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Interview of Stuart Murdoch by Richard Price at The Tinderbox, Glasgow February 1 2007


SM: One two, one two; see, you can always see the little, the little one two flicker.


RP: Oh yeah, I see. I should have known that.


SM: You see that flicker and that move, you're OK. Nothing can go wrong.


RP: I feel I'm in safe hands now. [Backs away from borrowed tape recorder]. Of course, of course you would know about all this stuff.


One of the things I'd like to talk about, and I realise you've probably talked about this a lot, but it's the, the context of the first days, which I think are in the mid nineties just before the band was forming, how, how were you writing, how, were you in a band, what was the band scene before Belle and Sebastian came about?


SM: Aye, I was trying to get going, I was writing an increasing number of songs and I was very dubious and suspicious of, of bands in general, but [also] of forming a band. You know I saw plenty of bands around. I used to go and see a lot of groups. I used to sit on my own at the bar and watch three or four groups a night sometimes, say, two or three times a week. My girlfriend used to live over a bar, and so we used to get in free all the time. You know you could actually hear the bands and any band you liked you could simply, kind of, run downstairs and watch them, because you could hear them coming through the floor. And so I think the early nineties was a good time for groups. That was kind of before, in Glasgow at least, that was before a lot of bands came out and got popular like the Delgados and Mogwai, Arabstrap. You know they were just bubbling under, there was a lot going on. And so I liked it but at the same time I felt outside of it.


RP: How did the people in the bands relate to each other? … Was it a melting pot or was it pretty much a group of well-formed strands?


SM: I think it… My experience of Glasgow from the mid-eighties onwards is that there's been different melting pots. I've seen maybe three or four scenes or melting pots, erm, whether that be the kind of art school scene, or the very kind of anorak scene, the mid eighties or, a kind of artsy scene or the people that hang around the Grosvenor Café and drink coffee all day scene. You know there, there was a variety of these melting pots.


RP: You have some sharp things to say about the school of art in one of your  recent records [“Sukie in the Graveyard” ]. Is there a tension between the idea of an art rock and what you've been trying to do?


SM: No, not really. I, I love art rock, I do I love it. I think, perhaps I was painting that, that, I used that turn of phrase either for a good rhyme, or… yeah a little dig at something or other just you know to make the character seem like she stood out from that kinda vibe. Personally I love so many. There's Roxy Music, they were playing in the background earlier. They're an original art school band. I love that pretence of bands trying to become art.


RP: Yeah, I do as well. I was struck by the paradox of it. But I mean [back pedalling] I took it to be part of the extraordinary storytelling propulsion there is in so many of the songs that it's actually someone in character, it's a story that's being told and that isn't about complete identification of the singer to the song.


SM: When you slip inside a character or slip inside a song you do you become removed and say things that aren't you obviously and that's fine, it's fun. I must say though our particular group was not affiliated with art school or college. It really did feel that we were a variety of drop-outs, people recovering from dole years or people just falling out of secondary school really. There was a mixture and then we did, we felt this, we did put a little shell around ourselves, sometimes that's necessary to make something new. You do have to feel separated from all around you.


RP: Yeah. What's the Stow College connection? Were you actually at Stow?


SM: No, I wasn't at Stow College. I was in an unemployment training scheme [for unemployed musicians]. I went out of my way not to kind of learn anything on this scheme and they went out of their way not to teach you anything which was fine, it was a mutual agreement that was, that was perfect. They paid your dole money and then you sort of amused yourself. And Stewart [David]  the bass player was on the same course. But independently Stow College happened to get a tape. I think one of the people, they used to liaise with our course, and somebody from our course took a tape of the stuff that I was doing, a demo tape, and they got interested at that, at Stow College for their scheme that they had every year. Richard [Cole] was on the course, that's our drummer. He happened to be on the course and also our soon to become manager, Neil [Robertson], was at Stow College as well, so those two were at Stow College sitting in the classroom like oversize schoolboys. I mean really like with their knees tucked up to their chins. It's so funny, they never changed over the years, to me they never changed in ten, twelve years. They just looked exactly the same.


