty open-minded about music, and I always think that one shouldn’t just block themselves off. So when I started working with Todd and I understood where he was coming from — this whole different new realm with house music — I slowly warmed up to it. I opened up to seeing what it and he was all about, and he started playing me tracks that he was influenced by. I said to him, “Educate me, tell me where you are coming from and what you love.”

When I first heard people were remixing Nina Simone, I was like, “WHAT?” And now I think it’s really awesome.

Kate: I’m probably with you, and it may be a generational thing, I’m not sure. I just was opening up to understand it, so I just absorbed it and I thought this is interesting, this is cool, there’s something in there that’s fresh and it’s visiting the music in an interesting way. 

So you need — what’s the term I’m looking for — master tapes to do your work, Rocket?

Todd: Yes, basically it’s the sessions files from the recording sessions. All the multi-tracks allow the ability to go and grab the vocals out, grab the saxophone out, grab the piano out, etc. Some people have maybe the same attitude as you in that at first you’re listening, saying, “Who does this guy think he is, remixing? This is already a complete work, why would you go in and change this already existing complete work?” But Kate and Steve both have this attitude that music isn’t precious.

Kate: It’s an evolving conversation and it updates that music, it makes it viable, it makes it current. So it’s not static.

Todd: Remixing as an art form has really largely been legitimized over the past decade by things like (The Verve) opening their archives and saying “OK, we can remix Nina Simone.”

Kate: It has to do too with economics where record companies are asking, “How do we make our catalog viable, because we’re going down the tubes?” Necessity is the mother of invention, so it’s invented something actually really interesting. 

Kate, how did you feel the first time you heard it?

Kate: It was genuinely inspiring to me because it was fresh; it’s a completely different approach. Music for me can be so predictable, and it can get bland and boring in a heartbeat. 

I remember seeing one of the duo shows last summer at the Brunswick. What was having that series of gigs there like for you?

Kate: We had a heck of a time, because the pressure was off and so it enabled us to develop and morph and try things we probably wouldn’t have if we had had those coffee-shop gigs where everyone is sitting there. There was nobody guarding the henhouse; we went wherever we wanted to go. We started getting excited about opening up into going more places that were unpredictable, and maybe you can hear a little bit of that on the live CD. There’s a lot of synchronistic moments that just happened out of nowhere. We’re not playing from charts; we’re going on a journey, and that came out of doing that stretch down at the Brunswick.

Our project and our work together, in my mind and my heart, is that it’s a conversation exploring the outer boundaries of what can we do as musicians, as creators and as recording artists.

Todd: The other personality in the band and on stage are the songs. Kate is a spectacular songwriter, and has given life and breath into these things so that they have their own lives. These songs live independently of us for better or for worse, so when we’re on stage, we’re on stage with ourselves, our instruments and these songs, and what happens is a confluence of all of those personalities.

Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. Contact her at:

[email protected]


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