Stereogram Recordings Press

Dave Goodwin in his regular column ‘Vinyl Stories’ speaks to multi-musical man, Stereogram Records owner and Cathode Ray frontman Jeremy Thoms about his vinyl records.

Jeremy Thoms currently lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two sons and, since his late teens, has been lucky enough to follow a career in music. He has had a life juggling DJing, song-writing, production, performing in bands, promoting and, recently, running a record label. Jeremy started out as a drummer, playing in such late 70’s new wave/rock influenced Aberdeen bands as Risque and Splitting Headache before graduating to lead singer with The Presidents Men at the turn of the 80s. He moving to Edinburgh in 1982, where he formed the New York inspired the Strawberry Tarts. Around this time he became involved with the Aberdeen-based punk poet Sid Ozalid, providing musical backing for his surreal poetry and also he began his parallel career as a DJ, starting his own Edinburgh club night called The Harmoniclub. and running other successful club nights including the Snake Pit (’85 – ’87) and the 70’s retro Spacehopper (’92 – 93).

Not satisfied with this he also became interested in gig promoting in 1983 hosting The Slider at The Nite Club above the Edinburgh Playhouse and also Upstairs at The Waterloo. The Strawberry Tarts disbanded in 1985, and he toured the UK twice with the Revillos before a stint as guitarist in the Pretenders/Blondie-influenced A Girl Called Johnny where he then went on to form the electro/dance influenced Paparazzi in 1987. Jeremy also toured playing guitar in the Acid Jazz combo Sour Grapes Bunch and indie stalwarts Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes, formed the 60’s influenced Naturals in early 1990 and material generated from this era finally saw the light of day as the Fabulous Artisans on an album called ‘…From Red to Blue’ which came out on Bendi Records in 2008.

Moving on once again he formed New Leaf, releasing three albums: ‘On Safari’ (1995), ‘Stereophonic’ (1997) and ‘Panorama’ (1999) but it was around this period that he also started to get involved with composing film and TV music, providing, amongst others, soundtracks to ‘Terry Pratchett’s Jungle Quest’ and ‘Tribal Visions’.

Following the split of New Leaf, he formed Skyline with ex-New Leaf guitarist Andy Walker and started DJing for the Edinburgh based agency Freak Music, with whom he continues to have a working relationship. More recently Jeremy spawned the Cathode Ray and it was this band’s debut album that was the catalyst to launching his own label Stereogram Recordings in 2011. Since then it has gone from strength to strength signing amongst others James King & The Lonewolves, Band of Holy Joy and Belle & Sebastian associate Roy Moller. He has been promoting again, with successful shows under the Stereogram banner in Edinburgh and Glasgow featuring James King & The Lonewolves, the Band Of Holy Joy and the Monochrome Set amongst them and his DJing career also continues to flourish doing a lot of work for DJ/producer Paul Croan of Edinburgh based Alextronic Records. Very recently he has made a long overdue return to radio via a weekly show on the London based Boogaloo Radio. Starting in January 2018, it will be co-hosted with Innes Reekie, and the plan is to showcase Stereogram acts alongside an eclectic mix of music which we hope will reflect our own diverse tastes.
Jeremy's records 2
Jeremy spoke to us about how vinyl has shaped and developed his musical career.

“Vinyl has figured in my life in some shape or form since I can ever remember. Growing up in a household with two sisters almost eight and ten years older than me, I was exposed to music from a very young age.

Probably the first record to have a major impression on me was ‘With The Beatles’. I must have heard it for the first time when I was three or four years old and the effect it had on me was to be more far reaching than my family could ever have anticipated.

From the opening blast of ‘It Won’t Be Long’ to the final chord of ‘Money’ I was captivated. From then on, to quote my parents, I was “obsessed with pop music”. So much so that I remember ‘Sgt Pepper’ being bought just to add some variety to the small pool of records that I constantly played.

Of course, that small pool was to start swelling the minute I started buying records for myself. So, every penny from my pocket money plus birthdays and Christmas was saved up.

The first record I bought in this way was ‘Kites’ by Simon Dupree & The Big Sound. I loved its otherworldliness and still do. The sound effects at the start, the unusual instrumentation, the Chinese girl talky bit, were thrilling to a six year old living in Aberdeen in the Sixties.

Equally thrilling, although for reasons I probably didn’t really understand at the time(!) was ‘Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus’ by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. God knows where I’d heard it (Radio 1 banned it so maybe it was Radio Luxembourg) but I loved it and was determined to own it. So off I trooped to Boots, clutching my seven shillings and six pence, only to be informed that I needed my parents’ permission to buy it, as it was a banned record! Luckily my mother didn’t object so I became the proud owner of said disc. It was only when I was a bit older that I understood what all the heavy breathing was about. At the time I just liked the tune although I suppose I did think it sounded quite exotic!

By 1970 my spending power had increased a bit, so it was time to branch out into 12” vinyl. And so it was that ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon & Garfunkel became my first LP that I could truly call my very own. I remember my oldest sister being quite annoyed that I had beaten her to the punch by buying it as it was top of her shopping list too. It’s a timeless album that also seems to have a strangely unifying effect in that I’ve never met anyone who dislikes it. When arguments crop up over what to play in the tour van, Simon & Garfunkel always seems to keep everyone happy.

My next vivid vinyl memory comes from the sighting of a corkscrew haired bopping elf on ‘Top of the Pops’. ‘Hot Love’ by T.Rex felt like the future had arrived and that 7” was the catalyst for my first juvenile attempts at song-writing, albeit obvious Bolan rip-offs.

But it was another 1971 performance on ‘Top of the pops’ that truly kickstarted my desire to make rock’n’roll my career when I grew up. Switching on one October evening, I was greeted by the sight of Rod Stewart plus sundry Faces (and a certain John Peel) performing ‘Maggie May’. I was so impressed that I decided my next major vinyl purchase would be ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’. Luckily my saved up pocket money stretched to it so I didn’t have to wait too long, as was so often the case in those days. It was a bit of a gamble going for a whole album as money was so tight, but I wasn’t disappointed. It was packed with brilliant songs – the title track, superb Dylan, Tim Hardin and Motown covers and, best of all, ‘Mandolin Wind’ which to this day remains lodged in my top ten songs of all time.

