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Groove Armada’s Andy Cato uses VoiceLive 2 & VoiceTone Synth to take the lead…
Andy shares, “The new band, Days of May is somewhere between Velvet Underground and the Stones with some synths thrown in. It’s the first time I’ve been a lead singer and TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive 2 has given me the confidence to go for it!”
The Guardian’s Chris Salmon on Andy Cato….
“Never in the history of dance music has someone with so much talent so successfully avoided the media’s attentions. Not only has Andy Cato written ten years’ worth of Groove Armada anthems – he also stands centre stage at their breathtaking live shows, showcasing the dozens of hits that have led the band to international success. Add the fact that he’s a much sought after producer and mixer – working with the Kylies, Amys and Roisins of this world – and given his enormous size (he’s well over 2m in height), you’ve got to applaud the gifted giant for keeping it real, keeping a low profile and keeping focused on entertaining his global army of fans…”
“I think in any day and age, having control over your own vocal effects is definitely what you want.”
From the moment he could stand up without falling down, Andy’s jazz musician father introduced him to the piano and trombone. His talent was obvious, his parents supportive. Andy was soon attending as many gigs as possible, practicing with all his heart and soul. His first gig was with the brass band of the local coal mine. He remembers, “I was just the little kid in the corner opposite the pit, but I got to play with the band because I had trombone lessons with one of the old guys who said I was up to the job. They were the most talented set of musicians I’ve ever known.”
Then, in 1987, he won Yorkshire’s Young Jazz Musician Of The Year award.
At home meanwhile, Andy was playing on skateboards until it was too dark to see and listening to ‘spirituals’, blues, the Quo, the Stones and Tangerine Dream. He credits his cousin Digs (a member of the cult, excellent house collective DIY ) for his induction into the acid house explosion “We crossed the country in my 1960s Hillman, stopping at service stations and waiting for the pay phone to ring with the final party location. The DIY parties; Basics [Leeds], Hacienda [Manchester], Kaos…1989-95 were like nothing I’ve seen anywhere in the world”
“The whole plan with the new band was to keep it live, quick and immediate in the studio. VoiceLive 2 means I can do that vocally too!”
This spirit has stayed with him. His music brings back those amazing, unifying party years.
In 1991, Andy moved to London. “I was in Brixton on the dole, with a bedroom studio bought with a bank loan, teaching myself all sides of the business, playing cocktail piano in a ‘No Jacket Required’ Phil Collins theme bar to pay back the debt. During this time I went through every music business cliché of management sharks, record company politics and missed opportunities. Success? In the end, it’s just like your Gran always said. Stick at it.”
Andy set up his first label Skinnymalinky. Anyone who had their arms in the air between 1991 and 1995 will have heard a Skinnymalinky tune on a dance floor. Soon after, he hooked up with Tom Findlay. Together they launched a club night, which led to a series of parties, a band, Groove Armada, and eventually a festival, Lovebox.
Andy’s a formidable DJ. In 1990 he was already working the turntables with a 909 and 303 alongside. His DJ career started overnight. After going to the opening party at Back To Basics, he swerved school the next day to try his hand at recording a piano house track at a mate’s studio. He took all the savings he had to a pressing plant and two weeks later was holding 1,000 white labels. During one long day in 1990, he drove from London to Manchester, stopping at all the best record stores, selling half the whites and changing the other half for 12”s. By that night, he had a record collection.
“The basic pitch and tone gives a great natural sounding vocal.”
Since then he’s carried his box of records to the four corners of the world – from countless residencies in Ibiza, parties from remote Romanian beaches to a DJ booth in a 747 in LA. And everywhere he goes, it properly goes off.
A few years ago, Andy moved his family to Barcelona, lured by the Catalan “humane pace of life with its fewer rules and regulations”. From there, they headed north and are now in France, “in the middle of nowhere’’, trying to grow everything they eat,
After over 40 releases, 52 remixes and 7 albums, his aspirations remain relatively normal for a musician “to get out the music that’s been in my head for years”.
Andy shares, “The new band, Days of May is somewhere between Velvet Underground and the Stones with some synths thrown in. It’s the first time I’ve been a lead singer and TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive 2 has given me the confidence to go for it.
I found myself living in South West France, went out one night and heard some great musicians. I got to know them and said “let’s start a band”. So we did, and we’re currently finishing an album and preparing for the opening gig.
As Groove Armada we’ve played to the world’s biggest festival crowds. However, with the new band I’m starting again, and hope to get 2 or 3 hundred people together for the first gig in July.
Personally, my influences range with everything from JJ Cale to Sasha. For this new record Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Joanna” was a big influence. For the last Groove Armada album it was David Bowie’s “Low”.
When asked about the songwriting process for Days Of May Andy interestingly replied, “The whole plan with the new band was to keep it live, quick and immediate in the studio. VoiceLive 2 means I can do that vocally too! Our legendary tour manager basically said “try this” and I’ve been using it since then. I tend to write the basic song, and then we start playing it live and alter it until it works. It’s then that I’ll add the lyrics to fit the final spirit of the track. We’re recording all the Days Of May tracks live, so the studio is the stage and vice versa.
With regards to his use of the VoiceLive 2, Andy continues; “The basic pitch and tone gives a great natural sounding vocal. For Days of May the more natural sounding the vocal is, the better. I’ve also edited together a tasty double track and plate reverb options which has become the overall sound. I think in any day and age, having control over your own vocal effects is definitely what you want.”
We questioned Andy on what advice he might offer to anyone starting out in the music business to which he responded, “If you get it right live then the rest will follow. My overall philosophy and approach is that if it doesn’t happen quickly, it won’t happen.”
Keep up with Andy Cato via his official website at : GrooveArmada.com