“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today it’s a proper legend in my lifetime, a singer whose been tossing seeds from a cast iron tower, hyper enough to keep going strong from the early 90s until now where he’s still shouting to the front of the house, even though he professes to “Hate Music”. It’s Merge Records label boss, leader of Superchunk and now surprisingly for the first time solo artist, Chapel Hill North Carolina’s finest Mac McCaughan!
As promised here recently, Mac is back, on the eve of his exclusive London show (tomorrow Weds 11th November at the Courtyard Theatre) to choose a “song for ewe”.
It’s a surprise that punk rocker Mac has made a singer-songwriter solo album after all these years, but maybe it’s one in the eye for the “Non Believers”, filled as it is with 80s UK indie inspired darkness and soliloquys of solitude. I half expected Mac to choose something by Echo & The Bunnymen, “Procession” era New Order or Sisters of Mercy, but instead he’s harkened back to a story of touring around the time when I fell in love with Superchunk circa “No Pocky For Kitty” and chosen a dub regggae classic. Given that the last time someone chose some dub (Duke Garwood chose “Ali Baba” by John Holt) I couldn’t get it out of my head, this could be a recipe for another reverberating ear worm. But what dub nugget has Mac chosen, it’s time to find out…
Photograph by Lissa Gotwalls.
It’s over to Mac:
“Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of dub and one song i have a particular attachment to is a Lee Scratch Perry song called “Secret Laboratory (Scientific Dancehall)” which is an Adrian Sherwood production from 1990.
When i’m in London next week i hope to meet up with my old friend Joe Hickey, who was Superchunk’s sound person for years in the 1990s (in addition to working quite a bit with Yo La Tengo, Rocket from the Crypt, The Wedding Present, and many more i’m sure). When in London, because we were often playing gigs for £100, we often crowded into his house in Brixton along with is many colorful flatmates and at least once a forest of pot plants wrapped in black garbage bags. (THESE WERE NOT JOE’S he would never do that).
Anyway every night for many, many tours we heard this song at soundcheck as it was the song that Joe used to tune up the PA in clubs from Lawrence, KS to Dijon, FR. So not only did we hear this song every night, we heard it at ear-splitting volume and i was sure i never needed to hear it again. But then years later it came haunting as i guess Lee Scratch Perry is likely to do. But i had misremembered the song as being a Mad Professor song so i had to email Joe and say “Joe, what the hell was the song with the ladies singing about the “dancehall master”?” and he straightened me out. I was happy to be reunited with this digital dub classic.
It’s got great Sherwood production & a circular synth bass line that really gets stuck in your brain, along with Scratch’s exhortations and the aforementioned chorus extolling his virtues as the dancehall master, which indeed he is. And best of all it transports me back to some terrible and great clubs around the world without actually having to go back there in person…”