Snapshots of Love and Serious Drugs


Posted by in December's Magazine

Duglas T. Stewart is the founder of legendary 80s Bellshill band BMX Bandits and continues to be a pop spokesman for love, magic and fairytales. His songs are typically equal parts raw and heartbreaking with a big pinch of humour. Kurt Cobain once said, “If I could be in any other band it would be BMX Bandits.” Who knows, their childlike wonder may have saved him. Myriad members of Teenage Fanclub, The Vaselines and The Soup Dragons, have tarried a while in the Bandits’ warm embrace. Here Michael Pedersen interviews Mr Stewart, the still heart of all that melody and, yes, warmth…

As best you can tell us what it means to be a BMX Bandit?

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It’s pretty much everything I am. It can make everyday life a bit tricky to navigate but I don’t think I really have a choice any more. For other people I think it’s put quite well by something Norman Blake said. He said to be a BMX Bandit you need to be unafraid of being ridiculed or thought foolish by others.

Who were the original members of the BMX Bandits?

The original line up was Sean Dickson and Jim McCulloch, who were both also in The Soup Dragons at that time and two of Jim’s friends Willie McCardle and Billy Wood. At the start Sean and I were very much the group’s leaders but it naturally became more my thing and Sean concentrated more of The Soup Dragons.

Who’s currently involved?

Jim McCulloch re-joined the group a few years ago. Another ex-Bandito who has returned to the group is Finlay Macdonald. Finlay played on the first two albums that we made for Creation Records. There’s Rachel Allison, who joined in 2005 and Gareth Perrie who is also a member of Randolph’s Leap. David Scott has also been a Bandit since 2005. Jamie Gash is now our drummer. I’ve known him for around 15 years and he also plays with David Scott in The Pearlfishers. I like having Rachel there; she sort of looks out for me and makes sure I’m okay.

Who are some of the past members you’ve seen come and go?

I think there have been 26 members in 26 years. Some names people might recognise include Norman Blake and Francis Macdonald of Teenage Fanclub, Sushil K Dade of Future Pilot a.k.a., Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines and Stuart Kidd who seems to play with more Scottish groups today than possibly any other musician. Others like Stevie Jackson of Belle & Sebastian and jazz outsider Bill Wells have been guest Bandits live.

But let’s face it you’re probably a Bandit for Life? Unless of course you get expelled!?

Well BMX Bandits has become more of an extended musical family. People who’ve played with us in the past haven’t completely left and could, and sometimes do, pop up on new recordings or at shows. Norman has played on every album since he officially left the group in 1991. On the new album Sean Dickson and I have written our first track together since 1986. I sometimes worry everyone might grow tired of me and leave me but I’m glad they seem to be happy giving so generously of their time and talent to my vision.

You recently had a documentary film, Serious Drugs, made about you and the band which premiered at Glasgow Pop Fest last year, how did that come about?

I met a guy in Monorail Records one day called Jim Burns. He told me how much our album My Chain had meant to him, how he felt it had offered him hope at a bad time in his life. I was very touched by this. Jim told me he wanted to make a film one day and I gave him encouraging words about doing that. A little while later he said he’d like to make a film about BMX Bandits. I told him that it had to be his film and not mine and I didn’t want to see anything until it was finished. So the first time I saw it was in the GFT at the premiere with everyone else who was there. I really think it’s a beautiful film. He trusted me when he opened up and told me how my music had touched his life and I decided to trust him with the story of my life and my music.

You do a fine job promoting and producing up and coming talents, a venerable trait in the music sector. Who’s exciting you at the moment?

Some of my peers seem to have lost their appetite for new music but I still wake up in the middle of the night or can’t sleep when I should because I’m too excited by new groups. The likes of Randolph’s Leap, TeenCanteen, Jesus, Baby!, Adam Stearns & the Glass Animals. I get excited about these groups releasing records that will become big parts of people’s lives around the world. I’ve always been like that, David Scott said I’ve spent much more of my time and energy trying to make people open their ears to other people’s music than my own. I remember championing people like Bill Wells and Belle & Sebastian and even Teenage Fanclub when it seemed like almost no one was willing to listen and shedding real tears of frustration when people weren’t interested. I sent Alan McGee, at Creation Records, Belle & Sebastian’s first demo but he didn’t ‘get it’ at the time. He later told me that he now loved them and wished he’d signed them back then.

Does the T. really stand for Tiger? If so, who’s your favourite tiger?

It stands for Tiger but it also stands for Thomas and for Tiddles and for Terasawa and it might end up standing for other things too. The T symbolises lots of different variations of me. My favourite tiger might be Tigger. I really recommend the Tigger Movie, I think it’s a very underrated Disney film about belonging. I see the family that he discovers in the film as being a bit like my BMX Bandits family.

What can we expect from the your album?

It’s called BMX Bandits in Space and is made up of lots of little musical snapshots of love, remembered, mis-remembered, imagined and dreamed, viewed by our hero who is drifting through time and space. It’s also a story of our hero trying to find a way of forgiving himself for his life not turning out how he wanted it to be and about trying to find his way back home. As well as the usual gang there are also collaborations with Japanese pop group Plectrum and Argentinian bossa-futuro one-man band Cineplexx. There’s a track written by Carla Easton from the aforementioned TeenCanteen, which sounds more quintessentially BMX Bandits than anything I’ve ever written.

A one off single with a six-piece super band…who’s in it, and what are they called?

I think it would probably be me with Rachel, David, Finlay, Jim, Jamie and Gareth and we’d be called BMX Bandits. I really do mean that. It’s a bit like I might see beautiful girls in films and magazines but I’d still rather be kissing the person I love every time, no one else could be better than them and that’s really how I feel about BMX Bandits.

Info: BMX Bandits in Space (Elefant Records) available now, Serious Drugs documentary due on DVD/Blue-ray

 

 

One response to “Snapshots of Love and Serious Drugs”

  1. Merlin John says:

    It is my pleasure to know about the people behind such things and I would like to say big thanks to the wonderful person behind this excellent piece of writing. Hope the blog will share more things like this one and we are eagerly waiting to read more.
    Don Julio Anejo

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