KATRINA: Wow. Thank you for liking it.
GM: Before we get to the new album, let’s go back to “Walking on Sunshine.” My wife Donna and I had a quilt with an outdoor scene, which included a sun. When our daughter Brianna was almost two, “Walking on Sunshine” was out, and I think every weekend night I would hold her and would dance with her to “Walking on Sunshine,” tossing her up when you would sing “whoa,” allowing her to land gently on that quilt which became known as the “Walking on Sunshine” blanket. Your song meant a lot to our family.
K: Oh, how sweet. What a sweet story. Gosh, that’s really wonderful. It is one of those songs that is quite difficult to dance to. I have seen some humorous dad dancing over the years, but it’s all pretty beautiful.
GM: The flip side of the single was the next song on the album, “Going Down to Liverpool,” which I already knew from The Bangles’ version and is another favorite of mine.
K: The Bangles are the reason we got signed to a record deal. They had found “Going Down to Liverpool” as an obscure record, written and sung by our guitar player Kim Rew, from a previous album, in a phase between post-punk and new wave briefly known as the paisley underground. They liked the song and decided to cover it. At the time we had a small record deal with a Canadian record label named Attic and did two albums with them.
GM: I’m familiar with Attic. In the 1970s, growing up in Cleveland, my best friend John and I listened to Canadian radio, across Lake Erie, and each summer we would go to Canada with our list of records to buy, from Canadian acts including Ken Tobias, Fludd, and Patsy Gallant, all on Attic.
K: Attic’s co-founder Al Mair signed us. None of us were Canadian, but Al just liked our music. We went from the east coast to the west coast for several years supporting our two Attic albums. When The Bangles covered “Going Down to Liverpool,” that is what peaked the interest in a major U.S. record label in America for us. Representatives from Columbia, which was The Bangles’ label, checked us out, but it wasn’t for them, however, representatives from EMI checked us out and that led to us signing with Capitol in Los Angeles. We have The Bangles to thank for getting the ball rolling for us in a major way. With two Attic albums behind us, we could go into the studio for our Capitol debut and cherry pick the best songs. We went into the studio with Scott Litt, who went on to produce Indigo Girls, R.E.M. and Nirvana. “Walking on Sunshine” was Scott’s first big record. Boy did he wave a magic wand over it, because it was his idea to start with the drums and said that the DJs will go crazy with that sound and it will wake up America. That was a stroke of genius. He was a great producer, getting the sound right, and helping us with the photos, packaging and marketing of the album, which is what you would expect from a major label, and so much of what major labels did back then. Of course, they were Kellogg’s and we were Cornflakes, but it didn’t matter because you knew they had your back. They would put money forward for promotion and quality videos.
Katrina and The Waves
Flip side: Going Down to Liverpool
A side: Walking on Sunshine
Top 100 debut: March 23, 1985
Peak position: No. 9
GM: Let’s highlight one more song from that first Capitol album, your single “Que Te Quiero,” which was so crisp, and I hoped it would have done better for you on the charts and radio.
K: It is a beautiful pop song. I love melodic songs. This was one of the classic songs where we really wanted that girl group pop sound. I think it was confusing for people, with a problem pronouncing the title, and not knowing what it meant. The crossover with Latin music was not quite ready, yet. This is one of my favorite Katrina and The Waves songs.
GM: On your new album, the songs that I think sound most like Katrina and The Waves are the ones you co-wrote with Darren Loveday. Please tell us about him.
K: I have known Darren for 25 years and have been in a band with him longer now than I had been in any band with members of The Waves. He is a left-handed Asperger’s sufferer, in the nicest and best possible way, because he loves detail and loves for things to be precise. That is wonderful for a singer when you have somebody who is very passionate about really nailing every note and making sure that everything sits properly, so I am very comfortable working with him. He is part of the live show along with everything that I do in the studio. A lot of times he will shake his head at the material I come to him with, but eventually gets his head around it, and sometimes turns eclectic and slightly out of reach numbers into something that becomes more accessible to listeners, helping to grasp the songs and allowing for understanding and bringing some structure.
GM: The album begins with “Drive,” which reminds me a bit of Berlin’s “Masquerade” from 1983 with that sound and tempo, and it definitely caught my and Donna’s attention.
K: That is very interesting. I was thinking about “Maria” by Blondie. I wanted an exciting percussive introduction. With “Drive,” I wanted to give the audience something very obvious, like “Walking on Sunshine,” for them to grasp and love.
GM: Another track in that style is “I Want to Love Again,” which I learned about on the Heritage Chart in the UK.
K: I didn’t know it made the Heritage Chart. I wanted an obvious disco belter. In Europe there is the Eurovision Song Contest and we won it, as Katrina and The Waves in 1997, with “Love Shine a Light,” and with “I Want to Love Again,” it was meant to fit in with that Euro-pop sound.
GM: “Every Step” has a bit of “Walking on Sunshine” in the chorus with its “whoa” part.
K: It certainly has that beat. This song is on fire from the second that the drums kick in and the beat gets going. It’s relentless and an absolute blast, although it is exceedingly tiring to play live. I think it is the most energetic track on the album and I am very proud of it with its get up and go power.
GM: Taking about energetic, so is “Crazy Mama.”