RP: To go back to the art school thing, one of the sounds I think I'm picking up is a kind of, it's a kind of early seventies, late sixties it's almost a French sound. It's something that mebbe Stereolab do with female voices behind it. It's almost a kind of pulsing, err, beautiful accompaniment to voices. Is that part of what you feel is a kind of art school sound or what's all that about, the French connection?


SM: The French connection, in, in our music?


RP: Yes, yes.


SM: I don't know, it's just a, just an appreciation as much as possible of, of French pop music as opposed to British or American. It's just a slightly different slant. I wasn't obsessed by it but I was, I was interested more in French films than anything else. Uhm, so maybe just a little bit of Gallic pretence.


RP: Cos it does, I mean, your interest does extend to everything doesn't it? Uhm, there are, erm… the covers, the stories within the albums. There's a, there's a real sense that you're trying to create a whole atmosphere and a lot of that is a French photographic iconography as well, the French clothes, and uhm, there's something definitely there. I'm not making it up am I?


SM: No, no I think the important thing to emphasise is the atmosphere thing, we're certainly trying to create an atmosphere with the records, with the songs and with the images, absolutely.


RP: You talked, you just mentioned the 1980's as a time when there was an important Glasgow scene. Is that the world of Postcard, the Pastels, are they important, were they important to you at the time?


SM: Yeah, tremendously, especially Postcard. But then I was after Postcard. So I didn't come to Glasgow til 1985 when, you know Postcard was already a distant memory. It seemed to be a long time even though that was only 3 years or something. It seemed that I'd missed the bus, the boat whatever. And so I built the Postcard world up in my mind as a kind of halcyon days of the early 80's and venerated it. The Pastels were still around and the Pastels they were a really good group. I think they're kind of underrated from that time because they were much more interesting than the twee groups that were kind of becoming popular in music magazines. They had much more to them. They had a bit of bite and decent songs. To be honest Steven, over the years I got to know him and he's a, he was a really good support for me actually in the early, so the song writing and what have you. He was kind of uncynical and supportive.


RP: And is he, err, is he still a presence for you? Is he still someone you would still go to and talk about things?


SM: Oh yeah. It's more rarely these days. I see him around quite a lot. Sometimes we meet up and have a chat, see what's going on. The Pastels are I think, producing music much more sporadically now that they, kind of, have families and kids and things and err but Steven is still, you know, a centrepiece of certain Glasgow music scene. He's still working away at the record shop and stuff like that.


RP: What about you, how do you keep the band together? How does the band keep itself together?  How does it work as a collective, if you like, if that's what it is?


SM: Uhuh, keep our band together, erm, it's funny it's more like gravity these days. We don't even need any glue, We just, we are, we are a group and we stay together for reasons of necessity. Everything from what we are going to put in our mouths to what comes out of our mouths, what we think and feel. There's no problems there. I think, ten years, then we're taking a break from each other but the group's never been in better form, mentally or otherwise. So it's great, it's nice, it's good fellowship actually. You know whenever we meet up, occasionally we meet up to discuss business matters, or whatever, and it's just good crack, which is great. It's a rare thing.


RP: I'm struck by the way that you talk to your fans. You have a, quite a calm and quite an enthusiastic and encouraging relationship with your fans. It's not just that they encourage you but looking at the diary blogs and also some of the other things to do with fans there's a, there's a proper distance that you keep and I think everyone must have to keep with fans, but there's also a sense that you're encouraging them to do things and poetry and so forth, and err erm. How do you share that with the band? How do you share your relationship with the fans?


SM: Uhm, with the…


RP: With the fans. Is there one person who does most with the fans or.. how does it work?


