So you have a brand new two day music festival showcasing the very best of Classic and Progressive Rock but need to find a band to open up proceedings on a Sunday afternoon. For me the choice of Cats in Space couldn’t be better “and their aim was to unashamedly take you back to the heady days of the 1970s when bands like Queen, ELO, 10cc, Supertramp & Sweet, ruled the airwaves.”
With only a handful of live gigs as a whole band in their back pockets Cats in Space were a welcome addition to the Stone Free Festival line up and not long after their refreshing performance I got the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with the guys.
AATR: Before we get started, many thanks from ALL ABOUT THE ROCK for taking the time to speak to us today.
AATR: What do you think of this year’s STONE FREE line-up, how was it to be on stage and did it fit in with your style of music?
CIS: The way we look at it is we probably would have preferred to play with THE DARKNESS and ALICE COOPER cos it’s more 70s, QUEEN, glammy rock, that kind of thing, so we would probably have fitted in brilliantly there. But for some reason – not so much now but when we first started – I think people immediately started to lump us in with slightly progressive groups because we have got some 7-minute songs and lots of synthesisers and stuff, and I think when people didn’t know who we were they sort of assumed that we might be a bit progressive. And I think when STONE FREE came up, either there was no space on the Saturday, or maybe they thought oh no they’d be good on the Sunday ‘cause then they’ll fit in with RICK WAKEMAN which, keyboard wise, we probably do but energy wise we’re more THE DARKNESS and that kind of thing. But we were just happy to get a slot to be honest, we didn’t really mind.
AATR: It’s a difficult slot 1220 on a bright Sunday afternoon. But it was a fantastic show.
CIS: You put the marker down for the rest of the day, that’s the advantage you’ve got; you go in first and you slam it, you’ve set the marker and I like to think we did that. And it was a great crowd – and on a Sunday..!
AATR: You looked like you were having a good time up there.
CIS: We love it. Well we’ve all been around the block a few times so we’re all used to playing on big stages; although the band is new, you can put us on as big a stage as you want we won’t be dwarfed by it because we naturally go into what we’re used to doing as musicians over the years. As a band we’re still very new, but as players we’re quite old hands at doing the bigger stages. So if it comes across like that, then…
AATR: It certainly did, and from my point of view the Indigo was probably a bit too small
CIS: Well, you can put the Cats in any Space [laughter, blame Steevi for the Pun]
CIS: If we’ve got the option to rock and do what we do and see those smiling faces and see the band looking at each other going aaaah! It’s amazing, so cool.
The only exception would be a very small council house living room [laughter]; apart from that, we can play anywhere. [That’s rehearsals at my place!] What’s the rent? Anything below £65 a week rent we can’t play…
To pick up the point though, I think we’re lucky we can actually go to a small club and you can put us on a stage like this and you’ll still get the same show; you’ll still get the same energy and the same passion. And when it comes to the progressive rock night, or the ALICE COOPER night, we’re lucky with this band ‘cause it can fit on both of them and it won’t be out of place on the rock night or the progressive rock night.
‘Cause the 70s rock bands where we come from, like your QUEEN and your GENESIS and all those bands, they all had songs that went into the charts; and we’re very chart friendly, that’s our sort of sound if you like ’cause every song is a radio friendly song. But then you listen to something like Follow You Follow Me by GENESIS, just as a matter of interest, that song nowadays wouldn’t stand a hell of a chance of getting on the radio. Or 5705 by CITY BOY – you’ve got three lead singers singing on that one song: they wouldn’t do that nowadays, you know, but that’s where CATS IN SPACE are. So we can fit in, as Jeff said, quite a lot of moulds. And don’t forget we appreciate just to play at all ‘cause we’ve all been round the block and, when we put the band together we weren’t expecting this.
