BIG B and OPM Instore

Some emails are really fun to read. I received one from Suburban Noize Records in the USA. Big B is coming to town supporting OPM on their European tour. Could he play an acoustic set before the gig?

Nae bother. When not listening to SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph all day I do find some spare time for some hip hop. Hippie to the hippie, the hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it to the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.

Yes, I looked that up.
What up?

So Big B is coming to play in the shop. He’s had a couple of big hits back in the USA. These tracks have had millions of views! I’m looking forward to hearing the stripped down version in the flesh. Taps aff.

Big B -White Trash Life

Big B -Hooligan

OPM said they would like to play too!

It’s now been 15 years since Heaven is a Halfpipe came out in 2000. It was seriously everywhere for a while and became a top 5 single here too. Their debut album Menace to Sobriety did alright.-They were signed to Atlantic. I believe it will be reissued soon. There’s a lot more to them than the hit record and this is a rare chance to see them in the flesh.

They are playing Bannerman’s on 2nd September but before the gig they’ll play a short and intimate acoustic set. It’s a Wednesday and it’s all very early for getting times sorted but it’s certainly an exciting one for your diary. With Big B and 5 members of OPM in the shop there won’t be room for anyone else. Might have to put them on the steps…

OPM -Heaven is a Halfpipe

More band info here:
Big B

Wednesday 2nd September at Bannerman’s.

Thursday at Audio in Glasgow.

Kathryn Joseph should win the SAY Award 2015

Running out of time as the award is starting in a few minutes but I just wanted to mention the album that I think should win this year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award. It’s been a good year for Scottish albums.

I was lucky enough to meet Kathryn Joseph after her Edinburgh launch show in January. She came to the fella sitting next to me to say hi to him. He’s a mysterious chap. Anyway, we had a mysterious chat.
“Bloody hell those songs are good… You must have been sitting on those for a while!” Not as a hen. – I’m not Glaswegian. Just sitting on them in a normal parlance chat type sense.

“Yes, I was”

And she was…
And she talked to the Skinny about the making of the album just the other day. That’s all the background you really need.
And that’s about it.

Have a listen.
See what you think.

You can stream the whole album via bandcamp.

In my mind, Kathryn’s album is the best one on the shortlist.
We only had 5 copies. They sold in a week. Then another 5 copies. They sold in a week and a half. Then all the copies the label had sold out. Then the CDs sold out. If you can play half of a different song from a record and sell it over and over again [with gorgeous lyric and photo newspaper booklet, (showing a boob!) limited to 200 white vinyl copies] then it tends to feel that there is something special going on.

I’m excited that so many people have become so enthralled by Kathryn’s record. It’s a real spooky thing that conjures up Hansel and Gretel forests, roadkill collections, beasties and breadcrumb trails. Love, sex and death are never far away but it’s positive throughout too.

If you like what you hear and get a chance you should see her perform. Go. Bloody hell, go.

Of of all the artists on the shortlist, and I appreciate that taste is subjective and so on. I’m convinced that only one album could, given the right exposure and a bit of a boost from a SAY Award win, go on to be platinum selling by Christmas. And that is bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled. Crazy! Yes. But stranger things have happened.

PS I still love all the other bands.

I've got your back buddy!

You’re my favourite band!

New double A side single The Bird/The Worm released on 7″ vinyl on 27th July.
Album repressing on black vinyl out soon too.
Both available from all the best record shops.

Get Away?

Ah it feels like the start of Summer. For those of you with holidays coming or that simply have the time to get away and leave the rat race for a while. Remember, it’s not a race.

Leave VoxBox at 21 St Stephen Street taking a right.
Take a right and walk downhill to the bus stop.
A 29 bus will take you up the hill and heads east along Princes Street. £1.80 for a single. It’s a 5 minute journey and you could walk uphill in 10 mins… but it is quite a steep hill.
Get off at Princes Street. Cross the road and keep going east toward Waverley train station.

You aren’t actually going to the train station. The airport bus, the Lothian Airlink 100, leaves every 10 mins from Waverley Bridge next to the train station. The bus takes 30 mins to get to the airport. An open return is £7.50.

However for the FUN of it, take the Tram to the airport. The TRAM! They’re every 8-10 minutes and leave from stops in the middle of Princes Street. This will be £8 for a return and takes 35mins. Buy a ticket before hopping on or it’ll be £10. Race the bus. For that extra 50p it bloody well IS a race! Zooooooom!!

