Has Scottish Indie Music Ever Been In Ruder Health?

Those of us who have been around the Scottish music scene for more years than we care to remember – yes folks, the hair wasn’t always grey and used to be shoulder length in the Seventies! – are well aware that at times it has been a helter-skelter ride.

It has been both frustrating and depressing to watch Scottish bands being forced to move down to London in order to get any music media visibility and record company interest.  Why should they have to?!?!

Well, the great news is that in the past ten years there has been a seismic shift in how the Scottish music scene operates.  The emergence and growth of excellent home-grown labels such as Chemikal Underground Records – formed by members of The Delgados in 1994 – has ensured that new Scottish bands can now make it without selling their soul and moving down south.

http://www.chemikal.co.uk

Just look at the current Chemikal Scottish artists roster:

  • Aidan Moffat (with and without Bill Wells, the man is a genius and wordsmith of the highest calibre)
  • BiS
  • Conquering Animal Sound (electronica of the highest order)
  • De Rosa (yes folks, they are back with a new album release imminent)
  • Holy Mountain (thrash metal at its finest and Radical Independent Music are off to see the boys at Glasgow’s Audio on May 25th)
  • Miaoux Miaoux
  • Malcolm Middleton and his schizophrenic other half, Human Don’t Be Angry (not met a more humble and self-depreciating individual on the music scene than Malcolm)
  • R M Hubbert (or Hubby as most of us know him…post-punk flamenco guitar)
  • Emma Pollock (ex-Delgados of course and proving guitars are not just for the boys)
  • Sound of Yell
  • The Phantom Band (Scottish kraut rock, superb musicianship and their gigs are the best fun you can have without being seriously drunk or imbibing illegal substances….and believe me, we have tried!)

Impressive, or what?  Congratulations to Stewart Henderson, MD at Chemikal and his fellow ex-Delgados who are involved in the label and their fine recording studio, Chem19, with the excellent Paul Savage engineering the sound.

As an indication of how healthy the current Scottish indie scene is, Radical Independent Music’s faves, The Phantom Band, released two albums – both on vinyl LP (you can never have enough vinyl) and CD – within the space of three months and both received **** reviews in Mojo magazine.  If you’ve not yet heard “Strange Friend” and “Fears Trending”, what are you waiting for?!?!  These boys wear their Can and Neu! hearts on their sleeves and make some of the finest music you will ever have the privilege of listening to and they’ve bagged a Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) nomination for 2014’s “Strange Friend”.

http://www.phantomband.co.uk

Here are some photos Radical Independent Music took at the Phantoms most recent gig at Edinburgh’s Summerhall on 14/05/15 where an amazing time was had by all and I have to confess, I bopped away all night….not a pretty sight!

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Another indicator of how thriving the Scottish indie music scene is right now are the Scottish Album of the Year Awards nominations for this year.

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Some very fine albums indeed I am sure you will agree.

Now it’s fine being a fairly successful big fish in the relatively small pond that is the Scottish indie music scene, but the real acid test is success for our fine Scottish bands outside of their home patch.

The Twilight Sad http://www.thetwilightsad.com did not sign to a Scottish record label, but went with the very fine FatCat Records http://www.fat-cat.co.uk and did not have to move from Kilsyth to enjoy international success.

This past year has seen them release the excellent “Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave” album, which Radical Independent Music first heard played live at Birnam Arts Centre in Dunkeld (note to Scottish bands and promoters….there are serious music fans out in the sticks of rural Scotland who deserve to see gigs locally without the expense of having to trail down to the big lights of Edinburgh and Glasgow….sermon over!) and most recently at The Paradiso Club in Amsterdam where these photos were taken.

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I can personally vouch for the fact that the hall upstairs in the Paradiso Club was jammed that night and talking to my fellow Dutch music fans, most of them were there that night out of simple curiosity, they hadn’t actually heard the band before.

Well, by the end of the night James, Andy, Mark and the guys had smashed it!  The crowd were absolutely buzzing with excitement at the end of the gig and James stayed on stage bouncing around, because he knew what they had just done.

These guys are incredibly hard working and have been touring their butts off since the new album came out and are not long back from their third trip to the USA in the past twelve months.  Now the US market is notoriously difficult to crack – just ask those who have failed miserably over the years, such as Oasis – but I am pleased to report that on a recent three week trip to California, look  what Radical Independent Music found in Amoeba Records in Berkeley?

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Yes folks, despite rumours to the contrary that they only listen to The Grateful Dead or CSN&Y, our Californian cousins do have excellent taste in Scottish indie music.

On that trip I had brought with me the latest The Twilight Sad album, The Phantom Band’s “Checkmate Savage” first LP, Isa & The Filthy Tongues and  the recording of Lola In Slacks from the February Audio gig on a USB stick and played them all to my Californian and Oregon muso buddies.

I am pleased to report that they were all generally blown away by what they heard and went off in search of the albums to buy or download (vinyl I hope…you can never have enough vinyl).  Lola In Slacks they thought were “awesome” and wanted to know when physical product would be available….over to you Brian McFie and Lou Reid…quite sure you would both fancy a trip to California to distribute “Tramlines” the first single, if not, I’m your man!

I referred in an earlier posting to the collaborative work of Paul Hullah (honorary Scotsman), Martin Metcalfe, Fin Wilson and Derek Kelly – a.k.a. The Filthy Tongues – and the premiere of Scenes which was performed at Glasgow’s Audio in February.  The great news is The Filthy Tongues have been in the studio and have a new album coming out shortly and Scenes will be performed for the second time at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, in early December, where Paul is Associate Professor of British Literature (Poetry).  I also understand there may be a separate Filthy Tongues gig organised for the following night with some local Japanese bands – the Japanese adore Scottish indie music – and Radical Independent Music will be there to report on both gigs.

In the meantime, how great is this?!?!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIZAF8QiZDw

As a modern poet, Paul is unsurpassed in my humble opinion, but decide for yourselves:

LETHE WALKS

No different this year, I lie, bore’s
Blindfold on, my Short
Term Drinker’s Ticket
Nestling primed beside the onion
Placed for grown-up friends
And time in my top pocket. Behold your long
Lost samurai caught rolling out of Robbie’s
Bar in older skates and age’s earplugs: neutered,
Asperitic, hair-shirt humour worn
Like armour, half-forgotten exile’s aura
Lit with hopeful sparks of confidence,
Conniving to convince myself
That all is as it once was and will be.
Ahoy Leith Walk, you leery road, I came
Here thirty years ago and now I’ve strayed,
Decades away. O Scotland, wearing weary

Of these strangers teasing me
How tired I look, quick-irked
Like tetchy ex-pat drunks as stout Iona
Street Big Issue peddlers ask me if it kills me
Being always this annoyed. Unfriendly
Taxis pass aloof like wronged ex-wives:
I trundle back to Trinity as Lucifer castrated.
Newtown’s halo’s crackling fireworks, sharp September
Sky outside my borrowed windows, both sides fickly dry,
Since I chucked in the sauce, and till it pours:
I’m near to where I need to be and wish to be.
Old tomcat on the guttering across from me
Shoots stares at me, blinks evilly: he knows
I am a gaijin, foreign, unconvincing, new. This
Scottish haar comes creeping down the changing streets
Below me, breaks my sleep as dreams of drinking
Half my life in Lethe to remember
Here and now and me and you will always do.

Copyright Paul Hullah, All Rights Reserved.

So isn’t it great to be around the Scottish indie music scene in 2015?  The excitement and buzz is so tangible, you could almost cut it with a knife, so get out there, go to more gigs and remember….you can never have enough vinyl.

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