SM: Everybody has their own relationship, you know, with the fans and it's all it's all pretty pally, it's all pretty comfortable. Some people in the group, you know, they dj a lot. The guys are away deejaying in Japan or South America or wherever you know when we're not busy and obviously meeting fans all the time you know and they seem to have a lot of time for them so everyone meets them on their own sort of level. Yeah, we like to, we like to kind of involve them sometimes and it depends whose initiative it is, for instance there's been a few schemes, like I've done the treasure hunts in the past before which involved liaising with the fans. I think that's part of the privilege of becoming a semi-successful group that you can, you can sort of say OK you guys if you're enthusiastic about this group I wanna channel your enthusiasm into fun stuff and so we have picnics or treasure hunts or writing homework or something [laughs].


RP: One of the things which recurs, I think on every album and it's also some things you've been describing just now this sense of teachers and students, pupils, students, teachers erm. A lot of the songs are about kids who don't really fit in with their friends, or what they might hope to be their friends, and also the teachers themselves aren't able to cope with them. There's a kind of failure there in the teachers. I'm interested in that from my memories of teachers being equipped with a belt and I felt that that was a very good thing to get rid of that. I'm wondering where that, there's a sense of distrust of teachers, of you advising kids to, erm, to shrug and keep teachers at a distance to some degree.


SM: You know when you think about it, it's, it's almost quite an easy picture to paint. It's almost a little bit of a cliché to rebel against teachers because when you analyse it, I'm thinking about it now, I myself probably would prefer the company of an average school teacher much more than I would the company of the average citizen who has grown out of the classroom. I mean to be honest,  because teachers usually hold quite an enlightened, liberal view. At least a lot of them do. So really it's just sort of occurring to me it's a metaphor for something but it’s a shame it always has to be teachers, it's almost like they are always such an easy target. It's more like the bosses or the establishment, or somebody at work, or business, this kind of thing. They're kind of shadier characters to draw aren't they really. It's a more difficult relationship to represent, it's more subtle and that's why the bastards get away with it, you know.


RP: [Laughs] Yeah I sense the, err. My take on it the songs about work situations is that you're playing with the vocabulary of work, but you're mebbe not really having, you're really not saying anything that much about work. Whereas in the educational ones, yes you're using education as a sample of how power relationships work, but you're definitely saying something about education, and it recurs. It's there from the first record to the last. And, err, I mean from my kind of fusty, tweedy academic, my background's in Scottish literature, it's a classic Scottish literature subject; the role of the teacher and of the pupil. My educational interest goes back to Neil Gunn's novels and he respects the teacher but he also sees the teacher as someone who might almost break into a student's self. The teacher has to be kept at arms length to some degree and I think that tension is err… am I talking rubbish?


SM: Oh no, it's..


RP: I'm babbling aren't I?


SM: It's valid. It makes you actually… if I start to think about the early songs then it does make you think, wow, what was I up to? Why did I, why did that seem so important at the time. It must have been, it was almost to be honest I think schools and colleges and that kind of thing, it's one, it's something everyone has gone through, at least most people have gone through, so you can relate to it instantly, rather than describing a certain work situation where people might not be so, the school thing you can relate to instantly. And, I wonder why else…err yeah that's possibly one of the reasons why I framed some of these stories. I probably had a, I think I had a chip on my shoulder as well because I was failing in, at further education all over the place.


RP: Is that right?


SM: Yeah, yep so I think, erm.


RP: Do you think it's just about worked out?


SM: What's that?


RP: Do you think it's just about worked out?


SM: Aye, am all right. I'm more interested in, in education than I have been for, for years simply, you know, learning stuff. I think if I was to talk about that kind of stuff, write a story about that kind of stuff it would be quite different. It might be, might be about kids or kids with a real thirst for knowledge, someone who gets on really well, or you know…erm


RP: Well there are some lovely pieces, in the whole, looking across the whole oeuvre where there is a sense of real comfort. I mean 'Wrapped up in books' that is actually a very, very warm feeling you're getting out of that record and that's to do with being indoors with your nose in a book and erm...err. A lot of the songs have the comfort of a melody, very, very beautiful melodies but they contrast that with some quite spiky, dark subjects. What's going on there?


