My earliest relationship with music sticks in my mind about the age of 12. I remember hearing the Beach Boys on the radio blasting out ‘Surfing USA’ and thinking to myself, ‘Wow that sounds like fun’. The following years were academic and my mum and dad sent me to piano lessons with a strict tutor in Bathgate. I didn’t last more than a handful of grades when my teacher discovered I wasn’t reading music. I was pretending to read the notes and memorising how to play it by ear instead. In the years 1972 to 1975 I found myself listening to David Bowie, Queen, ELO, T-Rex, Alex Harvey, Gary Glitter and the likes. We didn’t have a record player in the house in 1972 as my mum and dad didn’t see the need for one. Most of my music listening was from the airwaves and my music collection consisted of a library of recordings from the radio, taped on an early cassette recorder. Taping things became an early obsession and I remember opening the underneath of the piano at home and using various like devices on the strings to create weird and wonderful sounds which I taped. I recall setting up weird backing tracks doing this and introducing evil little licks on the keys.
By 1975 I’d found progressive Rock which I’d been introduced to by Fluff on Radio one. I was listening to Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who, Yes, Free, Jethro Tull and MC2. My networking group grew as I joined other like-minded teenagers also into music. Bathgate was a nasty place to grow up in back then and governed by Glasgow inspired gangs who seemed to enjoy hunting down nerds like me. It was quite comforting to be part of a larger gang who wasn’t interested in fighting and something that provided a safer option when being outside. My mate Billy in Bathgate had on older brother who had the most amazing record collection I had ever seen. Spent many a night just reading record covers and marvelling at the artwork. It was then that I started playing guitar properly and started my first band, Sunstone Hawk (named after Charles Manson’s son). Played mostly classic rock covers at the time sprinkled with a few original efforts such as, ‘I’m in love with Night’. Ian Nelson played lead guitar, Kenny Wallace on bass and Stephen Firth on drums. We played many local gigs in Bathgate and had become a wee bit of a name in the town. However, I was at odds with myself as I was already starting to doubt the kind of materiel the band were doing as I was secretly listening to Can, Iggy Popp, Ramones, the Runaways and the likes. Billy’s older brother liked music that had an alternative feel to it. My mum and dad had bought a stereo. Anything was possible then. I remember 1975 going into 1976 as being revolutionary.
I was quite the rebel at school, fighting with my parents and getting into trouble over everything. My dad had found me a job at a local brickworks called G R Steins for the summer of 76 and I had access to cash for the first time ever. I was buying albums like they were going out of fashion and buying the usual hippy clothes. My hair was past my shoulders then. Then something weird happened. One Saturday during that summer, I heard ‘New Rose’ by the Damned on the radio. It was the opening line, ‘Is she really going out with him?’. I was so smitten with the song and it was seldom out of my head. I’d been dumped by my girlfriend (for another chap) at that time. ‘New Rose’ seemed an appropriate anthem to help conquer my teenage agnst. I then announced to a new girlfriend Liz that I was a punk rocker and my art classes at school mirrored that. My mate Panda’s brother was a trucker. Panda gave me a large pile of Levi drainpipe jeans that his brother no longer wanted and had been through the wars. Everyone was wearing flairs and all I wanted to do was live the opposite to the fashion at the time. I remember asking my barber to give me a haircut like a punk featured in the NME I was holding. New territory for my barber and tackled interestingly enough with an open razor. My hair was now spikes and feathers. As I left my house that night to go to the pub dressed in Levi’s, ripped t-shirt and baseball boots, I was about to alienate myself from most friends and family alike without realising why. Maybe London was ready for punk rock. Bathgate certainly wasn’t. In 1977, punk rock exploded and I dabbled with my first punk outfit with another fellow rocker, Rab Cherrie. He was so into the Ramones and bubble gum punk that I doubted that this was really for me. It was about then I was approached by Martin Metcalfe and Lipstick was formed.
