Haydn Symphony No. 88 & Mahler Symphony No. 7

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

21st May 2017

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This varied and rich programme chosen and conducted by Thomas Dausgaard, commences with Haydn’s Symphony No. 88.  Completed in 1787, it belongs firmly to the classical era; ordered, harmonious, light hearted and a delight to listen to.  Haydn, considered to be the ‘father of the symphony’ was a friend and mentor of Mozart and to me his music is similarly as joyful and exhilarating.  It is written in four parts, the slow largo movement is considered one of his best, the melody is played by solo cello and oboe to which the whole orchestra reply to at various points.  Brahms after hearing this movement is said to have commented that ‘I want my 9th symphony to sound like this’!  The minuet and trio is evocative of folk music of Hungary, Haydn was born on the border of Austria and Hungary and his father was a keen folk musician.   In the finale the tempo picks up but the music remains dainty and light hearted.  Haydn was known for his good humour and his love of practical jokes.  Perhaps seen by many as lacking the tragic allure of Mozart, his early years were difficult making his own way in music, he was afflicted by smallpox, and his face bore many scars, and he married unhappily to the sister of a woman who he had been in love with.  Obliged to stay with each other, they both took lovers and never had children.  He lived to the age of 77.

Moving forward more than 100 years, the orchestra turned to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 7, a long and complex symphony.  The movements are quite varied but notably with dark undertones.  The night movements were written first, the 1st, 3rd and 5th movements came after a period of composer’s block culminating in a boat trip across a lake where his inspiration at last re-surfaced.  A work of the late romantic era; louder, more dramatic, more atonal, such works continue to be controversial.  However this work despite its challenges is compelling, with genuine melody and subtlety.  The second movement is more subdued with the night music, Mahler compared it to Rembrandt’s ‘the night watch’ a quiet march punctuated by the main theme.  The scherzo continues in a spooky fashion with shrieking motifs, distorted waltzes and mourning strings.  In the 4th night movement the romantic melody is the symphony’s most charming, and yet the darker tones remain.  Mahler used a number of unusual instruments in this movement; a solo mandolin and guitar offer the romantic serenade.  However as with many love themes there is an air of sadness.  The finale picks up in mood and takes on a triumphant air, quite different to the previous movements, Mahler himself described it in the phrase “the world is mine!”.   It is thought from a letter written to his wife around that time that he had begun to recognise the importance of a positive attitude, especially in the context of relationships.  However Mahler had something of an artistic temperament and forbade his wife from composing music, which she was frustrated by. She eventually had a surreptitious affair which Mahler was very upset by and visited Sigmund Freud, who advised him to allow his wife her own musical freedom, which he duly did.  But sadly for him she continued her affair, and we could surmise from his music that his love for her was genuine but frequently overshadowed by his (and her) artistic temperament.  Mahler was born in Bohemia to Jewish parents and died at 51 due to a heart condition.  Following his diagnosis he made some changes to this symphony before it premiered, which may have added to its darker undertones.

Thomas Dausgaard’s love of these two pieces is clearly evident and his enthusiasm and engagement with these pieces and the excellent Scottish symphony orchestra is clearly evident.  I also enjoyed the fact that the works are quite different and from different eras.  The Usher Hall is a lovely venue, classical music is good for the brain, so make sure you check out the BBC Scottish symphony orchestra.

Reviewer : Sophie Younger

An Interview with Andy Duncan

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Andy Duncan, far right, the pulsing heart of the Miracle Glass Company

