CATALYSIS (from l-r): Sean Ramson (rhythm guitar), Callum Rennie (drums), Col MacGregor (vocals/bass), Drew Cochrane (lead guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Since forming in late 2016, Scottish four-piece Catalysis have been fusing together elements of groove, thrash, and death metal to bring their growing legion of followers a metalcore sound that is distinct and original.
Having unveiled their debut EP, ‘Into The Unknown’, to good reviews last year, the band are now eager to show how they have progressed musically with a self-titled follow-up, to be released in the run-up to Christmas.
To tell me about that, and more, was the Dundee quartet’s lead guitarist, Drew Cochrane.
How did the band get together?
My old band split up right around the same time as our drummer Callum’s old band, so we decided to get together for a jam and see what happened. It went well, so I brought in the other guitar player from my old band too (although he has now left and has been replaced by Sean, who incidentally played bass in the old band).
How did the name Catalysis come about?
It’s actually quite a lame reason, but basically, we were struggling to come up with names, and my dad had mentioned to me in the past that he’d always wanted to use that name for a metal band (he plays predominantly in punk bands), so I thought I’d put it to use for him.
The word is to do with chemical reactions, though, something science-y that we only have a loose grasp of.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
I’d say our typical approach is that generally either Sean or myself will bring a song to the band, more or less musically finished as a recorded demo with programmed drums, and then from there, we’ll iron out any parts that we’re not 100% convinced about in the rehearsal room.
Once we’ve cemented the music, Col will demo his vocals over the track, and we’ll start to work on vocal arrangements and backing together. Usually, because I like to cause myself unnecessary stress whenever I can, I leave writing solos to the last minute when we’re sending off the finished tracks for mixing.
We do sometimes write together in a room as a band too, but most of the time, someone is bringing the bulk of the song to the table pre-written, and the “in the room” part is just the polishing.
What inspires the band lyrically?
On the new EP, there are a couple of tracks which more or less cover the fact that humanity is a brutal destructive force (‘Nothing Left’, ‘Deadline’), a song about the Highland Clearances (for those who don’t know, a very dark period in Scotland’s national history), and a couple of songs that are more about personal things – dealing with struggles and making choices, etc, so we cover a few different angles with our writing.
Actually, our last EP had songs about fantasy stuff, as our old singer was super into Dungeons and Dragons, etc.
Last year, you brought out a debut EP, ‘Into The Unknown’, to good reviews. How was the response to that for you all personally?
The response was great, and obviously as a new band with a first release, we were pretty happy about it.
However, the last EP didn’t really reflect the band, as it was written before Sean or Col joined the band, and they had no real input to it. I think the other thing that somewhat diminished the positive feedback to the EP was that we weren’t massively happy with the production.
Open Eyes Productions, who mixed it, are great, but I think we tried to have too tight a control on the sound, and they didn’t really know how to achieve the sound we wanted, so we ended up with something that wasn’t their best work, and wasn’t what we wanted either.
Next month, the band will be releasing a self-titled follow-up. How has the recording process been?
The recording process for the new EP couldn’t have been smoother. It’s 2018, which means that we’re able to do a lot of the recording ourselves these days – this is great, because it helps keep costs down, and the quality up, as we have as much time as we want to track parts and experiment with layering things without worrying about breaking the bank.
The drums were all tracked at a local studio, then we recorded all the guitars, bass, and vocals at my house, then we sent them off to be mixed.
I think we worked a lot more collaboratively on this EP than on the last one when it comes to recording too – especially when it comes to vocals, as a lot of ideas were bounced back and forward during the tracking process, and everyone recorded their own backing – on the previous release, Sam (our previous singer) took almost complete control, and there was no input (in terms of ideas or actual singing) from anyone else.
I think, as a result, the new EP is stronger and more varied.
And the upcoming EP has been produced by Mendel bij de Leij, of legendary death metal outfit Aborted. How has working with him been as an experience?
It was a great experience. I reached out to him after seeing an advert on Instagram for his mixing services, as I’ve been a long term fan of Aborted, and always enjoyed his solo music, which he mixed himself.
He was super easy-going, and worked with us to attain the perfect sound for what we were trying to achieve. He mixed three of the tracks as singles, then remixed the whole lot to sound coherent as a release when all the songs were done. The mix crushes – he knew exactly how a band like us should sound.
He’s also really friendly and really professional – I couldn’t recommend working with him more.
Also, how will the EP differ to ‘Into The Unknown’?
Compared to ‘Into The Unknown’, there’s probably less of a death metal vibe because of our change in singers. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some heavy growls in there, but Sam predominantly used super harsh vocals.
On the new EP, there’s a bigger focus on strong melodies – almost all the songs have a big vocal hook somewhere. That’s not to say that we’ve softened up, or are trying to write commercially, but we’ve tried to write more distinctive, memorable parts.
The songs themselves are (largely) shorter and more to the point, and there’s a stronger emphasis on both groove and texture – there are more up and down moments. We still have big riffs, we still have guitar solos in each song, but it’s all just more refined, more precise.
How is it, for the band, performing live?
Performing live with the current line-up is a treat. The new songs are going over really well, and we’ve all really upped our game.
One of the big things about the writing of the new EP was how much we put into layering up the vocals and using everyone’s talents to the best effect, so pulling that sound off live and replicating it was a challenge at first, but now that we’re nailing it, I think it gives us a more dynamic and interesting live show too.
There’s a lot of movement on stage, and we’re all really passionate about what we’re doing, and I don’t think with previous line-ups, there was that energy or passion.
What are your initial plans for 2019?
For 2019 so far, we’ve booked our first international show – which is at the Aggressive Music Festival in the Czech Republic, and we’ll be adding some more shows in Belgium, Germany, etc, en route to that show.
We’ve also got a couple of Scottish shows confirmed, and a few more in the works too, even though one of our big focuses this coming year is going to be getting out of Scotland more.
It’s tough, because we all work, and two of the guys have families, etc, but I think basically, we want to take the success we’ve had in the latter half of 2018, and press forward with that.
In terms of new music, there will definitely be a release again next year, though at present, we’re not sure what form it’ll take. It looks likely we’ll be doing an album, but there’s a number of factors to consider with that, including the cost. We’ve already got three or four songs written for it though, with skeletons of another four or so too.
And finally, what is the band’s long-term aim?
This one is really easy: to have fun. We’re not under any illusions about who or what we are. We’re four guys with good jobs, some of us are married with kids, etc, and we can’t be giving that all up to tour around Europe sleeping in a van for three months at a time, but what we can do is continue to release quality music as often as we can, and to get out there and play as much as we can without causing a divorce.
THE SELF-TITLED SECOND EP FROM CATALYSIS WILL BE RELEASED ON DECEMBER 14, AND THE BAND WILL BE PLAYING A LAUNCH SHOW FOR THE EP IN THEIR HOME CITY THAT EVENING, FURTHER DETAILS OF WHICH CAN BE FOUND BELOW:
MORE INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.