Issue 206
Winter 2018/19

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Feb 24, 2019

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Historical Histories of Mull

WHEN COLIN Macintyre was a young boy growing up on the island of Mull, he had no idea how the island would later become his green card to the wider world.

Through his band Mull Historical Society, Colin has toured the world and headlined with bands including REM, The Strokes, Elbow, he has also written two books and has a new production of memoirs coming on stage in Glasgow in Spring 2019.

Yet it's no surprise Colin has achieved so much coming from such a talented familY: his grandfather the legendary island poet and raconteur Angus Macintyre, his father a leading BBC Scotland journalist and broadcaster Kenny Macintyre.

Macintyre, pictured by Soren Kristensen

It is his time growing up on the island of Mull that created the myriad of stories that he has drawn on in some of his powerful lyrics and narrative tales.

Being the grandson of Angus McIntyre he of Ceilidh Collection fame, no doubt influenced his every move. The dashing and erudite poet was manager of Tobermory's Clydesdale bank by day and one of the Highland's most beloved performing poets and writers the rest of the time.

Whilst Colin's grandfather was the Island's bank manager, his uncles – plumbers by trade – were also in the Island's covers band. They had a joke going round that "one kept the island afloat and the other stopped it from sinking."

As Colin had no other source of music – Radio 1 didn't even get a strong enough signal there – he grew up listening to songs by his uncles, who played the well-known tracks of the Beatles, Rolling Stones- and he actually believed that they had written them "I didn't quite understand why they weren't living in Beverly Hills I think I realised later with shock that they hadn't actually written them all," he laughed.

I caught up with Colin at his home in Hammersmith, West London. Having just recorded an album with Bernard Butler of McAlmont and Butler, (the original founder of Suede) it's a wonder to see how Colin manages to fit in a bit of sleep within his multitalented creative life.

"I have respected Bernard Butler for some time. He founded Suede, with Brett Anderson. Colin even managed to get his grandfather's words on to the new album. "We were looking for something static to put on it and when I played the voice of my grandfather to Bernard, he loved it." he said.

"I'd found an old recording – Peace in the Shieling – that I had recorded off Radio Scotland read by Robbie Shepherd. The original recording would have come from Famedram and I managed to get it onto my iPhone," he said.

"I remember these cassettes, with my grandfather's face peering out from the vibrant red background. I remember his books vividly" he said.

"We mastered the album at Abbey Road, and I gave Bernard an original copy of the Ceilidh Collection then," he said.

Colin manages to fit in a lot of different projects, and has written a children's book, The Humdrum Drum which came out earlier this year.

"Being a creative is a juggling act with your life as well. The children's book was a great project and it comes from having children. Your antennae are on alert and now the kids are getting a little older you tune into different things," he said.

He has two daughters. Music was always something he was passionate about. "I was lucky as we didn't have a record shop on Mull, we didn't have a cinema, we didn't have all the usual sources, it was a different century, digital technology wasn't around in same way as it is now, as we didn't even get Radio 1", he said.

Colin signed his first deal in 2000 with Rough Trade – who signed The Smiths amongst other ground breaking indie acts. "Geoff Travis came to see me play at Nice'n Sleazy in Glasgow And that's when I decided I'm not going under my own name any more – I was going under Mull Historical Society," he said.

"Bizarrely I flew to London on the same flight as him and I overheard his conversation on the bus from the airport to the station at Luton – ", he said. "That day turned out to to be a very influential day, I was going to London for the first ever promo for NME magazine's tv channel NME tv and I went to Kings Cross to film for my song ‘Barcode Bypass'" It was also on that day that he met his future wife.

"I talk about this about this in my Hometown Tales book of the Highland and Hebrides, a non fiction book and I say that that song changed my life and that flight to London and that was first day that I met a girl from New York that would later become my wife.

"She worked in music PR and she was working on Barcode Bypass at the time", he said.

Advice for young musicians starting out?

"My advice is write, write and write and through that do as much as you can and get out and play and don't force it", he said.

He wrote his first book in secret. "I didn't even tell my wife, it was all in secret – I wrote it on buses on tour and on the Tube in London, I just got the laptop out and just kept going," he said.

He doesn't have a home studio or even a dedicated office room. "I've got a kitchen table – I don't have a studio – I've got equipment I can record on my laptop." he said.

It's obviously enough to warrant quite a few award winning productions!


Colin Macintyre is performing at Celtic Connections 24 January 24, at the CCA, with Bernard Butler.

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