Michael Catton – Testament to TalentThursday, 23rd November 2023
Finally venturing into a solo career after establishing himself as a premiere vocalist with the Danish heavy rock act Tainted Lady, singer Michael Catton surrounded himself with a great set of musicians to execute the material on this debut album Point of No Return. Containing members with experience in acts like Pretty Maids, Glenn Hughes, and Superfuzz among others, the record has positive melodies and vibrant musical hooks, especially for those who recall the classic 80’s acts like Van Halen, Whitesnake, and Dio. We reached out to Michael to learn more about his early musical memories in childhood, thoughts on the new record, how Soren Andersen was complementary as the producer, songwriter, guitarist companion who believed in his talent, how being in an Iron Maiden tribute band plus his time in Tainted Lady shaped his vocal technique, memories surrounding Kip Winger that led to an unbelievable concert experience, plus what the future holds following the album’s release.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you discover heavier forms of music, and eventually want to start performing yourself in bands?
Michael Catton: I’ve always had a singing voice from an early age. Rock came later of course. The first music that hit me at an early age was Michael Jackson – Thriller and Bad. I had some tapes in the car when I was a kid. There’s some rock in Michael Jackson, “Beat It”. When I was 12 my dad gave me my first CD player, and my first CD was The Who. That was my first introduction – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, when you hear that song for the first time it just hits like a truck, the scream in the middle from Roger Daltrey. It went from there, I started discovering music through video games – Guitar Hero was a thing, Grand Theft Auto, a lot of that introduced me to bands in my teenage years.
I’ve always been singing, when I was fourteen, I mastered Guitar Hero, so I thought I’d try the real thing. Admittedly I wasn’t as good at the real thing – I never got great at it. I didn’t have the patience to learn the guitar properly compared to singing. I still play it now and then, but in a songwriting sense. Singing is my passion.
Dead Rhetoric: Point of No Return is your debut solo album, after spending many years as the front man to Tainted Lady. Discuss the songwriting and recording sessions for this effort – and how do you feel this record will set up your future in the music industry to establish your presence of making your own way in the scene?
Catton: The songwriting on this album, this is the first album where I’m the primary source of material. With Tainted Lady, it was mostly the two guitarists doing all the writing as it was a band I came into. They were already fairly established, and we did two albums together. My voice lent itself to make a new sound, but most of the songwriting was the two guitarists. It’s the first outlet I’ve had with the music I’ve had inside of me. It has a fun 80’s feel – Van Halen, Kiss. A lot of the riffs stem from over a decade ago – it’s stuff I’ve had nowhere to go and now I’ve put it all here. It’s a collaboration with Soren Andersen – who plays guitar on this, and we recorded this in his studio. I recorded the two Tainted Lady albums with him too. The songs are mostly 60% from my side, then the rest from Soren and my brother Chris who plays keyboards on the album.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you have a certain comfort level with Soren based on your previous work, and where do you see his role as the co-songwriter, guitarist, and producer?
Catton: Oh yeah, for sure. Knowing him beforehand made the process so much easier. We had the same wavelength, same inspirations music-wise. This album will hopefully be able to help put me on the map in the melodic hard rock, 80’s-genre. It died down in the 90’s, but in the last decade or so it’s been growing back with some of these bands putting out great albums, or newer bands like Steel Panther, Eclipse, H.E.A.T. They are finding a new platform, and hopefully this album can get me in the door there.
Dead Rhetoric: When it came to choosing the singles, how difficult of a process was this to decide what songs to premiere?
Catton: That was quite difficult. I’m sure most artists say this, I think I have ten absolutely killer tracks on this album. That always makes it more difficult to pick and choose. They were all around four minutes- they all had some catchy hooks. I sat down with Soren and our record label Mighty Music, and discussed what would be the best singles. The record company was very open to what I thought my favorites were, we thought “Ready for the Taking” was a really strong one. It’s easy to sing along too. After that, we wanted to show different sides to the album so “Armageddon Again”, and then one of the more fun tracks “Livin’ Lovin’”, and then the ballad “Brother” which is the latest one.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the musicians you assembled for the recording lineup – and the importance of developing personal chemistry with these musicians to get the best effort out of them?
