Groove Armada Interview

Groove Armada Interview

by Chrissi Mark
04.16.2008

Recently split from Sony’s Jive Label, Andy Cato and Tom Findlay of Groove Armada have a lot on their agenda this year. Their fifth and latest full-album, Soundboy Rock, was released last year in Europe, but just hit this side of the pond last month on Strictly Rhythm. Making an ambitious full-court press on America, they’re hoping the connection to Strictly will earn them grassroots points, while their recent ‘record deal’ with Bacardi will forge commercial success.

Andy Cato talked to Clubplanet in Miami about Soundboy Rock, his anxious return to the US, and GA’s live show. Towering over us in an impromptu wardrobe replacing what was lost with his luggage, the DJ revealed his passion for live music, his former life as a touring jazz trombonist, and why he thinks Groove’s live show is poised to take over our country.

Clubplanet: What’s it like playing in the US, now?

Andy Cato: It’s been a long time. The last time we were here was about four years ago, maybe even longer, and for a while we were doing a residency at Twilo before it got shut down.

CP: You did the VIP room there, right?

Groove ArmadaAndy Cato: Yeah, the 2K lounge—wicked. We were doing that every month with little satellite DJ gigs around it. We’re good DJs in terms of the dance floor—keeping our stamp on it, but making it work. Whether a resident of Space Terrace in Ibiza, one of the biggest dance floors in the world, or Mount Fuji, we can adapt, but there was a real connection [at Twilo]. It was a great shame when that all stopped in New York. Hopefully we can get that back.

CP: Tell us about your latest album.

Andy Cato: When we went to do this one, we did it wholeheartedly. So if we do a song that involves a big female vocalist, we get Candy Stanton. Afrobeat, we get Tony Allen. We just went with a balls-out approach.

CP: Did you actually have Candy in the studio?

Andy Cato: Yeah, yeah, we had all of them. But she’s proof of that rule in music: the more talent someone has the less bullshit they have. And so Candy Stanton just walks in out of a taxi and does it in two takes. Obviously, I was going to cut it up and mess around with it, but she just nailed it. Whereas people who’ve yet to throw together a decent tune show up with three body guards.

CP: What did you do with her vocals?

Andy Cato: Originally, the song was very different. It was all big, slightly Christian inflected. And for me, it wasn’t getting the poignancy out of her voice so I cut it up and basically created a new song over the background that became “Paris.”

CP: Did you want to make a single on this record, like one big single?

Andy Cato: No, we’ve never really done that. Early on, it basically became clear, getting caught up in all of this other major label stuff, we were just going to plow our own course and control the things that we could control. There’s never been any other sort of agenda in it. And fortunately, when they went through the greatest hits we realized it had been 17 or 18 top 20s, so that’s good but that wasn’t the intention.

CP: Is it strange that it came out a year ago and it was just released here in March?

Andy Cato: With lots of remixes it’s really nice getting fresh takes. It’s a record that we’re proud of, and ultimately segues into what we want to bring over here. It’s a really good one, so I think it was all timed nicely.

CP: You don’t feel like you’ve grown a lot in a year?

Andy Cato: Yeah we do, but the moment you hand in the set of masters you already want to do the next one. It’s just a slightly extended version of that.

CP: So it came out last year overseas and you were looking for American representation or a label?

Andy Cato: The first time we came to the states we were on Jive. And they had it all going on with Britney and Backstreet Boys—all the big video stuff. So they basically tried to do that with us, but that’s never going to work. Whereas in the UK, it’s very successful because we come from the roots up, and we’re still very closely connected with the roots of dance culture there on every level. And that’s why we can do it properly this time around with the Strictly connection. It’s taken a while, but it’s worth the wait.

CP: How did you get involved with Strictly Rhythm?

Andy Cato: I think we were in Germany doing some promo and out of the blue the Strictly option was there. For me, and I’ve been DJing since 1988 so the Strictly Rhythm logo is just part of my life. As soon as they came up to me I was sold on it.

CP: What is your US plan post-WMC?

Andy Cato: The Vagabond [during WMC] was kind of a Lovebox presents [event]. Lovebox is our London festival, now in its sixth year. And we’re hoping to bring that out here properly in autumn. And then we’ve got a gig in New York at Cielo—we’re looking forward to that. So we’ve got to be on form for that one. I’ve got a mate who’s a resident there and comes over to Barcelona [where I live] telling me how cool it is.

CP: So you’re going to bring over Lovebox, as a festival?

Andy Cato: Yeah. In the UK the Lovebox Festival is a big deal. Last year we got 40,000 people, and for a central London festival that’s not a small thing. So we’re going to do slightly scaled down – 5,000- to 10,000-size – events towards the end of autumn in different cities in the US, with GA Live headlining.

CP: What other artists will be on the line-up?

Andy Cato: It’s only dates, so I don’t want to say anything yet. We have quite a high-profile with the live gigs and as a result we can pull in favors when it comes to getting the Lovebox line-up together.

CP: And festivals are pretty tough in America.

Andy Cato: Yeah, they are. It really struck me when we used to come over and play Coachella. When you arrive, it’s like that big police presence, all fancy, you can’t drink here and you can’t drink there. They get good bands and it’s an interesting place, but it seems that festivals come straight in on the corporate/big business end of it. I think what Lovebox can bring is a more roots-y approach, where you get a more eclectic line-up. Also because our live show is serious, I think it’s probably the best in the world.

CP: Qualify that. What’s it like?

Andy Cato: Well, we spent a lot of the last 10 years getting that right. There’s two ways of doing it. The vast majority of people in the camp basically sort it all out before and put it on a hard drive or CD, and basically just push play. And to some extent that works, of course. I’ve jumped up and down to Orbital a million times.

 

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