When Glasgow's music got Lost in France

By Steven Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland news website

  • Published
Alex Kapranos
Image caption,
Alex Kapranos went on the trip to Mauron in his pre-Franz Ferdinand days

Twenty years ago, a busload of unknown Scottish musicians travelled to France to play at a music festival. They went on to become some of the biggest names in the music business.

Their link was the cult Glasgow-based record label Chemikal Underground, founded by indie rock band The Delgados.

In 1997, the band was joined by Mogwai, Arab Strap, Bis and a pre-Franz Ferdinand Alex Kapranos on a road trip to the small French town of Mauron in Brittany.

Image caption,
Emma Pollock was in the Delgados at the start of Chemikal Underground records

They did not realise at the time, but they were on the cusp of a success which would still be generating interest two decades later.

Lost in France is a documentary from Irish director Niall McCann, who had the idea of getting the bands back together to revisit the place and the memories of Mauron and the mid-90s music scene.

He says he thought the story could be told as a statement on what has happened to the music industry over the past 20 years.

The idea came about when McCann got to know Arab Strap singer Aidan Moffat after a gig in Dublin in 2012.

Image caption,
Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai was part of the 1997 trip to France

He later spent the day with Moffat in Glasgow and the musician mentioned "a mental trip they all took in 1997 when they were all starting out".

McCann says: "From examining that tiny moment you can tell the bigger story.

"Mauron is a way in and the trip back is important as a device to get the guys talking."

McCann says the musicians are all "quite self-deprecating".

He says: "It became clear to me that in order to get them to reflect on Glasgow and the music scene and their lives I'd need to take them out of Glasgow."

Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat could not make the trip to France because he was involved in his own film project at the time, but McCann says he got everyone else he wanted.

This was despite others, such as Emma Pollock, co-founder of Chemikal Underground, being initially sceptical about the idea.

She says: "When you are in the eye of the storm you do not necessarily appreciate that there is a story to tell.

"I think that we have always thought it is enough the records exist. They are the legacy of Glasgow's music.

"But Niall said to us there was a story about the people who made the music and where it came from."

Image caption,
Alex Kapranos and RM Hubbard will play as part of Glasgow supergroup The Maurons

Looking back from a distance of two decades, Pollock says she can now appreciate how they made things happen for themselves.

Setting up their own record label in Glasgow was a "self-propelled" experience that rose from the energy in the city at the time, she says.

"It was a really exciting time," according to Pollock.

"It was almost a delirious time. We were all consumed by making music and we didn't have many responsibilities.

"It was a very free time."

She adds: "We are now all 20 years older. It is a bittersweet experience, I guess, to revisit something that was so free because the music industry is under a certain amount of pressure and it is harder to do those things now."

The Delgados had been to Mauron in 1996 after getting an invitation from David Sosson, who was studying in Glasgow to be a chef but also ran a festival in his home town.

It was the first time the band had played outside the UK.

Pollock says: "The first time we went over was 96 on our own. The next time was with a load of folks from Glasgow on a bus."

Image caption,
Director Niall McCann was interested in the changes in the music scene over the past 20 years

Alex Kapranos, who was a stalwart of the Glasgow music scene at the time, says he thought the film was a "crazy idea" at first.

"I could remember very little of the original festival but I thought it would be nice to hang out with my old pals and have a trip to France," he says.

Kapranos, whose success with Franz Ferdinand did not come until five years later, was in a number of bands in the city and also booked gigs for the 13th Note venue which promoted Glasgow's new music scene.

He says he is delighted that the director decided to take on the subject.

"I was pleased that someone was finally paying attention to what was going on in Glasgow in that period because at the time, when we were living through it, it felt very exciting and a lot was going on."

He says Mauron took place at the cusp of the success for the bands involved.

"It was the moment when everything went from guys hanging about playing gigs to each other to suddenly people all over the world hearing this music," he says.

"We did not realise it at the time. Nobody knew. We were just going over to have a laugh but looking back it was quite a significant moment."

Lost in France will be shown at the Glasgow Film Festival on Tuesday 21 February. It will be followed by a one-off concert by supergroup The Maurons, with Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), RM Hubbert, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage (The Delgados) re-uniting on-stage for one night only.

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