Good deed days - a hello from Martin Metcalfe as Goodbye Mr Mackenzie return
Martin Metcalfe has, by his own admission, learned to keep his mouth shut. Not, happily, for the duration of our chat, but when in what would usually be unfamiliar territory.
“I was in the chip shop after soundcheck,” he says of a visit to Corby – an curio in England, founded by ex-pat Scots but a heavily pro-Brexit town – and asked “any brown sauce?”. “A guy standing there said ‘that’s an Edinburgh thing’.”
“They may be 300 miles away but they know their Scottish east-west divide!”
Although living in Edinburgh, Metcalfe is from Bathgate – halfway to Glasgow it’s an oddity itself, at least in fast food terms. “I dunno where the line is… maybe beyond Blackridge there’s no brown sauce. We should do a culinary tour!”
Instead, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’s reunion jaunt around the UK is based around the reissue of debut long-player debut long player ‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’ – 30 years after its original release. And the band are expecting some old and new faces in the audience.
“There are people bringing their kids, they’ve been brought up on the music which is a compliment to us and surprising.” He recalls Clash fans of his generation taking their 15-year-olds along to see Joe Strummer solo shows.
“They say rock’n’roll had bridged the divide between the age groups, the old guys weren’t as tedious and boring any more – a societal change… post-war change I suppose.”
And the tour will indeed take in Corby – despite not being the moneyspinner people imagine live shows may be. “In England we may make a bit of a loss because of hotels, London prices, hiring a splitter van – it’s swings and roundabouts I guess.”
The re-released album has been largely unavailable for a couple of decades, but on its 30-year anniversary, the band decided it was time.
But the process wasn’t as simple as they’d hoped.
“The company were very very slow, probably because there’s not a lot of money in it for them, they don’t put resources into helping people licence music.
“We thought ‘Let’s have some new versions of these for people who’ve lost them or damaged them or want a brand new copy, or a celebratory new copy with signatures.
"And then we thought we might as well put it out so the public in general can get it.”
Surprisingly the release will be a purely physical one, due to the aforementioned record label horse trading, but Metcalfe isn’t too bothered.
“Streaming’s quite irritating," he says, "it keeps it simple if it’s just 12 or even 20 tracks on the CD and you just punch through them.
“Or maybe I’m so simple minded I can’t operate my mobile!”
However, in true retro style the record will be on 12” as well as CD.
“CDs are diminishing because of Apple not putting drives in Macs or CDs in cars,” he says. Indeed, CD sales are predicted to fall behind vinyl for the first time since the band released debut single The Rattler’.
“Vinyl didn’t die until about 1995,” Metcalfe muses. “‘Good Deeds’ was 1989, so it had a few years to go.”
And with the reformed act taking the record on the road again, the members have had to revisit and re-learn music they made three decades ago. “It’s fairly easy for myself,” the singer concedes – he has been playing some of the songs solo with his ‘Fornicators’ side project. And bassist Fin Wilson and drummer Derek Kelly have with current band The Filthy Tongues dipped into some Mackenzie material.
“Derek had to rewire his brain though,” he laughs. “The drumming is more straight-ahead than the Filthy Tongues, maybe more like the Britpop of the time.”
However, getting the rest of the band back together was less straightforward. Big John Duncan, who post-Mackenzies occasionally filled in live with Nirvana, is back in the fold, but due to his struggle with MS, Jim Brady, of the Rezillos, has been drafted in as backup, as has an extra singer, Marie Claire Lee.
“Rona (Scobie) hadn’t touched a keyboard in 25 years,” Metcalfe reveals. “She’s fine playing live but there’s a lot of hurdles – these digital soundscapes we added to Mackenzies albums is a big job, so with playing Shirley’s parts as well, she’s had to develop octopus arms.”
Yes, one original member who will be absent is Shirley Manson, now something of a global superstar with Garbage.
“We did ask her, yeah,” Metcalfe smiles. “People don’t know how busy she is,” says Metcalfe. “She’s doing venues like the Barrowland in every town in Australia, the US, Japan even.”
However, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie have already sold out their December Barrowland show, and play across the UK up till the end of the year. More at www.goodbyemrmackenzie.com.