Blackcat Elliot – Nine Lives of Rock
Written by Liam Sweeny on December 2, 2018
Sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned hard-driving garage rock band to get the liquor flowing, the tongues wagging and the boogey pumping through the floor with the high-hat hiss and the bass thumps. Blackcat Elliot is just such a band. With Gus on Guitar and Vocals, Marky Balboa on drums and Fast Eddie on the bass, Blackcat Elliot is forever at the ready to come to your table and piss in the mash potatoes. We sit down with Gus for a keg-side chat.
RRX: Blackcat Elliot formed in 2001, so quite literally a generation grew up with your music on the CD player, or your live shows at a park somewhere. Was this a continuous relationship, or has Blackcat Elliot gone through a few lineups?
Gus: First off, I’d like to thank you and RadioRadioX for the support of our local music scene. It’s great to see the scene constantly evolving and we’re all on the same boat. And people like yourself, keeping that boat of possibility afloat and staying above water. So, like the saying goes, cats have nine lives and just like that saying, Blackcat Elliot is no different. The only way this band is still together is by the tight bond that Marky and I have. Since high school actually.
So, the only lineup changes we’ve had are only in the bass guitar position. Jamie St. Denis, Steve Gregory and Johnny Mystery. All have helped us pave the way in becoming labeled as Albany’s Favorite Garage Rockers. We were even blessed to have Big Frank from Big Frank And The Bargain Bingers step in for a few shows back in the day. He was a “big” help to say the least! Our current bassist Fast Eddie has been in the band since 2007-2008
RRX: Let’s say I win the Powerball, and I want a Blackcat Elliot-themed “I’m rich!” party. I’m throwing cash at you guys, and you can set the whole tone. What should I expect when I show up?
Gus: If we were asked this question a few years ago, the answer would be completely different. Now, as we have matured as people, as a band and our music as well… I think we would play your party just like we perform any of our regular shows. We always try to perform with the same amount of electric energy, rawness and have an overall good time with our audience. No matter what, where or when. We want people to leave their reality at the door and come on into our world. Raise their fists in the air with happiness, and walk out with big smiles and their hearts afloat.
RRX: I noticed that, when I saw you guys play at the Hangar, that you have really cool merch. How do you feel having cool merch helps you? Is it just a cash issue, or an advertising issue, or is it something more? Is it a part of the experience?
Gus: Well, thank you for the kind words Liam. I’m glad you noticed our merchandise. We definitely focus a tad more on our merchandise because of my background in graphic design and advertising. It’s my full time gig and I try to utilize that with Blackcat Elliot. Advertising is as important to me as my music. Growing up and listening to bands like KISS, Cheap Trick, The Ramones, The Beatles and several others, I learned the importance of branding your musical act and trying to find the audience that will enjoy your music. It takes years to figure out who you are and what you are. Once you find your genre, there’s nothing that you can’t do to help your music along the way with the right brand.
RRX: So, I’m hearing of weekend bar brawls and avoiding stalkers. I’m also hearing of cheap beer, cigs and tequila. I challenge you to put all of those in one story. Or just give us a few smaller tales of degeneracy. What do you say?
Gus: Oh man. Where did you find this biography bit? I remember writing that a while ago. I better revise that soon. Umm. Let’s just talk about this one thing. There’s a couple of New York State Troopers out there that have an album or two of ours after a couple of run ins. Next question
RRX: Every musician has a love/hate relationship with their equipment, and they write whole books about brands, effects, whatnot. I’d like to ask you guys if there’s a brand, an effect or a piece of equipment that you use (or avoid) that you all have strong feelings about?
Gus: When it comes to guitars, Fast Eddie and I are Fender guys. I have an Orange amp for rehearsal. I also have a Sovtek head and Marshall cabinet for bigger venues. If not, Ill use my Fender Blues Deluxe. Marky plays on Ludwig drums, Tama snare and a Tama iron cobra pedal. Sabian cymbals and 5a sticks.
RRX: Blackcat Elliot has been a fixture in the 518 music scene. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing a few bands and players now, and I can’t talk fixture bands without mentioning fixture venues. Can you dig deep and talk about a show you played that really brought together player(s) and venue?
Positively 4th Street was our second home back in the day and Art [Fredette] was our go to guy for years. God bless him! Let’s see… Savannah’s, Valentine’s, Kings Tavern, BR Finley’s, QE2, The Continental in NYC, Trash Bar in NYC, The Fuzebox, Otto’s Shrunken Head in NYC, The Low Beat, The Hollow, The Hangar and a bunch more…
RRX: This is where you call upon the other great musicians and acts in the Capital District (and beyond) to stand up and be recognized. We’re looking for the unappreciated, the “unsung heroes” playing dive bars, garages and back yard barbecues. Make ‘em shine!
Gus: Blackcat Elliot has been playing the scene since 2001. I’ve been performing for 30 plus years and for each of us to sit down and name all the bands that we love and have been involved in helping us and other bands in the scene would be absolutely difficult. Not just that, if we happen to forget anyone, it’d be a shame.
Keep Blackcat Elliot on your radar as they head into the studio in January to begin working on their next album. They’re pretty tight lipped about the title, so if you want to know, we suggest you buy them shots the next time you see them. Maybe they’ll let it slip.