AATR: You (Greg) said that CATS IN SPACE was a “vanity project” at the start
The band was going to be called THE VANITY PROJECT until I found a band that was called THE VANITY PROJECT [laughter] – I mean, that was the name. [They didn’t want you] And they didn’t want me yeah, there’s vanity for you [laughs]. No but it was; it was very much a very very selfish vanity… I just thought after all these years of writing by committee, writing with people that I got on well with but personally from my point of view as a songwriter I get very very strong ideas how things should be and I’ve always tended to sort of buckle and play the game with people in other bands you’ve got to keep people happy. So I thought why not just do something where you haven’t really got a band as such? Get the songs done with my writing partner Mick and just see where it goes. And obviously Steevi was with me early days and, like I said, I didn’t expect it go – it just found a set of legs that I didn’t know it was going to have. And as the thing went on, I thought well I think this is good and I think if this album comes out how I think it should and if I’m allowed to do it how I think I should it and no one stops me… if it fails, fine, hold my hand up, don’t do it again. But if it works then maybe it was the right time to do it. And I think at our age that we all are (hence why we’re all together) I needed people around me that would understand that.
AATR: And a group of trusted musicians as well. People you know that you can walk out on stage and you know what’s going to happen
CIS: Yeah – apart from Andy ‘cause obviously Andy and I (Greg) go back a very very long way so I know exactly what Andy brings to the table on the piano and stuff like that – but I didn’t know what these guys could do. And when they came in I said look you can literally run with the ball with this and I just hit the bullseye with all of them.
For me, I think the confidence when we walk on stage is immense because you haven’t got all the worry about the guy standing next to you, whether he’s going to be able to do his job properly, whether he’ll be able to perform properly; you just know that they’ve got it nailed and then you can just get on with doing what you’re doing. And we just click, everybody clicks, that’s the thing [it is]. From the moment we first met [it did click didn’t it] yeah, it was just like [clicks fingers] instant and we were like… we were supposed to be rehearsing but we were just talking in the coffee room just for hours
CIS: The band never met fully on the album. They didn’t meet till the rehearsal. So we did the album without meeting…
First time we met was shooting the video for Mr Heartache.
(Greg) It was, yeah, it was brilliant. But then Mr Heartache was the very first day we all met and it could have looked really novice like, they haven’t really worked with each other, but it was almost like we’d been together for years. Just lucky!
AATR: And with that single Mr Heartache, did you expect it to be as popular globally [No] You said you’re quite chart friendly and you can fit in a lot of venues big or small but the response globally has been fantastic
CIS: It has yeah, radio stations have picked it up everywhere and they want to play it all the time. You know it’s special when you play it
When me (Greg) and Mick wrote it, we knew we had a hell of a good song, but we also knew that it was so out of what people want nowadays we thought… Twenty years ago mate we’ve got a number one record here there’s no doubt about it, we’ve got a smash, we’ll get a Maserati out of it. But it’s two thousand and whatever and we thought… And that’s how it went, we thought what if we did the whole album like that, what about if we just did that, what would happen? So Mr Heartache was… We honestly didn’t know. Even on the pre-release we didn’t know. We thought… We’d done the video and we were chuffed to bits with it, and two people heard it…
It was the catalyst! It was the catalyst! And I didn’t even realise I’d said it first time!
Yeah the confidence came out the minute people liked it, you know the press liked it. And actually when we went down to Andy Scott, we went down to his studio in the West Country, and even he at the end said “It’s a bloody good song, what’re you going to do with it?” We said we’re not sure yet and he said it’s brilliant. And from that he wanted me and Mick to write with him ‘cause he thought “Oo can you write me some songs like this?” Yeah. So we knew we had a good song. But we didn’t have an album though. Didn’t have a band name. Didn’t have anything. That was two years ago that was, when we did Mr Heartache.
AATR: I suppose once that got global recognition [we weren’t expecting it], and then everyone kind of thought [we had no plans to gig] … no plans, better give up our plans, and holidays, and here comes the tour basically.
CIS: We were all busy boys doing stuff as well so it’s like oh god if this actually took off we’ve got a bit of a problem on our hands.
But we’re all willing to do it, that’s the thing, ‘cause we believe in the project, we believe in this product, we really do. At our age, how many times does it come around so we want to grab this one with both hands and run with it.
And also each of us are not sitting at home doing nothing, we’ve got other projects. So to want to put that time into this means we believe in it because sometimes we have to substitute other things to do it – ‘cause we believe in it. And that’s important as well isn’t it? We’re all busy doing stuff [absolutely yeah].
