Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Mull Historical Society

First published in The Badger, June 2003

There are two types of ‘nice’ in the music industry: the poorly-crafted sunshine-in-a-jar as demonstrated by the late Steps, and the genuinely decent examples of humanity in a world of insolent, revolting self-interested divas.

Thank heavens, then, for Colin Macintyre, aka Mull Historical Society, a normal bloke with a cordial manner and an unquestionable talent. But as a one-man band, Colin suffers from the increasingly common perplexing pop plural/singular syndrome, as previously demonstrated by The Streets and Roots Manuva. It must be annoying to be constantly referred to as a “them”.

“Sometimes! I’ll be honest!” says Colin. “Well, it doesn’t really annoy me, as I guess it’s confusing. On a creative level, I know I do it myself, but if it keeps going the right way I’m sure people will be aware of that. Y’know, as long as the music’s doing well.”

While mainstream success is only a recent achievement for Colin, the now-famous Mull Historical Society Dog-In-A-Wig stamp has been identifiable for some time. Plastered all over both albums and all MHS merchandise, is Colin worried the dog in the wig will take over? “When I first saw the image, I just liked it. It’s something recognisable,” says Colin. “It’s good to have a brand, I think. I’ve even got it on my business cards! I paid some ridiculous amount of money to use it, so I’m gonna keep using it!”

On the subject of image, Colin often finds himself the recipient of female attention. While the fandom levels have yet to reach Osmond proportions, how does it feel to be branded a sex symbol? “Is this a question for the dog in the wig or me?” laughs Colin. “What can I say? It’s not the reason I’m doing what I do. For me, it sounds dull when musicians say it’s all about the music, so it’s good to have a bit of a laugh.” He chuckles sheepishly. “That’s how I avoid that question!”

However, Colin’s not entirely opposed to the visual side of things, having developed a quirky, kooky characteristic that runs through each MHS promo, from sheep-wrestling to human rabbits to a mini-Colin hiding in the anorak pocket of a regular sized Colin. Purely fun or have we missed some deeper postmodern meaning? “There’s always a bit of the lyrical content in the visual,” he explains. “But at the same time I like the idea of not taking yourself too seriously. It’s kind of early days, so touch wood, I can make a lot more videos, maybe something with a lot more power to it.”

Early days it may be, but the pattern of MHS chart positions suggests greatness is on the horizon. How will things change should Colin successfully pull a Travis? “Oh God, I don’t know! I’ll start wearing that wig that the dog wears, I think!” groans Colin. “Back in the rehearsal rooms in Glasgow before any of this started, I thought ‘I don’t really know if I want that’. But that’s partly why I chose the name. If it becomes bigger and bigger, I’ll feel I’ve got something to hide behind.”

However, the MHS profile is being raised constantly. Colin’s recent appearance on BBC Three’s Re:Covered saw him performing a version of Ms Dynamite’s It Takes More. “Two or three days before filming I still hadn’t got a way of doing it. I was still worrying about it at 7 o’clock that morning! And then it came to me on the flight from Glasgow to London, the do-do-do’s and the bassline. I scribbled it all down on a sick bag! You can tell how much I was worrying about it, I was pulling out sick bags! I’d like to think I could write all types of music, given the chance. At the moment, I’m focusing on what I do but it’s quite nice to have a challenge like that.”

“Sometimes I have the most ridiculous songs come into my head, and I think ‘I can’t possibly record this’. Maybe someone in Eurovision can?” he laughs. Now there’s a challenge – after the hilarious failure of Jemini and the supposed promise from Thom Yorke to represent the UK next year, would Colin ever cross that vintage pan-European line of no credibility? “Maybe! Let me think...” muses Colin, reaching for a copy of Us to browse the tracklisting. “I think a big cheesy version of Am I Wrong might work! I can imagine it all big and throwaway.”

We’ll have to wait a year to see whether that happens, but until then you can catch Mull Historical Society on an equally high profile bill supporting REM. Alternatively you can find out what the critics have been creaming themselves over, via the second album Us. “It’s good that it’s out there, and I’m really proud of it,” says Colin. “But you can’t stand still – I’m already thinking of the next record. You’ve got to keep evolving.”

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