We recently reviewed the upcoming EP from Dundee’s Catalysis, and it has to be said, we were impressed with the ground they’ve made in developing their sound. As they accelerate towards their home town release show, it seems like this is a band with a well laid out, but explosive plan. We asked the old (founder Drew Cochrane, guitars) and the new (Col Macgregor, vocals & bass) about life at the centre of the chemistry. Has it all been a carefully conducted experiment?
Col Macgregor: How much can change in six months really, right? I mean, we’re all very driven characters in our own way, and that has really helped us to move forward with real pace and enthusiasm. For us to have moved this far forward, in that sort of time-frame – given work commitments, families and whatnot – is pretty incredible. The plan has been to forge ahead with this new lineup, and with us all doing our bit behind the scenes, it’s helped it feel like a real group project. Nobody is being carried or dragged along, as is common in most bands, and that’s really positive for me. Really though, Drew’s at the heart of this, so if there is a carefully conducted experiment going on then he’d be the one to ask.
Drew Cochrane: I would say, for the last 6 or so months, there’s been a fairly solid plan in place. The first 6 months of the year we were kind of treading water, and not really doing much after the release of Into The Unknown. We played some shows, etc., and were also still sort of cementing our feel as a lineup, as Col had only joined in the October before, and Sean even later than that. We’d written a bunch of new stuff, but we weren’t really getting anywhere with it, as our singer was too busy to commit. This kind of brought about the change to a 4 piece lineup, with Col stepping up to the plate for vocals, and at that point, we decided that we wanted to release a single ASAP to show where we were as a band.
We ended up working with Mendel from Aborted on the single, and were super happy with how it turned out, so decided to do an EP with him. We wanted to demonstrate how far we’ve come in our second year as a band, and where we are now, but also essentially showcase what was a new start for us this year, with the core writing team changing, and a new vocalist. It’s quite fitting that our new self titled EP comes out exactly 364 days after the last one. It shows how much can change in a year.
Slow Dragon Music: Drew, you’ve been right at the root of this band from the start. It can be easy for outsiders to see change in an artist’s direction. How have you found your way around the new arrangement of personnel?
DC: Really easy. I say this with no disrespect to any previous members of the band, but the current lineup has an incredible work ethic. Everyone plays their part really well – Sean and I probably handle about a 50/50 split of the writing musically. Sean does a lot of our video stuff. Col does our visuals for social media, etc. Calum runs our Instagram and merch pages, plus does a lot of the day to day organising, and I handle most of the booking, the Facebook page, and also take on the producer role when it comes to recording.
A big thing that’s made a difference is that we’ve all pushed each other a lot. The previous lineup had the lead guitar split 50/50, so when Paul left I really had to work on my lead playing, both in terms of variety of writing, and tightness live. Col has stepped up an incredible amount vocally. He’s like a different singer, if you compare to his previous band. And, although Sean played on Into The Unknown, he joined once all the writing had been done, so he’s had a much bigger hand in the writing of the new material, and I think it’s stronger for us working together, and playing our different styles off each other. Calum has come into his own on this EP too. He’s managed to write some really cool, creative drum parts that don’t rely on the metal cliche of spamming fast footwork everywhere at the cost of tasteful playing.
We obviously wrote together on the last one, but I feel like the combination of the 4 of us writing together is special, and has helped achieve a higher standard and greater variety than we could have hoped to achieve before.
*Photo credit Fiaz Farrelly
SDM: And what about you, Col? What was it like stepping up to the front of the band? Do you feel your influence is being realised?
CM: Yeah, absolutely. Coming from within the band at the start was quite hard for a number of reasons, not least of all because Sam is an insane vocalist to try and replace. The sheer power and range he has blew my mind when I joined. But on top of that, things weren’t going well, and I know that Drew was getting frustrated with the lack of progress, and we talked about me stepping up to doing the vocals. I said I would give it a go, but I could only do my thing and not to replace Sam. Our styles are so very different. I’d been the main vocalist in my last band, Dirty Judas, and know my way around a microphone so I was definitely excited by the idea. Felt awkward though, just because I had joined the band, then started taking on more vocals; and then Drew and Sam had a chat about moving forward without him; and then I became the main vocalist. Sam, though, was as chilled as anything about it all, so that made it much easier.
In terms of my ideas, I get to write about the stuff that inspires me, and the guys are more than happy to let me get on with it. In fact, they seem to really appreciate what I’m about, lyrically, so that’s really warming. I feel that I’ve come on as a vocalist since joining. Sam was big part of that, as I learned loads from him in terms of technique and delivery, but also the music that Drew and Sean are writing really demands more from me.
Also, perhaps because I’ve got no significant input on the songwriting side of things, I’ve been able to really focus on progressing as a vocalist, and honing how I tell the stories I want to tell. I’d also said quite early on that I thought we should really focus on getting solid, consistent, backing in place. Sean is a cracking vocalist, and Drew’s lows are proper filthy, so it gives me a bunch of different tools to play with when writing lyrics and planning out sections. I think, in terms of our live performances, it gives us a nice on-stage dynamic.