Apart from birthdays and Christmas, I could only afford one album every three months. Hence the records I bought in those days are etched on my memory in incredible detail.

So that became the pattern for most of the early to mid-seventies. Each time a new artist was discovered I went for the album rather than the single and those records have stayed with me to this day: Bowie, Stones, Roxy, Free, Stevie Wonder, Dylan, Lennon, Neil Young. The list goes on.

But the shift back to 7” vinyl that came with the arrival of punk necessitated a change in my buying habits. I was aware of and intrigued by ‘New Rose’ by The Damned and ‘Anarchy in the UK’ by the Sex Pistols (both of which I later bought), but it was the January ’77 release of ‘Grip’ by the Stranglers that kickstarted my renewed love affair with the 7” single.

After that it was the deluge. I would buy roughly a single a week as the instant classics seemed to come tumbling out. Plus, the picture sleeves that they were packaged in was an added attraction. In the past UK singles generally just came in a plain generic record label paper sleeve. But the artwork for the punk singles was almost as important as the music contained within. The DIY aesthetic of the Buzzcocks’ ‘Spiral Scratch’ and the later Malcolm Garrett/Assorted Images designs, the iconic Jamie Reid Sex Pistols sleeves, ‘Complete Control’ etc.

Of course, the album format still had its claws into me and ran concurrently, so all in all it was a pretty expensive time to be a vinyl junkie. Along with “real time” releases I started looking back and belatedly discovered The Doors and The Velvet Underground in ‘78/’79 so that was another series of albums that had to be forked out for.

The post-punk era also offered many delights, especially with the advent of the 12” single, which gave added scope to the sleeve design, most notably Peter Saville. The Joy Division and New Order records are things of beauty which the forthcoming CD era couldn’t really do justice to.

Postcard Records, Fast and Pop Aural were other must-have series of records and come to think of it probably the last time I bought 7” singles on a regular basis. After that it was mainly 12” singles alongside albums until the eventual arrival of the CD slowed down my vinyl purchases.

But not completely. The Nineties and Noughties were a brilliant time for picking up bargains. Rifling through the charity shops, I would periodically top up my collection with albums that had somehow slipped through the net first time round and could now be picked up for pennies – 10cc, Todd Rundgren and the Beach Boys amongst them.

Which brings us almost up to date and the supposed “vinyl revival”. I for one have always kept my record collection close to hand, with a turntable always in operation.
But the advent of beautiful sounding 180 gms heavyweight vinyl albums has been an undoubted added attraction. Recently my collection has been topped up with new releases from Tame Impala, Linden, Wilko Johnson, Nick Heyward. the Sexual Objects, Grizzly Bear and Peter Perrett plus reissues from Bowie, the Beatles and Marvin Gaye amongst others.

But to bring it full circle, the 7” single has reared its ugly head once more – this time in the form of the sometimes derided picture disc. My wife has taken to buying me the 40th anniversary David Bowie picture disc singles collection for birthdays and Christmas as they’re released. To date I’m up to ‘Heroes’, which by my reckoning means that “Beauty and the Beast” should be next.

So if the 7” single was my first love I guess it’s true that first love never dies…
Jeremy's records
Manic Pop Thrills
Alternative (sic) music of the last 30 years
Stereogram Showcase – Live review

STOOR /The Eastern Swell / St Christopher Medal – The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh – Friday 3rd March 2017

Following the Blue Aeroplanes is a tough gig but I was always confident that this triple Stereogram bill would rise to the occasion.

Like the trip to see Kristin Hersh it was another uncomfortable journey through to Edinburgh. This time I managed to stay ahead of the psycho Stagecoach driver but still got stuck in traffic on Palmerston Place. I did think that my luck had turned when I got a parking space right next to the traffic lights but the implications of that would be revealed later.

More seriously after the hold-up I still arrived expecting St Christopher Medal to be in full swing. Fortunately they weren’t and in fact it was a wee while before they actually took to the stage.

Apparently only their second ever gig, the band really had assembled from all points of the compass with band members arriving from Dorset and New York due to the opportunity to play a show being combined with recording for a second Medal LP.

We’ll have to wait for months I guess to hear the album but in terms of the show, the set mixed new songs with highlights from the superb debut ‘Sunny Day Machine’ (point off though for omitting ‘Satchel Bag’!). But I’ll give them it back for the quite wonderful rendition of new single ‘Wayne Moon Pilot’ which closed.

All in all it was a relaxed and quality start to the evening’s proceedings.
The next act initially confused me as it had been billed as STOOR. Instead three guys who definitely aren’t in STOOR took to the stage. Which was a bit perplexing as the other band on the bill, The Eastern Swell, have a female singer (Lanie Urquhart) in their line-up. The mystery was solved though when it turned out that aforementioned singer was unwell but the remaining 75% of the band had vowed that the show would go on.

In that context they deserve a lot of praise even if the set was a bit removed from what I’d expected. In fact had I come in during the opening number, I definitely wouldn’t have thought it was the Eastern Swell. Certainly some of the variety of the record was missing and it was at time quite abrasive seventies rock sounding. But there was enough of the vibe of teh record to get through and they still managed to finish with one of the album’s highlights in ‘Run Down Country Palace’ delivered by Chris rather than Lanie.

Oh they also played some new songs. These Stereogram bands don’t rest on their laurels.

I guess I’ll have to try and see the band again in the near future when restored to a four piece!
STOOR of course are a regular fixture on these pages but it was good to see them performing out of Dundee for once. All of the events of the last couple of years seem to have instilled a real belief in the band and this wsa further was illustrated by a confident set. Much of their on stage time was devoted to songs from album number two as a strict curfew meant that some of the old favourites at the end of the set were skipped.

But the show really gave strong evidence that the second record is going to, at least, match the debut. Their knack for insistent melodies remains intact on the likes of ‘Arc’ and ‘Atrocities’ whilst new songs such as ‘Pain’ also develop and expand their sonic palette.

Despite the reduced running time, there was no doubt that the band had made new friends in the capital.

