Pensacola, Florida
Monday October 14th 2019


The “Space Happy” Interview

Phil Thomas Katt recently spoke with Inweekly in regard to his career and the new documentary film “Space Happy,” which explores his work. The film will premiere at Pensacon this weekend, where Katt will sit for a Q&A session along with the filmmakers.

IN: How are you doing?
PTK: I’m doing pretty good, for a Friday. I love my Fridays. Always kind of chill on Fridays.

IN: Well, thanks for taking some time with me.
PTK: Oh, sure, my pleasure.

IN: I guess, to start off—you’ve seen the movie, correct?
PTK: I’ve seen some of the stuff. I’m not sure that I’ve seen everything, because he said they were still working on it last time I saw an edit.

IN: What were your thoughts, just on what you saw?
PTK: Actually, I was pretty happy with it. I thought it was nice. It seemed to follow the story pretty well, so I actually thought it was pretty good. I was happy.

IN: So, explain to me, what is it that you do? How would you describe your body of work?
PTK: Well, when it boils right down to basics of it, I was a singer-songwriter, and it just kind of expanded from that. Because in the ‘80s, I had an answering machine that somehow gained a huge following with the kids at the time. So, I released an album, and it sold real well locally. And at that time, I was saying, “Wow, I can just build this fame with this little bit of media that I have here.” So I wanted to help other folks do that, so I started playing other music and eventually it just evolved into television from there, from radio to television and now the internet. But what I basically do at this point is make music videos and record.

IN: In the movie, it talked a lot about your passion for performing. When did you first realize you enjoyed doing that? And what about it do you enjoy?
PTK: Well, I think I really noticed I enjoyed doing it, God, back when I was a kid. I was 10 years old, I guess. So I got out and all the neighborhood kids were hanging around, and I sang the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song because I knew every word. And they were all saying, “Wow, you’re so good. Let me go get my mom. I want her to hear you!” So, that’s kinda where it began, because I enjoyed the, I guess you could call it a bit of fame or adulation. So, that’s kinda what I did, but I didn’t really pursue it strongly until many years later. I can recall I was hanging out with some friends of mine, couple of girls, back when I was probably 14, and this guy was walking down the street with a guitar singing, you know, just walking, as happy as could be. Eventually, he made it up to us and stopped. And what it boiled down to, he was the paperboy, collecting for the paper, and he was just singing along the way to entertain himself. But the two girls that I was with were just swooning, “Oh, wow, he’s so cool. He’s got that guitar.” And it was that instance right there where I really said, “That’s for me.” So, that’s when I started writing songs and learning to play guitar and just moving forward with it and that was, gosh, that was in the ‘70s.

IN: And how would you define your sound? Do you think you can kind of describe it, or it’s too varying?
PTK: Well, in the early days, I think I was trying to do like a soft rock, like Bread, which was a popular soft rock band at the time. I think I was doing that. But around the time that Elvis passed away, everything was going Elvis, and I was getting into that rockabilly tremendously. So I started doing that. And as time went on, I started working with synthesizers and things like that, so I kind of started changing to even more of a techno flavor. And so through the years, all the albums I’ve done have been so varied with different styles it’s hard to pin it to just a genre at all, because anything I dig, I like to do.

IN: The videos you produce, they have a very distinct aesthetic. How would you describe that?
PTK: Let’s see, maybe kind of goofy-ish, in a way? Because I kinda like to do sunny things, you know. I like to keep it lighthearted, like the old MTV videos of the early days, before everything went so dark. I was kind of into that more-of-a-happy feeling. And so, you know, as far as the way I put them together, friends of mine have told me, “Hey, my kids call your videos—when they see a video that you’ve made, or your edited—they call it a PTK-edit.” So, I guess there’s something there that’s familiar in each of them, to a point. You know, I have tried to do some serious ones as well, don’t get me wrong.

IN: And do you—not your own videos, but other people’s videos you do—do you seek them out, or do they seek you out?
PTK: They always seek me out. They call me, or these days email me or Facebook message me or whatever, but they’ve always called for me and wanted for me to work with them.

IN: And how is it different, both, you know, performing your own music and making videos for it and then doing that for other people, making their videos? How does that work different? And how is it alike?
PTK: Well, it’s interesting you say that, because that was gonna be kinda my answer, because it’s really a lot alike. You know, as an artist I’ve just tried to create the same type of illusions that I would do for any other artist. So, it’s really hard to say if there’s much of a difference. The only difference is that when it’s the other artist, they’re the talent and I’m behind the camera, and when it’s me, I’m the talent and behind the camera most of the time.

IN: And do you feel like maybe your, you know, your art-consciousness seeps into the work of other people, just because you are, you know, like you say, behind the camera? Do you participate as an artist as well, do you think?
PTK: Why, yes, I definitely do, because as far as making them and editing them, 90 percent of the artists have said, “I just want you to what you want, man. Do whatever you want, do whatever’s crazy.”

IN: They kind of come to you looking for you to do your thing?
PTK: Exactly, exactly. And so it definitely seeps into everything I do.

IN: The name of the movie, “Space Happy,” what does that term mean?
PTK: Well, you know, officially, it would probably mean astronauts going looney or losing it because of long space travel. That’s, I believe, where the original definition came from. Myself, I use it as just another one of my adjectives. It’s kind of become a trademark of mine, to have a different adjective whenever I introduce myself, either on the radio or in a music video. And it was just one of them that I think kind of took off a little bit.

IN: Are you looking forward to the Pensacon screening?
PTK: Yeah, actually, I am, I am. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. I’ve even got a little bit of family coming in, so that’s cool as well.

IN: Nice. Well, why do you think, you know, your story makes an attractive subject for a documentary? And what story is the documentary telling?
PTK: Well, as to why, I really can’t say, because, you know, I don’t know. I’ve always just kind of just done my thing and people would, you know—attention would come or it wouldn’t come. So as far as it telling a good story, or what do I think the story is that it’s telling, I think it’s just basically telling the story of my career in entertainment.

IN: So, at the Q&A session—I don’t want you to tell me the answer—but what question would you want to be asked?
PTK: Hmm. Wow, that’s a good question.

IN: Maybe that’s the question, right?
PTK: Ha! You know, I think that’s kind of hard to say. I enjoy talking about my work and talking about videos I’ve done for other artists, so I enjoy talking about pretty much everything, so I’m really open to any questions. I really don’t know which one I would look forward to or prefer the most.