One of the greatest things about Toronto is the diversity of talent that dwells within its confines. That it’s possible to walk into a live venue locally and see an artist of SATE’s caliber at the price point of a couple of lattes is a mind-boggling thing.
Seeing a live SATE show is an opportunity for musical transcendence, that rare feeling one can get when watching something musically unique. Where some artists can boast the ability to perform live, SATE exudes the feeling that she’s only truly alive when she’s on the stage, gyrating amongst her band-mates as she bashes out a set of music that manages to capture the vocal prowess of Aretha Franklin mashed together with something akin to the bravado of Nina Hagen. Her music touches on both modern and retro blues, gospel and alternative rock. She’s the type of musician one really needs to behold live, and it’s almost best to do so knowing nothing about her in advance - leaving your mind completely open to her performance and how it will affect you.
A few years ago SATE released a debut album entitled RedBlack&Blue to critical acclaim, and she has toured that album around the world. She is now sitting on a brand new album that she intends to release in coming months. Sate took the time to chat with PureGrainAudio before her most recent live performance at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern a few weeks ago, where she debuted some of her new songs along with an assortment of music from RedBlack&Blue to a house full of (eventually) sated fans.
First off, can i get the actual pronunciation of your name? SATE: Sate.
It is exactly like it’s spelled. SATE: Yes.
Check out the video for the ripping song “Warrior”.
I wasn’t sure if there was an accent in there or an inflection. SATE: No. Sate, meaning to satisfy or fulfill.
Can you tell me how you came to music? Is there a single thing that you can zero in on? SATE: My mother and my family. Salome Bey is my mother. Her brother, my uncle and my aunt had a group together. A jazz trio called Andy and the Bey Sisters. My sister sings. My cousin sings. There are a lot of singers in the family. I was in a band when I was a teenager for a while with my sister. So, I’ve been doing it. That’s really family... that’s the long and short of it.
From that age, it came naturally? Or did you struggle with it a little bit? SATE: I think I struggled with the fact that my mother had a fair bit of fame in Toronto and in Canada. So, it was just forging my own path and making my own voice so that people weren’t expecting me to be like Salome Bey. I’m my own person, so there was a time when I stopped telling people so they wouldn’t ask me what’s it like? You know? She’s my mom. She’s great, but she’s my mom. You know? What’s it like to have a mother? (laughs)
Right. A mother of celebrity or fame. On Spotify, you came up on a playlist called “Dirty Rock.” Would you describe yourself as dirty rock? SATE: Yes I would. That’s very fair.
You’re in some good company. Some good bands came up on that playlist. SATE: I know. I’m glad to be there. I think that’s with Royal Blood? Yeah.
Yeah. And Thunderpussy. There’s a bunch of other cool stuff in there. You can hear a little bit of that in some of the more aggressive songs that you’ve got out. SATE: Yeah.
What were you like as a youngster? How would you describe yourself? SATE: Very shy. But still very creative. I was dancing as a kid, and my mom put me on stage singing probably at about six years old. So I wasn’t afraid to be on stage, but I was shy around people and sometimes I can be shy around people. Just like in scenarios where I just don’t feel comfortable. I’ll just go into a corner and maybe get on my phone or find somebody that I know and just kind of latch onto them. I’m probably like a lot of people where I don’t like rejection, so I get shy.
You don’t come off as shy on stage though. SATE: No. Not on stage. That’s home. That’s where I get to let loose, and I get to challenge myself to let loose even more.
Do you ever get stagefright? SATE: Yeah. I definitely do. Especially if I know who’s in the audience. If there is somebody in the audience that I want to impress. I want to be liked. So yeah, I get stage fright because I want people to enjoy themselves.
Did you go to post-secondary school for anything? SATE: I didn’t. I finished high school and went to a school for the arts where I was a dance major. I minored in music, but in band; like orchestra. I played the tuba. And my other minor was visual art. So I only sang in school when people asked me to. Otherwise, it was dancing. And after school, I took a year off and tried to get a job in the business (that I’m already doing), and if I don’t get anything in that year, then I’ll go to school. I didn’t want to go to school, and I ended up getting Showboat. And I didn’t look back.
