(c) Marc Hogan / Pitchfork 2014
Scotland was late to receive the punk gospel, but once it got hold, England’s northern neighbor clung tightly to the do-it-yourself mindset. Independent labels such as Edinburgh’s Fast Product in the late 1970s, along with Glasgow’s Postcard at the dawn of the ’80s and 53rd & 3rd in the latter ’80s, helped break new ground in post-punk, indie-pop and other genres that hadn’t yet been formalized. Great Scottish bands emerged from this period of cultural ferment, among them Orange Juice, the Jesus & Mary Chain, and Teenage Fanclub; since then, the legacy has continued through Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, Camera Obscura, Franz Ferdinand, and on through Chvrches, the Twilight Sad, and PAWS.
It’s a story that has been outlined before, but perhaps never told in so much loving detail. Grant McPhee, a director who in his day job has worked as a digital imaging technician on “Game of Thrones” and “Outlander”, spent a decade tracking down more than 60 interview subjects for two feature-length documentary films packaged together as The Sound of Young Scotland: namely, The Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post Punk, DIY and Infiltrating The Mainstream and Songs From Northern Britain: The Country That Invented Indie Music. “Everything is taken down to soundbites, and we don’t want to do that with our film,” says McPhee. “We just want to let it breathe.” The project’s slogan refers to the Postcard label’s motto, itself a play on classic Motown slogan “The Sound of Young America.”
-=-=-=-Watch a 9-minute teaser for the self-distributed films, which McPhee hopes will have a short theatrical run before becoming available via DVD and video on demand. He talked to The Pitch’s Marc Hogan about the Fast Product’s link to Joy Division, the adverse effects of a major-label gold rush, and a searing noise-pop band that came from one of Britain’s post-World War II “new towns.”