Malcolm Catto
Malcolm Catto

Malcolm Catto

About Malcolm Catto

Malcolm Catto is an eclectic British drummer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and record producer. Though best known as the de facto leader of groundbreaking East London psych-jazz-experimental outfit the Heliocentrics, he has been an active recording professional since making his debut with the left-field funk ensemble Soul Destroyers on the singles "Blow Your Top" and "Armadillo" in 1999.
Since that time, Catto has worked in genres ranging from rock and jazz to soul, funk, world music, and many places between. In 2001, he issued a self-titled debut solo outing as Popcorn Bubblefish on Mo' Wax, and followed with its dub and beats companion Bubblefish Breaks a year later. He appeared on Madlib's historic Shades of Blue in 2003, and served as an additional drummer on Connie Price & the Keystones' breakthrough album Wildflowers in 2004 and on several titles from DJ Shadow, including The Outsider.
Catto founded the Heliocentrics in early 2007. By the time the year ended, the band had released a universally acclaimed long-player, Out There, on Now-Again. In 2008, he and a few of his bandmates released the trip-hop outing Lightworlds on Now-Again under the moniker Mr. Chop. In 2009, the Heliocentrics broke new ground by collaborating with Ethiopian jazz giant Mulatu Astatke on the third installment in Strut's Inspiration Information series, and followed it with a tour of Europe, even as he continued working on Quantic's various world jazz and funk projects including Tradition in Transition for Tru Thoughts. In 2009, he appeared on the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble's eponymously titled outing for Honest Jon's.
In 2010, Catto and the Heliocentrics collaborated with noted bassist, oudist, and international ethnomusicologist Lloyd Miller on a documentary film and soundtrack for Strut entitled Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics. Catto and Heliocentrics' bassist Jake Ferguson also appeared on the self-titled The Lloyd Miller Trio 12" EP outing from Jazzman. That same year, he produced Rubber Orchestras, the debut long-player from Anthony Joseph & the Spasm Band. Catto spent the next two years producing beats as Mr. Chop and working with J. Rocc and DJ Shadow, before Heliocentrics reunited for the breakthrough 13 Degrees of Reality in 2013. The album made dozens of critics' best-of-year lists internationally, and received airplay from the BBC and CBC. The same year, the Heliocentrics expanded their reach by issuing Helio x GLK, ‎a collaborative 12" with Gaslamp Killer, and the Quatermass Sessions 1 EP on Now-Again; it was titled for Catto's recording studio.
Catto's vision for the Heliocentrics' sound expanded even more in 2014 when the band collaborated with legendary author, director, and polemicist Melvin Van Peebles on the acclaimed The Last Transmission. The unique project married 12 of Van Peebles' thematically linked Afrofuturist poems to a band score comprised of thick grooves drawn from funk, hip-hop, electronica, Middle Eastern traditional music, movie soundtracks, and wildly disparate jazz sources. Crazily, it wasn't the Heliocentrics' only groundbreaking collaboration that year. The band also teamed with Nigerian Afrobeat saxophonist and high-life legend Orlando Julius in Catto's studio for Jaiyede Afro. Released by Strut, it peaked at 13 on the World Albums chart.
In 2015, Catto was enlisted to play drums on Shawn Lee and the Soul Surfers' Ubiquity debut album, Soul Rock!, and also played on Ronald Snijders' The Nelson & Djosa Sessions ‎on V-2. The Heliocentrics re-grouped in 2016 for the 19-track From the Deep, a seductive yet chaotic collection of short pieces that explored free funk and various global takes on psychedelia. That same year, Catto produced, engineered, and recorded the massively influential Black Focus by Yusef Kamaal, the short-lived supergroup led by Yussef Dayes and Henry Wu (aka Kamaal Williams); it peaked at 13 on the Jazz and Blues albums charts in the U.K. The Heliocentrics issued their most ambitious outing toward the end of the year. A World of Masks, a soundtrack for the film The Sunshine Makers, focused the band's wide-ranging, global-influenced musical approach on psychedelic funk, referencing everyone from Can and Träd, Gräs och Stenar to Funkadelic. In addition, the spaced-out set contained improvised singing and lyrics from a new member, Slovakian vocalist Barbora Patkova. The band toured Europe and Asia in support.
In 2018, Catto co-produced La Candela del Rio, the debut album from Paris-based quartet Insólito UniVerso, a project that drew inspiration from psychedelic folk, electronic experimentation, and traditional Latin American music, particularly through the rhythms and instruments of Venezuelan folklore. In addition, he produced, recorded and mixed Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids' An Angel Fell for Strut. The following year saw more production and sideman work as Catto co-produced and mixed Skinny Pelembe's Brownswood Recordings debut, Dreaming Is Dead Now, and produced and mixed Sulla Pelle by Valentina Magaletti and Julian Sartorius for Marionette.
In spite of a global pandemic, 2020 proved to be one of Catto's busiest years as a musician and as a producer. In February, the Heliocentrics released Infinity of Now, their debut for the Madlib Invazion label. Recorded in analog at Catto's Quatermass Sound Lab, the set wove together futurist, psychedelia-tinged Afrobeat, library sound, and hip-hop-flavored futurist jazz. He also produced engineered and mixed Ackamoor & the Pyramids' Shaman! and helmed the session for a second full-length Heliocentrics release entitled Telemetric Sounds, a darker, grittier, far more abstract outing that according to Catto reflected the anarchic spirit of the times accurately. But the musician still wasn't done. In November, the collaborative release of the all-analog Quatermass Seven, from Catto's Dalston studio was a seven-track, fuzzed-out psych/garage rock and breaks freak-out with Catto in the drum chair behind the remaining members of Little Barrie, guitarist Barrie Cadogan and bassist Lewis Wharton (their drummer, Virgil Howe, had passed on in 2017). ~ Thom Jurek

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