THE ASSOCIATES Q & A
It's been a good year for the Associates, thus far. Since we last interviewed them in February, they've had a second hit single with "Club Country" and a hit album with "Sulk". A new single should hit the streets any minute: "18 Carat Love Affair".
And meanwhile they're preparing for a short British tour in late August, after which they take off for the USA and Canada. They're also busily re-mixing their first album "The Affectionate Punch" so that Fiction can re-market it with their blessing. Alan looks forward with glee to the chaos that'll ensue if all five of the companies they've been signed to begin releasing old records...
It was in the midst of this feverish activity that Dave Rimmer tracked them down. His mission: to separate Alan Rankine and Billy MacKenzie and present each half of the dynamic duo with an identical list of revealing questions. Alan tended to mull each one over carefully; Billy would answer without hesitation...
Which of these activities are you most likely to be found doing: (a) making a soufflé, (b) tinkering with a motorbike, (c) doing the ironing, (d) putting up shelves?
Alan: Making a soufflé.
Billy: None of them. I'm a disaster where that sort of thing is concerned. This is the sort of thing I do: instead of putting the bread under the toaster, I put the margarine! Maybe if the motorbike was a toy one...
If you were called up to fight in a war, would you (a) join up, (b) plead insane, (c) emigrate, or (d) be a conscientious objector?
Alan: It depends what kind of war it was. If I was bored, I think I'd go. Because in spite of folk getting killed, it must be quite an adventure. Maybe that's a naive thing to say. But if I wasn't bored, I'd definitely try to flee the country.
Billy: War's based round power and greed and it's an evil thing. I couldn't really stand doing away with somebody. I can't be bothered with the bravado. Maybe I could get a sex change. No, you'd better not put that.
Who do you think is the silliest person in pop music?
Alan: In a nice way or a derogatory way? Some people are silly for six months and then realize it, so I wouldn't want to put anybody down. In a nice way, Marc Almond. He must have some brass neck to do what he does.
Billy: Probably me. I bet you loads of people say that, anyway.
Ever posed in front of a mirror pretending to be somebody?
Alan: No, I've never mimed in front of a minor. I've looked into a minor sometimes and said "who the hell are you?" because I didn't recognise myself.
Billy: All the time! I used to mimic everybody. Me and my brothers used to do this thing at teatime called "Living Room Theatre". We'd get our father's false teeth, stick them in and put on head-squares. Then we'd do these daft things in front of the minor: pull our lugs out and put on plastic noses and all that.
What are your ambitions?
Alan: To write better songs and to write music for films - James Bond-type films or science fiction ones because they always seem to have the best music. Also, to produce a few things. But mostly I'd just like to write better songs.
Billy: I'm not very ambitious really. I never worry about whether our next single is going to be number three or number 20. I don't care. I suppose I'd like to have pretty smart wrinkles when I'm 40, to be dead suave and wrinkly. Rock Hudson looks much better now that he's wrinkled.
Is there anything in life worse than going to the launderette?
Alan: No, I don't think so. I hate going to the launderette.
Billy: Giving in to temptation, to things that are no good for you (evil laugh).
Were you ever beaten up at school
Alan: No, no I've never been in a fight in my life. Oh, hang on. Once in primary Three I got my lip split. I was trying to fight fairly and he wasn't, but I can't remember why we were fighting in the first place.
Billy: Luckily enough, I always got off with it. One of my friends stuck a pencil in my ear once and just about poked my brains out, but, because I was quite big for my age I was able to push people about, I was a wee bit of a scallywag, I'd a wee bit of a vicious streak. Also, I come from a big family who were well known for taking care of each other, so nobody dared touch us.
Say you could change places with anyone in the world, who would you like to be?
Alan: (giggles)Orson Welles. I think he must have had a few laughs.
Billy: Anyone at the top of the tree in medicine. It's such a worthwhile thing. But music's a kind of therapeutic medicine too, although there has been some bad medicine. Like Led Zeppelin and all that stuff.
And who would you least like to change places with?
Alan: A roadie. I would hate to be a roadie.
Billy: A drug pusher. Or at sanitary expert.
If you were an animal, what kind would you be?
Alan: I think I'd probably be a dog, I don't know why. Bill, he'd probably be a fox-cum-chimpanzee, or one of these barrel organ monkeys or something.
Billy: A cheetah, although I've definitely got ape-like features. All my family have. Alan's a cross between or fox and an iguana.
What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you recently?
Alan: I was thrown out of a club for the first time a few weeks ago, and I was most miffed. I never thought it would happen to me!
Billy: I get really weird abstract dreams. They're brilliant! I get that excited about trying to get to sleep to dream that I keep myself awake. I'd probably get put inside if I told you some of the things I dream about.
If you had a hotline to Margaret Thatcher, what would you like to say to her?
Alan: I don't really know. I think politics is the height of boredom. I've never voted in my life.
Billy: Nothing. I think politicians come and go, they're all personalities, and she's just another media personality as far as I'm concerned. She's a lousy actress, too.
Your favourite radio DJ?
