Harry James Angus of The Cat Empire looked to some divine inspiration for his latest project, which he’s showcasing at Mullum Music Festival
We catch up with Harry James Angus ahead of his performance at Mullum Music Festival’s 10year anniversary.
Tell me a little about your new project, Struggle With Glory.
Essentially it’s inspired by gospel music, but all the songs are about Greek mythology. It’s kind of like gospel but the stories are about Greek gods and Achilles and Odysseus. I’ve always loved gospel music – it just sounds great. Being a trumpet player I’ve always been interested in early New Orleans stuff. A lot of that early music was church hymns, call and response, harmonies.
So why the mix?
I love gospel music but I didn’t want to rip it off, for both black American culture and religious reasons. It’s fun, but also disrespectful to all kinds of races and religions. What I did is take some of the flavours, but not take it off completely. It’s got to be about something else, not Jesus. I’d been reading a lot of Greek mythology at the time, and I’d always been interested. I thought, ‘this could work’.
It sounds quite niche, are you concerned at all about its reception?
It is very strange sounding but musically it fits in a lot of places. It’s kind of like jazz party music with beautiful harmonies. I suppose what I’ve been looking for recently is a way to do what I love doing – old time jazz, real old school – and I was looking for a unifying concept that would turn that into a show I could perform.
Are you still working with The Cat Empire or focusing on this project?
I’ve always done a lot alongside it. Cat Empire has still got lots of touring ahead of us, we’re always doing stuff, and we’ve never stopped. I’ve been playing with Cat Empire 15 years or longer but I’ve always had numerous other projects, probably none as well-known as Cat Empire.
But do you care about being Harry from The Cat Empire or would you prefer to have your own separate image?
Being a performer you can become obsessed with how other people are perceiving you. It’s all about image. A contemporary example would be Taylor Swift. She’ll come out with this new thing – new look, new sound, new character. I’m not into any of that stuff. I’m about making music and being proud of what I’m putting out.
Harry James Angus from The Cat Empire will perform at the Mullum Festival.