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DATE OF INTERVIEW: 15th March 2019
METAL DISCOVERY: ‘Tragic Alter Ego’ seems to have a cheekily overt Queen reference with the “play the game” vocal harmony that appears in the track. Intentional pastiche there?
GREG: No, it wasn’t, actually. But, when we did it, it sounded like ‘Play the Game’, but it wasn’t intentional. The things is, we all sing high. Me and Mick have this high-off; like, who can sing the highest and, because we do it quite well, it naturally sounds like that. It’s not contrived.
(Greg Hart on aiming high and working hard to achieve your goals)
"You should never be dumbed down in life because you only get one stab at it."
Steevi Bacon and Greg Hart in the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, 15th March 2019
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Cats in Space Website:
Thanks to Chris Hewlett for arranging the interview
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MD: As you said earlier, you’re not a fan of touring holograms, as in ‘Hologram Man’…
GREG: In a word, it’s bollocks.
MD: I’ve not been to see one of these weird hologram things, but I’ve read reviews where people have been to see the Ronnie James Dio one, and they said the hologram shouts out, “Scream for me”, and the audience are silent, and then the holograms says, “That’s great. Now make even more noise.” All seems a bit weird and pointless, really.
GREG: Yeah, they’re totally pointless.
MD: ‘She Talks Too Much’… who’s the “she”? Anyone you know? Inspired by Chas & Dave’s ‘Rabbit’?
GREG: All women! They should all shut up!
MD: That doesn’t sound vaguely misogynistic… although it fits with the period of the 70s!
GREG: I love ‘On the Buses’, mate! No, no, I’m only joking, I love all women. It’s a tongue-in-cheek story about a guy that’s being kind of beaten up by his girlfriend who just doesn’t shut up… like a TOWIE bird… I don’t watch it because I won’t watch those programmes but Mick said, “Have you seen that TOWIE?”, and I said, “No, I can’t have that stuff on.” He said, “They don’t shut up.” It was just a tongue-in-cheek, quick song, and I wanted a two minute song on the album that’s a bit like Sparks and a bit like 10cc, where it’s like a frantic, mad, quick tune, and it’s over as quick as it starts. Otherwise, if it was a long song, the franticness is the fact she’s talking all the time…
MD: And then it would be counterproductive to what it’s about… an eight minute song…. when’s this bloody song gonna shut up?!
GREG: Yeah, exactly, yeah!
STEEVI: But, like the Saint-Tropez bit, when the penny drops and he thinks, “Do you know what? I should just shut up.” That’s exactly the same.
GREG: I’m not gonna tell her to shut up because she’s hot.
STEEVI: When she steps out of the shower, he realises, “Do you know what? I’ll shut up.”
GREG: What I like about it is, the reviews we’ve had… because when we did the song, everyone thought it might be a bit of a throwaway song so we’ll put that at track two, because it’ll be early doors. Like with the Queen albums, when they put the funny song second, like on ‘A Night at the Opera’. And, because it’s early on the album, it digests with people quicker than if it’s the last track. Because we had the concept for side two, that was going to be a very intense piece of music for it. I said, “No, we’ll bung it in second, and people will go - what the hell are they doing on this album?!” And they don’t settle until ‘Hologram Man’, which is track three.
MD: Although, talking of Queen, on ‘Sheer Heart Attack’, maybe ‘Bring Back That Leroy Brown’ should’ve been track two, to follow ‘Brighton Rock’.
GREG: ‘…Leroy Brown’ is just genius but, again, that’s a big influence. If you listen to the musicality of that song and what they did vocally. Bear in mind, that backing track’s done live because that wasn’t pieced together like you can nowadays. That was astonishing.
MD: The diversity of that album is astonishing.
GREG: It’s a blueprint. So, yeah, ‘She Talks Too Much’ was our little kind of, “Let’s write a funny little song and, if it works, we’ll do another one.” ‘Felix & The Golden Sun’ from the ‘Scarecrow’ album, that was a funny song, that was a real good fun song. But we haven’t got a box, so we can do what we like.
MD: So, Johnny Rocket, what’s been billed as your “space travelling masterpiece” - a 26 minute suite of music. What inspired that? Did you all want to be spacemen yourselves, when kids?
STEEVI: Yeah. Well, it’s a subjective observation. Again, people wanna be something and they aspire to be something, and Johnny being Johnny didn’t just want to be an ice cream van driver, or a vet or whatever. He stood there with his granddad, looked up, and thought, “I just wanna be there.” And his granddad’s thinking, “My god, you’ve got high aspirations.”
GREG: We’d all like to be spacemen, but you’ve got to be realistic.
STEEVI: And you’ve got to work. If you want something bad enough and you’re willing to put the work in, you get there. And he listened to his granddad, worked his butt off and ended up at space camp.
GREG: And then there’s obviously a twist in the tale. People can read into it what they will, but it’s about going for your goals and shooting for what you want to do and not being told by people you can’t do something.
MD: What you’re doing as a band.
GREG: Exactly. I was told by my careers master that I’d no grasp of reality.
MD: That’s a compliment, isn’t it?
GREG: It is now but, at the time, he said, “What do you want to do when you leave school”, and I told him. Back then, they dumbed you down and said, “Nah, you’ve got to get down the metal plating factory.” I said, “You go there, you go and listen to Emerson, Lake & Palmer and I’ll listen to Sweet.” You should never be dumbed down in life because you only get one stab at it.
MD: ‘Thunder in the Night’ is kicking out a bit of a four-on-the-floor beat but the opening lyric is, “I can’t take any more of this four-on-the-floor.” What’s that all about, then?
