The Media Whores are one of Scotland’s most relevant bands right now. Providing articulate lyrical and observational comment on political, economic and social issues, they have released three albums and a compilation. Hailing from Falkirk, The Media Whores are known for their electric and incendiary live performances. Band members Craig and Doogie, along with their manager Ally, caught up with John Welsh for this exclusive interview for our Into Scottish Creatives series.
Can you tell Into Scottish Creatives about the history of The Media Whores – who is in the band, how the band started etc.
Band members are;
Craig – vocals & rhythm guitar
Doogie Mackie – bass guitar & backing vocals
Chris McArthur – lead guitar
Andy Russell – drums
The Media Whores are a four piece alternative post-punk, rock and roll band, from Falkirk. Craig and Doogie have known each other since they were at high school and have been lifelong friends, but decided to get the Media Whores going in late 2008! Andy came on board in 2015 through our mutual friends from the excellent No Love Lost and Chris joined early in 2018.
The band are without doubt one of the most politicised in Scotland and cover a range of topics in your songs (politics, big business, police corruption etc). What gets you up in the morning to try and make a difference and highlight these issues through your music?
Craig – Anger is the energy to make a difference and if you’re not angry about the self-interest and profit before people in society you are not paying attention (or don’t give a f*@k).
Doogie – As we all know you can write a song about anything and music is a great voice to get topics and issues going on in people’s worlds to be heard and made aware of and hopefully made right, it’s always small steps but some things need to be said and done to help with situations.
In many ways there seems to be a dearth of protest songs and bands these days. Why do you think that is? Also, who are your contemporaries who are making music with a strong political message?
C – Historically, the best art has always come from oppression, control, discontent as it triggers the guttural reaction and channels the frustrations of the masses. Current contemporaries for me would be Sleaford Mods, Idles.
D – There are a lot of bands trying to say something and think they are but as I’ve said before they would be as well singing “the wheels on the bus go round and round“, Riskee and the Ridicule are a band we have played with recently and they are up on everything going wrong and have something to say about it, also Rats from A Sinking Ship, whom we’ve played with as well.
In terms of getting these messages across, many radio stations are commercialised and will only play certain and artists and playlists – is that frustrating in terms of getting your music out there to new audiences and what avenues are there for fans (existing and new) to hear The Media Whores and others?
C – It is a source of frustration, but the mainstream has missed the point for some time now. Underground radio stations, not controlled by Bauer, or internet based radio stations, with a proactive discerning ear are the platforms that champion new & anti-establishment artists. Fans can hear the Media Whores by buying our records – contacting us direct via nosey book, or in independent record stores, HMV, Spotify and the download platforms.
D – Yes It’s very frustrating not getting airplay on the commercial airwaves, even what’s supposed to be an alternative more edgy show but the name causes the problem from the off, there are online stations that will play us and like us which is great but not everyone knows about them and it’s difficult to find out about them, Facebook, Twitter and bandcamp are the platforms for getting information out about what’s going on and happening.
In terms of song writing and music, what’s the process the band go through to get a rough idea through to the finished article?
C – Lyrics are always jotted down as they come in or often triggered by a particular event, news article or societal behaviour. The song structure starts with a bass line and the rest of the band build onto that & everybody chips in. Often the lyrical content is stream of consciousness stuff and the whole piece is then refined in the studio.
D – I come to the band with a song tune and structure on the bass, I might have an idea of a guitar and drum sound then the guys add their parts to this tune, Craig then adds his lyric and melody and after any fine tuning it becomes a song.
The Media Whores were previously nominated for the Mercury Music Award. Can you explain how that came about?
Andy – Ah that is one of the mysteries of the bizarre and curious industry we operate in! We knew the Dangerous Minds album was good, (see the Into Creative review here) the songs, the art, the whole package! The art was a collage of who we thought were ‘dangerous minds’. From memory the start list was up at about 64 ‘dangerous minds’!
The look was a kind of Warhol effect, or so we thought anyway! Initial reviews were great, including one from New York, which said, “The most significant album by a British band for decades”! Vive Le Rock magazine reviewed it at 9/10! The reviewer runs the UK Subs record label, so he knows what he is talking about and that was credible!
So it was put forward and we naively thought we had a chance of the televised shortlist of 12! We were also aware of all the talk of that there is no protest music any more, or what there is seemed to be focussed on the likes of Idles, Sleaford Mods, etc. but as Doogie mentioned above there are plenty protest acts in the underground, like us, another is Joe Solo, so there is plenty out there, you’ve just got to search a bit, as the mainstream certainly won’t help you or support leftfield acts!
