Five years ago a group of musicians with links to T’Pau, Gillan, Sweet, Airrace, Asia, Mike Oldfield and others set the controls of the time machine for the 1970s, and set out to restore that era’s gigantic choruses, loud guitars, wall-of-sound harmonies and grandiose pianos with support slots with Status Quo, Deep Purple and Thunder.
With album number four, Atlantis, recently released, we spoke to guitarist Greg Hart about Cat life so far.
Cats In Space were born because their style of music wasn’t being played by anyone else.
“It happened by complete accident,” Hart explains. “I was writing songs with Mick Wilson [of 10cc] purely for our own entertainment. Outside of The Darkness, nobody made that kind of classic retro-rock any more. It could have been a very expensive ego trip, but the reviews of the first album, Too Many Gods, made us realise that we were on to something.”
I Fell Out Of Love With Rock’N’Roll, the first single from the new album, is a true story. Hart believes that rock music “went wrong” in 1992.
“I agree that something needed to happen to counter the waves of horrendous, diluted hair metal bands,” he admits. “But for me, grunge was every bit as contrived in its own way.”
The only bands from the 1990s and beyond that Hart has serious time for are US 90s powerpoppers Jellyfish (somewhat reborn when in 2017 three original members joined forces as The Lickerish Quartet) and, surprisingly, Scottish alt. rockers Del Amitri.
The latest addition to the line-up, Damien Edwards, is the third lead singer they’ve had in 14 months.
After original frontman Paul Manzi left to join Sweet, in May 2019 theCats brought in Mark Pascall, who elected to share his time between Cats and his other group, Departed. Pascall left after the festive single My Kind Of Christmas.
“I’m not dissing Mark, but he didn’t really share our work ethic,” Hart reveals. “Also, there was a twenty-year age gap between him and the rest of the band. We’re in the last-chance saloon here, and it’s a bloody good saloon to be in. But for me, Deano [Howard, guitar], Jeff [Brown, bass], Andy [Stewart, keyboards] and Steevi [Bacon, drums], Cats In Space is our main priority. In the end we were like oil and water."
Edwards came from the world of theatre.
Prior to joining the Cats In Space, Damien Edwards sang in various theatre productions and was a part of the touring version of War Of The Worlds.
“Damien is not one to boast of his achievements,” Hart insists, then says with a laugh: “If I had half of his talent I’d be the biggest gobshite ever. He sings better than anyone I’ve ever worked with. His acting is a bonus, because Cats In Space songs require a certain jazz-hands approach.”
Cats In Space embrace the DIY model, which has paid dividends.
The band now handle their own management and self-release all their music. They also commission the artwork and run their website and socials. They consider it to be worth the effort.
“Artists don’t realise that record companies are just banks that loan you money and then take it back at vast levels of interest. Why bother with them any more?” Hart muses. “We have complete artistic freedom. The only downside is that a band like ours cannot bully its way into certain key areas, so we rely on goodwill, but it has worked well this far. Our motto is: ‘Build it and they will come’. Give the fans something bright and shiny to look at, and sell it at a reasonable price.”
They continue to find their way into the lives of delighted new admirers.
Hart believes that, five years into their existence, the band have barely scratched the surface of the consciousness of what he terms “the grey-haired, fifty-something rock fan” – the type of music connoisseurs that thought a band such as CIS long-extinct.
“Traffic at our website and touring with Purple and Quo taught us that there are millions of those people around the world. If we can manage to tap in to one per cent, then we’ll have the best career ever,” he adds, smiling like the proverbial feline. “That’s our goal.”