When Joe McAlinden sat on a rock beside the sea near Achiltibuie, he
didn't know the end result would be the making of the short film, EDIT,
which premiered at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Directed by visual artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the team
behind 20,000 Days on Earth, the award-winning impressionistic
documentary featuring Nick Cave, EDIT will be screened on New Year's
Day as part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's series of Scot:Lands events
around the capital.
A loop of EDIT, which follows a young woman's cross-country journey in
search of her missing younger brother, will form Tide:Land at a yet to
be named venue. Here, McAlinden will perform the live soundtrack that
inspired Forsyth, Pollard and stage and screen writer Martin McCardie
to make the half-hour film that features a remarkable performance by
“Bizarrely, it was me who started it,” the former singer with the
group, Superstar, says of the roots of a project that began more than a
decade ago. “I was sitting on a rock, feeling a bit exposed. Not
scared, but uneasy, and I started thinking about the tide as I watched
the waves coming off the rocks, and the music it made as it built into
this crescendo, and I thought, I'm going to do a piece one day and I'm
calling it Edit, which is tide backwards.”
At that time, Superstar, whose first album, the audaciously titled
Greatest Hits Volume 1, had been released in 1992 on Creation Records
prior to five more releases over the next eight years, were coming to a
close. From a musical family, McAlinden had cut his musical teeth with
The Boy Hairdressers, The Groovy Little Numbers and BMX Bandits,
Superstar had been the latest branch of Glasgow's ever-expanded and
inter-connected musical tree.
When McAlinden's father, who had been choir-master of Motherwell
Cathedral, passed away, the music stopped, and McAlinden moved out of
the city to live in Argyll, a place full of space, but with little
noise. Only several years later, after first opening up to producer
Katie Nicoll, then when Forsyth and Pollard approached him to use a
piece of his which they'd heard on Soundcloud, did McAlinden's
windswept epiphany about EDIT start to take shape.
“Iain and Jane were fans,” says McAlinden, “and I had this idea about
EDIT being more cross-platform but didn't really know what to do with
A quick Google search by Forsyth revealed that a water-powered pipe
organ was in situ in a church in Kilmur, which happened to be twenty
minutes away from McAlinden's no longer silent home.
“I don't know where it came from,” McAlinden says of the resulting
piece recorded with the organ over a four-day period, “but it seemed to
be this deep, dark place. I guess it was about loss. I remember as a
kid being in the choir loft listening to the sound my dad was making.
It was a big sound, and it's become an even bigger sound since he's not
been around. I don't write music with any kind of preparation. I just
do it, and I was probably the last person to realise what I was dealing
with through the music.”
McCardie, who was at school with McAlinden and was taught by his
father, confirms this.
“I listened to the music over and over, making notes,” McCardie says,
“and I couldn't stop listening to it. I felt the whole thing was about
grief and Joe's acceptance of the death of his father. It's such an
important piece of music, and it's very hard to explain,but I
personally thought it was the most inspirational thing that's ever
happened to me as a writer. Because I knew Joe and I'd worked with him,
I knew he'd moved to Argyll, and had had to adjust from this remarkable
relationship he had with his dad. There's an anger in the music, but
there's also an acceptance, and the acceptance is beautiful, and it's
fantastic he's had a musical awakening again with this thing that
touched me in a way that was completely unexpected.”
There has always been an emotional rawness to McAlinden's music. By his
own admission, “If I didn't do it, I'd go nuts. I seem to deal with all
my s*** through my music. It's typical west coast of Scotland male
stuff.' Aye, I'm fine.' I've become more aware of that since I lost my
dad. He was three weeks in a coma, and I thought, I bet if he had a
chance to talk, he would, and here's me avoiding it.”
EDIT isn't the only film set to be shown as part of Scot:Lands. From
Scot:Land will show From Scotland With Love, Virginia Heath's journey
through a collective past using footage from the Scottish Screen
Archive set to an evocative soundtrack by King Creosote. Elsewhere, 3
on this Is:Land will feature a screening of artist Rachel Maclean's
gothic short, The Weepers, commissioned by Comar and first screened on
the Isle of Mull.
There is a kinship of sorts too with the recently released The
Possibilities Are Endless, which charted Edwyn Collins' heroic recovery
from the two cerebral haemorrhages that left the former Orange Juice
singer aphasic. It is fitting then that McAlinden's 'comeback' record,
Bleached Highlights, released under the name Linden, was produced by
Collins and released on his AED label. A follow-up is due this year.
“We all started out in bands wanting to sound like Orange Juice,”
McAlinden says, “so this is like a dream come true.”
Given how it started life, so too, one suspects, is EDIT.
“The thing that's most important to me about the whole thing,” he says
of the film, “is that it was done completely a*** over elbow, and
started with the music first. We weren't trying to be clever. That's
just how it happened. When people see it, they just presume it's been
done the proper way round, and I think that makes it an even better
“Making a film that started with the music, I think it's a world first.
It's certainly an Argyll first. For me, certainly, I like the idea of
people knowing that's how it came about. I was the one with the blank
canvas. Martin and Ian and Jane responded to that, and I'm still amazed
at how it turned out.”
EDIT is screened in Tide:Land, which forms part of Scot:Lands at
Edinburgh's Hogmanay, January 1st 2015. EDIT is also screened as part
of A Night At The Regal at the O2 ABC as part of Glasgow Film Festival
on February 19th 2015. Joe McAlinden will perform a live soundtrack to
the film at both events.
Joe McAlinden – A Life in Music
Joe McAlinden is a classically trained musician best known as the
driving force behind Superstar, who between 1992 and 2000 released six
Superstar's first album, Greatest Hits Volume 1, was released on Alan
McGee's Creation label, while the follow-up, Superstar, came out on
Superstar's next four albums, 18 Carat, Palm Tree, Phat Dat and Six
More Songs, were all released on Camp Fabulous.
McAlinden's song, Superstar, was covered by Rod Stewart on his When We
Were the New Boys album.
Prior to forming Superstar, McAlinden was one of The Boy Hairdressers
with future members of Teenage Fanclub, Norman Blake, Raymond McGinlay
and Francis MacDonald and artist Jim Lambie. The band's sole release,
the Golden Shower EP, was released on the 53rd & 3rd label
McAlinden was later in the Groovy Little Numbers with Gerry Love and
Catherine Steven, with a brass section from the Motherwell Youth
Orchestra. They released two EPs, You Make My Head Explode and Happy
Like Yesterday, on 53rd & 3rd.
McAlinden went on to join the BMX Bandits and arranged strings for
McAlinden's first release under the name Linden, Bleached Highlights,
was released on Edwyn Collins and James Endeacott's AED label.
New releases by Linden are due in 2015.
The Herald, December 30th 2014