I’d like to once again thank Jimmy Catamite for chatting with me about his music. We had a lot more answers, outtakes if you will, that unfortunately didn’t make it to the final editorial which is here: http://www.artlink.co.za/news_article.htm?contentID=26908
So, in the spirit of sharing, here’s the full interview.
Give us a little background about yourself, your musical influences and what led to the start of In the Land of the Blind.
I was raised in a small town in Middle-England, and I moved to London when I was 17 to escape it. It felt very oppressive and hopeless to me in terms of the low expectations people had of themselves, and from life in general. Being a skinny kid in makeup you were constantly faced with violence and there was a huge amount of social issues like substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. I carried a real sense that a lot of the kids I knew were having children themselves as a perverse attempt to try and avoid having to take responsibility for trying to achieve something with their own life, but engineering a situation where they would have an excuse not to try. People's tendency to try and avoid responsibility stuck with me, and features heavily in my writing.
I’ve always been a voracious consumer of music, needing to absorb as much as I could. I worked my way backwards through the history of modern music to classic folk, country and blues. I totally fell in love with the storytelling songs of artists like Hank Williams Sr, Johnny Cash, and Bill Monroe. These were artists who were living the ‘sex, drugs and rock n’ roll’ mythology before rock n roll even existed (well, apart from Bill Monroe).
What really inspired me about these artists in terms of starting In the Land of the Blind… is that they and their contemporaries essentially popularised the template that pretty much every subsequent style of western popular music since has used. This gives you a huge referential palette to work from, as your simple three-chord song structures can take on whatever other stylistic characteristics you may choose.
Define gothabilly. Who are some of the other artists in this genre?
Gothabilly is a genre based around the fusion principles detailed above. Gothic music in general was born as an offshoot of the punk genre, and bands like The Cramps had a sound and a style that was part rockabilly, part punk and infused with horror movie and B-movie imagery. We blend it with our storytelling-country influences and a dose of cabaret, so I tend to class ourselves as gothic-Americana, as that to me encompasses all of the rockabilly, country, blues and folk music influences we draw from. Johnny Cash was the original goth to me; dressing all in black and singing songs about going to hell while pumping himself full of amphetamines and alcohol is a tradition that the goth and punk scenes treated with a lot of reverence.
There’s some great bands out there, Deadbolt out in California the best pure gothabilly band out there. Over in London we’ve got Devilish Presley and Rasp Thorne and the Briars, both of whom we’re sorting shows with. We’re lucky in here that there’s plenty of events from little deathrock clubs like Dead and Buried to massive events like Torture Garden that support the dark cabaret bands, and that their crowds that want to see that kind of show.
Your lyrics focus on the dark and macabre. Are there any literary influences who've set you on this path.
The lyrics are incredibly important to me as it was the storytelling aspect of the songs that inspired me to start writing the songs. There are several authors in particular that are particularly influential to my development in that sense. I love Hubert Selby Junior. Last Exit to Brooklyn in particular holds a special place in my heart. The characters that inhabit his work have these dark, complex, but often naive internal worlds. He writes about their regularly deplorable actions in a very non-judgemental way, which for me invokes a genuine type of emotional reaction that I can't get to if I feel the author is trying to coerce me into a particular feeling. Lots of the themes and subtexts that feature heavily in my songs, such as the inability to tolerate feelings of masculine inadequacy subsequently manifesting in domestic violence, feelings of powerlessness, self pity, and inability to accept responsibly for ones own actions also feature heavily in his work. It’s not nihilistic, it’s like a bleak cautionary tale.
A Rebours by Joris Karl Huysman is the original piece of antihero literature for me. It revolves entirely around a sickly, pretentious, and quite unlikeable man consumed as much by his revulsion for society as he is by his narrow breadth of decadent passions. Though as a self-described aesthete he is able to intellectualise his superiority via internal debates, and sneer venomously at the society he sees as beneath him, he is completely unable to connect with other people on a meaningful level. The defences he creates to explain his self-imposed emotional isolation were something that stuck with me.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë was a huge influence on how I perceived writing. It's set in a desolate community on the moors in the north of England. It makes more effective use of the bleakness of the terrain, and the potentially fatal harshness of the weather conditions than any western I have ever seen. The complexity and twisted grudges that characters bear surpass the darkness in any classic gothic novel. It made me realise that the emotions you are trying to communicate or elicit are what make the audience connect to the story, not the setting or the stylistic rules/conventions of the genre. This might sound obvious to a writer, but it’s a trap that so many songwriters fall into time and time again.
Which three musical influences would you say have had the most impact on your artistic development?
When I was 10 my best friend’s older brother gave the two of us a tape of Nirvana – Nevermind... At the time we had been listening to early 1990s techno and rave music, and it totally blew our minds. That rawness and honesty irreversibly changed our outlook on music forever, and we immediately started learning instruments, forming bands and devouring as much music as we could get our hands on.
I later got into David Bowie, T-Rex and 1970s glam rock in general. This was the start of my interest androgynous gender identity, wearing make-up and the whole somewhat camp, pouting, rock n roll spectacle.
Also I would have to list Appetite for Destruction by Guns n Roses. It just oozes sleaze from every pore. In taking the blues-based guitar rock of Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones and crossing it with this sleazy punk energy, they disregarded the conventions of the genres they loved playing and created this filthy beast of an album. I still get the same thrill when I listen to today as I did when I was 13.
In the Land of the Blind... have an EP titled Early Days, Late Nights that can be streamed and downloaded for free at http://www.inthelandoftheblind.com
They are currently putting the finishing touches on their debut studio release, Bimbo Chic, which will be available via their website and iTunes in May 2011. They are playing some choice club shows in London, UK over the summer, with some festival bookings also to be confirmed. They are also planning to tour the UK and Europe in Late 2011 and are looking further afield for 2012.
Keep up with the new, gigs and Jimmy's bitter ramblings at:
Contact for press, bookings or any other information at firstname.lastname@example.org