Wavelength and Andy Cato
WaveLength: Music is a powerful communicator. What do you think about the idea of a charity developing a theme tune as part of its identity?
Andy Cato: Music can often say a lot more than words. It can transform people’s mood, and, through association, can define whole periods of your life. So, for people trying to set a tone, communicate a message and set themselves apart, it makes a lot of sense to put music at the heart of that.
WL: Why have you picked this particular piece for us? What resonates about it for you?
AC: It was actually based on an idea that I’ve had on the go for a long time. When I came across it again, there was the basis of a track which seemed to have the right spirit — it had a hopefulness about it. To that, it was a question of adding a melody that was simple enough to be emblematic in a short space of time.
WL: As a musician what do you feel the role that music/the arts can play in helping people who are lonely and isolated?
AC: It’s been said before, but music is the universal language. It can communicate between people who find it difficult, it can console, it can lift you up when you’re down, it can create a whole world of escape.
WL: You are well known not just as a musician, composer and producer, but also as a concerned voice on global warming and environmental change. What are the key ethical factors that motivate you?
AC: It’s clearly not sustainable for the whole world to live like we do in the west. Everybody knows that, but a lot of monied interests will lobby to deny it for as long as possible and are doing so very successfully. So, it feels like being trapped in a slow motion train crash. But I’ve been in more airports in the last few years than most people will see in their lives and you can’t live a sustainable life that’s on the move like that. So, rather than sound off from the seat of an aeroplane, I should put my own house in order first.
WL: What motivates your interest in global warming? How did you get interested in the environment?
AC: I did a lot of reading and blogging around Copenhagen1. Before that, I had no idea of the extent of the state we’re in. It came at the same time that I moved to the middle of nowhere and started trying to feed myself2. Then you realise that all our big cities and neon lights are based on 6 inches of topsoil and it put things in perspective. I also began to see what agribusiness is doing to that soil and to the food we eat. Ethically, it’s right up there with the oil industry.
WL: Are there any current environmental issues you feel are being dropped off the agenda?
AC: We’re quietly following a path of urbanisation, resource extraction, soil erosion, emissions and ‘growth’ which, whilst it can only end in tears, is successfully being presented as the only option. None of that is on the front page agenda.
WL: How is your ethical stance on the environment mirrored in your support for us at WaveLength?
AC: I’m in a very lucky position which allows me to spend a bit of time to speak to the people I’ve met over the years, to try and help out where I can. A lot of these problems are so overwhelming that it’s nice to get beyond being a cog in a wheel and try to make a specific difference to a charity, like WaveLength, which has a direct impact on people’s everyday lives.
WL: As a charity we focus on people who are isolated and, as a way of trying to lift that isolation, we understand access to music, entertainment, drama, news, and education through technology can be a great help. What is it about WaveLength’s work that you find particularly attractive?
AC: I like the focus on the positive aspects of technology — freedom and information. That’s what it should be about.
WL: Despite the current economic difficulties, popular music in the UK appears to be a lot less political or willing to make a social comment than in, say, the 1980s. Would you agree with this and what role do you think musicians can play in bringing social issues to a wider audience?
AC: I completely agree with this. It’s hard to believe that a small group of people rode Sunseekers and drank champagne for a decade, then persuaded the working man to pay the bill, all without a shot being fired. But then, I didn’t man the barricades, nor did I write the protest songs. On the music front at least I’m trying to put that right and have formed a new band, Days Of May, in which I sing for the first time and can deal with some of these frustrations in writing, along with a few lost loves. Whether anyone will listen — I’ll find out in a couple of months.
WL: Thank you very much.
1 Copenhagen 2009, Climate Conference in Copenhagen, 6-18 December 2009.
2 Growing his own crops.