Can you talk a little bit about The Fool, your upcoming second album? SATE: So, The Fool is based on Tarot cards, and that specific Tarot card The Fool which is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end of the major arcana. There are 78 cards in the Tarot deck, and that’s like the trump cards. The Fool - the journey of the major arcana is actually The Fool’s journey. And I believe that all of us are on our own individual fool’s journey going through meeting a magician or finding our magic. Or finding the hanged man, and having to sacrifice and turn upside down to see things from a different perspective. Or Death and letting go of things. The devil and being addicted to things. So, all of that stuff I think we all go through. The Fool also is about leaping into the unknown. And I felt that when I was making the album that I was really leaping into the unknown and as I looked back on my career and making music I feel like every time I step on stage I’m stepping into the unknown. Every time I make music I’m leaping into the unknown. And so I’m just really trusting the universe and everything in it that speaks to me that I’m taken care of.
Sate - What Did I Do - The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto - March 29th, 2018.
Is The Fool also called the wanderer or the searcher? SATE: Yes.
So there is a little bit of that going on as well? SATE: Yes. Absolutely.
I don’t know a lot about Tarot, but I know a few of the card names. SATE: Yeah. The fool is translated into our playing deck as the Joker.
How did you write the material on the album? Would you call yourself a journalist? Do you like to strum and play music? Do you do it with someone in the room with you? SATE: All of the above. I usually write on piano. And then I do collaborate. I collaborate with people - really cool people. For the new album, let me think...
Can you preview any of the new material? I didn’t think there was anything available online for it. SATE: I’m playing some of it tonight. I’ve been doing a little bit of a tour. I’ll call it a tour, but it’s not really a tour, because I’m going home to my bed (laughs).
That’s the best kind of tour. SATE: Right? Where I can sleep in my own bed. And I know the bed. But I’ve been able to kind of suss it (The Fool) out with certain audiences - audiences that don’t know me at all. So, it’s nice being in Toronto where there’s an audience that knows me, and they know the old music, and they’waiting for the new music.
So, you will have some people here tonight. Some regulars? SATE: I’ll have some people here. Yes.
Where did you record it? SATE: Most of it was recorded at my producer’s studio. Her name is Hill Kourkoutis, and then we did the drums at Lincoln County Social Club.
This is the video for the SATE single “The Answer ”.
Can you talk a little bit about the musicians that you play with live? Are they your collaborators on your music? Are they people that you just play live with? SATE: I did wind up writing one of the songs with the guitarists. But he’s not playing tonight. But he plays a lot with me. And I wrote one of the songs with the drummer, with Tony. The guitarist is Kurt. Normally I would say that we collaborate more on stage than anything. The stage show happens a lot. And I’ve written a lot of people outside of that. Yeah.
I’ll bet there isn’t a single live review of your performances that doesn’t describe you as a powerful vocalist, right? SATE: Yup.
And I talked a little bit about you sounding fearless. How did you find that? Were always able to emote in that fashion when you were a younger performer? SATE: I think that I have always been a keen observer. So, I’ve always really enjoyed watching fearless performers. That’s what inspires me. And the first fearless performed that I ever saw was my mom. And what I learned from her is that she’s a storyteller. And that’s what I love about it. Just getting into the meat and the bones and the sweat and the grit of a song. It’s cool to hear it perfect (studio), but it’s a little bit intimidating at times because I’ll think “that was perfect.” But then, where is the emotion? So, I’d say that’s where the power comes from. Just wanting to really give the grit and the guts and the raw. And being unafraid of cracking and sounding like a human being.
Right. Well, there’s albums. And there are albums that sound great. And then there’s witnessing the albums performed in a live environment, and that can be something equally magical but very different. SATE: I agree.