However that year, 2017, the short list included Ed Sheeran (I know his manager and he is a decent chap!) but why does he need to be up for a Mercury? Stormzy was a finalist and another 5 acts from London – hardly regional representative! Guitars, bass and drums anyone?! However, it was credible nonetheless and we can dine out on it a wee bit! Can you remember who won? We can’t, but it wasn’t Ed Sheeran, Stormzy or Blossoms, who were also nominated!
Right now there is so much happening globally (Brexit, Covid-19, Trump, North Korea, BLM and more). What’s your take on what is going on and do you see any hope for things to improve?
C – It is a clusterfuck. Humanity has the chance of a clean slate as it emerges from the darkness. If there ever was a time for a revolution to prise the money and power from those that have, it is now. They won’t give it up easily so it will have to be taken. Equitable distribution of wealth, care for those less fortunate and the health of the planet are the goals worth fighting for. It’s up to each and everyone one of us to shape the new normal.
D – Yes the world is currently a scary and frightening place and I suppose it always has been but on different levels. Changes will be made and again not always for the better but it’s always small steps with different areas coming good or at least the pressure in place being eased.
The band certainly pack a punch when playing live and it must be frustrating not to be able to get out and play at the moment. With a few gigs cancelled so far due to Covid-19, when can we hopefully see the band play live next?
A – It’s incredibly frustrating but understandable, safety first! Fortunately we got a few gigs played early in the year, including the Depot in Leith and the Bungalow in Paisley supporting Independent Venue Week. However, everything since then has been cancelled, including most festivals. Our first rescheduled gig is supposed to be 14th August at Audio, Glasgow with Gene Loves Jezebel on their 40th anniversary tour. But we’ve just heard some September dates are off, and we are also supposed to be in England later in September, but we are still waiting to hear about them.
Maybe the most likely gig will be with Spizz Energi on 18th October at Bannermans, Edinburgh. It will take greater minds than ours to suss out a plan for social distancing at the smaller venues and we just hope when it is safe to do so, that venues remain open for bands to play in! Support your music venues and original bands please folks! We’ll also need to launch our new album, so watch out for news about its release and gigs.
You’ve also played on the same bill as the likes of The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, Ruts DC and Glen Matlock. How has that been and can you give us any interesting tales of life on the road with some of the top names in punk and alternative music.
C – It is an honour to share a stage with your luminaries, those who adorned your bedroom wall when you were growing up. I always found those that you were in awe as a child to be down to earth & driven human beings. Just like each & every one of us. They were generally grateful for being in the right place at the right time. Conversations have generally been about dogs, football and normal stuff.
D – It’s great being involved and supporting the big named bands, most of which have been our heroes and the reason we are in a band in the first place, these shows are always so professionally run and well organised with great crowds where some have become fans of our own.
The funniest thing was when we played with Glen Matlock in Edinburgh, he couldn’t even remember the name of the band that supported him the last time he played there, it was The Heavy Drapes – (the wheels on the bus etc).
Turning back to recording music, can we expect a new release at some point? If so, can you give us a little insight into the album and its focus?
C – New album is in final mixing stage & should be released on vinyl in late 20/ early 21. The album is a logical progression from 2017 Mercury prize nominated Dangerous Minds with the focus very much on the human condition, corporate greed, money and power.
D – Yes, a new album is currently being mixed for release this year, there is no focus and there never has been, we just put songs together and that’s what we create and go with, this new album may be a more full on sound but we will see once the mixing has been completed.
The album covers immediately catch the eye and are very much aligned to the music. Can you explain the design process and the importance of getting that message across.
A – We mentioned Dangerous Minds above. With our 10 year compilation, A Decade Of Defiance, the look was a weathered poster on a brick wall saying ‘Stop Making Stupid People Famous’ and various graffiti with slogans that are meaningful to us! Stop Making Stupid People Famous is a line in our song Money and also a T-shirt design and the song will be on the new album!
We had an Ep called Critical Political which has various riot scenes – we were getting quite a few namechecks in relation to The Clash at that time, which again is credible! Plus that EP had our song Class War on it. What is good is that the images and songs are as relevant today as they were when they were released – just look at the front cover of Dangerous Minds, with all the current unrest and protests.
