Complete Strawberry Switchblade interview by subject
Jill Bryson interviewed 9 June 01
Rose McDowall interviewed 29 Jan 02
Bill Drummond interviewed 26 April 03
David Balfe interviewed 19 May 03
David Motion interviewed 2 Aug 02 & 15 April 03
Robin Millar interviewed 16 Feb 03
Tim Pope interviewed 22 June 06
Start to write music
When did you start writing yourself?
ROSE: There was a big concert in Glasgow at the Apollo Theatre, which doesn't exist any more, I think it was a Stiff tour or something. There was loads of different bands playing, and the Ramones were playing. I was there with my boyfriend at the time and we just looked at each other and thought 'if they can do it we can do it!'. They were really trashy but really really good cos they had a real pop sensibility, and I just love melody. So we formed a band and he was the singer, I was the drummer, and we had a guitarist and someone else who would occasionally play violin.
Is that The Poems?
ROSE: The Poems, yeah. We released a single and we recorded an album, we even mastered the album, but before the pressing the master went missing.
Are there any copies anywhere?
ROSE: I must have a cassette copy somewhere, but I've got sooo many cassettes. I'm going to go through them all and see if there's anything salvageable on that cos it would be interesting for me to listen to it again. The music was quite interesting, the instruments we used were quite interesting, so I'd quite like to hear what it sounded like now.
When did The Poems get together?
ROSE: The Poems got together in 79, I think. My first daughter was born in 79 and I played a gig when I was pregnant, so it must've been 78 or 79. Strawberry Switchblade got together in 80...I don't remember awfully well!
Strawberry Switchblade and The Poems did gigs together, cos I used to organise a lot of the gigs in those days.
So you'd be playing in both bands?
ROSE: Aye, and I'd get paid twice so it was quite good! And a quick change of outfits from The Poems to Strawberry Switchblade, which weren't really that different anyway; black lace frilly things for The Poems and then polka dots for Switchblade.
That was good fun, but then The Poems fell apart basically cos Switchblade got busy.
So when did Strawberry Switchblade get formed? How come one band wasn't enough for you?
ROSE: I was sitting on a bus with James Kirk from Orange Juice. He was coming out to my house and he'd done this fanzine called Strawberry Switchblade. He said he wasn't going to continue doing the fanzine, I said that's a fantastic name, it can't just die, and he said 'have it'. I went 'really?' and he said yes, have it. So I went, that's it, and basically I had the name Strawberry Switchblade so I had to form a band cos it was such a good name!
There's so much in this story that's the other way around from normal - having a Peel session without sending in a demo, having sessions booked without having the songs, having a name but no band.
ROSE: I know! And then I said to Jill 'I'm going to form a band' and she says 'can I be in it?', I said, 'yeah, what do you want to do?'. She said 'sing', I said , 'nah, I'm going to sing'
You'd been playing drums with The Poems hadn't you?
ROSE: I'd been playing drums, yeah. So I bought myself a 12 string guitar and taught myself to play a few chords - which is all you need to do to write a song - and Jill bought a guitar. So she was going to be the guitarist and I was going to be the singer. I'd do rhythm guitar and she'd do frilly bits.
How did the band actually get started?
JILL: I suppose we started getting together at Rose's house. I bought a guitar with the little money that I had.
Had you been playing guitar before that?
JILL: No! My sister had a classical acoustic guitar that she knew a few chords with, and she had a Learn To Play Guitar book, Burt Weedon or something like that. A classical guitar's got such a wide neck and I thought, 'never!', the action was so high you were like [straining face] even to play G. So I saved up and bought this semi-acoustic, it was the heaviest semi-acoustic guitar I ever picked up. But it was great cos I could play it, it had a proper neck and a decent action. So I learned a few chords - literally about three - and thought, well we can do it, I know three chords. And we thought we should have something else; I think Rose knew the bass player, the teacher, and I knew the girl from the Student Union and her brother was in a band and he had drums so that was how it had to be. She'd obviously practised on his drums, maybe he'd shown her a few things. We were all really limited in abilities, you could say.
Did you play any instruments in any bands prior to Strawberry Switchblade?
JILL: No, just did some shouting into the microphone and that was about it. It was good fun. Rose and her husband had a band, she played drums. Quite badly, I have to say, but that was fine, in the punk tradition, you know? She just hit them. I remember going over to see them. They were called The Poems. I remember going to see them when she was about 8 months pregnant; she's out here and she's not very tall so she looked huge. That was quite something.
When did you start writing? Were you writing before Strawberry Switchblade started?
So you decided to start a band and THEN started writing songs?
JILL: I was at art school when we started to do it, so I was a bit older. I had a flat round the corner from Alan Horne, the guy who ran Postcard Records in Glasgow. They were just a real strange bunch of people who shared a flat. They were just great. They shared a flat, a very neat flat with a Polish girl called Krysia Klasheski who was an artist, and this guy called Brian Superstar who ended up being in The Pastels. It was such a weird, strange, great place to go. And then Edwyn who was the singer in Orange Juice lived round the corner, and David McClymont who was the bass player lived up the road. The drummer in that group worked at the dole office. We all tried very hard not to work so we could rehearse - THEY all did, I was at art school - but nobody wanted a job in the holidays when they were at college, so him and Edwyn I think, both of them, got grabbed and made to work in the dole office. We'd go down to sign on and they'd be behind the counter going 'you bastards!', a really resentful look on their faces.
We used to go through to Edinburgh a lot, I remember having to sit in the station all night when we'd missed the train back. A lot of bands would play Edinburgh but they wouldn't play Glasgow for some reason. I think there were smaller venues in Edinburgh, so people like Siouxsie &The Banshees would play there rather than Glasgow.
Knowing Orange Juice and that lot, because I lived nearby, they were just like, 'oh yeah, you should be in a band, you should do this, you can do demos with us'. It was actually the guitarist in Orange Juice that came up with the name Strawberry Switchblade. I think it was going to be the name of a fanzine or something, which he'd got from a psychedelic band called the Strawberry Alarm Clock, and it was just his punk version. At that point the guy I was going out with, Peter, he was a photographer, him and Stephen from the Pastels and Edwyn and Alan Horne and all those kind of people, they used to do fanzines all the time. I remember one fantastic article that Peter wrote called How To Fail At Job Interviews! So classic, such a stupid punk thing, such a dropout thing. One of the things was have a really filthy old snotty hanky and pull it out, wipe your nose a lot. The first question you have to ask is 'how much money do I get?'!
There were all these different fanzines. One was called Juniper Beri Beri [see Clippings section for Strawberry Switchblade feature in issue 1 of JBB]. Strawberry Switchblade, I don't think they ever printed any of it. They were just interviews with people. I remember going with Edwyn to interview The Slits. I wasn't that keen on them, they had this attitude, 'hey we're real London trendies and you're just hicks from the sticks'. They kind of tolerated us.
Sorry, this is unstructured rabbiting.
No, this is great. It's not something you normally hear of, punk and indie roots for a poppy band on a major label, this is a really good scene-setting thing.