Hi Andy, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m from a small town in central Scotland called Stenhousemuir (occasionally known as ‘Stenhousemuir nil’). I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a good few years now though.
You’re the drummer with Edinburgh’s coolest new band, the Miracle Glass Company, when did you first pick up the sticks?
I got my first toy drumkit when I was about 4, but didn’t play a proper kit until I was 12 at school. I’d been getting piano lessons but didn’t really enjoy the classical nature of them, so when I realised hitting things was a viable musical option I got straight on it. I got my first proper kit when I was 14 and haven’t looked back.
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Who are your inspirations in the drumming spheres?
When I started I would drum along to Hendrix, Nirvana and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and I think there is still a strong Mitchell, Grohl, Smith element to my style. I’m not a massive fan of highly technical drummers, and for a long time I avoided practising in case I got too good… I have a lot of time for Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) and Ringo – keep it simple and serve the song.
Which bands have you played with before the Company?
I’ve been very lucky to play in two Edinburgh institutions – Miyagi and The Black Diamond Express.
Who writes the songs for the band?
Our aim is to be very democratic and have an equal input to the band in all areas. This includes songwriting so we all write songs for the band, and then develop them together. The initial writing is usually an individual thing but we have been doing some more in the way of collaborating right from the start of the writing process recently.
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You guys are capable of some velvety harmonies – whats the creative process behind these?
Thank you. We’re very proud of our harmonies and spend a lot of time working on them. Most of the time the placement of harmonies comes quite naturally in the song development and notes chosen are down to the individual. Sometimes we need to work it out a bit more to get them the best they can be. Then it’s a case of practise, practise, practise. That’s the only way to get the blend right.
What are your favorite tunes in the repertoire?
They’re like children – I have my favourites but I could never tell you for fear of upsetting the others. They’re all special.
Where will you be playing this summer?
We’re about to go out on tour in support of our new single T.R.O.U.B.L.E. – London, Brighton, Liverpool and Wrexham. Then we have some very cool gigs lined up in the summer at Shuffle Down Festival (in my home town), XpoNorth in Inverness, King Tut’s in Glasgow and a new festival in Dundee called Carnival Fifty Six which looks really cool. We also have a residency in Edinburgh at The Voodoo Rooms called ‘Late Night in the Big City’ which is every two months. We’ve had two this year already and they have been epic. There are some very exciting plans for the next one in June!
What does the rest of 2017 have in store for Andy Duncan?
More MGC! We’re currently working on new material for our second album MGC 2 in between touring, and are looking to record that later in the year. In the meantime there will be more gigs, videos and other exciting projects coming thick and fast
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Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique

Usher Hall 

Edinburgh

28 April 2017

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This wonderful evening commenced with Alexander Scriabin’s Reverie, a short but powerful orchestral piece written at the young age of 26, it certainly does have a dream like quality, sadly beautiful.  It starts softly with the tragic melody introduced by the woodwind section, followed by the strings and full orchestra, the music builds and becomes a little more triumphant before descending again into sadness and the return of the opening melody.  Scriabin’s later works became more atonal making use of the mystic chord, highlighting his interest in theosophy. He was also fascinated by the relationship between colour and tone.  A frail and short-statured man who was brought up by his extended family after his mother died when he was 1.  He died at 43 of septicaemia.

This was followed by Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin concerto no 2.  The brilliant Russian born Sergev Krylov, a violin playing prodigy from the age of 5, begins unaccompanied with a bitter sweet harmony, which is taken up by the orchestra moving down into the basses and violas.  Krylov then begins a demanding ‘perpetuum mobile’ technically fiendish but delightful to listen to.  The melody is based on traditional Russian folk music.  The second movement continues with the solo violin’s fast paced melody becoming increasingly complex and passionate.  The third movement is a rondo, the melody of the violin continues increasingly manically with more dissonance and drum beats from the orchestra.  I thoroughly enjoyed this technically difficult and engaging piece.  Prokofiev is widely regarded as one of the major composers of the twentieth century.

The programme concluded with Tchaikovsky’s symphony no 6 in B minor Pathetique, meaning emotional or passionate.  Tchaikovsky died 9 days after the premiere in 1893; he regarded the symphony as a work of therapy and catharsis, having suffered years of depression and angst over his homosexuality.  There is a characteristic recurring love theme.  The opening adagio is poignant if a little pessimistic but a beautiful melody emerges which follows into the more lively allegro, a solo clarinet softly plays the melody until it is barely audible after which the music builds to a climax.  The dramatic and bold 3rd movement encompassing the full orchestra remains largely optimistic in mood building to a bold climax.  The concluding slower movement returns to the more poignant b minor with a suggestion of impending tragedy, punctuated by the love theme, it fades to a brooding end..  Tchaikovsky intended the work to be enigmatic and it is thought there was a secret programme that he wouldn’t reveal.  Did he have a sense of his impending fate?  We will never know, but his musical legacy will continue to be enjoyed by so many.  The distinguished Nikolaj Zneider, also an acclaimed violinist who has worked with the world’s top orchestras, deftly conducted the RSNO in this accomplished and enjoyable performance.

