LIKE the naked truth of the new Associates single sleeve, Billy MacKenzie
feels that he's currently over exposed. Although it was obviously quite
an achievement to have pinned him down? Billy admitted that he'd rather
leave the gift of the gab to his fellow Associates on this occasion. "It's
not fair that the others don't get the chance to talk as much as I do,"
he whispered later in my shell-like, "just 'cos I'm the singer, I get the
limelight. As if it were that simple... Not that a mere Noise-style grilling
would chip away at the man's enigma, but Mr McK contented himself with
a friendly greeting and a pixie-like grin before resuming his studio work
and opening another mound of fan mail.
The flexible interview Roster
was thus taken up mainly by newest and prettiest Associate Martha Ladly
(ex of The Muffins) and strong, dark and hitherto silent type Alan Rankine.
Quite a refreshing, as it transpired, as Ms Ladly isn't afraid to speak
her mind. The opportunity arose, therefore, to discover exactly how Martha
was transported into the rank(ines) of such a 'zany' (her word) Scots bunch....
How did it all happen ?
Martha : "I did a solo single,
'Finlandia', last year, then recorded another single which ended up not
coming out because Dindisc were on the rails. Then at the beginning of
September, Billy called me and it was just hi, I'm Billy MacKenzie and
would you like to come and sing on our next single! I'd never actually
met Bill or Alan, but I'd been a fan from when 'The Affectionate Punch'
came out, and I'd asked Alan to play guitar on my single. He was too busy,
so I went along to the studio one day, met them and went in immediately
and started singing backing vocals! I think they'd seen me with the Muffins
when we supported Roxy, quite liked my voice, thought I looked quite good
and might be a fun sort of person, and we got along really well straight
away. SO I've been working with them ever since. I always thought they
were great and I was quite sure they'd be some sort of success whatever
they did, but actually finding out 'Party fears two' was going Top 10 did
really surprise me, it seemed quite an unlikely sort of single, it was
so different from anything else in the charts at the time. But then all
their stuff is. I'm really happy we're going to do so well now.
Have you actually been writing
songs with them ?
Martha : "I've been writing
songs on my own mostly, plus arrangements and some keyboard stuff, and
writing some music on my own with them in mind for Bill to write some lyrics
to. But we haven't actually got together yet because Bill and Alan have
got so many songs on bits of tape, stuff going back ages. '18 Carat Love
Affair' is six years old! They've got so much stuff that until they've
gone through some so that they don't even need anybody to help them write,
although they're really interested in what I'm going to do with them. I
think Billy will end up writing the word. I like writing words, but the
kind I write are very different from what Billy writes. It could be quite
I suppose the way Billy writes
words is very much an integral part of the Associates' appeal...?
Martha : "It's his whole 'free
association' way of thinking. The stuff I write is always a bit more specific.
At this point, Alan Rankine
enters, inquiring as to about Martha has been saying about him. With more
than a hint of motherly instinct, she said: Martha : "it's the first time
I've seen him with a shave in about two months! Alan had just got himself
"a wee facial!
Martha : Well you're looking
fine, sweetheart! It's the boys that can go and have the facials, the manicures
and pedicures! I hope we're still going to have this massage artist on
Alan : Yeah, he's getting paid
about twice as much as anybody else. He's a big bodyguard-6 feet 4, black,
very strong, can break your back, and he's also a masseur. You're not getting
him though, you're not allowed any thrills!.
Martha : I've never had a massage
in my life! I've always thought if I go having massages all the time the
way the Associates do, then I'd need them all the time.
Has this been a time-honoured
Associates tradition ?
Martha : They just have to
take extra-special good care of themselves 'cos they abuse themselves totally.
Alan : We get debauched, then
we pampers ourselves.
Martha : It's kinda like exercising
so that you can eat more!
Rather like the Ancient Romans
who stuffed themselves stupid then made themselves vomit!
Alan : Bill spews at will anyway.
Martha : Does he ? I wish I
knew how to do that, it must be quite a gift!
