GREG HART (CATS IN SPACE): “We Had Rolls Royce Dreams On Lemonade Money But Now We Are Moving Up The Ladder”

CATS IN SPACE (Live at The City Hall, Newcastle, U.K., December 6, 2017)
Photo: Mick Burgess

After opening for Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult, Thunder and Status Quo, Melodic Rockers, Cats In Space, are about to embark on their most ambitious headlining tour in their 8-year history. Mick Burgess called up lead guitarist and band founder Greg Hart, to talk about the tour and also their recently released fifth album Kickstart The Sun.

Towards the end of July you’ll be starting your Kickstart The Sun UK tour. Are you looking forward to getting started?

We haven’t played since Christmas so we are very much looking forward to it. We have been planning this for such a long time. It has felt like for a while that it’s been all talk and no action but it’s moving in the right direction. We are starting to see the production and stage show being built.

This is a 16 date tour. Is this the biggest of your bands career so far?

It’s certainly our most adventurous. We’ve done some bigger shows in the past and they’ve always been really good but this is definitely the biggest tour so far.

This is going to be a rather special tour with you performing in classic British theatres up and down the country. What made you want to do this?

We wanted to build something that we thought that the fans might want from us. Even since day one they thought we should be like ELO with spaceships and things because of the sound that we made and the vibe of the band. Unfortunately we’ve got Rolls Royce dreams on lemonade money. We’ve got to the stage now where we have to do something to get Cats In Space on the next rung up.

Are you planning a special production for these theatre shows?

We’re having three back screen stage sets at the back of the room that’ll look like a space ship and the cat pod will be the centrepiece. There’ll be visuals shot onto the three screens with lights for a lot of the songs. We have James Heron on board to create the lighting and visuals. We are very fortunate to have a team with us along for the ride who have invested a lot of dedication in the band.

What sort of setlist are you putting on for this tour?

There’s going to be two sets. We’ll do Kickstart The Sun virtually in its entirety in the first set. The second set will be the older Cats stuff like “Thunder In The Night” and “Hologram Man.” There’s at least one song in the second set we haven’t done in a long time. It’ll be two sets of 50 minutes to an hour long so it’s good value for money. The plan is to take you through Kickstart The Sun then a break for a beer then back for the big guns that’ll have you dancing in your seats.

You’ll be playing up north too at the Queens Hall in Hexham. You have played here before. What do you enjoy most about this venue?

We have played there three times. It’s such a great gig. It’s a really nice town too so you can make a real event out of visiting there. I hope the fans will support the theatre and support the town. We’re looking forward to returning to play.

Last year you joined Blue Öyster Cult on their UK shows. How did you enjoy those?

They were great shows. When you get onto those big stages we definitely raise our game, we really come alive on those stages.

You rereleased your debut album, Too Many Gods with bonus tracks. Why did you decide to rerelease that?

We’d had such an influx of new fans that they couldn’t get hold of the first album on vinyl so we decided to bring out a double vinyl version with bonus tracks including some songs recorded in Newcastle. It has a lovely foil gatefold sleeve and silver vinyl and sold out pretty quickly.

You included some songs recorded live from the Newcastle City Hall on the tour you did with Status Quo. Why did you choose the Newcastle show for the live bonus tracks?

Newcastle was a really good gig on that tour. We recorded the whole tour but each of the other nights had a problem here and there but the Newcastle show just rocked so we used those recordings.

Your latest album, Kickstart The Sun was released last year. Were you pleased with the reaction it received?

It’s been unbelievable. You might feel confident that you have something really good in the studio but you never really know until it goes out to the critics and the public. We had a launch party and invited the hacks down to listen to it and they loved it. They told us that they were rooting for us as they felt that we were their age and their band. We’re not kids or an old has been band, we’re still trying to do something that reminds them of the old days of Classic Rock in the 70s and 80s. We didn’t expect to go down as well as it did. It’s been incredible.

This was your second studio album of all new material with Damien Edwards, your new singer who joined a couple of years ago. First of all what happened to Paul Manzi?

Paul had depped for The Sweet even before I knew him. Jeff Brown our bassist was in The Sweet for 15 years and even I’ve played in Sweet so we’re all getting in there. It was purely a financial move for Paul. He called me and said he was getting married and had been offered a good deal with Sweet. I said he had to do what was right for him. It was all done very graciously and the final show in Sheffield was very emotional. We’re all still good friends and I think he’s superb in the Sweet and think it was the best thing for him. Sweet are one of my favourite bands so it’s the best of both worlds and I’ve got one of my boys in there now.

Maybe he could get you onto a Sweet tour?

A lot of people have said that and I’d love to. If the powers to be could make that happen that’d be a really good tour for us.

Mark Pascall joined for a while. Was that just as a stop gap to complete work commitments?

It was a bit of an odd one. We wanted to get a new permanent singer to do some Christmas shows but we didn’t know that Covid was round the corner. We did the tour and then Covid hit just as we were starting to do the Atlantis album. It wasn’t working out quite like we’d hoped so I talked to Damien Edwards who I’ve known for years and I’ve always wanted to do an album with Damien and he fits Cats In Space like a glove. No one could do Kickstart The Sun quite like Damien other than Freddie Mercury, Steve Perry or Dennis De Young. In fact I think Damien and Dennis De Young were separated at birth. Damien is a great lyricist and writer too so he’s really good for the band.

