CATS IN BOOTS

Country USA

Style Sleaze Glam

Cats_In_Boots_2_largeCats In Boots was formed in Hollywood CA in 1987 at the height of Hollywood’s glam rock heyday when guitarist Takashi “Jam” Ohashi and bassist Yasuhiro “Butch” Hatae, came to Los Angeles from Tokyo, Japan to find American rock band members who would form a band and return to their homeland to record and perform. After seeing much of what the Hollywood Sunset Strip Rock scene offered in talent, Takashi “Jam” and Yasuhiro “Butch” heard lead vocalist Joel Ellis and drummer Randy Meers perform live and knew these were the right guys for the job.

Joel was a native midwest rock vocalist reigning from the Rock & Roll capital of the world in Cleveland, Ohio. Joel rose out of the street and bar Cleveland Rock scene and soon left Ohio for Los Angeles and became a major label artist by the signing hand of Atlantic Recs founder Ahmet Ertigun, and after a short lived stint as fronting crooner for Warner Bros rockers Rough Cutt as opening act for DIO, Joel also eventually became Jam’s main counterpart in the creation and unique sound that is Cats In Boots.

At the time the guys met, Joel was fronting his first band Merri Hoaxx on Atlantic Recs along with a very colorful and hard hitting drummer named Randy Meers. Randy was a homeboy of the 1980’s Houston, Texas Rock hotbed and reigning from Houston as drummer of the famed ‘70‘s Rock band Black Oak Arkansas.

Takashi had grown tired of his Kabuki face paint style satire Rock success with the Japanese KISS emulating band Sekeima II, which translates satirically to the second coming of the devil while the members portrayed demons of various degrees. He aimed to satisfy a need for the loud and nastier sound side of Rock & Roll. The boys finally came together after Takashi and Yasuhiro (Jam & Butch) followed Joel and Randy around LA with a tape recorder taping their live shows and eventually convinced them to form a bluesy, high energy rock band to tour in Japan.

The boys apparently liked the sound and idea of all this fun in Japan because they immediately began performing, writing, and recording together and in the following year they went to Japan where they ate lots of sushi and eventually went straight up to #1 on the Japanese Inde-music charts while selling out over 60 live shows throughout the entire country of Japan. Remarkably the band used no manager or record labels and self promoted their live shows and record sales through magazine and underground word of mouth and we’re soon selling massive amounts of records, tickets and merchandise only to be courted through the help of Frank Zappa back to a very impressive world recording contract by industry giant EMI Records in New York City.

Cats_In_Boots_Cover_500_largeThe band returned to Hollywood in 1988 and settled into their new star status in the Hollywood Hills rock scene with a jingle in their pockets and stars in their eyes. Not to mention a budget for new boots, new cats, new cars, and few new girlfriends. The band enlisted the expertise of Joel’s friend and famed L.A. music attorney Peter Lopez along with the shrewd and wise guidance of notorious New York City business management gurus Ira Herzog and Seymor Strauss CPAs and Stan Poses-band mgt, combined with the resultant press interest surrounding them, the guys signed the largest recording contract ever awarded to a new artist by EMI-Capital Records. The agreement had come to be referred to by music law professionals as “The Bible”.

This new major label deal saw the band back in the Hollywood recording studios recording with music production greats Mark Opitz (AC/DC, INXS) and Garth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, and EMI labelmates The Red Hot ChilliPeppers) -the resulting production became the world release debut of Kicked & Klawed. Kicked & Klawed was released to the Rock radio airwaves and record stores like a wild horse kicking in the stall doors with a riotous and raucous romping rock resonance ripping through speakers of radios across the country.

This thoroughly enjoyable heavy blues rock debut quickly established the band as an innovative heavy contender and very ballsy no-thrills alternative to the lighter “hair band” sound of the time. The band’s raw, bluesy, and trashy hard rock sound brought them immediate attention on MTV pushing their videos into the Top 10 most requested status and their notorious tongue-in-cheek singles onto playlists at rock radio stations across the country. They drew fan comparisons with early Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue, and AC/DC, meanwhile generating huge success in Japan while the boys electrified US audiences with their early US tours in conjunction with America’s first satellite Rock radio station ZROCK, and regional US radio stations honoring the band with Top 40 status and back to back #1 most requested singles acroos the country and particularly on Los Angeles’ premier heavy rock station KNAC solidifying the band as a favorite with Los Angeles Rock fans through the endearing support of “The Leather Nun” LA’s Rock Queen Tawn Mastreys. Tawn’s love for the band sent Cats In Boots out across the KNAC airwaves in heavy rotation, blaring the soaring screams and velvet chainsaw vocals of Joel with the seductive speaker melting guitar sound of Takashi’s Les Paul/Marshall at 11.

