Jazzateers - Matt Willcock's '80s cult indie stars finally re-emerge
Maybe it’s as well Jazzateers aren’t planning to perform and play live. Despite the ’80s act having painstakingly recreated their ‘lost album’, perhaps the fact that there have been several incarnations of the Glasgow / Lanarkshire band over the years, and (at least) 15 members in total, would make such a task impractical.
Matt Willcock joined the indie act’s fourth lineup – as it happens, the longest-lived combination of personnel. “The version I joined at start of ’85 lasted three years – quite a long incarnation for the Jazzateers!” he smiles. He was aware of the band in its previous forms, when they were a part of Postcard Records stable.
“When I first heard them it wasn’t really my thing,” recalls the singer and lyricist, of the band’s earlier sound - perhaps a little laid-back for a fan of glam and punk. “I was more into guitarry stuff, but when Skin joined I got into them then... not IN them,” he laughs.
Not yet, at least – Grahame Skinner at that point the quartet’s vocalist, before he joined Hipsway. Meanwhile, Willock was in 23rd Precinct buying Orange Juice and Josef K records, and fronting “art rock” act Flesh, whose show at Glasgow’s QMU is the stuff of local legend – “ I wouldn’t call it a ‘genre’, we played an A chord for 45 minutes over a backing of Daz adverts, until the sound guy unplugged us.”
His bandmates were also his flatmates, Willcock sharing Orange Juice’s old pad in Glasgow with now record label boss Douglas Macintyre and Altered Images drummer Steven Lironi, who went on to take Flesh in a more disco-orientated direction.
Rewinding the Jazzateers history, Edwyn Collins produced lineup 1’s debut album, which was due to be the final release on Postcard Records.
It was shelved, as was a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘Wasted’. Lineup #2, with singer Paul Quinn, recorded a long-player, which was also ditched, and the band transformed into Bourgie Bourgie. Whose only full-length recording also remains unreleased.
Quinn went solo – recording a cover of the Velvet Undergrounnd’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ with Edwyn Collins – and the band became Jazzateers once again, with Willcock replacing Quinn, changing the band’s sound once again.
“Paul’s a great singer, very agile vocally,” Willcock says, ”but I just had my own thing - he did his and I did mine.”
Finally the band released a single (‘Pressing On’) for the Stampede label and undertook a UK tour supporting Lloyd Cole & The Commotions. But inevitably perhaps, the planned album never quite came about.
Willcock played in other bands and worked for record label Chrysalis for a while before going back to university and getting a “real job”, but the interest shown in two recent previous re-releases from earlier stages of the band’s history showed that there was a thirst for more from the archive.
“I don’t think it was just getting something out for the sake of it,” the singer insists, “people have asked ‘what happened?’, ‘where do I buy it?’”
And following some painstaking research going through their own collections of master tapes, ‘Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey’ has finally emerged.
“A lot of tracks were recorded in different studios so remastering was essential,” the band turning to Glasgow’s Green Door Studios to iron out the differing recording levels. “They’ve done a good job stitching it all back up,” he says proudly.
Has it stood the test of time?
“I’m not sure if ‘timeless’ is the word but got a good quality about it.”
Indeed, the sound of the 12 tracks is pretty restrained, unlike many ’80s releases, a time when production was as big as the hair and lapels of most acts of that era.
“At the time I thought we were born into the wrong decade, in terms of what we were doing, ideally suited to the mid ’70s or ’90s, but not mid-’80s.”
Does this mean for Jazzateers completists, the catalogue is complete? Well, apparently not.
“We came across a lot of unfinished, or more, accurately, barely-started baby jams of songs from that period,” reveals Willcock. “There’s one in particular I’d like to go back in and finish and record.”
There are no gig plans – but that would surely mean getting the band together again? Well, seemingly most of the band are in touch. But perhaps another lineup change may be required. Jazzateers mark 5? Willcock smiles. “Add another branch to the family tree!”
‘Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey’ is out now. More at www.jazzateers.com.