8 Tracks: Scottish Post-Punk: A Different Story With Douglas Macintyre

Scottish post-punk: a different story.

8 Tracks: Scottish Post-Punk: A Different Story With Douglas Macintyre

Scottish post-punk: a different story.

Douglas MacIntyre is the founder of the legendary Creeping Bent label and the man behind Article 58 and Port Sulphur. For this edition of 8 Tracks, he wished to provide his own introduction, explaining: "I decided to feature four tracks from two labels that operated in the Scotland post-punk scene circa Postcard and Fast Product, namely Pop Aural and Rational." 

As such, Douglas has embarked upon an impossibly deep dive into one of indie's most fertile - and tragically overlooked - moments, offering the kind of insight which could only belong to someone who came of age with an intimate connection to Pop Aural and Rational.

It's magnificent stuff, and both a pleasure and a privilege to present. Read below.

Douglas' latest record under his own Port Sulphur guise, Paranoic Critical, features the likes of Vic Godard (Subway Sect), Davy Henderson (Fire Engines), James Kirk (Orange Juice), Gareth Sager (The Pop Group), the late Alan Vega (Suicide) and Jock Scot, as well as contributions from musicians centred around Glasgow's Green Door Studios. It's out now on his own Creeping Bent imprint. Order HERE.

A Different Story

"Thanks to sterling efforts by several cultural documenters, notably Grant McPhee and team with their Big Gold Dream film (focussing on the Fast Product / Edinburgh post-punk diaspora), there is a recognition of the significance of the Fast Product and Postcard labels. However, there is also a different story (to paraphrase Vic Godard, meta-guru to the scene) to be told about the Scottish independent movement of the early 1980’s."

Pop Aural

"Bob Last had closed Fast Product, advising his artists to sign to major labels and infiltrate the mainstream. His insistence that 'alternative music' was simply an underachieving branding expertise that lacked ambition, was admirable. But his timing was, for once, slightly askew. Whilst Fast Product had been the trailblazer that had birthed Gang Of Four, The Human League, Mekons, and in particular Scars' great mission statement of intent for Scottish independent music, the Adult/ery bw Horrorshow 7” single, it was clear Fast Product was ahead of its time. The fire started by Scars was spread significantly by west coast upstarts Postcard, particularly by the year zero godhead pop art of Orange Juice. The groundwork done by Bob Last was capitalised on by Alan Horne and his clarity of purpose and vision for Postcard Records, who soon became kings of the castle. As Horne and Postcard usurped Fast, a new brand was unveiled by Bob and partner Hl-Ray to compete with the burgeoning and buoyant independent market currently populated by Rough Trade, Zoo, Factory, and others. 

Bob and Hl-Ray launched their high concept new label, Pop Aural, by signing the most high concept new group in Scotland, Edinburgh’s Fire Engines, (much coveted by Alan Horne for Postcard). Bob produced a collection of songs by Fire Engines (Lubricate Your Living Room) whereby he remixed a Fire Engines album that didn’t yet exist. This deconstruction of Fire Engines to provide “background music for action people” was a new way of presenting underground pop, and paved the way for Pop Aural’s avowed assault on the charts. The spearhead release to position Pop Aural as the consumers’ choice was Fire Engines most loved artefact, the Candyskin / Meat Whiplash 7”, possibly the perfect pop moment of the whole movement. Fire Engines gave themselves willingly to Bob again, and Last used the group to realise his pop vision by hiring a string section to create Candyskin. The B-side, was arguably the most defining recording of Fire Engines’ vision of Fire Engines, Meat Whiplash, which should have been a single in its own right. Pop Aural continued working with Fast Product alumni (Flowers, Drinking Electricity, Boots For Dancing), and even signed a group from Glasgow, Restricted Code, who had previously released a couple of tracks on the Second City Statik compilation.

Fire Engines released a final single, Big Gold Dream, and further singles were released on Pop Aural along with a UK tour featuring Fire Engines and Restricted Code. Peel sessions were recorded by Pop Aural groups for the BBC, but eventually Bob’s management and publishing interests (his Sound Diagrams imprint) took precedence, and Pop Aural ground to a halt." 


"I had heard murmurings about a new Edinburgh label started by Josef K manager Allan Campbell, who also promoted the most exciting gigs in Edinburgh under his Psychotic Reactions guise (including A Tribute To Frank Sinatra, featuring live performances by Scars, Associates, Josef K, Fire Engines). Allan’s new label was called Rational Records and started brightly with three great releases by Delmontes (Tour Les Soirs), Paul Haig (Drama), and Visitors (Compatibility). Next up was my own group, Article 58, with our Event To Come EP. Further releases on the label continued to pique the interest of the national media, including Paul Haig’s first post-Josef K steps with ROL and a multi-media cassette project compilation, Irrationale, featuring contributions by Delmontes, Mark E Smith, Josef K, Article 58, Delmontes, among others). However, it was difficult for Rational to sustain media interest to the same degree as Postcard and Fast Product had done, and perhaps inevitably Rational eventually closed shop."

Rational: Rhythm Of Life - Summertime

A great opening salvo post-Josef K by Paul Haig. Everyone was on tenterhooks waiting to see his next move, and he surprised some by releasing this single under his ROL imprint. The tracks feature Steven Harrison on vocals, with Haig very much in a supporting role, which all seemed to fit into the new ROL aesthetic. I saw Haig play his first ROL show, at Valentinos, which heralded a new entryist approach by the Postcard / Fast Product gang, most of whom all landed major deals and hit singles. I played Soon constantly on receiving it, a fantastic Rational record.