Alan: (laughs)I never used to listen to the radio until we got into the charts. I hate Dave Lee Travis, he's a berk! I haven't really got a favourite, though I don't mind David "Kid" Jensen and I don't mind Simon Bates. John Peel, he's OK, but I wish he wouldn't play so much reggae.
Billy: John Peel.
What's the best thing about finally becoming successful?
Alan: Being recognised by young girls in the street, that's quite a laugh. Also, the kind of controlled chaos that goes along with it all. You can make things chaotic for the record company and it keeps them on their toes. Everything's quite busy and fluttery all the time. Before, there used to be weeks of boredom.
Billy: It seems to make quite a lot of people happy, and that's good. It gives you a wee bit more confidence and that, but it's something you've got to handle. Sometimes I can't handle it too well.
And what's the worst thing about it?
Alan: Being put in a situation where I'm forced to let people down. Like somebody will ask me to produce a band, just do or single with them. I'll say, yes I want to do it. So you fix a date, and then all of a sudden you've got to go away and do a TV show or something. You want to help people and branch out and do other things. But I always have to leave people hanging and say, look, I will do it, honest...
Billy: Ignorant people. People who haven't got any respect for another person's space, maan! A lot of people don't understand. There was somebody at a club going "you've really changed! You used to be OK but now you're horrible; you're so aloof !" It's a load of crap. It's them that feel like that, not me.
Do you have any phobias?
Alan: Och, just the usual things. Having a space helmet on with ten scorpions crawling around inside it (laughs). I suppose that would be pretty frightening.
Billy: I hate rats. Every time I see one I just want to kill it. And I hate Alsatians. Shopping - I hate supermarkets, and I can't stand shops like Woolworths or Marks and Spencers, If I walk past somewhere like Top Man or whatever, it genuinely makes me feel ill. And I can't swim to save my life. I'm afraid of water, especially deep water.
If you weren't a pop star, what world you like to be?
Alan: I'd like to be a tennis player, but I'm too small. I'd never get the ball over the net at 140 miles per hour anyway. Or I might be a barrack room lawyer, or real argumentative, stubborn one.
Billy: A vet. Or a sprinter.
What's the worst holiday you've ever had?
Alan: I haven't been on holiday for thirteen bloody years! My last holiday was Scarborough or Bournemouth or something when I was eight! I can't remember what holidays are like!
Billy: It was berry-picking in Blairgowrie. When I was about 14. I was being chased by this big fat girl with green crimplene trousers. She held this passion for frogs and kept them for pets. She kept wanting me to do dirty things to her, so I had to do it in the end, but I was disgusted with myself.
How do you relax?
Alan: I usually just - what's the word? Impinge? Like go and say 'Hi, you're recording, can I use your swimming pool and your tennis court?' Just go and crash on the Simple Minds for five days or something. Or else I just sit at home and play the piano, or play tennis or a little bit of sport.
Billy: I usually bollock people and try and intimidate people. It takes the heat off yourself and puts it on someone else. It's called winding up (laughs). I wind people up and then I wind down.
Your most embarrassing moment?
Alan: I stole a Marathon bar out of RS MacColls, and I got caught. It was my first time, and I've never stolen anything since. That was pretty embarrassing.
Billy: Well, I'm 5 foot 7 now, but I've never grown since I was 15. I was quite athletic at school, but I never had any shorts so I had to pinch my wee brother's, which were far too small for me. So I was running about the hall in these, and everybody started laughing at me. The teacher says "MacKenzie come here!"And what had happened was that my shorts had ripped right round under my back end and my private parts were all flying about in the gym!
What other acts, if any, would you regard as kindred spirits?
Alan: I don't know of anybody who approaches things the same way as us. We re not a band, we're a nucleus of Bill and me. Maybe that's wrong: OMD are a nucleus I suppose. But honestly; I don't really feel an affinity to anybody. It's not that I don't like anybody else...
Billy: The Human League. I think Phil Oakey's great. And Marc Almond, right enough.
Where would you most like to live?
Alan: I quite fancy Europe. Paris or somewhere like that. Not because it sounds erotic, but because it seems like a certain freshness over there. But then again, when you go into a club over there, you realize after an hour that they're imitating Britain. That's not doing them down, it's just the atmosphere. But I do like the freshness over there.
Billy: Canada seems to have a really weird feel to it. I love the sound of Toronto, it's got a magnificent ring to it. I like Scotland, where I'm staying just now, but I think I'd like Canada. It seems to have a fresh buoyancy to it.
What have you got in you pockets?
Alan: I've got some painkillers for headaches, some banknotes, some loose change, lots of receipts, some hair setting gel, lots of air tickets, overdrawn cheque books and things like that.
Billy: Nothing. I gave the taxi driver my last pound.
What did you think of the other one when you first met him?
Alan: When I met Bill I had longhair, and I was sitting on a pavement playing an acoustic guitar. Bill got out of this taxi and he was wearing cowboy boots with his jeans tucked into 'em. I thought, he doesn't look like a singer. But within about two hours he and I just struck it right off, and we went round to my girlfriend's flat and we had a great laugh. From then on we've just proceeded to have more and more laughs.
Billy: (shakes his heard) Weirdo. No, actually Alan's really quite placid. He just likes a good time. He takes a lot of abuse off me sometimes, but he warrants it.