Hawaii Punk’s Not Dead

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I began doing my research for this article by reading and listening to interviews by former Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ guitarist, the late John Frusciante, who had a quote that really put the interview into context.

The force that created us is expressing itself through our existence. I don’t think a musical idea starts in your brain. I believe it starts at a place before that we don’t have any direct contact with. And I believe that everything that we do or everything that we create is nature expressing itself.

Cataylst channels the nature of not only their environment. But of generations of musicians before them.

It is my privilege to present an interview that took place at the Waianae Piilau Skate park on “Rusty’s Ramp”.


Could you begin by introducing the band, who the members are the instruments they play and the sound of your music?

Tom Talkington shredding on guitar, Jeromey hoots on slapping bass and Aaron Overbay kicking drums. Our sound is little bit of all the music we listen to and smash it into a catalyst.

What’s the origin of the band Catalyst and how did the name come into being?

Tom and Jeromey started jamming in 1989 in Makaha with various friends. When Aaron was only two years old haha. Several starts and stops and long hiatus from Hawaii to Portland and back again…finally to reemerge in a fabrication warehouse in Sand Island in the summer of 2010. Our original drummer Chris “Critter” Wilcox came up with the name Catalyst because we all surf and they work with catalysts all day long. We appreciate the other definitions of ‘catalyst’ which really describe our approach to music in general. Now with our new drummer faster guitar and sicker lyrics we are the Catalyst you hear today.

Back yard fundamentals

What influences played a part in the band’s style? Have your influences changed over time and in doing so morphed the sound of Catalyst?

Aaron’s influence is more metal based. He is a total metal head with a lot of punk influences.
He’s a huge Dead Kennedy’s fan, and is also into Slipknot , Mudvayne and Stevie Ray Vaughun.

Tom Talkington’s influences stem mainly from his love of the guitar. Artists include Eric Clapton , John Bonham, Joey Jordison , John Fruciante , Man Or Astroman ,D. Boon (of the Minutemen), Tom Waits ,Frank Zappa and the Clash.

Jeromey’s love for music mostly stems from his father’s favorite musicians, Dave Bruebeck, Fleetwood Mac. He also has a love for Hawaiian music, Olomana, early Makaha Sons and Aunty G. Keawe, to name a few. A heavy early punk influence is still carried front and center. Ultimately the Minute Men , Angry Samoans and Fugazi, but ultimately a love for music of all sorts.

What are some of the challenges you faced starting out as a band and how did you overcome them?

The challenges we face are many. We have a formula for making music and we try to use that same formula to extinguish any doubt that music is dying. We don’t worry if people love or hate the music. The biggest challenge really, is being a band in Hawaii because of the clicks of music…if it’s not reggae, ska, or crappy cover songs nobody wants to hear them…sorry guys no ukuleles in this band. We just try to shut people up an listen to music by just bringing it and ignoring that fact that some people will not like it. We keep playing what we like to play and we hope our audience finds us. Keeping up with trends is not what we’re about.

High Tide invitational
How would you define punk rock?

Our definition of punk rock is our definition of our style playing what you want to play and not giving a crap what anyone thinks of it, just as long as no matter what or where we are playing, we are having the most fun at the show. Punk should not be a genre of music but really an attitude or lifestyle. The same way that alternative is a genre, because it really doesn’t describe anything it just gives it a vague description of something that can’t be classified.

Catalyst Band Photo

I’m sure you’re familiar with the 1981 Exploited song titled Punk’s Not Dead. Although the album and title may be a bit outdated, what is your opinion on the state of the Punk scene?

“Punk’s not dead…it just deserves to die when it’s become another stale cartoon. A closed-minded self-centered social club, ideas don’t matter, it’s who you know.” – Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys)

I have been doing my best to keep up with the modern punk sounds. However I must admit I’ve been a bit disappointed at the direction of most popular bands. What is your opinion on the neu-punk culture and sound? Can every band be a Rancid and still be hardcore? Also how fares the Hawaii Punk Scene?

A lot of bands are restricted because they want to be popular and are stuck in a certain sound that they think will make them famous. I feel bad because they still try but it’s like taking a drink out of an empty bottle of Jameson. You don’t get anything from it. As much as the sound culture has changed people still want to hear something new and strange. I would like to give shout out to all the bands who want people to hear something new like: Sandpaper Handjob , Hell Caminos ,Above Reproach, Old Habits Die Hard , Knumbskulls , The SUBSTITOOTS , Black square , Unit. 101 and also Simon from Black Flys for keeping it alive.

Invisible Band

I personally have noticed over time, how the mod/punk/metal/Goth fashion trends of our yesterday has become common place in society today. What are your opinions on this?

I have definitely noticed that the underground culture has manifested it’s way into the mainstream. I grew up in Makaha and back then you would get slapped and have a hard time making it through the day if you showed up with blue hair and a nose-ring. My schoolmates and I would constantly be accused of worshiping the devil for wearing Minor Threat, Dead Milkmen t-shirts or anything that veered from the norm. It’s a lot easier now days to express individuality, but as we have learned from the past, everything comes full circle, including the expression of music: No genre will ever be forgotten in our day to day lives, we relive the past so modern times will always accept things of the unnorm because they love differences.

What advice could you give to some up and coming punk bands in Hawaii?

My advice would be to do your research. Don’t let someone tell you what is punk or cool. The net has made everything so accessible. Listen as far back as you can and find something you like and make it your own. Trust what you feel good and run with it. All good things come full circle. Don’t be afraid of things that make you uncomfortable, because if it makes you feel good it must be good. Just remember, everyone is different just like everyone else.

What is your opinion on digital downloading of music as a means of advertisement and distribution?

If anyone wants our music bad enough and they illegally download, that’s an honor that they would go to any means to get it. Record stores are things of the past, so music is either in your face or your search will always continue. Our music can be found on Facebook. But what about album art and the people that should be recognized for the album? A lot of people are forgotten and they shouldn’t be because they are just as big a part of the music being made as the band is. It’s tragic that people just don’t care about anything anymore. There is no recognition in music anymore. Do a test for me name a amazing guitarist, bass player, or drummer from the 21st century. You can’t because unless you’re behind a computer making a stupid beat, acting like you have knowledge of music theory, you’re nothing in our world of music. What can a musician do in a world of technology where anyone can be original but pressing the space bar key on a computer to change the bass drums timing? What’s the talent in that? I miss musicians in music .

I would like to dedicate this article to all the hardcore Hawaii punk bands who are still cranking out tunes for their loyal fans. I would also like to dedicate this article to a friend who passed long ago. Rusty Hoots, who will forever be in our hearts.

Rusty Hoots