Updated: Aug 8, 2022
How are you getting on? I hope you're doing alright. A content warning for the next few paragraphs as it contains mention of reproductive and LGBT+ rights.
It's been a rough couple of months full of attacks on bodily autonomy and extremely worrying far right takes featuring nativism and natalism appearing in national news outlets. I've seen a lot of - almost exclusively men - giving it the "why are you going on about abortion bans in the US when you live in Greenock [or similar]" patter on the internet. An attack on the right to choose anywhere is an attack on the right choose everywhere. Literally within hours of Roe v Wade being overturned we've had politicians in Holyrood and Westminster bringing it up as something worthy of debate. Scotland, England and Wales have still not decriminalised abortion and, even though it is legalised under certain conditions, it still requires the signature of two doctors to be lawful.
Questioning the right to choose is a direct attack on human rights and people are going to die as a result of this ruling, as in other cases where the right safe and legal abortion has been restricted - remember Savita Halappanava and Izabela Sajbor. There are already the threats of internet search surveillance, monitoring of period tracking apps and monetary incentives to report on those seeking abortions in the US.
The removal of the right to safe and legal abortion to those who need it is a public health crisis. Reach out to your pals and check in on how they're taking this news, because it isn't just happening in America, it has emboldened those who seek to remove the right to choose where it is still possible to do so.
There is a right-wing fervour gripping politics and the media in the UK at the moment and it is terrifying. Elements of the UK press and political sphere are absolute desperate to import the "Culture War" from the US. It is a war full of bad-faith assertions and disingenuos pearl-clutching designed to divide and conquer the public, and monopolise our attention span so that nobody gets too exercised about the the smash-and-grab being perpetrated by politicians who see their role as maximising profits for donors and the shareholders of companies on whose boards they will sit when they bow out of something so trivial as politics. A report in mid-June showed Transphobic hate crimes in Scotland are up 87% and homophobic hate crimes are up 10%. Given how many articles in newspapers - of all leanings - and in news outlets have been running anti-trans pieces in particular, it's hard not to see the correlation. If you're outwith the LGBTQ+ community it's time to be an ally to your pals within it who may well be feeling really quite frightened at the minute.
As a treat on top of all that we're currently suffering through another Conservative leadership contest between the world's wee-est guy and the world's densest person.
Energy companies profits are all increasing by billions and we're expected to suck up a "difficult winter ahead" (read: many will fall into destitution and/or die).
Profiteering on a rapidly dying planet. Murdering bastards.
Things are not looking so good and something needs to be done.
All is not lost.
Join a union. Support strikers, as an attack on pay and conditions in one sector is an attack on all of our pay and conditions. If you are struggling with your bills contact Citizen's Advice Scotland or your local equivalent. Engage with, and support, the work of Engender and Back Off Scotland. And most of all, try to remain hopeful.
And now for an attempt at some light relief...
Three very enjoyable band shows on the east coast of Scotland took us towards the middle of June.
First up was Edinburgh and a return to the Cowgate and Sneaky Pete's. Soundcheck is loud to the point I'm pretty sure Charlotte may vomit on me. I feel my own head swimming as I stoat offstage and head to find some dinner. I manage to order fried prawn rice that is covered in chicken and pork due to my poor Mandarin skills, which is sub-optimal what with me being a pescatarian.
The show is very enjoyable and it's a great pleasure to have Granton Youth Mixtape Music Club in attendance. Possible the best thing to come out of the night is the photo below capturing how Big Red really feels about me.
Aberdeen is next and I am very excited to receive a package of specially-made stickers (and a reprint of the nice BC leaf ones) I have ordered especially for this show, what with me being a Dons fan and all. Standing in my kitchen 1.30am after coming back to Glasgow following the Edinburgh gig, and loading all the gear back into the unit, I tore open the package to find...nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not tampered with, damaged or in any way opened prior to me getting into it. So I'd literally been sent an empty giant cardboard envelope. Not so "Awesome".
I tell everyone this story as we're flinging our gear into the van the next morning. Can you be sympathetically laughed at? I think that's what is happening.
We make it to the Tunnels in Aberdeen without incident and breathe a sigh of relief, given the last two Broken Chanter gigs in Aberdeen had been cancelled before we even made it to the venue (collapsed ceiling and medical emergency, respectively).
The tunnel outside the appropriately-named venue The Tunnels feels a touch like we are standing inside a concrete colon as there is an enthusiastic and persistent waft of sewage. Makes us load in in record time just to get away from it though. Silver linings.
The gig goes off without hitch, and is very enjoyable, but the main relief is that we get to the end of the set without learning beyond any notion of doubt that Aberdeen is in fact cursed for gigs.
