THE SHAMEN’s transformation
from psychedelic indie popsters to 24-hour party people has cost them
all but two members, but resulted in a
run of successful dance- rock fusions. ‘It’s all very vague,’ says Colin Angus. Is that because you’re watching with your eyes closed? asks Alastair Mabbott.
egg. The Shamen were to be the latest in a line of up-and-coming Scottish pop hopefuls to lend a song to a McEwan‘s Lager ad. and were paid a substantial sum in advance. Only at the press screening of the completed commercial did the brewery discover that the group approved of pornography for its ‘honesty and extremity". openly discussed their drug use and used ‘porno-political‘ slides ofthe Pope and the Royal Family in their live shows. Even the song they had been asked to contribute. ‘llappy Days‘. was in fact a sweetly-coated attack on the Falklands mentality. The ad was pulled the day before its first scheduled transmission. and the boys‘ photo was plastered over the papers under headlines promising the ‘sordid truth‘ about things they‘d never made any secret of. Most ironically of all. The Shamen were removed from the bill of the Scottish & Newcastle-sponsored Mayfcst indie night for their ‘anti-social‘ habits to be replaced by. wait for it. Gaye Bykers on
Acid. Phew. that‘s better. [fall that was just a misunderstanding. it showed how easy
free publicity is to come by. Later in ~88. they started franking their mail ‘Jesus is a Lie' as a response to the Post Offices ‘Jesus is Alive‘ postmark. which they found
an obnoxious message to send through the letterboxes ofevery household in Britain. regardless ofthe addressee‘s faith. Rent- a-quote MP Geoffrey Dickens denounced them. as did Mario Conti. Bishop of Aberdeen. From the pulpit. no less.
A confrontation with the Jesus Army was staged for the benefit of a Melody Makerjournalist. And the new single? Well. by an amazing coincidence. it was an attack on fundamentalist preachers called ‘Jesus Loves Amerika‘. Funny that.
They haven‘t resorted to such combinations of social comment and scam since. and their lyrics are noticeablyless biting and vengeful. but they wouldn‘t like to be thought ofas complacent. It dismays Colin that despite a mood of ‘unity. harmony and love . . . there‘s a definite lack of any hardlinc political thought or action or organisation. It's all very vague. unlike the situation in the (i()s. when things were quite politicised within the counter-culture.‘
But what about The Shamen themselves? On what level are they a political group these days?
‘I don’t think we ever were. really.‘ replies the man behind “l lappy Days‘. ‘There are politics on the new album. but I‘m not sure what sort of politics I would describe them as.‘ Nebulous.l would venture. amounting as they do to samples ofspeeches by South African preacher Alan Boesak on the first and last tracks. From a group that dedicated a song to Mrs Thatcher called ‘Shitting on Britain‘. complete with ploppy sound effects. this is a shade disappointing. but probably has more to do with the generally optimistic climate rather than the effects of Ecstasy on The Shamen themselves.
Long before it was fashionable. The Shamen have selectively endorsed certain chemicals which ‘transform your own consciousness in a positive. benevolent sort of way". At times. it’s seemed like that was the group‘s rais'tm d'etge. but they have apparently grown warier of discussing that aspect oftheir lives. Still. some things have a habit of cropping up when you least want them to. Take the title of their new album. [in- Tact.
‘lt‘s very much up to the person who reads it. but roughly you could say “en” is in or within. “tact” is touch. so it could be feeling within. in touch. innertouch . . . . Interestingly. although we thought we‘d made up the word. it‘s also being used to describe a new generation of mind-changing substances over in the States. Ifntactogenic — putting you in touch with within. Quite often. new things crop up independently of each other.’
Ifyou think he uttered that last part sheepishly. think again. It seems that synchronicity makes up for the embarrassment that the title they innocently picked for their new album is one howling great drug reference after all. If he isn't fibbing about making the word up in the first place.
Colin was brieﬂy a psychiatric nurse. and this fact is often dangled as some kind ofexplanation ofhis interest in altered states of mind. These days. The Shamen are more likely to be found gazing at their [)reamachine than shovelling tabs of F. down the hatch. The device was invented by beatnik visionary Brion (iysin after he experienced ‘a transcendental storm of colour visions‘
w hen driving past a row oftrees with the setting sun behind them. As is now well known. flickering effects stimulate certain brain functions. Strobes are notorious for causing fits in epileptics. but the [)reamachine has much more benign effect. It can also be made with a 32in x 32in piece of-l—ply card with a pattern of holes cut
in it. an old turntable that revolves at 78rpm and a hanging liglitbulb. it‘s also meant to be viewed with the eyes closed. so colourful sticky-backed plastic is optional.
"They‘re quite easy to knock up.‘ says the man with two first names. ‘and it‘s not mi'ndblowing. but it does have a noticeable effect. it gives you a mild meditation-like state -- kind of dreamy. with lots of visual imagery. It starts off with bright colours which then become geometric patterns and after about twenty minutes you get this trancelike state and the visuals move beyond the geometric and become scenes from other places. other times. it‘s a good little toy.‘
And ‘scenes from other places. other times’ isn't mindblowing‘.’ Verily. (‘olin Angus brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘jaded‘. Still. the tide is turning ‘beyond drugs'. as it was in the late (ids. and this time there‘s not just a haphazard sprinkling ofopportunistic gurus around. but a horde ofentreprcneurs. mainly in California. ready to flog mind expansion gear that is to (iysin's Dreamachine what the Hubble telescope is to a pair of bi-t‘ocals. That is. if we are to believe the hype. The New Agers are big on these devices already. and Colin hopes that they‘ll take off here.
‘I think the price is still a bit high for most people. but I like to think there would be aday when. if not every borne would have one. then something like it. There‘s going to be a lot more exciting brain machines than those. There‘s all the stuff about hyper-reality. virtual reality. cyberspace . . . .‘
indeed. The sky’s the limit. And why stop there?
The Shamen appear at ( i/as‘gow ( 'ollege of Building and Printing on Sat 27am! ('a/ton Studios. Edinburgh on 510128. J
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