Lipstick was based on original music only and my teaming up with Martin Metcalfe proved to be the foundations for everything else that was to follow. The local Orange club in Bathgate provided us with a permanent base for rehearsal. They had a disused air raid shelter to the rear of their property, which we converted into a local hang out for Bathgate’s indie scene. Band members were Martin (lead guitar), Chuck Parker (bass) and Stephen Firth (drums) and myself on the microphone. It was the perfect environment for writing and rehearsing. We churned out the brilliant ditties like ‘Body in the Chimney’, ‘Love and Happiness’, ‘Attention’ and ‘Possession’ to name a few. I reckon there were an easy couple of albums worth written at the time. I was excited and convinced that it was only a matter of time before we were recognised. We visited Wilf’s planet Studio in Edinburgh at that time and a fair chunk was laid down on tape.
I don’t remember officially leaving Lipstick but do recall Martin was spending much more time with another Bathgate band called Irrelevant It was 78/79 now and I was also spending a lot of time on the East Coast with my new girlfriend Jackie. I also had a new job in Edinburgh with the Royal Bank of Scotland. I was moving away from Bathgate and didn’t realise it. I married in August 1981 and moved into a caravan at Port Seton, Edinburgh. I was having a wonderful time then and despite the splitting of Lipstick, started to write new materiel and penned, ‘Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’, ‘To Her’, ‘On the Road to Hanoi etc. I was now writing music proficiently and attempted on a few occasions to start a band in East Lothian but couldn’t find the musicians to do so. They were still into heavy metal and worse; the majority of people seemed to like soul music/ northern soul. I was never really convinced by tamala motown, as it sounded manufactured. Then out of the blue, I received a letter addressed to ‘Ewan Drysdale, The Caravan Park, by the Seaside, Port Seton’. It was from Martin Metcalfe asking to meet up to consider a new band. Shortly after, Clan was formed featuring the two of us and ex Irrelevant members Jamie Waterson and De Kelly. I introduced new materiel as the rest of the guys did and new songs appeared, formulated in a way so differently from anything done before. We returned to Wilf’s planet Studios in Edinburgh and recorded, ‘I love you because your name is Juliana, To Her, Life on Death Street, Hanoi’ etc. I was the vocalist in the early days but that was to change. We needed a strong vocalist (with image) as I recall and hunted down a new front man. We eventually found Joe Cowan from Livingston who had a great image. I never saw Joe without makeup and he sported the long hair swept over eye look not unsimilair to Robert Smith of the Cure. At that moment in time I was satisfied that we had a look as well as a sound. ‘Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’ was born. This all came to an abrupt in by 1983 after playing a gig at the Rabbit Hill Community Centre in Boghall, Bathgate. It all ended up with the local boozers from the community centre knocking the hell out of the students from the local technical college whose party night it was. All I remember of that night was playing along as the dance floor turned to blood. By the next rehearsal in Edinburgh, Martin informed the band that Joe had left the band as he received a letter saying so. Martin and Derek also announced that Martin would be the next vocalist. All I recall was lifting my gear from the rehearsal and returning home. I was miffed at the fact that Martin was now in control and that ‘Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’ was to be something much different from where we had got to. Two reasons really:- 1) I didn’t believe Martin had the voice 2) I didn’t believe that a more commercial approach to music was where I wanted to be. I was always of the opinion that music should be organic and not a master plan. After all, if chart success was the game plan, I could have done that a lot more easily by just playing pop. Where had the spirit of 77 gone? I had left Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. My consideration for Martin’s abilities were well of the mark as well.
Jackie encouraged me through this period of disillusionment and I bought Roland’s TB303 baseline and matching drum machine. I must have spent weeks just getting through the manuals and eventually managed to get recognisable sounds from them. I was writing again and for the first time producing synth music. I recall believing that dance music mixed with metal was where I wanted to be. At this time I went back to Wilf’s planet studios and recorded ‘Climb the waterfall, Meretricious, Blue visions of you and Perfect day’. I returned at a later date and recorded ‘Frankie and Ronnie’, US Icon and Instrumental for Autumn’. It was at this time in 1984 I left the Royal Bank of Scotland as an employee and went to London to join the Performing Right Society in London.
