Andrew, Simon, Amr

Hard-Boiled Detective Stories

By Uta Junker, 5 July 89.

Ratcat write lovely songs. You know the sort of thing: well-structured, melodic pop numbers. They even cover the Darling Buds "If I Said" on their debut album, This Nightmare. Nice Music. The sort you can play with your mother in the room.

Well, maybe not quite. There's the "fuzz factor" to consider. There's a rumour that Ratcat accidentally played one of their first gigs with their guitars out of tune and their amps turned up just a touch too loud, and liked the sound so much they decided to keep it.

The story's far too nice to be true, but it's a good description of Ratcat's sound. Valiantly casting around for alternatives, Simon Day suggests "grunge pop songs, comic book punk, noise pop..." Bassist Amr Zaod simply prefers "fuzzy".

"It's a statement, really," says Simon, singer, songwriter, guitarist and general Wonder Boy. It's an eighties attitude towards classic pop.

"The World's disintegrating before our very eyes, isn't it? So a disintegrated guitar sound is a good reflection of that."

It's hard to tell whether Simon's making this up as he goes along or whether he practies every night in front of the mirror. Before I get a chance to ask, he tells me that Amr's nickname is Z-Man, after the villain in Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, one of those classic B-grade extravaganzas. It was directed by Ross Myer, who is also responsible for the classic Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, Simon and Amr's favourite movie. Simon describes it enthusiastically: "These Women drive around in hot rods and break men's backs, Everyone dies in the end. It's great."

Ratcat seem to have an obsession with splatter movies - at least, two thirds of them do. Andrew Polin, the Voice Of Maturity in the band, thinks they're silly, but then, drummers are like that.

Amr, meanwhile is trying to relate splatter movies to Ratcat's music, "They're pretty gross, but they're not serious, There's alot of violnce, but because production's so bad, It's harmless, you can't take it seriously. It's like having sweet pop songs with strange chords - it's distubing, but at the same time, It's not."

"There are parallels in the budgets," suggests Andrew. "Fuzz is just another representation of the villain involved with writing this music," Simon says, "the melodies are sweet and guitars are ... well, villainous."

The same could be said for the lyrics. One of the highlights of the album, True Lust, is set, somewhat incongruously, in a kindergarten. Is it, as Andrew surggests, a song about Simon's child-molesting days?

"No, it's not. It's just a twist-having lust, not love and these two little kids who are obviously so innocent. I like the lyrics to be a bit strange, to give someone listening a different perspective."

"It's this thing about sweet melodies disguising sinister overtones," says Amr, mentioning the last track on the album,Eyeball Mutany. "It's a really nice song, but if you listen to the lyrics, they're about eyeballs popping out of this girl's head and running away."

Yes, well. We shouldn't be surprised. After all, this is a band who produced a heart-rending ballad, She's Gone, about a lost cat. Cats seem to be another obsession shared by the band.

"I like them cos they've got their own minds," says Simon. "They do what they want, and they don't submit to anybody. They're totally confident."

"I've got a Siamese cat that likes Ratcat, and I think that's because cats are evil animals," says Amr, "They get away with what they can."

Andrew confesses to a lingering fondness for a childhood pet, a stunt turtle called Tubby.

"My next door neighbour also had a turtle, and we had this big fish tank in which we used to build rocks up, and make them dive off the top. We'd add a new rock every day."

Amr says Ratcat's music reflects the band's interest in the social juxtaposition of good and bad. "You look at something like comics, which seem innocent, but really have alot of power to them, or things that seem really evil, like splatter movies, but are essentially harmless. We try and express that contradiction through the songs, and the image and the aura that the band projects."

Ratcat deliberately limit the number of gigs, preferring to alow time for songwriting and rehearsing, but admit that they probally couldn't afford to play more often.

"Unless you're a covers band playing Sheila's, you have to confine yourself to playing weekends. The number of people attending gigs has dropped," says Simon.

"I think there's not as much hype surrounding the scene anymore," says Amr, "When we were younger, there was much more excitement around the idea of going to see a band."

Andrew suggests that the reason for the change lies with the bands, not the audiences.

"There are too many hard rock bands that just stick their hair down and play. There aren't enought good performers, and people just aren't willing to pay money to go see them. Most audiences are into dancing, and it's very hard to find bands you can dance to."

"You can dance to Ratcat," says Simon helpfully. Which is probably as good a way as any of telling you to go and see the band.

Afterall, you've got nothing to lose, except possibly your sanity!!!

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