Tram takes an early lead!

Tram takes an early lead!

Phew! After all that excitement, you’re at Edinburgh Airport and have enjoyed a thrilling shiny Tram ride. Get in line and queue. Whistle. Queue. Let your mind wander a bit. Check In. Queue. Go through security. Gosh it’s warm and the juice machine is a bit dear and they’ve taken my own bottle of home made diluting juice away from me. Queue while thirsty. Finally crack and buy two bottles of juice. One for now, one for the plane. And we’re off!

Board an aeroplane to Heathrow (Virgin Atlantic). -Requires booking in advance.
Change at Heathrow for a new aeroplane to Los Angeles, LAX. (Virgin Atlantic) That’s about 15hrs From Edinburgh to LA.
Layover -Twiddle thumbs/meditate/snooze for about 2hrs 10mins.
Board a plane to Norman Y. Mineta Airport. This flight will take 1hr 18mins.
All in all, these three flights will come in at about £800 return.

You are now there. If you believe in zen, maybe not. ‘A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’ ~Lao Tzu .

In case you were wondering and for future reference… This, dear reader, is the way to San Jose.*

There are a reasonable number of record shops in San Jose.
But if you keep going…

From the airport, board a bus to Santa Carla Caltrain Station. About 5mins.
Board a Caltrain to San Francisco Caltrain Station -1hr 28mins.
Take the San Francisco Municipal Transport KT line. About 30 mins.
Disembark at junction of Carl St and Stanyan St.
Walk north on Stanyan Street -4 blocks. About 6mins.
Take a right on Haight Street.
You’re here…

Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, United States

Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, United States

Amoeba Music in San Francisco is one of the largest record shops in the world with a staggering amount of music. There is an even larger one in Los Angeles too. But if you just wanted to pop in there, you’d miss the frivolous and imaginary, longwinded trip to San Jose which seems to be what this blog post is all about…

…or is it?**



*This appears to be the most economical way at short notice. However, if you’d like to save a lot of time and can book in advance, there are direct flights from Edinburgh.

** It is

Supermoon at 12 noon, Garden of Elks at 5 nelks

All the information you require for this coming Record Store Day in Edinburgh in one handy blog post. The shop will open at 9am on Record Store Day. We don’t have the Official RSD releases so if you need the Reissues of Bruce Springsteen’s first 7 albums, you’ll have to go to Coda or Underground Solushn. If you are after a nice day out in fashionable Stockbridge, a bit of a browse and a beer or two, topped off with a full afternoon of fantastic live music AND an original 1970s copy of Bruce’s fine double album The River in Excellent condition for £8, then VoxBox will be the place for you.* Music will be between the shop and The Last Word Saloon at 44 St Stephen Street. Kids are allowed in but it might be busy. If the weather is nice, the street is the best place in the world to be. Plenty steps to sit on, boutiques to visit and the Sprio cafe for a panini is lovely. Anyway, here are the timings for a day of the best live music in Edinburgh.

Half hour sets from Supermoon at 12 noon to Garden of Elks at 5 nelks.

1200 Supermoon
1245 The Holy Ghosts
1330 Tuff Love
1415 Miracle Strip
1545 Delta Mainline
1630 Randolph’s Leap
1715 Garden Of Elks

I do believe there will be an afterparty at The Electric Circus. Details to follow.

But first, a quick preview of the bands!

“Meursault is dead, and from its ashes rises Neil Pennycook’s new project: Supermoon.
Released on the 27th April 2015, this is a first taste of the new stuff, out on cassette and digital only, building up to a new album in the Autumn. Supermoon material has a bit more tension and needle than later Meursault releases, embracing a darker characterisation, nastier production and a far greater sense of dislocation.
Basically, it’s more minimal, weirder and generally more unpleasant, and I think this is a very good thing.” Yes, it is.

The Holy Ghosts are Edinburgh’s good time rock n roll band. Infused with the finest country rock of 1972. From Gram Parsons to Little Feat via the Rolling Stones. They have 3 EPs and one album of catchy songs under their belt already. The shop label FoxBox released their latest EP on glorious 10 inch vinyl back in March. They’ll play as a stripped down 3 piece.