SM: I think that was, if there was any conceit or any preconceived notion of what the group or what my songs should be about then, right from the start, then it was to think up the prettiest melody and, but, set spiky words to them. Set people thinking, maybe have people nodding off on the melody and then second, third time round suddenly think what is this person talking about? You know what, it, the character is having a dark night of the soul but the melody is very major and pretty. So that was something that did occur to me. Not too much, I mean, I was swept up with song writing around 94, 95 and didn't really tend to think about stuff. I just kept moving forward, trying to write better songs and then when the group came along there was no time to think either. So there… really be emphasised I didn't think about stuff too much, just got on with it but that was one thought that did occur to me was contrasted prettiest melodies with the, with the darkest notions.


RP: Coming from a place where I've got a kind of toe in the water, interested in text based art I suppose it would be called, someone who reminds me very much of some of the things that are going on in Belle and Sebastian and that is Ian Hamilton Finlay.


SM: Ian Hamilton…


RP: Ian Hamilton Finlay


SM: Right uhha.


RP: In the early 60's he had a poetry book called The dancers inherit the party and then after that he had a book called Glasgow beasts where each animal speaks with a Glasweigian accent. And, but he is very interested in France, very interested in, there is a mordulant [sic], almost a violent undercurrent to a lot of his work as well, it comes a bit later. And erm, I'm a librarian I do taxonomies, I classify, and I realise that that's my thing, it's not your thing, but I would see that, I would see you as being quite close to that sense of producing very, very beautiful things. He's a, he was a book artist and he always worked with excellent typographers and artists but quite often there's a sinister undercurrent there. And err… Do you know his stuff at all?


SM: No I don't actually, I don't. I'm not…


RP: Oh that's good. I'll get you some because you might be interested in that.


SM: Sure, yeah.


RP: Oh good, that's even better. I was looking at one of the dvd's where you're playing with, erm, I mean I don't know if it's you whose playing with it, but the video is playing with erm it's a little action man in a parachute and you're throwing it off a bridge.


SM: oh yeah.


RP: And again, he's very interested in all like, model soldiers and things like that. And on the one hand it's a step back into childhood, on another obviously it's got the cast of something sinister. He's suggesting a connection between childhood and violence and how we teach children and stuff like that. Nothing creepy, there's nothing creepy going on but err, it's err, I was really struck by that. It was doing different things within it. It isn't an influence picking out thing I'm doing here. I'm just free-associating.


SM: Yeah. I never read anything by him, or heard his name mentioned.


RP: Right. He died erm I think last year. He's become more famous in the world of sculpture and gardening and landscape gardening.


SM: Right, OK


RP: He's got a big garden out near Edinburgh called Little Sparta. And people go and visit and he's set up this delightful ponds and inscriptions and like he's got an aircraft carrier which is, which is a bird bath and things like that and you know he plays with all that. I think you'd like him.


SM: Aye.


RP: On the other hand you might not. Anyway. One of the things I suppose you've had to, well I know you will have to cope with is the idea of celebrity. And that is one of the themes in your songs as well. There's err, in a recent song it's the idea of I hate to see you as someone who almost made it. There's also people who couldn't make it because they had a stroke, and that, there's err, the so called Stars of track and field. It's almost like you're using, you're not really interested in celebrity, you're interested in people who feel the loss of celebrity, or the, erm, the inability to be a celebrity. And there's a kind of farm or a kind of comfort in the records about trying to retune people away from the whole idea of celebrity. Is that a fair reading?


