BMX Bandits a band which has been writing, since 1985, one of the most exciting pages of both Scottish, Anglo-Saxon, and therefore universal pop. And that’s easy to prove: from this seminal band from Bellshill, formed around the charming singer and leader Duglas T. Stewart, came out the seeds which would form such important bands as Teenage Fanclub, Eugenius,The Soup Dragons and many many more.
01. Can you tell me a little bit about how the BMX Bandits came into existence?
I had a group with Frances McKee (The Vaselines), Sean Dickson (The Soup Dragons), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and some other friends called The Pretty Flowers. When that group ended because Frances left to form The Vaselines with Eugene I was left with a bunch of songs. Sean encouraged me that I should record them and offered to help me. We recruited some friends who we’d met busking in Glasgow and BMX Bandits was formed.
02. What was the music scene like in Bellshill and Glasgow in the 1980s? Was there an identifiable Indie scene at this time?
In Bellshill the dominant “alternative” scene seemed to be based around anarchist punk bands very much influenced by Crass but sounding closer to bad Siouxsie and The Banshees without Siouxsie. There was lots of wearing black, smoking drugs and drinking buck fast tonic wine involved in that scene, it really wasn’t my sort of thing.
In Glasgow we found more like minded people, people who had wider musical tastes and had ambition to be creative and make things happen. We were very much the minority, outsiders and when we played main stream venues groups like BMX Bandits, The Vaselines and The Pastels weren’t always given a warm reception. People started putting on their own clubs and happenings where we could grow stronger together, offer each other support and exchange ideas.
03. The BMX Bandits have shared band members of Teenage Fanclub and the Soup Dragons. Did these bands have any influence on your sound or vice versa perhaps?
I don’t think the three groups really influenced each other but I have no doubt that Sean, Norman and I meeting each other had a massive influence on what we all ended up doing. We all had tastes that we shared but we’re all quite different people and so the three bands have always had their own strong individual identities. Of course with Teenage Fanclub there’s also Gerry and Raymond in the mix there. I can’t imagine Raymond listens to BMX Bandits records.
04. What was Bellshill and Glasgow like in the 1980s? Did these places inspire the songs and music of the BMX Bandits?
They were rough and depressed places mostly but I think very often artists find themselves dissatisfied with the reality they are living in and so citrate their own alternative realities through their art. Bellshill and Glasgow as places never influenced or entered my songs or music.
05. What inspired you to be in a band in the first place?
In 1977 I bought an album called ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll with The Modern Lovers’ by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers and it made me think that I’d like to do that. Around five years later Frances McKee said to me she wanted to be in a group and so I decided to form a group. It seemed a good way to spend more time in her company.
06. What bands were you influenced by at the time of the BMX Bandits formation?
Television Personalities, Jonathan Richman, Swell Maps, Orange Juice, The Pastels, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Soft Cell, Kraftwerk, The Slits, The Ramones, The Shangri-Las, Burt Bacharach & Hal David. I was also a fan of soundtrack music by people like Ennio Morricone and John Barry and old songs from musicals and classic Disney films.
07. Can you name maybe 2 or 3 of your all time favourite albums?
The Beach Boys: The Beach Boys Love You. I love Pet Sounds but my favourite album by them is ‘Love You’. At first the songs sound childlike and almost primitive but of course musically they are incredibly brilliant and sophisticated. I love that combination of naivety and sophistication.
Paul Williams: Someday Man. Paul Williams & Roger Nichols co-wrote some great songs for people like The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun, Rainy Days & Mondays) and this album shows off their incredible songwriting talent, along with great arrangements by Nichols and wonderful emotive lead vocals from Williams. It’s full of musical twist and turns, killer melodies and lyrics that go deep.
Ennio Morricone: Giu La Testa. Ennio Morricone is my favourite movie composer and this is my favourite score by him. When I write music I tend to often think of it in quite cinematic terms. We learned a lot about arrangement from Morricone.
08.The song ‘Serious Drugs’ appears to be an autobiographical song, is this true to some extent?
It’s completely autobiographical. I was in a new relationship and the girl I was seeing discovered I was taking antidepressants. She said to me “You don’t need those to make you feel better. My love will make you feel better.” Cut to a month or so later and she was saying “I think you need some stronger tablets”.
09. What was it like being signed to Creation Records? Did you have a good relationship with Alan McGee?
We had a great relationship with Alan (and I still do). He was incredibly supportive and trusted us as artists. He still says Serious Drugs is one of the top 10 tracks the label ever released. Alan really let us make the records we wanted to make at that time.
10. The BMX Bandits have a considerable back catalogue. Which BMX Bandits album are you most proud of?
The two I’m most proud of equally are the two that I feel we 100% and more achieved what we set out to do with them. I like all of our albums but on all the others there are at least a couple of things that didn’t turn out as great as I imagined that they would or that I think were mistakes. So my top two equal favourites are ‘My Chain’ and ‘BMX Bandits in Space’.
11. In general terms what do you think of music currently? Are there any bands around now that you like and feel they should be getting more attention?
I think there’s lots of great music out there. I think it can be harder to find because there are so many groups and so much music so readily available. My favourite group in the world are Tenniscoats from Tokyo. I’ve had the pleasure of working with them and their attitude to making music is so fresh, so pure and inspiring. Norman recently toured with them in Japan and came home saying they were his favourite new group.
In Scotland there’s Randolph’s Leap who I think deserve to and could cross over to a much bigger audience, the way Dexys Midnight Runners and Madness did in the 1980s. Newer acts I love include TeenCanteen, Sacred Paws and a singer/musician/composer called Adam Stearns.
Last week I bought a great single called ‘Call Me in the Day’ by a group called La Luz from Seattle.
People say that they’re bored with music and there’s nothing good, well they should stop reading the NME and watching the X Factor and look a bit deeper for the good stuff.
12. In The BMX Bandits documentary, Alan McGee said that selling millions of records does not make a band like U2 any more relevant than the BMX Bandits. Do you think he has a valid point?
Well The Velvet Underground and Big Star didn’t sell many records at the time but they are way more influential than many artists who have sold in the millions. I think Bono would agree that the relevance of a group can not be measured in units sold.
13. Did having Kurt Cobain as a fan of the BMX Bandits flatter you or any of the other members of the band? Did you find his interest might have brought more attention to the band?
It always nice to hear a fellow musician (or anyone) likes your band. Kurt was slightly younger than us. He was from the next generation of groups from us and so when I heard he liked the group it was nice but it wasn’t mind-blowing. When Jonathan Richman said he loved our version of one of his songs or when I walked into a Big Star soundcheck and Alex Chilton started playing our song ‘Disco Girl’ that was mind-blowing.
I don’t know if Kurt saying in a radio interview that if he could be in any other band it would be BMX Bandits or him wearing one of our T shirts really resulted in any more sales but I think it helped us get a few journalists to consider writing about us.
14. I saw the BMX Bandits play at the ‘Scared To Get Happy’ album launch night and I really enjoyed the gig. Don’t suppose there is any chance of the BMX Bandits playing in London anytime soon?
There is nothing planned just now but keep on the look out for news.
Link to buy singles:
Screening of BMX Bandits movie documentary ‘Serious Drugs’ at The Social in London August 3rd 2013
Originally posted 2013-08-02 15:39:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter