Fast 5 With Kish Kollective aka South Central Positronics

Michele Sarto (“Mike” to those closest to him; other people just can’t pronounce the name properly) is best known for his alias of Kish Kollectiv  he also is known as South Central Positronics. His releases under this guise are more SciFi related but not your run of the mill science fiction but more  along the lines of Dime Novel Pulp Fiction tradition.  It’s a SciFi theatrical musical journey.

The latest release is best put in the musician’s own words:  The title and inspiration for the second South Central Positronics release comes from a late seventies novel by the German author and philosopher Ernst Jünger. Jünger was a fascinating and sometimes controversial figure who had a very long and interesting life that included service in two world wars and a keen interest in such disciplines as botany, zoology and biology. He also became a noted entomologist. His 1939 novel “On the Marble Cliffs” has been interpreted as a critique of the then incumbent National Socialist regime, of which Jünger was no admirer.

The setting of “Eumeswil” is a North African city-state of the same name, in some post-apocalyptic future that is only tangentially referenced. The main protagonist and narrator of the novel is Martin Venator, a historian who enjoys a position and privilege in the outer edges of the ruling dictator’s (known simply as the “Condor”) circle. Some of the technology described seems to foreshadow such modern features as the smartphone, the internet and even genetic engineering. The pragmatic Venator has found a way to exist within the framework of an authoritarian regime while maintaining a high degree of individual and intellectual freedom, the embodiment of an archetype Jünger labelled the “anarch”. In many ways, it is not an easy book; such was the level of Jünger’s erudition, the modern reader finds himself or herself constantly turning to Google to understand some of the historical, cultural and philosophical references…at least this one did. It is, however, worth the effort.

Musically, the album features a sequence of instrumental pieces that draw upon 1990s electronica, hip-hop and trip-hop styles, such as the Eurodance-influenced “Luminar”, the seductive late night vibes of “Latifah” and the eerily lilting and wintry-sounding “Hyperboreans”. Each loosely references various concepts and characters from the novel, culminating in the climactic nine minute monster, “Forest Passage” (incidentally also the name of one of Jünger’s earlier works), reflecting the final traversal of Venator (along with benign dictator the Condor and his trusted henchmen) into the wild woodlands at the edges of the territory beyond Eumeswil.

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.

Why did you start to do music?

My parents had the radio on incessantly when I was very young and so many of my earliest memories were of the big songs of the era; it’s likely this awakened my love of music. As I got older and ended up watching more television, I also grew to love TV themes and film soundtrack music. I later developed a love of  fifties rock ‘n’ roll that led me to try to learn to play the guitar like the greats. Later, I grew to admire more modern guitar gods like Satriani, Vai, di Meola and Holdsworth and started coming up with my own modest compositions.

Why do you continue to do music?

If I didn’t, I’d probably go loopy. As a big music fan, I’m constantly listening to it and that inspires me to keep creating my own, which I suppose makes me happy and makes the burden of mortality a bit easier to bear!Who is your musical idol?

I’ve been strict and narrowed it down to three, but it would need to be a very long list.

Neil Finn (of Crowded House, Split Enz and more recently Fleetwood Mac), who is my favourite singer-songwriter, although his brother Tim is only a hair’s breadth behind.

Chuck D (of Public Enemy) – he’s past 60 now and still has the most powerful voice in hip-hop.
Joe Satriani – perhaps the greatest living Guitar God.
Who do you look up to in the industry?

Again, I could write a list, but the first two people who leapt to mind (after having recently re-watched “The Defiant Ones”), I have to say Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.
What influences your music?

|If we’re talking about the Kish Kollektiv project, primarily, horror films of the ’70s and ’80s and the low budget synthesizer and prog rock scores that accompanied them.In terms of non-musical inspiration, it would be the cinematic masters of horror like Romero, Carpenter, Fulci and Argento who created the films that necessitated the soundtrack scores. I must also give an honourable mention to the literary giants of the horror genre, King, Barker, Masterton and Laymon who must have played their part in fashioning my macabre leanings and in particular, the late Karl Edward Wagner, whose infamous 1970s short story “Sticks” was the clear and direct inspiration for my second release, “Dwellers in the Earth”. 

As for my other project, South Central Positronics; musically, it owes a lot to 1990s electronica and dance music of various types. In terms of the concepts, I’d say twentieth century science fiction literature is the biggest influence, specifically the work of Clifford Simak, Stephen King’s more sci-fi orientated work and Ernst Jünger’s own forays into that genre. I’ve also drawn inspiration from such esoteric concepts such as time travel and Selfica.