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King Creosote & The Pictish Trail – Fence Collective special


illustration by Leigh Pearson

From small beginnings, Anstruther-based label Fence
Records has deservedly grown in stature over the last decade or so, and
now boasts a dedicated fanbase and an impressive roster of artists
whilst very much retaining its down-to-earth DIY ethos. I caught up
with label lynchpins Johnny Lynch and Kenny Anderson, otherwise known
as The Pictish Trail and King Creosote for a chinwag just before they
played a blinding gig as part of the Retreat! mini-festival in
Edinburgh.

Given the shared ethos and
sound of the artists involved Fence could almost be classed as a
sub-genre in itself. For example, there’s no doubt that Fence’s success
is to some extent down to the fact they are a collective as much as a
record label and this extended family includes post-Beta Band acts The
Aliens and Black Affair. The Beta Band connection is one that Kenny is
justly proud of, especially as his brother Gordon, aka The Lone Pigeon,
co-wrote some of their finest tunes. “This year at Homegame (annual
Fence festival held in Anstruther) Steve Mason played and he had my
brother Ian on the drumbox, and he did his solo thing but he did also
lot of Beta Band songs, and for a lot of the guys that came to Fence
from the Beta Band, so this is people that in 1999/2000 had tracked us
down, and they were in tears at the door of that hall. It was like a
complete circle.”

Not everything has run
smoothly however. Anderson’s last two albums as King Creosote, KC Rules
OK and Bombshell were released through Warners offshoot 679, allowing
him to reach a much wider audience than ever before. But the record
industry being what it is, he’s back to releasing his latest album
through Fence and perhaps not coincidentally it has a more experimental
side, not least the title – ‘They Flock Like Vulcans to See Old Jupiter
Eyes on His Home Craters’. Being back in control must be something of a
relief though, given the hoops that major labels expect their artists
to jump through to justify their investment? Kenny: “Well it is a
relief because we’re at the helm so we’re as busy as we make ourselves.
The difference is when you’re with another label and they make you busy
with all sorts of things that you never expected to have to do, but
you’ve signed up to do it – and they make it quite awkward for you if
you don’t do it. All these things are there to help promote your album,
but it’s just amazing all the weird and wonderful things you end up
doing.”

As well as interminable
interviews that take up entire days (The Skinny not included,
obviously), this involved some major support tours, for the likes of KT
Tunstall and Squeeze. And despite Tunstall’s early links with the Fence
clan, it was playing with Squeeze which paid off. Kenny: “Actually
Squeeze made more sense, in an appreciation kind of thing because it
was an older audience and it was a music buying audience, and we did
better from sales of albums. Whereas a lot of Kate’s audience were
younger and had only heard two or three songs on the radio; it was like
a different gig. As soon as she played ‘Suddenly I See’, the place just
went bananas – even though it’s not a stand-out in the set at all, but
it’s just one that everybody knows. So for us as a support band, can
you imagine? We don’t have anything even approaching her least known
songs.” Johnny however is keen to stress the glass-half-full side of
the arrangement.  “It doesn’t mean it was worthless because the end
product of that was that for other Fence shows that we’ve done since
then, it’s brought in a different audience and it’s made the audience
that was there think of us as a real band instead of just ‘some guys
from Fife'” Kenny agrees that there are benefits to such compromises.
“That’s true, and also playing with Kate did get us that Jools Holland
thing  – without a doubt that was what swung it for the producers.”

But despite the raised profile both are
determined to avoid the label morphing Decepticon style into a
monstrous corporate machine. Johnny: It’s reflective of the audience
that’s there, if the audience that gets properly excited about it gets
bigger then we want to accomodate that, because there’s nothing worse
than putting on something and people who really want to be at it can’t
get to it.” Kenny: “But we’re not in it just to make a quick buck and
escape. the Homegame, for example, is different, oddly enough because
it is different. We’ve made our own rules. Everybody expects you to
want to be bigger and better, but we kind of don’t. We want it to be
manageable, and just to keep people happy.” Johnny:  Because at the end
of the day the Fence thing only has to supply a wage for two people.”
Kenny: “And a lot of kids..”

Fence Club #6 takes place on Wed, 17 Sep at The Caves, Edinburgh and
will feature James Yorkston, Malcolm Middleton and The Pictish Trail.
They Flock LIke Vulcans… is available now at King Creosote’s live gigs and will be more widely available in November. King Creosote, The Pictish Trail and The Fence Collective play The Corn Exchange, Cupar on 25 Oct.

As published in the Sept issue of The Skinny and online.

Hear part 1 of the I Hear a New World podcast here.

By Milo

Freelance writer and content creator.

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