"Urge was around a lot longer than even our avid fans realized (over 12 years) which is a fairly honorable run for ANY band. And like any 12-year marriage, the relationship takes a beating and runs its course. But given the volatile nature of both the business and the band itself, it's a miracle we lasted as long as we did. I think we're all far more at peace, and are only now able to appreciate all that we had."
The saga of Urge Overkill is a strange and beautiful journey, which was arguably kick started back in 1986 with the band’s Strange, I… EP (Ruthless). An early Steve Albini joint featuring the enigmatic Nash Kato, a native not of the band’s homebase of Chicago but of Grand Forks, ND (spitting distance from the Canadian border) on guitar along with UO bassist Kid Roeser and pre-Blackie Onasis drummer boy Pat Byrne, spearheaded an unstoppable rock mission that would last for over a decade.
In the early days, Kato and Roeser got around. The duo’s ubiquity would soon reach the point that it was likely you’d see them anywhere you went on any given evening, embracing their hometown nightlife in all its Lakeside splendor. Kato remembers mainly the laughs, "It seemed like the whole world was our private punchline. That feeling of invincibility through unity." Their wink and nudge bon-vivantism, in no small part, spawned the creative and stylistic explosion that birthed the next slew of UO offerings released on Touch and Go. 1989’s Jesus Urge Superstar (another Albini notch) and the following year’s Americruiser, (this time produced by Butch Vig), were significant, critically acclaimed records, the latter of which boasted Kato’s UO vocal debut with the epic, "Out On The Airstrip."
Drummer Blackie Onasis would join Nash, now going by the name "National" Kato and Roeser (now "King") Roeser for 1991’s Supersonic Storybook (back to Albini). Storybook saw Nash and Urge finally find themselves-- a distinctive voice in a sea of quickly homogenizing indie rock. The Stull EP would follow in ‘92, produced by Kramer, the 8-song masterwork featured a silky version of the Neil Diamond classic "Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon," later lifted for the soundtrack to the unforgettable Uma Thurman white powder confusion segment in Quentin Tarrantino’s Pulp Fiction.
What followed was the band’s first major label release, Saturation (1993) produced by the Butcher Brothers, an out-and-out rock milestone ala Van Halen, Cheap Trick and the Rolling Stones, et al. This was Big Rock, ladies and gentlemen, palpably hinted at in previous UO releases, but never before this massive. Saturation, would be the perfect title for a record that prompted just that on every level for the band. TV appearances, major tours, lotsa press, the works. "Sister Havana" got on the radio and the song; "Positive Bleeding" landed encore coverage from none other than the Pretenders. Saturation’s 1995 follow-up Exit The Dragon, proved to be the band’s swansong. Featuring the Butcher Bros. revisiting as producers, the record boasted some standout Nash Kato tracks in "View Of The Rain" and "Somebody Else’s Body," smartly harking back to T. Rex and the Kinks.
NASH GOES SOLO:
"I'm able to indulge myself more musically, mainly with regard to arrangement. I never felt allowed to fully explore the dynamic possibilities of my UO material, which was a great source of frustration for me as a songsmith. Now I can live out my rock-and-roll fantasy as ‘composer.’"
Nash’s artful tunes on Exit The Dragon would foreshadow forthcoming solo work. In the downtime between Urge’s last hurrah and the present day, Nash Kato has been hunkered down, in short, writing a shitload of songs. Good news for Pearl Jam pal Stone Gossard (UO and PJ toured together back in ’94) who has been waiting for Nash to amass enough output to comprise a long player for Gossard’s Loosegroove label.
And so it was that last Spring/Summer Kato entered Chicago’s much-trafficked Gravity Studios to lay down the basic tracks on a new long player titled Debutante with guitarist buddy Nils St. Syr, bassist John "The Fat Man" Evans. Not to mention, drummer Josh Freese, who demanded to play on the record after a once over of the demos. Gossard’s buddy Eric Rosse would oversee production on the record, eventually moving the party down to Animas, a studio he owned in Santa Fe.
"Animas was "interesting" because the entire studio was literally on wheels, so you were never sure it would be there the next day. Perhaps its greatest feature was its location - waking up everyday in Sante Fe made it impossible to distinguish work from vacation, and I think the record manifests that wondrous ambiguity."
There, Nash and the band would lay down vocals and other overdubs while shacked up at a palatial mountainside adobe. Nash says of the place, "Mornings were christened by the pool, evenings star-gazing from the Jacuzzi. It was both mystical and inspirational, and we were most fortunate to have been guests there. Most of the lyrics were written in that place and in that state of mind."
The songs on Debutante, more or less a collection of 12 demos compiled over the past 2 years, with the exception of a stellar cover of Steely Dan’s "Dirty Work," fitting into the track listing like a glove, are once again indicative of Kato’s deftness in making excellent rock n’roll. From the explosive kick-off track, "Zooey Suicide" through the Stones-inspired title track, in-between and beyond, Nash delivers a record that will not disappoint Urge fans while bringing his singular brilliance to light.
"There's little difference in my approach to songwriting from the Urge stuff to the new material, insofar as I tend to adhere to that tried and true pop standard of verse/chorus/bridge/out thang. If there was one noticeable difference at all, I suppose it would lie in the dynamic of the composition itself as well as a more intense activity and variety in the arrangement."
Debutante is all about the cult of the cowbell, the soul-sistah backing vocals, the no-shit guitar and Kato’s distinctive baritone rasp. High charged shredders like "Queen Of The Gangstas" and "Pillow Talk" are offset by the bouncy, piano vamp of "Cradle Robbers," the country tinged soul of "Blow" and the groovy "Black Satin Jacket," which is Nash’s magic moment, (he says, "I still get chills"). Debutante offers something for everyone who’s ever loved rock.