The Radiation Line
Talk about out of touch. The Radiation Line are already onto their 6th release, and I’m just catching up. The shorthand on duo of James T McKay on guitar and Euan Meikle on synths is that they create a kind of doom-electronic-folk-drone, but the scope of their releases to date means that that statement really is shorthand. The Radiation Line operate an anything goes policy, except that for them this means anything [b]fucking awesome[/b] goes.
James T McKay - According to my parents, I’d wail along to whatever music was going on as a baby but the earliest I can remember is being massively into pre-66 Beatles and ABBA from around ages 6 to 9... We’d go out to car boot sales and I'd beg the parents to get me the various 50's/60's compilation cassette's I found. Then
when I was ten years old I discovered Queen. Brighton rock Solo blew my mind, I started writing songs... my dad taught me guitar. He had played in a lot of folk bands in the late sixties and seventies and was the best thing I could have hoped for at that age.
Euan Meikle - I guess an early influence would be driving around with my father with Kraftwerk’s Autobahn on the tape player. The ultimate driving record. I wasn’t much into music until about 15 when I just listened to the same Britpop indie stuff as everyone else at school. ‘Hearing Never Understand’ by the Mary Chain on the radio was a revelation, all the feedback, and what a tune! I went out that weekend and bought ‘Psychocandy’ and never looked back. Hearing NEU! for the first time was another epiphany.
J - After the band I was involved with at high school (a fairly typical teenage grunge mess with everyone going for totally different vibes - none of which complimented each other) fell apart due to whatever internal tensions we had, I got involved with some older and more experienced musicians. They had their own transport and equipment. It was great; we'd jam for eight hours at a time through massive amps and smoke way too much horrible soapbar. It was like starting from the ground up again, relearning every aspect of playing music and exploring sound with people...what came out was usually a more Sabbath influenced version of mid-period Fugazi. At least that's what it sounds like to me in retrospect.
In studio form it's pretty tame and poppy stuff compared to what Euan and I get up to when we meet up. Live though, was a bit different...we'd extend jams and get the waves throbbing, though never in a way that was all that good. We never got much to disc despite constantly recording ourselves with Tascam Portastudios and heading into the studio just before the Bass player sailed to Alaska to talk to Wolves. That's what he told me anyway, turns out he's in Milton Keynes.
E - I bought a 4 track recorder at a car boot sale and basically taught myself how to play as I made music. Most of my gear was 2nd hand. I would create sort of folksy, lo-fi soundtracky stuff with Yamaha keyboards and bongos.
Parallel to this I was playing in several punk bands, firstly on drums, then on guitar and vocals. Our stuff was very basic, in a Ramones meets JAMC sort of way, and we always divided opinion.
E - Stirling is a small place, so it was inevitable our bands would play together. I would often bump into James in town and we would hang about and chat about music.
His band at the time (around Summer 2007) had a slot playing an annual family fun day. When one of them couldn’t make it, J asked me to join him in a free noise freak-out. Surprisingly few people walked out. Most looked on in shock as we bombarded them with guitar FX scree and harangued them with Orwell quotes. One of my friends later said of the performance "you guys have got balls of steel."
J - It's a combination of two names we had kicking around at the time of initial jams. A little bit of us both exists in this name.
J - A mixture of the leafy suburbs, the slum quarters, the fact that Stirling is a part of a scooped valley (so we're surrounded by massive green hills), the moors that are on the hills, the tourist trap castle/monuments and graveyards combined with the monotony of what we do day in day out at work has lent itself well to creating a strong sense of isolation/claustrophobia and a genuine need for escapism through the music. Through the music we make together we can be projected into a better place mentally speaking. Not always necessarily a 'better' place...but a 'different' place for sure... that's a crucial part of life for me right now.
J - Stirling/Alloa/Falkirk are genuinely quite backwards places. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee have been very good to us and there is a massive pool of lovely people willing to give other people a chance. No matter what it is you do, there seems to be a section of the population in each city which responds positively.
E- There are good people in central Scotland, but a lot of the time you are up against this small town mentality. Sticking out from the crowd won't endear you to people. On the other hand if you like 8th generation Oasis sound-alikes.....
J - You know, I've tried. I really have. It's cheesy but whatever goes in - be it folk, ambient, drone, shoegaze or even techno - it always manages to come out as The Radiation Line.
J - One of my favourites! An unearthed noise jam from when we first started out. We dismissed it as a bit crap at the time but when cleaning out his hard drive late one night, it was discovered by Euan and we put it out on very limited editions of CD-R. The artwork is being reworked to form our debut album's cover for next year. We let a neo-pagan friend of ours hear it one night as we were getting it ready to put out and she was so overwhelmed she insisted on blessing a bunch of twigs she had. So to each CD sleeve we strung a little blessed twig. Cute.
E - It started off as just mucking around with pedals, but we went back to it and reworked it, adding some low end synth drones and radio noise. J wrote a spoken word section for the end. We procured the blessings of the Earth Mother and all was good.
J - Our 6th self released CD-R EP, going under the name EP4 has been quite a while in development. An endless list of horrible shit has happened around me and people close to me this past few months and I believe working on this EP has been both a confrontation of much of the negativity as well as an opportunity to expunge those feelings.
E - We recorded around 15 or so tracks for this EP, and then chose the ones that worked best together. There’s a sort of loose space travel/2001 theme going on with it. It’s about trying to escape from the darkness, but in the end, you bring it with you.
J - Macrocosmica have had the biggest impact on me of any band from Scotland. I even own one of the two guitars that Brendan O'Hare used with the band. Listening to them and researching them and pestering them a freakish amount led me to find so much great music - mostly Neu!, Motorpsycho, Eska, Arab Strap, Amon Duul II and a bunch more. They introduced me to open tunings and heavy space fuzz as well. Thanks to the Cosmica for that! Original drummer Russell McEwan (now of Black Sun and Atomized) played motorik beats for us at Le Weekend festival in May, so that was a great honour. Ambient and noise genius NOMA played Clarinet and in the middle of a heavy psyche work-out, Euan brought forth his bamboo flute and the two of them had a battle of woodwind. Beautiful. Alasdair Gray, Alan Bissett, Hal Duncan, Andrew Raymond Drennan and HP Lovecraft all have a load to answer for.She and Him. PRIMUS. David Lynch. Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the 60's, Cartoon network from the mid to late nineties and Don Blutch films are all facets of culture I enjoy. Genndy Tartakovsky is much underrated. The Monkees = wicked. I also collect yo-yo's. If anyone would like to donate one to me, please get in touch. Fraoch. At War with False Noise. BONG. Wiseblood Industies. Hamish Imlach.photos by heidi kuisma
E - The authors mentioned above, 80s cartoons esp The Transformers, Andy Warhol, Bridget Riley, Dr Who, Steve Reich, Alvin Lucier, Roman, Greek, Norse and Celtic mythology, The Watchmen, Sandman, Krautrock, Analogue synths. The Scottish sky.
-- Scott McKeating (7 October, 2009)