The Performing Right Society after a good part of a century thought it wise to open a Scottish based office in Edinburgh for it’s licensing operation. It was a strange company and not a lot to do with music as it turned out. The promise of seeing London and a massive increase in salary was enough to tempt me. I enjoyed London and made many pals in PRS. The opening of PRS’s Scottish office was monumental and a large do was held at the George hotel in Edinburgh to underline this. All Scottish PRS members were there together with Scottish media. The event was a success and PRS Scotland was born. Even then, I was warned by some in London HQ that there were those within the company that did not want a regional office and that PRS only belonged to London. In 1984 I shrugged this off as bollocks. In 1984 we were handed a portfolio of 8,000 licensed accounts in Scotland and on being made redundant in 2003 had slightly increased this to 19,000.
However, I was being slowly institutionalised and didn’t know it. In 1985 I formed what can only be described as a pop band called Behind Closed Doors. I was introduced to Gregor Borland (bass) and Smthy (drums) at that time. Oddly enough by fate, we shared the same rehearsal space as ‘Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’. Smithy soon left the band after being persued by the Inland Revenue for tax evasion. He played with a large Scottish country band and hadn’t paid a penny in tax. Gregor and myself bumped into Stu Munro one night. Stu was an Edinburgh drummer who had just left the Hunger. We continued as a three piece for a while until taking on Ronnie Morgan as a keyboard player. However, this was slowily falling to bits as my friendship with Stu grew. He was a punk at heart and loved the same sort of music I did. Gregor was a proper musician and was at odds with heavy sounding guitars at the time. We decided enough was enough and let Gregor go after he borrowed part of Stu’s drum kit to tour Europe with his Scottish Country dance band. Stu and myself sat down and decided we would just write and do music that we fancied. We were still called Behind Closed Doors and 2nd generation punk found it’s way into the repertoire. At his moment in time Goodbye Mr Mackenzie were doing very well in the charts and I sold the rights to my song to them to allow them to release it as a single. My beautiful daughter Gemma was born in 1987 (named after a song I’d written) and music took a back seat while I went on to enjoy the trappings of fatherhood. We had moved house again and life was pretty OK. In the background I’d met up with Jimmy McKinley (bass) and a new band was boiling away in the background. Behind Closed Doors was turning into Tomahawk. Although not heavily committed as a band, we rehearsed new materiel that was a cross between metal and punk and played the odd gig. However at this moment, my song writing was out of control and I was producing songs by the bucket load. I was scaring myself at how easy it was to produce music but had no intentions of exploiting it. It had become a bit of a cross to carry.
The early Tomahawk fell away slightly as I focused on family and I eventually moved to a cottage just outside Wallyford. A great place to set up a wee studio in the large attic area and possibly start recoding other musicians was in mind at that moment. Going into the 1990’s was a difficult time. My cottage took me nearly to the edge of financial ruin but I did manage to get a recording studio upstairs. I bought an Atari 1040stfm and linked it up to my first midi synth. I was now recording my own songs and built up a large library of material on tape. Jimmy McKinley at this moment was doing the backpack thing round the world and I’d lost contact with Stu. Roy Pettigrew was a close friend at PRS. Slowly by slowly we met up and started merging our styles together. I decided to really get to know the guitar and practised like a beast every single night teaching myself how I thought the guitar should sound. My music became heavier and heavier. Jimmy eventually returned from his world travels and Tomahawk was formed in stone. We played a number of gigs together and songs like, ‘Heads made of Metal’, Crazy, ‘Beauty in your Touch’ and other songs were part of the set list back then. For some reason, Roy and Jimmy began to conflict with each other and Jimmy McKinley eventually left the band leaving a mammoth hole in the sound. I can’t remember the full logic of why or how but I do remember feeling quite empty after his departure. Roy changed from guitar to bass and shortly after we played the festival of original music at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh. It was at this gig we won best original song, ‘Beauty in your Touch’. Something to this date I am still very proud of. Wullie