On Pornophonica, the front cover was burlesque dancer, Miss Scarlett Flame, who danced to our song Burlesque Bones, on the album. That title and image was about the love of vinyl records and music and burlesque. Whilst we have no plan as such, in some ways the theme carried on to Dangerous Minds with the song Vinyl Head and Scarlett dancing to the song Black Widow. The Black Widow being Thatcher! Whilst we don’t have a plan, it seems to make sense and work! Unfortunately Black Widow doesn’t feature often in our live set now, due to songs from the new album being played! We’ll need to speak to Chris at Stonedart soon for the new album, it might even be Cold War Steve-ish but we’ve still to have that discussion!
Don’t forget our first album Starfishing and our first EP but they are all gone now!
You have a really good relationship with your record label, Twenty Stone Blatt. Can you tell us a little about that?
A – The lads are happy for me to take this one! Those who know Brian Guthrie will know there is no short answer to this, as he can talk! In fact you could probably have an interview with Brian but give yourself plenty of time! Brian has been in the business 45+ years don’t you know!
What can I say – he is a passionate and committed music fan and football fan, of Falkirk FC, as are some of our lads. He is not in great health but pre-Covid would attend several gigs per week and travel to away games! For those that don’t know, he is the big brother of Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins.
Brian was putting on gigs in the 1970s and many 50+ year olds in our area do speak of seeing the punk and new wave acts of the day in Grangemouth, Bo’ness and Falkirk. He has written in ‘zines and the music press and ran labels for years, so basically we knew of him and he knew of us. He saw us at a gig and said he’d be interested in releasing our albums and the beauty is that he has worldwide distribution, which helps with the reviews from America, Europe and Australia!
In some ways with the bands he has been involved with, we are the next stage from the Cocteau Twins to Lowlife to the Media Whores, not musically as such, but geographically! I was proud of an article which mentioned we were the best band from our area, better than the Cocteau Twins, but obviously in their day, you had the standing of the indie charts, Top Of The Pops and they had the backing of 4AD and national chart success.
Back to Brian – him and I would meet weekly to strategize world domination and occasionally Doogie would join us. I share Brian’s frustration that the Falkirk area is overlooked in the documentaries and books, as it is all Fast records, Postcard records, and their acts – Brian has lasted longer and released more than them and geographically he feels that also hinders the awareness of bands like us and Lowlife – do you still need to go to that London to be seen and heard?! The forgotten man of Scottish music!
You recently played The Lockdown Sessions for #loveglasgowhateracism. How did that come about and what did you think of the experience and the fact so much funds were raised for the Scottish Refugee Council and Refuweegee.
A – We were supposed to being playing a live gig on 5th September at Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow under the #LoveGlasgowHateRacism banner in aid of the 2 charities, so to keep the awareness they organised the online gig. We were delighted to take part and play 3 of our songs in this excellent online festival! A most enjoyable day and friendly festival vibe! It was no mean feat to pull it all together online! Well done to all that helped smash the £5K target, with a final total of £11,244.
#LoveGlasgowHateRacism, #LoveScotlandHateRacism, has never been more apt, especially when you see what is happening in some cities. Love, warmth, hope and compassion from the bands compared to hate and violence from the right. You fascists are bound to lose. Love and solidarity.
Thinking back to all the gigs you’ve attended, which one stands out the most as really memorable and why?
C – Best gigs UNKLE ABC, Heavy Trash – Broadcast.
Best Gigs with the Media Whores – Ruts DC Tour 2017, The Damned ABC, Glasgow & SLF Liquid Room, Edinburgh.
D – Devo at the Glasgow Academy, the entertainment and performance of the band was outstanding, close second would be Ian Dury and the Blockheads at the Glasgow Garage, mainly as this was the first time seeing him and the band, again the entertainment and performance that only these bands can present.
The best Media Whores show would be supporting The Damned at the Glasgow ABC, great venue and busy crowd in for us and supporting one of the biggest bands from the Punk era.
A – For the Media Whores, the best is still to happen! Glastonbury and Kendal Calling would be nice or even locally, Doune The Rabbit Hole!
As a punter, as much as we all love The Damned and The Stranglers, I have always found the likes of Conflict, and Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine are quite incendiary shows!
Speaking of which, the, with Rat Scabies & Brian James playing Damned Damned Damned was pretty raw – the soundman was in despair at the end of the gig – it was loud!
Stay safe, love and best wishes and see you at a gig when safe to do so! Support, live original bands and the venues and order our new album – vinyl and cd! You’ll find us on Facebook and Twitter for all news and updates. TMWx
The Media Whores albums Pornophonica, Dangerous Minds and their compilation A Decade Of Defiance are available to purchase here.