Stars in their
Graham Lynch composer of To Byzantium
imagine it. You‘re a creative genius. the next Mozart. And even if you don't go that far but think you might just have a bit of ﬂair as a composer. how on earth do you let the rest of the world know'.’ For emerging composers in Scotland. it is a problem. Like so many professions. much has to do with knowing the right people and having the contacts. a not exactly fair or particularly efﬁcient means of discovering talent. Adopting a more meritocratic basis for selection — leaving aside the imponderable arguments of objectivity — is the Chamber Group of Scotland whose evenings entitled Showcase present ﬁve important premieres by accomplished. but not necessarily regularly heard. composers. All ﬁve pieces were selected after a well publicised invitation to composers to submit scores.
For Ullapool-based Graham Lynch. whose To littariritan for violin and cello opens the programme. Showcase is. he says. ‘a very good opportunity to have a piece performed. it‘s quite difﬁcult to ﬁnd outlets here. in London. the Society for the Promotion of New Music invites scores for performance. as does the Manchester Composers‘ Platform. but there‘s nothing in Scotland which is comparable.‘ in turn. this means that a composer who shuns a city lifestyle is even more disadvantaged. ‘Unless you live in cities like London or Glasgow, which is where the best ensembles and players are based. your opportunities are limited.‘
For Amanda Collins. London-bom but now living and working in Glasgow, ‘lt‘s brilliant to have a piece done by the Chamber Group of Scotland. to get it played in that level of forum.‘ Both composers are completely realistic. however, about the net result. ‘You always hope someone will hear a piece. like it and commission.‘ says Amanda Collins. ‘but there‘s never any guarantee.‘ (Carol Main)
The Chamber Group of Scotland play the RSAMD. Glasgow. Sun 28 and Queen ‘s Hall. Edinburgh. Mon 29.
rm:- Whip this
Bored senseless with Britpop? Try Whipping Boy for size. Jonathan Trew speaks to Dublin’s ﬁnest.
‘That's shite, absolute shite.‘ The subject is Britpop bands. the speaker is Ferghai McKee, Whipping Boy’s vocalist. the tone of the conversation is, as always, frank. ‘The only good band who are saying anything at the moment are Pulp. You can see that they‘ve had a good apprenticeship behind them and now they can actually say things. They can talk about the ordinary things that actually happen to people.‘
Like Pulp. Whipping Boy know about ordinary things and common people. They've lived a little, see. Unlike many of the current crop of under-age pretenders they‘ve paid their dues. They spent eight years trawling about the Dublin toilet circuit. being picked up by two independent labels (which promptly displayed an inordinate lack of manners by going belly-up), before being signed to Columbia. Their debut album on the label. released last year under the telling title of Heartworm, is splitting at the seams with a mix of venom and honey that had the critics frothing at the mouth with enthusiasm.
Needless to say it wasn't always so. Whipping Boy’s earlier gigs sound as though they were an exercise in
Whipping Boy: the whipped cream of Dublin’s talent
audience alienation. founded on confrontation and worked out in terms of instrument abuse. ‘When we started out as a band we were very much interested in guitars and. sonically, how we could make our guitars sound really good. in a live context we were interested in going out and playing one chord for forty minutes and that was what we got off on,‘ smiles bassist, Myles McDonnell. ‘We got off on punching the audience. Leave them wanting less.‘
A few years on and the band‘s sound has. thankfully, diversiﬁed and matured
‘We were interested in going out and playing one chord for forty minutes and that was what we got off on . . . punching the audience. Leave them wanting less.’
beyond one-note epics to multi-layered vignettes that are as complex musically as they are hard-hitting emotionally. Put simply, Whipping Boy don‘t pull their punches. Listening to their album can be like getting drawn into a senseless bar brawl where you lamp a mate then spend the night wandering the streets and pondering how the hell you got there. At times raucous. at times sullen or tinged with regret and often bruising. their songs are auraily demanding affairs.
The lyrics are no less inflammatory. ‘We Don‘t Need Nobody Else' is the obvious example wherein the song‘s male character calmly explains why he hit his partner for the ﬁrst time. McKee’s delivery ofthe lines is so
detached that it is chilling. ‘You can't be blind to the fact that there is domestic violence. that there is abuse of drugs and all that shit.‘ McKee pauses before emphasising. ‘And people enjoy it. That‘s the hard part. You're told not to enjoy it but people do.‘
Not that it's all doom. gloom and cathartic ﬂagellation in the Whipping Boy camp. Any suggestion that all their songs have a unifying Life is Shit theme is met with a ﬁrm slap down. ‘lt's not life is shit. life is life. it‘s what you make of it.‘ reckons McKee before McDonnell adds a pragmatic tuppence worth in the form of ‘l‘ve always found sad songs more gratifying and more comforting when you‘re down than something like Oasis. When you're down you don‘t want to be cheered up.‘
Live. their shows contain several elements that place Whipping Boy on the border between gigs and extreme perfomiance art. Previous outings have seen McKee singing bollock-naked. McKee swathed in clingﬁlm and McKee cutting himself. As the man says ‘There's a lot ofthings that have only been done once. i don't like repeating myself in every show anyway.‘
McDonnell meanwhile takes a more ambiguous view: ‘lt doesn‘t count. What counts is the music and we don't like to promote . . . you come to one of our shows and l guarantee that you‘ll either love it or hate it and there's a good chance that something will happen that you‘ll never see at another show.’
Whipping Boy play King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. Glasgow on Mon 5 Feb and The Venue. Edinburgh on Tue 6 Feb.
I36 The List 26 Jan-8 Feb 1996