Alan : Tis when you're supporting
the Banshees and there's a few hundred skinheads gobbling on you. You just
puke on them when you've been drinking Pernod and black currant. Soon get
them out of the way.
to the nitty gritty-what do you think about the prospect of Martha writing
songs with you ?
Alan : We've already dabbled
a bit and I'm sure we'll dabble a bit more. I'm not sure when you'll hear
the results, 'cos we've got the next album already written. We'll have
a pool of songs-about 20 more- so I s'pose we've got the next two
Martha : It's a bit difficult
Alan : Bill and I like bouncing
It must be quite unusual
to have so many song writing talents in one band.
Martha : It's good because
if you're doing different things, you're always excited when you come back
together, there's no hanging around, getting bored or working in the same
It can get a bit Roxyish...
Talking of Roxy, I spotted
Martha on TOTP-the mask didn't fool me!
Martha : That was Bryan's idea-'you've
got to wear a mask, dear, we don't want everybody thinking you were the
girl that was in The Associates!' It was fun-but quite different
from working with these guys...
When The Associates appear
on TOTP it's always worth watching-it's fun
Martha : Whenever we're on
TOTP I must say it's like a breath of fresh air-that sounds like a real
pat on our backs, but...
Alan : Wait till you see the
Martha : People always do the
same thing, and there's so much music now that's the same that whenever
we're on it's like something completely out of the blue.
Alan : The next one's going
to be really good!
Martha : They haven't told
me what I have to do yet... I think there's some sort of a plan, but we're
not telling. I'm not sure I want to know!
What sort of framework is
the live show taking-anything dramatic ?
Alan : Well, I think we intend
Martha : Lots of girls!
Alan : No, we're having one
more girl, and two more boys, you'll be glad to hear.
Martha : No, I like girls,
I think it's important to have girls onstage"
Alan : You can't say things
Martha : I don't like being
the only girl in a band at all.
Alan : Well, there's going
to be one more-Angela Jaeger from New York-she sang on the Drowning Craze
single. And two more boy backup singers who'll also be able to dance a
little as well, so instead of having pretty girls dancing we'll have pretty
Martha : Oooh, wonderful. Something
for me to watch.
And I'm getting a Jet Pak.
When I do a guitar solo I'm just Jet Paking right over the audience.
Martha : Can I have a trapeze,
Alan : Only if you can hang
on by your teeth.
You're playing relatively
unusual venues... ?
Alan : We didn't want to go
straight to Appolos, not that we couldn't fill them, but because we haven't
played for so long. Confident we might be, but there's no way I'll go over
the top and play to three or 4.000 people. But we're going on a spending
spree next week! We're going to buy keyboards and basses and clothes, and
we'll fly to Milan to get suits...
Tell us about the new single
Martha : It was the first thing
I did with them.
Alan : That was going to be
a 39 Lyon St one at first, with Martha doing lead. As it happened it was
better when Martha did backings and harmonises the chorus up a bit. It's
so, so poppy. I think some people are going to really hate us for it.
Martha : It's very different
from everything else.
Alan : It's sort of Motowny,
poppy, and it's actually got a story line in the lyric. It's really concise
and to the point. It has got a few double meanings, though.
Martha : It's not going to
be one of those Associates angst song.
Alan : Just a wee love song.
It sounds like you're doing
things the wrong way round-the most accessible songs last. At least it
means you don't have to compromise
Martha : I don't think there's
a question of that, is there Alan ?
Alan : Compromise ? We like
pretending to compromise but I don't think we ever do.
Martha : You don't know the
meaning of the word, speaking from a slightly outsider's point of view.
I don't think either of you would know how... I could teach you!
Alan : We're not bolshy. We're
just leading the record company a merry dance. 'Cos it keeps them on their
toes, otherwise they get lazy and complacent and you can be damn sure if
you got lazy they'd be on at you saying where's the next hit single, so
you just do exactly the same back to them.
Martha : That's quite an education
for me. Being in The Associates, it's like we're writing the rules, it's