Interview: Ross Craig of Black Cat Bone

Edinburgh-based Black Cat Bone play an infectious brand of dirty bluesy rock n roll. The new album ‘Tales of the Amplified’ is now available digitally with a physical release scheduled for April 5th, BCB frontman Ross Craig joined us to chat about the album and the launch gig in Edinburgh on April 6th.

What are the origins of Black Cat Bone, how long have you been playing together?

The band has been going for about 10 years, we’ve had a few lineup changes over the years we have been together, and the current lineup has been together for around 4 years. BCB was born out of the local open mic nights and jam sessions around our vibrant hometown of Edinburgh.

There are a lot of different textures to the core Black Cat Bone sound, what should people expect when they check the band out?

Our sound has developed a lot over the years we have been together. It started out as a rootsy blues band and since swapping the Cajon for drums it is now bigger and more chunky sounding. With our new album named ‘Tales of the Amplified’ listeners should not expect it to be a laid-back acoustic album that’s for sure. They can expect to hear an abundance of hypnotic bluesy rock-infused grooves that pack a severe fuzzy and hard-hitting punch. We have also added some unconventional instruments on the album including a Moroccan Ney Flute.

Looking back, how did you feel performing your first gig as a band, and how was it?!

Here’s a fun fact about us, our first gig as the new lineup (late 2019) we supported our good friends Alabama 3 in a sold-out gig in Barrowlands Ballroom. It was by far our most enjoyable gig to date. Playing that epic stage that we have seen so many of our idols play was an amazing experience and one we will not forget in a hurry. The funny thing is this was Jamie’s (guitarist) first-ever live gig with a band, not a bad start eh?

New album ‘Tales of the Amplified’ is available now with the physical release to follow in April, what was the gestation period of the album like? How long had the songs been brewing before you recorded them?

The band booked a weekend retreat in a cottage that also had an Outhouse Studio setup amongst the beautiful Scottish hills in late summer 2022. We were away from the distractions of everyday life and we really bonded as a unit that weekend. We wrote the bones to most of the tracks featured on the album there and we then continued jamming in our regular rehearsal studio when we got back until they were ready to record.

Did any song in particular give you headaches in coming together? 

We have never worked in a recording studio for more than 3 days in the past so when we booked 8 days with Niall Sinclair at 456 Audio we thought we would have more than enough time to get everything done. You read about other bands writing in the studio so we thought it would be a cool idea to attempt to write a song on the week of recording. We had no idea our time in the studio would be eaten up so fast, we would spend time in the evenings after the studio to work out the song. ‘Out On Love’ is the song, in particular, we had a lot of trouble with as the chorus kept sounding too piratey (if that is a word) for our liking. I went to get some space to write the lyrics and when I returned I had a brand new chorus idea which then led to Jamie changing up his guitar parts which then lost the pirate feel. We have now learned that bands who write in the studios usually hire it out for months rather than days and I don’t think we will be doing that again unless we have the space and time in the studio to do so.

When you sat back and listened to the album for the first time in its entirety, what moment gave you the biggest goosebumps?

The album was sent off to Owen to be mixed & mastered after recording so it took some time to hear the full album in its entirety. It wasn’t until we received our first Test Pressing Vinyl that we got to enjoy the full album from start to finish and what an experience it was for all of us. We planned a band listening ‘party’ and hearing our music being played on vinyl for the very first time was enough to give us all goosebumps, it was a very special moment for us all.

You worked with legendary producer Owen Morris on the album, that’s the same Owen Morris that appears on the cover of Oasis’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? holding the album’s master tape. Where did the connection come from? And what do you take from working with someone as experienced as him?

That’s the man, We have a lot of connections with Owen from the past. Kai (drummer) recorded with Owen in his previous band ‘The Stagger Rats’ back in the day. Ross met Owen properly through previous bass player Jonny and through other bands on the scene that he had also produced. He has also attended a few BCB gigs in the past so our bond has grown over time. Owen has always liked the BCB hard-hitting in-your-face sound and it was like the universe just aligned perfectly when he was keen on mixing & mastering the album. Everyone who knows Owen on a personal level knows how big a character he is and working with him brought many many laughs and hysterics. He is living out in Costa Rica at the moment so everything was done through Zoom & phone calls. We feel his ballsy approach was exactly the treatment the songs needed and we are still pinching ourselves to how good the album sounds with his added input! He’s got so many skills on the desk, and he has really got the album sounding sonically massive!