Reviewer : Sophie Younger

An Interview with Hayley Gee

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Hi Haylee, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking
Born in Edinburgh grew up in Livi. Right now in Dykes Road – that’s not joking, that’s where we live haha.

What inspired you to become a rapper
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a rapper I wanted to be a firefighter but got a criminal record for silly driving chases from cops etc. I’ve always wrote poems and songs from a very young age. Was on the way to Glasgow when I met my first Scottish rapper. he told me to spit some bars, I did, he was impressed and then a week later he pushed me to freestyle over eves greatest hits cd. took the wrong turn to Carlisle but was worth it.

What do you think of the Scottish hip-hop scene
The Scottish hip hop scene… I’ve met the good the bad and the ugly. There’s amazing support in Edinburgh and Glasgow etc but there is a lot of jealousy and ego causing drama so I now tend to not get involved anymore with people like that. It’s the same with real life. Just sticking with the ones who are real and stood by me. Learned the hard way haha but there is a massive rise in emerging talent from Scotland. It’s very refreshing to see.

Who are your musical inspirations
My main inspiration is Marilyn Manson I went to see him at 12. Well Eminem was who I went to see and refused to watch Manson cos my granny just died – she was Catholic and he burned crosses in videos. I thought he was the devil but little did I know at the time until I saw him dedicate a song to a girl who committed suicide and I fell in instant musical love. His performance was so bold and entertaining. I got home and next week I went out and bought any album I could get my hands on. He taught me to embrace the real me.

What subjects motivate you to write your lyrics
My songwriting. Used to be about exs now its politics, frenemies and story telling of things that I see or go through. It helps me to understand the life I’m living. It helps me cope.

How do you find being a female rapper in a predominantly male field
I love being a female rapper in a predominantly male field cos I’m one of the boys. You get a few lassies doing their thing (some are brilliant), you get others who just enjoy male attention a bit too much – but that’s not me. I thrive on the bad energy that comes my way and embrace the good. I got a lot of stick for being myself but it’ll never stop me. I should been born male. My mum said the doctor said I was a wee boy trapped in a girls body I think that was the inner rap man wanting out, big balls an all!

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Can you tell us about your band, Devils in Skirts
My band are my entire life. I have had many devils over the years but these at the present are the greatest I have had the honour to make music with. We are rap Rock, punk hop and anything we can get our hands on to add our devilish twist. All are talented in their own way. Two music teachers in the band and some fresh new personalities. Devils in Skirts is named because we’re mental – all of us! The name sorta is a statement about being a female-fronted band in rap, about women calling all the shots. We’re very Scottish, and I use my Scottish accent proudly – that’ll never change. Fundamentally, we’re just about being shamelessly ourselves.

What are yours & the band’s plans for 2017
2017 is going to be a very busy year for us. We’ve already done about 20 gigs so far this year, with plenty more planned for Scotland and beyond. The next big one for us will be in London in just a couple of weeks, then the week after Isle of Arran with our best-band-pals. We’re looking at investing in a campervan, just need to make sure it’s good enough to drive around the Devils. Lastly, we’re planning our tour for Amsterdam and Berlin. We’re lucky to have met some brilliant artists who are leading the way to help get our name outside of Scotland

An Interview with Stazy Chant

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THE MUMBLE : Hello Stazy, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?

STAZY : Awrite, Mumble. We’re from a lovely wee village on the east coast of Scotland called Leith.

THE MUMBLE : When did you first realise you were a musician

STAZY : I think I’m still waiting to realise that I’m a musician. I’m more of an ideas man with hear vision. No bad at rhythm guitar. We all played different instruments on the new album but dunno if you’d call it musicianship. I just watched that Take That special and Jason Orange was tapping a tambourine.

