Feature: A Love Letter to Glasgow and Glaswegian Music

Robert Oliver
7 min readSep 4, 2017

This article was first published by The 405 on July 13, 2015 as part of “Glasweek”. For the full article, please access the link here: https://www.thefourohfive.com/music/article/glasweek-day-1-a-love-letter-to-glasgow-143

“Anthony Fantano made a video, like, ‘Where is rock music… where is the band?’ And I was just like, ‘Please go to Glasgow, man.’” — Kay Logan

In the time you have remaining on this planet, promise to do this one thing: board a train to Glasgow from the south side of the city (from Shawlands, Giffnock or East Kilbride). This way, you’ll roll into Glasgow Central train station over the winding ribbon of forceful elegance that is the River Clyde. Take the time to look out of each side of the train, and brace yourself. Along the river, interrupting your view of the Clyde’s patient, perpetual waves, are bridges for as long as squinting eyes can capture. They parade rust and sheen alike, their delicately positioned lights free to dance on the water below. Your eyes will come into contact with the defiantly Brutalist M8, as people busy from one bank to the other. And by the time you’ve taken all of that in, you’ll discover your feet hurrying through the hubbub of Glasgow Central, in all its proudly Victorian splendour. And it won’t just be a case of feeling as though you’re part of something, this will be a case of you actually being part of something. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time visitor to Glasgow or if you’ve spent most of your life there: whenever you step foot on its soil, you feel like you’ve made it home.

Perhaps one of the few remaining major cities in the United Kingdom to still be resisting the revolting and repugnant stench of Westminster smog, Glasgow stands proud as the self-declared cultural beacon of Scotland. A city shamelessly free of stress and fear, Glasgow has recovered admirably from a difficult recent history: sixteen people lost their lives in two separate but equally tragic events in the space of 13 months, either side of the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games. All of which perfectly plays into the community spirit of Glasgow, the spirit that generates so much of what makes the city such a remarkable and unique place. The Glasgow I know is a celebration of music, art, multiculturalism, passion, determination and, most importantly, pride. As a working class person from Manchester, I crave the sense of personable pride held by Glaswegians. Pride in one’s own heritage has taken a right-wing turn of late in the United Kingdom, but not on the banks of the Clyde. Glasgow and its people adore their own, for sure, but they adore you more than you could ever know.

Arguably at the forefront of Glasgow’s cultural exports are the hordes of musicians, particularly those of the rock and alternative persuasion, who have sprouted from the underground bars and music venues that are scattered across the city. Most famously, perhaps, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut has seen bands from its home city and far and wide grace the small stage before hitting the big time. Radiohead, The Verve, Biffy Clyro, Paramore, Coldplay, The Strokes — the list of platinum-selling bands to walk through the doors of King Tut’s extends even further than that. Even outside the four walls of the Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow has been represented worldwide throughout the 20th century. Belle & Sebastian, Simple Minds, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Mark Knopfler, Mogwai — another group of proud stalwarts, famous for their undeniable influence on their individual fields. The 21st century has seen the mainstream breakthrough of both Franz Ferdinand and Chvrches, while Errors, and former fight-pop band Dananananaykroyd, bubble slightly under the airwaves. With this in mind, it is absolutely reasonable to suggest that beyond the spirit of its amiable natives, Glasgow’s rich musical heritage is something that also leaves so much to be respected and admired. The potential for contribution to popular art and entertainment from Glasgow’s alternative community forms a crucial bedrock in Scotland’s most densely populated city, and that’s why we’re camped there for the next five days.

When certain publications trip over themselves to anoint seemingly anybody with a guitar as the ‘saviour of rock music’, it is astonishing that this predominantly guitar-focused musical community is bereft of the mass coverage it deserves. The Glasgow music scene will not save rock music — it doesn’t need saving — but that doesn’t make it any less vital or thrilling, so we’ve taken it into our own hands to shine the spotlight into the city’s dusky underground venues. Because, you know, the music is fucking good. Moreover, the opportunity to discuss their story and promote their music in their own words is something that Glasgow’s unsung musical heroes deserve. They also deserve at least one more person to have belief in their potential. We’ll uncover secrets in revealing interviews, and we’ll draw out the childhood recollections that inspired the name of one of Glasgow’s largest independent record labels.

In fact, the second of the articles published today is an in-depth discussion with the head of that same label, Gus Stephens. Gus works independently in Glasgow as Number4Door, a unique record label prepared to bust open a trap door or two in order to observe the gifted individuals scurrying in the shadows below. On top of that, the next few days will be full of insight on trips to Macedonia courtesy of tales from Passion Pusher; Antique Pony discuss Japanese cinema, and The Cherry Wave open up about the trials of being a fuzzy rock band in a post-MBV world. We’ll also be talking with solo artist extraordinaire Kay Logan, synth-pop duo Old Barber, and record label Winning Sperm Party.

As an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of having only a few spaces to fill up with a selection of Glasgow’s finest, some delightful bands aren’t going to be meeting you all face to face. To compensate, GLASWEEK — yep, that really is what we’re calling it — will reach its climax in stunning fashion. Throughout the process of making sure Glasweek went ahead, the artists who gave up their time to be featured have also handed us a recommendation each. Those recommendations will eventually form a bumper playlist full of artists from Scotland’s second city. Providing an initial platform for inexplicably overlooked and truly brilliant musicians to hopefully form successful careers is the overall aim of Glasweek, ambitious as that may sound. But that’s what makes famous bands who they are today: the belief from those in control of the market who can afford young bands some space for refinement. A budget helps too — the money is there. British guitar music isn’t dead, and it never has been. Mumford & Sons, Kasabian, McBusted, Twin Atlantic, Jake Bugg and Arctic Monkeys might be dominating the coverage, sure, but whatever happened to iceberg logic?

British rock music is alive and breathing. British rock music is absolutely everywhere. It’s in pubs and bars up and down the island every night of the week, playing to crowds of 30 people for no pay. Put faith in those people and have the belief to give them money to buy new equipment, or airtime to give them exposure. Give them the constant reminder that they can achieve anything. Put simply, huge labels are obsessed with having a finished product to make that immediate sale, but watching a band sprout their own wings, or existing autonomously outside that system is more rewarding. Bands like Arctic Monkeys come into existence once in every blue moon — they had the material, the image and charisma before their voices broke. And, like Oasis before them, every band that grew in their shadow was demanded to produce with the same immediacy. To some in the industry, you either have it all before you’re of age or you get left behind. Bands with their own vision are always untapped sources of potential, and Glasgow is currently a hive for groups of this sort.

As frequent occupants of our personal minuscule segments of the Internet, patterns most certainly form. We visit the same websites, we talk to the same people and we listen to the same music. Every day. We like our comfort zones and our routines. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Forcing change isn’t always natural and therefore not always advisable. But when you’re shown something completely new by a person who believes in it enough to share it, just say ‘Yes’. If this whole piece has bored you to tears and you don’t want to discover what’s happening in Glasgow right now, then that’s fair — but you’d be denying a valuable opportunity to a wonderful group of young people who see music as a creative outlet and emotional release. This isn’t necessarily focused on ensuring that you constantly enjoy new things as an obligation, it’s about having the belief to try something fresh in a small way.

British rock music is fresh, Glaswegian rock music more so. It deserves — no, demands — exposure. In the time you have remaining on this planet, promise yourself to do one more thing: pay close attention to Glasweek, because every journey has to begin with a first step.