Tuff Love are signed to Lost Map, Eigg’s finest record label. They played RSD at our place last year. This year they return and have a brand new split single release for Record Store Day. You can listen to “Groucho” above. Which reminds me… Outside of a dog a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Ahem, moving swiftly on…

Miracle Strip came into the shop a couple of years ago with their debut single, Girl Gang/Stephanie on the Moon, on glorious white vinyl. It’s great! They are releasing their 1st album soon. Copies will be available on limited edition cassette tape with download code on Saturday. You can listen to the first single from the album above.

Poor Things are following up their 2014 album and a split EP (with Catholic Action) with a new split release on Gerry Loves Records in June. You can hear their song from the release above. They’ll be playing a stripped down set on Saturday, and you may even be able to get your hands on a super-limited test pressing of their new release.

Delta Mainline are my new favourite Edinburgh band. Their debut album Oh! Enlightened came out in 2013. The new one will be released next year. The new single “Vultures” on coloured 7″ vinyl is out at the end of June. The B side has remixes by Remember Remember and Miaoux Miaoux. This will be the 2nd vinyl release on the shop’s FoxBox label. They will play a rare stripped down set. I’ll tell you more about this soon.

Randolph’s Leap played at Kid Canaveral’s Christmas Baubles at Portobello Town Hall last year. The set was recorded and has been turned into round and shiny vinyl. It will be released on Record Store Day. Adam Leap will be playing solo.

Garden Of Elks complete the bill. They have a brand new album on Song, by Toad Records entitled A Distorted Sigh. Available on cassette and vinyl. Check out this tasty review from The Herald. “…They’re bloody marvellous live too.” You can see for yourselves.

There will be a merch table in The Last Word Saloon featuring all of the releases. All of them will also be available in the shop. Do take time to give them a listen. I’m constantly being impressed by the quality of the music being made by artists from down the road. In fact, since opening almost 4 years ago, the local releases section has become my firm favourite. The major labels are really missing a trick. The VoxBox team look forward to seeing you on Record Store Day. I’ve a feeling it will be sunny.

Any last minute changes will be announced on the Facebook event page.
And also on twitter –@voxboxmusic.

Must Dash,
Darren VoxBox

*Seriously, I think we’ve 5 copies of The River just now.

Record Store Day 2015 at VoxBox Edinburgh

The shop will take part in Record Store Day in a stripped back way this year as we won’t be stocking the RSD releases.

Normally, as well as stocking the exclusive releases, we like to use Record Store Day as a platform for local bands and labels that have been supportive of the shop. That hasn’t changed and this year we’ve cut out the official releases but are instead working to promote brand new vinyl and cassette releases by bands that are often based just down the road. A showcase of local talent as a treat for the ears. In terms of limited edition records, we will have a special focus on the many and varied local bands and Scottish labels that we stock and work with. Labels that release limited runs of top quality music all year round and which improve every record shop that stocks them.

The michty Wounded Knee RSD 2013

The michty Wounded Knee RSD 2013

To celebrate RSD this year we have a showcase of Edinburgh bands playing short intimate sets from noon until 6pm.

Delta Mainline -(New single ‘Vultures’ coming out on vinyl on the shop’s FoxBox label on June 29th)
The Holy Ghosts -Edinburgh’s finest good time rock and roll band. (Vinyl EP was the shop label’s 3rd release and came out in March)
Retro electro-poppers Miracle Strip (Simply Thrilled Records) release their debut album on cassette.
Supermoon (Neil Pennicook of previously of Meursault) -New album on cassette out early April on Edinburgh’s Song, by Toad label.
Garden of Elks -New album on vinyl about to be released on Song, by Toad.

Coming through from Glasgow and playing later in the day are:
Randolph’s Leap (Lost Map Records) who are releasing a Live EP on vinyl for RSD

Other(s) TBC. Be sure to check the Facebook Event for updates.

Do pop down on the day, it should be a whole lot of fun.

Cue the montage!

What’s your news?

My apologies for not updating Facebook and Twitter and so on very much over the past few weeks, I’ve had a topsy-turvy month and haven’t even really been in the shop for the past fortnight.

Inquisitively, as my friendly next door neighbour says; “So… what’s your news?”

There’s loads of stuff to shout about and, I’m chuffed to now find out that absolutely everyone on the street received the same letter from the council warning about putting garden waste -leaves and clippings and such- over the back fence into the council nature reserve bit. Ahem, we have allegedly stuck a Christmas tree (now 2 years old) in a gap to kind of block the burglars.