 

THE MUMBLE : How were your influences in the early days, & have they changed over the years

STAZY : The band as a whole has got too many influences to mention, and not just musically speaking. Every day is an influence. I’ve got an old Top Of The Pops on the telly just now and I was thinking that this was probably a big influence on me as a wee skid mark. Thursday at half 7, couldnae beat it. Rod the Mod is number 1 this week.

 

THE MUMBLE : So can you tell me about Frantic Chant?

STAZY : There’s a song on the Ride It Like A Shark album called Surf Daft and the chorus goes “We do what we want and we don’t give a fuck”. That probably sums up Frantic Chant. If you like us, sound. If not, sound. All our album sales pay for the next one, so as long as that keeps happening we’re happy.

Our drummer, Col, runs the label as well. He’s still sending out copies of our last two albums, Oscillator and Ride It Like A Shark, to happy customers every week, so hopefully that continues with this album.

 

THE MUMBLE : You’ve just released your seventh album album, The Glass Factory, there’s a hell lot of songs on it, what’s that all about on a song-writing level and can you tell us how it was recorded?

STAZY : The plan was to do 9 tunes but over time and space that escalated to 21. As far as songwriting goes, nobody ever comes in with a full tune, it’s usually a couple of chords or a riff or a line or something and we kick it about a bit and see what happens.

Most of the lyrics were done well into the recording, so we took time and could fuck about with harmonies and that. We went a bit radge with the orchestration and overdubs on a couple of numbers, with 8 minutes of us “ohmming” being one. There’s a good mix of 4 minute catchy tunes and 11 minute journeys of aural discovery.

A couple of the songs came about while waiting on everyone turning up to the studio. If there’s an idea, get it down. We first went to, our producer, Elle’s studio and spent a few weeks recording tracks that were 3 acoustic guitars and a couple of bongos. We then packed up the gear and moved into our space in Leith where we recorded the stuff that would benefit from us being in full flight.
We went back to Elle’s to work on about 15 songs. We spent ages on overdubs and because there’s always something to play in a studio, someone would come up with another tune. We’d all get distracted by this, join in and then that would get finished and put on tape there and then.

One of the tunes was done with a drum machine at, Darren, our bass player`s studio with Nick playing Darren’s right handed guitar (Nick’s left footed) and we just kept that more or less the same as Nick couldn’t play the same way with his good hand.
The Memory Song came from a nice motif that Darren had follow him which we then took it through Morocco via The White Album. We called it The Memory Song because we kept forgetting the titles we had for it.

We know Colin from the band Bombskare and knew he was sound so we asked him if he was up for playing trumpet on a track. The four songs his trumpet eventually ended up on are a perfect mesh of Psych and Soul. It’s quite a good time really.

THE MUMBLE : Do you have any live gigs coming up this year?

STAZY : We’re playing at Leith Depot on the 20th of May, which is the first gig since the CD came out, so we’ll have a few to punt on the night.

We’re also playing the Carnival 56 Festival in Dundee in August alongside Mark Ronson, Basement Jaxx, Clean Bandit, Hot Chip, The Fratellis and many other esteemed popular acts from the hit parade. No doubt we’ll be adding more dates as the year goes on and we’re looking at heading down south for a few to help spread the word.

 

THE MUMBLE : What does Stazy Chant like to do when he’s not making kick-ass music?

STAZY : Caving.

SALTIRE VENUS

 

As vogue goes, the current rising trajectory of female artists budding in the Scottish music scene will likely rotate into something else but during the course of the last twelve months, a welcome spate of talented, exciting, and tumultuous women has muscled their way to the front of ones to watch – and importantly, listen to. Somehow, it doesn’t seem so coincidental that a new ‘Wonder Woman’ film is earmarked for release in 2017.
Poet Stephen Watt investigates.