Because the price of fuel is absolutely mental we're piling back to a Premier Inn just south of Aberdeen as a treat. Wow, I know - big mad rockstars. Premier Inn has rolled out new in-room art featuring the cover of Young Team by Mogwai, which is surprising.
Any time a Fisher and Donaldson's is available to me I will take the opportunity to stuff one of their Best In The Whole World Fudge Doughnuts into my geggie, and today is no exception. It makes the drive from the Premier Inn (Aberdeen South) to Dundee feel like it has a real sense of purpose. And the gig obviously.
After soundcheck I treat myself to watching the Scottish Men's Football Team absolute shite the bed again and susequently console myself with some incredible Lebanese food in a restaurant next to the venue.
Tonight's show is LOUD. The ceiling is very low and if feels like Lesley is smashing bottles directly into my ear canals any time a cymbal is struck, as I am practically sitting on her kick drum due to the size of the stage. There are two stage lights, both of which are uplighting me and making me look like the antagonist of a student horror film. The blue does wonders for my acne scars. In a true diva moment I have to ask for the one directly lighting my retinas to be turned off as I cannot see my guitar. Or anything, really. The venue is very cool though and the gig is great. The audience is enthusiastic and we have a great time. Think there may be a few folk with poorer hearing after it, but the thrill of live music is back, baybee.
This is sadly is the last night of the run of shows with Raveloe and Martin John Henry. They've both played absolutely brilliant sets every night and are as lovely as they are talented.
There is a nice wee video of the Horse Island EP tour dates here.
Next up is a night with labelmates Album Club and Sister John for the former's LP launch at Òran Mòr. It's just me on and guitar and Linzi Clark on BVs tonight. My tendinitis flares up because I have had the temerity to play my acoustic for some of the set. I end our part of the show with three fingers on my left hand sort of obeying me and playing power chords as a last resort. Frustrating and painful, what a double act! It takes the shine off a playing for a very receptive audience somewhat as I am worrying how I'll get to the end of each of the last 3 or 4 songs. I will stop whinging now.
The rest of the evening is very enjoyable and I make an Irish exit after nodding enthusiastically to everyone who is encouraging me to continue the fun upstairs in the bar. I am absolutely burst after a very busy few weeks and think better of it.
I am meant to open for Meursault in Edinburgh at the start of July but the show is off due to illness. The very same night Carla J Easton's opener succumbs to illness also, so I hop onto the bill at the wonderful MacArts in Galashiels. I'm joined by the fabulous voice of Gill Higgins and the show is a delight.
MacArts is such a great venue and the folk of the Borders are very lucky to have it. I have the extreme luxury of not having to drive tonight as Olive Grove head honcho Lloyd is in attendance due to it being two of his artists on the bill. Bliss.
I spend the next week avoiding folk so I don't catch the 'rona before I head to Norway to play at the wonderful Indiefjord festival. My travel buddy is Linzi Clark who's playing on the Saturday and once again lending her fine voice to my songs.
Our first flight from Edinburgh to Oslo is so delayed that we manage to overlap with Broken Chanter OG Audrey on her way to Belgium to play a festival with Franz Ferdinand.
After a relatively short flight Linzi and I get to enjoy Oslo airport for over 7 hours. It looks like a spa. Our second flight is delayed too, meaning we don't land in Ålesund until 1.15am. The festival have very kindly left us a car and Linzi promises to remind me every 5 minutes to drive on the right-hand side of the road. The skies open and the sort of torrential downpour I've only witnessed a few times accompanies us on our way to Bjørke. We are the only passengers on the 3am sailing of a gigantic car ferry. It is well eerie.
We finally arrive at our accommodation by the fjord a mere 20ish hours since we left our respective homes. Sleep comes quickly.
Only a few hours later Linzi is playing an enchanting set in a listed building - a gorgeous boathouse in the mist and rain. The appropriately waterproofed crowd love it. If you look closely you can see Indiefjord Legend/mastermind Silja just next to the headstock of Linzi's guitar.
The evening performances take place in the village hall and it is a surreal experience being back. The last time I was here was in 2017 with Kid Canaveral and I was meant to play the 2020 festival and 2021 festival as Broken Chanter. A lot has happened and the world has arguably changed but here's a room full of folk from all over the place just enjoying live music and each other's company. Avind are a particular highlight tonight and I leave with their record.
My set on the Sunday takes place on what is without doubt the most picturesque stage I've ever had the pleasure of gracing. It's not many shows that you have to concentrate on not getting distracted by the scenery. My throat catches a couple of times and I am feeling a touch hoarse by the end of the set. I'm sure it's nothing. Kip Berman plays a selection of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart hits after us and it's just lovely.