Blaue Rosen
Have you ever wondered what (if anything) do Greenwich Village, New York in the 1970s, the soundtracks of Tarantino’s films, Andy Warhol’s sources of inspiration and America’s and Great Britain’s ‘60s and 70’s music scenes have in common? One of the many answers, should be Stereogram Recordings. And just before your imagination starts to race let me say that there are many ‘umbrella’ labels in the indie genre and very few manage to unveil a true character through the artists they represent. Most record labels in the indie genre share a love and passion for music, yet it is evident that not all of them manage to avoid representing a very specific sub-genre of a very specific style. Stereogram Recordings is one of the labels that we have been following for a while now and we have noticed that Jeremy Thoms, the founder of the label seems to have found not one, but many complementary denominators in the music of the bands that are represented in the label. Since the internet era has cast a heavy shadow to both the independent and the mainstream scene it’s all about how much one adheres to the idea that ‘God is in the details’ that differentiates one ‘umbrella’ label from the other. I think that Jeremy Thoms keeps an eye on the ‘big picture’ that the sound of Stereogram likes to draw, a picture of 1000 pieces created on the axes that the music scenes of some parts of America and some parts of Great Britain were developed.

Based in Edinburgh, Stereogram Recordings has so far released the albums of 9 bands, none of which fits in any of the once clearly defined music genres. The bands by descending order of number of releases are: Band of Holy Joy, James King and The Lonewolves, Roy Moller, The Cathode Ray, The Fabulous Artisans, New Leaf, Milton Star, Lola in Slacks, St Christopher Medal. Some of these bands might even be inspired by the same musician yet none delivers a similar or even comparable result. There is one thing that one has no doubt about, the passion for music and the commitment of musicians to release music of such a quality that nothing less than our full attention can grasp it. None of Stereogram’s bands play ‘easy to digest’ music and none of the musicians rely on simplistic melodies or ideas. This is apparent in all of the lyrics of all of their songs and can also be noticed through the multitude of social, artistic references that are being made in their videos.

Should it be ignored that Jeremy Thoms (The Cathode Ray, New Leaf, The Fabulous Artisans), Johny Brown (Band Of Holy Joy) and Roy Moller, all consider that music, spoken word, theatre and the space in between are inseparable elements ? I don’t think so. In different ways and intensities, these three musicians have incorporated both the theatrical and the surreal aspect of poetry in their performances throughout the years and this is another strong element in the sound of Stereogram.

Since the late 1970s Jeremy Thoms has participated in 6 bands and has formed 8 bands; The Cathode Ray, The Fabulous Artisans and New Leaf are three of his latest bands some of the albums of which have been released by Stereogram Recordings.

THE CATHODE RAY, a.k.a Jeremy Thoms (vocals, guitar, keyboards), David Mack (drums and percussion), Steve Fraser (guitars)and Neil Baldwin (bass), have released two albums in Stereogram, their eponymous debut album in 2012 and ‘Infinite Variety’ in 2015. Having started with clear references to America’s 60s music, the band has enriched their sound immensely in the second release. ‘Infinite Variety’ might have artwork that brings to mind psych rock but the overall atmosphere reveals that the band’s references lie elsewhere.

Neil Baldwin and Jeremy Thoms have played music together in the past in the bands A Girl Called Johnny (1986), and Paparazzi (1987),so they have common points of reference based in common experiences. This is an aspect that has a positive role to play in the impression that the band leaves as a whole. You will probably ‘see’ Lou Reed appearing through the notes of ‘Nowhere At All’ and feel the influence of David Bowie and the glam rock scene in ‘Creature of Habit’. Percussion play a major role in the atmosphere of The Cathode Ray in general and this has become more evident in the second album where the garage, psych rock and punk influences blend with electrically charged guitar trembles and lyrical suspensions and vocals. It wouldn’t be unjustified, if for a fleeting moment the music of The Beach Boys and the pop music of the 90s (i.e. ‘Resist’, Don’t Waste Your Words’, ‘This Force of Nature’) came to your mind.

The band’s live appearances have been occasionally accompanied by visuals and their official videos reveal both a fascination for psychedelia imagery (‘Resist’) and references to Arte Povera movement ( ‘Backed Up’ video). Roy Moller has contributed to ‘Infinite Variety’, and Jeremy Thoms has worked on the design of Roy Moller’s album. As in all Stereogram Recordings albums, the sound is clear and deep in both the vocals and the instruments. There is neither a musician nor an instrument that I have not been able to identify in any of the albums of any of the bands and I think this has a lot to say about the quality of music that is being produced.

THE FABULOUS ARTISANS a.k.a Jeremy Thoms (instruments) and Neil Crossan (vocals) is a band that was formed in 2007 and follows the path of The Naturals (formed in 1992 by Jeremy Thoms). They have released the album entitled ‘…From Red To Blue’ through Bendi Records in 2008 and the singles ‘Belongs To You’ and ‘These Open Arms’ in 2013. Listening to their releases an interesting combination of influences comes to mind namely the part of 90s pop that was represented by PULP and the rhythms and melodies that somehow characterized the new wave scene. Marc Almond and David Bowie both came to mind at times while the artwork of this band’s releases reveals a fascination with the art of Picasso, Modrian and the Russian Constructivists.

NEW LEAF were formed in 1994 by Jeremy Thoms (guitar/vocals) who was joined by Andy Kelly (lead vocals) and Neil Baldwin (bass),Simon McGlynn (drums), John Hall (keyboards), Andy Walker (guitar/saxophone). The aim of the band seems to be the channeling of their fascination for western/country music. New Leaf have released three albums “On Safari” (1994), “Stereophonic” (1997) and “Panorama” (1999) and Stereogram Recordings has released a compilation album spanning the period 1994-1999.

It is also important to mention that Jeremy Thoms has provided in the past the soundtrack to the poetic performances od Sid Ozalid and that he has composed music for film (i.e. soundtrack to Terry Pratchet’s ‘Jungle Quest’ and ‘Tribal Visions) and tv programmes.


