Volcanic Tongue Recollected In Tranquility by Alex Neilson: Full transcript of interview by Jennifer Lucy Allan for The Wire. (pic: Alex and Tom Keenan building the original VT shop at 1129 Argyle Street)
“As a reflection of the abundance of its music scene, Glasgow has always boasted a healthy number of high quality record shops. Suffice to say none of these have ever had anything like the intensely focused aesthetic or the monomaniacal commitment to alternative culture and experimental art as Volcanic Tongue. I worked at VTHQ between 2004 and 2007 and, as a tender 22 year old with an obsession for free jazz and feral folk music, it was a first class back seat education which often felt like the equivalent of jet skiing behind a runaway train. You really got the sense that you were in the very nerve center of an emerging international underground that was partially being defined by what came out on the weekly updates. There was a ground swell of people that were using the internet, cheap recording equipment and other emerging technologies to mobilize themselves and short-circuit the old industrialised ways of creating and disseminating art. Volcanic Tongue provided a platform for people to record and self-release their most personally conceived expressions with the knowledge that it would be discussed with intelligence, sensitivity and on it’s own peculiar terms, without the necessary obfuscations of a failing music industry. As the rusted wheels of the music industry struggled to figured out how to keep rolling into the 21st century, David and Heather Leigh demanded that we throw our bodies against it’s gears and build something new from the scrap. They guided us by plotting coordinates between all these superficially disparate freak traditions- ecstatic jazz, eviscerated rock, avant blues, skull-sizzling psychedelia, private press poetry, uncategorisable electronic composition, obscure z-movie Italian Giallo horror soundtracks. The three of us spent a lot of time trying to crystallize these various nefarious interests in musical projects like Taurpis Tula or Tight Meat. And if they couldn’t afford to buy it, it was evident that people were forming bands based upon the way that David would describe the music championed on VT. David’s writing is irresistibly persuasive. He has succeeded in minting a language that is as sensual, visceral, vivid and important as the music itself in ways that appeal to the pelvis as much as the pud. The updates themselves became like these hotly anticipated fanzines . Suddenly experimental music festivals would pop up all over the map pulling together the same groups that were raved about that month. Micro-industries sprang up in VT’s wake and some sub-cultural doyens achieved a wider public consciousness based in no small part from David and Heather Leigh’s cheer leading. This was testified in regular letters of disarming honesty and gratitude from artists, labels and fans from all over the world. Some of the toughest and most transgressive counter-cultural operators would be reduced to blubbering wrecks because their work was recognised in the wider world due to VT’s validation. Volcanic Tongue’s closure hasn’t just left a gaping hole in Glasgow’s cultural landscape, but that of the world. The 2 million+ words David and a few others have spilled while tirelessly championing experimental music of all stripes since 2004 is miraculous and it will be sorely missed. L'underground e morto. Viva l'underground!” – Alex Neilson.