Five rockers from Tayside are set to reach a much bigger audience after topping a Scotland-wide battle of the bands competition.
Drew Cochrane, Col MacGregor, Sean Ramson, Calum Rennie and Pabs Edwards are Catalysis, who won Metal 2 The Masses in Edinburgh in May.
Catalysis’ success means they will now perform at this year’s Bloodstock, one of the two big annual rock and metal festivals in the UK (the other being Download), and is expected to attract 20,000 revellers.
In four-and-a-half years the band have only before performed in front of a maximum of around 300 spectators, though they did tour Belgium and Czech Republic in the summer of 2019.
Thousands are expected to see them on the New Blood Stage, which showcases the UK’s most highly-rated underground bands.
Lead guitarist Drew co-founded the band and lives in Dundee.
“The easiest way to summarise this is that it is absolutely massive,” says the 32-year-old. “We are under no illusions that it will lead us to overnight stardom.
“But even already, since it was announced we were the winners, we have had gig offers rolling in from venues we’ve been trying to get into for a number of years – places I have been repeatedly emailing and getting nothing back.
“So, as well as the fact that we are going to be playing at the festival to big crowds and alongside some of our favourite bands, we are also going to see a lot of other opportunities come from it.”
One of these is being a guest headliner at other events around the country. But the big focus at the moment for Catalysis is on the open-air Bloodstock festival, which takes place on four stages at Catton Hall in Derbyshire, between Thursday August 11 and Sunday August 14.
Here we profile all five band members.
Job Business release coordinator for financial services firm Aegon
Music Lead guitar and vocals
Style The boss
When the young Drew Cochrane asked for some drums his father knew what would happen and instead offered an alternative.
“When I was younger my dad said he wanted to do a metal band with that name so I stole it,” Drew says. “The word itself, Catalysis, is about speeding up a chemical reaction. It is derived from catalyst, and suggests a fast, frenetic, energetic type of music.”
Catalysis’ music is written by Drew and Sean Ramson, who joined the band in September 2017. That same month saw the arrival of Col MacGregor, who writes and performs the vocals.
“A lot of our songs cover pretty dark topics of death and depression, which is pretty typical in metal,” said Drew.
“We have done quite a lot of stuff about climate change. We’re all pretty green – we have a vegan and veggie in the band and are all avid recyclers. Climate change annoys us a lot. We also don’t like the Tories!
“Metal is a fairly progressive and left-leaning genre. It’s a pretty working-class genre of music as well.
“If we were 10 to 20 years younger we might want to chuck all of our stuff in a Transit van and go driving around Europe for three months and do shows in dive bars and stuff, but I don’t think any of us are really in a position with our responsibilities – mortgages, kids etc – to do that now.
“So we want to do as much as we possibly can without putting ourselves in danger of having our homes repossessed.”
Job Youth worker at a high school in Dundee
Music Lead vocals
Style The flaky one
As Catalysis’ lead vocalist and songwriter, Col MacGregor is the strongest influence on the mood of the group’s music.
The atmosphere in the Relicta EP, for example, came from Col’s job as a youth worker at a Dundee high school.
“My job does influence my work because I get to see the horrible, bad-end of society in action,” he says. “So a lot of Relicta was to do what I see first hand every day at work.”
However, Innova, the forthcoming release has a more optimistic feel “now we are coming back to life as a society.”
Col was born in Edinburgh and spent his younger years in Fife, studying at Madras College in St Andrews. He moved up to Dundee and continued the journey north three years ago, when he moved to Alyth.
When he was 13 years old a friend of his mother began teaching him how to play bass guitar.
“Singing came much later on,” Col says. “I formed a band with a brother and a friend of mine and we shared vocals. That was good.”
In his mid 30s he joined the band Dirty Judas and became a solo vocalist for the first time.
“Being a solo vocalist means you can be much freer you can jump about the stage and get right up to the barrier,” Col says. “You can feel that energy. One of my favourite places is right up on the barrier and near the crowd, really feeling it.”
In September 2017 Col posted on Facebook that he was leaving Dirty Judas and 17 minutes later Drew messaged, asking if he wanted to join Catalysis.
He began by playing the bass guitar and being a backup vocalist. In 2018 he transitioned to become the main vocalist.
“I like to be at the front of the stage interacting with the crowd. It’s a good feeling, and nice to get that feedback from people.”
The crowd at Bloodstock will be the biggest Col has ever performed in front of, but will that make him nervous?
“Our biggest crowd so far is 200-odd and we are going to multiply that by loads and it is a massive thing to be in,” he says. “The energy is like nothing you will ever experience. Live music is just wonderful.
“I get nervous before any show. If I sing in front of eight people I get nervous. As a vocalist there is a visceral nature to it because you are exposing yourself a little bit.
“Of course I get nervous but you have to balance it in that if you weren’t nervous you wouldn’t be excited. They go with each other.”
Job Building surveyor for an insurance company in Perth
Music Rhythm guitar and vocals
Style Super solid and reliable
Sean Ramson’s music hobby began at the age of 11, shortly after his family moved from Rainham in Kent to Perthshire.
“I didn’t know anyone and got friendly with a couple of guys from Crieff High School,” Sean says.
“In my accommodation I couldn’t play drums so the next best thing was to play guitar and I have been doing that for the past 13 years.”
Having played the bass guitar with Drew in Excellent Cadaver, Sean began his own band DBK – an acronym for Drive By Killer – before joining Catalysis in September 2017.
“This is right up my street,” Sean says of Catalysis. “Me and Drew share the same influences music-wise so when we write and get together we are on the same wavelength so there aren’t any issues.
Job Sales consultant at Currys on Kingsway West, Dundee
Style Baby of the band
The parents of Calum Rennie were so supportive of his musical endeavours that they created a new room for him.
Calum was inspired to play music by his mother Faith, a psychiatric nurse who also played the guitar for a folk group, and older brother Alex, another guitarist.
But as a 13 year old pupil at Arbroath High School he opted for the drums because he was “horrible” at the guitar.
“A couple of months after getting a drum kit my parents realised I was going to stick around doing it so they converted a loft in the house to a studio space and gave it lots of soundproofing,” says Calum, whose father Mike was a fan of 1960s Motown and 1970s hard rock.
“I certainly don’t take that for granted but to go to that much effort was pretty cool. They were always incredibly supportive.”
Calum graduated with a music degree from Perth College, where he also met a guitarist with Athenia and became a drummer for the band between 2013 and 2016.
After the split he formed Catalysis with Drew and the rest is history.
“We have worked really hard to achieve what we have.
“Drew is the father of the band and we all trust his judgement because nine times out of 10 if he says something about the band he is usually right.”
Job Warehouse manager for Diatech in Perth.
Music Bass guitar
Style The new guy
When Pabs Edwards was 16 he purchased an Olympic white Esquire strap guitar, though what happened next did not quite follow the script.
“I discovered that I wasn’t going to be able to play songs in five minutes so it sat in my cupboard for two years,” admits the former Brechin High School pupil.
“I was very much into skateboarding at that age, which took priority over music.”
But all was not to be lost. Two years later he began a course at Arbroath College and started to discover rock and metal music.
“I also did a five-day intensive music course at Perth College and through I got to know other musicians, which set the ball rolling properly and I have been playing guitar, drums and bass ever since.”
Pabs joined Catalysis as a bass player in August 2021.
“It has been the most pleasant band music,” he says. “It is just a few guys hanging out making music.”