The Band of Holy Joy don’t need any introduction in my opinion. With a heavy and rich discography over the last 32 years, this is a band that makes poetry out of seemingly ordinary and insignificant things. Having started with a fascination for Brecht’s theatre and the desire to blend creatively the borders between a concert and an interactive theatrical performance, the first incarnation of this band released music that had both the soothing and the disquieting quality of a music box. Having the decisiveness of punk and the immediacy of the beatniks, Band of Holy Joy, I have found that the music of the early days of this band also expressed the revolting energy of a perceptive and sensitive person who has been found in the middle of a jungle of ugliness.

After 2010, the band made a stylistic change in their music without losing any of its perceptiveness (as is evident through the lyrics) while the theatrical element has taken a different form through the always emotionally generous delivery of lyrics by Johny Brown. The music now makes references to the folk songwriters of the late 1960s and has the soothing and bitter element of a Joan Baez song and the vindicating energy of an unapologetic protester. A strong element of the band’s work is the visuals, courtesy of Inga Tillere. The visuals give a dreamy quality to both the videos and the live performances even if the subjects of the lyrics paint a more bleak atmosphere. The juxtaposition of both the lyrics and the visuals, captures ideally the whole spirit of Band Of Holy Joy.

The last album by Band of Holy Joy was entitled ‘Land of Holy Joy’ and was released by Stereogram Recordings on September 2015. You would probably need a whole week and maybe more but I would prompt you to listen to the whole discography of Band of Holy Joy in order to have the full picture that Johny Brown has been painting since 1983 when ‘Favourite Fairytales For Juvenile Delinquents’ was released on cassette.

If you want to show someone the world, the discography of Band of Holy Joy would be a good place to start I’d have to say…

Louder Than War logo
Various Artists
The Sound of Stereogram
(Stereogram Recordings)
Out Now
Written by Gus Ironside

Treasure galore in a diverse collection of songs from the roster of Edinburgh’s maverick post-punk label.

Regular visitors to the Louder Than War website will probably be familiar with the name Stereogram Recordings. This petite Edinburgh label run by Jeremy Thoms and Innes Reekie has been punching above its weight for some time now, releasing recordings by some of the most interesting and eccentric talents in Scotland.

This compilation kicks off, however, with the label’s southernmost stars, The Band of Holy Joy, whose main stay Johny Brown long ago relocated from his native Newcastle to London.

A prime choice from last year’s superlative ‘Land of Holy Joy’ album, ‘I’m Crass Harry’ kicks things off in true Stereogram style, the song’s twisted humour and earthy humanity complemented by an instrumental backdrop that draws on black US soul as much and it does on classic British post-punk.

Next up is a glorious Velvets-referencing re-mix of ‘While I Can’, by Glasgow’s notorious sons, James King & the Lone Wolves. The song was already a standout on the 2014 album ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ with its ‘Hank Williams at CBGBs’ strut and swagger, but this remix takes it to another level, complete with a ’96 Tears’ piano riff.
The Sound Of Stereogram Front Cover
The Lonewolves’ second offering- appearing at the end of this compilation- is an astonishing remix of ‘A Step Away From Home’ that simultaneously brings to mind Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’ and ‘Sister’-era a Sonic Youth. These two songs alone would make this album (a snip at a fiver) an essential purchase, but there are plenty more gems here.

The Cathode Ray contribute an exuberant post-punk nugget with ‘It Takes One To Know One’ along with the sublime ‘Saving Grace’, while Stereogram’s talismanic poet/songwriter Roy Moller teams up with one of Scotland’s most exciting young poets, Michael Pederson, for the exhilarating electro-psych-pop of ‘I Would Hate For It Not To Be Amazing’.

This CD is also the first ever physical release of ‘Tramlines’, the stunning debut single by Lola in Slacks. Why this song didn’t pick up more airplay outside of Scotland is a mystery, as its film noir imagery and gorgeous melody made ‘Tramlines’ one of the best singles of 2015.

But there’s more (deep breath): Milton Star supply two moody, atmospheric tracks that would fit perfectly on a 70s road movie soundtrack, and St Christopher Medal- Stereogram’s secret weapon- showcase their idiosyncratic songwriting at its finest with ‘Leave the Boy Upstairs’ and the stunning ‘Great Lakes Morning’.

Elsewhere. The Fabulous Artisans serve up a double dram of classy, clever glam-pop with notes of Suede and Tindersticks.

‘The Sound of Stereogram’ is a celebration of a diverse selection of mercurial talents. In an age when the charts are dominated by the safe and the bland, it’s good to know that someone is standing up for the misfits and eccentrics.

Manic Pop Thrills
Various Artists – The Sound of Stereogram (Stereogram Recordings) reviewed by Mike Melville, DECEMBER 18, 2015
Sunny Day & Sound Of
Out more recently (last week in fact) was the Stereogram compilation ‘The Sound of Stereogram’ which does a great job of presenting the label’s acts in one terrific package.

The record is a mixture of completely new stuff, re-workings of some kind and the odd exclusive. So alongside a brilliant new Cathode Ray track, you’ll get a sublime (and startling) remix of James King and the Lonewolves ‘Step Away From Home’ as well as a first appearance on physical format for Lola In Slacks’ fantastic debut single ‘Tramlines’.

St Christopher Medal are represented here by ‘Great Lakes Morning’ and a “demo” of ‘Leave The Boy Upstairs’ which frankly deserves an equal billing with the album version. It may be sparser but it’s every bit as beautiful.

There’s also new (to me at least) tracks from Roy Moller (a fuller sound than on the last couple of albums), and two excellent songs from both the Fabulous Artisans and Milton Star.

All of this comes for just a fiver. Yes, a fiver. So if you’re in anyway interested in Stereogram, you’d have to be daft not to try. A warning though – once you’re hooked that’s you – there’s no escape.
Artist: Stereogram Revue
Title: Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 2/12.2015
Category: Live Reviews
Author: John Clarkson
Date Published: 05/02/2016
John Clarkson at the Voodoo Rooms is impressed by the Stereogram Revue, a showcase gig for several of the acts on rising local label Stereogram Recordings.

It is not easy putting on a gig. Whatever plans you make, however carefully you prepare things, there is always that capacity that it may go wrong. Of course, by the very nature of what a gig can involve – unpredictable musicians, last minute hitches, travel plans going askew – that potential for mishap increases the more ambitious and grand-scale your plans.