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For the past thirty years, Scotland has had two female pop stars – Annie Lennox of The Eurythmics and Sharleen Spiteri of Texas. Everyone knows that. No others. Not one. Well, except Shirley Manson – the firecracker frontwoman of Garbage. And Clare Grogan, leading lady of Altered Images and Gregory’s Girl actress. And Eddie Reader, and KT Tunstall, and Amy MacDonald, and Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins), and Isobel Campbell (Belle and Sebastian), and Emma Pollock (The Delgados), and Helen Marnie (Ladytron), and Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches), and Emeli Sande, and Dot Allison (One Dove/Massive Attack), and Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade), and… I think the point has been made. Scotland has a wealth of cherished female artists who have been delivering sweet strains and punk perspectives for decades and it isn’t until one really examines their record collection that it becomes so alarmingly obvious that their songs are what consoled you during that bitter break-up, reassured you before that significant job interview, or stimulated you to make those changes in your life which had become habitual.

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There’s never been a lack of talented women in Scottish music, but there has been a lack of female musicians who have broken through  Josephine Sillars

A pending viewpoint would be whether or not a strong female presence in the Scottish music scene has always been prevalent – if somewhat unappreciated – or if the evolvement of an intoxicating female presence across the country heralds the beginning of an innovative progression in readdressing the gender disparity. Fife punk outfit The Twistettes consist of sisters Jo and Nicky D’Arc, a two-piece force of nature, who moved to Glasgow to create their own fuss. “There weren’t many local examples of women in the music scene in Fife”, states frontwoman Jo – I suppose the cities may have been more accessible but I think a lot has changed over the years. Living in Glasgow means I know a lot of female musicians so it’s easy to think that there’s a strong female presence – but there still aren’t enough women being encouraged to pick up an instrument on the whole”. Likewise, central belt outsider, songstress Josephine Sillars sings in her newly-released single, ‘everybody’s got their problems with power’, but she detects a move away from the conventional billings: “When I first started playing Glasgow (Josephine hails from the Scottish Highlands), it was dominated by bills of male musicians. That has definitely changed, and I think a lot has to do with confidence – not in the musicians, but in the bookers and promoters. Bands such as Honeyblood, and more recently with Kathryn Joseph, have inspired a confidence in booking female musicians. There’s never been a lack of talented women in Scottish music, but there has been a lack of female musicians who have broken through”.

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Initiatives such as Girls Rock Glasgow and Girls Rock Edinburgh help provide free instruments and lessons for young girls to pick up and explore in safe spaces
Carla Easton, TeenCanteen/Ette 

Herein lies the crux. There remains a need for women to be booked, written about, featuring at regular events for reasons other than achieving an agreeable male-female ratio which questionably addresses any imbalance. TeenCanteen and Ette keyboardist/singer Carla J Easton has appeared as one of the hardest-working and promising talents in the country over the past handful of years. “There are more females making music in Scotland than when TC started in 2012”, she offers – “Certainly more all-female or predominantly female groups, but I’d argue there’s always been a strong presence of women making music in Scotland since the early eighties when mass unemployment and social politics levelled the gender divide and everyone picked up an instrument and formed a band in a glorious burst of DIY subculture. Sophisticated Boom Boom, Twinset, The Shop Assistants, Sunset Gun, The Vaselines, The Fizzbombs, Rote Kapelle – that’s just a handful of bands that were all active when the Scottish pop scene exploded and all feature amazing female musicians. I see it happening again now and it’s truly amazing! Initiatives such as Girls Rock Glasgow and Girls Rock Edinburgh certainly help cultivate this environment – providing free instruments and lessons for young girls to pick up and explore in safe spaces”.