Pettigrew, Roy’s brother (of Blues and Trouble fame) joined the band on bass and Roy went back to guitar. We did a good recording session at the Jewel and the Esk and recorded ‘War Party, Mary Queen of Scots, Broken Promise’. The band was sounding even larger now. In fact the word professional may even sound correct. However nothing was to last. Just after the 2nd gig a year later at the festival of original music, the band fell to bits. Wullie was involved in a horrible traffic accident on The Harry Lauder Road and I was frightened away from music because of my newly formed tinnitus. My cottage was broken into at that time and I lost about 500 CD’s including my life works that I’d mastered onto CD. That was that, so I thought. By this time I really had hung up my guitar forever and never thought about playing music again. I forget the actual year but I was tempted into music again but I formed a new band called Sister Hyde in the late 90’s featuring Kirsty on vocals. This lasted a month or so and then Tomahawk began again properly in 2002 with Stu, Roy and myself playing the original punk/ metal material as before. We did a session at Leslie in Fife of that year and there was the beginnings of something new in the songs:- ‘Yes you say you love Me’ and ‘My Life’ were written amongst about another 15 new songs. There was definite change and ability in the sound and I was believing in myself once again. Wullie came back to play bass in 2003 and we began rehearsing on a regular basis. By September 2003 Roy and Stu for some reason came to fisty cuffs at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station. To this date I never understood what the f*ck had happened.
Stu was to leave for good. In a week or so Death Star 4 was to be born and the introduction of Marc Marnie on drums, or more importantly his attitude was to change my thinking of rock forever. Now (and if you’ve read this far) you might think that anything I touched on my musical journey was jinxed. However, the truth of the matter is quite the opposite and so faraway from the truth. I hope that this story might give faith to younger dudes starting this type of path. When Death Star 4 was born, I entered it in the belief that what I was about to do was perfectly correct. I considered myself a rock icon. I dressed and talked like a rock elder. I wrote songs with purpose and attitude. I was edgy and arrogant and was about to roar my throat off at those who came to see me. I was a front man that would scare others. At the age of 43, I was not taking any prisoners. The first gig in Edinburgh was OK. I did ‘Crazy’ at the end of the set and sent home a group of teenagers to think again. The songs got heavier and heavier as we rehearsed them and played them live. We used live sets as rehearsals and even played to no-body. I spent long nights at Marc’s talking and talking and going over where the next plot. Death Star 4 was becoming a brand and more importantly, something to enjoy.
Death Star 4 managed to get a sort of residency at the Three Tuns on Hanover Street in Edinburgh and a small following started to begin. Between 2003 and Feb 2009 we played many gigs in Edinburgh at the Bongo Club, the Exchange, Oceon Terminal etc. However, I’d been suffering from long term health issues and burdened by a new property in Musselburgh which was sucking every penny from me. Despite the album, Retox, there was not a lot to show in terms of recording and the band was drifting apart from that spiritual foundation from where things began. About early 2009, I made the decision to leave the band. Wullie and Marc were already playing with another band called Shameless, Roy was showing signs of ‘band fatigue’ and I was finding it impossible to find time to do anything. At work, I was putting in 10 hour shifts and working a lot of Saturdays. I was trying to supply the extra income to support family and home. A year later, we reformed for a short period but everything was beyond repair in DS4. The fated Roxy gig in Feb 2010 underlined that. Roy and myself got wasted that night and the worst live performance ever happened. I think we only got through 4 songs before the plug was pulled on us. Marc and Wullie were mortified. Death Star 4 was finally dead. As I write this, I have never met up with the guys again bar Marc.
I spent most of my days over 2010 adding to my home studio and buying bits of gear where I could. It’s mostly the way I want it now. I bought the latest version of Cubase and other modules and samplers. I only wish to address the heavy back catalogue now. As you will notice, from my writing that not enough time was spent on recording materiel over my musical career and what was has been, has been lost.
Commercial success was never that important to me. Recognition probably was.