The Edinburgh-based indie label Stereogram Recordings first announced this Revue show, and another the following night in Glasgow, nine months ago back in March. Its original aim, in the grand tradition of the Motown and Stax package shows of the 1960s and the infamous Stiff Records tours of the late 1970s, was to provide a showcase for all of the eight lyric-focused acts on its roster. Since then it has gone through a long and difficult birthing process.

The enigmatic Americana act Milton Star were the first act to drop out, having no current live line-up and choosing to remain in rural Fife where they record their brooding, haunting music in a former church. The London-based cult group the Band of Holy Joy, the label’s best-known act, were next to pull out, unfortunately unable to make the 750 mile round trip because of work and financial reasons. Lola in Slacks have meanwhile been off and on the bill twice, initially booked to appear in their full six-piece line-up, then as an ‘undressed’ two-piece consisting of chanteuse Lou Reid and guitarist Brian McFie, before finally absenting themselves entirely with a sick note the night before the Edinburgh show as McFie has fallen ill.

There must have been points in which label owner Jeremy Thoms and in-house PR and A&R man Innes Reekie had despaired if this gig was going to ever come together. On the day itself of the show there are more problems. St Christopher Medal, who are travelling down from Perth, are caught up in the first day of the Forth Road Bridge’s sudden closure, and, having been trapped in traffic, arrive very late for their soundcheck. James King and the Lonewolves’ bassist Nick Clark meanwhile doesn’t make it all, having gone inexplicably AWOL. Yet for all this, even three out of eight acts down, and with various key personnel missing, these prove to be simply teething problems, something to be got around. The Stereogram Revue is a triumph both against adversity and the odds.
Live @ Voodoo Rooms 02.12.15
The first act on the bill of the evening are the Fabulous Artisans. A recording and writing duo since 2007 featuring Glasgow-based vocalist Neil Crossan and multi-instrumentalist Thoms, the Fabulous Artisans have consisted for their rare gigs of actor and former stand-up comedian Crossan and in recent times of guitarist David Paul and keyboardist Brian Walker. Thoms doesn’t do gigs with the Artisans, preferring to adopt a sort of Brian Wilson role, there in the studio but opting out of playing live with them so that he can focus instead on Stereogram and his main band, the Cathode Ray. Clad in one of the new Stereogram T-shirts that Reekie is selling at the merchandise stall and working also as the compere for the evening, he, in a lovely but surreal moment, proudly introduces his own band. Crossan is a big, burly man with a face that might be described as “lived in”, but has a glorious, rich baritone voice that recalls Scott Walker. Thoms’ piano melodies, re-enacted here by Walker, meanwhile have something of the sublime stateliness of Burt Bacharach and the short set of torch ballads they play tonight are alternately heart-breaking or life-affirming, with ‘These Open Arms’, which the crooning-voiced Crossan dedicates tenderly to his wife, proving especially moving.
With members in Perthshire, Teeside, Dorset and New York, St Christopher Medal’s situation is even more complicated still than the Fabulous Artisans. Despite being together almost a decade, this is only their second gig, and vocalist and songwriter Ali Mathieson is understandably nervous, taking a last gap of an e-cigarette as his band tunes up and slopping beer over the acoustic guitar that he has borrowed from David Paul. Playing in a makeshift-line up also consisting of bassist Billy Nisbet, drummer David Mack and a young keyboardist from Dunkeld, they, however, quickly warm up. A throwaway opening number about the band’s hopes for the show tonight and tomorrow at the CCA in Glasgow is very funny. Songs from the group’s years-in-the-making just-released debut album, ‘Sunny Day Machine’, such as the elegiac ‘Glori’ (inspired by Canadian writer Don Hannah’s out-of-print novel ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins’), the soaring ‘Vatersay Love Song’ (about how Mathieson met his wife while teaching on the Isle of Barra) and the epic ‘West’, combine Americana with the pop melodies of Teenage Fanclub and have a lingering quality.
Live @ Stereogram Revue
Dunbar-based singer-songwriter Roy Moller and His Moller Men play a chaotic but entertaining set. Early on, Moller begins playing ‘Beneath the Tarmac’, the third song in his five-song set, while the rest of his band kick off with the second song, ‘Figure’. “It’s these shades I am wearing,” admits Moller, before they start over ‘Figure’ again. “I can’t see the fucking set-list”. The final song ’I Would Hate for It Not to Be Amazing’ features a guest appearance from Edinburgh-based poet Michael Pedersen, but is also delayed as Pedersen can’t be found, eventually emerging from the toilet after some minutes. For all the mild onstage mayhem which just adds to the fun, Moller’s songs tonight have a punchy 60’s-influenced pop shine. There is some hilarious banter between the Moller Men about their favourite Beatles albums, and Moller has in his new group, which again features David Paul and fine American multi-instrumentalist Lach, who flits between guitar and keyboards, a band of real musical tightness and strength.
Stereogram Revue
Glaswegians James King and the Lonewolves are also playing in a reduced line-up tonight, and as a three-piece instead of a five-piece. With bassist Nick Clark having as it transpires forgotten to turn up and guitarist Jake Mckechan more officially absent, that just leaves vocalist and guitarist King, the group’s other guitarist Joe Sullivan and drummer Corey Little. “Knowing Nick he has probably died,” quips King, explaining Clark’s absence but he is clearly pissed off as hell at his missing colleague. The Lonewolves’ music has always been caustic and belligerent, but tonight everything seems to have been stepped up a gear. Dressed in dark suits and wearing shades, King and Sullivan’s guitars catapult and bounce off each other as they slam dive through songs such as ‘Fun Patrol and ‘(Un)happy Home’. Little meanwhile brings a furious energy of his own to his drumming. It is an explosive, breathtaking performance, one which puts a lost sense of danger back into rock music. In what many of the audience who have seen them many times before are saying is the best they have ever seen them, they are absolutely remarkable.

