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

Strawberry Switchblade early days

Weren't there four of you to begin with?

JILL: There was four of us to begin with. We wanted to be a girl group and rehearse as a group and play as a group. The first few gigs we did in Glasgow were as a four piece. But one of the girls was a teacher and she didn't have much time, and the other one was studying to be a marine biologist, so I don't think it [the band] was high on their list of priorities.

Who were the other two?

ROSE: The other two were Janis who played the bass and Carol who was a drummer, her brother taught her to play drums. She had two rhythms she could play, one was for the slow songs and one was for the fast songs. Which was OK, cos if you've only got eight songs it means you don't have time to get bored!

Where did you know the other three from?

ROSE: Jill I met through her boyfriend, I used to hang about with him before she went out with him. The bass player I got through meeting her in clubs and stuff, I didn't know her that well. And Jill knew the drummer a little bit, so we got together that way. We didn't know them that much when we came together but we thought we'd try it out anyway.

Did you know straight away that you were really going to try to make a go of it with the band, or was it just arsing around in rehearsals?.

JILL: Well, it was funny, people were encouraging going 'yeah yeah, you can support us and support the Pastels' and at that time there were a lot more smaller places to play and there were a lot more groups who needed somewhere to play.

So we're talking, what, 1982?

JILL: Earlier than that, I think it'd be about 1980, that sort of time. Me and Rose thought we'd get a band together. The drummer was someone who ran one of the Student Unions. You weren't allowed to get into the Glasgow University Men's Union, but there was a Women's Union, the Queen Margaret Union.

What? Did they have men-only gigs and stuff?

JILL: Well, at the women's union men could get in, and it was run by this girl Carol McGowan who was our drummer and she used to let us in. You weren't supposed to get in if you weren't a student, but she just let anybody in. She used to book the gigs and everything. They put on a lot of local bands and they also had discos, we used to go and wait till they finished playing Hi Ho Silver Lining and then we'd all get up when they played their one punk record, fling ourselves around and then get off again. They would intersperse punk records throughout the night, but there was that little to do in Glasgow you would put up with it, you know?

Hi Ho Silver Lining in 1980?

JILL: It might have been a bit earlier

What was anyone DOING with that record after 1975?

JILL: It was alive and well in student unions, probably all round the country, not just Glasgow. We'd have to get suitably, like, [disdainful face with theatrical sigh] for those songs. You know, Freebird by Lynard Skynard. It was really funny, it was just so rigid then, whereas now....

Whatever you're into there's somewhere to go

JILL: Exactly. People are a bit more tolerant now. They used to throw things at you if you were a punk in Glasgow. They were so intolerant, you took your life in your hands, especially if you were a guy. If you were a girl it was just insults. Several of my friends were chased through town and punks had the living daylights thumped out of them.

People don't realise how marginalised punk was. There wasn't independent music properly yet, punk invented it. Fashion was a very rigid thing, which is something the 80s broke down completely.

JILL: Absolutely.

How quickly did it develop?

JILL: Really quickly. We got together, wrote a couple of songs then booked a gig! We had to write enough songs to do this gig in The Spaghetti Factory in Glasgow.

What kind of venue was that?

JILL: It was actually just a restaurant called The Spaghetti Factory. You can imagine what it was like, a pizza place in the West End. They had a little stage at one end and they had people play there, but not usually bands, I think it was more usually piano and stuff.

You go out for a pizza and what you really want is an inept indie band at the end of the room!

JILL: A really really bizarrely dressed up inept indie band. It was in December this gig and we managed to write six songs, which was quite something.

Which year would that have been then?

JILL: It might have been 81 I suppose. 81 or 82.

How do you know it was December?

JILL: Because it was snowing and nobody could come, the buses were off!

And you did it anyway?

JILL: Yeah! And there really was hardly anybody there. And I remember that, cos it was in the West End where we lived, Alan Horne came and Edwyn and basically they were the only people! It was SO funny. And Peter took some photos of us standing there looking like Christmas trees.

Were the band any good at this time?

JILL: I don't know. People liked us, but I think it's just because we were women and we did little short pop songs. It was the same songs, Since Yesterday and stuff.

So the very first stuff you were writing was the stuff that ended up on the album?

JILL: Yes. Most of them. They went through change as we progressed and learned an extra chord. The lyrics got a bit more refined. Some of them changed even at the stage when we were doing the album, and we had a producer saying 'work on that bit there'. But to begin with it was still those songs.

You've just picked up a guitar and you've just started to write songs and it's THOSE songs!

JILL: It was literally, 'we've GOT to write some songs! How many have we got now?'. We started doing a few little gigs around Glasgow which kind of pushed us each time cos we'd have to rehearse for them. I remember sitting at home, at my parents, sitting in the back room till god knows what time just strumming, trying to come up with something. I'd come up with a tune and sing the melody to Rose, she'd have to write the lyrics, then we'd sing it to the band and they'd play along.

Is that generally how they were written? Everything's credited equally to the two of you.

JILL: Yeah.