The evening show's standout for me is Fightmilk. Big smile on my face. The falafal wraps in the hall are so good I feel quite emotional. It is important to eat at regular intervals.
On our final morning in Bjørke my attempt at a fjord swim as in 2017 is thwarted by many red jellyfish around the jetty. Probably for the best as I am feeling a little sinusy. Linzi and I hop onto the bus bound for Ålesund Airport and take in the scenery we missed on the way here - me, because I was concentrating on not aquaplaning us to our death, and Linzi because she was concentrating on hoping that we didn't aquaplane to our deaths. We hop off at the airport hotel, dump our stuff and walk towards the waterbus that takes us at a mental speed to the city, which sits on a different island. Ålesund is gorgeous and isn't ruined by the old man who pisses against a pane of glass whilst looking at us. It is the most antisocial thing I've ever witnessed in Norway and feels like it should have its own Wikipedia entry. We walk the 411 or so steps up to the Aksla viewpoint and take in the stunning vista (see below).
I feel terrible once we get back to the hotel and hardly sleep. We head to the airport at 4.45am for our 6.45am flight. Linzi does a comic exagerrated, feigned shocked gasp as I set the metal detector off in an attempt to get my cavities searched. I mentally try and come up with a way to leave her in Norway. My mask is now clamped to my face as I feel iller and iller. It's not COVID though. It's just sinusitis. It'll be fine. No further delays and a taxi ride home still in my mask with a driver who struggles to hide his contempt for my covered face allow me to collapse into my bed at a respectable 3pm GMT. I wake up a few hours later and take a PCR test that has such a strong positive result it looks like I've dug in a red biro with some considerable force. Who's the shitehawk now? I tell the taxi driver in an impotently imagined conversation.
You can watch a wee travelogue of the festival here.
COVID is shite and I lose over two weeks to fatigue and brain fog. I'm completely useless. As far as the traditional symptoms go, it's not as bad as the time I had flu, but how knackered and mentally impared I feel is off the scale. And the flu's peak lasted but four days. I search for words and don't find them. It feels like someone is periodically sticking a slice of lemon in my sinuses through the top of my skull. I idly wonder how bad this would've been had I not been vaccinated and boosted.
Cumbernauld Theatre rolls around and soundcheck leaves me feeling absolutely gubbed. A distortion pedal dies during it and I pray that dinner and paracetamol revives me. There's a really great turnout and I join Pedro (Man of the Minch) during his opening set to sing Gone for the first time since we recorded it for his album 23 1/2 months prior. The BC band start our set and my fingers feel a bit clumsy. The reaction of the crowd to the first song shakes me from the post-VID fatigue and I am enjoying myself until my guitar cuts out entirely because one of the power supplies to my effects pedal board has died. I do my best to tell the audience some entertaining yarns whilst holding my mic in one hand a re-routing my signal chain with the other. A performance piece, aye? The rest of the set goes off without a hitch and I feel paradoxically energised and absolutey wiped/spaced out. It's a really great show and a great new venue.
Next up is a trip to the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh to open for Withered Hand on Friday 12 August. It's a full band show, too. Get your tickets here.
I'm also very excited to be off to the Republic of Ireland for the first time performing as Broken Chanter and the first time since Kid Canveral played Whelan's in 201...uh, a while ago. I'll be playing at Subterranean Sounds at Phil Grimes in Wateford on 14 October and at the legendary Rollercoaster Records in Kilkenny on 15 October. Tickets here.
That was a long one, eh? As a last wee related bit, please find below an interview that I did for the Dundee Courier ahead of the show in June, almost none of which made it into print in an article that referred to me as Douglas throughout. Ah well. It will hopefully also answer a question I get asked frequently on Insta and Twitter about when Kid Canaveral are getting back together.
I hope you're very well indeed.
Where are you at the moment and what are you up to?
I’m on my first proper holiday in three years. I shouldn’t be doing this interview, I’m getting a wrist tapped at me ha ha, but thank you for asking! I’ve escaped from our cursed set of islands and have been avoiding the news.
What has your experience been so far of heading out on the road post-lockdown?
It’s been great - really truly wonderful to play live again, although it has been quite strange and difficult at times. There’s still an understandable amount of hesitation from folk re: COVID, as it hasn’t gone away, and it’s affecting a lot of tours and gigs’ ticket sales across the board. For us, there have been sold out shows followed by smaller crowds, but I feel very lucky not having to have pulled any shows because of COVID/sales since I’ve been back out on the road, as it’s something I’ve seen happening quite a lot this year. It’s been a joyous experience for the vast majority of the touring of the new record.
How important is playing live for you? What are you looking forward to about playing Dundee?
