It’s hard to pigeonhole Chain Gang Of 1974 and Heavenward mastermind Kamtin Mohager. A true industry veteran, he started Chain Gang in the Myspace era, and while he’s toured the world with bands like 3OH3! as well as his own projects (including former band Teenage Wrist), Mohager is at home creating electronic and indie jams just as much as he is writing huge, shoegazy alt-rock jams with his new project, Heavenward. A likely reference to the legendary Hum’s record Downward Is Heavenward (we hope), Mohager’s diversity seems to serve both projects well enough.
Of course, that’s not all he does. Mohager also runs a record label, Fever LTD., which showcases his projects as well as other exciting ones (alt-rock band Valleyheart and shoegaze/alt-rock band Mascara have seen tape releases on the label, too, with more to come). Heavenward also just released a new song, “Cartwheels”, that might be his best to date – a hazy, My Vitriol-esque vibe that will certainly have you moving. Mohager stopped by New Fury Media HQ to discuss everything that’s going on with Fever LTD., new Heavenward material, his essential shoegaze albums, and even the Myspace era of music that launched Chain’s career 15 years ago. Read on for more.
You just released a new Heavenward single, “Cartwheels”. Can you tell us about the songwriting process and how it all came together?
For me, there really isn’t too intense of a process when it comes to songwriting. Specifically for this project, it really just happens when I can find the time or inspiration for it. When compared to the process which was taken for Teenage Wrist, it does differ a bit. When we were writing “Chrome Neon Jesus”, we would either come to one another with an idea or we would be in the room together and start from scratch. As I’m sure you already know, I have been collaborating with Marshall from TW on the Heavenward material. But since this is my project, I feel that it’s my responsibility to come to him with pretty heavily fleshed out ideas. Specifically for “Cartwheels”, that song was created out of thin air together. We spent a few hours in a rehearsal space and just jammed on the idea. From there, I took the demo home and solidified all the parts. And to add to that, I was reunited with Carlos de la Garza, as he took on the producer role for the track. It was quite beautiful being back in the studio with everyone again.
You started Chain Gang at the arguable peak of the MySpace era. Is there anything that was memorable about that early era of creating that stands out to you?
The “MySpace Era” was definitely a special time. In the moment, it was quite laughable due to how much shit music was getting signed strictly based on plays. But now that I am older and able to look back on the experience, I am truly grateful for the relationships and opportunities that site created for me. If it weren’t for that platform, I would have never received the attention which eventually got me my first record deal.
What has been the most gratifying thing about creating music as Heavenward?
After making the decision to leave Teenage Wrist, I felt this urge to continue making more aggressive music. Though I primarily focus on creating Pop focused songs with Chain Gang, I pretty much only listen to heavy music. Some time had passed and I began playing around with ideas. It has been very liberating for me to create this project which has no expectations attached to it. I am so grateful for what I have been able to accomplish with all of my projects. But they’ve all reached a somewhat higher level of the industry. Once the music becomes a business, it stops being as fun as it was when you first began. So for me, I just wanted to do something in which I had total control and freedom of.
Writing “Sleepwalking” obviously had a massive impact on your life. Did you expect such success with the song?
When I finish demoing a song, I tend to listen to it on repeat. No joke, I probably listen to the piece about 20+ times. It allows me to take notes of what needs to change, etc. “Sleepwalking” was one of those songs that I found myself listening to for over two hours straight. I remember sending the demo to my brother immediately after it was written and texting him about how I thought I had made a “hit” song. So though I knew it was something special, I didn’t think it would reach the levels that it did.
What music is grabbing your attention right now?
I’m currently listening to a band called Eyeball while doing this interview. I’ve been really into their latest EP. Other than them, I’ve been really into Superbloom, cursetheknife, Boundaries, and the new Turnstile tracks that were just released.
Shoegaze bands are experiencing a resurgence right now – what albums of the genre do you feel are essential?
This is a tough question. I say that because a lot of records that continue to pop up on the “Best Shoegaze Albums” list aren’t necessarily 100% Shoegaze. But to avoid any debate, my go-to’s are “Ferment” by Catherine Wheel, “Finelines” by My Vitriol, “Mezcal Head” by Swervedriver and “Heaven or Las Vegas” by Cocteau Twins (just to name a few).
It’s been a slow, gradual buildup of success for Chain. Has it been more gratifying for you doing it this way, compared to gaining overnight success instead?
I believe so. Chain Gang will always be my baby. I will always make music for this project. There are times where I truly wonder why the music isn’t more popular. But I do believe in the universe working in your favor. So maybe I was never meant to be a worldwide success like so many other bands in my scene. The slow climb to more recognition has taught me patience and appreciation for even just one person telling me that my music has saved their lives. That’s what matters to me.
What song released under the Heavenward moniker are you most proud of?
“Cartwheels” for sure.
You also run a label, Fever LTD, which releases both Chain + Heavenward music, as well as other bands. Do you have any big plans coming with the label?
Yes! There are some really cool things in the works involving other bands. I’m looking forward to sharing it all with the world later this year.