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Interview: Teenage Fanclub - Auckland Headline Show

Interview: Teenage Fanclub - Auckland Headline Show

Interview by Jim Nothing / C.C. / Thursday 18th January, 2024 9:56AM

Teenage Fanclub have been creating their own timeless brand of guitar-slinging alt-pop since emerging from Glasgow's music / arts community in the late '80s. Featuring co-founders Raymond McGinley and Norman Blake, with long term members Francis Macdonald, Dave McGowan, and more recent recruit Euros Childs, the legendary Scottish collective are returning to Aotearoa in March, as part of a global tour marking the launch of their new studio album Nothing Lasts Forever. In advance of Teenage Fanclub's headline date at The Powerstation, their first local performance since 2019, McGinley had a thoughtful chat with Tāmaki Makaurau tunesmith Jim Nothing (Wellness, 95bFM Greening Out host) late last year. Their conversation shone a light on Teenage Fanclub's multi-headed album making / release process, how their music resonates in memory and more — starting with the practical delays involved with getting records into shops...

Teenage Fanclub

Friday 15th March - The Powerstation, Auckland (18+)
General public tickets available via

Raymond McGinley: ... the ways things work these days with vinyl production delay and all the rest of it, an album comes out seven or eight months later.

Jim Nothing: I was wondering about that, It's pretty bad in New Zealand. It can take a long time, not only for pressing and everything, then once it's already pressed just getting it here.

Things are lot less spontaneous in this music thing that we do than it used to be years ago. You read about John Lennon recording ‘Instant Karma!' it was in the shops the next week. You feel really jealous of those days when you could have an idea, record a song and it could be out before you got sick of it [laughs].

You can somewhat do that digitally now which is a whole new thing, but you certainly couldn't have it pressed to wax and have it out the next week.

Some people do that, they just put it out and then order the vinyl, and you can get it in about five years or something. We'd rather wait and do it all at the same time.

Nothing Lasts Forever is your thirteenth album (including 2002's collaborative album with Jad Fair Words of Wisdom and Hope) — which is thirty years after your album Thirteen, interestingly enough. How has the process changed over that time, both in terms of songwriting, but also your approach to music and recording music in general?

Maybe if I went back and spoke to the people who we were thirty four years ago, when we started the band, they might say something different. But everything seems strangely the same in terms of the way we approach things, in what we do. We still get excited by the idea of booking a studio to actually go and make a record. As a galvanising process, you feel this has become real and you're going to make a record and it's going to come out. We don't sit around writing songs all day long, we like to make a record and know that it's going to come out, and it's going to be outside of us and it's going to be out in the world.

That’s how we started the band when we made our first album A Catholic Education (1990). We wanted to make an album without talking to anyone about it and then go out into the world with it. We still have the same approach. We still feel excited about doing a new thing, when we do that we retreat into our own world and so our own thing. We don't let anyone else into that and then we come out and talk to people about it, play songs from it, do all that stuff. Surprisingly, I can’t really fathom the passage of time, it doesn’t really mean anything. Thirty four years, it seems kind of abstract. Because I can visualise all the albums we made, if I close my eyes I can imagine being int he studio recording it fairly clearly. Those moments gathered over that period, it all seems quite clear, but the feeling is kind of the same.

An interesting thing about Teenage Fanclub is you’ve got multiple songwriters and have had throughout the entire career of the band. But every album still sounds like a Teenage Fanclub album. I was wondering — when you’re writing them, are you writing them separately and bringing them to a band and then, by the nature of having those members in the band, that creates the sound of Teenage Fanclub? Or are you having it in your mind being like, this is how I want it to sound?

It's more like what happens... when a certain group of people does something, it assumes the identity of all those people in the band. It’s not just down to whoever wrote the song. If you imagined, if we'd only heard The Beatles songs as being played by AC/DC, your perception of the Beatles songs would be different. Everyone in the band makes a difference, whether it's me playing Norman's songs, or Dave playing my songs or whatever. We like to go with that and let the band feeling develop. There's no Svengali in the band trying to control everything or whatever, with some kind of mystical sound in their head. We like to go with the randomness of what everyone feels like doing at the time.

I like that, it comes across as genuine and just really nice to listen to. I wanted to touch in on what the music scene was like and happening around Glasgow when you were starting. Did it feel like it was something special going on then? Or was it in hindsight that you started to put that lens on it?

When we started the band — Teenage Fanclub first started recording stuff in 1989 — we started thinking about doing this thing in maybe the two years before that. I feel like in Glasgow, there was maybe a little bit of a lull in terms of musical activity. Say around ‘84, ‘85, ‘86, people put on a club in Glasgow called Splash One. Sometimes all it takes are a couple people to make things happen locally, then things happen. A lot of shows happened in Glasgow at that time. There were a lot of bands coming to Glasgow, that was the first time I saw Sonic Youth, that was the first time I saw Wire. I'd seen The Jesus and Mary Chain before then, Primal Scream, Pastels played. The other bands from outside Glasgow came to Glasgow to play this club, this happened every couple of weeks or whatever. I met a lot of people, that’s where I met Norman in the band, around then. That ran until say '86 and then I think they got fed up with that, the guys running that, it kind of stopped.

It felt like something had been happening, but there wasn't a lot of stuff currently happening once we got into '87, '88 or whatever. In terms of locally Glasgow things, concerts to go to. It's not that nothing was happening, but comparatively, less was happening. But I think those times are the best times to do something, where you just go off on your own and do your own thing instead of being part of something else.