Referring to the genesis of TeenCanteen, Easton heeds that there was no blueprint for a women-only line-up: “When any band forms, you form it with friends. Under the name Zuzu’s Petals was myself, Sita (former band-mate in Futuristic Retro Champions) and had studied at college with, Debs – best friend since aged 11 – and her cousin Ross Dickson, who then moved to London for work. I asked my friend Emma to join because she could play guitar and sing, and similarly when Chloe joined, she was a friend who could sing and play bass, and learned to play guitar to join the band. Because she was one of my best friends, I knew she would and that was the missing piece”. Easton continues, “I noticed having three girls up front and singing could generate harmonies descending from the girl-group records from 58-63 that I love obsessively. There’s something quite powerful when you stack three female voices together that just gets me every time. I call it my own ‘utopia’ when we sing together and bend and shift”. The Twistettes incarnation shows similarities, having blended female only gender and mixed bands before finding the formula which worked for them. D’Arc explains: “There was no real reason other than practicality. We’re sisters and have played in bands together for years. I wouldn’t say there was much difference between all-female bands and mixed bands – it all depends on personalities and we’ve been lucky that pretty much everyone we’ve played with have been cool”.

Patriotism can often be so imperceptible that it coils itself into the mindset and become perceived as the accustomed way of things. This is apparent where men rub themselves against women at live gigs, or online trolling/domineering male attitudes comes to the fore such was the case of Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry in 2015. As a high-energy, unmanaged punk band, it may come as no surprise that The Twistettes have been on the end of unsavoury behaviour by male punters in the crowd: “At one gig, a drunk, boisterous guy kept shouting to me while I was singing, saying ‘You’re lovely…. look at your legs…. etc.’. I don’t know what he was expecting me to do but after continually ignoring his advances, he lifted a monitor speaker in front of me and banged it down. I felt quite freaked out, and then he began swinging himself up on stage. I saw red and stopped playing to kick him square in the back out of our space and shouted something about ‘wrapping my bass round his head if he didn’t fuck off’. Nicky was 6 months pregnant and I kept thinking he was going to fall on her and bring the drums down. I was so angry and embarrassed to have been pushed to that. We still finished the set though. Mental”.

Not that every gig is as savage as the one which D’Arc conveys, but a picture is painted in terms of what women can occasionally expect when confronted by drunken revellers, and the rapid transposition, or deterioration, from admiration to irritation. Even subtle misogyny has crept into the foreground. Sillars recognises this: “It can come down to simple things like when a promoter will shake my (male) drummer’s hand and not mine or direct all his questions to him and not me – even when the band name is literally just my name. It happens a lot actually”. Such incidents cry out for men to speak up and against chauvinistic prejudices but also paints a sad picture that men are needed in the first place to speak publicly on behalf of women at all. Not that this behaviour is solely reserved for the backcloths of gigs either, as Sillars adds “I’ve been catcalled by people in the audience and it is usually best to laugh it off or reply with something light so the rest of the audience do not feel uncomfortable”.

It is a commendable approach which Sillars adopts, albeit a sad issue to grasp in 2017 – some forty years after the red-blooded male stranglehold of the seventies music scene. Easton is keen to add that her bands have been “lucky to have never encountered any sexism when playing live but it shouldn’t be about being ‘lucky’ – the question shouldn’t be being asked in the first place because it shouldn’t be an issue”. If it isn’t the fans who women in Scotland need to be wary of, then what about those in charge of booking/promoting acts for gigs and festivals, and why do these billings frequently appear to be predominantly male-led? Glastonbury Festival has announced this year’s headliners as Radiohead, Foo Fighters, and Ed Sheeran whilst from the ashes of T in the Park, new Scottish festival TSNMT have also confirmed Radiohead, alongside Kasabian and Biffy Clyro. That is a top-heavy, male-orientated selection by any stretch, and the underrepresentation of women in music appears to be as prevalent now as it has ever been. Easton offers “I would never want TeenCanteen to be booked for a slot or appearance in order to ‘tick’ a diversity box for gender equality. I’d want us to be booked for a show because we were considered to be the best for that slot. I sometimes struggle with labelling myself as a ‘female singer songwriter’ because I often just think of myself as a ‘singer songwriter’ – but I want to encourage more girls to pick up and play and write and sing and perform in bands so if identifying my gender in what I do helps then I’ll do it”.

