banksint22.htmlTEXTMSIEFFmBINDecember 1997
Iain Banks strikes New Chord
WHY DO YOU BITE ME ON THE SHOULDER?
WHY DO YOU SCRATCH ME ON THE BACK?
WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO MAKE LOVE
LIKE YOU'RE MAKING AN ATTACK?

Pop fashion and political correctness being what they are, Love Attack is unlikely to trouble the judges for next year's Ivor Novello awards. But for devotees of the novelist Iain Banks a new recording of the 24-year-old song answers one of the great "what ifs?".

The question was: what if Frozen Gold, the fictional progressive rock group which was the subject of Banks's novel Espedair Street, actually existed and made records?

The answer is provided in a radio adaptation of the novel, due to be broadcast on Radio Four next month, for which Banks has provided a soundtrack of songs he wrote when he was a student at Stirling University in the early 1970s, including Love Attack - which, as all Banks's fans know, was Frozen Gold's first single and entered the charts in 1974 at number eight.

That song and others remained in a drawer while Banks set about becoming one of Britain's most successful novelists. They reflect an age when long hair was standard issue and the words Jethro Tull could still be uttered in fashionable society. They have been described as the author's "basement tapes".

"I wrote them on a £19.95 Woolworth's electric guitar," he said yesterday. "My influences? Led Zeppelin, the Stones and, yes, Jethro Tull. Some of the lyrics are quite good, even though I say so myself. At that time I was thinking about trying to become a songwriter but it wasn't really me. If you write a book you do it by yourself, you don't have to rely on other people and I'm bit of a control freak I suppose."

The radio adaptation of Espedair Street takes the form of a "rockumentary" of Frozen Gold's fictional career, charting the band's rise from the mean streets of Paisley until it disintegrates in a haze of drugs, drink and sexual promiscuity. It is narrated by the DJ Paul Gambuccini.

Banks, the subject of a recent South Bank Show and a permanent fixture in the bestseller lists, provided the production team with rough demos, which were then recorded by professional musicians. The songs were performed in public for the first time in Glasgow last night at a charity event.

David Batchelor, who produced the four-part series, said the recordings would add to the author's creative reputation. "The songs are not, admittedly, fashionable for these days but they are a perfect evocation of the Seventies," he said.

Banks has just completed work on a new science fiction novel which will be published next year. He said he had not had time to listen to the Frozen Gold recordings yet. He has no plans to become a rock star.

"It's been an interesting sideline but I have never wanted to be up there on stage, although it is what I've ended up doing to promote my books and I enjoy it," he said.

* Espedair Street will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 11pm on Thursday January 8, and for the following three Thursdays.


This interview by Lawrence Donegan was originally published December 22nd, 1997.



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