Interview With Michele Sarto aka…

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.

How did you get involved in music?

It was developing a love of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly (several decades too late!) that led me to want to pick up a guitar as a child and learn to play it. So I suppose you could say the likes of Cliff Gallup, Scotty Moore, Eddie Cochran, Link Wray and Chuck Berry. I also admired the extraordinarily contemporaneous talented piano work of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Later, I fell in love with guitar gods like Satriani, Vai, di Meola and Holdsworth and became intrigued by the idea of fashioning my own instrumental guitar compositions.
When did you make music a priority?It’s honestly hard to recall a time when it wasn’t a priority in some form, even going back to childhood…but in terms of what I do now as Kish Kollektiv and South Central Positronics, it was 2018 when I decided to try to make my hobby more of a profession.

What inspires you daily to write & record music?
As what I compose is similar to soundtrack music, the glaringly obvious answer is the work of genuine composers who work in that field and the visuals and emotional textures of films, TV shows and documentaries. More generally, life experiences play a huge part, particularly nostalgia for the past, which is something I feel very acutely. The weird thing about any sort of art is that negativity can inspire as much as positivity, perhaps even more so. Sometimes it can be the most random thing, like a certain slant of sunlight late in the afternoon when I’m walking through the woods near where I live, the elegant decay of a dilapidated building or even a vivid dream or nightmare I’ve had.

What’s unique about your music…what sets it apart?If there is anything “unique” about it, it may be because I’m entirely self-taught and have arrived at my current styles of music by fumbling through a sort of trial and error process, not to mention extreme musical cross-pollination. I subtly draw upon a ludicrously wide variety of genres for inspiration, stretching from hip-hop to industrial, power pop to baroque, as well as the more “front and centre” influences like the synthesiser score greats of the 1970s and 1980s. Hopefully out of all this comes a style that is distinctively my own.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part about being a musician?I think the rewards of being a musician lie in being able to satisfy my creative muse and that unbeatable feeling when a kernel of an idea grows into a fully realised composition. My least favourite part of the whole thing is never being entirely happy with my own work to the point where sometimes I can’t listen to it – I find so many faults. Thankfully I have my more lenient moments where I can temporarily forget it’s me and not only critique and assess the work but (almost!) enjoy it. 

Name 1-2 highly influential musicians that you listen to & respect?So difficult to narrow it down to such a small number, but I’ll try.
Neil Finn (of Crowded House, Split Enz and more recently Fleetwood Mac), who is my favourite singer-songwriter.
Chuck D (of Public Enemy) – he’s past 60 now and still has the most powerful voice in hip-hop.

When it comes to how the music enthusiast listens to your album do you prefer they buy or stream and why?
I really don’t mind – whichever method works for them works for me.