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I saw red and stopped playing to kick him square in the back out of our space and shouted something about ‘wrapping my bass round his head if he didn’t fuck off
Jo D’Arc, The Twistettes

Yet the struggle often comes down to one issue and one issue alone: sex. Regardless of someone’s talent, women continue to be assessed by looks, shape, and appeal. D’arc untangles this theory: “It’s both society’s view of women and women’s view of themselves which create this struggle. Women’s power within the music industry is primarily rooted in how we look and selling sex, therefore we are viewed less able than men in many aspects of the music industry (aspects which don’t require this). It means women often need to fight to be recognised as being as valid as a man with a guitar or a synth. This becomes especially heightened the more ‘techy’ your musical job is. Synth players and producers get a harder time. Big respect to female sound engineers as it must be pretty tough sometimes”.

It’s an intriguing observation, and one which many will have missed. What about the women working off-stage? Is it something which is quite obviously absent in Scotland? I certainly struggle to think of many I’ve noticed over the past twenty years around the city’s music scene. D’arc continues, “On the flip side, women will be commended and receive additional attention for being involved in music where her male counterparts do not experience, so it can go both ways. While attention is often rooted in surprise and, as much as it can be flattering to be viewed as ‘exceptional’ or ‘out of the norm’ I don’t think that this is particularly helpful in encouraging more women to pick up instruments. Hopefully one day we’ll get to the point where a woman can walk on stage and do a set of crazy tech heavy live music and folks won’t bat an eye lid…or mutter that famed positive/negative – ‘she’s amazing for a girl’. The other aspect of this is women’s confidence in their abilities. The masculine tone of the music industry can create doubt and worry that stops women putting themselves forward. The amount of house parties I’ve went to and lassies are absolutely rocking the decks when they think nobody is looking is unreal but when asked if they gig they’re like ‘oh not…I couldn’t do that!’”

Signs do show some societal changes emerging in arts circles with more women now choosing careers in music production, favouring instruments such as trumpets or horns, traditionally played by men but in comparison, the Musicians Union (MU) has almost 2,500 members based in Scotland with a 30-70% female-male gender split among its members. It is an area which continues to show a significant disparity. Furthermore, female musicians are more likely to be judged by an industry focussed on youth and beauty, coupled with caring responsibilities hindering career progression, which ultimately results in male performers significantly more apparent on the music circuit across the country. Kudos then to companies like Vodafone who recently launched a programme to assist women returning to work, including “unconscious bias training”.

“For me, gender isn’t an issue when it comes to performing and playing”, Easton indicates – “but it does the beg the question why some bands are not asked “What reasons led you to forming a male-only band?” as much as they are when it is solely females in the band. I’ve been involved in Futuristic Retro Champions consisting of three girls and two boys, my solo album ‘Homemade Lemonade’ was made with Joe Kane and when performed live is four boys and three girls, and then I was the only female in the band I recorded and performed with during my recent residency at the Banff Centre for Arts in Canada”.

In which case, does it then beg the question is there too much scrutiny being put upon female involvement within the Scottish music industry? Whether the individual involved is working class, black, survived sexual assault, or queer should not be an issue just as much as that the music is all-important and if the output is unsatisfactory, then the record-buying public simply are not going to buy into it. In terms of music output, Scotland is enjoying its richest spell for quite some time. Easton provides “I’m really excited about Tongue Trap, Bratakus and Fallope, and The Tubes. Emme Woods is one of the most exciting singer-songwriters I’ve encountered live in years – Rose McDowall is performing live again, and everyone should see Chrissy Barnacle perform – delighted to have her band Joyce Delaney support TeenCanteen at our Sirens launch in Nice n’ Sleazys on 22nd April – people should get a ticket for them alone”, Easton proffers. Sillars agrees with this sentiment; “Emme Woods and Chrissy Barnacle, not forgetting Laurence Made Me Cry, always excite me”. The admiration for Tongue Trap and Chrissy Barnacle is also replicated by D’Arc, keen to support this prolific period for Scottish women in music: “There are so many great talents around just now – Misc Meat, Fisty Muffs, singers/musicians like Ella Maby, Becci Wallace; producers like Audrey Tait, Jess Aslan, Sev Dudzinska. The female MC Empress has blown me away recently with her new EP ‘Turning Tables’. Hip hop and rapping is so male dominated that it’s really refreshing to see some lassies getting involved, and Empress is one of the best… love her”.

