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Review + Q&A: The Black Cat’s Eye – The Empty Space Between A Seamount And Shock​-​Headed Julia (2023, Tonzonen Records)

When you start out your debut album with a twenty minute instrumental song I think it is safe to say you have some Godzilla size balls. Germany’s The Black Cat’s Eye make it clear from the start that they do not give a damn about their reputation, or about conventions. They do exactly what they feel like doing, just like the cats that lend their eyes for the band’s moniker.

Whether it is the weird sentence of the title, the unpredictability of the songs, or the strange artwork, even before you’ve heard a note of music it is clear that there is something special going on here. Most importantly though; there is some very good music on here too. Opener Kill The Sun And The Moon And The Stars is a Pandora’s box of beautiful secrets for latter day Pink Floyd fans, with an instrumental palette that unfolds itself majestically for twenty plus minutes without boring the listener for a second.

But there is more. On the other half of this shiny blue vinyl platter The Black Cat’s Eye proves they have more sides to them. There is Porcupine Tree echoing songwriting, soothing vocal harmonies, and expert musicianship. It is striking to note that whether the band decides to use vocals hardly seems to matter when it comes to the entertainment value.

The Empty Space Between A Seamount And Shock​-​Headed Julia is a quirky and impressive debut album that defies all logic and comes out on top winning. Adventurous prog and psych heads better watch out!

I talked to Jens Cappel (bass) and Christian Glaser (multi-instrumentalist and vocals) of the band. They kindly and elaborately informed me about their ways, from their various contemporary influences, to the way they created their enigmatic debut album.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for The Black Cat’s Eye?

Thank you, we’re doing fine. During the pandemic we spent most of the time with our families, watching mediocre up to  good tv series, having long walks, but also working on compositions for the band. Many of the ideas for the songs on the album were already written before the pandemic. We didn’t play any online concerts, because in our opinion it needs two poles for a real concert experience: Band and audience.

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

Jens and Christian had the most special first meeting:

Jens: “Oli, in whose studio we finally did our first recordings in 2018, had linked us. For our first get-together we wanted to meet at his studio. However, Jens and I were then faced with a closed door at the agreed time. Oli had already finished his workday and forgotten about us (apart from that, Oli is a very reliable guy ;). So we had to look for another place and ended up at the side of a forest nearby, where we chatted endlessly about our favourite bands having a beer or two and found out that we liked the same bands and musicians.”

But first things first:
Christian: “The beginnings of the band go back to 2016. At that time my two children had left the cradle and I had more time to bring ideas to life that I had had in mind for a long time. The years before I was guitarist for the Hamburg singer-songwriter Robert Carl Blank, recorded several albums with him, toured and played concerts. In 2016, I finally had more free time to work on compositions for an own band project. Wolfi is a long-time friend of mine, he was the first person I asked to join. Steffen, on the other hand, is a good friend of Wolfi’s. We have met from time to time at parties and jammed together, he was the second to join. And finally I came to know Stefan and Jens through recommendations from music colleagues.”

A special thing about the band is the line-up with three electric guitars, played by Wolfi, Steffen and Christian. Jens is the bass player, Stefan plays drums. Our music is mainly instrumental. Christian is doing the singing on some of the songs. Apart from that, he is the one who does the compositions and arrangements for the band. The mastermind of the band, so to speak.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Our musical roots are wide ranged. From metal, jazz, indie and psychedelic rock to avant-garde and modern classical music. The guitarists all studied classical and jazz guitar at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts (Hochschule für Musik Frankfurt) at separate times. Steffen is now a guitar teacher there as well. Stefan studied jazz drums. Our bass player Jens has no academic musical background, but is nevertheless a fantastic bass player and very creative musician who has played in many interesting bands since his teens, and has been active as a musician throughout.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

With three of us (Christian, Wolfi and Jens) having families with young kids, our day usually starts with making breakfast and taking the kids to kindergarten or school. Or taking a check on their fever and putting out a puke bucket (those are the days we would rather do without :)) Jens works in a regular job. The others are full-time musicians, teaching their instruments and playing gigs with various other projects. Steffen, for example, is involved in numerous projects in the modern classical scene, such as the Ensemble Modern (which has worked with Frank Zappa and Steve Reich, among others). Stefan has several other band projects. Christian does the main work for the band. Besides the compositions he also does the graphics, social media, and booking.

What is the best thing about the new album?

To have put the album together with limited means. We only had a small budget, and for reasons of time and money we recorded the basic tracks live with the whole band in two days. Of course you need a bit of luck and a good hand. And you also need good musicians and sound engineers who can achieve the best possible results in a very short time.
We are happy that on 24.03.23 the album will finally be released on vinyl, and that with Tonzonen Records we have a very ambitious label behind us. 

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

We all live in Frankfurt am Main. Frankfurt and the Rhein-Main area are quite good places to be active as a musician. Frankfurt has only about 760.000 permanent residents. But other cities like Offenbach, Mainz, Wiesbaden and Darmstadt are only a few kilometres away. A great breeding ground for new projects and networking. Unfortunately Frankfurt in particular has very few gig venues for underground bands. And there are even fewer after Covid.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Jens is a huge Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and The Mars Volta fan. We also like Motorpsycho and other bands related to this genre. Chris loves the music of Pink Floyd and King Crimson since his teenage years. 

Recent music we’ve come across:

Baulta: A Finnish post rock band with a beautiful spherical and wide sound. 

Thundercat: Very wild prog/jazz/funk. 

Airbag: They sound like Pink Floyd at The Division Bell stage

Mono Neon: Freaky and cool funk music. 

Bruit≤: A great French post rock project. Check out their videos.

But there are also a lot of interesting bands on the Tonzonen label: Gong Wah is a pretty cool rock band. Glasgow Coma Scale is playing some awesome post rock.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

Christian is the one who composes and arranges the music. He sets the musical direction. His demos are quite developed when he presents them to the band, and many of the drum grooves and guitar riffs are already set very precise. The demos are worked out on the computer. Except for the programmed drums, all demos are recorded with real instruments. For official releases we want the music sounding in the best possible way. That’s why The Black Cat’s Eye tends to release rather less material than worse recorded material.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

It would be great to make more recordings and albums with this line-up in the future. But for now it’s about playing shows and promoting the record.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

They should immediately listen to Keiji Haino‘s “My lord Music, I most humbly beg your indulgence in the hope that you will do me the honour of permitting this seed called Keiji Haino be planted within you“, repeat the Album title a hundred times and then fall asleep…

Oh, but first check out the Tonzonen web-shop for interesting releases from other bands on the label.


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