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1990 – 2000 (10 years)
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
Catherine Wheel were a four-piece alternative rock band from Great Yarmouth, England. The band was active from 1990 to 2000, experiencing fluctuating levels of commercial success, and embarking on many lengthy tours.
Catherine Wheel formed in 1990, comprised of singer/guitarist Rob Dickinson (cousin of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson), guitarist Brian Futter, bassist Dave Hawes, and drummer Neil Sims. Hawes had previously played in a Joy Division-influenced band called Eternal. They took their moniker from the firework known as the Catherine wheel, which in turn had taken its name from the medeival torture device of the same name. The band was often included in the "shoegaze" scene, characterized by bands that made extensive use of guitar feedback and droning washes of noise, as well as their continous interaction with extensive amounts of effects pedals on the stage floor (the source of the term "shoegazing").
The band performed a Peel session in early 1991 while still unsigned; two 12" vinyl EPs were released on the Norwich based Wilde Club Records, named after the regular weekly Wilde Club gigs run by Barry Newman at Norwich Arts Centre. They signed to major-label Fontana Records after being courted by both Creation Records and the Brian Eno-run label Opal Records. The band's debut album, 1991/92's Ferment, made an immediate impression on the music press and introduced Catherine Wheel's biggest U.S. hit, "Black Metallic," as well as moderate hit "I Want To Touch You." The album features re-recorded versions of some of the Wilde Club-issued EPs.
The more aggressive Chrome followed in 1993, produced by Gil Norton. With this album, the band began to shed its original shoegazing tag, while still making skillful use of atmospherics, such as on single "The Nude." In a 2007 interview, Rob Dickinson said that members of Death Cab for Cutie and Interpol told him that without this album, their bands "wouldn't exist."
1995's Happy Days saw the band delving further into metallic hard rock, which alienated a portion of their fanbase, even as it increased their exposure in the United States during the post-grunge era. The single "Waydown," and especially its plane-crash themed video, received heavy play in the U.S. A more sedate strain of rock known as Britpop was taking over in the U.K., causing C.W. to continue to have greater success abroad than at home.
The B-sides and outtakes collection, Like Cats and Dogs, came out the following year, revealing a quieter, more contemplative side of the band, spanning the previous five years. This carried over into Adam and Eve in 1997, wherein the band scaled back the sonic force of their sound from its Happy Days levels while retaining the clean, stripped down playing they had begun to favor, featuring extensive use of keyboards and acoustic guitars.
In 2000, Catherine Wheel re-emerged with a new record label, a new bassist (Ben Ellis); a modified name (The Catherine Wheel); and a new album, Wishville. After mixed reviews, record company turmoil and lackluster sales, the band went on a still-continuing hiatus.
Post-Catherine Wheel work
Futter and Sims have an ongoing project called 50 ft Monster. Ellis is in a new band called Serafin. After working with/ playing live with reported love interest Tracy Bonham for several years, Dickinson released a solo album in 2005 called Fresh Wine for the Horses.
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