GREG: [Laughs] Well, that’s Johnny. Johnny can’t stand being in the disco. He only went there because his mates took him there on his last night of space camp before he went off to be a spaceman. He’s like, “I can’t take any more of this four-on-the-floor and mirror balls”, and then, obviously, the bird walks in… sorry, the lady walks in…
STEEVI: And his jaw drops to the floor.
GREG: And the twist is, we’re thinking, “We’re doing a disco song here, we’re gonna get slated for it.” And I said, “I hope we get a lot of controversy over this.”
MD: It’s a disco song but without being overtly a disco song. It’s like a cool disco song… like making disco sound cool.
STEEVI: The thing is, though, live, it rocks. A normal kick drum is playing a-one-two-a-three-and-four. This is the four-to-the-floor, it’s solid, and the whole venue just shakes. It’s heavier than rock. It’s disco played by rock musicians correctly, without double bass drums and widdly guitar. Everything we’ve put into that is from that Earth, Wind & Fire vibey kind of 70s chemistry, and give it to a rock band and play it with discipline, it’s the heaviest thing I’ve ever played.
GREG: It’s got a really sweet melody, like Frankie Valli. Again, our influences… I like proper disco. I’m talking proper 70s disco where you’re talking about Love Unlimited Orchestra… incredible, real orchestral arrangements. The strings have never been bettered on the planet.
MD: Even Boney M… that was all about the production, wasn’t it.
GREG: Yeah, all of that. Phenomenal.
STEEVI: Analogue disco, not digital disco.
GREG: The Boney M stuff is really seriously… and Donna Summer. Check out Donna Summer’s albums. I mean, I didn’t realise, until fairly recently, when I started back-pedalling into her albums… some of those songs… Jesus, the live band she’s got! So, yeah, we’ve influences from that.
MD: ‘One Small Step’ is like your ode to The Beach Boys. The vocals harmonies and general feel of the song reminded me of Brian Wilson and his mob.
GREG: Absolutely. Well, it’s Jellyfish, as well, because I really like Jellyfish. Jellyfish, obviously, were very Beach Boys influenced, as were Queen, and what’s not to like? Again, we wanted to do an acapella song because, by now, at this stage of the album, we knew exactly the map, and exactly what we were trying to write for the album, like ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ and ‘A Night at the Opera’… that kind of layout, where you have these quirky songs. We deserved to do an acapella song because we knew, vocally, we could pull it off… but, out comes the sleigh bells! We can’t help ourselves but to put that lovely kind of light instrumentation on it. But we kept it very vocal heavy. We just loved doing it. We just love doing vocals.
MD: Since you’ve done the arena tours with Purple, Thunder and Quo, your popularity seems to have soared, but can you see Cats in Space headlining those sort of sized venues one day?
GREG: If the fans come out and keep buying the records, and people keep coming to see gigs… because it’s getting harder to get people out to see gigs, don’t forget. You know, the live music scene is so tough, but we know that, in us, there’s an arena show, without a doubt. Our guitar player, Dean, he won’t even show me it yet, but he’s done a sketch of what our stage set would be like if we go to this level. We’re talking about the next level now and I’ve just got to persuade the agent and the promoter to put it on, but we want to bring the cat helmet out to the people. A proper moving cat helmet.
MD: Like a cat version of Iron Maiden’s Eddie.
GREG: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
STEEVI: It’d be almost like a seventh member on stage. There are actually six guys on stage, but there’s also the master looking down and grinning at all the crowd, going, “You guys are getting this.”
GREG: That’s why it’s got to be put into a venue that can do the stage size. In a theatre, we could probably put it into a 500-800 seated theatre, upwards. So, come out and buy the tickets, and the more tickets we sell, the quicker we can get into that situation. But it’s all planned. It was planned from day one, to be fair. Dare to dream, folks, dare to dream.
MD: So, top five favourite 70s albums?
GREG: ‘Queen II’… Thin Lizzy, ‘Jailbreak’… Peter Frampton, ‘Comes Alive!’… Kiss, ‘Destroyer’… Sweet, ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’.
STEEVI: There’s so many, that’s the problem! The first is Rainbow, ‘On Stage’; the second is Jeff Wayne, ‘The War of the Worlds’; Jeff Lynne’s ‘Out of the Blue’; AC/DC, ‘Highway to Hell’… that was the starting block for me; and I want to say an ABBA album, because the theatre side of ABBA…
GREG: Definitely. A huge influence. Anyone who says they’re not influenced by ABBA is an idiot. I would love to do an ABBA song.
STEEVI: Yeah, we love female vocals, as well, that’s the irony.
GREG: But, one of the best ABBA songs, ironically, is that song called ‘Intermezzo No 1’, the instrumental. Amazing.
MD: Final question, then - if cats were to actually go into space, what sort of havoc do you think they’d wreak… or maybe great things they’d do for the good of humankind?
STEEVI: They would wake the planets up, for a start, because they’re sitting there, not being used. And we kind of think our albums are like that; how different those planets are - one’s a load of gas; one’s a pile of rocks...
GREG: If I had the power, the thing I’ve got a real beef about is people that go around killing people should be killed. And they should not be put in prison with a free coloured telly when we can’t afford eight pounds a day for our mum and dad for a carer. If we kill them, we could rid the world of… just get rid of them; they’re a waste of…
MD: Or maybe use the irredeemably bad murderers for medical experiments instead of innocent, harmless animals.
GREG: The only thing with this planet is that we’ve got too soft. We’re too soft as a world and people need to seriously get their shit together.
MD: Right, thank you so much for your time.
STEEVI: Nice one.
GREG: Cheers mate, thank you.