Rockin’ The Vampire World
Before I started mixing with vampires I’d always assumed them to be sombre types who slept in coffins and smiling was something they did after they’d fed on a human but nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve discovered they’re actually the complete opposite and when Cat loaned me a DVD of her old band, The Raven Queens I was blown away. I’ve been told the lead singer is Boudica and the bass guitarist is her sister, Andraste. Cat plays the keyboards and also sings. I caught up with Cat in between shifts at Yorkhill to talk more about the band.
I was impressed with the DVD, how come we’ve never heard of them before?
Cat: Oh well that’s kind of obvious. It’s a vampire band.
How did the band come about?
Cat: A group of us girls were in retirement at the same safe house in New York State. It’s rare that close friends are put into the same place, we’ve been pals for hundreds of years, and in the case of Boudica, Andraste and Morganna, their friendship dates back nearly two millennia. We were jamming together and Andraste came out with the comment that we should put on a concert for the people of the house. As concerts go, it was low key and quite short. We played a few acoustic numbers but it went down like a storm. Afterwards the guild Mistress, Georgina, made a few phone calls and then came up to our sitting room and asked if we could put on a gig at a local hall for other vampires in retirement. It came out of that first concert really, we had no idea that the hall was going to be packed. There were about two hundred and fifty vampires in retirement as well as the members who’d gotten job placements in the area. We did a full rock concert for an hour and a half and had the audience on their feet. After that the word got out, news spreads fast in the vampire world and we played gigs all over the East Coast, then we went nationwide and finally worldwide. It took a good year or so before we were playing in Australia and Japan though.
How big were these concerts?
Cat: It varied. Some gigs could be quite small, a mere fifty or so but others could have a thousand or more, I remember one gig out in Saskatchewan, for some reason we got the use of this huge farm and it was the middle of summer. The owner of that Guild House, Dave, had a big stage built and invited us to play for three nights. He then put out the word and we had vamps from all over North America, South America and even Europe flying into Canada. By that third night we had a crowd of three and a half thousand.
So what kinds of songs were you singing?
Cat: A mixture. They were all cover versions of rock, pop and country songs. That was the agreement the Central Council implemented when they approved the enterprise. We could only play covers, there was a general worry that if we put out original songs then they might get leaked to the outside world and attract attention to the vampire nation. We were quite happy with that arrangement because we only ever saw it as a temporary venture and as far as we were concerned the band was a fun venture. It was just a group of girls playing at being rock chicks, and we had a ball. One of the other key requirements the Council laid down was that we couldn’t go on tour forever, it had to be a limited tour.
Some people might have been tempted.
Cat: If you’re mortal, sure but we’re vamps and it’s kind of hard to die. Being a rock musician was fine for a short period of time but you soon want to move onto something else. For me, doctoring has always been something I enjoyed and while I’ve done other jobs in the past and will do again in the future, I’ll always be a doctor. I’m lucky in that regard I do admit, a lot of vamps change jobs frequently and most seem to enjoy it but there are many who say that it lacks the stability of having a recognised skill that you can develop over a centuries. The band however was a great thing, it really energised the vampire world and I’m only quoting from people who’ve spoken about it since we broke up.
In what way did it energise the vampire world?
Cat: I suppose it goes back to the whole retirement thing. As a vampire, living for hundreds of years, you need that time out to recuperate and gather your wits before launching out again. In retirement you’ll learn new skills that you can put to use later on such as, languages, scientific techniques, drawing, painting and a whole lot of other things. In general it’s a learning environment combined with rest and relaxation. What we did was the exact opposite, taking our instruments on stage and playing to packed halls. If we’d been young in the fellowship then it might not have had the same effect, but we’re all older members, the youngest was Shina and she’s eighteenth century vintage. Older members are expected to be somewhat shall we say, cultured? When you see Boudica up on stage howling Where the Streets Have No Name into a microphone it’s electrifying, she’s got an incredible voice.
It was at our third gig, in Boston that she actually taunted the other older members who’d come along to check us out and make sure we weren’t drawing too much attention to ourselves. She did Where the streets have no name and then The Sounds of Silence. After that she had us do part of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and all the time she was conducting us and about two or three minutes into it she stopped, turned around and faced the elders at the back and laughed. (she pauses for breath) “How’s that you old fucks,” she yelled and hurled a bottle of blood in the air. That was the signal to play Johnny B Goode. I’ll never forget the look on their faces. An elder had just insulted her fellow elders in front of all these younger vamps. The hall just erupted, people started dancing and by the end of the night when we finished with Led Zeppelin’s, Rock and Roll even the elders were tapping their feet.