And it isn’t just Scottish women who are currently producing some of the most enthralling music around right now. English/Icelandic punksters Dream Wife, LA grunge outfit Girlpool, and Glasgow-based, Slovenian DJ and producer Nightwave aka Maya Medvesek are a small sample of acts in the world who are currently subscribed to promoting sounds which get under the skin, and bruises. In times when the United States of America is led by a misogynistic, bloated He-Man in a suit, there is a swift riposte of female acts currently mapping the lay of the land and chronicling the rise of women to the forefront of music – in spite of powerful adversities. Perhaps Scotland is proving itself to be leaders of the pack once more, and by addressing dated attitudes head-on, will inspire the next wave of young female Scots to show to the world that they have so much more to offer, if only promoters open their doors – and their minds.

 

Josephine Sillars will perform at The Bongo Club in Edinburgh as part of Flint and Pitch on 21st April.

TeenCanteen ‘Sirens EP’ launch party is at Nice n Sleazys on 22nd April with support from Joyce Delaney and Agony Aunt.

The Twistettes host a ‘Twistettes Twisted Tea Party” at La Belle Angele on 24th June with a female-heavy line-up including artists, poets and more.

Rich thanks to Josephine Sillars, Carla Easton (TeenCanteen/Ette) and Jo D’Arc (The Twistettes) for their input during this piece.

Stephen Watt is the Dumbarton FC Poet-in-Residence, a crime poet, one half of gothic spoken word experimental act Neon Poltergeist, and author of the poetry collections “Spit” and “Optograms”. You can follow more of his writing on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StephenWattSpit/ or his Twitter handle @StephenWattSpit.

Callum Beattie

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Callum Beattie has been hard at making music for almost half his life, making his own chances, taking chances and, for sure, being a chancer. The Edinburgh-born musician has progressed from “mangled” versions of Wonderwall and bad gigs in pubs straight out of Trainspotting, via stage invasions in front of 80,000 REM fans and backstage blags at T In the Park, to where he is now: a singer-songwriter with a punchy, rousing, emotive and gloriously catchy debut album that’s set to light up 2017. And light it up in stereo.

Produced by Ken Nelson [Coldplay, Paolo Nutini] in Liverpool’s famed Parr Street Studios and Monnow Valley Studios in Wales – and featuring writing contributions from former Kaiser Chief Nick Hodgson and guitar from former Verve man NickMcCabe – Lights In Stereo is the record of Callum’s years. It’s a collection of songs clawed from the raw stuff of life [“I do have a lot of abandonment issues”] and bleeding love [“it’s a song about how this person can keep hurting you but you can’t help wanting them in your life,”] he says of the stirring Nothing Hurts Like You]. It’s the sound of his record collection, which ranges from Churches to Sia, Biffy Clyro to Taylor Swift, Christine and The Queens to Kings Of Leon, not to mention the yards of dusty vinyl collected by his equally obsessed dad. It’s real, and it’s moving, and it’s uplifting.

“I’m a songwriter,” says the affably driven Scotsman, now based in London,“and I need to write about stuff that is therapeutic for me. I don’t want to sing about shaking my ass on a Saturday night.”
You can hear as much in the moving Some Heroes. It’s a tribute to the single-parent dad who raised Beattie after his mum left when he was eight or nine. And it’s a song that Noel Gallagher, in his imperial phase, would have been proud to call his own. The deep-down, personal sentiment is there, too, in Bonfires: the musicianship is euphoric but the lyrics tinged with desperation.
“You could see it as a love song but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a song about making the same mistakes over and over. And it has the same vibe as Nothing Hurts Like You.”

That emotive punch is also there in ‘We Are Stars’, set to be lead track on Callum’s first EP. With rhythmic piano belters the track showcases his stunning voice and deft way with melodies. As he says, telling it like it is, as a songwriter his aims are simple and pure: “I just want my music to be beautiful, anthemic and catchy. I do try and write big choruses.”