THE Glasgow music scene in the mid-1990’s is a distant memory for some – a topic of conversation among friends about the days when independent music held its own in the world and was nurtured right here in Glasgow.

Behind much of the success at that time was cult record label Chemikal Underground, founded by indie rock band The Delgados.

The label brought the likes of Mogwai, Arab Strap and Franz Ferdinand to the world.

The story of the label will be revisited in Lost in France, a documentary exploring the rise of the Glaswegian music scene and in particular, a defining, chaotic trip to a French music festival.

READ MORE: Has The Last Jedi 'singular or plural' question just been answered?

Hosted by the Glasgow Film Festival, the documentary will be screened to cinemas across the UK and Ireland and followed by an exclusive performance by Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), RM Hubbert and the The Delgados’ Emma Pollock and Paul Savage, from the Glasgow O2 ABC.

The idea for revisiting the place and memories of the 1990s was that of Irish director Niall McCann who believed the story should be told as a statement on what has happened to the music industry.

“People don’t buy records anymore, music sale are 10 percent of what they were 10 years ago and a fraction of what they would have been back in the mid 1990’s when The Delgados set up Chemikal Underground,”,Niall explains.

“The ramifications of this are being felt now throughout the industry, with previously successful record labels closing down and artists struggling to make any sort of a meagre living off what they do.”

Emma Pollock, co-founder of the infamous label, was initially sceptical about the idea until the journey back to France commenced. 

She describes it as “a school trip with absolutely no teachers”.

She explains: “When Niall got in touch about the film in 2014, it wasn’t really a strong memory, it was a highlight but it wasn’t something we would’ve identified to pin the story on.

“But now he’s done it I can see why. We were in this microcosm, in this world that we had created.

“It was all these bands that had been let off the leash going on holiday for a weekend, playing together outside of the UK for the first time. We created havoc wherever we went.”

Eighteen years after the initial booze-fuelled trip, the group revisited Mauron, France, along with McCann and RM Hubbert, a late Chemikal Underground signing but a long-time friend of the founders, who hadn’t been privy to the first trip.

“It was clear when we went back that you can never really recapture that feeling of being in your mid-20s and realising that you’ve just found the best possible way of living”, Emma adds.

For Emma, the best way of living involved the opportunity to travel and perform to crowds who were genuinely enthralled by live music, especially what was coming out of Glasgow at the time.

“With that 20 years of running a label, the band having split up 10 years previously, there’s a certain sadness that it will never be the beginning again.

“You have to try and savour that. It’s hard to do that though at the time because you’re always thinking to the next day, next month, next year, because you want things to continue to build.

“You don’t savour those years the way that you should have at the time.”
It was back in 1995 that the pair realised they wanted to put out a record and formed Chemikal Underground to do so.

At the time there was an energy surrounding Glasgow and the alternative scene that had been growing through venues such as 13th Note.

Emma explains: “It was a very much a case of ‘we want to do this therefore we will’.

“At the time in Glasgow it felt like anything was possible. There was a real energy about live music and the alternative scene in particular.

“We were going to the original 13th Note on Glassford Street to listen to Radio Scotland DJ’s, Peter Easton and John Cavanagh, who became our friends.

“At that club we met Alex from Franz Ferdinand, he was promoting a lot of local bands.

“There was this energy that something was percolating in the city. A lot of it came from the new music coming out of Bellshill at the time - Teenage Fan Club, BMX Bandits, Captain America, The Vaselines – and there was just an energy of bands that were doing it themselves.”

The label struggled to get off its feet. Each co-founder put in £200 to record the single but the last hurdle was getting a distribution deal.

Luckily the band found a really big fan of the band to cover that aspect of production leading to their first single becoming Single of the Week a short time later in Melody Maker.

Since then, Chemikal Underground has created some of the most successful alternative music to come out of Scotland.

As Emma adds: “Twenty years is a blink of an eye when you look at history but 20 years in the music industry is like a millennium.”

From the offset, the optimistic, music-loving group of friends were unaware that the whole industry was about to bear the brunt of a long, difficult decline.

From record deals, distribution and, most importantly sales, everything that they knew about the industry was set to change.

Emma adds: “We didn’t realise it at the time but we came into music in 1995, at a time when we were approaching the peak of the industry and then the decline.”

Niall is hopeful the film will remind people of the importance of music and of creating and sustaining an economic model around it by which both musicians and fans both benefit.

READ MORE: Has The Last Jedi 'singular or plural' question just been answered?

He adds: “Just because you are sitting behind a computer screen downloading music for free does not mean it’s not stealing. If we are not careful we are going to lose something we cannot afford to lose - a vibrant, inclusive, exciting and thriving music industry.”

But the tremors of Chemikal Underground continue to be felt.
Just this year, Arab Strap will be performing at Electric Fields festival while Mogwai will be taking on the massive SSE Hydro for a headline show.

l Lost In France will screened as part of the Glasgow Music Festival on February 21.