So as this year draws to a close I have the pleasure to ask some questions of an exceptional human being in the shape of Bruce Findlay. For me he was the 6th member of Scotland’s biggest band ever Simple Minds up to 1990. Whereas the music industry and even governments have sorted his advice. He’s a champion of the underdog and has the knack achieving what was thought impossible. He’s someone I’d like to call a real friend and someone to look up to for inspiration and to be honest very modest too!
1. Your chain of record shops, Bruce’s, are synonymous with music retail up to the late 70’s. So what made you go and form the label Zoom? Was it the artists you liked first or the idea of having a label and then finding some bands to release their material? I also guess it was also the time of the punk ethos if DIY labels too. The DIY ethos of the times and inspired by Stiff Records. I had been encouraged to start my own label in 1974 by Island Records who said they would help fund it but when I found the act I wanted to sign, they didn’t like them. The band was called Cafe Jacques and so I became their manager and got a deal for them with Epic Records.
2. As we know with Simple Minds you also became their manager too. I have read many times you’re very persuasive when trying to get your way on their behalf going sometimes to great lengths to achieve something. On looking back at the Arista Records deal, in hindsight was it a deal worth doing considering all the problems that emerged whilst with them? Of course it was….we made 3 great albums and learned a lot from the mistakes we and they made! I hate ‘hindsight’ and if I knew ‘then’ what I know now I doubt if we would have ‘made’ it. Yes I can see your point of view.
3. In the early years of Simple Minds you negotiated to me what seemed a relentless touring campaign, probably why I amassed seeing them 100 times by 1989. Yet initially the record sales in the U.K. were not significant enough. Did you ever think that they are just not going to get that lucky break and maybe let’s call it a day? No and in fact it was the success of touring that gave us the ‘belief’! Well from seeing them first support Magazine, I realised how good they were live.
4. With ‘Don’t you (Forget about me)’ opening many doors to the band, did you feel they were susceptible to many negative influences too? Many fans felt they became too Americanised and far removed from their beginnings, were you wary of this? They did though get a lot of credibility on the back the Mandela concerts of which you played a significant role in setting up. Can a band be too political and still be successful? Again you are really asking in ‘hindsight’ and at the time the band was well aware that as America opened up that their sound was evolving! Do you mean can ‘a band be political’ and still be successful’? If so I think they can …yes, but of course lots of people don’t like it! Yes I guess hindsight’s a wonderful thing; I believe everything is a learning curve. It helps having a good teacher.
5. For me there hasn’t been a better tour by Simple Minds than the 1989 ‘Street Fighting Years’ tour. As you know I was lucky, mainly due to your good self and the band to be able to see them extensively all over Europe during that year. Why then do you think America shunned it so much? So if you could have changed anything then what would you have done differently? We should have toured America at that time, but the band was against it. America didn’t even know who Nelson Mandela was. Says it all!
6. Schoolhouse Management didn’t just look after Simple Minds. The roster did include China Crisis and The Silencers, the latter I did a lot of work for via their Information Service. How well do you feel you achieved with them not just on a commercial basis? For the life of me I could never understand why Jimmie (O’Neill) and co didn’t sell volumes of records. Well both China Crisis and the Silencers still exist and during the 10 years I managed both bands they achieved gold discs in France (the Silencers) and U.K. (China Crisis) and earned a really good living. I would love for them to have done even better but they have survived! Yes I have seen both of them in recent years and they still give the public their monies worth.
7. Bruce the DJ, how did that come about then? I have read many great write ups about your shows on Scottish Radio Stations. What were the highs and lows of this? Are you still involved? In 1990 Colin Somerville of Radio Forth asked if I would do a weekly spot on a Sunday and I was delighted to accept. I played a lot of new stuff and demo’s and the show developed a ‘cult’ reputation. Because I was useless on the equipment side of things I had an engineer and then a young DJ called Mark Findlay (no relation) share the show with me. Mark is now head of programming at Capital London FM. He’s a great guy and we remain good friends. I also did my own show 4 nights a week and three hours a night on Scot FM (now Real Radio) ….great show very surreal but I only lasted about 5 months. I loved doing this show and had great guests but it was too ‘far out’ for the station! There’s no harm of being ‘far out’ for me that’s how we hear new music.
8. Now we’ve already touched on the fact you’re a very good communicator. You’re well known for giving talks on music at many institutions around the world. You chaired the first ever ‘In The City’ event in Manchester. What do you remember about that and did you feel anything was achieved from it? I remember it well and yes the MMF or IMF was formed and still exists today as a powerful and influential organisation looking after the interests of managers.
9. The ‘Music Industry Taskforce’ had all the best intentions for unemployed musicians and people who wanted to get involved in it. Do you think it was worth the effort and what do you see that has come out of it positively? The bit I was involved with was to put together ‘New Deal For Musicians’ which for a good number of years was very successful in helping musicians get a foothold in the industry. Tories hated it! That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest!
10. None of us are getting any younger, but you still seize the day actively promoting venues, artists and events in and around your beloved Edinburgh. Not to mention your sporting outlet in Hibernian. What’s next for Bruce in the next coming twelve months? I can see you never retiring from music and I do wish there were more people like within the industry as it needs people like your good self. Well right now I’m going for lunch with Scotland’s most successful independent promoter and then I am giving a ‘Master-class’ at Edinburgh Academy of Music and Sound.
Once again I wish to thank Bruce for giving me some of his time. Being as they’ve just handed out awards on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, surely Mr Findlay deserves to be awarded something for the time and effort he puts into the industry at all levels. He’s an avid user of Twitter , even today he speaks to audiences about music and don’t forget to check out the Schoolhouse Management website.