Love Letter To A Record: KAI CULT On Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Downward Spiral’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become. 

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

KAI CULT – Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral (1994)

Growing up, I was definitely different. And even when I didn’t feel different, I was sure to be reminded of it by the conservative townsfolk who surrounded me. Pretty typical small-town-teenager story, I know. But through this, I was thrust head-first into the magical realm of outsider and alternative music, which I still exist in today!

Trent Reznor served as a huge inspiration to me – full creative control, self-recorded and produced, and he played every single instrument. This album was a game-changer, even more-so now reflecting on the limitations of recording technology at that time in comparison to our present day.

This is a dark, intense album. Every single note that exists in the space screams of the pain and frustrations of the man who recorded it. A man struggling with grave demons and his personal quest to express it in a creative manner – taped in a supposedly haunted mansion, the site of the infamous Manson Family murders in 1969! As a teenager who felt socially isolated and also depressed, this album gave me a grim soundtrack that I could connect to.

The gratuitous combination of buzz-saw synthesisers, guitars, drum loops, which melded several dominant genres together in a bleak industrial package blew my mind away. It was definitely a quintessential album for any burgeoning teenage metalhead and set the stage for me to appreciate more alternative forms of music such as Noise, Techno, and Ambient.

It really set the stage for my DIY ethics that I hold to this day as a young adult – the idea that the quest to fulfil total creative vision can be an arduous, painful, and solitary experience, but the result of expressing yourself in ways that can’t be typically conversed is an amazingly cathartic experience that gives plentiful spiritual and personal fulfilment that is second to no other experience in life.

Melbourne-based DIY post-punk artist KAI CULT has just unveiled his latest idiosyncratic cut ‘Cigarette Burns’ – produced by the artist himself and mixed by Ashwin Rao from the Singaporean Garage Rock band Knightingale. Listen below

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