After it they saw us talking to the younger vamps and while some conversations were the usual, you guys were great, others were more serious. We had some real heart to heart conversations with the younger vamps. In a very real sense we were doing what the elders should have been doing all along, instructing and getting involved with younger members. You can’t bottle that no matter how hard you try. We’re Grey Ravens and the way we were raised was that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Asking stupid questions stops you making stupid mistakes. We’d play three or four gigs in a city and during the day when we weren’t rehearsing or sleeping, we would tour the local Guild Halls and safe houses and chat with the younger ones. We never actually singled the younger members out, it’s just that the bulk of our fans were younger vampires from the last hundred years or so.
So what songs did you cover?
Cat: Oh it’s too long a list, basically everything from the fifties through to the most recent chart hits, we could have gone back earlier but there was so much to choose from it just got silly. We had a half a dozen or so basic routines that we’d rotate through but whenever we were playing several gigs in the one city the vamps would often ask if we could play requests and we were usually able to accommodate their requests. A regular all time favourite was the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil, for obvious reasons. Buddy Holly songs were also quite popular, but wherever we went the songs changed. I remember our first trip Downunder, we had a heap of requests for songs we’d never heard. We spent a good three weeks at a farmhouse after our Australian tour just listening to Aussie bands and rehearsing their songs. On our second Aussie tour the next year we opened with an Angel’s song, Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again and the Aussie vamps screamed out the standard refrain, ‘no way, get fucked, fuck off.’ That second Aussie tour was fantastic, we actually played a dozen extra gigs because they couldn’t get enough of us.
I noticed on the DVD you sang a couple of songs.
Cat: Aye, the Eagles’ Last Resort and Piano Man. On that second Australian tour I played an Australian Crawl number from the seventies, Hoochie Gucci because it’s usually done with just a piano. It gave the girls time to go back stage and cool down for a few minutes. I also played the part of the nurse for Alice Cooper’s, Nurse Rozetta.
Does one concert stand out as being particularly spectacular for you?
Cat: They were all pretty good for me but one that stands out in my memory is a gig we played in South Africa, July 1990. It was a few months before the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act was repealed. Nelson Mandela had been released and the ANC was no longer banned but there were still restrictions on blacks and whites mixing. This concert we were playing was only for the vampires and their mortal friends but somewhere along the line the word was passed to the outside world and everyone came to this hall, blacks, whites, coloureds, all mixing together and we weren’t sure what to do because the police could have shut us down or made life difficult. But we decided to play anyway and it was moving to see so many different colours under the same roof and nobody was really caring. I doubt the police could have done much to be honest, there wasn’t any need to get involved but it was touch and go for a few minutes.
Given that the elders were reserved at first, how were they after the band broke up?
Cat: Quite different, oh we had the usual smart arse comments but in general they could see we’d broken new ground yet again. We formed alliances with all clans and in Julia’s opinion we did more to unite the vampire race than the Amalthean Declaration of 1920 and our involvement in the Second World War. There’s something about music that unites people, you don’t need to be able to understand the words, it’s the beat and the melody that speaks to us all. It transcends national boundaries and puts a spring in your step.
Have you ever thought of doing it all over again, even if it’s just a reunion concert?
Cat: Are you saying you want us to get back together? You’ve only seen one DVD. But having said that we’ve talked recently about getting together to do an album and maybe recording a live concert with the proceeds going into charity. It couldn’t be an annual thing of course, we’re all too busy these days but perhaps once every couple of years. Who knows? We might just get past talking and actually do it for real. I’ve got nothing against it but a lot depends on finding time to get together all at the same time. Having said that, there are a lot more songs we’d love to have a go at playing now, Sarah MacLachlan, Shania Twain, and Pink would be a blast. There have been a lot more female artists making it big ever since we broke up. We’ve also had quite a few vampire bands doing the same thing we did, so we certainly inspired a lot of members to go out and do their own thing.
And there was never any bad blood prior to the breakup?
Cat (laughs): Goodness no, we’re all the best of friends. I don’t know if any of us would want to go on tour indefinitely, we’d get sick of playing the same old songs but definitely not tired of hanging out with each other. We did a lot of charity work while we were on tour, visiting hospitals, youth groups and prisons just to mention a few places.
I have one more question.
If you do reform, even if it’s just one concert, can I get an invite?
Cat: For you? I think we can even arrange a backstage pass!
The Raven Queens toured from 1987 through to late 1990. They consisted of the following members. Boudica: Lead singer, Sigrid: Lead guitarist, Amelia: Rhythm guitar, Tabitha: Rhythm guitar, Catriona: Keyboard, Andraste: Bass guitar, Shina: Drums. Mixing and lighting, Morganna, Sian and Sean. The latter three also played guitars and fiddles at some gigs.
When my stepmom’s plane went down a part of me died, Cat was my world. In her place she left us to her friends, the Grey Ravens. Over the years I slowly came to realise her death was a mere facade. When we were reunited I learned the truth about Clan Grey Raven and her remarkable history. Some people will always love. Some people never lose hope. Some people never die…Smashwords Amazon.com Amazon UK