SM: Not really sure. Never, never thought about it too much. Personally I'm, personally I am interested, interested in people doing good, good stuff. I love reading about people, you know, the lives of artists. I love reading about, you know, the lives of athletes. I love people doing good stuff. I do like famous people, I'd say, people, politicians or kings or people who had interesting lives. I like it. I like reading about them. That's probably as far as it gets for me. And you mentioned those individual songs and they probably, each of them have a different take and were written from a different time. And I'm sure the first one is simply from venerating somebody, or a group of people, that were above me in the social echelon at the time and still feeling this feeling, maybe 10, 15 years on and it being poignant enough to put into a song, that was, you know, Stars of track and field. But err and then the more recent one Dress up in you is certainly written from the perspective of one female singing about another female so it's… probably we'll produce a record with a female singing that sometime, that song.


RP: So you don't feel you're cross-dressing in that, err, I mean it's quite funny to hear you hear you talk about knitting jumpers. You see that as a very gendered song.


SM: No I… yes, I, um, well as I say it was written from the perspective of a female singing and sometimes when we do, it wasn't really meant to be on the last record, and when it cropped up sometimes when we do it live I feel cross-gendered I've ever felt you know which is fine. Like I say, I'd like to, my friend sang it, a girl called Alex. She sang it and it was really nice to see her singing it with the group and stuff like that.


RP: Do you see yourself as that might be one way to go as to write more for other people?


SM: Yeah, yeah, as long as it's on my own terms. I'm not interested so much in trying to hawk songs around the pop world. Mind you saying that I'd be quite happy if somebody picked one up, you know. You know I think the songs are too quirky for people to pick up. You'd have to box it in somehow. But, yes it certainly gives you a wonderful freedom. I started a project in parallel with the last LP and it kept me really fresh during that period of writing the Life pursuit [this became God Help the Girl, released in 2009 - RP]. I was writing for specifically female singers. So I was writing a batch of songs along with it. It was a productive time and each time I would write a song for somebody else and it was like a break, it was a complete break and I'd come back to something that I thought was Belle and Sebastian and then I would go back to the girl group. And in terms of how I was hearing the songs in production


[end of first side of tape]


RP: So poetry is part of what you're interested in? You are a poetry reader?


SM: Not greatly, I must admit, not erm, not hugely. I'm not even that great a reader these days to be quite frank, which might shock you, but


RP: Not really


SM: For instance to go even further, I met a girl in a shop yesterday. I was getting dvd's and this girl came up and said that she was a big fan of the group. And she said what are you doing. And I said, well I'm looking for a film that's going to turn my day around, you know. And she said well what film. And I said I don't know, when I find it I'll tell you. And err she said well why not try the records. I said I don't buy records. I really…her face dropped. I thought she was like pretty shocked or something and erm and then I felt like apologising. But it's just the way it is. If you're concerned with making records then you don't really want to hear a load of new records or sometimes poetry feels like too hard work especially when you're concerned with any form of writing during the day then just to be frank. Books I end up going back to the ones these days more books that I loved because you want to be guaranteed a good time and I tend to watch more films that anything else.


RP: I feel pretty much the same way but it's records that I like and love the most and erm people if they ever interviewed me, if they ever asked about the poetry books I'd be reading, I'd be saying 'Oh it's not the poetry, it's records' and err, I think erm, err, academics and literary critics don't quite get that. That people are making things out of the things that excite them and energise them and that is by no means a linear line back through a specific art form. It's a complete misconception. I am struck that poetry comes up now and again in the songs. And I'm also wondering whether rhyme, some of the rhyme's very, very funny and some of them you just, you can't quite believe you've said it. Do they lead you into a storytelling situation that suddenly opens another door? Are you led to some degree by rhymes and by the rhythm that the song is making into a different story?


