To say London based saxophonist, composer and arranger Cath Roberts has been busy of late is a bit of an understatement. While studying at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she graduated with an MMus in Jazz Performance in 2011, she became a core member of the much celebrated Hackney Colliery Band, championed by the likes of DJs Gilles Peterson, Jamie Cullum, Huey Morgan and of course Dom Servini (whose label Wah Wah 45s ultimately signed the band and put their debut album out!). The loose aesthetic of combining hip hop grooves within a live ensemble of marching drums, six horns and a sousaphone made the band a popular choice on the live circuit and many of the tracks Cath penned and arranged for the group became firm festival favourites. Now focusing solely on her own projects, we are happy to bring to The Jazz Meet stage Cath and her new septet Quadraceratops this coming Sunday at Floripa. Having seen them perform earlier in the year at Camden’s Forge venue, there’s some particularly exciting talent on show and we can’t wait to hear them live in action again. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with Cath to discuss the origins of the band, that crazy dinosaur name, her influences and what the future holds. Here’s what she had to say…
Hi Cath, so first of all, can you tell us a bit about how Quadraceratops came out? And how/why did you choose that name?
Well, last Summer I was finishing the postgrad jazz course at the Guildhall School, and I put a band together for the final recital in July. We played a mixture of tunes, mostly by Dave Holland and the piano player Avishai Cohen, plus one of my originals that I got together at the last-minute. The exam was obviously quite a stressful time (although I had an awesome turnout of mates in the audience) but I enjoyed the line-up a lot. When it came to autumn and I was looking to set up my own project, I asked the guys if they were up for it and amazingly they all said yes! I then asked Tom Ward, my partner (in crime!) if he’d be up for playing tenor sax, and he said yes too – which gave me the four-horn setup you’ll see on Sunday. It’s me and Tom on saxes, plus Magnus Dearness on trombone and Dave Orchant on trumpet. Dave O’Brien is on bass, Luke Christie on drums and Kit Massey on keyboards. I knew everyone before except Kit, who Dave O’B recommended to do my college recital gig. He’s ace on the keys so I was super chuffed when he was up for being in the band after that initial gig. He’s also a pretty mean violin player!
So I’m pleased with the band, big time. As for the name, it came about slightly randomly really. I was in a big rush to get a name for the project, as we already had our first gig lined up (at The Forge, Camden, in May) and the venue needed some promo info from me. On the last weekend before I was due to send off the stuff, I decided to go down the dinosaur route, and then realised I could tie it in the ‘four horn’ thing in a comedy style. I found a four-horned dinosaur, but it was called ‘Diabloceratops’ which I thought was too metal! So, in the end, I made up the Quadraceratops as a genre-neutral dinosaur.
What we like about your live set is it’s primarily made up of you own compositions. How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t caught your show yet? What can they expect on Sunday?
Yeah, the purpose of the project from the start was to be a vehicle to practise my writing. I got a real taste for it when I was writing for Hackney Colliery Band, and I knew I had to get my own thing together so I could keep working on it. In terms of what the music’s actually like, I need to work on these kinds of descriptions! But the idea was to write some interesting grooves, mostly, plus some longer forms, and some more open and free-ish things. There’s lots of room for improvising too. It’s a lot of fun to write a tune, take it to the guys and see what they do with it! With the groove writing thing, I went to a couple of F-IRE Collective workshops with Barak Schmool and Stéphane Payen and got really into their approach. So that’s a big influence. What can people expect on Sunday? Some nice grooves, lovely improvising from the guys, tasty horn harmonies…. no dinosaurs on stage as yet but we’re working on that.
The Cath Roberts’ penned ‘Whats The Time Mr Wasp?’ by The Hackney Colliery Band.
You wear you influences on your sleeve. Who would you say has had the most profound effect on your musical development so far, and who inspired you to take up music in the first place?
Ooh, whenever anyone asks me this kind of thing I instantly forget all the records I’ve ever listened to! For this band I’ve been saying that the music is inspired by Steve Coleman, Tim Berne and also this really amazing album that I love called ‘The Vastness of Space’. It’s by Reid Anderson, who’s probably best known as the bass player in The Bad Plus, and it’s an album he did in 2000 with a really cool band. His tunes are great on there and everyone’s playing is ace. The alto player is Andrew D’Angelo, who I love. He’s anarchic! They’re all great – Ben Monder is the guitarist on that record and he has another great album called ‘Oceana’. So, I’m really into a lot of those musicians from New York. But I listen to all sorts of things…I love my hip hop, and the first music I got heavily into was probably The Pixies, Nirvana etc. Grunge!
So you’ve just released a little live EP out and you’ve got some more live dates on the horizon, can we expect a proper album to drop shortly? Is there anything else exciting in the pipeline?
Exactly, I’ve done the little homebrew EP called ‘Live at The Forge’ which is some tracks from our May gig. It’s only on Bandcamp and we’re selling it at gigs, so not really a proper release but good to have something out there! It got me buying a guillotine to make inlays and everything – I’m basically a fully-fledged record label now. Erm, but yeah, I do want to do an album. Maybe next year? Who knows! We don’t have any proper plans yet. I’d need to decide what was going on it and what I was going to do with it. I guess I should get a move on with that really! In terms of gigs, there are a few things in the offing that will hopefully become reality soon – I’d love to take the Quad to some little festivals. Also, we went to Manchester in June to play for Efpi Records at their night ‘Freedom Principle’, and I really enjoyed doing a gig outside London… so more of those would be cool! Our next London date is down in New Cross for the SE Collective. They’ve got a lovely weekly night on Tuesdays at The Amersham Arms, and we’re playing there on the 4th September. Would be great to see some Jazz Meet faces in the audience there too!
Interview by Rob Coley (@robcoley)
Listen to Cath Roberts’ Quadraceratops project live in session at The Forge …
… and then come check them out in person this Sunday 29th July at Floripa, 5pm-12am with DJ support from Jazz Meet resident Rob Coley. Brazilian roasts, exotic cocktails and FREE ENTRY all day.