Enough of this, there are lots of shop and record related things to be excited about in 2015 that I’d like to quickly share just now.

An excellent find only last week was Kathryn Joseph. She has made a really wonderful record, called bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled. She played a launch gig the other day and I’m already smitten. The folk that put out Frightened Rabbit’s first record have resurrected their Hits The Fan label to put the album out. We managed to have a wee chat after the show too and (unusually) I didn’t say anything too stoopid.*
“I’d love to have some for the shop”. “I only had 250 made and I’m running out”. “Shucks, that’s ok, best sell them yourself then. Erm… Get a repress ASAP please… and we’ll stick them on the shelf”.

Until then, you can listen to the album here: And a song below…

Someone could make her very famous indeed. If that’s you – Please do it!


In other exciting news, the already pretty famous Twilight Sad have arranged to play a series of record shop in-stores during February. I am incredibly happy to say that they are playing in VoxBox on Saturday the 14th of February at 4pm. They have had such a great 2014 and we are all very humbled to have them play here. This Facebook Event link will have the up to date info in case of any last minute changes. They are releasing a limited edition picture disc available only through participating shops and the band’s own website. They have just won the BAMS award for best album and have been top of every Scottish music bloggers list for ‘album of 2014′ with Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave.

The Twilight Sad Instore

The shop is a bit wee… The Twilight Sad are quite popular… Arrive early… Bring a tipple… Buy the single… Support the band… Have fun… (In a piece of arch capitalism, I can guarantee entry to fans that buy the single and even then the earlier the better).

March sees the shop’s spin-off label, FoxBox Records’ 1st vinyl release. A big ten inch… record of a band that plays the blues**.

The Holy Ghosts have a new release and it’s a fine thing! It’s FXY003 and it is a four song EP called End Of The World And Other Multifarious Destinations. Expect more of the good time rock and roll that the Edinburgh band have become famous for. If you liked The Stones circa 1972, then this could be your new favourite band! If you come to the shop on Wednesdays and Thursdays, you may even recognise the poncho wearing chap below.

Holy Ghosts

They play launch shows in Edinburgh at The Caves on Friday the 13th March supported by [the incredible] Miracle Glass Company and in Glasgow at the Record Factory on Saturday the 14th.

Sooner than that, there is a free show at the Electric Circus on the 3rd February before a tour of France.

So a few nice things to look forward to there.

All trumped for me at least by the biggest release of 2015. Already! What was this musical beauty?

Nowt musical I’m afraid… On the 16th of January, Mrs VoxBox had a release and I became a poppa. An heir to the VoxBox empire maybe? Who knows? He’s a bonny wee guy. I hope he likes good music and I hope he grows up to like records (only after he’s a toddler). On that though, I don’t really mind. Mostly, I hope he finds eventually something he really likes and can get stuck into for a while. At the moment he likes sleeping a little bit more than music.

Indeed, I hope I still like records when I’m covered in possets and all manner of baby deposits.

Our wee lad came 8 weeks early and because of that he still needs a lot of visiting, but with a wee bit of luck the shop should manage to stay up to date. All is well with him and it looks as if VoxBox Aiden will manage his first shift at VoxBox with his pops later in the year.

"What's a VoxBox Pops?"

“What’s a VoxBox Pops?”

* Oh bugger. I did let it slip out that I was a big Tori Amos fan circa Under The Pink

** Bullmoose Jackson… Big Ten Inch. This is fun.

The VoxBox top 29 Albums of the Year

If you read the blog last year you’ll know how uncomfortable I am with these end of year lists. You should read all the proper Mojo, Uncut, NME lists and the online magazine lists and the blogger lists, have a wee read of the odd review and then, finally write the names of the bands on pieces of paper and stick them all in a hat. Every year I have a look at the lists and think wow… that’s a lot of albums. And also, wow… that’s a lot of albums that we’ve never even had on the shelf… I’m surprised at the number of quality albums that are made every year. Especially so, the amount of quality albums made on our doorstep and I suppose that is the focus here.

