ALL eyes may have been on Rod Stewart and Kylie Minogue at the opening and closing ceremonies of this summer’s Commonwealth Games, but a modest film and music project commissioned as part of the cultural events to accompany the Glasgow Games could prove to have a more lasting legacy.
From Scotland With Love is a collaboration between New Zealand-born now UK-based film maker Virginia Heath and Kenny Anderson, the singer-songwriter otherwise known as King Creosote, from the East Neuk of Fife.
Anderson, who has released more than 40 albums in various guises over the past 20 years, explains Heath was looking for a songwriter she could work with closely while assembling archive footage of scenes from everyday life in Scotland.
He puts his involvement, however, down to “not what you know but who you know”, citing Heath’s fondness for the character-based songs he wrote with Jon Hopkins for the Mercury Prize-nominated album Diamond Mine.
“The archivist was also a big King Creosote fan and had a few more albums,” he says. “Virginia had also made a film with David McAulay, who’s one of the engineers at Chemical Underground Studios where I’ve recorded. So it was a bit of ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’. It was described to me as a collaboration, with me being involved in the process as a songwriter and the songs would be influenced by the film.”
The earliest footage in the film dates from the start of the 20th century and “goes up to the late 70s when colour was coming in and it moved from film as a medium to video”. Anderson says Heath had a “given time frame” in mind. “She wanted distance between the now and then, so it would feel like archive footage, not something that rattles into the Noughties.”
For his part, Anderson wanted to assemble as “versatile” band that was acoustic and included strings and woodwind and could “capture various moods”. The finished film, which was well received at open air screenings in Glasgow, runs to 70 minutes, the accompanying King Creosote album is 30 minutes shorter.
For Anderson, writing character-based songs was a straightforward task as it’s something he has “always” done. “If the subject is getting too personal I stretch from the third person to the second. Songs [that appear to be] about me are not about me at all – that’s just being a coward, maybe,” he jokes. “Once you adopt a pseudonym you become different people. This time around it was an extension of that.
“One song was written as a love song about a fisher lass, another was about the challenge of going and enjoying a Friday night out. Traditionally I’m not Pharrell Williams. I tend to write songs when the mood is slightly below the horizon. Once I identified the dark side that goes along with a big Friday night out I could write a song about the drunken egos that might have been there as well.”
He found it easier to relate to footage of scenes from rural life as “my dad’s side of the family were shepherds and farmers”; his mother’s relatives were involved in the fishing trade.
When this month Anderson tours the album it’ll be with a three-piece band. Sadly, due to cost and technical demands, the only chance to see them performing along to the film was last week at the Barbican in London. However, he’s hoping to “work out a way” of showing the film “that does not cost a small fortune” for smaller scale dates.
“The equipment hire so the band can play in synch the cost of that we could not do it on our ticket price,” he says. “You’re getting into the realms of needing arts funding for every gig. But apparently there’s a bit of kit that allows the projection of the film and allows a drummer to stay in time with a click track. It could be run off a laptop or a small projector. We’re looking at a way we can rent the rights to show the film and play alongside it.”
Outside of this project, Anderson is working on relaunching Fence Records, the DIY label that he founded in 1994. “It had an ethos that we lived by,” he says. “Over the years it slowly got pulled away from the original direction.”
As Fence gradually grew into a larger collective, so did differences of opinion. For Anderson, “Fence was very much about existing below the radar” and “did not play by the same rules as other record labels”. When the Collective split last year – “the louder ones have gone elsewhere” – Anderson returned to doing things his way.
“We did not pester the media with our music. It’s gone back to that,” he says.