O'er The Border
- the Beta Band come home
The Beta Band have just arrived back in the
UK, and Steve Mason has come home to Scotland following their
acclaimed 'Hot Shots II' album and US tour with Radiohead. We
caught him between househunting and Xmas shopping, and got some
hints for surviving the Scottish winter...
So, where are you at?
"We just finished the US tour, and doing the video for 'Squares'...
what else... we did Jo Wylie on Channel 4 on the 11th December
- playing live - and that's it till January. There are gigs in
the UK in Jan and then its back to the US in March.
Last time you played the US was on tour with Radiohead?
Yes, it was good, we've been to the US a lot but never supported
anyone there - or anywhere really- it was kind of weird to begin
with, but in the end a really good experience, and really beneficial
So what kind of venues were you playing?
"Mostly outdoor, 25,000 or so capacity. It was a massive
tour too - 2 weeks there, home, then back again and did another
So you gained a lot of new fans via Radiohead?
"Definitely! The last tour on our own sold out every show
anyway but this was much bigger. I think in every country there's
groups of people who want something new, want to be challenged,
and are open to something new - they want to hear music that's
honest instead of pre-packaged and marketed and marketed to such
an extent that it drives you to fucking insanity - that's what
we were tapping into I suppose".
So what's inspiring you?
"On the bus we were listening to loads of hiphop - Roots
Manuva, I really enjoyed that a lot, it's a really good lp.MOP's
Do you think your fans are also listening to that kind of
"I would hesitate to categorise people by stuff they listen
to, but there's a lot less boundaries to an extent with what
people listen to - not wanting to generalise, but you get people
that buy a Beta Band record or a Superfurries record who'd then
go get Aphex Twin or Carl Cox, or some garage perhaps; there's
a lot less boundaries than there used to be."
Are you pleased with album's performance, sales-wise?
"Well, reasonably - I expected it to do a lot better than
it did but I'm really happy with the music on it so that's the
main thing really."
And how about the recording - are you satisfied with that
as compared to previous one?
"Absolutely, it was a totally different experience."
So what changed?
"We went in with 10-15 finished songs before I even went
to the band with them - which is obviously a really healthy thing.
So previously you were putting stuff together in studio?
"Yeah, exactly, so this time me and the band got together
and worked for 2 months solid on my songs - and one of Richard's
tunes too ('Alleged') - so there was that level of preparation
before we went in which totally paid off when we went into the
studio as we could concentrate on individual sounds, beats, whatever,
it was just a much easier experience."
So how does the first album look now, in retrospect?
"Pretty much the same as it did - shoddy, shoddy. Ah, there's
some good tunes on it - 'The Hard One', 'It's Not Too Beautiful',
I think they're amazing pieces of music."
And were these the ones you prepared in advance, by any chance?
Yes, especially 'The Hard One', we did a lot of work on that
before we went in and it really shows. One of the few tracks
on there that sounds fairly complete."
So you've got the formulas used for a quality album now.
"Oh, dunno about that, I don't know if there is a formula.
But preparation... definitely the key."
What about the single ('Broken'), usually a good benchmark
of commercial success?
"We did Top of the Pops but they didn't show it ! That's
just the way it is these days. I think it depends on how high
your chart position is. I assume they thought like we did that
the record people might have put a bit of effort into telling
people it was gonna come out, but unfortunately for everyone
concerned the record company decided not to do that... so..."
I assume that your contract has you tied in for a while?
"mm, yeah, less said the better... like any relationship
you have to make it work the best you can."
So can you crack the charts with 'Squares'?
"I'm not really thinking like that, I just want to get it
out as it caused us such grief - the i-monster thing and all
that pish. It won't be a hit, just want to get it out. I can't
imagine people will have forgotten the sample but the record
company have got kind of obsessed with that track! Radio One
pretty much refused to play us, but the record company have decided
this is the track that's going to get some airplay... they've
become totally obsessed with it. For fear of getting sucked into
the mincing machine, we just stood back and let them get on with
So when does work start on the next album? Did you write any
"I find it impossible to do that. (write on the tourbus).
I've not really started even thinking about that - after getting
back I just found somewhere to live" (John has just moved
back to Fife... )
So will you take the opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with
live bands up here?
"I dunno, I'm not really a big fan of going to see bands
- I used to go to clubs more when I was in Edinburgh before.
Finally, any more for the fans?
"Keep warm this winter. Lots of sex. Keep warm and keep
shagging, for christ's sake!"