HS: “Recently, we went to see the new post-punk documentary film, ‘Big Gold Dream’, with Artrocker. We decided to ask the film’s maker, Grant McPhee, to contribute to River’s Edge with a little more info about the project.”
Tell us about how you started the project. When? What was the catalyst?
I wanted to see it: nobody had made it, so thought I’d have a go. I didn’t really have much of an idea what I was doing so just started collecting interviews. This was around 10 years ago. I eventually managed to make a film, this was The Sound of Young Scotland, which still exists but is a very different film to the one we’re talking about now. There are actually a few versions of it in vastly varying lengths. It didn’t feel right so I started it again from scratch.
Along the way I met Erik Sandberg who was incredibly supportive and helpful and gave it a new lease of life. He came on board as a coproducer, and we eventually got a team together including Innes Reekie as the other coproducer, Angela Slaven as the editor and Wendy Griffin as producer. Angela pretty much co-authored the film. We gave her the footage and our idea, she took out all the boring guy stuff about obscure limited edition vinyl and added humour. I think the addition of humour is what has made the film stand out.
Many of these films, and anything about post-punk, tends to be a bit po-faced and cold. What gave the labels and music the character was the personalities involved so we thought it better to try and capture this rather than dedicate our limited screentime to exact chronological detail.
Have you always been interested in these labels and these bands – and post-punk and Indie pop in general? And if so who are your favourites?
Yes, I got into the Postcard bands when I was at school. I’m not really sure how really as I can’t think how I would have heard of them. This probably would have been in the very early 90s. Maybe it was when Postcard was relaunched and I’d read about them in a monthly magazine. Anyway, I loved Postcard and most punky, indie stuff. I’d heard of Fast Product and think even had Earcom2, as I loved Joy Division, but didn’t really know anything about them, certainly not that they were from Edinburgh.
When I met Malcolm Ross he told me about the Scars, I’d never heard of them so checked them out as soon as I could. And that led onto a whole host of bands I was unaware of. Which for someone into that kind of music was fantastic.
Big Gold Dream trailer
Who was you’re favourite person to interview?
It’s so difficult to say, and it changes all the time. I really enjoyed speaking to Davy Henderson as he kindly let us into his house for the afternoon, was a great host and was incredibly entertaining and helpful.
Are you interested in other music sub cultures?
Yes, I’ve always been a big fan of UK psychedelia, which is not very punk and all the subgenres from that. I also really like acidfolk and 70s European electronic music. In fact most early electronic music from the 40s onwards. I like technology and forward thinking and anything that combines that musically I’m a big fan of – Joe Meek is a good example. There’s lots of really rubbish music I like too.
Did you try and get hold of Alan Horne? and if so what happened? Was he impossible to get hold of?
He was too busy fishing.
Is there anyone you really wish you could have had in the film, but didn’t manage to?
The film started to get so big and we ended up with a deadline so we just had to stop at some point. I would have loved to have Graham Maine from Fire Engines and especially Bruce Findlay, who’s maybe the most influential person in Scottish music 6 Was Alan Rankine as happy and kind in real life as he was on screen? He certainly was. It was the first time I’d met him and he was immediately charming, warm and very; very funny. It was probably the most exciting interview Erik and I did as he was on top form, firing on all cylinders and we didn’t really know what he’d say next.
We would have loved to have used more but we had a tight limit on screentime and likely couldn’t afford the lawyers we’d need to clear most of it. But nobody can be offended by him really as he’s so charming. I think some more of it may be used on some reissues next year, which would be great as he’s very entertaining. He really is one of the UK’s most talented musicians actually.
The film ended up centring a lot around Bob Last, was this something that emerged through the film or something you planned?
The Postcard story has been done a lot, although still not definitively yet. The Fast and Edinburgh story goes well beyond the 12 releases on Fast Product, and as Bob was so involved with every stage we thought it would make sense to have him as one of the main threads. He’s a very clever guy and has been incredibly important to the development of independent music, and importantly taking it beyond an independent framework.
I don’t think people are aware of how much Fast and The Human League were intertwined. The simultaneous management of bands on industry labels and having your own independent label is something I find very interesting. Very few people managed that successfully, him and Bill Drummond really.
Would have been really great if you could have been at the London Screening where were you? I was there, just at a different screening. In a bizarre coincidence our two independent London screenings were on the same night, at the same time and only a two minute walk from each other. We hoped we could have had them spread out but had to go with the two. Bob did one of the Q and As and I did the other.
We hear there is a follow up, tell us about that.
The follow-up is now called Teenage Superstars. In typical fashion there was a film called Songs From Northern Britain, that was mostly complete but it’s being remade as Teenage Superstars. It follows on directly from Big Gold Dream. It’s the story of the bands who were formed at Alan Horne’s Postcard flat – Strawberry Switchblade, The Bluebells and The Pastels. The main thread being The influence of The Pastels, members who along with members of The Shop Assistants and the Fast Forward distribution company formed the and greatest Scottish Indie record label 53rd and 3rd records, home of BMX Bandits, The Boy Hairdressers (who turned into Teenage Fanclub), The Vaselines and all the bands associated (Soup Dragons etc).
I think people will be surprised at how most of the bands contained the same members. Band rehearsals would involve a core nucleus of musicians who with a few additons would suddenly become another band– in the morning Duglas would sing and they would be BMX Bandits, in the afternoon Norman would sing and they would be Boy Hairdressers and in the evening Sean would sing and they would be Soup Dragons. We’ve managed to speak to everyone involved and I think it’s going to be even more exciting than Big Gold Dream. I really can’t wait until it’s finished – which should be sometime next year.
What other films are you working on? Is film making your main focus?
My day job is running a company who deal with the post production of features and television drama. But I’m involved with a group of friends who make our own independent feature films. So, in addition to Teenage Superstars we have a few interesting drama films. It’s great as it allows us to be as creative as possible.
If you could make a film about any science fiction author who would it be?
Oh, I can’t think. I’d probably get into trouble. Sorry.
Photos: Hilary Morrison