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Martin Metcalfe was frontman of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, one of the most acclaimed bands ever to rise through the ranks of the Edinburgh music scene. Then he was in Angelfish, the band Shirley Manson left to join Garbage. Since then, Metcalfe has continued to occupy a unique place at the heart of Scottish alternative rock. His current band, The Filthy Tongues (with former Mackenzies bandmates Fin Wilson and Derek Kelly), may just be his best yet. The band’s debut album, Jacob’s Ladder, is certainly one of this year’s finest. Catch the Filthy Tongues in live action at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room on December 3. Meanwhile, visit www.filthytongues.com for more info on the band.
Earlier this week, AAA caught up with Martin to find out what he loves most about his hometown.
Most memorable capital event?
The First (Unique Events, organised) Hogmanay street party was a good one. It was the first time Hogmanay was moved from the Tron to Princes Street. Like it or loathe it, it was a watershed in Edinburgh’s place on the map. We hadn’t done an outdoor gig at night in Scotland and it was freezing. I think we went on around 11pm, but don’t hold me to that. Our fingers were numb. It was the first time Shirley [Manson] had played a guitar all the way through a gig – and she loved it. Big John [Duncan] was absent that night, maybe he’d even left the band at that point. Either that, or he was roadying for Nirvana. It was late in our career – we’d been through a lot.
Who would you choose to headline Edinburgh’s Hogmanay?
As a selfish choice, it would be Nick Cave or The Pixies. But maybe a more accessible show would be The Happy Mondays or the Stone Roses. They would have enough big hits to get a general crowd going. AC/DC would work for me as long as they didn’t bring Axl Rose… I think Noddy Holder should sing for them now.
Favourite old-fashioned boozer?
I don’t drink, so none of them. Old-fashioned boozers don’t have nachos, coffee or cake. I have met up with people in The Barony on Broughton Street quite a few times. It works for me in that context.
Favourite style bar?
Style?… Quiet. I can’t be doing with noise, unless it’s me that’s making it. I like to hear the person I’m with talk without shouting. So I suppose one with booths… Electric Circus.
Kushis in Edinburgh. A really great Indian. It probably will come as no surprise to people who live here that that’s my choice. It’s always been the best. It’s a family business, and they all care about the food and the customers. Nice people.
Do you love or loathe the Festival?
Neither. I’ve never really been a fan of live theatre. I’ve enjoyed some live theatre but it seems you have to experience a lot of iffy productions before hitting on a great one. I don’t have the patience (or money) to test and try lots of shows. I do like comedy shows in the festival. You can be fairly sure they’ll work if you already like the comedian. I’ve seen a tun of comedians over the years. I think I’ll be looking for performance poetry in the future. I’ve decided to try a bit harder with the festival. I only saw two shows this year and I was in one of them (Neu Reekie book launch). Henry Rollins was very good, but I get bored with spoken word around the hour-mark. He spoke for an hour-and-a-half. So sorry, I’m not going to be black and white about it.
Favourite art gallery?
The Modern 2. It used to be called the Dean Gallery. They tend to have a lot art that I love there. It’s modern art rather than post-modern. Surrealists, German Expressionists, Munch, The Two Roberts was a great one. Joan Eardly, The Scottish Colourists was a great surprise, they were like the Fauves… That’s some of the stuff I’m into.
It used to be the Cameo, because they had good films and you could take your beer to your seat. It’s really a toss up between the Filmhouse and the Cameo.
Favourite live music venue?
At the moment, Voodoo Rooms to play in and also to watch bands. It used to be Cabaret Voltaire but they changed the PA system to suit DJs more, so it doesn’t sound as good as it used to. Plus, they’ve let the bands dressing room go to hell. Last time we played there they had trash and food waste in bags and bits of soiled newspaper everywhere. Maybe it’s changed for the better recently. I haven’t been back since that last escapade.
Favourite walk in or around the city?
I don’t like fresh air, nature or exercise, so maybe I’m not the person to answer that question. I do like the view across the roof of the Waverley train station and gardens from the North Bridge at night.
Favourite shopping area?
Anywhere with Waterstone’s book shops (or any bookshop). Otherwise, I hate shopping.
Favourite piece of Edinburgh architecture?
The old town with its alleys, which we call ‘closes’. A great feeling around this time of year when the elements are changing. The weather’s cooler, the nights are getting longer, and the light seems more luminous.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city?
Constant and eternal roadworks everywhere, slowing everything down, traffic jams and an almost pointless and highly expensive tram system which is as slow as getting the bus. More and more permanently blocked junctions for cars. Bottlenecked traffic and creeping taxation through relentlessly increasing traffic charges and fines for parking in a city with fewer and fewer places TO park. Other than that, it’s a great place, with nice places to eat, which is great because I hate cooking.
I think the art festival is best at the moment. It’s still small and visual artists really need help and encouragement.
Favourite Edinburgh-set novel?
I like a lesser-known Irvine welsh book called Marabou Stork Nightmares – very strange and clever. He shows an acute understanding about the specific human condition we call ‘denial’ in this. I also like Trainspotting, and I like Ian Rankin’s Rebus works.
Favourite Edinburgh band ever?
Very hard and a bit of an unfair question for me, so I’m going to give a list in no particular order (and I may miss some out)… Hook & Pull Gang, Blood Uncles, Nectarine Number Nine, Sexual Objects, The Shop Assistants, The Rezillos, The Revillos, Joseph K. The Jackals are a great sounding new band doing the rounds. More to come from this town, I’d say.
Favourite local hero?
Dick Gaughan – the greatest living Scottish folk singer. Buy A Handful Of Earth, or you will be incomplete.
Sell Edinburgh to a tourist in no more than ten words…
Easy to explore without a car (thank God). It’s a beautiful time machine.