SM: Very rarely. I couldn't no, I couldn't honestly think, no, I don't think so. Maybe more the, maybe more the rhythm, the rhythm of the record. But then you'll know yourself it's something that when you have a rhythm in a, you've thought a rhythm in a poem you're led on and then you find a space and then you just keep going at it and what comes out is, you never think, you never planned it. It just comes out. I often think that, err, that being a songwriter and being able to dress up words with a tune you get away with far more than you would. I often look at the words. The words, believe it or not, they're more important to me, they always have been. The blueprint for anything that you're doing, the substance of what you're doing. But recently I sometimes look at the lyrics and think could I stand up and speak this like a poem and the answer's almost always no. And then again you have to ask yourself why would you. But then sometimes, even more worryingly sometimes you stand up and go could I get up like I used to in the bar, the whole bar and sing this as an acoustic number and strip it down and then sometimes the answer's maybe and then sometimes the answer's no. But then I guess what happens is you have moved on and then when your thinking of a song perhaps you're thinking of a complete pop song and maybe that's what you're in love with. You're in love with a complete finished shiny, shiny pop song and you've been able to think about that because you've had 10 years training at it. And so, and maybe if you were to start with a song, a folky song that you could get up at a pub and completely entertain people with this would never become that shiny pop song. So it's interesting the way things evolve.


RP: Do you think your voice has changed as well? I hear kind of, mebbe, Nick Drakey, Donovan flavours at the beginning of the story of Belle and Sebastian but I don't really hear those so much now. Is that because your voice itself has changed, or because your interests have changed?


SM: A little bit of both probably. My interests have changed and that's led to my singing changing and being put in a different place. And sing a little bit harder and sometimes singing a little bit in character so stylistically it changes. I'm not you know, I don't, if there's some pretence there then that's completely fine you know because it's all part of the fun. I can remember coming in one morning with a new song and […?] guys I'm going to sing this kind of funny. I hope it doesn't put you off. But it, I'd heard, I'd woken up with the song. I'd heard it in my sleep and I knew the way I was going to have to sing it to make it sound any good and so, that's all part of the fun.


RP: How are songs built up in the studio? How are they, how are the different instruments and the different members of the band, how do they cohere? How is a song made together?


SM: Well, if you take the last LP for instance. That was the most recent LP erm. A variety of things can happen but we form the sound in the practice room. Sometimes the songwriter will hear a completed sound, finished, and we will aim towards that with the guidance of the songwriter and then sometimes the sound will be a mesh of what people bring to the song. So it's a mixture of that but a song's pretty much finished in the practice room. And then the idea is you go and try to make the best job of it in the recording studio. So, sometimes when you hear people saying 'Oh Trevor Horn did this with this record' or he's done that, or this person's done that, and just think well, actually it's all done in the practice room. But that doesn't mean their job is any less valid and we're completely thankful but people are off when they think oh, it was this producer that made this sound or this. It doesn't happen in a 4 week period or a 2 week period in the studio. It happens months before when you're writing the bloody thing.


RP: I'm turning the page.


SM: Bloody hell.


RP: One of the things that strikes me as someone whose erm not really a religious person, I'm not a, I don't think, I'm an anti religious person, that is that there is a real sense of soul to the records, and I mean soul records. And one of the roots of soul is in a testifying religious music. It's about testifying that God exists, that God is to be celebrated and I think that is there in some of your lyrics. But there is also that dry wit, that quite hard sometimes even a cruel wit. How, how do you square those things?


SM: Erm, well again, I don't think of it so much. I think maybe it's a, it's a cliché that people perhaps think that religion, or organised religion, doesn't contain wit and is a, is a sort of boring thing. I believe pretty much that all good stuff comes from God, including wit. And I think God is around us egging us on to create heights of endeavour, or fun, or cheekiness. All these kinds of things are good I think is… I remember Stewart David in our group, the bass player, he was, I just got from him that he thought he would have nothing to do with religion, which is fine, but he just thought it was so boring. He thought it equalled everything boring. Over the years I've come to think that it equals everything non-boring, that God is everywhere pushing the buttons when you're making something when you're getting on with somebody, you know when you're having a drink, when you're having a laugh. You know it's just a different way of looking at it.


RP: It's funny that we're hearing the Charlotte Gainsburg record, erm, that's because that's a record that is made with Charlotte and Jarvis Cocker. And erm, and the lyrics are written by someone for a women singer. Do you want to talk about the project that you've been working on for a woman singer, using your lyrics?