I’m happy to say that out of the Sunday Herald’s top 50 Scottish Albums of 2014 we stock 25. (We also stock albums that never made that list too and a few are listed below.) Nothing omitted out of any snobbishness. Simply that there might not be a physical release or that the labels are small and they maybe don’t know that the shop exists so that neither of us has been in touch with the other. To remedy the situation, I’ll work on getting hold of the ones we are missing in the New Year. We have an open shelf policy for local music on CD and Vinyl.

So, the VoxBox favourite albums of 2014? It’s hard to pick one favourite album of the year. But this time I’ve compiled a LIST! Not one that goes over the Mojo territory with The War on Drugs and St Vincent and so on although we do stock them. This list is a mixture of my own preferences of the local/Scottish releases that we stock (and what gets played in the car) with extra weight given to our top selling artists of 2014. Bearing in mind that in our shop vinyl sells much better than CDs. Why 29? Well, it was supposed to be a top 20 and I kept finding more that couldn’t really be left out. The FoxBox compilation tape sold the most and I obviously really like it but I honestly don’t think it was the best thing released this year so it’s there at the bottom as an addendum.

It’s just a list. And this slightly embarrassing photo kind of sums up the year we’ve had. So without further ado. Ahem.

Vashti meets her 2 biggest fans.

Vashti meets her 2 biggest fans.

1. Vashti Bunyan –Heartleap (Joyous completion of a trilogy which began in 1971 -more on this later)
2. King Creosote –From Scotland With Love
3. Bastard Mountain –Farewell Bastard Mountain
4. Withered Hand –New Gods
5. PAWS –Youth Culture Forever
6. Honeyblood -Self Titled
7. The Twilight Sad –Nobody Wants to be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
8. Stanley Odd –A Thing Brand New
9. Mogwai -Rave Tapes
10. Remember Remember -Forgetting The Present
11. James Yorkston -The Cellardyke Recordings
12. Young Fathers –DEAD
13. Andrew Pearson and Lovers Turn To Monsters -Everything We Miss
14. Yusuf Azak –Peace In The Underworld
15. Randolph’s Leap –Clumsy Knot
16. The Phantom Band –Strange Friend
17. Owl John -Self Titled
18. We Were Promised Jetpacks -Unravelling
19. The Son(s) -The Things I Love Are Not At Home
20. Broken Records –Weights And Pulleys
21. The John Knox Sex Club –Oh Wow Must Be The Devil
22. Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 -Party To Make Music To Party To Make Music To Party To 1
23. Call To Mind -The Winter is White
24. The Amazing Snakeheads -Amphetamine Ballads
25. Paulo Nutini -Caustic Love
26. Penguins Kill Polar Bears -Building Homes From Broken Bones
27. The Last Battle –Lay Your Burden Down
28. Hamish James Hawk -Aznavour
29. The Jellyman’s Daughter –Self Titled

[Gah! I forgot Jo Mango -Transformuration. She belongs on the list too.]

FoxBox Presents Post__Nothing Sessions (Various Artists CSD Release) has sold really well.


Other favourites of the year:

1. GOAT –Commune (Swedish wah-wah heavy psychedelic guitar grooves)
2. Songs Ohia –Didn’t It Rain (Reissue) (Just discovered this guy this year and his back catalogue is huge)
3. SLINT Spiderland (Reissue) (Best album of 1991 but I only heard it this year. Why didn’t someone tell me!)
4. Insect Heroes -Apocalypso (On Lost Map this year but technically out earlier than 2014)
5. The Meanest Creature Ever Known –You, Having Fun (Download only but he lives around the corner and the album is great.)


Other records that have sold loads:

01. The Twilight Sad –Fourteen Autumns Fifteen Winters (RSD Reissue)
02. Pixies -Indy Cindy (RSD)
03. Led Zeppelin I, II, III and IV reissues
04. Arctic Monkeys -AM (2013)
05. Fleetwood Mac -Rumours (as always)
06. Sparrow and the Workshop -Murderopolis (as always)


So that’s that. If you don’t recognise many of the albums above, you could look them up, come in and ask… or you could get 29 small bits of paper and a hat.
Thanks to all of the bands that bring in their records and CDs -we are a better record shop for having them.

Happy Hogmanay!

