Coming together initially for a tour of Nova Scotia. Highland Connection has featured some of northern Scotland's finest traditional musicians. including a piper from the Battlefield Band and Wolfstone‘s fiddler.
David ‘Dagger‘ Gordon. farmer and cittern/mandoline-player with the group. details the state ofplay.
‘Duncan Chisholm was having to spend more and more time with Wolfstone. and Christine Primrose lives and works in Skye and could only sing with us occasionally. so we didn‘t perform much until Janice and Ian moved up into the area.‘
[an Hardie played for years in the Edinburgh band Jock 'l'amson‘s Bairns. and is a prolific fiddle composer. with two solo albums to his credit. He shares fiddle duties in the Connection with lain MacBeath. and doubles on acoustic bass. and occasional small pipes.
Janice is one of the famous family. all great singers. who were brought up in Aberdeen. round the corner from Jeannie Robertson and the strong influence ofthe great north eastern song tradition.
‘Janice has a great voice and sings , everything from the ballads to blues. We do about half and half. instrumentals and songs. It‘s not all traditional. we do a Tim Hardin song. and one by Sting; and Janice has written some herself. She also knows her way round the neck of the guitar.
‘We‘re acoustic. I suppose you could say we‘re a bit of a throwback. not having electric guitars and drums like the contemporary bands, like Coinneach. or Wolfstone but we’re more of the sound of Altan — two fiddles. cittern and female vocals.
‘But having said that. there‘s a lot of acoustic music going on. In lnverness there‘s Spectrum. a community arts organisation which has more than a hundred learners doing traditional music. They have weekly classes and quite a few are learning mandoline. In fact there‘s a really good hand up here called Eat the Donkey with fiddle. box. guitar and two mandoline players.‘
Which might give a lie to the old saw about lnverness. It’s Never Very ; Exciting. Right ‘Nough. Even
l Highland Connection, Cafe Royal. I Edinburgh. Wed 13 Jan.
L_ -_._. .u _-____
42 The List isbgee‘e’se‘. 1992 — 1415336353”
3 goddam long? Considerthe facts:
Calvin Bush on the non-disappearance of dancefloor innovators 808 State.
It can take your average rock star upwards of twenty years‘ hard gigging, harder rocking and the hardest of lifestyles to achieve the dubious status of ‘rock dinosaur‘. But in the fleet-footed world ofclub and dance music. the epithet can be earned almost overnight. No one's more aware ofthat than Manchester's 808 State. those incessant foragers for new dance sounds and textures. They’re probably the only act signed in that flurry ofcheque-book-waving activity that surrounded the late 80s explosion of House music who are still at home with their major label benefactors. Not without reason. either. After all. this is the band who laid the foundations ofambient house with ‘Pacific State‘. pioneered grinding rave with a sonic jazz remix ofavant-garde trumpeter Jon Hasscll‘s ‘Voiceprint‘. Only now. they‘re lumbering dino-style around the country with reformed Jurassic-era ska-popsters Madness and Mogadon Merseybeat combo. The Farm.
‘Actually. Madness asked us to do this tour.‘ explains Graham Massey. co-founder ofthe band with the now-departed Martin Price. ‘and we‘ve got the album coming out soon. I was humming and ha-ing about it. but the record company just
put the pressure on and told us to go out and do it.‘
It‘s undoubtedly an uncertain pairing on a par with the band‘s headlining Stage Two performance at Glastonbury earlier this year. For Massey. however. these unusual stage settings are the perfect opportunity to impress upon the unknowing just how much 808's myriad inﬂuences have shaped a sound that‘s a thousand reference points removed from your stereotypical ‘rave' act.
‘Your average punter that says he doesn't like this kind ofmusic watches Top Of The Pops and sees Undercover or two keyboard players and a girl singing. and thinks that's dance music. When they actually get to hear us. we expect to alter a few expectations. Hopefully. they‘ll like it when actually faced with it.’
One of the reasons for 808 State‘s unusual longevity is precisely such reckless ambition to transcend the danceﬂoor sounds that spawned the band back in 198‘). while still retaining the ability to remain faithful to those roots. Hence. those unlikely collalmrations with everyone from David Bowie. Bjork Sugarcube and New Order‘s Bernie
2 Sumner in the past to the ‘l contributions on the forthcoming LP Gorgeous from ex-Bunnyman lan McCulloch and This Mortal Coil vocalist Caroline Seaman. But have their roots remained faithful to them? Apparently not, as Massey confesses.
"There was a time when we were very much ahead of the scene. whereas now the scene‘s grown into all kinds ofthings and there‘s an awful lot ofsnobbishness in those scenes. A lot ofDJs won‘t play an 808 State record without even g hearing it. They have this attitude that because we did ‘Cubik‘. the ! preconception is that we‘re dead
heavyf Bicker ye not. Graham. Wherefore Guru Josh. Adamski. Technotronic. S‘Express et al now? In their four i years. 808 State have managed to weather the collapse of the rave scene itself. Yet still they make records as enjoyably spikey. diverse and layered as 90. Ex-El and the imminent Gorgeous. Better dead heavy than dead period. perhaps?
808 State support Madness at Inglislon Exhibition Centre on Mon 21 .
‘My manager and I went to see them and got the impression they wouldn’t f be in much shape to pursue long-shot i kinds of things . . .’ And with that he wandered off into the sunset, the 3 romance of rock in his heart, an album of hi-voltage poetry in his pocket, and another record deal behind him. Two years later, the long-shot has hit home -500,000times orso. “Girlfriend”, Matthew Sweet’s third album for his third label, has sold and sold and had the critics going doo-Ially, the overdue pay-off for resilient touring of effervescent songwriting in the face of record company myopia.
‘l’ve been out touring “Girlfriend” for a year and three months, and I never guessed ltwould still be churning l along now,’ says the Nebraskan, a tad rueful but far from wearied.
But why the hell has it taken so
Sweet writes 24-carat melodies cast in lull-blooded country-rock dynamics, a champion amalgam of mid-703 New
York guitar primalism and early-90s Bellshill plaintive winsomeness- pop with a merry skip in its step and a bulge in its trousers. But don't take my faltering words for it. Richard Lloyd, Robert Guine, Ivan Julian, Fred Maher, Lloyd Cole - variously known as Lou
Reed and Thurston Moore associates, sometime members of Television, The Voidoids and, er, The Commotions, and seminal figures to a man— have all . given Sweet the seal of approval by popping up on the album and on stage. It’s stinging electric guitars to go, but wasn’t Sweet ever worried about who was playing the songs overshadowing the songs themselves? Nope.
‘I don’t usually worry about that, because the musical world of the song i and the way I record is really created by 5 me, and I like to find people who will go out on a limb, on their home turf, and just provide them with somewhere they can run free.’ 3
And consequently, ‘if you see us live we tend to be more brutal than on "Girlfriend". It's gotten pretty neanderthal in certain ways!’ (Craig McLean)
Matthew Sweet supports Del Amitri at the Barrowland, Glasgow from Mon 21-Thu 24.