The record went up to moderately reach gold status in the states while overseas it was impressively debuting at #3 on the Billboard charts in Japan and clocking in as the #3 record of the year in sales behind The Rolling Stones (#2), and Prince’s Bat Man movie soundtrack at #1 while surpassing all other record sales by colleagues Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Richard Marx that year and reaching Top 10 status in the U.K. as well along side Skid Row and Faith No More.

Then in 89 Joel & Randy relocated with Japan’s hometown boys to the mecca center of Tokyo in Shibuya and Roppongi to further record and perform in the hotbed country of their success where the guys enjoyed premier rock star status in every Nippon city enjoying more Sushi and Sake.  1989 saw Cats In Boots performing to far larger Japanese audiences and appearing in live prime-time television simulcasts and countless television and radio appearances and magazine cover mug shots. They had made the big time, but you wouldn’t know it by meeting them as their “bodies stunk but they kept their funk” while Rocking the hell out of Japan and worldwide audiences.

Sadly however, despite great reviews, sold out venues, charting singles and considerable radio and MTV airplay, album sales remained moderate in the US and live venues never escalated due to the weak management efforts selling them short of the US Rock super stardom the guys were more than deserving of. Beating their heads against the apathetic management wall was creating a growing stress on the member’s as they missed out on a major opportunity as opening act for Motley Crue’s Doctor Feelgood US Tour and instead plowed through an unforgiving US winter tour with lessening support and no rest being given them since they left for Japan in 1988.

catsinbootsTogether with a few weighing set backs in midst of the bands difficult touring and production schedule they came to find their manager had been prone to spending habit mistakes at their expense, funding new band signing efforts and supporting a costly mistress hobby. The bands communication gap slowly began to widen as stress of these unfortunate events mounted and their bonds began to disintegrate as management and label pressed harder for a new record to be magically pulled from their arses.

The end began with the almost simultaneous loss of both Ellis and their recording contract with EMI. As Joel recalls, “Jam locked himself away in his Hollywood apartment after we came off the road. We were doing a show in Vegas and I was playing an acoustic guitar on the tour bus when Jam walked up all pissy and laughed saying “acoustic guitar is not Rock & Roll take it off of this bus” I just laughed at first, but then I got a chill and thought “shit we’re losing it”. He needed a rest badly and was homesick for Japan. Stan and EMI pressed us to pop out a miraculous new record with “bigger hits” I can recall my manager Stan saying “it’s easy, just give them (EMI) 10 new hits and you’re finished, then you can go party in the streets!” …and we just wanted to take couple of months off to rest, and to find our creative center for the new material. He (Jam) just came over one day with a tape and said “here, they (Stan & EMI) want 10 new songs, I played 10 new songs, now you can do the rest” and turned and walked out. I played the tape it was just full of guitar riffs and a drum machine in 10 separate patterns…thats when I knew he was cracking we all needed a break, even the road crew were a bit tattered”.

Cats In Boots eventually disintegrated with Ellis going on to sign a solo recording contract with Warner Bros Records which evolved into the formation of the band Heavy Bones with his new bandmates Frankie Banali and Gary Hoey. After an even more pathetic management experience of Heavy Bones by Dave Kaplan Mgt and Reprise/Warner Bros Records. Joel left and returned to his roots in blues, soul and rock by closely befriending and working creatively with soul legend Bobby Womack and The Rolling Stones in Los Angeles. In 1994 Ellis and Ohashi came together again to co-write together for Joel’s solo record Ellis Island. Joel and Takashi reunited one more time in 2003 along with Randy Meers for a reunion recording and live performances in Tokyo Japan intending to seed their “Reunion”.

Demonstration  East Meets West CATINBOOTS_KAC CATINBOOTS_LW

– Demonstration [1998]
– Kicked & Klawed [1989]
– Last Works [1999]

Notes by Joel Ellis

 

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