Buoyed by the success of their last two albums, Cats In Space have announced an ambitious new tour, which has had the MetalTalk team chomping at the bit. A theatre tour that promises a mouthwatering opportunity to experience the band how they envisioned it, with an expanded lineup and more extensive production. It’s going to be big, and bold and deserves some serious punter buy-in. Greg Hart spoke with MetalTalk about this exciting opportunity.
We spoke to Damien Edwards before the Atlantis album launch at KK’s Steel Mill in November 2020, and he said that 2020 gave him “a different perspective on things, on my career and on following my heart a bit more.”
MetalTalk’s Steve Ritchie asked Greg Hart how happy the band were that Damien could jump on board, suggesting this was one of the few positive musical benefits of the Covid-19 enforced problems. “100% correct,” Greg said. “I mean, obviously, I’ve known Damien for a long time. Even when the band was first put together, I knew Damien then. But he was just so busy doing stuff, and Paul [Manzi] came along, and everything worked out just fine.
“He’s always been, not on the subs bench, but on the touchline, but I never thought he wanted to do original stuff because it’s not really his background.”
Covid came around, and Greg said the band needed a new singer. “Obviously, he was the first port of call,” he said. “I needed to find out whether he was interested in doing original stuff. He just said, ‘well, I’m not doing anything else at the moment. None of us are.’ He came along, and he just smashed it, and I just knew straight away from the very first couple of bars that we were going to make magic.
“I never realized Damien’s natural rock voice is quite a lot towards Dennis DeYoung out of Styx, which is heaven for Cats In Space. It’s just grown from there. No disrespect to anybody else that’s been on the journey with us, but this is the sound and the kind of approach and the attitude that I think Cats In Space was always meant to be about. Dare I say, a bit more theatrical? It’s gone the way that I think the band was always destined to go.”
Moving on from Atlantis, we had Kickstart The Sun. Mission accomplished with honours was how MetalTalk described it, adding it was the most deliciously audacious audio treat you would experience this year and probably next year too. You would hope that the band are happy with the way it’s been received.
“We’re over the moon,” Greg says. “When you put these things out, you never really know. We certainly don’t expect everyone’s gonna love it because we know we’ve got an awful lot of people to win over. You know, millions. But I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I’ve never known the press as a collective to get behind a thing that I’ve been involved in the level that they are with this.
“So I think we’re tapping into a good kind of remit. Dare I say the people that work in these magazines are of the slightly older generation as well? So I think maybe we’ll get a bit dewy-eyed over the fact that Cats In Space is not just harking back to another time when rock music ruled the world but also bringing it into the current state of play as well. And making it stand up and be counted for the young kids to get into nowadays, which let’s face it is now crossing three generations, and this is all part of the plan of what we’re doing this year, is the spread of age. We have to be very mindful of the older rock fans that are now approaching 60-plus years old.
“We go back to the early ’80s. We went to Hammersmith, and all stood up there with denim jackets and going berserk for eight hours. We’ve all got older, but we’ve all got the same passion for the music, but we just had to be a bit more mindful of how we’re able to do it.
“But Kickstart, I think, tapped into a lot more people than the previous albums, and the double album that it was, I think, also was real. “Like my God, why are they attempting such a ridiculous thing? If anybody is going to do it, Cats In Space is gonna do it. We’ve never shied away from doing the ridiculous. Not ridiculous as in rubbish, but ridiculous as in it’s quite a crazy thing to do in the music business and the situation, especially post-Covid.”
Greg says the Cats In Space could have cut the double album that is Kickstart down to a single album. “But, if you’ve got good songs, you don’t want to cut it down to a single album,” he says. “We would have ended up putting the other songs on the next album and made out with just written then, and I don’t work like that. I believe in being very, very truthful and honest upfront. I said we wrote this amount of songs, and they’re all going out now. I don’t want to revisit them in three years time and make out their new. So Kickstart The Sun is very much of last year, and it’s still very much going to be part of this year with the tour.”
I say to Greg that one of the interesting aspects of the Cat’s latest album is that, several times every month, the MetalTalk review picks up 800+ reads a day. “This is the dilemma that every band faces. You put your album out, and 10 minutes later, it’s engulfed by 1000 other albums because there’s no quality control in the world. We were only speaking about this earlier today. There used to be a time when if you got a record deal because you merited a record deal, your album went out, and there was a limited amount of bands that had record deals. There wasn’t the cottage industry that there is now. A cottage industry is great for a band like Cats In Space because it works for us to a point.
“So the fact that our album keeps getting little tickles shows that it’s good. But also, you’ve got to keep forcing the issue with people because so many miss it because of the amount of stuff that’s out there. So it’s a constant battle to give your album the attention it deserves. Again, that’s why we’re doing Kickstart Part Two this year because we realised that three or four months to do a campaign ain’t going to work anymore. As long as you’ve got something valid to keep the album alive with, i.e another tour that’s different, that album should have further legs than it would have had just one tour cycle. That’s the reason why we’re doing it as well because we think the album deserves to keep getting out there.
