Andy Roberts catches up with Catylyst prior to their Joseph's Well gig special...
You never know who is watching, so every show should be played like it's your last. A fine piece of advice for any band wishing to inflict themselves upon sometimes unwitting audiences. Thankfully, there are bands like Catylyst around. The way they gleefully wheel out the stories of each of the dates on their recent tour, no band should be missing out on the invitation to tour the UK because they failed to impress that shadowy and mysterious figure lurking at the back of a sparsely filled venue. Chris (vocals, guitars, sequencing), Wally (drums, percussion, sequencing), Dave (backing vocals, guitar, sequencing) and Jamie (bass, backing vocals) love playing live too much to put in a shoddy performance.
"We all look forward to playing live." Says Chris. "I'll always get a 'for those about to rock' response from the rest of the lads when I tell them we've confirmed a gig. We pride ourselves on playing the same to 5 people as we do to 5000. It's what we do best. We're a seriously good live band. This year we played to a very quiet Bradford Rios and it turned out a London-based promoter was in the crowd and said 'What are you doing in November?' We thought it would just be a gig he had to offer but it turned out it was a whole tour with Drugdealer Cheerleader for 10 or so dates! Then they got the guys from Alabama 3 involved..." That kind of thing is dropped in nonchalantly as though every band gets Alabama 3 involved at some point or other.
And why not, as one Barry Norman used to say. Catylyst have played with a pretty darn decent roll call of bands in the past. It's a list that includes the likes of: Danko Jones, King Adora, Therapy?, The Alkaline Trio, Crackout, Span, The Jellys, Defenestration and the Utah Saints to name a few of the more famous ones.
As you can imagine, sitting round and sharing a few beers and plenty of laughs with Catylyst is one of those thoroughly enjoyable perks for rock hacks like yours truly. We're treated to amusing tales like the one where Chris got his own back on a dim-witted and entirely out-of-order (when isn't he though?) Crispian Mills. The aforementioned uncool Kula Shaker fella accused Chris of stealing his new band The Jeevas' bags. "It was disgraceful, before the show we'd been having a kick about and he seemed like a decent bloke. Then suddenly he's making wild accusations. To get even we managed to eat most of his rider while he was onstage."
We could go on, like the time when offering Therapy? A beer and the Northern Irish band rockers ending up buying the ales for all of them as the well-meaning Catylyst found themselves temporarily financially embarrassed. At least the credit line's back on as I even manage to blag a drink off Dave. So where did all this madness start then?
Chris: "Wally and I got together when we were about 12 in a metal band called Requiem and did the usual Nirvana covers and all that. Then we started another band that was more indie-rock but we got sick of that. Then one day Jamie rang and said 'do you want to do something else?' so we did. We did that for a bit, swapped a few numbers and finally settled on what we do now."
"That all took a long time." Says Jamie. "We weren't Catalyst proper until Dave and Jamie joined about a year ago. Dave brought in the sequencer and that makes it really different."
So what is the real Catylyst then?
"People say 'Oh, you're a metal band/ this band/ that band' but I think we're a kick arse rock band." Chris explains. "We'd rather not get pigeonholed anyway- it's good to play your own stuff." Says Dave. "There are a lot of influences in there. We've always had a fair amount of melody and tunes but it's got balls as well."
Wally: "There's dance-y, industrial bits to it, verging on metal but pop. Whatever we write we always know its just Catylyst."
Thankfully unlike the foes they've battled with there aren't any egos when it comes to this band. They're at pains to say their songs wouldn't be Catalyst unless all 4 had an input into it. Common tags as to their sound are Faith No More and Metallica. More off-beam ones according to the lads are The Wildhearts, 80s rock, Styx, Judas Priest. I reckon on a bit of PWEI too.
"If someone wanted to pigeonhole us it'd have to be 'Rock'." Claims Chris. "It's like those spider diagrams you'd have at school. In the middle it'd be rock with metal, drum and bass and pop going off here or there. Everything influences you in what you come up with."
Back in January, we gave Catylyst's EP 21st Century Nursery Rhymes a rarely awarded five out of five. It was an exciting, full-on rocking animal of an EP with a pop heart at its core, yet the band is keen to stress they've moved on and grown musically even from that. There's a newfound maturity. The question is, are we likely to hear evidence of these claims in the near future?
"The thing is we haven't got any money." Says Chris. "We are the skint-est band I've heard! We've got ten songs ready, any combination of four of which we could record. There have been offers of a live session on a radio show it's something like that which would be ideal to get our energy across."
"Though the last EP not a bad record, we wouldn't want it to represent us now." Explains Wally. "We get criticised that we can't capture that live sound when we record. What we do is like a musical tug-o-war. I'll try and pull it in a metal direction, Chris will try and make it poppy. It's a friendly compromise, we all try and take the best bits and drop them in. We're definitely our own biggest critics."
So with recordings on hold for now, the four have thrown themselves into touring. Regular readers may recall we talked to Brody about their co-headlining tour with Catylyst a few weeks ago. Brody enthused how much they enjoyed their time on the road. With Catylyst it's no exception.
Dave: "It's really good touring with a band who are a) a really good bunch of blokes, plus b) a top band. If they're on before you it winds you up and have to go and top what they have done."
Chris continues: "It was really strange playing eight really different dates, from the likes of Leeds, Bradford and Hull where we've got quite big followings, to playing dates like in Birmingham where the local band pulled out and there was hardly any crowd. It was certainly worth doing as a holiday - you can't beat a week in a van with your mates for a laugh."
"I'd recommend it to any band." Says Dave. "Not only because it was such a laugh, but we really did tighten up as a band, playing all those dates. You also get to meet so many different people. Like the other week we played in Brixton and we were sat in the van at four or five in the morning, all these weirdoes were coming up to us for a chat. When we played Stoke, the promoter offered us the field at the back of his house for us to pitch our tent..."
Wally takes up the story: "We pitched our tents and when we woke up, we realised we'd been camping in the middle of a football pitch. It was one of the darkest places I've ever known. To top things off, the Police came down in the middle of the night to investigate whether we were Badger baiting of all things!"
The band are reunited with former touring pals Brody once more this Saturday, as the two make up what should be a thoroughly rocking night down at Joseph's Well with the Catalyst's current tour-mates Drugdealer Cheerleader.
"They're from down South, sort of old school, Guns N' Roses, Black Crowes, AC/DC, all very good at what they do. I think you'd say they were all a bit Motley Crue. " Says Wally. "An explosion of snotty attitude crossed with great songs" so said Kerrang! Get there early for them as they're scheduled for 6.30pm after a "secret guest acoustic act" opens proceedings at 6pm.
"Every single band on that bill is amazing and all totally different styles." Confirms Chris. "We really wanted to do a gig where we could pick, choose and put together our own line-up. We always get bands coming up to us and asking if we have any support slots going, but most of the time we're either asked to play, we're playing with someone else or it's all already booked. This time around we thought we'd tailor-make our own bill to play with."
Our faves ...And None of Them knew They Were Robots are third up, swiftly followed by Colour of Fire who have been effectively re-writing 'How To Win Friends and Influence People' down in London for the past couple of weeks.
Just to top things off as one of the finest nights this side of 2003 even before Brody and Catylyst round things off, Memphis 9 featuring the Alabama 3 geezer: Rantin' Richie will be DJ-ing and MC-ing in the bar.
All the makings of a classic night. You know what to do.