Catton: The team on the album is a killer lineup. I’m lucky to be surrounded by these guys. Soren plays day to day with Glenn Hughes, having a guy like him at my side is an amazing experience. On drums we have Allan Tschicaja, he is known for his work in Pretty Maids, on bass we have Michael Gersdorff, who plays with Allan and Soren they go together as a trio to play shows. Having these guys come in and play my stuff is an amazing experience. We would hit the studio, Allan and Michael had to come in to listen to the songs and play. They churn out a couple of takes and it’s in the bag already, a testament to the talent on this album. I’m proud of this album and the entire experience has been something different for me. It’s opened up a new side to playing rock and roll, not just in a band but now as a solo artist.
Dead Rhetoric: You stated in the background information as a person born in the 90’s, you missed out on the real-time experience of great melodic hard rock/metal from artists in the 70’s and 80’s – and that you wanted to create an album that was missing now from the record stores. Where do you see the differences between newer artists creating melodic hard rock/metal today versus those older acts – do you believe the recording methods/technology have made things easier for you to achieve what you want at an affordable price today?
Catton: Yeah, that’s a two-sided blade, I guess. It’s so easy to record now – I could do it in my room if I wanted to. If I had my walls insulated a bit more than I could do a record here, maybe not a professional studio but I could turn out something decent. These days though, you have to know how to do a bit of everything – mix, play, etc. You can get things out there easier. The flip side is anyone else can do this as well. You can make your own music, but you are drowning in an ocean of new artists also trying to get out there. It’s really difficult to say if it’s easier now or easier then. I wasn’t really around back then, I hear stories. I have this nostalgic picture of how the 70’s and 80’s was, and it was probably as gold ticketed as I imagine it to be.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a preference for the studio work versus live performances – or are both equally exciting to you, just for unique reasons?
Catton: Both. My preference is probably live, because there’s a certain energy there, a certain interaction with the audience that you don’t get anywhere else. Every time you play a show, it’s going to be slightly unique. The memories playing music that I have from the last decade, most of those are the live shows. For sure, in the studio, it’s a lot of fun. You’ve got the time to play with the details that maybe get lost live. When you are in the studio for a couple of weeks, it’s a lot of fun to play around with the songs and see what works. With the knowledge that what you are doing now is going to be printed on vinyl and CD and that’s forever, these songs. That’s both daunting and also quite exciting, maybe people are going to be listening to this in ten, twenty, thirty years, who knows.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you enjoyed the resurgent interest in physical media, especially vinyl?
Catton: That’s one of the things I missed out on. The romantic notion of waiting for an album to come out, and it’s finally there in a record store, you’ve got it in your hands. I’d read every single letter written on the sides of the casings. There are some music nerds out there, and that’s in a positive way. People that really dig the artist and want to know everything they can. This album will be on vinyl, and people will be excited about having a physical copy of it. It gives you a bit of a connection to the music that you are listening to.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on Mighty Music and their promotional staff when it comes to pushing your work not only on a Danish/European level, but also on a global scale?
Catton: They do an absolutely amazing job. Denmark is a small country; a lot of the bands know each other. It’s a close-knit society for the rock and metal genres here. A lot of these bands are on Mighty Music, they are promoting and pushing us out there. We have a good presence in Europe and the US for this album. It’s taken me aback. The fact that this is reaching so far is amazing.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel your voice and delivery have evolved from your early days as a singer to your current abilities? What do you think you have been working on the most to keep your technique in tip-top shape?
