Getting inside with the Outsiders

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Frank Finlayson speaks to Iain McLaughlin of Iain McLaughlin and the Outsiders prior to their album launch at The Ironworks on the 9th of March, 2012. Photos by Thomas Bisset.

There are many milestones in the life of a musician: first gig, first festival, and now for Iain McLaughlin and the Outsiders, the momentous release of a debut album. In amongst all the hullabaloo surrounding its issue, Iain took the time out to chat with Frank Finlayson on all things Outsider.

The band in its current format has been together since last summer, that is: Pel on guitar, Dave on bass, Russell on the kit, and of course, Iain. Previous members also feature highly within the local scene, with former contributors such as the Whisky’s drummer Andy and the Parma Violets’ bass player ,also, Andy. Iain has never had issues with the changing faces in the Outsiders. As he puts it, “we’re just a rock and roll band, and if people can do it, they can. If they can’t, they can’t do it. We don’t fall out or anything like that. None of that kind of crap. We just find a way to make it work.”

As much as we could have chatted about the local music scene and festivals, the real reason for the get together was to find out a little bit more of the imminent release of “We Are All Outsiders”. And with this album, Iain has a very real sense of responsibility and ambition. Clearly summed up when he says, “ I’ve always wanted to have this album. It has quite a heavy emotional attachment to it as well. My late grandfather, he left me some money, and that’s what I used to pay for this record.” This has given them the opportunity to re-record a number of their tracks, “Some of them are songs which we have played for a while, but just done right.” Iain is quick to clarify this point though, “Not that they weren’t done right before, just with us finally having the budget to go ahead and do that.”

The album was recorded by Andy Miller at his Gargleblast studio in Hamilton. Iain had been impressed by his work with the likes of Mogwai, Arab Strap and local legends Shutter. Iain, though took on the task of the mastering. Also, Iain acknowledged that it is not just himself that he has to please in the process but the other band members. It was a task he openly admits may have been close to pushing him over the edge. “It was great, but there is something tricky about producing your own music. You never have that point where you go, done!”

But done it is. The 9 track, or should I say 10 track album, and this was a which was cleared up by Iain. “There is a tenth track on it but it is a while away. There is a whole thing about that. It is a track that we are doing live. Its starting out with a loop pedal, and then the band comes on at the end. Its the bravest thing that we have ever done. It is kind of custom done for this gig on that stage.” Iain elaborates “We are like smoke and mirrors, in a nice way! We like to make it more of an event. The whole set is a crescendo really. There is supposed to be a steady rise to the end of it, and as manic as we can get it! We don’t want to start out too dull and this is the thing about music, you want to have peaks and troughs”.

Turning back to the album I quizzed Iain on whether the album follows the format of one of their gigs. “It kind of is, but more in an album kind of way. The last track Breathe is kind of chilled. It is something that has been done for years, like how Nirvana did it with Something in the Way, ending on a quite chilled out thing.” This also one of Iain’s favourites on the album. “It has a lot of space in it. It is very “albumy” I would say. We are playing it live on these tours, but there is a lot of space in it!”

As you would expect this ain’t no chill out album and Iain’s personal favourites include not just the aforementioned Breathe but also the opener Break the Cycle of which Iain enthuses “It is so dirty, big drop C tuning and it comes in with some Nine Inch Nails drums”. He goes on to compare and contrast both the above numbers, “and just being able to do that on one record is showing what it is that we have the range to do; how diverse, to be honest, that everyone in the band plays.” Iain goes on to catalogue the band members styles through punk, indie and rock ‘n’ roll with the point “We really shouldn’t work!”
But work they do, this group known as the Outsiders. But are they really Outsiders? “I really love the imagery of it”, Iain explains. “But at times yeah, things that we like are a little more… well…. we’re not trying to be that alternative cool or anything. Russell’s got a philosophy degree, studied music, and Dave’s like covered in tattoos, its the way he is, and Paul, he likes little edgier bits of music, the darker side of things.”

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Edgier and on the outside is only part of it. It has begun to become more than that with the We Are All Outsiders motto having almost brand status now. “It has hasn’t it. It’s great. I think it is wonderful. It’s the name of the album and it captures people’s imaginations. It is something that people identify with as well. I guess that is the nature of how we play and how the band is made up; there never has been that sort of gang mentality. Its not really been about that, we play with each other; we are a group of people and anyone can do that and that is the nature of that phrase. I said ages ago, if you are good enough and there is space for you you can come and play.”

The release of the album coincides with a mini launch tour in March which takes in Tunnels in Aberdeen on the 8th, Ironworks on the 9th, followed by a trip to the Newmarket Bar in Thurso on the 10th. Iain explains the rationale behind these gigs “That will be for the original 200 copies, that’s the special thing. Because we’ve played these places a lot. It’s not so much a regional release but more of a thank you. It is a slightly different edition, same artwork (as the general release), just a special edition for these three dates.” One not just for the fans but for the collectors too.

The Ironworks gig will see support from the little heard of, these days anyway, Echo 20 and local lads Def Con One, and Iain was instrumental in bringing these acts on board. “Echo 20 were one of the first bands that I ever went to see when I was here. And also Craig who played bass in the band at some point; over the years I’ve played with him many, many times.They don’t really exist anymore, but they are absolutely brilliant, entertaining, proper showmen. It was just an idea that we had. It would be great if they could do it, and that friendship thing with Craig made it possible. The Def Con guys they really wanted to do it.”

The short north tour is a precursor for a national tour which takes them both north and south of the border when they joint headline with Kent based act Jamie and the Portraits. “It will be our first real foray across the border. We’ve done gigs in London, played the Cavern in Liverpool, but they’ve been off the cuff. I have no idea what these venues will be like, but we are going to do it anyway. We’ve got merch to sell, discs to sell! Getting more Outsiders, gathering more troops!”

The year ahead looks rosy for these troops, with festival appearances in the pipeline. Now having an album that they can use as a platform, they are looking to broaden their horizons, and not just musically. In Iain’s words “We are fairly going for it now.”

If you want the album and don’t want to wait for the itunes release in April, pop along to one of the tour dates and get yours for a minimum donation of £8, or throw in the t-shirt for £15.

Remember, We Are All Outsiders!

A notefrom the editor

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Frank Finlayson
Frank Finlayson
Chartered surveyor by day, music reviewer by night, and occasionally I get to use my camera. A strange mix, but one that I enjoy. A chance meeting in the queue for Bella in 2010 led to the opportunity to write for InvernessGigs; a far cry from the days of writing for a football fanzine back in the late 80s, early 90s. My interests lie between the mainstream, the emerging and the local. Increasingly I find that we have more than enough locally to entertain us to necessitate a trip south. I’m always happy to give a listen, whatever the genre. Inverness has a plethora of talent, all of which I am more than keen to write about. If it encourages just one person to make the effort to listen to some new music I’ll be happy. You can contact Frank direct via