I caught up with Chris on a bus heading out of the Gyle center. The first thing you notice about him is, nothing quite matches. His shoes don't go with his socks, his jeans are clearly too small and his sunglasses are far too large for his face.
"Why are you wearing those, anyway?" I ask, after a while, hoping not to offend him.
"When they're small, you can see out the sides. The light still gets through. I don't like that."
If Chris wants to block everything out, it's understandable. Since Johan McCormack broke up in 1998, he's been through a lot. A legal battle in 2003 over the use of their famous sparrow logo ran on for two years, and eventually he was judged guilty of smuggling materials into the States, and left to rot in a hole somewhere in Dallas. He reappeared last year on a bus in Edinburgh and has been quiet about what he did in the meantime. My sister swears she saw him in a chip shop in Dumfries. I ask him if he's ever worked with chips, and he changes the subject. Too quickly, I reckon.
"What i've worked with is mainly the electric instruments, you know, the electric guitar. The electric bass guitar. The electric 12-string guitar. The electric 6-string. The electric banjo." I nod. "And what's really got into this album is a feeling that your hair is falling out, that the buses don't go the way they used to anymore, and that noone really knows where the hell they are until you get near Princes Street. Nobody really knows where Gorgie is except the people who live there. Everyone else just drives right through it. I think if the album was about one thing, it's about what the hell is Gorgie. I don't think it's even real."
I nod. "I think there's a farm there."
I haven't heard the album yet, but by the time I do, two years later, there's really nothing on it about Gorgie at all. Mostly it's just Chris yelling his shopping lists through a series of echoing loudspeakers. Sometimes it rhymes. I wonder if one week he bought his shopping different so that it would rhyme when he recorded it. I wonder if he really likes fries or if he just bought them so he could have some pies. I wonder if he ate those fries.
I imagine he must have. For Chris, the art and the man himself have often been the same thing. For his 1996 album Where The Pigeons Don't Fly, he devotes several tracks to an alter ego who thinks a lot about buses. On one track, he sings:
_________and if a bus changes stop I don't like it a lot
_________I don't like it when buses change stops
_________because fuck that shit
I ask him what was going through his head when he wrote such a thing.
"I just, I just really don't like that. I think a lot about buses. I like it when I sit on buses. They go to places that nobody wants to go to. And people get on them and they go to those places. Who lives there? Who lives in those places? I think about buses a lot."
"Is that why the album cover is a bus, then?"
"Well, that's not final. I don't think it's going to be that." And indeed, when the album is released later on, all it shows is a wheel, on what is probably more of a minibus. "But I feel a great spiritual connection to buses, yeah. And bus-kind."
The bus stops, and we get off, and Chris just waits at the stop. "Where are you going," I ask him, and he says, "Everywhere. There are still so many places. There are places which I haven't been. There are places where some man has lived all his life and that has defined him, and I haven't even seen the corner shop he went to. I haven't seen a damn thing."
I leave him to it. Three weeks later a story turns up, that someone has seen Chris on a Glasgow subway, and was buried soon after. He buried himself. The man said, there was nowhere else left to go, if Chris had been with him. If Chris had been a part of it.
The album is terrible. The album is the worst fucking thing I have heard in my life. If you see this piece of shit don't even steal it, just smash it apart in the store with a hammer and throw all the pieces out of the window. The staff should thank you. It does not deserve the company of human ears.
0.1 / 10
309 Recordings, 2010 | purchase on iTunes
it's been a long time. but don't get your hopes up. all you adoring fans.