F'li E V'l E VV
DEE- Inside out
Billy Mackenzie turns over a few of his back pages with Beatrice Colin.
‘Some people say you should have been this or that, but I’m glad I am exactly what I want to be. I’ll take advice but I’m not going to be anybody’s puppet’
With the creased-up smile of an Eskimo, the timbre of a diva and the sex-appeal of an overgrown Cupid, Billy Mackenzie is the most famous Dundonian since Dennis the Menace. Now 35, he’s still bursting with the enthusiasm of a teenager as we sit in his luxurious Fife country pad discussing his first solo album, Outernarional. Surrounded by pictures ofwhippets and stroking Rosie, the British Champion (really), he’s come a long way from the ex-clothes designer with Gypsy blood who de-camped to London in the late 70s.
Mackenzie has that rare talent - he can really sing. Five-and-a-halfoctaves and he never practices. Yet his gift has always been undermined commercially by his unwillingness to play with the big boys. In the mid-80$, his band, The Associates, gained nationwide hipdom and a supermarket-trolley full of hit records with a clutch ofsongs about loveboats and parties. The party ended when he was unceremoniously dropped from WEA for supposedly behaving like a spoilt brat. He quickly jumped sideways to Circa Records but forfeited the release of The Glamour Chase on which he had worked for two years, and recorded The Associates last album, Wild And Lonely. ‘a rushed affair‘, in six months. The title proved prophetic and the records lukewarm reception prompted a move to the States for a change ofscene.
Hundreds of Greyhound buses and late nights in Clubland later, and Mackenzie had so truly lost
himself, that he (gulp) found himself. He ditched the corporate identity of a band and decided to go it alone.
‘When I was 21 , I had a very low opinion of myself. I was squatting in London and a lot of my friends were on heroin. I wasn’t, but I may as well have been. It’s that story, the young man who goes down to London and walks the stony path. I went into relationships with people I shouldn‘t have. It wasn’t a good foundation to build on. Now, I’m more like I was when l was fourteen. It’s not that I don’t need people — I love people — but now I’m much more liberated. It’s not a person who will make me happy, it’s music, freedom and being able to be detached.’
Outernational, is a strident, shimmering piece of cool-headed groove. Mackenzie’s voice skims over seamless dance rhythms with a new maturity, sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, but always effortlessly soulful. Produced by two Germans, his one-time drummer, Moritz Von Oswald and Thomas Fehlmann, the album was recorded in
Berlin and Zurich after a couple of their club mixes of old Associates tracks fell into his hands.
‘I have these shafts. People come into my life every couple of years and we’re good for each
other,’ he muses. ‘I think there’s a really
exhilarating element to this album. It’s a celebration. Songs like ‘Colours Will Come’ (the current single) and ‘In Windows All’, are quite pure. A lot of people are displaced in society and if you can just hold on to your dreams . . .’ Discarding the personal and embracing the
global, he is even keen to leap back on board the
pop-go-round which he so despises. ‘I don’t feel part of the music industry. It’s been this really lethal cocktail in my life of being frustrated and hyper-excited for about fifteen years. Yet when the right elements are there it’s transcendental. It’s the greatest high you could ever imagine.’ Billy Mackenzie smiles and you get the feeling he’s just about to catch the hare.
Outernational is on Circa Records.
Picture this, Carl Puttnam, you who laid down such powerlul vocals on the slightly surreal new Cud LP ‘Asquarius' that your record company has you pegged as the new Rod Stewart. You dream you’re sitting an exam and the ilrst question is ‘Cud: a wacky band. Discuss’.
‘Uh. We hate being called wacky. We get called that all the time. We’re pretty serious really. Apart irom wacky
we get called diiiicult, and i think we get called those things tor the same reason. li you don't coniorm these days, you’re automatically dliiicult,
‘9' 0 ‘v (40¢
even in the world oi supposed “altemative” music. The same with the wacky tag. We just can’t do what we do sometimes and keep a straight lace. David Bowie's so po-iaced. I’d laugh my head oil it our guitarist wrote a song called “Aladdin Sane”.’
But there is the Cud legend to contend with. Care to illuminate us on some oi the more established audience traditions, Cari?
‘They've been bringing along purple balloons ior about two years now.’ This, it appears, emerged irom a misunderstanding. ‘And we used to have bananas thrown at us all the time. In Norwich, ior some reason, they all throw cardboard iish at us. We had to delete a line irom a song which went something like “You throw iried eggs
at me at breakfast”. We thought: No way!’
And there we must leave Carl Puttnam: a man who is now so iamous that he tears walking openly in Leeds on a Saturday. Carl Puttnam: a man with an unknockable taste tor the tacky.
‘l've got an LP oi the music irom “Hair”, and it’s a real nail MFP version rather than the proper Broadway version, and the sleeve oi “Asquarius” is exactly the same, even to the ioided-over cardboard on the back oi the sleeve. it's a pastiche, but your Indie band would be going tor a Velvets or a Stones sleeve and we pick MFP.’ (Alastair Mabbott)
Cud play Strathclyde University on Fri 2 and Edinburgh University on Mon 5.
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: THUNDER 0 BBC 880 O SUGAR O SINEAD LP
The List 25 September — 8 October 1992 25