Interview: Samantha Martin, Founder of Acro-Cats
Traveling troupe the Acro Cats (featuring rock band The Rock Cats) will be hitting the stage at the Heart of the Beast Theater starting 8/11 and doing daily shows through 8/15 (tickets here). Since we get pretty excited about musical cats, we thought it would be interesting to interview Samantha Martin, who founded the group and trained the cats to be the rock stars they are today.
Reviler: What’s the story of Tuna and The Rock Cats? How did you get started and how did the group come about?
Samantha Martin: I did training for film and television, mostly rats and other small animals for horror movies. I started a show in Chicago called the Acro-rats – I had them driving a firetruck and saving someone from a buring building – people came out in droves to see it but really how many people can you fit into a space to see trained rats? Then a very special cat came into my life – Tuna. She was really talented and loved to do production work. Cats were the number two saught after animal for work and noone thought they could be trained, and so Tuna and the Rock-cats were born.
R: How difficult was it to train the cats and what particular challenges do the live performances bring?
SM: Well, sometimes they will just run off stage, that happens a lot. And everyone thinks that you can’t train cats but you can, they are just different than dogs. Dogs will do it for free, cats need to get paid, so I pay the cats well. Clicker training, which is positive reinforcement only, works on a lot of different animals, but you have to know how the animals work, they are all different.
R: How do the cats’ personalities differ from each other? Do you have a Mick, a Keith, etc? Is there a Brian Jones that got kicked out of the band for being too difficult to work with?
SM: Well, Fiji, one of the original drummers, retired because she didn’t really want to be in the band after we lost our original guitarist. But yes, all the cats have their own personalities, and it comes out when you see them all together. Tuna’s the Star, Dakota is the diva, Nue is a flirt, etc. People think its kind of fake but when you see them all interact you can really see it. Tuna doesn’t get along with anyone, and she has her own condo, away from the other cats.
R: Do the cats enjoy listening to other bands and what bands are they into?
SM: They really just focus on their own music. I like 80s music so they do listen to that sometimes. And I think JAX likes rock n roll right now. And Alley likes Disney sountracks. Wiki would probably love Jazz….
R: Has the Rock Cats’ recent stardom (being on theLate Show with Stephen Colbert,) changed them in any way? How do they stay grounded with all the glamour that fame affords?
SM: No, they act exactly the same. Nothing really phases them, the stardom. Some have asked for more catnip and bottled water but other than that they are pretty satisfied with what they have. We just had a kickstarter for a new tour bus so it really has improved for them, more room for them and for us, so thats made everything so much better.
R: What’s next for the Rock Cats? Is there an album in the works?
SM: It’s more free form/jazz or even noise. I am not sure if anyone would buy that album! They aren’t on any major label, totally DIY, so not even sure if any of the cats would pitch in on time in the recording studio. They are too busy bathing themselves I think.
Once again, catch the Acro-Cats this week at the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater (tickets here). A show like no other!