Music Is Audible

This is perhaps a duller post than I’d like to put up but I’ll see if I can find a cheery picture to put in the middle as a distraction. I’ll explain the post’s title nearer the end. Anyway, I just attended a meeting organised by Edinburgh Council to discuss live music in Edinburgh with the title Live Music Matters. For those of you on twitter #livemusicmatters. Around 100 people attended and all of the available tickets were all snapped up within 2 days. –For a Monday afternoon meeting this was a great turn out. It was in an upstairs meeting room and there was free coffee. It lasted for 2 and a half hours but the time flew in and it still seems there is a lot more to discuss.

I really went as an observer as there were plenty of venue owners/managers, musicians and promoters there to put forward their case. I was able to pitch in a wee bit though.
I think the Young Fathers’ interview in the Guardian following their Mercury Music Prize win has struck a nerve with Edinburgh City Council. Synopsis: “Edinburgh Council are really fucking bad”. And in hip hop bad doesn’t mean good anymore. Well, the main Council representative certainly coyly alluded to it. Young Fathers do make some helpful suggestions in another interview with the Evening News.

The focus of the meeting was to be how the Council can help to improve the pop/rock music scene as there have previously been discussions with classical music representatives and I suppose there were 2 main groups present. The mid-sized venues like The Queen’s Hall and large promoters like Regular Music; and the grass roots comprising smaller venues such as Sneaky Pete’s and Henry’s Cellar Bar, labels, managers, bloggers and bands too. It was the latter that made up the bulk of those who attended. Young Fathers are in Berlin working on a new album.

After some short initial speeches we were split into 4 groups of 20-25 and then split into sub-groups of 5 or so. We’d then discuss what problems there were, what was being done well and then were asked to suggest improvements. We then fed back to our larger group before all 4 large groups feeding back summaries to all present. There were Council representatives in all of the larger groups.

I wasn’t taking notes at the time but this is what I picked up, in no particular order:

A major concern of the venues was with noise complaints leading to the threat of closure. Specifically the hypocrisy that during the Edinburgh Festival pop-up venues are able to create plenty of noise late into the night for an entire month without fuss whereas one complainant in February can cause a venue to be monitored and threatened with closure. Some have already spent a fortune on soundproofing but still get complaints. It was asked if the Council could provide grants to help with this or work more closely to ensure the correct things are done. Oh and there was a mention that Edinburgh is the only city in Europe that operates a “zero audibility clause”. I don’t know if it’s true about other cities, but the clause certainly exists.

The Queen’s Hall recently had one complaint about its external signage that led to them having to remove it all. -Some of which had been present for the last 15 years. Much of it had been present over the past 5 years. That this had actually been enforced by Edinburgh Council shows why this meeting has been so important. The Council also provides some funding to subsidise The Queen’s Hall so it seems odd that they’d choose to work against them. There needs to be some leeway in the law or some common sense applied.

Restrictions needn't be so stifling.

Restrictions needn’t be so stifling.

There was some disagreement as to whether we have too few small venues and rehearsal spaces. I was in the camp saying that there are probably enough small venues and that they are not used to their maximum potential. Some will argue against that. The owners of small venues that are currently doing a great job probably wouldn’t welcome too much extra competition. There was consensus that we should be supporting the ones we already have.I suppose there is not a directory of useful music related places and so unless you have decent contacts everyone has to work out simple things for themselves.*

There was discussion of the difficulty getting people out to gigs. That there are tens of thousands of students in the city but getting them out to local bands is incredibly difficult unless it’s for The VengaBoys and cheap beer.

Another point was that some large promoters don’t put gigs on big gigs in Edinburgh anymore. Not even during the festival. For example, the Murrayfield/Meadowbank Stadium gigs that Tennent’s Lager’s “ T on the Fringe” sponsorship helped to happen. The lack of big money sponsorship was noted but no suggestion came as to how this could be attracted in the future. Changing attitude to alcohol etc.

We discussed the value of live music to the city economy; That if we could get some figures together to actually value it, it would highlight the importance of supporting the live music sector. We also touched on how to get information about live music to tourists without coming to any conclusion. A point was made that a city with a reputation for it’s music will become a draw for tourists.

The creation of a hub of live music focusing on one area of the city was touted without a definite answer given. However there was appetite for the Cowgate with the hope that it could be tidied up a bit too.

The council have been looking to create an arts space off King’s Stables Road. It’s not clear how that would help with live music though. Possible cheap rehearsal space maybe.