Do you speak French? SATE: Un petit peu. (laughs)
And thus the tour over in France kind of makes some sense, right? SATE: Yeah. That actually came about when we were playing Montreal, and there was a French agent in the audience, and he was like “I’ve got to take you to France.” You know, people say that, and it’s like put your money where your mouth is. He did. Like three times over in the span of a year. So, it’s like, “Ok. I kind of trust you now. You do and say and make it happen.” So, it’s funny to be in Canada, and know that we are in a bilingual country, but the only place that is really bilingual in the country is from Ottawa east. There are pockets like Winnipeg. Pockets of places. Little communities. But, I think it’s a real shame that we don’t enforce it, and we can drop it in grade nine or whatever.
Sate - Feel - The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto - March 29th, 2018.
It was something I struggled with in school. And I dropped it because I was having a hard enough time with my English. SATE: Ok. See, I loved French. I went to at least grade eleven. No, I went to grade twelve with French. I really loved it. So being in France and being around French people, I always understood it more, and I was always afraid to speak it because I didn’t want to fuck up the language. Being in Quebec is totally different from being in France. French people are a lot warmer and really a lot more forgiving in terms of me trying to speak French. “Oh my God, you speak a little? Yes. Keep coming.” And they were encouraging. Quebec? Not so much. I’m a lot more confident in my French because of going to France.
And I think you would be received better over there. If you can carry on even a partial conversation... SATE: Yeah. Because they are trying to speak English too. You speak English, I’ll speak French, and we can just all figure it out.
Did you want to talk a little bit about your morning dumps? Are you still doing them? SATE: (laughs) I am. I have been doing them pretty consistently since August 1st. So, it’s almost a year now. I got those from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and I did that a couple of times. And one of the things I really loved was that: getting up in the morning and just spilling on a page. Without any editing. Without crossing any T’s or dotting any I’s. It’s just ‘go.’ Just do it. I’ve since added some meditation music, so I’ve made it more like my meditation in the morning. I listen to it, and I just go. I use this App called Insight Timer. I do have Calm too, but I find that Insight Timer I just gravitated towards it. But I use different ones depending on the mood that I am in. And I can feel what’s happening in me and sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s easier, but all in all, I really look forward to waking up in the morning just to dump. Because it’s so important.
What have you learned about yourself now that you have done it for six or seven months. SATE: I’ve learned that dumping saves a lot of lives. Because I would probably kill a lot of people. And hurt a lot of people’s feelings by being really erratic. Just being reactionary, I would hurt a lot of people’s feelings. So I get a chance to be reactionary on the page and then I can kind of go through it while I’m writing it out. Think it out; what if it was this way and what if it was that way. I can be so un-edited and so raw, and I’ve thought many times about going back and reading them. But, I’ve written for about seven months now. I’m not going back into that shit. It’s done.
And you don’t ever want that public. That’s just you venting and figuring things out. SATE: No, no. It’s like my therapy. It really helps.
Have you ever been moved to tears at a live concert? SATE: Yes.
What was the last concert that did that, and why do you think it brought you to tears? SATE: Oooo. I can’t remember what it was. I know that it was the honesty and the authenticity of the person on the stage and how they were singing the song. And lyrics. You know. Time and place. Time in my life where it’s just like “Fuck. You’re talking to me.” And I’m fragile enough to react. Because you know, we all put up our walls. “I’m going out to a show, and I’m going out into the world. Touch me only so much.” But sometimes we can’t hold back.
watch the “What Did I Do?” video starring Cree Summer here.
Toronto is an amazing city with an equally amazing music community. Can you talk a little bit about this city and some of the camaraderie that you feel here? SATE: I’ve been in the music scene in Toronto for a while now, and it’s definitely evolved. Even through my shyness, I’ve been able to, what do they call it? Ambivert? So, I’m like an introverted extrovert. Like, I’m both. I’m introverted, and I’m extroverted. So, that will actually make me (here I go, jumping off the cliff again - the fool) I’ll hurl myself off a cliff to talk to someone that I really respect. So that I can build community with people. So, I’ve done a lot of that kind of stuff with Leah Fay from July Talk. Even Danko Jones.
Danko’s awesome tho. And he’ll talk music... SATE: He’s awesome. I know. I would love to sit down and talk with him.
Is he still doing a radio thing? His podcasts? SATE: Yeah, I think so.
