After the raw honesty of The Erskine Bridge, with Psychogeography we’re back to me showing off and trying to be clever, with a lyric referencing Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (and, implicitly, Guy Debord).
The Jim in the first verse is Glasgow artist Jim Colquhoun. The song is partly inspired by a psychogeographical walk around Glasgow city centre with Jim, during which he encouraged our group to follow different, randomly chosen strangers for several blocks at a time. Later Jim led us into a department store, where we all stood silently in a circle, joined hands, and closed our eyes. This seemed to terrify the staff, who probably thought we were a religious cult and were about to blow ourselves up. One of them nervously – and quite angrily – demanded to know what we were doing. Jim, who enjoys being a provocateur, asked them why it wasn’t ok for a group of people just to go into a department store and hold hands; where was the harm? I can’t remember exactly what the response was but I do remember we were strongly encouraged to leave the shop as soon as possible before they called security.
Psychogeography, the song, imagines me bumping into a friend shortly after an activity like this and having to explain myself. In the song I’ve drawn a letter A on a city map and am following the lines of it, rather than following strangers and scaring shop assistants. Looking back on the lyrics, the imaginary version of me comes across as a bit of a dick, so I’m glad that conversation never happened. I am fascinated by psychogeography though, and have got a lot of enjoyment from treating cities as strange landscapes to be explored rather than places to work and consume. Now that I live in the Hebrides I have a different perspective on this; cities seem increasingly alien to me anyway, sometimes scary, sometimes magical. The last time I drove over the Forth Bridge I felt like I was in Blade Runner. I’m still figuring out how I feel about this and what to do about it.
That said, Psychogeography is a song that, like The Balance Company and National Theatre, I’m a wee bit ambivalent about. In this case it’s because I feel like I ruined a potential floor-filler with a weird and obscure lyric. Imagine this song – a big, stomping piece of dance music that was pretty much entirely written by Hamish, apart from the melancholy bit with the strings towards the end – if it was about DJs and dancing and Saturday night and falling in love and having sex, instead of strange art walks and flooded cities. It did go down quite well at our live gigs, although that might be because nobody could hear the lyrics properly.
On the plus side, the instrumental version was later used (minus the melancholy strings bit, sensibly) in another Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival trailer, where it did a fine job of making a mental health arts festival seem quite sexy and exciting – basically the opposite effect of the version with me singing on it.