Every fortnight, we spotlight Scottish musical innovators. This issue: the birthday boys and girls at Chemikal Underground.
Established? Born six years ago.
Where exactly? Originally it had its home in The Delgados kitchen, but relocated to a plush office space in Glasgow's East End.
By whom? The quartet of folks also known as The Delgados.
Not feeling much in the mood for signing a recording contract, they decide to form their own label.
Why and wherefore? It all started with their debut single ’Monica Webster/ Brand New Car’ in 1995.
Define that sound without using the word ‘eclectic' Mostly intelligent folks with guitars. Some painfully quiet, some painfully loud, all painfully good.
Who's tethered in their stable? At one point Bis and Arab Strap, but currently Magoo, Cha Cha Cohen, The Delgados, Radar Brothers, Mogwai and new kids Suckle.
And their first bona fide hit? Bis’s second single The Secret Vampire Soundtrack EP contained a tasty pop tart called ’Kandy Pop' which saw the group on Top Of The Pops. Chemikal Underground became the first label ever
The chemists: The Delgados
administered off a kitchen table to put a band in the Top 30. Any donkeys? Well, no. It's all top quality stuff.
Any throwaways that they now regret? Maybe not hanging onto Bis or Arab Strap for longer, perhaps?
Rising stars? Suckle.
Six marvellous Chemikal moments:
1 The Delgados make number one in John Peel’s Festive 50 with ‘Pull The Wires From The Wall': ’One of the most achingly beautiful songs ever written,’ declares Peely.
2 Mogwai blow the minds of the assembled masses at Glasgow's Barrowland, Autumn 1999.
3 Bis and their TOTP appearance.
4 'It was the biggest cock you've ever seen/But you’ve no idea where that cock has been.’ Arab Strap set the precedent for opening lines to albums everywhere.
5 Cowdenbeath Brass Band meet space guitar histrionics on Mogwai's Stanley Kubrick EP.
6 Arab Strap as the soundtrack for Guinness.
Current releases to look out for. Cha C ha Cohen’s self- titled debut, Radar Bros. album The Singing Hatchet and Mogwai's Come On Die Young.
What's coming up? The new Delgados album The Great Eastern arrives in April (look out for playback sessions soon). Suckle’s debut LP will appear this spring. (Mark Robertson)
Shand(y) merchants: Myllarit
Glasgow: Cafe Cossachok, Thu 3, Sun 6 & 13 Feb; 13th Note Cafe, Sun 6, Sat 12 & Sun 13 Feb.
A little about Finnish for starters. The language — related to Turkish and Hungarian rather than Russian or the Scandinavian tongues - is spoken by about 10 per cent of the population of the Russian province of Karelia, which in the post-Soviet Russian Federation, enjoys a much more transparent frontier with Finland itself. The territory IS, historically, a famous source of folklore, myth and music — a contemporary expression of which can be heard in the explosion of Finnish bands like Varttina and, arriving soon from the Russian side, eight-strong Myllarit.
The Millers (that's what it means) perform an astonishing variety of songs and instrumental music, from an austere vocal and (Estonian) bagpipe duet, to full-on dancey roots/rock using all the usual blown, plucked, squeezed and scraped instruments, and not a few exotic ones like the jouhikko, a sort of three-string fiddle/lyre with one
melody string played with the back of the fingers. All multi-instrumentalists, they tailor their set to suit the venue, and are equally at home playing acoustically to a chamber music audience or blasting out with a drums and bass back line at a world music festival.
With a just-released second album and new member Leo Sevets on kantele (zither harp), Myllarit are looking forward to returning to Scotland after the last two years’ successes at Edinburgh’s Cafe Graffiti and the Shetland Folk Festival. 'Everyone here knows the kilt and bagpipes, but that’s all really,’ explains singer and mandolinist Arto Rinne. ’We don’t get Scottish music coming to Karelia - although I think that it's not so different to our own music, and that everyone would enjoy it. But we like very much playing to people in Scotland.’ And, recalling an evidently amazing night in Jimmy Shand's home town, Rinne adds ’They are very good, very enthusiastic - we had a great audience, a great time in, how do you say it, Auchtermuchty?’
This issue: Bellatrix, those Icelandic pop wonders, are now relocated safely to London in an attempt to bring their fuzz pop mayhem to us on an even more regular basis. They tour in support of their single ’The Girl With The Sparkling Eyes', out on 14 Feb. We speak to vocalist Eliza.
Name an album that’s an unrecognised classic.
Nowhere by Ride, which I used to listen to all the time. I suppose it doesn’t date very well though. Also, loads of Ella Fitzgerald records.
Which artist or record first made you want to make music?
Probably mUSIC my mum played when l was little; things like the Beatles.
Name a song you wish you'd written? ’Something’ by George Harrison.
Name a song you're glad you never wrote.
'GOIn Down' by Mel C is one of the worst songs ever written. I feel a bit sorry for her really
Who was the first pop star you had a crush on? Elvis.
What song makes you cry?
Loads of songs — ’Something’ from the Beatles, ’Angel Eyes' by Ella Fitzgerald. I’m a real cry baby
Name a gig that changed your life. Probably the mu5ic competition we won in Iceland in 1992. That’s when I realised, "Oh, we’re a proper band now. We’d better do something."
Name a non-musical influence on your music.
Wide-open spaces and quiet, which there's a lot of in Iceland. You don’t really notice how quiet it is until you’ve lived somewhere else. I’m only just getting used to London now.
Who would be on your dream Top Of The Pops?
The Beastie Boys, the Beatles, Jeff Buckley and us. I’d like to do a duet with Elvis on 'I Was Made for Lovin You’.
What do you play as an aid to seduction?
Jeff Buckley, Ella Fitzgerald, Nick Drake and probably some Verdi.
What do you sing in the shower? Random whistling and humming.
I Bel/atrix p/ay Glasgow: King Tut’s, Fri 4 Feb; Edinburgh: Cas Rock, Sat 5 Feb.
3—17 Feb 2000 THE U3T37