You should talk to him. You might know somebody who could set that up? SATE: I’d love to. I know a lot of people. I’d really love to. I know a lot of people that know him. Ummm, it will happen. I think what’s amazing about the music community here is that people that are really authentic will help you or guide you or mentor or just even be there for you. If they really dig you. The musicians here and writers and artists are just world class. We see that in the world of music. Toronto dictates what happens in the world. Two people alone, Drake and The Weeknd, have changed the face of music.
Yep. Pretty true. And Deadmau5. SATE: That guy too. Yeah.
To date, what is the hardest song that you’ve written. And I don’t mean hard with big beats and heavy, but honest or challenging. SATE: Oh I know. Yeah. There were a lot of songs on my last album, on RedBlack&Blue that were really hard because I was going through my sister and I being estranged for a very long time. So, I focused on my mother and my sister and my daughter. But a lot of the focus was on my sister. She was my best friend. She was my idol. And it really hurt to not talk to her. Also, my mom has dementia too. There were a lot of things - I’d say that album really saved my life. That was my morning dump, that album. I needed to get it out of me. If I didn’t get it out of me, I probably would have driven myself crazy.
We’ll finish up with social media. Can you talk a little bit about the things that you find useful and the things that you find that don’t work very well for you personally as an artist on social media. SATE: What I find useful IS social media. What I find doesn’t work for me is social media (laughs). Sometimes I just want to not think about the content that I’m putting out there to garner likes and traffic and numbers. I feel like as artists we are doing so much. And as an introverted extrovert, I want to be introverted. And sometimes I want to be extroverted. But I don’t want to be consistently extroverted. And I don’t want you in my business when I’m introverted. But I feel like that’s good television when you’re introverted, and you’re broken and you’re weak and everything. People want that. And I want that too. Because that makes me feel like I’m not alone. So then that’s what encourages me to actually open up and share about that. But it’s challenging. That’s the challenge for me. But I love it. I love technology. I love it all. I love watching. I love being a part of it. I love sharing. But then I don’t.
SATE asks of you, do you “Know My Name”?
Is there a feed or an individual that puts out consistently cool content up that you aspire to be like? SATE: Ooo.
I’m like you. I find that I post stuff and it’s inconsistent. Sometimes I just don’t feel like doing the work on it. But then I’ll log in, and I’ll see something that is a great post, and then I’ll look at all of the likes and re-shares it’s getting, and think that I don’t have anything like that that people go to, you know? SATE: I start with things, and think that's cool. But then I am so in the moment. I started a hashtag #uselessthingsaboutmyself, and the first thing was when I take my vitamins I take all of them at once. So, it’s like four really big pills and three other ones and two other ones. I’m taking like twelve pills, but all at once. And I’m always afraid that they are going to get stuck in my throat... but I always do it.
Mine got stuck today. It’s only six pills, right? SATE: And then the ones that have the gelatin casing and they get stuck to your throat? They’re the worst.
It’s those vitamin D things. They almost go to powder immediately. SATE: Exactly. And then you’re gagging on them. So, I started that and then I was like “Ok. I’m done. That was cool. I’m done.” Then it makes me feel like I’m really not interesting. I know I’m interesting. But who’s really interested?
There’s a whole world of people out there to be interesting. SATE: I know. So, who? I started following a guy he goes by grandsonsucks, he’s from Toronto, but he lives in LA. He’s really a great balance between really being political and really being personal. KFlay is another one. I just like how there are some people that don’t say a lot, but they say enough. I’m always studying. I’m an observer. Yeah, I am definitely the fool walking off the cliff.
Note: In true journalistic interviewing fashion, some of the best moments talking with SATE came after the interview was over and my recorder was turned off, talking about tattoos and comic books. SATE has a keen knowledge of the world of comic books, with a particular interest in black characters within the medium. It’s not often one gets to talk at length about characters like Brother Voodoo, Black Panther, Blade, Luke Cage and Misty Knight with the level of detailed knowledge SATE carries of the characters. The next interview we do will definitely be more focused more on comic books.