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In the early-1980s, after leaving Medium Medium, Rees Lewis started C Cat Trance. The first releases and gigs were with original Medium Medium drummer Nigel Stone and sound recordist Rob Hodgkinson.
17 Years after their last tour, 17 years after they played Belgium or even the continent we welcome back dark world music band C Cat Trance for a gig at the BIMfestival.
How/when did you start with music? What where your first interests in music?
Rees Lewis: I can remember (I don't know when - maybe 7 years old) trying to play along to my parents' record of the 1812 overture on a harmonica.
I started playing a recorder in junior school, then I had to play in a military type band at the secondary school that I went to - I played clarinet - I wanted a sax.
I got thrown out of the school band (for not wearing a tie) and played mandolin and flute in a folk duo/trio called Chopstick. We played mainly in Flanders in small bars. Then I bought a sax and joined a punk band, then another which became Medium Medium.
The first album I bought was 'Are You Experienced' by Jimi Hendrix - next big influences were Captain Beefheart and Can.
When you joined a punk band, did you feel like you wanted to change the world or was it purely out of musical interest?
Lots of people who joined or started punk-bands at that time either had the feeling or thoughts of shaking awake grey corporate society or felt like "I can do that too". Was it like that for you too? Or something completely different?
Anyway when you started C Cat Trance you were at the spearpoint of a new musical revolution, one that incorporated influences from all over the (music) world and made people "dance" again instead of humping against each other ;o)
Rees: Thanks for that last comment. At the time I was into the punk ethos - anyone can do it- in fact this enabled me to start playing sax without feeling that I had to get good at it first. We did try and be independent rather than corporate - however, we may have gone corporate if we had had the chance. We played lots of Rock against Racism gigs and believed in the cause (and still do).
I did think it was innovative - we used a lot of influences and I sought out obscure things - Screaming to be w/you, for example, is a repeated guitar line, over and over, no variation, except in texture. There were many guitar overdubs playing the same line, a wall of guitars, the bass fits over in a unique way so that it comes in different places within the guitar line as the song goes round and round. The basic idea for the guitar line, however, is a balophon melody from Ivory Coast.
Shake the Mind is built around mbira (playing the 'guitar' line) and a barrel with bass strings attached and drummed rather than plucked. Nigel made it. John (Bass) has just made a new one for the gig.
I thought we were innovative - but I never really know if that is conceit or not - so it's nice to hear the view that we were.
Wasn't it a bit frustrating having all those influences ( in casu Hendrix, Beefheart & Can) and ideas and having to put them in something musically narrow-minded as punk?
Rees: I guess that's why we moved away from punk - to combine punk and funk when we (Medium Medium) did was unheard of - although other people did it similarly (and sometimes better) around the same time.
Why leave Medium Medium then?
Rees: Personal frictions, 'musical differences' - the usual stuff - but more to do with management forever telling us we were on the verge of signing to this or that label - it never happened and I started working at a musical instrument shop. I though't I'll give it a few months and see if any of these stories come true - they never did.
Someone gave me a night in a studio and some acid - and CCat Trance started.
Why that sudden change to world music? Changing of interests or going with the flow? There was already Dissidenten, Monsoon or Suns Of Arqa at the time.
Rees: Because there was a world of music out there not just 'rock' (in the widest sense of the word) and I liked a lot of it. I didn't know Dissidenten etc then (Holgar Czukay's Persian Love was the only thing I had heard that I thought was like C Cat Trance then). My interests haven't really changed - I am a Cross-Cultural Psychologist in some manifestations and it seems like the same interest to me (ironically I have a Persian lover too)
Where you already a doctor in psychology or did that interest only evolve after your "musical career"?
Rees: When I left Medium Medium I worked in a musical instrument shop and started C Cat Trance during that time. I also did some recordings for a doctor wanting some backing music for 'hypnotherapy' tapes he was using with patients. This started an interest in psychology & music. I started reading psychology in the School of African and Asian studies at University of Sussex (so I could combine an interest in cultural diversity with psychology) and finished with a PhD as a Cross-Cultural Psychologist. After teaching in a few universities I gave that up and took another PhD in Clinical Psychology. The combination of cross -cultural and clinical work can be maintained in a city as diverse as London. I have clients from Ghana, Turkey, Bangla Desh, Vietnam etc - it feels like an extention of the same interest as I had in music from different cultural contexts - it's all happened rather organically and without much of a plan - and it's all, ulitimately, about increasing understanding (within individuals and across cultures), increasing well-being and reducing distress - music can do it more directly than clinical psychology, but sometimes therapy helps too!
I never stopped C Cat Trance but we never made any attempt to get recording contracts or gigs - everything we have ever done has been by invitation rather than by hassling people - did a couple of dance tracks with no associated gigs - this is the first gig we have been offered in a long time.
Let's dream here for a sec. If you should have had another recording contract after the demise of Red Flame (Why was that actually?)
Rees: I think they just couldn't keep going. They sold all their back catalogue to Cherry Red, hence the release of Karadara
How should you have sounded you think?
I listened to Karadara the other day and what struck me was that on the one hand you sounded very dark, let's call it New Wave, while on another almost pure authentic "world" music. Sometimes on the same record.
Rees: For me the funk (or latterly, dance, in fact, trance) element was also always important. A German publication described it as Arabische Funk, which I quite liked - but I like your description of dark world music - lets say it would have been (and may still be) Dark World Funk. There was a recording for Manchester dance label Bush Records called Beautiful Hurts - but very obscure - I think they only pressed 500 DJ copies. I did another track for them that was not released, and did a track or two for a Nottingham dance label (Time). These were in the Techno/Trance/House vein but with a CCT sensibility.
Karadara is a treasure of information. Seems you played a lot in Holland and had a few gigs in Belgium too. We always though the AB in Brussels was your last Belgian gig, but you played the Democrazy in Gent in 1992. Do you remember anything of these Belgian gigs?
Rees: I do remember fragments - I don't really remember the venue in Gent although I remember the city and being there for that gig (it is one of my favourite cities - when I played acoustic music for a couple of summers - before buying my sax - we based ourselves in Gent)
Last question. Since you play with Medium Medium again, any chance in any of their songs in the setlist?
Rees: Not at the moment. The possibility of Medium Medium playing some C Cat Trance songs was considered when we first started doing Medium Medium gigs again, but in my head they are quite separate projects really - and we have a lot of C Cat Trance material.