Perfect Perdition: Kate Mo$$ and the Industrial Underground
A cacophany fills a warehouse in the middle of nowhere in the occasionally desolate urban sprawl of la. It’s a mixture of staccato inhuman howls and mechanized warfare; perfectly calculated chaos. The scenes accompanying the din don’t appear much better, on the grimy warehouse ground, a woman, gagged, writhes all but naked and perched atop the pelvis of a man who’s style blends the original spirit of punk with crust and hip hop. The mic is wrapped around his neck and shoved in his mouth with force, his trap-influenced flo growled out between gritted teeth or spat with fury and joy in wreckless abandon.
Welcome to the world of Kate Mo$$, where sex, blood, drugs, grind core, and trap music blend and merge into a heavy hit that seems perfectly calculated to cull those of a weakened constitution. This is music not meant for the faint of heart or the quick to temper. And a scene that is run on throwing convention back into the face of society and culture with a rabid disgust.
Its deeply enticing performance art of the highest order for the Trump era.
Our culture, as Trumps rise and perhaps inevitable seizure of power has told us, is beginning to fray at the seams. So-called PC culture has often been touted by one side or another as a prime reason for this. Wether or not that’s true, it has certainly caused much consternation and led to our “outrage culture” of the moment, as many allegedly race to simply be the most sensitive. This, of course, is a gross oversimplification and bastardization of a movement and urge which has noble intentions and has begun to show progress in fighting back against an inherently racist, sexist, homophobic culture, but it has also stifled creativity and led to a lot of pilloried bodies, created a lot of confusion and anxiety, and engendered no small amount of resentment.
Everything about Kate Mo$$ is meant to raise ones ire. Perhaps they are outrage incarnate, or a crucible to push ones sense of indignant rage past the point of care. The first time i saw them, Skuz, dancer, screamer and hype-woman extraordinaire, came leaping on stage twerking and making out with friends in the wings and completely covered in blood. Skuz is an otherworldy kind of beautiful--petite, fierce, and in utter possession of her body and her image. Each performance, a new, equally iconoclastic costume is mad her own, wether it be a wedding gown and veil paired with corpse paint or more traditional hip-hop influenced garb and vampire-esque contact lenses. When they played UNION, Skuz bashed her forehead open on a broken tv set on stage, no small amount of real blood leaking down her deceptively dulcet features--to which she responded with first confusion and then glee. When proffered a rag to staunch the bleeding, and furthermore to be escorted to first aid of some kind, she reacted with a trill laugh and fierce anger, fighting to get back to the show.
At each show Gnar, frontman and vocalist, trades choking Skuz and being utterly dominated by her fury. Each moment one observes his dominance in ascendant, is then again brought low before his performance partner. At the first show they assumed doggystyle, wrapped the mic around her neck and pulled--all before leaping up, slicing open his forehead with a razor and doing blow off of a bible (the Bible was later used by Skuz as a primary tool for masturbation before being torn to shreds and consumed by the crowd). His command of the stage is electric. From the moment he gets on stage, it is as a caged beast just on the cusp of being set free. Like a wild pit bull with a frayed leash. There's a deep sense of constant potential energy as he stalks across the stage, his leading man looks occasionally obscured by a makeshift veil.
Behind the drums, the sole traditional instrument in Kate Mo$$'s current repertoire, Ruby Red provides a breakneck, contorted backbone to the jagged music. Head down, tattoo-emblazoned body bared, arms flying. And in the corner, acting security and acting manager, Purple Tony is crouched, a daemonic grin splitting his face. Enraptured--more stoked and enthralled with his friends capabilities than anyone in the room, he stays vigilant throughout each set, breaking up occasional fights, keeping the unruly in line, and encouraging reluctant audience members to cultish chaos.
This shock and awe mentality is Kate Mo$$’s bread and butter. It’s sensory overload. Of the half dozen times I have seen and shot them, nearly every time has ended in blood and a devilish grin, with no small number of utterly bewildered audience members.
“Apparently a lot of people were offended...” Gnar said later after that first show at the Echo , seeming genuinely crestfallen, after their Echo show opening up for Ho99o9. the offense is only part of the point. For every article that mentioned appropriation, objectification, or violence, was a reviewer only reading the very surface level of a surprisingly deeply intricate act.
My first reaction, after that first song, was complete and utter delight. This is the kind of performance that a photographer and lover of live music dreams of. It’s pure abandon. And it’s smart. It’s curated iconoclasm—using all of the weapons of youth culture, whether it be punk or trap or rap or fashion—to deliberately drag peoples preconceived notions of propriety and art through the muck—and then give it a big sloppy, blood-tinged kiss. With a lot of tongue.
In one performance, the band manages to address issues of violence, sexism, racism, religion, politics, sexuality, power and gender dynamics—challenging each notion with flagrant and unashamed glee and without me having understood a single goddamned word above the crushing weight of their trap-by-way-of-grindcore style.
Each surface level assumption can be subverted or peeled away. The alleged violence and objectification through twerking and simulated sex acts? That’s missing the interesting boundaries of consent and power dynamics at constant play on the stage between Skuz and Gnar. Their openness and trust of one another is on constant display as the upper hand is bandied between them throughout each show—and each time the dynamic is unique to that performance. It’s a surprisingly intimate performative portrait of a friendship and artistic partnership with the language of bondage and domination. And one that extends beyond the confines of the stage, as any cursory glance through their professional or personal Instagram profiles could tell you.
The allegations of appropriation fail to acknowledge the genuine love these artists have for the influences they blend and neglect the true, authentic lifestyles they lead—steeped in drugs, sex, bdsm, booze, and bloody industrial music. Furthermore those allegations neglect the intentionality behind the movements—offense is used as a tool. As a means to achieve a breakthrough of sorts. Or a realization that the band simply refuses to adhere by any common standards in the dogged pursuit of something New.
This, in effect, makes Kate Mo$$, and the burgeoning industrial underground (completed by Girl Pusher, HOUNDS, Ho99o9, HEALTH, and Youth Code, as well as an increasing number of others) the perfect soundtrack for the modern, frequently despondent and hopeless era. If there is nothing new under the sun, the most we can hope for is either a clever remixing of what has been done or to simply give up caring about anything altogether. And a clever remixing that doesn’t wallow in the despair or stew in the rage, but uses that deliberate uncaring as a hammer to shatter, or at least shake, the very pillars keeping our shabby, rotten civilization aloft, is an exciting and nigh-noble prospect.
The band plays at Nature World Night Out in March at the Regent, opening for Hatebreed. They are early on in the day. Do not miss them. Catch wreck.