“It's something that hasn't happened for a very long time,” Thoms says of the initiative. “I was inspired by the likes of the Stax revues in the sixties, and the Live Stiffs tours in the seventies, where all the acts on the label play on the same bill. With the Stereogram Revue, everybody plays twenty minute sets and hopefully leaves their ego at the door. There will be rough edges to it, I'm sure, but I quite like that. All my favourite artists, like Vic Godard, just plug in and thrash it out. Even so, I suspect I'll be a complete nervous wreck on the night.”
With James King and the Lonewolves closing each night, the rest of the bill will be made up of Dunbar-based wunderkind, Roy Moller, St Christopher Medal, formed by veterans of 1990s combo, Life With Nixon, and velveteen female-fronted sextet Lola in Slacks. The Cathode Ray and another of Thoms' musical vehicles, The Fabulous Artisans, will also appear on the bill.
In terms of running order, other than the Lonewolves, acts will be “shuffled round like a pack of cards,” says Thoms. “It's all about the collective.”
To accompany the events, the label will be releasing The Sound of Stereogram, a limited edition cut price CD featuring all the bands from the shows plus latest Stereogram signing, Milton Star. While the album will feature a track by The Band of Holy Joy, The Stereogram Revue will see them represented by actor Tam Dean Burn. As a long time artistic collaborator of the BOHJ's driving force, Johny Brown, Burn will present a piece of performance art in the guise of the Band of Holy Joy Scrap and Salvage Movement.
“There will be visuals projected,” says Thoms, “and that opens the night up to other areas. It's a very art thing, and will probably be quite freeform.”
If the roots of The Stereogram Revue are in old-school package tours, the label itself has umbilical links with Alan Horne's Postcard and, especially, Bob Last and Hilary Morrison's Edinburgh-based Fast Product. Douglas MacIntyre's Creeping Bent label, which was also inspired by Fast, can be regarded as a fellow traveller.
Many of Thoms' signings have roots in the original wave of post-punk, with James King and The Lonewolves and The Band of Holy Joy the best known of the Stereogram roster. This taps into a recent resurgence of interest in the original Sound of Young Scotland, exemplified best in Grant McPhee's film, Big Gold Dream, which documents the era.
“There's definitely a continuum,” says Thoms, whose own musical pedigree dates back to fronting The Presidents Men, who released two singles on Aberdeen's Oily Records label. Moving to Edinburgh in 1982, Thoms formed the Strawberry Tarts before playing with the likes of The Sour Grapes Bunch inbetween touring with The Revillos.
“From a distance you realise how important all that stuff was, but when you're in the thick of it you don't know it. But Stereogram seems to have tapped into that as well. It's people who did stuff, then dropped out of the scene, got a job, got married, had kids, and who've now come out the other side and are still making music that matters.
“With The Stereogram Revue, hopefully we'll be reaching fans of all the bands who are playing, and maybe introducing something new to fans of one band who maybe haven't heard some of the others. Although none of the bands on Stereogram sound similar, there is a shared ethos there that these two nights are trying to cement in some way. In it's heart of hearts, it's like a good old-fashioned variety show.”
The Stereogram Revue, The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Wednesday; CCA, Glasgow, Thursday. The Sound of Stereogram is released on Wednesday.www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk
The Herald, December 1st 2015