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.
Monday 8 January 2018…the first day of the first full working week of the new year and the day when this little corner of the internet is supposed to return to normal business after all the re-hashed stuff over the festive period, albeit the posts were all worthy of being resurrected from the wreckage of the old place.
I’ve been giving things some thought over the past few weeks. I’ll admit to still suffering somewhat from an extended bout of blog fatigue, but in some ways that’s to be expected after more than 11 years of churning out cliché after cliché. The most annoying thing is that the fatigue has somewhat extended itself into me not having the time and/or inclination to keep up with the work of so many great talents out there, although I did, late last week, start the process of playing catch-up and will continue to do so over the coming days.
Part of the issue is that I haven’t been properly managing all that comes with trying to keep T(n)VV relevant and meaningful. This has happened a few times in the past but there’s always been something, like a new album, a tour or an event, to come along and enthuse me in some way that has delivered the required kick up the arse.
This year, and maybe it is grumy old man syndrome, but I’ve gotten increasingly bitter and disillusioned about the rip-off factor, whether it is attached to the cost of buying new vinyl or getting to gigs – assuming of course you can get your hands on saif vinyl if it has been released in limited editions or in fact you can access Ticketbastard and the likes in time before you have to look towards the secondary markets. All of which has meant 2017 ended up being a year where I spent much less on my hobby than any other since I became an adult.
Don’t get me wrong – there were many highlights in the past year, not least that never to be forgotten gathering up here in Glasgow last May, meeting JTFL in Manchester and all sorts of gigs, often with Aldo riding shotgun. LCD Soundsystem at Glasgow Barrowlands was something I never dreamed would happen to me…but it did. And the trip to Hebden Bridge for Jens Lekman was special (as was the next day in Manchester being guided by Swiss Adam). But there were more days when there wasn’t much motivating me to blog other than it being a habit. Shaking hands with Robert Forster and having my photo taken with him was also a memory to savour.
None of these memorable events woulf have happened without this blog, something I embarked upon in 2006 with no real long-term aim other than to shove up some long-lost b-sides that were only available on vinyl. I certainly never imagined that I would still be doing it all these years later and that it would have led to the flowering of some of the most amazing and rewarding friendships imaginable with some ridiculously talented writers and musicians.
It has also led me to do things that weren’t ever on my radar – promoting my own gigs, helping out at merchandising stalls, contributing to and being thanked on albums/boxsets and reigniting my passion for DJing to name but a few. I’d also say that having this hobby has helped me through some very tough and painful circumstances in my personal life (for which I will always be thankful to ctel and others) and it has also inspired me in ways that have, at the fag-end of my working life/career, had a positive impact in a professional capacity.
I know that I’ve got to the stage where I can’t really imagine not doing this and, as such, so I’m not contemplating calling it a day any time soon. I do know, however, that I need to focus a bit better, mostly by staying in my comfort zone(s) of music of bygone days with very little reviews of new albums or gigs.
There will always be a place for such things but these will need to come via guest contributions, of which I will maintain my policy of accepting without question, unless the subject matter is offensive or degrading in some way.
As I’ve long said, there’s no such thing as a bad song – it’s just that some songs aren’t quite to my taste and I can’t bring myself to say anything positive about them. The same goes for singers and bands. I’m no fan of, for instance, Coldplay, but I do admire the fact that KT and many others can be so enthusiastic about Chris and the boys and champion their work in such an informative, engaging and enjoyable way. Anyone is free to throw over an ICA Vol 2…..I will not be so childish with my responses this time round (a joke that seemed funny at the time but badly backfired on us who took part in it and left a lot of guilty feelings).
Talking of ICAs…..the long-running series is the thing I’m most proud of on this blog. It’s incredible to think that almost two-thirds of them have come from guest contributors; it is the perfect illustration of how I want T(n)VV to be a collective rather than the work of one 50-something fat and balding bloke who has no kids to direct him to what he should be listening to nowadays instead of wallowing in the delights of antiques.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to lose my enthusiasm through striving for a posting every single day from now on, although I do, as it happens, have enough just about enough ideas and things to see me through to Easter. I’ve had something of an obsession in posting every day, partly as it seemed to be meeting what was an ever-increasing demand based on the number of visitors and hits going up on a year-by-year basis; however, the stats for 2017 showed something of a drop – down by 10% on 2016 – although the number of comments left behind was higher than before.
These figures are no real surprise given that more and more folk seem to be moving away from reading blogs to consuming their info via shorter and more immediate forms of social media and many bloggers have adjusted things accordingly. I take a lot of comfort from the fact that those who do come in here on a frequent basis seem to revel in the length and format of the posts with many readers very happy to offer their views and opinions – the regulars know who you are and I’m hugely grateful for all you do.
So that’s sort of the T(n)VV manifesto for 2018 and beyond. In summary, more of the same rubbish but possibly with less frequency. I do hope you continue to enjoy the ride.
Oh, there’s one more thing. This blog is now going to avoid, as best as it can, all mentions of Morrissey as a solo artist. He pissed me off big style last year and he’s now beyond defending. I haven’t even glanced at his latest album. I will occasionally sing the praises of The Smiths – they still mean so much to me and if anything, Johnny is trying extra hard to rectify the sins of his former sparring partner.
I really think the title of a Steve Mason song provides a good way to sign off for today. You’ll be pleased to hear there’s no moaning tomorrow as there’s a guest contribution – from our Swedish Correspondent, no less.
mp3 : Steve Mason – Words In My Head
PS : I typed all this out a few days ago, clearly with a troubled mind. But there, seemingly, is an explanation. My wee note of ‘welcome back’ to the The Sound of Being OK crew was posted to their office – KT seemingly is an expert on profiling folk based on their handwriting. She has declared to SWC and Tim that I’m a psychopath. She might be onto something…