Early history

Early beginnings;

Swamptrash

Harry Horse, Neil Macarthur, Malcolm Crosbie, James MacKintosh, Garry Finlayson and Nick Prescott were in the original line-up of Swamptrash and were responsible for the two recordings, “It Makes No Never Mind” (1987) and “Bone”(1988). Conrad joined later on bass and when Neil left the band, Angus joined. In the summer following the break-up of Swamptrash, James, Angus and Malcolm, finding themselves at a loose end, took off to Spain to stay with a friend in Madrid.

In Malcolm’s words;

“In the late eighties, Angus, James, Garry, Conrad (our previous bass player) and my-self all played in the pseudo hillbilly outfit Swamptrash. (we actually used to get gigs by pretending to be hick Americans, fake accents and everything! This led us into quite a few sticky situations I can tell you, but that’s another story.)

When that reached the end of its natural life-span, Angus, James and I were at a loose end and went to Spain to do some busking, (reverting to Scottish music now.) After a few adventures in Madrid we decided to get out of the city and got a bus to the little town of Cuenca and set about looking for somewhere to play. We were disheartened to find hardly a soul on the streets and virtually no-one in the bars either. This was a problem as we had no money for accommodation and it was looking like no prospect of earning any. Eventually we went into a bar for a beer and asked if we could play. The guy said no but maybe come back the next night. We thought, oh well and got up to leave. However the barman stopped us and said, “stay and I'll give you more beer”. We tried to explain that we didn't have enough money (all in pigeon Spanish so it took some time) but he insisted and said that the drinks were "gratis".

It turned out of course, that he was willing to give us free drink to keep us there so the bar wasn’t empty, making look more attractive to passers-by. Low and behold, after an hour or so, the place was mobbed with people and we had a great time with the locals drinking flaming Sambucas, which you had to drink straight down before the straw melted! We did go back the next night to play and there was a fantastic atmosphere. As we were leaving a guy approached us and said he'd like us to play in his night club the following evening. He took us up to another part of the town and showed us his place, which was a dingy underground cellar with archways. He wanted to make posters so needed a name for the band. As we didn't have one, we had to make something up right away. The word Shooglenifty came into my head (don't ask me why). When we turned up the next night we were pleasantly surprised to find the place full of people and we had a great gig with an enthusiastic and wildly dancing audience, despite having only one small guitar amp.”

On returning to Edinburgh they continued to play pub sessions along with Garry and Conrad and also Ian Macleod on mandolin. Their first U.K. gig under the name Shooglenifty is thought to have been at the Orkney Folk Festival in 1990 but as a four piece, Malcolm, Angus, Ian and Garry making the trip.

An early jaunt overseas was to a Burns Supper in Brussels with Andy Thorburn (Blazin’ Fiddles, Babelfish etc.) on accordion. There was a weekly session in "Cafe Blue" on George IV Bridge for a while then “Christies” in the West Port became a favourite and soon every Wednesday was buzzing. The manager of a new club, “La Belle Angele” (sadly destroyed in the Great Cowgate Fire of 2002) saw them there and offered them a weekly residency. The first gig was in the middle of winter, there were six people and the band, all huddled round an electric bar fire. The next again week there were a few more people and gradually, as word got round, it built up and up. After a while we moved onto the stage, gained amplification and by the end of a year it had evolved into a packed and jumping gig. A further residency, this time in “Legends” followed and after some other gigging around Scotland including the Edinburgh Folk Festival the band was brought to the attention of Ian Green of “Greentrax Records”. The band accepted Greentrax offer to fund their first album “Venus in Tweeds” which was released in 1994. The bands fortunes were then given a further boost when BBC Radio Scotland gave “Venus in Tweeds” its “Folk Album of the Year” award.

Our next break came in 1995 with an invitation to attend the Realworld Recording week at Peter Gabriel’s studio in Box, Wiltshire. There they mixed with the likes of Bad Boys Batacuda, Vika and Linda, Master Musicians of Jajouka, contributed to “Volume 1 Sound Magic” by Afro Celt Sound System and recorded “Live at Selwyn Hall, Box” (WSCD 008)
1996 saw the release of their second set “A Whisky Kiss”

Further history to follow....