AATR: Yeah and that certainly comes out with your playing and on stage is the belief in what you’ve actually got. The album you’ve released – TOO MANY GODS – you released that on vinyl LP which is not surprising but it’s sold out and it’s limited edition. Was that something important for you, to release on that sort of medium?
CIS: Well it’s the whole game, the whole CATS IN SPACE experience is taking people of our age back to when we were growing up as kids, genuinely getting excited about saving your pocket money up to go and buy ELTON JOHN’s new record or QUEEN or SUPERTRAMP, whatever.
If you didn’t have enough money you bought a single or once a month I’ve got enough to buy that gatefold album. And again, being selfish, I thought that’s a really good buzz, I still get that buzz, I still remember what it was like as a kid – I can’t be the only one who thinks like that. And thank god there’s thousands of people out there, they’ve all acted strongly to the CATS IN SPACE experience: let’s all go back to when it was simpler.
AATR: Yeah when you can open the album and pull out the poster [exactly] read all the songs
CIS: I think that’s why they like the songs so much. They’ll listen to our album and it does take them back; it’s new but it does take them back.
Once you download MP3, it’s just in your iPod or whatever machine you use and that’s it, there’s nothing to look at or hold.
We’re appealing to the 50+ coffee table market as we called it, people that sit down and they want to put on a CD or a vinyl album and they’ve got a bit of disposable income and they’re like us; they still hanker back to the day “Oh remember it used to be like this, it was much better then when you had the gatefold and the poster and all that.” And there’s a lot of people out there that want that, so boomf! that’s where we’re going. It’s not contrived, it’s what we want to do, you know – I want to make that happen. It’s not ‘cause “Oh let’s just do that ‘cause it might be good”; we genuinely want to do that.
Youngsters are into vinyl now and I know a lot of people that sell vinyl in shops and whatever and they say kids are going in, they’re looking for LED ZEP II, they’re looking for DEEP PURPLE IN ROCK, not bothered about what pressing it is – they just want the bloody record. And I’m thinking “You’d like our band”. They might not like our band if we was an MP3 download and we had a different name, but maybe we’re tapping into a younger market as well, you know. Proper songs. Songs win – at the end of the day, songs win.
AATR: I think the way people are buying music these days is changing obviously, but I think it’s stronger now for multi-media. So someone will get the download but they’ll also go and buy the CD or the album as well, because they want to have it physically on the shelf [exactly]; they want those lyrics and things like that
CIS: They‘ll now know what they’re missing.
And we control the vinyl as well, you know, ‘cause we’re like a little cottage industry; we know exactly the demographic of what’s going on. And obviously being with Danny from THUNDER and stuff, he deals the same way – so there’s a demographic, he knows exactly what his THUNDER punters are, what they’ll do, what they won’t do and when they’ll do it. And we’re sort of following suit if you like, and I know exactly what people… they will buy the CD ‘cause they want that in their car, but they’ve got to have the vinyl as well ‘cause “Blimey that’s a limited edition and we’ve got a record player so we can play”… And they’re buying the CAT bundle. We’ve sold a lot of CAT bundles, not just to get the t-shirt cheaper but because they want the CD and the vinyl – so it does work. And hopefully it’ll mushroom and get bigger with every time we release something.
But the next single is vinyl only.
AATR: Oh right ok, so what’s that going to be the next single then?
CIS: We haven’t announced it yet but as it’s you, in the first week of July we’ll be releasing the single’s going to be How does it feel. It’s a SLADE cover on red or white vinyl, unreleased B side and there’s a guest singer on How does it feel that does a duet with Paul.
Yeah, and we can’t release who it is unfortunately, not even to you [laughter]
But it’s thunderously good [laughter] – or you’ll give thunderous applause [more laughter]
Oh for god’s sake you guys…
Once that’s done and it’s sold out then we’ll probably release it… there’ll be a CD limited edition fan-club single like we did with Only in Vegas, there’ll be that as well, but that won’t come out till the vinyl’s done and we think the vinyl probably will sell out pretty much on spec ‘cause of who’s on it with us, and it will be signed. So there’ll be a signed limited edition as well. And it does sound very very… It does sound good. We’re sitting quite confident with this one ‘cause we think it could hit the radio; this could be the one.
