I’ve seen Caleb “Ketchum” McPherson at shows, watched him DJ a number of times, and ran into him at parties. But I’d never truly had the time to sit down and talk to him about his music, his persona, and what truly made him tick. I was lucky enough to catch up with him at a birthday party at the House of Gypsies in East Lansing, where he told me about his top six musical influences, why he doesn’t charge shit for his beats, and what we as Mid-Michiganders should do to better the scene brewing up the Midwest.
McPherson somewhat resembles a young Adrian Brody, only cooler, with more swag and sex appeal. At only 19 years of age, he has accomplished more as an artist than many beyond his years hope to achieve. Some may know him as Crackula, spinning Fidget House, Drum and Bass, Breakcore and a little Dubstep to “accentuate shit” around town. But we want to know more about his other side—the darker side—the mad scientist, Kessenchu.
“My forte is Kessenchu. He is my soul coming out into an artistic form,” said the young artist. As Kessenchu, McPherson creates a manic fusion of Digital Hardcore, Gabber-punk, and Chiptune. Chiptune?
“We are a growing community influenced by dorks growing up playing the NES saying, ‘dude I love the soundtrack to Super Mario Bros. How did they compose that music?’ This is how you do it. We took that, we ran with it. We started making our own 8-bit soundtracks.”
For over two years from the ripe old age of 17 ½, Kessenchu’s been making his own music.
“That’s my life dude,” he said. “I don’t give a fuck about anything else. This is what I spend my time doing. I make music. I research it, I find shit that I like, and I talk about it because it excites me. And I can only concentrate on what I am excited about.”
His style, in his opinion, is hard-style techno speeded up to 180 bpm. It’s somewhat gabber, somewhat chiptune, some Nintendo games mixed in, some 16-bit as well, with a little Glitch and breakcore to round it all out.
“All of my tracks are speeded up to 180,” said Kessenchu. “That is a secret I’m willing to share. I use distorted kicks overdriven and pitch-bent to different melodies. I usually start at the note C5. I’ll give that secret away as well."
“If someone can mimic my style I will feel fucking honored. Like a serial killer.
“Overall, if I had to give myself a genre name, I would consider myself hardcore gabber-chip. We’re hyphenating shit here, that’s how deep it goes.”
Despite his entrepreneurial attitude, Kessenchu is in the habit of giving away his work for little more than… nothing at all.
“I have tons of recordings on Facebook. I should probably charge people, but I give out shit for free,” said Kessenchu. “I’m to the point where I have about 1000 downloads on the internet that I should at least start charging for physical copies.”
Like all members of the growing digital hardcore scene, Kessenchu draws a great deal of influence from Berlin group Atari Teenage Riot who have just recently re-united and will be performing in our neck of the tundra come late September. They were the first digital hardcore band with such hits as “Revolution Action” and “Death of a President DIY.”
“They’re all about overthrowing the government,” said Kessenchu. “Just awesome guys. Aqua meets angry street punk.”
Another major influence for Kessenchu is digital hardcore band Realicide from Cincinnati Ohio.
“They’ve got a distorted kickdrum approach comin’ at you just like, ‘[makes frantic drum noise with mouth].’ It’s like aggressive drum beats—bass in your face—and they’re screaming over it.
“It’s like a hardcore street punk attack with hardcore techno beats blasting you at the same time.
“The thing that appealed to me most about them is their approach. They’re like, ‘this is what we have to work with. We have these drum machines, these synthesizers, these tape decks… and what we have to say.’ The point is they have a message—what they feel in their soul—and they want to put that out. I saw them at (the now departed) Magdalena’s tea house, and they blew the skin off my face.”
Besides Realicide and Atari Teenage Riot, Kessenchu also cites Watabou, Yatagarasu, : ( …pronounced ‘Colin Openbracket,’ Dental Work and Bubblegum Octopus as major influences. But his number one musical hero would have to be Xrin Arms.
“He’s the big brother I never had. I was lost in life and I found this dude. He was this Cybergrind artist. I connected with him and he inspired me to just go out there with everything I have, make a persona for myself and go all the way no matter the fuck it takes. This is what I have to do to distinguish myself as an artist. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I didn’t meet him. That’s why he’s number one. He changed the course of my life.”
Kessenchu will be performing his regular set August 12 at Mental Spaghettifest outside of Traverse city—exact location undisclosed for legal reasons. The festival will feature the greatest breakcore and Noise artists in the area.
“No cops, no complaints, and we’re going to reinvent the fucking nature.”
“My name is Kessenchu. I am from the 517. And I would like to encourage everyone to pay special attention to what’s going on in the greater Lansing area because we have come to a conclusion that we need to express ourselves or we’re going to crash and burn and die like the rest of the filth in the area. No one wants to be that person. No one wants to be in the dying part of society. We all want to part of something that’s going to contribute to something revolutionary. We want to be a part of something that’s new. AND YOU CAN BE TOO. So network. Talk to people. Connect with us because we want to hear what you have to say. Because we want to make this new machine what YOU want it to be. Visit nomnomtunes.tumblr.com. Contact me—Caleb Ketchum—on Facebook if you want to get out there, if you want to be a part of the scene. We’re accepting anyone right now.” ▲