SM: Sure, yeah.


RP: So how did it all start?


SM: Start well… actually I've been thinking about.. no, no. The girl thing properly started, I was in Sheffield, a few years ago, I was playing a concert and I was on a run, out running. I was out running, I do a lot of running, and I was out running off up some canal, and it was dark. I really enjoy these circumstances, being in the middle of a strange city, in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter running up a canal and I like to get lost and all that kind of stuff. So I got a tune going in my head which sometimes happens, it just arrives and it seemed like a pretty good upbeat 60's pop tune and erm then I suddenly realised that it wasn't me that was singing it. I could hear somebody else singing and so I wrote the words down and that was the first so-called girl group song. That was, well, it was actually 4 years ago now, is that 2003? Yeah 4 years ago so it's been err, erm what's the word, generating, or just..?


RP: Evolving?


SM: Evolving since then, yep.


RP: And do you think you've got an albums worth of songs there?


SM: Oh yeah, definitely. But it's evolved further. I mean I could have made an album. I could have made a so-called girl group album instead of the Life pursuit at that time, you know that was coming together and I wanted to at two different stages in the last 4 years but the band always came in and took up too much time. So by the time I had real free time, which was in September there, and the songs were all kicking about I realised that the songs had a, enough of a common theme or thread, or came from the same world, that they demanded to be joined together with a narrative and so that's what I've been trying to do recently.


RP: Do you mean a connecting narrative, or that it's a sequence of songs? There won't be someone speaking between the songs, joining them or…


SM: No I'm talking about film. Yeah


RP: Ah, film


SM: I'm talking about musical film. And so, so, yeah. I've never written a film before but I've had some [..?] to guide me and it feels, it almost feels that it's been my destination for a while.


RP: But you've been involved in a soundtrack though before haven't you?


SM: Yeah but I think that has maybe 3% relevance to what I'm trying to do just now.


RP: And how on earth are you going to do it? I mean a film is a completely different thing. What, what's the next step to get that made?


SM: Just pick up your camera you know and get some people together. I'm not being completely flippant, I've made pop videos. It doesn't have to have the production, it doesn't have to have Hollywood production on it, but I would like it to. But I think maybe I'll make the, I said recently I'll make the record first, I'll make a record first. Hawk the songs and then see what happens from there. I finish, I want to finish a draft of the script, make a record of the songs, erm, and anything could happen from that point, you know. I could get a degree of funding from somewhere.


RP: What's Scotland like now to you? What does it mean to you? What's do you think is going on that's affecting you and you're interested in as a Scottish thing?


SM: I'm completely, I'm absolutely enraptured with Glasgow since I came home. I love it. I love it here. I just, maybe that would be the same for any city, having travelled so much, but I love being at home. I eat it up every day, I sort of consume it, geographically and otherwise. I've got to, I almost have to run every day or go for a long walk every day and I take the train out to sort of funny places and then I run back, or I cycle back and I […?] with Glasgow. So I'm doing a lot of that kind of stuff really trying to soak up mop up my city like a sponge and I constantly feel like I'm eavesdropping or recording sort of mental pictures. So that's .. you know I feel optimistic about the present time. Much more optimistic than for instance the average news bulletin would make you believe. I think there's a hysteria to news, I think that's one down side to the world of communications becoming so vast and easy is that we hear bad stuff from all over the world at all times and it feeds a kind of hysteria. It's almost like if there's any kind of them and us situation this will be fuelled to hatreds.  Sometimes you're better just switching off and looking around you and realising that people aren't hateful at all. Generally I feel very good about stuff.