I think it’s quite reflective here in New Zealand as well, with the stuff that was coming out of Dunedin in the ‘80s. A lot of it I imagine would have started out of sheer boredom, because Dunedin is a tiny town at the end of the world.

Creativity comes out of boredom. People killing time, thinking about their life or existence or whatever, Doing something to express themselves in those moments. Whether it is was in a cave, or whether it was in a small town or post-industrial town like Glasgow. There's a lot of people that don't need to be bored anymore, they're constantly scrolling [laughs]. Boredom’s good. Nothing happening sometimes is good. You just have to do your own thing.

Was that album title Songs from Northern Britain (1997) in reference to Britpop?

Album titles are kind of stupid in their own right... but it's quite good if the title is kind of opaque and it seems like you don't really know what it means. It might mean different things to different people, or people might project their own bullshit onto it or whatever. So it's a descriptive thing, that we live in this island of Britain and the songs come from there. Maybe it was a start of a little bit of flag waving going on at the time, but we were thinking of Britain as being a description of an island that was given that name by the Romans. It just sounded like a good album title to us.

When I think of Songs from Northern Britain, I think about that album and where we were when we recorded it. It has that resonance for me, the title kind of means nothing anymore as words. It just means that part of our lives. That's all I think about really.

I suppose once you get to know something and you're familiar with it, the titles and the words are meaningless. I'm quite dyslexic and I only realised that The Beatles' name was a pun recently.

The genius thing about the name The Beatles is it's a unique word. It could almost have been made for the Google era... Like you I'd never thought of that as a pun. You just think of The Beatles the phenomenon. The thing, the band, the people in the band, everything around it, Beatlemania, all those albums.

As people in a band called Teenage Fanclub, when we thought about a name for the band, we didn't want a literary or artistic reference. We didn't want to sound like we were trying to be clever. We just wanted some kind of stupid name and we succeeded. But for people who like the band the words mean nothing, it means us.

Sometimes if you're in the back of a taxi and someone asks you what you do and you say "I play in a band", they say "what's the band called?" "Teenage Fanclub". And the person looks in the mirror and they see this guy who's nearly sixty in the back of the car, thinking what's he on about? It's like 'A Boy Named Sue'. We gave ourselves this name and we just have to deal with it.

Listening to your records throughout the years, there's quite to me a strong '60s and '70s vibe going on with the harmonies and some of the more power-pop elements to it. What were some of the key records that you were listening to back in the day, that were influencing you?

Sometimes we joke we're an '80s band, because we started in 1989. It was kind of funny thinking of yourself as an '80s band, it has a connotation in terms of what that means. In the '80s, that's when we were in our early twenties, we were more interested in stuff from the '60s than we were in stuff from the ('80s). There was stuff going on contemporaneously, but we were into — not just poppy, harmonic sounding records like The Beatles or The Birds or Big Star or all those bands that begin with 'B', Badfinger, Beach Boys, I’m sure there's a lot more 'B' bands — but also we liked noisier, contemporary things like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr... but also stuff like the Rolling Stones, Neil Young.

In coming to a new Teenage Fanclub record, what’s the process? Is it book a studio and then that gives you something to lock into? Or is it you're rehearsing beforehand? Because you're all in different places as well, right?

Booking the studio... the deadline is really inspiring to us. You have ideas and we talk about making a record and what you might do, but once you've booked the studio, it's happening. You know you're going to go to this place. This album we made in mainly Rockfield Studios. You can visualise what it's going to be like to be there, then you can start to think about it as an album and not just an abstract idea. The point of booking the studio when everyone knows where it's happening, hopefully you've already got ideas by then, but then you think — okay we need to coalesce all this stuff that's going around our heads into something that we can actually share. The place that we go to, the process of how we do it, where we go, that's really important to us.

It’s funny, going back a few years, we discussed the possibility of making an album in New Zealand, when we were touring in 2019. We always try to think of unusual places to go record, unusual for people from Glasgow. It's easy enough to go somewhere in Europe. We've been in Hamburg, we've been in France, we've been different places. We had a tour in 2019, we were going to Hong Kong, Japan, Australia then New Zealand, then we didn't have anything after that. We thought, maybe we should just hang around for a couple of weeks and do some recording there? But then we got other dates booked after that...

I think you should do that.

... that plan didn't happen. We’re always thinking of different places that we could go, that we hadn't been to before to record. Because you get something from trying to be creative in a slightly unfamiliar environment. We like to do that when we can.

I was about to ask that about locations when you're recording, does that influence the outcome?

Yeah it does, definitely. Where you are will definitely have an influence. The rhythm that you're in. Because we're trying to record as much as we can live. The daily routine of where you are. We go somewhere residential to make an album. You're making the album during the day and at night when you're having dinner, you're still kind of making the album. You wake up in the middle of night, you're still making the album... Absolutely the location really matters to us, it makes a big difference.

I’m really looking forward to seeing you play here in Auckland at The Powerstation on the 15th of March. Looking at your projected tour schedule, this might be the last stop?

This is the last stop. Unfortunately, we have to leave after that because of personal stuff, so we won't be hanging around after that date. But we are looking forward to being in Auckland and being able to sing this time. Because me and Norman were really sick last time — I'm not sure if Norman did much if any singing and I was kind of croaking. We're looking forward to actually being there and fingers crossed... this time we will be in very good health and singing properly.

Jim Nothing's new single 'Raleigh Arena' is out now on major streaming platforms via Melted Ice Cream.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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Fri 15th Mar 8:00pm
The Powerstation, Auckland