Glasgow’s AC Acoustics were responsible for some very fine music indeed. Having just had their third album Understanding Music re-issued by Fire, I spoke to Mark Raine from the band, via email.
First of all, what have you been up to since we last heard from you?
Speaking for all of us, the main thing we have been up to is, missing being in a.c. acoustics [the band split up in 2003]. Having all been in bands before and after a.c. acoustics, it was the first time it really clicked. We enjoyed writing the songs together, rehearsing them together, were proud to play them together and ecstatic to see them on an album. On a more practical level, we have gone down slightly different paths. Caz and Dave are still playing in bands around Glasgow and both now manage pubs/music venues in the city. Paul still keeps his hand in music through his friendship with Brian Molko and has written some tracks with them. He presented a television programme in Scotland called ‘Trout and About’ which brought his two loves together, music and fly fishing and has now retrained and practicing as a lawyer. Mark also returned to university and has been in advertising for the last 10 years, his only musical foray being singing to his 18 month old son!
You formed in 1992 around Glasgow. What are your main memories of the early days of the band?
In the early days, we were very lucky to pick up a lot of relatively high profile support slots. To be honest, a lot of this was to do with our first manager who was the ents manager at a student union! The main memories are really around meeting bands that we were into at the time, That Petrol Emotion, PJ Harvey, Spacemen 3 etc. and a subsequent, burgeoning belief in the band’s ability and the fact that we could actually perform at this level.
Who (if anyone!) do you consider to have been your contemporaries, both in Glasgow and further afield?
At the time we were close to Placebo and Ash and therefore, although perhaps not musically, we saw them as contemporaries. Other bands that were around at the time that were perhaps musically closer were bands like dEUS, Cable, Bivouac, Swervedriver and Pavement. Glasgow was/is extremely vibrant musically. We seemed to find a slot in between scenes. By the time we’d got into our stride, we were a late and a bit heavy for the Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, Pastels scene and a bit early for the Mogwai, Arab Strap, Delgados, Ganger scene. We were kind of in the middle. There were Glasgow bands at the time with a similar sound but didn’t seem to garner enough steam for it to be a scene, Motor Life Co and Eska.
You had two entries in John Peel’s hallowed Festive Fifty, with ‘I Messiah Am Jailer’ and ‘Stunt Girl.’ How important was John Peel to A C Acoustics?
Incredibly important. We were fans of his/in awe of him before the band, during the band and still are. For him to provide us with our ‘breakthrough’ was magic. We were very lucky to do 4 Peel Sessions, a live recording from Groningen in Holland and spent a handful of nights with him, usually at festivals. When you read about how nice he was and how passionate about music he was, in our brief experience with him, it doesn’t nearly do him justice.
Who else do you consider to be important to your career, in terms of supporting you?
Throughout our time in the band there have always been people who have been very important to us. Without wanting to list everyone who ever helped us, here’s a quick ‘thank you’ list: Mike Daley, Tav Stevens, Steve Strange, Steve Lamacq, King Coffey, Jo Whiley, Doug Smith, McDee, Lady Lu, Stewart Cruikshank, Dave McGeechan, Geoff Ellis, Nick Evans, Rob Collins and now John Foster. They and many others have shown an overwhelming belief in the band and the music over the years.
Which acts do you feel are indebted to the sound of A C Acoustics?
That is a huge claim and I don’t think we could ever suggest that any act is indebted to us. There are bands around who are writing songs I wish I could have written so I imagine they, in some little way, might be quite close to the sound we had, bands like Biffy Clyro who have written some fantastic songs, Snow Patrol have some wonderful moments and Pheonix who manage to combine ‘leftfield’ and pop extremely well. Although, on the other hand, they may have never even heard of us!
Do you think the word ‘indie’ still means something in 2010? (I ask because I think it is still important as an ethos, but quite often abused as a term)
I think ‘indie’ is now only associated with a musical style. Previously, possibly filtered down by Elemental Records and Nick Evans, we very much had an independent ethic as well as a sound. We were massively conflicted by approaches from EMI and, although a huge independent label at the time, really wanted to move to One Little Indian (whilst still coming under the Elemental subsidiary). We felt that the independent labels mirrored our beliefs and best suited our style. We felt they believed us. Money wise it may have been better to sign to EMI but career wise I think we made the right decision to hold out for One Little Indian. What it meant was that there was a middle layer of bands who could exist without becoming mega stars. Now it seems like you are either nothing or headlining arenas. The middle layer seems to have disappeared, possibly along with the meaning of ‘indie’.
Do you still consider yourselves part of the music scene in Glagsow (or did you ever?)
We very much wanted to be but as I mentioned earlier, we kind of filled a slot in between scenes. We were very proud to be from Glasgow and proud of the music coming out of Glasgow, Mogwai in particular were doing something very different and doing it very well, Belle and Sebastian were also getting into their stride and making some great music. Not sure whether it was to do with us as individuals or the sound we had and the ambitions for the band but it is probably a bit of a regret that we didn’t get more involved in the ‘Glasgow scene’. In hindsight we did sit on the periphery a bit.
What music currently being made do you rate?
Love the Phoenix record.
Love (and I was surprised) the Coldplay record. Think they’ve worn me down.
Love the Soulsavers record.
Love the David Kitt record.
Love the dEUS record.
Love the Go Team record.
Love the Port O’Brien record.
Love the Animal Collective record.
Love the Arcade Fire record.
And, although not current, am loving Nick Drake and Belle and Sebastian right now.
Would you change anything about your career as A C Acoustics?
I wish we had stuck at it longer.
I wish we had become a better live band, earlier in our career. Laterly, we were a fantastic live band.
I wish we’d appreciated each other more.
I wish we’d understood more about the music industry (although we were well looked after).
I wish we’d been braver in our choice of singles.
I wish we’d played live every single week, even if it was just to 10 people.
But really, we loved every single minute of it.
Understanding Music is out now on Fire.
AC Acoustics -‘Chinese Summer.’ mp3