Mind you I must say though today I was looking online - this isn't specifically Scotland this is say for instance Britain, but I was looking online. You know they published a large environmental report today, the work of many scientists over all the years. A big deal, meant to be for once and for all recommendation about what we should do about global warming and all that kind of stuff. The economic cost of doing nothing will far outstrip if we simply don't do anything we are going to be in big, big trouble anyway, financially or any other way. So I went online and you know you can add comments to BBC articles and I wondered if anybody's  commented on this and there was like 100 pages of comments. And I couldn't believe it when I read down the comments that people were, and the majority, the vast majority. I thought it was going to be full of people saying why haven't we done anything sooner, we should be doing this, we should be doing that. And it was absolutely full of people saying, you know the scientists are wrong, global warming is just, we'll adapt, and who are these people to tell us what we. And it seemed it was full, it seemed to be, absolutely wracked with arch conservatism, or not in my back yard and I, I, it depressed me, it depressed me. I don't often get depressed by people, you know, but it did for once I was oh is this what people think!


RP: It is actually quite worrying.


SM: Absolutely. I mean, don't… And it really was. It's a case of like there's this huge worldwide problem that we could do something about. And that actually it could turn out to be a great thing for humanity if we did something about it. Because then people in Africa and stuff would get a fair deal and all that kind of stuff. It could be all good and these people are talking about grabbing their bags and running to the hills, building a fortress, moving north, sunbathing you know, like if Spain and France become deserts. All this kind of stuff, you know. What do these people do? Do any of these people have children? Do any of these people think about the future or anybody else?


RP: Yikes. Have you ever felt that you might want to do a kind of Bono and become a kind of eco-spokesman, or on any other subject?


SM: No, I think there's plenty of kind of eco-spokesmen or women. No I don't I think if you're meant to do something it will, it will occur to you and it will be, fate will be waving a large flag. But I'm not scared, I'm not scared of that kind of stuff. Why shouldn't I, why shouldn't I have a say as much as the next guy.


RP: There is an occasional kind of leafiness in the lyrics. When you first hear the records you think this is within the art school world, this is quite an urban, it's witty, it's talking about all sorts of different lives within essentially, essentially an urban world. Then there are kind of, trips out, there are trips up the hill, there are trips on ferries, there's. Do you think that something that has developed over the years? That you were talking earlier about taking a train out and cycling back. Do you think that's beginning to happen in the songs as well, that you're moving further out of the city?


SM: Yeah, mm, well. I love living in the city but I love to get out. I don't think I could, I wouldn't want to live outside the city, I love it too much but I love my day trips. I think maybe it is something I haven't been able to do. And when I was younger for years I didn't have the energy to get out at all so it's something that I think I felt I was trapped in houses for years and years and so I think I'm still…


RP: Is that a kind of fatigue thing?


SM: I had a kind of infirmity that lasted for maybe 7 or 8 years and it completely sort of dogged my twenties, you know. My whole twenties were taken up. And so I think I'm still reacting to that. Any chance and I will get out and now that I've recovered. So, erm which helps you to.. I've romanticised the outside world, romanticised the active world and romanticised the working world and it's partly because I couldn't take any part of it.


RP: That must have been extremely debilitating in itself, that length of time. Was that an ME type thing?


SM: Yeah, absolutely. That's what it was. Uhuh. Post viral or whatever they call it. Oh yeah, it was a dominant feature of my early life.


RP: It's good to hear that you got through it and I think other people who are still in it that would be good for them to hear that people can get through it.


SM: Yep. I get a lot of letters from people because I was talking about it on an American radio programme which I didn't realise had quite a large circulation. But because I was just talking in a room, and I was just blah, blah, blah, and then I had so many emails from people and I didn't really know for what.. To be honest I didn't really want to revisit it, so it's kind of tricky.


RP: So Belle and Sebastian take a bit of a break but it's not, err, it's not a major break, it's a rest. There will be another record, presumably?


SM: I could make another Belle and Sebastian record tomorrow. We could go to work instantly. We could rustle up something instantly. Erm but like I said I want to do this thing first, got to do this thing.


RP: OK well I think I've, err, I've exhausted my questions.


SM: Good stuff


RP: Just to thank you for doing it.


SM: You're most welcome.


RP: I've enjoyed myself. It's been a privilege.


SM: Thank you very much.


[end of tape]

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