SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #326: STEVE MASON

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From all music:

Scottish singer, songwriter, and producer Steve Mason rose to widespread critical acclaim in the late ’90s as a member of indie darlings the Beta Band. With their creative songscrap approach and maverick attitude, the Beta Band earned a somewhat notorious reputation among fans and the U.K. press during the post-Brit-pop era, thanks to releases like 1998’s The Three EP‘s and 2001’s Hot Shots II. During the Beta Band’s heyday and following their 2004 breakup, Mason also recorded as King Biscuit Time and later set out on a proper solo career with albums like 2013’s Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time and 2019’s About the Light.

Mason initially formed the Beta Band as a duo in the mid-’90s with fellow Fife native Gordon Anderson (Lone Pigeon), although Anderson’s involvement proved to be short-lived. Following his departure, the group coalesced around Robin Jones on drums, John Maclean on keyboards, sampler, and turntables, and Richard Greentree on bass, with Mason serving as the group’s unofficial leader from that point onward. The Beta Band earned heaps of critical praise with an opening salvo of three EPs, all released on Regal and leading up to the release of their acclaimed debut album, 1999’s The Beta Band.  The follow-up, Hot Shots II, earned greater praise, although shortly after their third release, 2004’s Heroes to Zeros, the band announced their breakup.

Mason had already debuted a solo project, King Biscuit Time, late in 1998, and during the 18 months that followed the Beta Band’s breakup, he released a pair of King Biscuit singles — including “C I AM 15,” which reached number 67 on the British charts — and a full album, 2006’s Black Gold. One year later, he launched an electronica project called Black Affair, and a techno-influenced LP titled Pleasure Pressure Point appeared on V2 in 2008. He subsequently returned to a Beta Band format for his first album under his own name, a late 2009 single titled “All Come Down.” The expected full-length album, Boys Outside, with production help from Richard X, appeared in 2010 on Double Six, distributed by Domino. Provided with polished production, Steve Mason’s poignant songwriting and powerful vocals were brought to the fore. The album was then given a dub reworking by Mason and Dennis Bovell. Ghosts Outside displayed the singer/songwriter’s effortless ability to span genres successfully, while remixing the likes of Django Django showed Mason’s hunger for creativity was not slowing down.

In early 2013, his third album under his own name arrived. Among its sprawling 20 tracks, Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time explored depression, politics, and human nature, bringing together many genres to create a mesmerizing experience. His next record focused purely on himself, wringing out personal emotions and experiences for 2016’s Meet the Humans, bringing aboard Craig Potter (Elbow) to produce the album. With a number of solo tours under his belt, Mason wished to re-create the same live energy on record; the resulting album, 2019’s About the Light, featured a live band throughout the recording process to capture the feeling of his shows.

mp3: Steve Mason – Alive!

One of the many excellent tracks to be found on Meet The Humans, which made the final shortlist of ten for the Scottish Album of The Year for 2016.

JC

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