The Cat Empire
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life -- music and cats.
Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)
worldbeatcanada radio: Your performance at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival left no question that The Cat Empire are in their element on stage, but as a follower of your recordings I'm consistently blown away by the production values on disc. What can you tell us about the recording of Steal The Light?
The Cat Empire: The record was produced by Jan Skubiscewski, who is a friend of the band, and collaborator via Jackson Jackson. He brought us into a very rhythmic, explosive place which sat well with our ideas. Basically we wanted to make a party record.
WBC: I'm curious about why the electric guitar never made the cut in your arrangements. Was that a conscious decision or did the right player just never connect when you were forming the band?
Cats:There is actually a few songs on each record where the guitar sneaks in, but you’d never notice it. It’s certainly not a feature instrument. But yeah, we kind of avoid it as a kind of musical ritual.
WBC: There's a real duality in your material between Harry's tunes and the Felix-fronted melodies. I think the best of your stuff combines lots of both. What do your fans tell you?
Cats: All kinds of stuff. It’s confusing listening to fans because there are too many different opinions. But they seem to enjoy the shows and that’s the main thing.
WBC: I get the feeling that the Two Shoes recording you made at Havana's historic Egrem Studios has had a lasting impact on your compositions. I love tracks on the new album like Sleep Won't Sleep that pop with Latin rhythm. Is the Latin sound one of your favorite 'go to' styles?
Cats: It’s hard to avoid it with our instrumentation, with the horn section, timbales, congas, piano and double bass - but we don’t try to avoid it of course, we love that stuff. But ‘go to’ is actually a good way of describing how we use it - it’s like on an old movie set where they stick up a couple of palm trees on a painted backdrop and call it Arabia - it’s not the real thing, it’s just a flavour. So the songwriting has to stand up above that genre-based stuff.
WBC: worldbeatcanada radio is on the air with The Cat Empire who are offering the inside on their 6th studio album, Steal The Light. Connect with the band online at thecatempire.com. I've always been a fan of your album art. So Many Nights was particularly inspired, but the new cover is a riot of felinity. What can you tell us about the artist and the design?
Cats: Graeme Base is a famous children’s book illustrator here in Australia, his best known work is his book ‘Animalia’, which I highly recommend. He always drawn a lot of animals, in this distinctive style. He’s the only person we would have let draw cats on our cover, we generally stay away from anything cat-themed...
WBC: You guys waste no time setting the bar for Steal The Light. The opener 'Brighter Than Gold' rockets right out of the blocks with one of the album's strongest moments. Can you set up this track for us?
Cats: This is the first single from the record, and probably my favourite song to play live now. It’s been years since we’ve had a single that is also a killer live tune, due to the strange way in which the music business works, where you record something and then start playing it on stage (instead of the other way round like Fela Kuti always used to always do), but finally our recording energy and our live energy is in sync, this track now makes crowds go pretty mental.