While the Band of Holy Joy are unable to be present tonight, they have in their absence deputised front man Johny Brown’s close friend, Edinburgh experimental actor Tam Dean Burn, to perform what they have dubbed as the ‘Scrap and Salvage Movement’, a spoken word performance of some of Brown’s lyrics set to the backdrop of the Band of Holy Joy’s music and Inga Tillere’s always haunting visuals. Burn, who played Renton in the original stage production of ‘Trainspotting’ and has also appeared on television, has an unenviable job, showcasing something so abstract and following on after the Lonewolves, but brings in a focus and passion of his own. It is a brave and gripping if acquired performance, and, with ‘The Repentant’, about a down-and-out, and ’Clear Night, A Shooting Star, A Song for Boo’, which imagines all the electrical appliances in the world concluding with the National Grid being turned off one by one, both of which are taken from the 2011 ‘How to Kill a Butterfly’ album, Burn convincingly highlights Brown’s ability as both a poet and storyteller.
Stereogram Revue
Lastly there is Thoms’ own band, the alternative rock act the Cathode Ray. In what is a taut set, their third at the Voodoo Rooms this year, they throw in a spiky new song ‘It Takes One to Know One’, several tracks from this year’s second album ‘Infinite Variety’ including the sinister, metallic ‘Backed Up’; the snappy Blur-esque ‘Resist’ and the Krautrock-influenced ‘Buck the Trend’, before concluding with their crowd-pleasing 2006 first single ‘What’s It All About’.

Tonight’s Revue many not have been exactly what Jeremy Thoms intended when he announced it all those months ago. It has, however, at one level succeeded in doing what it set out to do, providing a showcase for Stereogram Recordings and bringing together and highlighting its acts, which for all their lyrical focus, are as musically diverse as they are rewarding. As Jeremy Thoms and the Cathode Ray leave the stage at the end of the night, several members of the audience in the seated area at the right hand side of the stage slide to their feet and start to applaud him loudly. It is very much deserved.
The Herald 01.12.15 940 x 640
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Buck the trend Article 940 column

John Clarkson chats to Jeremy Thoms, the front man with Edinburgh-based alternative rock act the Cathode Ray, about his band’s versatile second album, ‘Infinite Variety’, and his rapidly expanding record label, Stereogram Recordings.

It has been over three years since Pennyblackmusic first interviewed Jeremy Thoms.

During that time a lot has changed for Thoms. When we spoke to him then, his band, the Cathode Ray, were about to self-release their eponymous debut album on his own label Stereogram Recordings. Now the Cathode Ray are about to return with a second album, the more colourful ‘Infinite Variety’. Stereogram Recordings, which was originally conceived as simply being a prop for the Cathode Ray, has also gone through a remarkable rise and, currently the base for another six acts, has metamorphosed into becoming possibly Scotland’s finest and most exciting new independent label.

Originally from Aberdeen, Thoms moved to Edinburgh in 1982. He was at one point the keyboardist in the Revillos, and was also the guitarist in much-acclaimed late 1980’s indie hopefuls Jesse Garon and the Desperados. He has played and sung as well in a wide variety of Edinburgh-based other groups including electronic/dance act Paparazzi; the 60’s-influenced Naturals, and alt.pop acts New Leaf and Skyline.

The Cathode Ray was formed by Thoms with ex-Josef K frontman Paul Haig in 2006 with the aim of marrying the sounds of 70’s New York acts such as the Velvet Underground and Television with those of 70’s Mancurian outfits such as Joy Division, Magazine and the Fall.

While Haig dropped out early on, leaving the band after two well-received singles, ‘What’s It All About?’/’Mind’ (Pronoia Records, 2006) and ‘Slipping Away’ (Re-Action Recordings, 2009), to focus on his solo career, Thoms kept that framework for ‘The Cathode Ray’, of which eight out its eleven songs were Thoms/Haig co-writes.

The 70’s new wave and post-punk influences of the first album are still very much in evidence on the new album. Yet ‘Infinite Variety’, as its title implies, has a much wider sound, merging these with influences that range from psychedelia to glam rock, shoegaze to Euro disco, and krautrock to 90’s alternative pop. At one level it is the natural extension of the last record; at another its boundaries have been greatly magnified.

“I wouldn’t say that ‘The Cathode Ray’ was rigid,” says Jeremy Thoms, talking to Pennyblackmusic for this second interview in a bar in Edinburgh’s West End. “We had a concept and deliberately kept things fairly narrow, but for this one, while we didn’t want to go for anything that different in terms of tunes, I wanted to go for more colour and more light and shade. If folk go, ‘That sounds like Pink Floyd,’ or notice the references in there to, say, the Small Faces, then that is great.”

Although Thoms wrote all eleven of the tracks on ‘Infinite Variety’, he acknowledges that much of this expansion in direction has come from the other three members of the Cathode Ray, who provided the arrangements for each song and who also brought their own influences to the album.

Guitarist Steve Fraser, who replaced Haig, was in early 80’s Edinburgh post punk band the Scars, and also worked with the young Mike Scott before he formed the Waterboys in his earlier groups, Another Pretty Face and Funhouse. He currently also plays in Dirty Harry, a Blondie tribute band, and works as well as a full-time session musician. Bassist Neil Baldwin was in 80’s chart act the Bluebells and post-punk group TV21, who once supported the Rolling Stones, Both he and drummer David Mack have also been in and out of various of Thoms’ other bands during the last twenty years.

“With ‘Infinite Variety’ I wanted us to follow our instincts a bit more and to bring in the music that that each of us in the band listened to,” Thoms continues. “We have all got different influences, and someone might bring something in and say, ‘This is a little different’, and I would say, ‘Let’s try it. By the time we have finished with it hopefully it will sound like us.’”

This more kaleidoscopic sound is symbolised on ‘Infinite Variety’ by its sleeve. In contrast to ‘The Cathode Ray’ which featured a black-and-white photograph of an empty underground car park, it has on its front cover a photo of a vibrant explosion of orange flowers. On the inner and back panels of the cover, in a further turbulence of colour, there are photos of over another forty species of flowers and plants.

“I didn’t like the idea of us being portrayed as just this post-punk band,” says Thoms. “I knew that, if we had another black and white sleeve, we would be conjuring up all these further images of industrialism. The picture on the sleeve of the first album was a great image, but it was very stark. I wanted this one to be much more colourful. I was thinking of something along the lines of the old Roxy Music and Cocteau Twins sleeves or which Peter Saville would do. Those are really great pieces of art in themselves.”