“We get stuff on the website and get things on YouTube. Little tickles. But friends in America that are promoting us at Sea of Tranquillity get a massive reach, and we get a kickback from that. So it’s little crumbs and a very big kind of pudding. If you like, you’ve got to keep in the pudding.”
1,000,000 Miles is a fantastic song with a video that is just an amazing piece of art. The film was made by James Heron, who will be working with the band on this theatre tour. “Mad James, we call him,” Greg says, smiling. “He came on board to do the Christmas single a couple of years ago. I was introduced to him by a really good friend of mine called Mick White, who’s also out there doing well. Big, big shout out to my buddy there. He said, ‘I’ve got this guy called James who talks more than you do .. seriously, a 28 to 1 ratio because he would say 28 words to my one, let alone anybody else’s.’
“But he’s just a brilliant filmmaker. He’s got a good background that he will talk about one day. But he comes from the industry, and he just started making these really cool videos that looked like a million quid. He had never heard of us, to his horror, and as soon as he did, he was like, ‘oh my God, this band. Why have I not heard of this band?’
“He has kind of stuck himself to us and said, ‘I want to do all your videos forever,’ and I went, ‘be careful what you wish for’. So he came up with Poke The Witch. That was his concept. Teenage Millionaires, he did. And then 1,000,000 Miles was his tour de force because he loves that song more than any on the album, apart from Bootleg Bandoleros.”
James ran with his idea for 1,000,000 Miles. “When he was telling me how he’s going to do it, I said, James, we don’t have budgets for these things. That was a 100-grand video 10 years ago. ‘No, I’ve worked it out,’ he said. ‘I’m going to do this and do that.’ It took him three weeks to edit because people look at it and go, ‘oh, a spaceship… oh look, Julie singing with Damien. Oh, look, we’re on a TV screen.’ That takes enormous amounts of time to make rights, and he ran with it. He’s kind of become a big cog in the wheel now. In fact, he’s very, very heavily involved with the tour. He’s got a lot of involvement with this tour that we’re undertaking. So, yeah, good old Jim. And thanks to Mick, we’ve got another madman in the team.”
Julie Maguire, also known as the Duchess, will be joining for the live shows along with Carly Louise. And already, the shows sound like something very special, given how the pair contributed to the Thunder tour. “They both did the Thunder tour, and they were amazing,” Greg says. “Pete Russell, the Thunder sound guy, said Thunder went up a level as well, which takes some doing, but he feels that they did. I went along to see the show, and I thought they absolutely smashed it. Obviously, knowing Julie as I do and she’s known Damien for donkey’s years, she came and sang with us and did the album.
“I just thought I’ve always wanted to make the show, not using Meat Loaf as an analogy as such, but that kind of style show where you’ve got more than just the band. You’ve got more to hear, more to look at, and a bit more dynamic. We used a lot of girl-backing vocals on the last two albums in particular. If we make it bigger, hopefully, more people will come to see it. So it’s very, very exciting.”
This new tour aims to show that band off to its potential. Watching Cats In Space live is a great experience, but it’s easy to agree with Greg that the band deserves a bigger stage to give people a chance to experience the whole show.
“We can’t go into rock venues like a lot of bands,” Greg says. “We’ve done it for four or five years now. And as good as the venues are, as lovely as the people that run it are, and we’ve had some great times and great responses, we’re too hemmed in. Our songs are just too massive to project on a smaller stage, unfortunately. And although the million-dollar question is, yeah, of course, you can do Hammersmith Odeon. But can you sell that many tickets? And the answer is no. So we’re trying to find a way into a theatre show by doing this tour. We’ve done some before, and they work out really well.
“We’re just going for it. Let’s do the show as best as we can and how people think that Cats In Space should do it. Because from day one, we were always told, ‘your band sounds like ELO. They should be doing Wembley Arena with a spaceship’. But the trouble is we ain’t got the people to pay for that. There’s the problem, and it’s always been a problem. People kind of expect us to do something a bit lavish, and we’ve gone out and done these club dates and done really well. But it’s just not showing the band off, unfortunately, to the best of its capabilities.
“So we’re just literally busting everything to do this. Literally, we’re going around with a begging bowl for this because if it works, I think it’s the future. If it doesn’t work, I’ll become coming around your house for a cup of tea. So it’s a massive, massive risk. But we feel everything’s lined up to this. Kickstart The sun was always going to be about, ‘we need to do it. If we’re going to do it, do it now.’ We just need as many people around the country to support it as possible and buy tickets. I do believe it is the future for the band, without question.”