Prove your humanity

Jake Dennis interviews Will Hull-Brown from The Cat Empire

Friday 4 March will be a big day for fans of The Cat Empire.

It marks the launch of their 2016 Australian tour and the release of the band’s seventh studio album Rising with the Sun which contains artwork featuring the faces of 3,500 of their fans. For one lucky duck, it will also be a chance to meet and learn from drummer Will Hull-Brown ahead of the band’s performance at the Fremantle Arts Centre. “I’m completely up for whoever wins [the raffle draw] to guide the one-on-one hang out and lesson; whether they want to learn drumming techniques or ask me about how to deal with travelling on the road,” Hull-Brown explains.

The Melbournian, who lives every musician’s dream of touring internationally, knows much about touring, having performed throughout Europe, USA, Canada, and India in the last year. “It’s been quite a busy year. You gotta pinch yourself sometimes. We’re quite lucky like that,” he admits.

The Cat Empire’s success changed Hull-Brown’s life dramatically when he was in university. “I studied urban planning for one year after high school and then the band started touring so I decided to defer,” he reveals. Like many university students trying to find their place, he found uni classes and study uninspiring and was “just not into it.”

“Sometimes you try something to find out what you don’t want to do. The best thing about university for me was the friends I made,” he reveals.

Hull-Brown has since earned a diploma in building design and works casually as a draftsman when not touring. “It’s a job with a nice headspace and quiet atmosphere; the polar opposite of the noisiness of crowds and being on stage.” The crazy shenanigans of performing live with The Cat Empire began way back in 2002 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “We had been playing the 3am to 5am slot fifteen nights in a row following the the Late ‘n’ Live comedy slots. One night, a really sweaty, hairy, cave man looking comedian called Dave ran on stage naked and started playing my drums! I never sat on my chair the same way again,” he jokes

The father of four boys would much prefer his sons to play his drum kit. “One in particular already takes a liking to it. I think he tries to imitate Animal from The Muppets,” Hull- Brown chuckles. Music runs in the blood of the men in Hull- Brown’s family. “My dad played classical guitar and violin and two of my most treasured musical possessions are my grandfather’s cymbal and drumsticks. I never got to meet him,” he laments. “Time will tell which of my boys takes up music. It’s something I’d like to expose them to.” The gypsy jazz, ska, funk, Latin, hip-hop, and rock-influenced drummer with global entertainment industry experience is undeniably the man for the job.

Hull-Brown has performed with The Cat Empire on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Craig Ferguson and Rove MacManus’ Rove Live. According to Hull-Brown, meeting comedic talk show hosts isn’t as thrilling as one might think.

“You don’t really get to hang out with them much because they are so busy. They do their token greeting and then go prep for the show.” However, performing as a support act for James Brown’s 2004 Australian tour was unforgettable. “I’m really glad we got to do that. It was a huge experience. We waited a long time after the show to meet him. ‘Why’s his hair blue?’ we wondered when he approached,” Hull- Brown remembers. “It looks good on stage,” the Godfather of Soul explained.

The Cat Empire’s upcoming album, like 2013’s Steal The Light, tries to “recapture that early energy from when we were young,” Hull-Brown says. “We have already road tested songs from Rising with the Sun and are looking forward to playing about four songs from the album.” Fans can look forward to hearing infectiously rhythmic “Wolves” as well as the follow-up single “Bulls” for which they recently filmed the video clip out in the country. “We look forward to coming to WA. We always have a great time over there.”

Tickets available at where you can pre-order the album enter the draw to win the drum session with
Will Hull-Brown.