Museum show stars rocker Roderick
by Margaret Chrystall
ANOTHER world opened up for musician Roderick Mackenzie – best-known on the music scene as Jeep Solid – when he chanced on some historic documents in Inverness Museum and the date 1361 jumped out at him.
Including some of the numbers from his birth date, the year led him back to a time in history when part of Inverness - including the Crown and Knmylies - was included in the Kingdom Of Moray.
It saw him looking more deeply into those times and discovering parallels and inspirations – and it planted a seed that has flowered into a unique collaboration of film, photographs, music and words.
It’s now on show in the Small Gallery at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery until Saturday, March 26.
The Kingdom Of Moray: A Conversation Between Graeme Roger, Peter Dibdin And Jeep Solid brings the musician together with photographer Peter and film-maker Graeme, who spent a year capturing hours of footage of Roderick talking about what he finds out, his own struggles with autism – only diagnosed a few years ago – and his constant battle to get his music heard.
Back in the 60s as a young man, he "made it" in the tough world of the London music scene for a time – joining White Trash which was signed to the Beatles’ Apple label.
His career kicked off in 1966, inspired by acts he saw in a Highland club called The Two Red Shoes.
As a guitarist and singer he featured in Inverness bands such as Three Blind Mice and The Flock.
He moved on from Size 4 to Edinburgh and Three’s A Crowd, then in London he was in another band called psychedelic trio The Grope before being invited to join White Trash which was signed to the Beatles’ label Apple.
He later moved to America before returning and forming a band called Choker.
"Then there were a lot of prescription drugs and two marriages..." he laughs wryly.
For the last 20 years he has been a solo act, one man and guitar, constantly self-releasing new songs and albums, working on a book and he has also put together a retrospective of tracks from across his 40-year career.
Clean from drink and drugs for 26 years – or as he prefers to put it living "an abstinence-based lifestyle" – one of his songs Fake Sugar featured on Gideon Coe’s BBC 6 Music show. And his work has been played on BBC Radio 3 experimental new music programme Hear And Now.
A Jeep Solid track, Wanna Make You Happy was chosen by American jeans company Volcom for a promo clip featuring skate star Louie Lopez.
But alongside the music, he has many insterests. He’s a passionate supporter of raptors and was one of the first in Scotland to ask about the impact wind turbines were having on the birds – he’d first come the phenomenon while visiting America.
Having experienced bullying in his own later life, he wanted to form a group to stand up to bullies.
And his own experience of being diagnosed with autism has made him sensitive to the obstacles it can put in the path of anyone trying to live a full, creative life.
A past-master in the art of charity shop chic, he has made a striking subject for the series of photographs that Peter Dibdin has taken and that are on show in the Small Gallery at IMAG where Jeep’s music is on a loop and his writing and his own drawings are also on display.
He’s tuned to spotting establishment organisations pulling a fast one on the people of Inverness and connections – such as the ones he sees between strong women from ancient Inverness, such as noblewoman Eva Tomas who owned land in what is now the Crown and Kinmylies, to the late Inverness Courier owner and editor Evelyn Barron with whom he trained briefly as a junior reporter.
He is excited that his work is on show: "This is like a spiritual high," he says.
But it’s also pointing the way to more work – people have asked if he has a book with his work in it – so he is hoping to produce one.
He quotes his friend, the artist John Byrne: "You’ve got to live your life backwards."
The Kingdom Of Moray is in the Small Gallery at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery until Saturday, March 26.