Tony Cummings quizzes KATO's leader Keith Ayling
Tony: How would you say 'Welcome To My World' compares with your previous albums? A lot of people are saying it's the most accessible and radio friendly work you've ever done.
Keith: This album is the best we've ever recorded. It is mainly a new set of songs written over the last year. We have avoided just recording for the sake of it, preferring to wait for the right deal to come along. We didn't want to just record another independent released album again. This is the culmination of two years of work to find out exactly which people God wants Kato to work with.
Tony: How did you come to sign with ICC's new Elevation label? You've been an independent with your Bigskymusic for so many years signing with a Christian label took us all by surprise.
Keith: I have known ICC's Adrian Thompson for a long time. Last year at Spring Harvest we sat down and talked about Kato and Adrian's new ideas for the label. It seemed that right from the beginning things were right. We shared some common goals about the label and Kato. Adrian saw that the time was right to realise the potential of the band. We trust each other and that is important. Ever since 1996 when we formed, we have had some set goals - we've been working to this point and now we're here it's only just the beginning. Our vision has always been twofold: to have a positive spiritual effect on the music industry from the inside, and to encourage people on their spiritual journey in a language they can understand. We've been fortunate enough to play some of the big gigs, Greenbelt mainstage, Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, but now 1 think we have a big product.
Tony: The producer of 'Welcome To My World', Dave Lynch, has become something of a hit maker with his work with Toploader. What was it like working with him?
Keith: It was great to work with Dave. He won't admit it but his mindset is similar to mine, so there were clashes, but they were healthy clashes. Dave hears a song in his head but has to work through the sound, play with it and let it grow. Only then is it ready for you to hear. Sometimes we heard different things, but you have to trust your team. You give them a job and you have to let them do it. I struggled letting go of my baby this time. But the result is amazing and on this album we really have the right team - all the way through to Paul Heyman. We had a string section booked but they pulled out the day before. We called Paul and he said yes!! He came down with his brother Philip, who plays with the Welsh National Opera, and spent a day with us. It was an incredible day! God was really working there. The sound was amazing and I had to leave the studio several times -) couldn't stop blubbering. I think the combination of hearing the string parts on my songs and knowing God had really answered prayer was too much. Last January (2000), I prayed that God would clearly show me what he wanted to do with my songs and this was his answer. Amazing!
Tony: Pick out a couple or three songs on 'Welcome To My World' and tell me a bit about them.
Keith: The title track was written last. We had a good set of nearly 20 songs, but just needed a further couple of singles, so I had to go away and write them. I don't know why but for some reason I write well under pressure. "Welcome" came out in about a few hours and then we honed it. It's about the confusion we can have in our lives, not knowing where to go, and then discovering God is in control and anything is possible. Is it biographical? Maybe. This journey is exactly about that - discovery. Do we really understand that?
"Strong" is a little more self-explanatory which is unusual for me. 1 tend to write with ambiguity, not because it's clever, it just turns out that way. There is a natural ambiguity in all our lives. We want to live for Jesus, but we have so many mundane things to do in the meantime. Some of life is always a joy, some of it is always a chore. How do we strike that balance? How do we see Jesus working through every situation? It isn't easy. My writing is ambiguous in that it parallels a Christian life with someone who might not believe. It parallels God's love with the love you have for wife or your partner. Of course they are very different, but it's good to really think it through and work out how they are different.
"Strong" is about being stripped back to the bone. Imagine God peeling off the layers that have built up on you and what's left? At the centre is there a pure love, a commitment to die for him? The last verse is inspired by Paul - being imprisoned for his beliefs. Would we go that far? After all that, as a writer, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with explaining exactly what songs mean. There has to be a mystery, because songs mean different things to different people at different times. The amount of people that have told me a song meant something to them is amazing, and they always have different perspectives. We need to let writers be themselves more and not rush in and judge what they appear to be saying.
Tony: What live work have you been doing recently and what have you got lined up?
Keith: God is really behind this and some of the things that have been happening recently have shown us that. We are playing all venues/all weeks at Spring Harvest. We really love that event. The atmosphere is amazing and the people are so behind us. We've been approached by ITV's Sunday Morning show and Channel 5's Alpha Zone, and we've also just confirmed a 10 day tour of the Vancouver area of Canada. We're playing in around eight churches and finishing with a Skate/Surf festival in All Nations Plaza in downtown Vancouver. The gig is to raise money for youth development projects worldwide. To be honest that's where our heart is right now. We really want to help youth workers reach young people in a real way and if this album gets to the streets the way we hope, then it wilt be a tool for youth workers to use.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.