A lack of larger venues. No-one was asking for an out of town arena to be built though. People of Edinburgh do want to see big bands. There aren’t enough spaces that can accommodate them. (eg With the Picture House closed there are instantly 52 fewer Saturday gigs in Edinburgh for 1000 people at a time. And, they would have gigs all week too.) An interesting finding was that it’s standard for bands to tour the biggest venues 1st then mop up the remaining fans in smaller places with a second sweep.

Something that wasn’t mentioned was that big touring bands will often get local bands in as support. The pay is rubbish (The Picture House would pay about £100) but the exposure is very handy.

Olaf Wide gave a good wee speech. I’d almost suggest that his organisation, Wide Days/Born To Be Wide be made Edinburgh’s official music focal point but wouldn’t want to load him with extra work. He’s been doing it for 10 years already and Olaf won an award from Creative Edinburgh last week. The “Anchor Award”. I suppose that is what is needed. Some stability, a solid base.

Olaf gets the Creative Edinburgh Anchor Award

Olaf gets the Creative Edinburgh Anchor Award

How do Edinburgh’s record shops fit in with all of this. Erm, I forgot to make a case. I wasn’t there with an agenda. Maybe next time. But the music scene is a little disjointed in that there are several scenes that don’t talk to one another (indie/rock/hiphop etc ) and within that several venues, promoters, bands and so on. I suppose as a shop that sells indie, rock, local releases, jazz and classical to a varied customer base across all ages and backgrounds, I have a decent overview of certain things without being expert in live music as such. But it’s the music industry and we’re all connected. I have to say that this initial meeting was really useful if only as a focal point for getting a disparate bunch of passionate musos together that can add different perspectives to the debate.

There were more issues discussed than eventual solutions but as a sounding board it was very welcome and the initial pledges from the council were encouraging. These aren’t the official minutes by the way, so I hope I’ve picked everything up ok to avoid any confusion.

1. The council pledge to take the issues raised seriously and to help where they can. She’ll be titling the project “Music Is Audible” (a tongue in cheek suggestion by, presumably, a venue owner with noise complaints).
2. Specifically, they hope to create a “one stop shop” to help advise venues, promoters and musicians. This already exist apparently but is more for larger acts/promoters/venues.
3. Look into creating formal arbitration between venues and noise complainants. A longer term plan to look at new residents in an area next to a venue having less rights over noise complaints. (I think this hits a grey area in Human Rights Law).
4. The recent Picture House closure was noted and the Council will look into how to protect venues from being sold and converted to different businesses as happened to The (fabulous) Venue a few years ago and The Picture House last year. This could involve the creation of a “Live Venue Trust”.
5. The council will liase with their counterparts in other cities in order to better emulate good practise for creating a music city. They are already in contact and Austin, Texas (who have the annual and massive South by South-West [SXSW] music festival) and they have agreed to help.
6. A plan to meet again in 4 months.
7. Other. I’m sure I’ve missed something.

It was nice to see the Council acknowledge that Edinburgh’s music scene hasn’t yet been held up as something to be proud of and that it needs formal support. That the scene exists at all, despite the lack of formal support so far is a good sign. Although this is very early in the process, I’m quietly optimistic.

In the meantime get out to a gig or two. Some artists are on reasonably big labels (eg Sub Pop) and come a long way to play here (eg from Vermont in the USA) often in smaller venues that consistently punch above their weight. The least we can do is make the effort, right? May I suggest King Tuff tonight at Sneaky Pete’s?

Um, I believe you can pick up the new King Tuff album from all good record shops.

* PS I almost forgot… Edinburgh musicians, Bart from eagleowl and Rob St John (eagleowl/Meursault/Water of Life) have compiled a handy guide for those wishing to put on gigs in Edinburgh/in general. It’s written by numerous people and is full of handy hints for those starting out. It’s called Don’t Make a Scene. I suppose it’s also the kind of thing that the Council could help support as I feel a series could be in the pipeline if this one is a success. You can read more about it here: Also available from good record shops (hopefully fairly soon).

3rd Floor Joy Division Blues

I went to Manchester for 24 hours the other week and checked into the Manchester Arena Central Travelodge for the night. I was given Room 13 on the 3rd floor. The Joy Division Floor. The room was really nice and the bed and sheets totally fine with an en suite and so on. Joy Division are, of course, a famous band from Manchester so naming a hotel floor near a large venue after them makes sense in tribute [Gary Barlow has floor 4]. As a record shop kind of person with more than a passing interest in the group I felt a tad uneasy.