K: With “Crazy Mama,” I took elements of what my mother actually was about. We were a military family and moved every two years. My mother was accepted at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a clown, dressed as a hot dog in a bun, but then realized she was allergic to dust, hay and horses, so it didn’t work out for her to be in the circus, but she had her own little circus of six children, five girls and one boy, who came last, and because we moved every couple years, I think it drove my mother crazy, in a fun way. I just wanted to do a wild rocker and it is fun to do live. People ask, “What the hell is this?” Ha ha.
GM: You also pay tribute to her with “Move On,” which is beautifully sung.
K: Thank you. This is about moving on in the sense of releasing yourself from mother earth and going to the next place. In the end, my mother was very sick and kept hanging on. It is natural to want to survive. I remember saying to her that it is alright to let go and move on. This song is kind of a death bed lullaby, which may sound gruesome, but its purpose comes from love.
GM: It is beautifully tender when you sing, “Listen for the angels when they call you home.”
K: Thank you.
GM: You mentioned Blondie earlier with “Drive.” I think “Beyond Love” is Heart-like. You created such a strong bridge. I love the line, “We both know this is miraculous.”
K: It captures the magic between people and I was going for a Shania Twain type song to walk down the aisle, and what is really cool is that people are now telling me that they are planning on playing “Beyond Love” at their wedding, which is what I wanted. I understand what you say about the vocals. When I was starting out, Ann Wilson was my hero. I loved her, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Chrissie Hynde, as I was looking for girls to guide me and mentor me through their singing.
GM: My favorite song on the album is the finale, “Willing,” with the California fires. We have lived out that way. Your delivery is so emotionally convincing. You sing about swimming to Santa Cruz. There is a great guitar echo right after “Please baby know that I tried,” where the guitar repeats your vocal notes.
K: That is Darren on every blinding guitar part on the album. It is that left-handed crazy boy playing such incredible guitar parts. It gives me goosebumps to talk about “Willing,” wondering if I’m the only one who gets that song. I had been reading a lot of John Steinbeck novels and I love how he always had those eclectic characters doing the craziest things as a means to an end, and I thought it was just like a John Steinbeck character to just jump into the water and not think about the consequences. At the end of the song you don’t know if this person has made it or not or if it is a woman or a man. Thank you for loving “Willing.”
GM: There is a young singer in Ohio named Melissa Claire in a duo named LoveDust and she used to sing “Walking on Sunshine” in her prior band. I shared “Willing” with her and she mentioned the rich tone in your voice, and she loves this song, too.
K: Tell her that I send my love, and I say thank you very much. I think it is possible that you can keep singing. I am 61 now and keep waiting for the day when it is all going to go away, but you figure out ways to work with your voice. With my voice, it has seemed to take on more of a rich mellowness, and it is also due to a lot of the material I am doing now is not pitched so high to send everybody into a crazy frenzy, like we did with “Walking on Sunshine,” when we were all so young, and it was all about energy, and we weren’t trying to manufacture that sound. When you are young, it just comes out of you like that.
GM: Let’s go to a very old song on the album, the only cover, “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” which I learned years ago on a Valentine’s Day radio show. Whose version did you hear of this song?
K: Judy Garland from her At Carnegie Hall album, and I showed it to Darren and said that we should do this in a way where it moves along so that we can snap our fingers to it. You can’t believe how many versions of that song have been recorded and we listened to quite a few. Darren put this fantastic chord sequence together, using some beautiful jazz chords that I didn’t even know that he knew. We recorded two versions of it. One starts with, “Now that it’s your birthday,” and another one that begins with “Now that it is Christmas,” so we released that version around Christmastime on a video with snow scenes in New York City and I performed that one as a guest at a Kim Wilde Christmas show. On the new album, we reverted to the birthday lyrics. Kim and I do a lot of summer shows here in Europe, called ensemble shows with twenty acts from the 1980s and it is incredible on how many people still want to come to these shows, and we share the feeling, see us before we are dead.
GM: You mentioned Chrissie Hynde earlier, originally from my part of America, Northeast Ohio, who moved to London, just like you, and like her, you have remained there all these years.
K: Chrissie is down the road from me. It was really embarrassing when I met her. I sat down with her backstage when she was supporting Bryan Adams. I was on a chair next to her and she said, “I hope you’re not going to be one of these chicks who owes everything to me and plays the guitar and looks like me.” I thought, here I am, I’ve got my Chrissie Hynde haircut, my Chrissie Hynde jean jacket, I play my Chrissie Hynde Fender Telecaster guitar, and I said, “Oh no, oh no, we’re good.” She thought I was some stalking fan.
GM: Let’s go back in time again in music to the name Peggy Lee, which is also your dog’s name and you and Sher Harper have written a book about her.
K: We are working on the second book, sniffing around for some publishing for this one. The first one was called Peggy Lee Loves London. My little white poodle is so much more photogenic than me. I took pictures of her around my favorite places, London parks, pubs, coffee shops, cool street markets, and turned it into a little book. There is another place in England that I love called Cornwall, on the southwest coast, and that will be the setting for the next book which is nearly done. Thank you for asking about the book and to your family for your years with my music. It has made my day knowing that the new album was listened to and appreciated and it isn’t that often that we hear back from people, especially from someone like you whose opinion I trust so much, so thank you very much for our chat and for selecting my music to share with Goldmine readers.