Belle & Sebastian’s classic debut album Tigermilk was released exactly twenty years ago to the day, and the band are set to mark the occasion with a trio of gigs next week at Glasgow University Union.
Here at Glasgow Music City Tours, we’ve been working up to the anniversary by initiating the Tigermilk Owners Club – our attempt to track down those who own one of the coveted original 1000 vinyl copies of the album released on 6th June 1996 by Electric Honey Records.
We’ve also spoken to Stuart David, Belle & Sebastian’s original bass player, who was Stuart Murdoch’s first recruit to his budding band back in 1995. The Stuarts met on a somewhat ad hoc training course for musicians and songwriters called Beatbox and here Stuart D recalls that first fateful encounter and the ensuing build-up to the release of Tigermilk.
Stuart had a jumper on with a teddy bear on it. There wasn’t really anybody else on the course that wasn’t a rock guy. I sort of understood where he was coming from. I was trying to learn bass for my own band, just playing with anyone I could to learn. I’d been really isolated for a few years living in my parents’ attic and I was trying to get a social network of other musicians.
Stuart said quite strongly to me that he wanted me to be in his band if he could get it together. I didn’t know at the time but now I think it’s because I wrote books and he wanted to have someone who wrote books in the band. But it might just have been the sensibility of wanting the music to be quiet and not rock.
For a while it was just me and Stuart and we had this ramshackle thing that Stuart was mostly unhappy with the sound of, and nobody was interested at all, not even in playing with the band. He was just really upset all the time that nobody liked his music, nobody wanted to be in his band, nobody wanted to write about his band that didn’t exist, and nobody would sign his band that didn’t exist.
But to me Stuart’s songs sounded like they fitted right in with Scottish indie music. The thing I noticed right away was just how strong melodically it was. I would meet up with him most days and he would have written three new songs. He just seemed to have this period when there were so many songs and he would discard them really quickly. By the launch party for Tigermilk, we didn’t play any of the songs from the album.
When I listen to Tigermilk now, it’s more about what a great recording it is. It’s really coherent. Some of the songs, particularly The State I Am In, I still feel really connected to because that was one Stuart and I had been playing for a while. It just seemed to be there for a long time and it seemed to be different, that song, because he kept a hold of that one whereas everything else was discarded.
We were one of the first internet bands and I think that’s what made the Tigermilk thing spread beyond just 1000 copies, because people were mailing cassettes. I don’t think we would have been able to do things our own way and get an audience without the internet. We were getting 200, 300 emails every day from all over the world saying one of two things – when are you coming to play in my country, or how do I get a copy of Tigermilk?