Catton: That’s a good question. When I was about eighteen, I figured out that I could sing rock music, but my technique was absolutely atrocious (laughs). After a show with my high school band, I couldn’t speak for two to three days. A few years later I joined an Iron Maiden tribute band, and they are my all-time favorite band. I found out that Bruce Dickinson has amazing technique, and you have to have amazing singing technique to sing the way he does, night after night, and charge around on stage. He’s been doing that for decades. If I want to do that, he’s one of my biggest idols, I had to get my voice under control or I would blow out my voice in five to ten years. And you do see some singers from the 70’s and 80’s still singing today, and they don’t have that voice anymore, and it’s a real shame. You look at Glenn Hughes, he’s still at the top of his game. I got singing lessons in my early twenties, and my time in Tainted Lady we were active for five or six years. That was my first step into professional musicianship, and I found my voice needed to be in tiptop shape. The more you sing, the more you find out about your voice. The experience I had with Tainted Lady really helped my voice, you can hear it on the albums we made, and you can hear it on this solo album.
Dead Rhetoric: What are you three favorite albums in the hard rock/metal genre – and what’s your favorite concert memory, attending a show as a fan?
Catton: Oh my goodness, such a difficult question. Let’s start with the favorite show. Iron Maiden – I’ve seen five or six times. Whitesnake, Judas Priest, Kiss. It’s hard to choose. Probably the one that made the biggest difference in my life is Kip Winger. He was on a solo tour in Denmark about a decade ago. He was one of my biggest idols ever. I went to the show hours before – maybe a small place with a hundred people. I sat in the wind and rain, waiting for the doors open to get a good seat. The owner came by, and I knew him because I played there with my Iron Maiden tribute band at some point. He asked me inside, grab a cup of coffee. I looked out the front door and I could see Kip Winger approaching the door and coming in. I froze, I was so starstruck. He sat down, totally chill, and he found out I was a singer. He asked if I wanted to come up on stage and sing a song with him at some point. Yeah, of course! I was so nervous, I nodded. During the show he asked me to come up and we sang the Winger ballad “Miles Away”. That was an incredible experience, and then I thought that was that. I realized someone filmed that, put it up on YouTube, and that’s how the guys in Tainted Lady discovered me. I got into the band through that, met Soren Andersen. If I hadn’t been at that show four hours early, I night not be sitting here talking to you today. It’s the show that influenced the rest of my life.
Any of the first seven Iron Maiden albums. Boston- their debut album. Brad Delp is a phenomenal singer. It’s peak 70’s rock. The Who – Who’s Next. That music will sit with me for the rest of my life. In an hour or so when we hang up, I’ll think of others. Journey – I really love the first album they did with Steve Perry, Infinity.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the current melodic hard rock/metal scene these days? What challenges do you believe you face in trying to make a strong impact with your music compared to the marketplace/media coverage that existed for this movement decades before?
Catton: It’s probably related to so many bands getting their music out there, how do you differentiate yourself from others? How do you get people to focus on yourself? In the 70’s and 80’s, the bands that made it big got infinite budgets to do what they needed. Some of those videos were ridiculous, the money behind them. It’s not the case anymore. Rock and metal aren’t as mainstream. I don’t have the answer to this, unfortunately. It’s a matter of getting people to listen to your music. All I can do is make the music that I think is great and love, and when it comes out, we will just have to wait and see.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your hobbies, interests, and passions you have away from music that you like to engage in when you have the free time and energy to do so?
Catton: Most of my free time is spent on music. Sometimes I’m with my friends and my family. I’ve got full time work, I’m an engineer in my full-time work, working with wind energy which is something I’m passionate about. It doesn’t quite give you the same rush as music.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Michael Catton over the next twelve months, either in promotion of this solo album or other musical activities/endeavors?
Catton: The next year will be mostly focused on touring. I’m getting a Denmark tour set up at the moment with other bands on Mighty Music. Hopefully from there, some festivals and go abroad as well. Go across the borders into the rest of Europe. Introducing my music to as many people as I can.