You broke him in gently though by recording Diamonds – The Best Of which were rerecorded Cats classics with Damien on vocals. What did you decide to do this?

We were originally doing this as a German release as we didn’t want to go out there with the old albums getting pumped out and we turn up with a different singer so I thought why didn’t we re-record some of the songs with Damien on the vocals and use that as a promotional tool. We did it and then Covid came along so we decided to put it out as a regular release. I thought it worked really well too. We weren’t trying to forget the past, we just wanted to avoid confusing the future.

Was it just Damien’s parts that were rerecorded?

It was just Damien’s vocals and we tweaked some of the production slightly and I added a few more guitars to “Thunder In The Night” but other than that, it was just the vocals.

It’s always tricky replacing a lead singer. Were your fans pretty receptive?

We knew how good Damien was but you just never know how your fans will take to the change. Paul was very popular guy and looks very different from Damien. Mark had done one tour and he was a lot younger and he had a certain vibe going on that wasn’t quite right for us in the end. The only way we could sell Damien was to let everyone hear him as we knew how good he was. He went into the studio and did “2.59” in one take and did a video and thought we’d stick it out and the whole Facebook post went nuts.

Has he contributed to the songwriting too?

The bulk of the songs were done but he came in and immediately worked on redoing a couple of the songs on the Atlantis album before we did the recording. We had recorded a song at the same time that Mark Pascall brought to the table by way of some basic guitar chords and a melody. We revisited it and made it into this massive production song and made this superb song out of this little idea. Damien said that he had a good idea for the song and he came back with “A Big Balloon.” It was a beautiful song. So out of this acorn of an idea we came out with this great song that we probably would never have revisited if Damien hadn’t done that. My job as producer is never to neglect other people in the band. If they have something, hear them out as it may be the best thing ever. Steevi Bacon writes a lot too and has come up with some great ideas. Steevie is like my Bernie Taupin. He gives me certain lyrics like with “Sunday Best” from Atlantis which I thought were fantastic and I just made the song around his lyrics. We have a little melting pot going on which is really good for me as it’s always good to have other people’s slant on something.

As always you have some great collectibles for the album from a limited edition double CD with 10 bonus tracks and a coloured double vinyl with gatefold sleeve. You seem to go the extra mile to give your fans something more than just a CD or a record.

The fans love it and they invest in the band. They like to collect things. It’s like KISS in the 70s with the lunchboxes and pin badges and stuff. I’ve noticed more bands now doing hand written lyrics and adding extras. I’m not saying we started it but we’ve definitely been towards the top of the tree giving our fans an album with all the buzzes and bells. There’s a lot of competition these days so you have to give them something that stands out.

What would you say was your most ambitious and well received collectible?

The Narnia Box that we did for A Day Trip To Narnia sold out before Christmas. That had a Turkish Delight in it and snow in the box and lots of other stuff. We had to source the wooden boxes and brand it with the logo on the top. They were all done by hand and numbered. It was really rewarding to see people’s reactions. The fans loved it.

Have you got any thoughts on what you will do for future releases?

We do. We are always one step ahead thinking of what we’re going to do next. We’re actually going to be recording all of the shows on this tour so there could well be a double live album from that.

You co-wrote “Lay Down Your Arms” and “A Far Cry” on Asia’s Aqua album back in 1992. How did you end up doing that?

I had a publisher at the time whose sister worked in the reception at Geoff Downes publishing company and she just happened to be playing this tape that I’d done when I was in the band, If Only. Geoff asked what it was and she said that her brother was their publisher. He really liked it. He thought we were American as he didn’t believe any British band could play AOR like that. He came down to see us play and we struck up a friendship. He produced the If Only album. At the time he was putting Asia back together and we sat around his house and wrote some songs together and he used a couple for the Asia album, Aqua and I ended up singing on it too.

You also played live with Mike Oldfield. Was that just a one off?

That was just a one off and was through Geoff again. Mike wanted to put together a band for a German TV show. Geoff and I were working in the studio and he asked if I wanted to go to Germany to do a playback with Mike Oldfield. I went over and met Mike and played this song that I only heard for the first time when I got on the plane. It was a wild weekend and Rod Stewart and the Bee Gees were there as well. I thought my life was going to be like that every week from there on. I think I was back signing on the following Tuesday.

Have you started work on new material yet or are you focussed on playing live for the upcoming months?

Me and Stevie have started demoing songs for the next studio album. We’re trying to make a policy of having one day a week where we down tools and focus on writing. I’ve also written a few songs with Damien. In fact the new album is done in terms of its structure, so I know what songs are going on and what the title is going to be and we have the artwork idea in our heads. I think the new album should be very interesting.

Do you have any other plans for the rest of the year?

The tour will go on until Christmas broken into various stages. The rest of the time will be spent doing the new album and we’ll be working our way through the live recordings and thinking about how we’ll bring a live record out because of the vinyl shortage. We need to work out how to do that as there’s such a backlog, there’s an eight month wait so it won’t be out this side of next summer. Ideally I’d like the live album out early next summer and then we’ll do a couple of videos. It’s always full on, seven days a week at the moment with Cats In Space. We’re very privileged to be doing this and all we need now is for hundreds of people to buy tickets for the shows. We know people will enjoy it in fact we say that if you don’t enjoy it we’ll give you your money back.

Cats In Space start their tour at the Wilde Theatre, Bracknell on 20th July. Their latest album Kickstart The Sun is out now.

Interview and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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