As part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Grant McPhee’s film, Teenage Superstars, an affecting documentary about the influential bands that came out of Belshill and East Kilbride, was screened, featuring Duglas T Stewart.
As a prolific member of Glasgow’s music scene, back then and still now, The Fountain spoke with Duglas about how he got involved in Grant’s music documentary, what is on the cards for BMX Bandits and the long-lasting friendships he formed back then.
TF: For those that are not acquainted do you want to give a brief summary of the film Teenage Superstars?
Teenage Superstars is a document of a particular time within the Scottish music
scene, which starts about 1982, maybe 1983 through to about 1992. It’s blurry
where it begins and where it ends. Rather than being about Edinburgh bands, or
being about Glasgow bands, it is more about an extended family, and bands who
were strongly interconnected. It’s about the three bands that came out of
friendships in Belshill. The BMX Bandits, The Soup Dragons, Norman Blake’s earlier
group The Boy Hairdressers who morphed into Teenage Fanclub. But there are
people beyond that, people like Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly, who were The
Vaselines, and signed to Stephen McRobbie’s (of The Pastels) label 53rd & 3rd
Records, who also released some BMX Bandit records. There were the bands that
came from East Kilbride like Jesus and Mary Chain who at one point had Bobby
Gillespie who also became the central figure in Primal Scream. Beyond being a
story about music I think it’s also a story about friendship. And it’s also about how
these people in music needed each other. I think it could have an appeal beyond
just music anoraks. I think it’s quite a moving story, it’s a affectionate record of
people that were friends at a particular time.
TF: And how did your involvement come about Duglas? Was it Grant that approached you about being involved in the film or did you see that it was being shot and thought it would be great to speak to Grant?
I was working on a short film a few years ago and Grant was the DOP, the director
of photography. The director contacted me via social media and asked if I would be
interested in being part of that film so I became involved with that and met Grant.
It turned out he was a big music fan and he was interested in Alex Chilton, who
was an influence on our music and became a friend. We got talking about music
and he told me about his project. He mentioned that he hoped he would get the
likes of Sean and Norman involved , who I was still in contact with. So it was all
through that. Had I not met Grant, I’m sure he would have still found a way to get
us involved but this way was good as it established a level of trust. I knew he was
not trying to use this boost his reputation or make loads of money. I could see he
was wanting to make this film and tell these stories because it was important to
TF: And how did you find the process, being in this documentary, which was almost a love letter to Glasgow’s music scene?
There is a lot of music that came out of that time and place and a small group of
people that have had a massive influence on a lot of musicians all around the
world and was important to a generation of music fans. The Vaselines were a great
group who made great records but back inn the mid 1980s they didn’t have many
fans but one of their fans was Kurt Cobain and so now some of their music has
reached many millions.
TF: Did hanging out with Norman and Sean not only bring back the old times but inspire you to get the old band back together?
Norman lives in Canada but I still see him quite a lot as Teenage Fanclub are still
very much based in Glasgow, so he’s around quite a lot. I don’t see Sean as much
as he lives in London and I’m not there so often but when I see him it feels good.
The last time we played in London Sean came up and played with us. Norman left
the band officially in 1992 but has played on almost every album we’ve made since
then. last Summer he was our lead guitarist for our gig at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow. So although Norman and Sean may have left BMX Bandits many years ago they are still very much a part of what we are and will continue to be, as will others like Francis Macdonald and David Scott and Joe McAlinden.
TF: Talking of which the old band have not entirely stopped. BMX Bandits are still going but have had various incarnations – what are your plans for the band at the moment?
BMX Bandits have never stopped. We’ve had some quieter times but right now we’re being fairly active again. We recently released an album BMX Bandits Forever, which has had the most attention of any record we’ve made since we left Creation Records back in 1996. The BMX Bandits family continues to grow. Chloe Philip is the latest family member and that feels good as she’s now my partner in life and music. We hope to make more new music soon. It’s wonderful that Grant wants to celebrate our past and that of these other groups but we’re still looking forward to new adventures in music and life.
For more on the BMX Bandit click here.