During the decade that was the 1990s Jackie McKeown fronted the highly influential but commercially ignored Glaswegian act The Yummy Fur, an ensemble that went through as many reshuffles as a blackjack dealer in Vegas.
Two years ago he formed the band 1990s a mix of The Rolling Stones, Motown soul and power-pop with Michael McGaughrin of V-Twin and Jamie McMorrow, first and last Yummy Fur bassist, (recently replaced by V-Twin’s Donald ‘Dino’ Bardot). On their first visit to Australian shores we talk to Jackie and Michael about 1990s, The Yummy Fur, and their delicious Bernard Butler produced debut Cookies, although Jamie’s departure is strictly off the table.
How did you and Jackie meet each other?
Michael: I used to see him about at parties and stuff. I used to play in V-twin with Donald. We sort of existed at the same time but we didn’t really know each another very well. We knew who each other were but didn’t really go to each others gigs much. It was only sort when our two projects at the time dissolved that we started partying it up, writing songs, and having a laugh just to entertain ourselves.
When did V-twin disband?
Michael: About 3 years ago. Just when the 1990s started doing stuff. V-twin was still going and Jackie was the guitar player for V-twin for the last few months. I completely forgot that Donald and Jackie used to play together, now that Donald’s just started to play with us recently. So there’s a little bit of experience there.
What were the projects between The Yummy Fur and 1990s?
Jackie: The Girls was right after the Yummy Fur. It was me, Alex (Kapranos who went to form Franz Ferdinand), a junkie and a girl. Then I did The Mars Motel for four years. That was my chance not to sing. I didn’t want to be singing. Then me and Michael started writing songs and said “I will if you will.”
In an interview at theyummyfur.co.uk Jackie mentions that one of the reasons The Yummy Fur split was because the band had an ever changing line-up and he had to keep on teaching people what to play.
Jackie: That was a part of it. Yummy Fur were never on a proper label, didn’t have a manager. But mostly it was just because we weren’t making any money, or anything…it was a thankless task, you know? But this isn’t the same. It’s not like we have an ever changing line up in this band. The Yummy Fur had 6 people in it.
You realise there was an Australian Band in the early to mid 90s called Yummy Fur?
Jackie: Yeah, I met one of those guys one time and got talking and he was really nice but the record company made them change their name to 8 Miles High. And we were like: “You guys are on EMI and we’re not even on a label!” Somebody told me there was another band in Canada too.
|“It was one of the worst nights of my entire life”|
The Yummy Fur at the Sheffield Boardwalk (Indie all-dayer) 1999
|Jackie: Oh man… I had to go in hospital after that gig. That was depressing. Me and Charlie drank a full bottle of vodka on stage, straight. We came down in a van with this other band, Gilded Lil, from Edinburgh and the singer’s a nutjob, technically. And she asked”does anyone want a wee downer?” She had these anti-psychotic pills so I just gobbled one of these pills and I got so paranoid I wanted to leave not only the van but the entire music industry. Once I got over the paranoia I got lockjaw. It felt like a tug of war team on either side of my mouth was trying to rip my face apart through the gig, and the only way I could get my mouth to open was by punching the side of my face. When I went up to the mic I had to punch my face so it would open my mouth and I could sing. But as soon as I stopped singing it would lock again. They took me to hospital as soon as we came off stage and pumped me full of morphine or something like that. It spread up all my body but stopped at my neck — and then I started having convulsions. It was one of the worst nights of my entire life.|
The Yummy Fur achieved a certain level of respect and admiration in some circles. Is the song “Cult Status” a nod to that?
Jackie: Everybody has a funny idea about that song. It’s not a serious song. It’s a sad little song I wrote just before the 1990s when The Mars Hotel had split up. I was just sitting in the house not doing any music, just not really knowing what to do. Everybody thinks it’s taking the piss out of the indie scene or the music business or something but it isn’t. It’s just about me
Is it true that 1990s were signed after only 6 gigs?
Jackie: Nobody can remember but it wasn’t more than 10. I don’t see why you have to play 100 gigs to get signed. You’re either good or not good. Or not so much good, but either they like you or don’t like you. We have been playing for years anyway so it’s not like it will take years to get tight. We’re never going to get tight (laughs).
Do you think some of the critics who condemn your lyrics are missing the point?
Jackie: Saying they’re frivolous and all that? They need to kill the bug up their arse a little bit don’t they? What’s that about? We’re not trying to tell people anything in the lyrics — we’re just a rock ‘n’ roll band. You’ll learn as much about life as from a 1990s lyric as you will from a Jerry Lee Lewis song. And you won’t learn anything from a Jerry Lee Lewis song — It’s just gibberish and paranoid wordplay. It sounds like its deep but it isn’t.
Drugs and drug use seem to be a rich source of lyrical inspiration. Do they assist the song writing process also?
Jackie: I smoke loads of hash and grass, if I’m writing a song on my own. Just getting an initial idea for something. But usually me and Michael just write them together and but only have a couple of drinks a puff from a joint to chill out. We don’t sit and take acid and write songs or anything, none of that kind of stuff. Do you need drugs for music Michael?
Michael: No, I never really thought they help that much. Maybe if you’re on a night out and you get a bit wasted and you say things or hear people saying things — you can use that — but not just taking drugs to write music, no.
Jackie: Drugs make you a bit funnier but they don’t make you a better song writer. We used to go clubbing and take loads of pills and stuff and just be funny and then try to remember how funny we and other people were.
How does your songwriting work? Do you start with a riff/melody or lyrics?
Jackie: Different things every time. Sometimes just a title will start it, then a little riff will go with it. I only really play like that with Michael. When the two of us get together these funny little riffs and things start popping up, rhythms and things, and it’s natural to start singing silly things over the top. And you get an organic song. Those are my favourites I don’t like sitting in my house and writing a song on my own — it’s not really interesting because you know what is going to happen. That’s why we failed with The Yummy Fur because it was all me, whatever I wrote that’s all you got back.
Glasgow seems to have a close-knit music scene.
Jackie: Everybody knows everybody!
Michael: You know everyone else but it’s not like a scene — the music never really sounds the same — but you see everyone about and everyone plays in everyone’s bands.
You toured with Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS) and Lovefoxx sang on “Super-legal” and “Diabo” (B-sides to the “See You at the Lights”) single. How was she to work with?
Jackie: Easy. Piece of piss. We were in Brazil and we asked for some singers and percussionists and stuff like that and she came in, and we wrote some songs in the motel in just 10 minutes. I wrote some words down and asked her if she could sing them — shout something every time I say something. She wandered in and next thing you know she’s doing four part harmonies and stuff. Yes she’s great to work with, really funny.
“Diabo” shows a more experimental side to the band. Is that something you leave for the B-sides?
Jackie: It wasn’t recorded as a B-side…
Michael: …we were going to put it out those three songs together.
Jackie: One got fucked up. We were always going to do an EP of Brazilian music then things moved on and we needed some B-sides and went “fuck it,” “Diabo” and “Super-legal” are good songs, let’s put them out.
So are there any plans afoot to record the next record?
Michael: January or February, or February/March. Maybe.
Jackie: We’ve written seven new songs and we’re playing two of them. We’ve got this tour then we’re going to Japan, the States and Scandinavia which will take us up to Christmas. So we’re going to shut down for the next couple of months after that and not do too much, just write songs. It would just make a bad album if we just tried to do a song here and a song there between touring commitments. So we’re going to take some time off and get it right. The first album you write in about a year or so while the second you’re supposed to write it in two months. That’s not on.