Interview: Jazzateers

jazzateersThis article originally appeared in The Herald newspaper (Scotland) on June 26, 2013.

Glasgow twang-punk rodeos Jazzateers were the ultimate Postcard Records band.

The Glasgow arch-pop gunslingers were the final conscripts to Horne’s Postcard imprint – legendary home of Orange Juice, Josef K, Aztec Camera and “The Sound of Young Scotland” – and Jazzateers’ contrary charms epitomised the Postcard doctrine.

They were highbrow, guitar-cajoled and anarchic (they recorded two versions of Donna Summer’s Wasted, produced by Edwyn Collins, then by Giorgio Moroder co-writer Pete Bellott, but released neither). They subverted Wild West imagery (singing the praises of Country and Western; calling one post-punk opus Don’t Let Your Son Grow Up To Be A Cowboy), and they upturned tartan shortbread kitsch (citing The Corries as an influence in the music press). Jazzateers’ artwork embodied Postcard’s debt to the Velvet Underground and Warhol (their only album cover featured a pistol in the style of the Velvets’ banana), and their ethos was so in tune with Horne – so indicative of his Postcard master-plan – that they let him speak at interviews on their behalf.

Jazzateers’ zenith was vivid yet short-lived. Their capricious cast would go on to perform in Jazzateers-offshoot Bourgie Bourgie (vocalist Paul Quinn, bassist Keith Band, guitarists Ian Burgoyne and Mick Slaven), Hipsway (vocalist Grahame Skinner) and the Sexual Objects (guitarist Douglas MacIntyre) among others, but the band only ever played a handful of gigs and made one LP. This 1983 release was variously known as “the gun album” (thanks to Scots pop iconographer David Band’s aforesaid Warholian revolver sleeve art) and Rough 46 (on account of its catalogue number). It was issued via Rough Trade after Postcard folded, and Jazzateers will premiere it live at Stereo as part of Glasgow Jazz Festival tomorrow, 30 years after its release.

Rough 46 opens with the strike of a match, and that nihilistic flash of white light / white heat encapsulates Jazzateers’ career. “Absolutely, it’s a perfect aural metaphor for them,” says Glasgow art-pop instigator Douglas MacIntyre, a man who grew to love Jazzateers so much he joined the band. His august Creeping Bent Organisation will reissue Rough 46 on deluxe vinyl later this year.

“I first heard about Jazzateers through the singer in my band, Article 58,” recalls MacIntyre. “We were very Postcard-centric from an early age, and he’d seen them at his school, Holy Cross in Hamilton. He thought they were dreadful – he said they played Radio 2 music, and muzak, which immediately made me think, ‘that’s intriguing!’ That was really against the orthodoxy of the time,” he says. “When I first saw them live I was really taken by their ambition. Their song-writing was in the Cole Porter / Burt Bacharach style, even though they played up to being fairly rudimentary musicians. I saw them a few more times and then eventually met them when they gate-crashed my 21st birthday party. They’d been recording Rough 46 that night, and we hit it off straight away. They were as smart-arsed and snobbish and stupid as I was,” he laughs. They also shared a love of Subway Sect’s jazz-punk torchbearer Vic Godard, who’ll support Jazzateers at Stereo.

Jazzateers had several line-up changes during their tenure (1980-1986), and their sound evolved from scattershot bossa nova (fronted by Alison Gourlay), to the melodious sonic assault of Rough 46: was there an overarching Jazzateers aesthetic that prevailed, irrespective of personnel? “Yeah, the aesthetic was Ian Burgoyne and Keith Band,” says MacIntyre. “It was their group, their vision. But Alan Horne was managing them, and at that point he was the kingpin of independent music in Scotland, and he was forthright in his views. I think almost by osmosis that influenced the way they were thinking. Alan always had the ambition to make a record as good as [Velvet Underground masterwork] Pale Blue Eyes, and so there was always this sense of self-disappointment in everything Jazzateers did, because they felt they couldn’t do anything like that. But what they were doing was actually 10 times more stimulating than anything else in Glasgow.”

You wonder if Jazzateers shot themselves in the foot with their band name – that wilful misnomer – alone. Was their designate designed to provoke? “I think the Jazzateers were always provocative,” nods MacIntyre. “They were the archest group ever. I agree with what you said – to me they’re the ultimate Postcard band. And yet they’re so hidden. They’re the ultimate phantoms of the whole Postcard movement.”

Rough 46 will be re-issued as a redux / deluxe vinyl package by The Creeping Bent Organisation in September.

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