“I bought a good camera,” he adds. “I took most of them in the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. I had the camera with me thoughout all last summer and whenever I went out, and any time I saw something that attracted my attention I would take a photograph. When I took the front cover image, I just knew that that was it immediately. I loved the idea that there was so much going on the album, and wanted to show that with the sleeve.”

‘Infinite Variety’ is being billed by Jeremy Thoms and Innes Reekie, who does press and PR for Stereogram Records, as “a concept album of sorts” and as having “a loose narrative which form a song cycle.” They describe it as being an album of three sections. The first part of the album and its first few songs are about “fear, paranoia, lust and betrayal.” The middle part is about “transformation, honesty and realisation”, and the closing section and its final tracks concentrate on “love in all its forms: found, lost, squandered and unconditional.”

“That was completely subconscious,” admits Thoms. “That was Jez Curnow who pointed that out to me.” Curnow is a filmmaker, who runs an Edinburgh-based company Timebase TV, and who will be making a series of videos to accompany most of the tracks on the album.

“I gave him a CDR of ‘Infinite Variety’ last October,” Thoms continues. “And he asked, ‘Is this the running order? ‘ Some of them were rough mixes, but he saw it almost immediately as part of what he was going to do visually as well. Although it was Jez who suggested it, now I see it as having these three different sections as well. If you read the lyrics, you will realise that there is no kind of story, but in terms of theme the songs are definitely gathered together in these three different sections.”

‘Infinite Variety’ opens with the eerie ‘Backed Up’, which combines metallic, staccato beats with a paranoiac, echoing lyric from Thoms (“Backed up against the wall/The odds stack up against us all in time”). As the song begins to build, it wanders increasingly into psychedelic territory, before dropping away in its last seconds back into its original tune. ‘Resist’, the first single from the album, which follows it, has been described by one critic as “Wire kicking Blur up the arse”, and welds scratchy guitars, whirring sound effects and a bouncing melody with further edgy, unsettling vocals from Thoms (“Resist, resist/you know I must insist, insist//Who do you trust?/Desist, desist”).

In the middle section of the album ‘Buck the Trend’ merges pulsating Krautrock electronica with jittering, funky Talking Heads guitars. A hyper Thoms advises, “Make a mess of everything/Go ahead and buck the trend/Try a little imperfection/Go ahead and buck the trend.” ‘Eureka Moment!’, the most sinister track on the album, meanwhile finds Thoms about to “dance on top of the funeral pyre” against a backdrop of shimmering Euro disco beats and churning guitars.

As the album enters its last section, ‘Force of Nature’ is in contrast its most joyous number, a soaring mass of ringing guitars and New Order-style electronica (“It’s so confusing yet still worth pursuing/Maybe this force of nature will save us in the end.”). The balladic ‘Torn Apart’ is a shoegazing number about love in decline (“It’s when things fall apart), while the epic final track ‘Saving Grace’ is a song of two parts. The first part is a crooned 60’s- style ballad in which Thoms boasts of the virtues of his new love (“You take away the pain/You take away the fear”), but in the second part, which concludes in a rush of storming guitars, doubt and worry about whether this love has much of a future has crept in (“Don’t go no no/Don’t go no no/Oh I don’t want you to go no no”).

“I wouldn’t say that I have a particularly pessimistic side to me,” says Thoms, reflecting on his lyrics. “I do, however, have a realistic side. I am aware that things that can go wrong. There is a lot of white turns black in my lyrics. I also like to keep things deliberately ambiguous sometimes because I see a lot of life as being like that. You never know whether the person in ‘Buck the Trend’, for example, is just creating total chaos, or what that eureka moment is, and whether it is a good or a really terrible thing.”

While Thoms set up Stereogram Recordings initially as a vehicle for the Cathode Ray, and also so that he could put out as digital “archive releases” compilations by some of his former bands such as New Leaf, it began to expand as a label when he took on its first additional act, Roy Moller, last year.

Roy Moller, who was born in Edinburgh, spent many years living in Glasgow but recently moved to Dunbar in East Lothian. He has worked with Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson, co-writing several of their songs. “Once described as Scotland’s best kept secret”, Moller has also recorded several solo albums, which combine a strong sense of melody with a quirky, off-kilter humour. He published his first book of poetry, which is called ‘Imports’, at the beginning of this year.

‘One Domino’, his first album for Stereogram Recordings, is what Moller describes as “an “Edinbralectro record”, listing several of Edinburgh’s locations, and combining this with a string of influences that range from punk to psychedelia to lo-fi indie rock.

“I have known him for quite a while,” says Thoms. “I met him three or four years ago at a gig in Glasgow, and he was already a really good friend. He had run into problems with his previous label. He had sent them ‘One Domino’ and they had decided that it wasn’t their thing. It was very different from the previous album.”

“It was just one of those serendipitous things. Roy and I talked about it, and it went from there, and I said, ‘We’ll put it out on Stereogram and we will see what happens.’ There has never been a game plan with Stereogram. It has been very much an organic thing. I had done my own album, and so we had everything in place to put records out and then these other acts started coming along.”

The next act which Thoms took on was dark Glaswegian Stooges/Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers-style rockers, James King & the Lonewolves. Their long lost album, ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’, came out on Stereogram Recordings in November.

“There was a phone call from Innes out of the blue,” he recalls. He said, ‘Do you want to put out James King’s album? It is recorded. All they need is the press and the distribution and the machinery of a label,’ and so that was loaded up and that was another one.”

James King & The Lonewolves have something of a caustic reputation. First formed in 1981, they became renowned for their unruliness and their frontman King’s mercurial temperament. A legendary profanity-strewn performance in 1985 on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ led to countless complaints from viewers, and to the Lonewolves being dropped by their label, Alan Horne’s Swamplands, for being too difficult to handle. An early version of ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’, produced by John Cale, was recorded but never released, and the group broke up shortly afterwards when King and guitarist Jake McKechan fell out acrimoniously. The Lonewolves only finally reunited when King and McKechan, after twenty-five years of not speaking, met again at the funeral for their former agent. The new version of ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ features the same track listing as the original album, but has been entirely re-recorded.

