Martin Metcalfe: life after Goodbye Mr Mackenzie

Martin Metcalfe 'formerly of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. Pic: Comp
Martin Metcalfe 'formerly of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. Pic: Comp
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GOODBYE Mr Mackenzie, Angelfish and Isa & The Filthy Tongues, all familiar names from the Capital’s music scene of the 1980s onwards, and all with one man in common, singer/songwriter, and now artist, Martin Metcalfe.

On Sunday, at the Voodoo Rooms, Metcalfe plays a homecoming gig with his current band, The Fornicators, during which he promises to perform re-imagined versions of his back catalogue alongside new and unheard material.

The singer admits “it’s been fun” having a look back over the old stuff.

“We’ve tried not to destroy the originals, though,” he adds. “I saw Prince at Hampden Park in the 1990s and he jazz improvised his way through his old material - there’ll be none of that for us.

“It’s bass guitar, percussion and two semi-acoustic guitars. We’re playing Angelfish songs as well as Goodbye Mr Mackenzie tunes, so it’s a good all-round set.

“The Mackenzie’s made four studio LPs and we’re doing songs from all of those plus some Mac’s and Angelfish B-sides. Not forgetting Isa & the Filthy Tongues, of course. I sang on a few of those too.”

The performance will be Metcalfe’s first major gig in the city for three years, and it could be said that he is currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance, complimenting Sunday’s concert with the publication of a book of poetry and images and the release of a vinyl LP in July, as well as the launch of a new exhibition of his art, on 1 August, at the Whitespace Gallery.

“All mediums are important to me. I even create a bit of film for live shows. I like to vary what I do. I try to be expressive rather than perfectionist” says the singer, who spent his early years in Bathgate, moving to the Capital in 1979 - he lived above Oman’s Bar on Peffer Place.

“The fact that I’m doing so many things at once is a real buzz at the moment,” he adds.

It was as the frontman of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie that Metcalfe first came to public attention in the 1980s - a band that famously gave Garbage’s Shirley Manson her big break and scored a Top 40 hit with The Rattler.

Angelfish came next, with Manson on vocals, before Metcalfe recorded a fourth and final Goodbye Mr Mackenzie album.

He returned a few years later with a new band, Isa & The Filthy Tongues.

Today, however, he is equally at home painting in water colours and oils - perhaps not too surprisingly as he did attend art school.

Simply entitled Scenes, his exhibition includes poetic commentaries from his artistic collaborator, Paul Hullah. Both will supplement Scenes by way of multi-media performance events - live music and poetry, with visual enhancements.

Rooted in modernism, Metcalfe’s art is poignant and candid. Scenes recreates experiences of the subcultures and cliques of an important but undocumented era in the Capital’s history, 1979 to 1989, when the city witnessed an explosion of bands from within its relatively small youth population. It’s a reminder of just how long Metcalfe has been around, but there’s no secret to his survival in the music business, he insists.

“I just keep doing it, and try not to worry too much about the electric bill,” he explains. “What we didn’t realise when we came out of the major record labels was that bands have to cut things down if there’s less money around. We kept paying for roadies when we couldn’t afford it.

“I saw Brodie Dalle [ex-Distillers and wife of Josh Homme, of the Queens of the Stone Age] at The Garage about a month ago. Playing The Garage is a big gig and they would have taken a lot of money that night, but the guitarists set up their own gear. There’s no shame in being your own roadie.

“We were a bit spoiled in the 80s and 90s, but we’ve learned the lesson of those excesses. The music business is very hard, especially now, with file sharing and no big label funding.

“You just have to want to do it, and it just so happens, that we do.”

Martin Metcalfe, Voodoo Rooms, West Register Street, Sunday, 7.30pm, £10, 0131-556 7060

Scenes 10 Poetry/Image book and Vinyl LP released on 25 July

Scenes, Whitespace Gallery, 1-4 August (opening night with music and poetry), 07814-514 771