Top Story

I Hate Kate: Paula Hansen is Confused!

(Actually, I don’t even know Kate, but what the hell)

By Paula Hansen

When Johnny Depp appeared on “The Actor’s Studio” and was asked his favorite word, he answered, “Shit.” I think I’d have to say, “Fuck,” but “Enigmatic” runs a close second.

Enigmatic (adj.) from Enigma (noun) [ i nig mә ]. A mystery. Someone or something that is not easily explained or understood.

I just love something that I can’t quite put my finger on. I am captivated by the perplexing, ambiguous, nebulous quality that refuses to fit into any pre-carved pigeonhole - no matter how hard you shove. Occasionally, it shows up in a band’s music, signaling the beginning of a new branch in the evolution of rock-n-roll’s family tree.

Hindsight, being what it is, we can go back and analyze and label those innovations now, but when a new sound springs on the scene, it has DJs and music critics scratching their heads and struggling to describe it.

In the 40s, artists started combining R&B, country, jazz, gospel, and folk music. In 1951, Alan Freed, a Cleveland DJ, started giving it airplay and named it “rock-n-roll.”

In 1969, legendary rock critic Lester Bangs described MC5 as, “intentionally crude and aggressively raw most of the songs are barely distinguishable from each other in their primitive two-chord structures. You’ve heard all this before . . . the difference here is the thick overlay of teenage-revolution and total-energy-thing.” It wasn’t called “punk” until a year later by Dave Marsh at Creem magazine. Although Lester couldn’t quite nail it down, he knew that these proto-punks had something unique.

In 1991, when the Seattle sound we all now know as grunge broke loose with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” we knew it was different, but what exactly was it? Punk and metal and dirty guitar? Hard to label.

It only takes one band with a new, enigmatic sound to fascinate and excite the masses. That’s what makes the rock-n-roll world go ‘round. And with that, boys and girls, I will wrap up today’s lesson on music history.

I tell you that to tell you this: I guarantee you that it won’t be long before today’s DJs and music journalists are scurrying to find the words to describe and give name to the sound being created by Justin Mauriello (ex-Zebrahead) and his band, I Hate Kate.

IHK’s music is obviously influenced by a wide variety of genres. Justin says he went through several musical phases as a kid:

“I had a metal phase, a punk phase, even a new wave phase.

I was like, ‘Oh Man, I love this shit!’ and I started growing my hair out because of Metallica.

Then I heard Depeche Mode. ‘Fuck that.’ Cut my hair.

Started getting into Fugazi, ‘Oh Fuck that, I don’t drink anymore, I’m straightedge.’

Then I got older. I’m like, ‘OK. I like a little bit of this, a little bit of this, a little bit of this.’ ”

Typically, the music produced from a patchwork of genres turns out to be completely stripped of the emotion that was driving the originals, becoming a watered-down, overproduced, Clear-Channel-friendly, muzak version of what used to be good music.

I Hate Kate is not typical. They manage to take all the best elements of punk, rock, metal, alternative, and new wave and work them into a unique, irresistible sound.

Imagine The Cure with better hair, a suntan, and a good dose of antidepressants, or Material Issue with a heavy bassline, punk rock’s frenetic energy, melodic vocals, and metal guitar riffs.

Justin says they don’t really have a name for it, “We just call ourselves a rock band.”

You can pogo, mosh, or headbang, but Justin says more than anything, “I want to have a song that makes you feel something. When we were recording this album, I told the producer to just make sure that when we record this it captures the mood I thought about while writing it. I want to have that mood come out when you’re listening to it.”

History of I Hate Kate

The Kate hating began in 2004, when Justin was still with Zebrahead. He needed a creative outlet he wasn’t finding in his current band, so he joined up with Scott Hayden (Bass), Jeremy Berghorst (Guitar), and Mike Lund (Drums) as a side project.

He says, “[Being in one band and] playing with other musicians is like being in a relationship and being able to have sex with other people.” Brilliant.

Justin’s off-hand comment about a friend’s girlfriend gave birth to the band’s name, and eventually, the Kates graduated from mistress status and became Justin’s full-time gig. They’ve shared the stage with My Chemical Romance, Social Distortion, Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Angels and Airwaves, and Unwritten Law, to name a few. The diversity of those bands speaks to IHK’s unique fusion sound.

The Live Show

Taking turns driving the van, the boys made their way from Canada to Fargo, ND, to open for the seminal LA punk Mike Ness and Social Distortion. The Black Halos were also on the bill, but they apparently had some difficulty at the border and weren’t allowed back in the country. Hmm . . .

Typically, an opening band receives a lukewarm welcome from an audience who half-listens while drinking their overpriced beer and waiting for the headliner, but I’ve already explained that IHK is not typical.

I was impressed by the crowd’s enthusiasm – screaming and singing along – a better reception than I’ve seen for most openers (and some headliners). It was hard to tell who was having a better time, the audience or the band.

The set list included songs from both the double EP, “Act One” and the new album, “Embrace the Curse.” From the moment they stepped on stage, they owned the place. I Hate Kate pounds out a live show with high-energy and a tight, album-quality sound. I would eagerly shell out for an IHK headline show.

Justin’s a born showman, connecting with the crowd and cracking jokes between songs. In introducing “I’m in Love With a Sociopath,” from “Act One,” Justin asked the audience, “Have you ever had someone in your life and one day you realize they’re just NUTS?! . . . ”

The crowd roared and laughed in agreement.

“. . . and have you noticed that those people fuck 10 times better than the sane ones?!”

Somehow, I don’t think this song sprang entirely from his imagination . . .

IHK To Tour Japan

I Hate Kate’s new album “Embrace the Curse” was released in Japan late April, and is available online from CD Baby and iTunes.

After wrapping up their stint with Social Distortion in May, IHK’s off to Japan for a short club tour. Justin’s traveled Japan a few times, “The fans are amazing. They have a real appreciation for music. And they have energy in the audience I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. You feed off that energy. It’s an experience. It’s better than most drugs I’ve done.”

I asked, “Most? But not all? Which ones were better?” Justin thought a moment and conceded, “OK. It’s better than all.”

After Japan, they’ll be back in the states to make a video and play a few radio festivals this summer. They plan to continue touring through 2007, but no firm plans to share yet.

Final Thoughts

Once again, I bought a ticket for the headliner and fell in love with the opening act.

Peter Gabriel said a good song is one that makes you think, feel, and want to move. I would add ‘make me sing loudly and off key in my car.’

If that definition works for you, then you won’t be disappointed in either of I Hate Kate’s albums or their live show. These guys have something truly unique to offer – they’re bound to break big.

I Hate Kate.

Actually, no.

I don’t Hate Kate.

I Love Kate.

No, wait.

I mean I Love I Hate Kate.

Hmmm . . . rambling, confusion, conflicting emotions . . . does that make me a sociopath?

Perhaps . . .

. . . and, yes Justin, we do.


Give I Hate Kate a listen and check their tour schedule at

Buy the “Act One” double EP or their new release “Embrace the Curse” on iTunes or CD Baby