FolkWorld article by Christian & Michael Moll: Tartan heart of 'Scottish Love Songs'

Tartan for Tourists

Excellent Scottish music & interesting ideas by Simon Thoumire

In a self service café in the Danish town of Tonder we met our Scottish interview partner, and while the looking-out for his meal was quite amusing (see footnote!), we found out about some exciting new Scottish projects.

Simon Thourire in Tron session; photo by The Mollis What we and all his many fans around the world first want to know: How is Hamish MacGregor? - "Oh, Hamish is doing very well. Hamish's ‚Scottish Love Songs' record has done very well, and we are just in the process of planning the next Hamish MacGregor Record, it is gonna be called ‚Beautiful Scottish Songs'."
Hamish has become a well-known figure on the Scottish scene, people laugh a lot about him; our interview partner has some relations as he is actually Hamish's mental father.
These days, people in the Scottish folk scene know about Hamish MacGregor, that his real name is Simon Thoumire, concertina player of some repute. This pseudonym story has been a great and funny idea, and the Scottish scene has laughed quite a lot about it - but what was the reason for this trick? "It's just because I felt for the releases under Simon Thoumire's name to make them more into a folk jazz obscurity corner. It also allows me to release different records under a different name, which is pretty good for the music because I can release more of them."

It is not easy to survive as a folk musician these days - you need to have some good ideas, and Simon Thoumire has a lot of them. Simon has started his own record label, called Tartan Tapes, with a very clear marketing concept: "We want to make music for the tourists of Scotland, but make music of quality - there is so much music out there that is not real Scottish music, and why should visitors to Scotland get music that is different from what everyone else listens to. So that's the idea how we started off." The first Tartan Tape CD was a Hamish MacGregor & The Blue Bonnets album, with a bunch of tunes with Scottish place names, and with Hamish being Simon and The Blue Bonnets being the Wrigley Sisters and Julia Legge. The latest Hamish MacGregor release, ‚Scottish Love Songs', proves that Tartan Tapes has evolved to a quality label; with original recordings of well-known Scottish singers, supported by Simon and several other established Scottish musicians. The cover shows a lovely and funny tartan heart, that without doubt captures also the heart of the Scots themselves. As Simon says "it's now moving on - we want to try and provide at the same time one product for everybody. We also want to make a commercial product; we want people to go into the shops and buy it because of its design - and the youth is another, who could buy Scottish folk music, because it looks trendy. So that's the idea behind it."
Keep It Up (without Kevin MacKenzie); photo by The Mollis Today Tartan Tapes has already its first division called ‚Foot Stomping Records'. It was formed especially for Simon's new Band ‚Keep it Up'. The music on this sublabel is slightly different from the Hamish MacGregor stuff: "The music is more like Keep it Up; Tartan Tapes are more like Hamish MacGregor."
At the moment Simon cannot make too much money with his new label. "Hardly everything I earn at the moment goes into recording records. But I really enjoy it, and it's good to be able to be in charge of yourself. And it's progressing, hopefully one day we will be making money. The label is definitely there as serious business. You don't always make money instantly, you have to work on it. My Mum is my partner, and she is great -she does a lot of the administration when I am away."

Besides doing the label, Simon is an exceptional musician. He has his own trio (Simon Thoumire Three), combining folk and jazz music, he is member of the well-known band Seannachie; and recently he has formed the traditional Scottish band ‚Keep it Up'. It is an inspiring young band which likes to play especially traditional and in traditional style composed music hauntingly slow. "The concept of KIU is to play Scottish traditional music at a speed that you can hear the tunes. When I put the band together, the idea was to rebel against a lot of bands that just play faster and faster and faster. I don't think that's any direction to go because you can only ever play so fast - and where do you go after that. We also want to rebel against - a lot of Scottish bands are just trying to be different, they try to be jazzy or something like that. And I don't like - I am not a big fan of jazzy. So we are just working on traditional material and some self-penned stuff but it's just about playing the music as it is. There is also bits of improvisation in it, but these improvisation are more in a traditional manner, it has not any strange Jazz chords or something. So that's the content, and I am feeling we are managing it. I feel we do the tunes in quite a good speed because you can still tap your foot to it, and you can get into it which proves to me that you don't have to play really really fast."
Tartan heart of 'Scottish Love Songs' The other members are Eilidh Shaw (fiddle and vocals; of Caledon) Malcolm Stitt (bouzouki, highland pipes; of Deaf Shepherd, part time member of Boys of the Lough) and Kevin MacKenzie (guitar; Swirler, Simon Thoumire Three), all well known exponents of the younger Scottish scene. Although Keep It Up is quite a new band, it is already well known and has a good reputation. Simon managed that mainly through advertising. "I try to advertise everything I do. People who book a band, they have got to know who you are, so I have been advertising, spending too much money on advertising."
For Simon, 'Keep it Up' are good fun; "we have a good laugh together". He loves to play with Eilidh Shaw; "I think Eilidh is great - she's really good fun; she is good for the parties as well."

Simon has lots of other plans in his bag - at the moment he is planning a ‚folk super group'. Says Simon "I am actually thinking about forming a band - you know like all the pop bands that are made up just to get right into the charts; I am thinking to make up a band like that for the folk world. I try to sell it to festivals for next year which should be good fun. It will be a Scottish band."
Also for this project Simon wants to reach the high profile through much advertising: "I just have to see how it works. But we can get it to festivals and all that, with a demo done, I make the record - obviously. And I will see how we go from there. If that's what the festival organisers want to finish a night, then it would be a good thing."

So the life is looking promising for this young Scot. What about some Tartan stuff for your friends for Christmas - why not buying the high quality Tartan from Simon Thoumire.

Footnote: It had quite a bit of British comedy, the setting of this interview. It is in a self service café in Tonder; and the meals are called out via some bad amplifier when they are ready - even for Danish Natives it must sound like ‚brrrhööhbrrrhaa'. Simon waits for his meal, and always when the waitress calls out, he waits looking if anybody is coming to fetch the meal; if not, some suspicious views on the food - and there again somebody coming to fetch this meal...
Finally Simon had received his meal - after some time there was a meal that nobody fetched; Simon goes there, looks suspiciously on the food, goes to the menu board and compares the photo of the meal he has ordered with this meal, and asks the waitress: ‚Is that mine???' And yes, it was his meal...

Photo Credit: All photos by The Mollis
Simon Thoumire in Tron Session (left photo)
Keep It Up (without Kevin MacKenzie) (right photo)
Tartan heart of the cover of Hamish MacGregor's Scottish Love Song Album

Latest published CDs on Tartan Tapes:
Tartan heart of 'Scottish Love Songs'

And on Tartan Tapes' sub-label Foot Stompin' Records:

Further Information: Tartan Tapes' homepage

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/98

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