AATR: You mentioned Only in Vegas – there’s quite a, dare I say, country feel to that song…
CIS: Yeah, and you’ve got Andy on the vocoder don’t forget – Andy only speaks via the vocoder
(Andy) Yeah I can’t say anything without my mic [laughter]
AATR: So was that something purposeful or was it just the way it kind of developed?
It started as acoustically but it wasn’t a throwaway track was it and then all of a sudden it grew these four legs and these whiskers [laughter] and it just came to life it just turned into… [I just heard it as a country rock song…] and it got bigger and bigger […a bit of THE EAGLES, tight guitar and then all of a sudden the song just went…]
Well when you said THE EAGLES we went “Well I was thinking ELO but now we got that, let’s do ELO and THE EAGLES” – and so he went down the Joe Walsh route and once you started really digging into it I thought the whole sound… [it came to life] It was almost like the other half the team came in to play you know, it’s like bomf. But I was still sitting there going “There’s no room for this on the album, ‘cause we got the album done” and everyone was saying “This has got to go on the album” [it was a backburner track wasn’t it] It was a backburner track so it took the place of the song that is going to be on the B side of…
(Paul)And I’m saying to Greg “Sell it to Jeff Lynne, sell it to Jeff Lynne!” [laughter]
AATR: And obviously you’ve got a tour coming up, you’ve announced the OUT OF THIS WORLD tour – where are you going to?CIS: Oh everywhere!
Out of this world to Wimborne [laughs]
Stourbridge… Glasgow, Redhill, Basingstoke…
Yeah Chesterfield Manchester Glasgow
High Wycombe of course…
We wanted to do something… [West Midlands…] Dean will explain to you, ‘cause when Dean was in T’Pau many years ago you did all those gigs out in the suburbs they were the best gigs weren’t they?
Absolutely yeah, you go down to somewhere like Gloucester Leisure Centre and you get a better reaction there than you did Wembley Arena; ‘cause especially in London a lot of it’s “Ok impress us.” You go to the smaller towns where nobody really goes, the crowds just go mental. Do you know what, I preferred playing Gloucester Leisure Centre than I did Hammersmith Odeon.
Think about today, I mean that reaction today – for a London crowd – that was fantastic
I know, it was…
Yeah I wasn’t expecting that…
AATR: Very much so – and do you think that, certainly with the STONE FREE FESTIVAL, the reaction is because it’s got a very relaxed vibe to it.
CIS: Chaotic relaxed, yeah [laughter] It’s nice, yeah, it’s a good event
Oh yeah brilliant, and London needs it! We really really want this to work because… London O2 – I mean everyone has to go into the fields to do a decent two-dayer, and then you’ve got the O2, one of the greatest venues in the country with so many amenities. For me, when I heard they were doing a festival at the O2, I thought “It’s a no brainer, absolute no brainer”
AATR: And especially as it’s your fourth gig…
CIS: Yeah it’s our fourth gig ever! First gig was Putney, fourth gig was the O2, yeah
AATR: So what’s in store for the rest of 2016? More festivals?
CIS: We might be doing another festival this summer, we’re waiting to hear from that one…
Yeah it’s a good one if we get it
It’s a good one if we get it but again as Dean said it’ll be last minute thing, mad panic, but on the surface “Oh yeah we’re doing that now” [laid back voice]. If that comes off then after that we’ll be looking at stuff for next year. We’ve got the next album scheduled for about April time next year and hopefully we’ll get some stuff off the back of that, but that’ll all be planned as we go and fitted all around our busy schedules.
AATR: And then once you start, more and more phone calls coming in…
CIS: Yeah, the next album has started so we’ll be moving on with that – literally once today is out of the way, we start concentrating on the next album which is all ready to get the boys on
I can pretty much guarantee that 2017 is when it’s really going to start kicking and we’re going to start doing a lot more work in 2017
We weren’t expecting any of this; this is all new to us. It’s almost like bumbled its way along and all of a sudden it’s… [look at us now] it’s “Oh right, ok” [it’s very enjoyable now] Yeah
AATR: Well I’ll certainly look forward to 2017 anyway and we’ll hope to see you again very shortly
CIS: Oh yeah, this is only the start. We guarantee the next album will be just as good.
More bombast! More mayhem!
Cats in Space debut album Too Many Gods is out now on Harmony Factory records.
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