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Their 30th anniversary reunion rebooted iconic Scottish band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and – before playing Elgin – frontman Martin Metcalfe talks about the band's story

By Margaret Chrystall

who play Elgin THE 30th anniversary shows Goodbye Mr Mackenzie performed to celebrate their debut album Good Deeds And Dirty Rags reminded the world what it had been missing.

Now the band is catching up on some gigs postponed by Covid, and they stop off at Elgin Town Hall on Friday as part of an impressive list of upcoming dates.

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie with Martin Metcalfe (left).
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie with Martin Metcalfe (left).

One of Scotland’s most iconic and original rock bands, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie's celebrations included a sold-out Glasgow Barrowlands show that saw the critics singing their praises for a "spectacular and emotional" return.

The band has also released a retrospective documentary, Until The End Of The Road, as well as a live album, A Night In The Windy City, and they have been working on a new studio album, due out later this year.

Martin Metcalfe, the band's striking frontman and now also effectively managing the band, said: "Once we got back together we didn’t want to stop and, of course, we were stopped by the pandemic.

"We had arranged things by the end of 2019, starting to book dates for 2020, and then what happened was, as the year progressed, and the promises about it being over in three months, didn’t come to fruition, we had to kick the dates down the road."

After Goodbye Mr Mackenzie broke up, Martin with the band's drummer Derek Kelly and bassist Fin Wilson, formed Isa & The Filthy Tongues which is currently getting another album together.

"We were writing towards our other band, and for Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, we are working on an album too.

"There were points during lockdown when we rehearsed, I think November 2020, maybe earlier and started to create music in the rehearsal room with the Mackenzies so it has mainly been writing.

"We had a couple of Filthy Tongues songs that we wrote during lockdown and released on a small label. And we had been working on the edit of that, just a short documentary but that is on DVD now. And our live album for Goodbye Mr Mackenzie was being mixed throughout 2020 and came out at the end of that year.

"So it wasn’t like there was nothing going on," Martin laughed.

Original Goodbye Mr Mackenzie member Shirley Manson left to join Garbage in America with Butch Vig and Duke Erikson. Other band members have been in touch all along, on and off, Martin confirmed.

"We never lost touch, I was in touch with Rona Scobie [keyboardist] because she lived near me and if I walked the dog, sometimes she was in the park.

"And I think Rona came to a few of the Isa & The Filthy Tongues gigs in the early Noughties so she was around.

"John [Big John Duncan, originally guitarist with The Exploited] had gone to Amsterdam and was working at Melkweg a rock venue in Amsterdam. He was working there for 20 years until his multiple sclerosis stopped him from working there. We’d kept in touch."

But Martin revealed that there were reasons some of the band members were cautious about reforming the band.

"Well I don’t think Rona would mind me saying, she was terrified – she hadn’t touched a keyboard since she left Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, whereas Big John had been working in other bands.

"So Rona was a bit reticent about it, because she wasn’t sure she could manage it and John was reticent about it because the MS affected one of his hands very badly.

"He told me he couldn’t play any more, so those were two hurdles we had to get over.

"Derek and Fin were in Filthy Tongues already, so we were a ready-made band. But there were issues, and it was really quite a shock when it happened."

For those heading along to rekindle old memories at Elgin Town Hall on Friday – or discover an important Scottish indie band for the first time – there are a couple of extra faces in the line-up.

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie now includes an extra guitarist, Jim Brady of the Rezillos, and the "extra-gifted" Seil Lien, as Martin describes her, on backing vocals.

Martin confirmed the band will play old songs as well as new.

But he commented: "A lot of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie material was so strange that the topic and lyric subject-matter haven't aged! We were never an overtly political band or particularly young in our outlook. We tended to verge into psychological rock and explored literary subjects or ideas, rather than boy meets girl or directly political statements."

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie: booked for Belladrum next year.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie: booked for Belladrum next year.

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie return to Glasgow Barrowland in a fortnight's time – with a few dates left on the Scottish tour in between their Elgin one this week.

Martin said: "We sold it out last time and by Barrowland's own public poll, we were voted the venue’s best gig of the year.

"I thought 'This will be easy to go back' and there you have the ego, because Covid has proved that it is not very easy to pull certain age groups out, so it’s not sold out this time.


He continued: "One would be a bit insane if you were to think you were going to have an easy ride and you were going to walk it.

"That is really a sign of a far too robust ego!" Martin said.

"Last time what happened was we were surrounded by a lot of good feeling when we pulled it together. And there was a really good feeling within the band

"We didn’t seem to have any kind of baggage, so that was nice too.

"But I think you have to have, I think the word is, fear, that you aren’t going to be accepted, or else you wouldn’t make enough effort to make it as good as it could be.

"So on we go, we have to keep going and provide as amazing a gig as we can. We have always tried to do that."

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie play Elgin Town Hall on Friday, 7.30pm. More details: https://www.elgintownhall.co.uk/events/goodbye-mr-mackenzie/ For more on the band: www.goodbyemrmackenzie.com

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