Songs in the Key of Fife: Vic Galloway presents his love letter to the East Neuk
As he prepares to launch his insider's history of Fife's rich alternative musical history, we ask Vic Galloway why he wanted to tell this story, what makes The Fence Collective so special, and what he has planned for the Book Festival
After years of bringing the best new music to our eyes and ears with his TV and radio work, Vic Galloway is turning his hand to the world of books. Songs in the Key of Fife, his debut tome exploring that most musically fruitful of Kingdoms, is bringing Galloway to the Book Festival, although it turns out whatever medium he is working in, he has a pretty steady purpose: "I'm not on a specific mission, or I'm not some kind of evangelist," he explains "but like a lot of people out there I'm fairly appalled at what gets passed off as good music in the mainstream. I've always, since I've been a teenager, looked for the wonderful and interesting. It doesn't have to be weird, it just has to be interesting, and in some ways push the boundaries. There are so many dreadful, mediocre acts out there, across all genres of music, and I just thought if I've got any kind of platform or influence, no matter how small, then I'd like to do something positive with it."
Songs in the Key of Fife aims to chart how one relatively small county produced a wealth of excellent musicians at around the same time. Tracing the intertwining paths of artists like The Beta Band, KT Tunstall, James Yorkston and The Fence Collective, Galloway explains: "The book is a fairly extensive documentation of people of my era (roughly) who came from the East Neuk of Fife, and to some degree have all become successful. They're my peers, I've been in bands with them. Once things started taking off for me on radio, I was able to document their music on air. It wasn't nepotism. I was playing them because what they were doing was extraordinary."
"Like a lot of people out there I'm fairly appalled at what gets passed off as good music in the mainstream" – Vic Galloway
He reflects that "It dawned on me a couple of years ago, wouldn't it be good to write a book? Initially I thought of doing a blog, or magazine article, but then realised this was a huge story, and if I'm gonna cover it well I should try and do a book about it. I was about to turn 40 and I thought I wanna branch out and start doing different things, keeping my radio and TV as central interests, but thought maybe now was the time to write a book."
Fife's finest, The Fence Collective, have an entire chapter dedicated to their ascent from humble beginnings as a small group of like-minded musicians, to a successful record label and festival organiser. "I think Fence has appealed to people because it is down to Earth, friendly, non-corporate, DIY, and devoid of ego, or largely so," he says. "They have tried to put the music and the art and the fun first, and all the kind of business, and the machinations of the music industry second. A few of these artists have sold large numbers of records; King Creosote, James Yorkston, The Pictish Trail, they've all sold decent amounts of records now and are building up a good following and long may that continue. But it's a DIY ethos, it's like DIY musicians who don't approve of or enjoy the major label world and want to show an alternative. Musically, it might not sound like punk, but it has the same ethos."
Galloway has two events at the Book Festival this year. One is part of the main programme which, he explains, "will be some readings, a discussion about the book, a Q and A with the audience, and a signing." His Jura Unbound performance, however "is going to have solo sets from King Creosote and James Yorkston, more readings and chat from me. It will be pretty free-form and a lot more off the cuff." We also agreed it would be a crime not to mention the Fife launch, taking place on Sat 21 September, at the Cambo Estate in the East Neuk, which he says will feature "readings, a Q and A, live music from King Creosote and Withered Hand, as well as speciality Songs in the Key of Fife beer, with everyone getting a souvenir engraved beer glass." Surely worth a trip to the Kingdom!