© Koury Angelo
Get to Know Rising Producer Kato On The Track
Kato On The Track talks "Mystery Pack," dream collaborations, and advice for up-and-coming producers.
Kato On The Track
With more young artists trying out their producing skills, it's become increasingly more important for producers to distinguish themselves — not only through their unique sound, but adaptability to new challenges as well. Red Bull Mystery Pack gives producers the perfect opportunity to do just that. The series challenges producers to think outside the box, handing them a sample pack of 10 random sounds to flip into a studio-ready beat in just one studio session.
In this premiere episode of season two, we feature Chris ‘Kato'' Ju, also known as Kato On The Track, out of Atlanta, Georgia. Despite expressing his nervousness during our interview following the session, viewers would be hard-pressed to realize it. Ju’s quiet confidence dominates the episode, flawlessly incorporating eight of the ten mystery sounds given to him to make an up-tempo pop and hip-hop fusion beat with a funky twist.
Kato On The Track is quickly becoming one of the most viral independent producers in the music industry. Last year alone his “So Pretty” duet with rising artist Reyanna Marie inspired over one million TikTok videos and has now garnered the producer a feature by Tyga for the remix. Despite all of his recent success, Kato still believes in the importance of sharing the blueprint that helped him reach the level he is at today. We got the chance to catch up with the viral producer via Zoom, during which he shared his thoughts on filming his Mystery Pack session, important lessons he’s learned as a producer, and advice for up-and-coming producers in the music industry.
How was filming the Red Bull Mystery Pack Episode? What thoughts were going through your mind?
I won't lie to you, it was a little intimidating at first. Normally, it's just me, my engineer, and the artists that I'm working with in the room. So for me to be cooking up something on the spot with like 20 cast members watching and a big camera, it was definitely different for me. However, everyone was super nice and cool. They made me feel comfortable and welcome, so it was good.
When do you know that a beat is finished?
I always leave space for [the artist] as I'm creating [and] adding the different layers to beat. I always keep the vocals in mind—like sometimes I'll be rapping or singing along, while I'm making the beat just to make sure.
You also talk about the importance of drums in the episode: how making a beat is like cooking, and the drums are as important as pasta sauce in a pasta dish. Who do you think is perfect or close to perfect when it comes to utilizing drums in their beats?
I feel like it's so important, especially in hip-hop music where it's so rhythm-based. If the drums aren't hitting right, it really takes away from the vibe. There are so many—like Timbaland, who is a legend with his drum patterns. Even the newer producers. I listen to some of their 808s and their high-hat programming. We're all using the same tools, but a lot of these newer producers use them in a different way. I'm personally just a huge fan of Zaytoven, Mike WiLL Made-It, obviously Metro [Boomin] and so many more. [Some people who] inspired me to start making beats and producing were like Pharrell [and] Timbaland. Dr. Dre is probably one of my biggest influences that inspired me to get into production in the first place, so being able to collaborate with that level of a producer is [on my] checklist of things to accomplish before I leave this planet.
Do you have any dream collaborations in mind, as far as artists?
I've always really liked Ski Mask the Slump God. He's got just a different cadence and sound on records that I think would blend really well with my tracks. Who else? I mean if we're going big, I want a Travis Scott feature to happen. Lizzo obviously would be really dope.
Do you think it's important for up-and-coming producers to get in the studio with artists or do you think in this day and age with social media [producers] can just send people beats?
In my experience, the music always comes out better when you're in the same space creating, which obviously has been difficult with COVID. I've been doing a lot of virtual Zoom sessions where they just set me up on a laptop in the control room and [I] give them feedback from there, but there's nothing like being in that room. The energy is just different.
Any other advice for producers?
Yeah, not getting too emotional about the business. I think, because we put so much into our music, when it's not received well, we tend to internalize it and take it as almost an insult. I think that's a really important thing that took me a long time to learn how to do because you can't get emotional in this business. You'll burn bridges [and] people won't want to work with you. You’ve got to learn how to compartmentalize the heart with the business and I think you'll make much sounder decisions.
What do you want your legacy to be in music?
I think just being a good person is underrated—especially in the entertainment business. [So many people] look at surface-level stuff like how much money you have, what kind of lifestyle you're living, how much you flex on [Instagram], and none of that matters. You can't take that when you die. I just want to leave people with music that makes them feel something, you know? I think that's all any creative can ask for is just leaving behind a catalog of music that people can revisit and feel something.