Billy hated competitiveness in music and we had several conversations on the subject. Not that he wasn’t guilty of the occasional snipe at other singers. The band Suede were on the same label as us (Nude Records) and I recall one time listening to Suede’s new album with Billy. ‘Karaoke Bowie’ was his first remark. Then, when Brett Anderson went for a falsetto vocal, he shook his head dismissively: ‘sorry Brett, that’s my territory’.

We decided at one point never to openly criticize other people’s work. We agreed that the worst we would allow ourselves to say about anything would be that it was ‘quite good’. So ‘quite good’ became our secret slang for ‘total garbage’. I noticed that Billy tended to add such a heavy tone of sarcasm to the remark that he might as well have just come out with it.

It was during our 6 months in Edinburgh in ’94 that we were astonished by the level of competitiveness in the music scene there. Everyone bitched about each another constantly. Everyone seemed to be unashamedly two-faced on a regular basis. ‘Edinburgh sold Scotland down the river,’ declared Billy. ‘It’s the seat of betrayal, Steve. You can feel the betrayal oozing out of the cobble-stones.’ That was his theory to explain the nature of the music scene. Many years later, I was talking with Ronnie Mackenzie, Billy’s cousin, who used to have a solicitor’s practice in Dundee. I told Ronnie about our observations on Edinburgh. ‘Funny you should say that,’ replied Ronnie. ‘The solicitors in Edinburgh are just the same. Always competing and stabbing each other in the back.’

When it comes to competition among friends, we both regarded this as a particularly savage area of the subject. I remember watching a TV interview of John Cleese with Billy and his comments had Billy howling with laughter. ‘If you make something good, your friends will always be encouraging,’ said Cleese, ‘but whatever you do, don’t make anything brilliant. Don’t create a masterpiece. Your friends will hate you for that.’

Of course these things are relative and it is impossible not to judge other people’s work, especially if it is in your own field. But if it spills over into professional jealousy, it can poison and destroy friendships. I don’t think this ever happened with Billy. The only hatred he ever suffered was from a certain faction in his home-city, Dundee, who hated him for being talented, successful and (shock horror) gay. Well, at least there is now a ‘Billy Mackenzie bus’ in Dundee. Perhaps someday we will get a statue…

 

 

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"Steve Aungle" "Billy Mackenzie"

Steve Aungle & Billy Mackenzie (1996)

Steve Aungle is best known for his songwriting parntership from 1993-97 with the late singer, Billy Mackenzie (The Associates). Several albums cover this work: the first, ‘Beyond the Sun’ (Nude Records ’97) was produced by Simon Raymonde (The Cocteau Twins) featuring a mixture of styles but mostly consisting of torch ballads with Aungle accompanying Mackenzie on the piano.

A second album ‘Eurocentric’ was released on Paul Haig’s label Rhythm of Life Records in 2001 but was deleted only two weeks after its release, making it an extremely rare and collectible album. However, in 2005, One Little Indian Records released two albums: ‘Transmission Impossible’ and ‘Auchtermatic’ which include many of the songs found on the first two albums.

Since Billy Mackenzie’s tragic death in ’97, Steve Aungle has co-written songs with producer Pascal Gabriel for his current band Carcassette, as well as working with London band Boo Hooray (formerly known as Electric Music AKA).  ‘Piano for Europe’, a collection of solo piano pieces, was released in 2010 and it was in November of that year that he met singer Lisa Meilen to start a new collaboration which has resulted in two new projects: Elvis & the Ancient Greeks and Winter Academy- both strictly live projects with no recordings available to date.

Meanwhile he has been involved in two releases of remix work under ‘White Label’- the album ‘Stolen Voices’ (released in September 2011) and the EP ‘1972’ due to be released on 21st May 2012.

 

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