Joy Division

OK, why the unease? I maybe read too much into it at the time but frontman Ian Curtis came up with the name ‘Joy Division’ after reading that it was the name given to brothels in some Nazi concentration camps (women were forced to work there). Joy Division. Others think the name came from the gallows humour of those who had to fling the corpses into pits; calling themselves (the) Joy Division.

I actually played Joy Division’s Closer album in the shop during a bright Summer’s day last year and had to turn it off mid-way through side 2. They have some great upbeat songs… But not on Closer. The sun retreated over the tenements leaving darkness on the inside.

Ian Curtis of Joy Division hung himself, while/after listening to Iggy Pop’s The Idiot: An album recorded in Berlin before the wall came down. It’s industrial sounding, drudging in places and was recorded in glorious black and white. It’s one of his best but there’s a time and a place for this kind of thing. Not so good when you’re away on your own. I thought about the Black and White artwork on the Joy Division records (And the Grey of Still). I thought it was ironic in a way as they weren’t binary at all -You always hear 4 things listening to Joy Division. Guitar/synth, Bass, Voice and Drums. Each part distinct. You get the odd keyboard and other bits and bobs but there aren’t many bands like that; that have a different riff for each instrument. The Stone Roses [Floor 2] managed something similar 10 years later but it’s an uncommon feat and I wondered if that was a key to success.

I wondered what the surviving band members thought of this mundane tribute with no sense of style. A black and white sign would at least be a wee nod and a wink. I then imagined what might happen if they started piping Joy Division into the hotel bedrooms. A hotel manager trying to save money on the morning breakfasts.*

Finally I realised that I was in the wrong bloody hotel! The Manchester Central Travelodge is not the same as the Manchester Central Arena Travelodge. So I left and everything was fine.

In a 1987 interview with Option, Stephen Morris (JD Drummer) commented on how he would describe Curtis to those who asked what he was like: “An ordinary bloke just like you or me, liked a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke.”

* There have been a few studies into hotel suicide. click here

Young Fathers Have Arrived

You might have just heard that Young Fathers have won this year’s Mercury Music Prize for their album Dead. The band’s history requires a little explanation as they’ve been making music for the past ten years but rather than me type away, you can click this link for a short history of the band and a pre-Mercury interview conducted in a cafe on Leith Walk. Or to sum them up, as they say themselves on their website:

‘This is known: Young Fathers are three young men from Edinburgh and Liberia and Nigeria, all at the same time. Their journey has taken them through various incarnations and styles but they are still only in their mid-twenties. And… and this is important: they’ve chosen to kill the past – their own past, even – to make their own future.’

That’s not a bad outlook at all.

You should also be aware that they won the Scottish Album of the Year Award earlier this year for their last album, Tape 2. Tape 2 wasn’t my choice but I don’t think anyone who voted really could disagree and there weren’t any serious grumblings afterwards. But awards are funny things and you can’t please everyone. Saying that, I think Dead deserved to win the Mercury Music Prize. But why?


This song and video is genuinely terrifying:

We played some of Dead on the VoxBox Vinyl Show this year (The Show is returning soon). It’s a daaaark album in places. Holy sheezus. It’s a wide eyed, claustrophobic, aggressive and moody record. But what do you really expect with a record called DEAD? The music they make has been called hip-hop but I don’t know if it is. It feels more like metal or hardcore with Gil Scott-Heron poetry thrown in. I do know they don’t like to be pigeon holed and they might some day kick me in the nuts for saying this but if you wanted me to come up with a genre, for this Hallowe’en week, I’d call it Dark Soul.

The great thing is that a load of people will listen to this album on the back of the win and maybe hold it up as art for a while. A dark sermon.

I sense that the Young Fathers don’t feel much affinity for places, but I’d hope the Mercury Music Prize win will ignite some outside interest in the compact Edinburgh music scene, in particular and most obviously, that The Young Fathers’ good friend LAWHolt gets signed up by an ambitious and forward thinking label and the chance to put an album out soon.

And although VoxBox stock the Young Fathers releases, I had nothing at all to do with their recent success and have never met them, I’m nevertheless very proud of their achievement.
Young Fathers are from Edinburgh. But in reality they are an international band that make music that hits you like a dark basement crack on the head that reminds you that you must pay attention: Something special has arrived.

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