Interview: Steve Mason and OnTheFly

steve mason

This article originally appeared in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland)

The North Star in Falkirk is perhaps an unlikely locale for a grassroots pop uprising. But the pizza joint and cafe-bar is set to host an anti-fracking fund-raiser whose political, geographic and environmental implications resonate through the UK and beyond.

Entitled Gastonbury, and starring Steve Mason (The Beta Band), King Creosote, James Yorkston and Dave Maclean (Django Django) among others, Thursday’s intimate gig is in support of Concerned Communities of Falkirk (CCoF) – a group of local residents, farmers, councillors and community councillors, who have united over environmental and health concerns about Dart Energy’s planning application to extract coal bed methane on nearby farmland and under homes. In order to pay for legal representation at a Public Inquiry into these controversial plans, CCoF have to raise 50 thousand pounds.

If planning permission is granted to Dart Energy, it will usher in the UK’s first commercial production of Unconventional Gas – the umbrella term for coal bed methane extraction (as planned for Falkirk), fracking and underground coal gasification – and, as such, March’s Public Inquiry could set a precedent for similar developments throughout Scotland and the UK.

Local musician Gavin Brown (aka King Creosote drummer and electro-alchemist OnTheFly) organised Gastonbury after attending a CCoF meeting. “I went along, and they spoke about the technical aspects, and hey came to the idea of raising funds – that’s where I got into it,” he says. “So I spoke to Steve [Mason], who I knew was also an opponent of fracking, and we just put our heads together, and decided to put a show on, to try and raise some money.” In order to maximise funds raised, tickets for the event were made available via silent auction, and participating artists have waived their fees and provided raffle prizes in support of the cause.

Mason was eager to be involved Gastonbury for its local and global implications. “It’ll essentially become a kind of test case of few things,” he says. “Firstly, whether a community and the people in the area will rally around and help each other, and whether they’ll get together to fight what will essentially be the destruction of their community – and that seems to be happening so far.”

Mason continues: “The other thing is, it’ll be a test case in terms of whether it’s possible to beat these private companies in court, even though they have the government behind them, the police behind them, the full weight of the establishment behind them. We’re just mere human beings,” he says with a quiet laugh. “But we’ve got our livelihoods and our families and our properties and our jobs to protect. It’s a very important thing that’s happening in Falkirk – it shouldn’t be underestimated. All the fracking organisations and the people trying to fight this will be watching Falkirk very closely.”

For Brown, who also runs De-Fence records, the stellar electronic counterpart to King Creosote’s Fence label, Gastonbury marks the first time he has harnessed music as a conduit for protest. “This is new for me – maybe it’s because it’s happening on my doorstep,” he says. “I was thinking about this the other day – you know, why is it that it seems to be artists speak about about these things? And I came to the conclusion that it’s because they don’t have any vested interests in companies or whatever so they’re not afraid to speak out, or upset anybody. So if I can do anything at all to raise awareness, then I’m just as well doing it through music.”

Brown has also released an EP in aid of CCoF, Apathy for Destruction, which includes a gorgeous OnTheFly / Jonnie Common reworking (Lungs) and an intoxicating, anti-fracking electro-monologue, Dart Attack.

Mason has long galvanised his dissident psych-pop with political spirit and punk ideology, and Gastonbury is no exception. “The real rock ‘n’ roll is politics these days,” he says. “I know we’re just talking about a little gig in Falkirk here, but this is something we can do. We can raise money. We can raise awareness. And that is very, very important. And you know, if I’ve learned anything on my 40 years on this planet, it’s that the little things that make a difference.”

Gastonbury, North Star, Falkirk, 27 Feb. Apathy for Destruction is available via; to donate to CCoF see:

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