“James King is a very different character these days,” says Thoms, when asked if he felt he was taking a risk in taking the Lonewolves on. “His wild days are long behind him. He is still quite opinionated but in a good way. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and he knows his righabout ts, but I get on well with him and it has worked out pretty good.”

Roy Moller’s second album of last year, ‘My Week Beats Your Year’– released to coincide with an autobiographical Edinburgh Fringe Festival show Lou Reed’s influence on him – came out on Stereogram Recordings as a download. James King & the Lonewolves ‘ Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ also has both a vinyl and a CD edition. For most Stereogram releases, Thoms intends to stick to a format of releasing singles in digital form and albums on CD and download.

“Vinyl is really a luxury item,” he reflects. “The jury is still out for me on it. The romance of vinyl is one thing but the reality is another. James was at one point sold on this whole idea that the CD is dead and that nobody buys CDs anymore. In my opinion it is a kind of cool thing to say that, and in the younger market I think that is probably true. People between fifteen and twenty-five download stuff and if they want a physical thing they will maybe buy vinyl, but I think that when you are older you really need a CD.”

“The Lonewolves are really well remembered in Glasgow, and ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ has been our biggest seller to date. It has done really well. We just went for 300 copies of the vinyl, but I am really glad that we went for the CD as well because it has sold ten to one ofwhat we sold on vinyl.”

“We haven’t done it with ‘Infinite Variety’’ for example, even though that sleeve would look great in vinyl, because the Cathode Ray are still not well enough known. It is too much of a risk. If things suddenly go kaput for us, we will think again.”

At the same time as James King & The Lonewolves joined the Stereogram, Innes Reekie began to help out Thoms with its management. Reekie has run two other labels, Re-Action Recordings and Mayakovsky Produkts, and is also a journalist, having worked both for ‘Loaded’ magazine and the former Scottish music monthly ‘Cut’.

“He knows everybody,” says Thoms about Reekie who he has known since the 1980s. “It was really after he phoned me up about James King that he started taking on a bigger role at Stereogram. Prior to that, he was always supportive. He helped in a small way with Roy and before that he gave me a list of contacts, but it was really with James King that he came on board. He does press and PR, and has also brought more bands to the table.”

There are now another four bands on the Stereogram line-up.

The Band of Holy Joy, who played a Pennyblackmusic Bands’ Night at the Macbeth in London in January and will be back to headline another one in June, will be releasing their next album, which is provisionally titled ‘The Land of Holy Joy’, in the late summer or early autumn.

Milton Star, who combine darkly atmospheric guitar soundscapes with brooding lyrics, are a duo from rural Fife, who write, record and self-produce all their material in a converted church.

“It was Innes who was the connection there,” Thoms enthuses. “They were all at school together. They have got this great look, and don’ t pretend to be anything else but two old guys in a band. I hate that kind of Mick Jagger thing where you have got to make out that you are young. They look like French Impressionist painters, and wear beards and caps and tweeds. They have got a single coming out soon called ‘Things Fall Apart’, and they have so much material that it is going to be a case of whittling it down. We will be releasing an album from them hopefully later in the year.”

St Christopher Medal is the other band of the Cathode Ray’s David Mack, and was formed out of the ashes of a Scottish pop band Life With Nixon, who split up in 1998 after releasing two EPs. With its five members now living in Dorset, Perthshire, Teeside and New York, it is geographically limited in what it can do, but got together for six days in 2012 to record a late 60’s/early 70’s country rock-influenced album, ‘Sunny Day Machine’, which Stereogram will be releasing over the next few months.

“I have never met a more untogether band,” laughs Thoms. “Their man guy Ali Mathieson is a very talented songwriter. The album, which was finished ages ago, is really good, but because they live so far apart even getting things like photographs and a cover out of them has been difficult. It is going to be a very, very low key record because they are so disparate and all over the place. St Christopher Medal are not necessarily going to be a gig band, but we hope to build things up slowly at a grassroots level and to develop some kind of audience for them.”

Lastly there is Lola in Slacks, a six-piece from Glasgow which includes amongst its members Brian McFie, who is also the guitarist in the recently reformed mid 80’s Scottish pop/rock outfit, the Big Dish.

“Their singer Louise is called Lou Reid” says Thoms. “She is a sort of cross between Edith Piaf, Marianne Faithfull and Eartha Kitt. When you see her live, you wish that they would drop the smoking ban because she stands there stock still with Raybans, all dressed in black with blonde hair and she just needs a fag there. The songs are really beautiful songs. We are looking to get a single out in late June and then album out towards the end of the year. They are really exceptional and very unusual. They are an interesting hybrid of ages and gender. There are three females and three males – a female drummer, a female keyboard player and Louise on vocals and two male guitarists and a bassist, and range in ages from their twenties to their early fifties.”

Jeremy Thoms hopes to take all six of the acts on the Stereogram Recordings roster out on a short package tour later this year. The first show has already been booked at the CCA in Glasgow in early December, and further gigs in Edinburgh and London are also being planned for around the same period.

“It will be in the style of the Live Stiffs tour or one of the old Motown or Stax shows,” enthuses Thoms. “It will hopefully feature the full roster – the Cathode Ray, James King & The Lonewolves, Milton Star, Lola in Slacks, Roy Moller and maybe St Christopher’s Medal, and everyone will have put out an album by then on the label. Everybody will do maybe twenty minutes, half an hour each.”

“The Band of Holy Joy will definitely headline in London. It will be a toss-up between the Band of the Holy Joy and James King in Glasgow, and certainly be James King in Edinburgh. It is not really about egos though. It never has been with this label, and none of our acts are thankfully like that. It is just a case of getting the music out there.”

For now though Jeremy Thoms’ immediate concern is the Cathode Ray and ‘Infinite Variety’, which will come on the 20th April. There will be a launch show in Edinburgh in May, and there are plans for other shows including some dates with the Band of Holy Joy over the summer.

For both the Cathode Ray and Stereogram Recordings, this year will be a busy year.

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