The cover artwork for ‘Tales of the Amplified’ is stunning, who created it? It is going to look incredible on vinyl!

We are pretty lucky as I’m a freelance artist/illustrator so I take care of all our artwork and designs, we are also in love with the cover, the way it wraps around the whole vinyl is absolutely stunning.

What’s the story with the doll on the cover for the new single ‘Blue For You’?!

We wanted an image for BLUE FOR YOU that was a bit controversial and eye-catching. It is supposed to represent feeling deflated, used, and a bit abused. (Maybe it is how most of us in the music business feel sometimes) but the real intention is to have the viewer interpret their own ideas and thoughts to what it is about, a bit like our songs. In all three single releases from the album we wanted the images to not be too serious and feature a sense of fun (check out Shake It! artwork)

‘Shake It!’ has some cool, trippy sound effects on it, what is creating the effects? Is it a synth or a theremin, or samples?

Thanks, that was actually the main inspiration for SHAKE IT!, Ewan (bassist) was experimenting around with sounds when we were on our retreat. The effect is feeding back delay that he manipulates with the knobs on his effect pedal, crazy wizardry, especially the way he makes it work when we’re playing live!!!

In terms of a similar audience, which band out there at the minute do you feel Black Cat Bone would be best suited to open for?

Hard to name just one here is a top 3, I’d say Queens of The Stone Age, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club & we could definitely see a gig with us and The Viagra Boys going down a storm with any audience out for a good time.

Excluding yourself, which new band would you like to see break out and become a success?

Tough question! We know a lot of talented bands that we could put forward but our sway is towards good friends Night Caller. They have a different vibe from us but they have an awesome sleazy sound with a frontman who knows how to write banging tunes.

What frustrates you about the music business?

How long have I got? ha! I think the biggest thing that frustrates us is the big labels/bigger bands buying themselves onto tours to support the big-name artists and also paying big money to be featured on primetime radio. This leaves little to no space for up and coming artists who are working just as hard if not more. We feel it would be more beneficial to have local bands support the bigger touring artists so that then the fans can see what talent is around them in their city and cities can each grow their music scene way.

Another very frustrating thing is that someone can record their dog barking for 3 minutes and would still be able to upload it to Spotify. There needs to be more of a filtered system so that the platforms are not clogged with dross and badly recorded songs.

Lastly, this is across-the-board: cost. Everything keeps going up, hotels, fuel, food, instrument upkeep, etc but musicians are not seeing the fees to match, and more often or not to go on tour means you will be out of pocket. Touring in general is becoming more and more difficult for young starving artists so they are depending on social media to gain them an audience rather than going out touring.

What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?

We have all shared different experiences to this question but it mostly comes from us seeing our favourite band play and watching them captivate an entire room.

What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?

The last gig we attended was a friend’s band Logan’s Close who hosted their awesome album launch in Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh. It’s always great to attend these kinds of nights because as well as the great music on offer, it is a good time to catch up with other muso’s on the scene and support fellow bands from our city.

The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

Snoopdogg – Doggystyle. My musical taste has a lot of variety and I love the 90s/ 00s rap scene – ‘Doggystyle’ was one of my favourite albums growing up and think I still know all the lyrics ha

What new music have you been enjoying in 2024?

From what we have seen so far there are lots of new songs that have been released so far in 2024. Here are a few I’ve been enjoying:

Gary Clarke Junior – Maktub
BRMC – Bad Rabbit
Black Operator – Witchy Song
Joey Valence & Brae – Punk Tactics
Soft Play – Punks Dead

Lastly, what can anyone coming along to the album launch gig in Edinburgh on April 6th expect?

They can expect a completely new & fresh show from us. We will be mixing a few BCB oldies with the new songs of the album. We will also be accompanied by other guest musicians including Andy Barbour who will be playing keys & organ as he did on the new album. Our support act for the evening is the very talented Daniel McGeever, Daniel has also recently released a new album called ‘Spirals’ which we urge everyone to also check out.

Our vinyl & CD release has been postponed to 5th April, Assai Records will be setting up a merch stand at the gig and will be selling our physical albums and other merch there, this will also allow fans to meet the band in person and get their album signed.

 

Connect with Black Cat Bone, HERE

All images – Stuart Stott

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