EVERY bit the easygoing lad of the Miami 7 heyday, Paul Cattermole reminisces fondly about his years with the band which propelled him to stardom. Although things, even then, were not quite as dandy as they appeared. On the face of it he had all, fame, a gaggle of fans at home and all over Europe (my brother and I leading the charge for the Paris contingent), chart-topping hits and his own TV show; but a growing frustration at constantly being sidelined, always a few paces behind the leads, had started bubbling up.
Tired of playing second fiddle, he eventually took a bow in 2002. A year later the rest of the group split. “I just wanted a chance to sing,” he says matter-of-fact. “When I first went for the band, it wasn’t actually an audition, it was an interview. I didn’t have to sing, which is a shame, and that was it. They were never going to let me sing in the band so they didn’t care whether I could sing or not – dear or dear!,” he brushes it all off lightly. “That’s why I ended up leaving,” continues Paul, who had already met band member Hannah through the National Youth Theatre before they were both cast in S Club 7. “I just wanted a decent song to sing. It didn’t have to be a single; I just needed it to be a decent song.” Nearly a year into his “first ever professional stage job” – or jobs – shouldering the roles of Eddie and Dr Scott in the latest national tour of Rocky Horror Show, he has more than made up for lost time, and crucially, proved his mettle as a singer worthy of airtime. Even though, he admits, the show’s conspicuous world of excess, fluid sexuality and enduring cult following, with its legions of mouthy (and armed – bag searches have become a pre-show ritual to root out improvised projectiles) groupies is worlds apart from his stock-in-trade. Audiences’ crude interruptions, relentless heckles and hair-trigger sallies are storied – and while these asides ensure the racy musical never gets stale, they have been known to blindside even the most seasoned of stagers.
“Sometimes it’s what generates the energy and it makes it tick along,” he enthuses. “This is not really printable,” he warns stifling a laugh. “But there have been three or four times when somebody has shouted something where I’ve had to literally hold down, really grip, to not be put off, start cracking up because it’s funny, or stop because you’ve completely forgotten what’s coming next. You’re flustered and knocked out of the groove. Once, in a very serious bit, someone shouted in a very strong Glaswegian accent, ‘Ball bag!’. It was one solo voice really loud. The accent gives it gravitas; the swearing has a certain strength to it.”
His foray into musical theatre may seem a tad left-field. But for Paul, who trained at the exclusive Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and only ever aspired to act, it has been decades in the making. Though, he confides, he had near on given up on theatre until his stint in Rocky Horror Show. Even then, as with anything in showbiz, he had to earn his place(s) fair and square.
“I don’t think I ever gave up but I’ve always gone where the work is. And there were many parts I wanted to play but for a while I didn’t think it would happen. But instead of being grumpy about it, I just carried on with other things,” he says without bitterness. “I did want to be an actor but you grow up and get a bit more realistic.
“I just went for it and auditioned. I wasn’t tracked down or anything,” he explains. “You vary rarely get headhunted, especially these days. Things have changed a lot, even in the days since S Club. There’s a lot more competition. You have to prove yourself and that can go on for quite a while. There are celebrity types who have done five, six shows and they’re still not accepted in the theatre world.
“I was a bit rusty,” he confesses. “When I was at drama school I was 20, I was really flexible and up with the dancing. Now my knees won’t let me do triple pirouettes,” volunteers the 39-year-old with a hint of derision. “And when you get into the big leagues of musical theatre that’s the bare minimum!”
“Back full circle”, he hasn’t reneged his time with the S Club 7 and his thoughts wander to the good times rather than the frustration of later years. The group’s spin-off TV shows gave him ample opportunity to scratch his itch to act, if not sing. It only takes a throwaway comment about his former bandmate and ex-girlfriend Hannah Spearritt’s pitchy squeal in the French version, to prompt an anecdote about the band’s dismay at Jo’s macho dubbing in German.
“The German one was the main one we got stuck on,” he laughs heartily. “Jo’s voice was so funny, I think it was a guy’s voice. It used to make us crack up.”
His close bond with his fellow bandmates, even after their split, convinced him, despite some initial misgivings, to agree to a reunion tour. It was a mixed bag by his own admission, but as is plain from his refreshingly candid answers and mellow outlook, he is not one for regrets or dwelling.
“It was a bit tricky but I fancied doing it. There was quite a lot of disagreement between the management about what sort of show we should be doing. They wanted to put on a show like we were all kids again and I thought we should be playing to our strengths and do a more mature thing. We made a bit of a mistake there but it’s done. I didn’t think it was very good,” he says breezily.
It certainly doesn’t get more ‘mature’ than Rocky Horror Show, what with the debauched transvestite scientist Frank-N-Furter, Brad and Janet’s sexual roundelay, expletives galore and all-around scantily clad cast – not least Paul.
Clearly, playing ragged and bloodied guinea pig Eddie and his wheelchair-bound uncle Dr Scott has stoked a new fire in him, or resurrected a hunger for the stage relegated by a stunted pop career.
“I love it everyday, I wake up, pull back the curtains and seize the day,” he booms. “This, now, is the highlight of my career. It’s definitely woken me up.”