Playing live is extremely important as it gives you a chance to experience something with the audience, and I think I appreciate that more than ever before after we had all that time away. The shows have been really cathartic at points. I love the interaction and the back-and-forth you can have with a crowd too. Others in the band will say that is a polite way of saying I talk too much.
Who is in your band?
I’ve a rotating cast of stellar musicians. Audrey Tait has been with me from the start of BC and is on both records but has been away with Franz Ferdinand since the start of March. Lesley McLaren will be hammering the kit on our east coast dates. Bart Owl is on guitar, and Tom Dallas will be on bass for Dundee filling for the roving Charlotte ‘Big Red’ Printer.
Who's supporting you in Dundee?
My labelmate Leo is doing a solo Mt Doubt set - I just had the pleasure of watching him record an album live, just him and a grand piano at the CCA. Martin John Henry of De Rosa is doing a solo set and it always feels mad to have him open for me and not the other way about. De Rosa!
Given when you wrote and recorded CH, I'm guessing the album title has an obvious inspiration. What does it mean to you?
Yeah, it was a wee play on words. A record made after a catastrophe has hit; “hits” made during a catastrophe. The “hits” in the latter sense was meant as a joke, as I’d no expectations it’d actually grace the charts, never mind as high up as it did.
Your sophomore record has a more upbeat feel than your BC debut – can you explain the progression between the two albums? Was there a conscious effort to head in that direction?
The first album feels like a while ago now, but it only came out towards the end of 2019. A lot has happened in the interim, eh? It was a more melancholic affair, and I was looking to distance myself from the sound of Kid Canaveral, to prove to myself as much as anyone I had range ha ha. It was introspective and reflective and I was in mourning for the end of Kid C. It was mostly written and recorded on a peninsula sticking into the Atlantic from County Donegal in February and we soaked up a lot of that in the music, I think. I wanted the second record to be a much more outward looking and upbeat affair. I knew it would come out when we were hopefully making progress out of the pandemic so I wanted it to give folk a lift. I wanted to offer something hopeful - something that said things are terrible but we’ve the power to change them through compassion and organising. Too many are still wooed by the handwringing, useless British Centrism of “things are terrible, but as long as they don’t get any worse and everyone is polite that’ll be good enough”. It’s a call to action (with tunes) - we’re doomed unless we halt the slide of a number of democracies towards fascism, and address a climate disaster that we are now heading towards at speed.
Did you record CH to give it more a of a live/band feel?
Yes, absolutely. That was one of the two overarching requests I made to Paul (Savage, Producer) - easily translatable to a stage, and off-kilter, loud pop music. We ran a number of takes of the full band songs and went with the best one, so the drums, bass, and some of the guitars are actually live, rather than tracked, on most of the record. Audrey and Graeme (Smillie, Bass) are a formidable rhythm section.
Could you tell us what happened with Kid Canaveral? Did BC come out of a feeling that group was reaching an end point or needed a break?
It wasn’t working for everyone anymore. I wanted to do another KC record, but you can’t force these things. In hindsight, we’d probably run our course. There was no drama, just an end. We all still see each other regularly. Friendships forged over a decade-plus of sleeping in weird places and being crammed into various vehicles for up to thousands of miles at a time are hard to break.
As a former Fence alumnus, how was your recent return to the East Neuk?
It was really wonderful. It had been maybe 9 years? It was an intimate sold out show at Futtle Organic Brewery. Linzi Clark was on backing vocals and we were wedged between the beer barrels in front of an amazing audience. Felt a bit like I had something in my eye on a couple of occasions *cough*.
You’ve had some chart success thanks to the vinyl, I believe. What are the key chart positions to mention? And how gratifying are they?
Yeah, that was pretty wild and it was way beyond any expectations I had for the album. It reached #7 in the Scottish Album Chart, #10 in the UK Vinyl Chart, #16 in UK Independent Chart, and #29 in the UK Physical Sales Chart. We’d suffered from the global vinyl issues and it took 10 months to get the vinyl of Catastrophe Hits from when we sent it for manufacture. The album had been available digitally and on CD since November, so maybe it gave time for folk to get to know it and love it ahead of the LPs landing in February. Once it arrived, Last Night From Glasgow got it to the distributor immediately and I did a few instores the week of release, having just come back from an English tour, so there was a nice bit of momentum and good feeling around it too. I’m very grateful to have an audience who still buy records & CDs, and it means the world to me to receive that sort of support. This feels like just the start of the hard work though. There’s a lot of lost time to be made up for and a lot of people to make familiar with the Broken Chanter name and back catalogue. Constant shows, writing, and recording are on the cards over the next few years, as it’s easy to disappear if you step back for too long these days.