I guess it’s just like the behind the scenes stuff; we’re all involved so nobody is hiding, or left wishing they were more important. We’re all essential to the band. That’s probably the first time I’ve thought about it like that.
SDM: This EP seems designed to mark a new beginning. Is it a sign of a bigger work to come?
DC: In terms of marking a new beginning, that’s exactly what we were aiming for. The previous EP was written by myself and Paul (our old guitarist), and had very different writing styles and vocals from the current one. This is about showing the world what Catalysis is in the here and now, and how we’ve evolved; taking our heavy as fuck, (but still melodic) sound from the previous EP, and improving and refining it in every way. The grooves are bigger. The solos shred harder. The vocals are more varied. The production has been taken to the next level (thanks to Mendel) – everything about it is bigger and better.
As far as bigger work to come is concerned, we’re ideally looking to record an album next year. We’re actually already sat on a couple of songs for the next release that are finished, including vocal demos being down etc, and another 4-5 instrumental demos that we’ve been working on, too. An album would give us greater freedom to create something more varied and expressive, as I think with an EP you really have to keep things extremely focused. The truth of the situation is that cost is a huge factor, and we’ve got other things to consider financially.
We’ll probably decide around mid-way through the year whether we’re going to do an album, or whether we will just issue another EP. One thing is for sure, and that’s that you can expect another release from us by the end of 2019. From the way the initial demos are sounding, it’s going to raise the bar for us even higher than the one we’re about to release.
CM: Yeah, I mean Sean is a writing machine. It’s insane. The guy wakes up at 5 in the morning and literally writes and records some brutal metal before breakfast. It’s madness. Sean being so prolific has really brought Drew on as well, I think, as it’s made Drew really push for his ideas to be bigger and better. I think that’s why we’ve got a five track EP with so many ideas and feels on it.
An album, for me, is the logical next step. It would let us spread all this around, and explore these new areas a little more. I’m old school, or just old, though. I like an album, a body of work that exists within itself; has a start, middle and end and tells a story. I’m sure that’s what we’ll do, and I’m really excited by the idea.
SDM: It looks like all the supports you’ve chosen for your launch show are local, or have spent time on the Dundee gigging circuit. Was there a reason behind this? How do you all feel about the Dundee scene?
DC: Without being disparaging, the Dundee scene is pretty weak, although it’s not dead. You’ve got lots of guys shouting “support your scene” in your face on social media, but, when it comes to boots on the ground, those same people are often nowhere to be seen. There’s a lot of folk who play in bands who wouldn’t be seen dead at a local show – unless they were playing – but, at the same time, will moan online about poor attendance.
There’s a few reasons behind the choices of support. We picked Black Blood because our old singer Sam is with them now, we get on well and they bring a great local crowd in with them. Threshold Sicks was an obvious choice, because they’ve been away for a long time, and there will be some anticipation behind their return to Dundee. Bereavement are longstanding veterans of the scene now, and we’ve played a few shows with them, so it made sense to invite them. The final band, Our Worlds Collide (unfortunately cancelled due to injury since this interview was conducted – SDM), are relative newbies to the scene, and it’s always good to give the little guy a leg up where you can.
The other thinking is that between the bands on offer, there’s a fair range of sub-genres, so hopefully we’ll attract some lesser seen faces around Dundee shows through the door; that guy you always see in town in the Cannibal Corpse tee who you’ve never seen at a show, or the guy with the Slipknot hoody you see in Tesco at least once a week. We want to bring them into the fold.
CM: I don’t know if I would say the Dundee scene is weak. To me it’s just really unpredictable. I think the problem with Dundee’s crowd is that the city is just a wee bit too small or disjointed to support the scene it craves. There’s been a lot of changes in the city too. The main rock pubs and nightclubs have shut down, and that puts a real dent in the ability to get out there and promote, or build a solid cohort of folk who like their riffs heavy, and will just head out to see what’s happening.
It’s also a funny city in that a significant proportion of the folk who live here, and might be quite into what we do, are students, and they tend not to cross the Hawkhill. We’re working on that though. We’re definitely building a bit of momentum which is really nice and can only help us moving forward. Last gig we played, there was a guy singing along, which is genuinely the first time I’ve ever seen someone sing my songs back at me. That’s pretty mind-blowing to be honest. He knew the words better than I do!
SDM: Question six is the standard closer for SDM interviews; anything you’d like to add? Something you feel we might have missed?
CM: There is a real energy in this band, that’s created from a mutual respect for what each of us is doing, so we’re in a really exciting place just now. It would be great to see any of your readers come and catch our EP launch, pick up a copy of our new EP, or both! We’re humble guys who are supremely lucky to be putting out music we all love, in a band where we are respected and appreciated by each other. We pass all of that love, respect and appreciation on to anyone who invests their time and money in supporting us. The EP is available to pre-order from www.catalysis.bigcartel.com for physical copies and all the usual suspects for digital. Physical copies which were ordered before 1st December come with a free copy of our last EP, too.
Catalysis, Black Blood, Threshold Sicks, Bereavement, The Goatboy