I don’t think many of our readers will be too au fait with Space Elevator at this point; can you therefore give us a brief history of how you got to now? “Very briefly, the band was formed by myself and our lead singer The Duchess. We started off by writing a load of songs together. We basically had written an album before we had a band if that makes sense; then we went into a recording studio and we really formed the band then, by pulling in three other guys who were Neil Murray, who’s been in Whitesnake and Black Sabbath and played with Gary Moore among others and is the kind of go-to classic rock bass player, and who I knew because we both played in the London stage version of the Queen We Will Rock You musical; Elliott Ware, who was the musical director on WWRY when I started, came in on keyboards. He’s very much into bands like Genesis and Jethro Tull which is unusual for a West Endy sort of guy… and then we got my great mate who I’ve been playing with for thirty years, Brian Greene to come and play the drums”.
That was a little while ago now? “We played one gig, the album was released in the UK, we did a bit of promotion and released a couple of singles which got a bit of radio play, but when it came to getting out and doing more extensive gigging it became more tricky; Elliott had moved on to work on The Kinks’ stage show Sunny Afternoon, and Neil is in a thousand other bands all at once, so that kind of brought us to our current line up, which recorded the version of Thin Lizzy’s Don’t Believe a Word, which is me, the singer, the drummer, and a guy called Chas Maguire on bass”.
I believe the album is going to get a little bit of a nudge now? “It’s going to be technically re-released in Europe and the rest of the world on May 13th this year”.
Excellent news! With the music business being as it is in 2016, and being so fickle, how hard is it for a bunch of musicians to get a project off the ground that isn’t essentially rooted in what’s seen as being hip by those who like to think that’s what they are? “It’s not without difficulty, and it’s taken quite a lot of money in startup costs, because there wasn’t a record label or anything like that; We still went into a world class studio and paid for a first class production! The music is quite flamboyant, it’s not an acoustic-guitar-in-the-bedroom type thing. Then there’s the promotional side of things, which is tricky because it isn’t the commercial flavour of the day, and there’s no record company to try and push it for you. But actually, if you stick at it, there are now more niche-y things around, so you can hit Classic Rock magazine, you can hit Planet Rock radio, you can find where the dedicated rock radio stations are on the internet. So here in the UK we’ve been in a lot of mainstream magazines, and on national and local BBC Radio. It’s difficult, and you have to persevere, but there is an audience out there and that audience still wants to hear new rock music that pays tribute to that classic rock era”.
I guess that bands who can actually play and sing are always going to go down well live – if you can get the gigs, you’re always going to connect with people. “That’s been one of the most surprising thing we’ve found as a band. Between us we do hundreds of gigs a year, not necessarily in Space Elevator, and because the album is so complex, with so many overdubs of guitar and vocals, we were worried about reproducing it live, but many people have come up to us after shows and said ‘you’re even better live than on record’, which was interesting, but I guess because the band is tight, and Duchess is a great singer, and there’s that extra energy thing you can’t replicate on record, so in that sense yes you’re right – if you can get the gigs… but up to this point finding good gigs, especially around London, has been a bit tricky”.
So it’s almost like a marriage made in heaven then that along comes a band like Cats in Space for you to tour with, who are very much in that same niche as Space Elevator, aren’t they? That tour will be great for you I think. “It’s going to be fantastic. And it came about as a happy accident because the guy who mastered their album (last year’s Too Many Gods) engineered our album; He was telling (CiS mainman) Greg Hart that he should get in touch with us, and telling us we should get in touch with Greg, so now we have a seven date tour of the UK, which will probably stretch to eight or nine shows in the end, some of them in theatres, some in rock clubs, it’s going to be really, really good”.
The album is so varied, Duchess can clearly handle anything that’s thrown at her musically – there isn’t really any limitation on who you could tour with, is there? You could easily slot in with a more pop-slanted act than Cats in Space, for instance? “That’s really interesting – and reassuring – that someone like you should say that! Because even though we do tip our hat to that classic rock era we are pretty mainstream I think; I don’t know whether it’s the fact that we have a female singer but I think quite realistically that someone could have a Pink album and one of our albums in their collection. Not that we sound anything like Pink”.
I wouldn’t be talking to you if you did! In terms of establishing the band though is that a good thing? A lot of bands like to entrench themselves in a certain area and develop a fanbase before spreading the wings and trying to broaden their appeal. Is there a chance that rock fans might think you’re not rocky enough whilst pop fans might find you too rocky? “Yes, it’s possible. But we wrote the songs in the first instance with no audience in mind. I had a deal in the nineties on the back of some demos that were rock based, the record company loved them and then said ‘can you do some funk?’ So we did, which was ridiculous. It was like going in as Whitesnake and coming out as M People. We were chasing the fad of the day. For this project there was none of that; the songs came out, and if they were five and a half minute rock songs, so be it. We have eclectic tastes as a band, so it was never going to come out as a straight hard rock album or whatever. But I do take your point; I think it’s more tricky this way because if we sounded like, say, AC/DC then we could just target heavy rock fans, but I take the more positive view that the audience is already wide, and because there is no record company saying ‘you must be in this or that niche’ we can just put stuff out there. Hopefully we can reach a group of people who don’t even think of us as a classic rock band necessarily’.
So you say the album is essentially getting a full re-release in May, you’ll be touring for most of the year after that, how does that have an impact in terms of writing for album number two? Do you write constantly or is there nothing yet in the tank vis a vis new material? “Very good question! We’re in the middle of conducting a pledge campaign for our second album, which is already written, pretty much. I don’t write every day in the sense of ‘I must write something’, but we do have songs ongoing and in the last few gigs we’ve done we’ve played three or four new tunes. The pledge campaign runs until the end of September, after the end of the Cats in Space tour, and the absolute intention is to be in the studio before the end of the year”.