Scottish musician C Duncan missed out on the Mercury Prize over the weekend – but, as other nominees have shown, he shouldn’t be too downhearted at his prospects. Alex Watson looks back at how other Scots involved in the annual industry awards have fared over the years
This weekend Scottish composer and musician C Duncan lost out on the 2015 Mercury Prize to British-French artist Benjamin Sainte-Clementine. Despite its popularity with critics and reviewers, 25-year-old Glaswegian’s album Architect didn’t have the same impact as 2014’s winning record, Dead, made by fellow Scots Young Fathers.
Young Fathers (2014)
Since taking home first prize at the Mercury Awards in October last year, Edinburgh hip-hop trio Young Fathers have topped the independent album charts and released a second, critically acclaimed album, White Men Are Black Men Too. The win for these so-called underdogs was a significant moment for both the band and the local music scene, but Young Fathers were by no means the first Scottish band to make waves at the Mercury Awards.
Primal Scream (1992, 1994, 1997)
The inaugural Mercury Prize in 1992, known then as the Mercury Music Prize, was won by Primal Scream for their third album, the indie-dance crossover Screamadelica. Primal Scream went on to be nominated for the Mercury Prize twice more in the nineties, once in 1994 and again in 1997.
While the band is still going strong 33 years after getting together, vocalist Bobby Gillespie is the only remaining founding member. Sadly former guitarist Robert Young died in September 2014 at the age of 49.
The Jesus and Mary Chain (1992)
Competing with Primal Scream at the first ever Mercury Prize Awards were East Kilbride outfit The Jesus and Mary Chain. There may have been a hint of rivalry in the air that night – Gillespie was a member of The Jesus and Mary Chain between 1984 and 1986. The commercial success of the group’s studio albums slowly declined from 1992 onwards, and in 1999 they announced their split as a result of unbearable inter-band tension. In January 2007, The Jesus and Mary Chain reformed for a performance at Coachella music festival and have been touring together again ever since.
The Delgados and Helicopter Girl (2002)
Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain may have been the first Scottish acts to be pitted against each other for the Mercury Prize, but they certainly weren’t the last. In 2000 Motherwell indie rock band The Delgados and solo artist Helicopter Girl, otherwise known as Jackie Joyce, battled for a chance at the big prize. Badly Drawn Boy pipped them to the post.
The Delgados, who had formed in 1994, split in 2005 after member Stewart Henderson left the band due to a lack of mainstream recognition. Many of the group have gone on to create their own solo work. Helicopter Girl, a newbie on the Scottish scene back in 2000, released her fourth album Wanda Meant in April this year.
Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian (2004)
Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian competed for the Mercury in 2004. Franz Ferdinand, who had only formed two years earlier, scooped the prize for their self-titled debut. This year Franz Ferdinand collaborated on a supergroup album with LA band Sparks, while Belle and Sebastian released their ninth studio album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance.
The now-defunct Scottish label Fence Records made an enormous impact on Scottish music in its heyday, so there’s no surprise that a couple of Fence-related acts have been in the running for the prestigious Mercury Prize over the years.
King Creosote (2011)
Fence founder King Creosote, real name Kenny Anderson, has released over 40 albums but caught the attention of the 2011 Mercury Prize judges with Diamond Mine, a collaboration with English producer and musician Jon Hopkins.
KT Tunstall (2005)
Fellow Fifer KT Tunstall was nominated in 2005 for her debut record Eye to the Telescope and went on to garner huge, if fleeting, success in the UK charts. Neither King Creosote nor KT Tunstall won the award but their nominations certainly helped to propel them further into the mainstream, whether or not they welcomed it.
Since Fence Records was wound down, King Creosote has removed himself from the public eye somewhat, but he still perform live now and then, both under his own name and as part of other Scottish acts. In 2014 Anderson wrote and recorded the soundtrack for film From Scotland With Love, which explores the history of the country through found footage. Meanewhile, Tunstall last released a studio album in 2013 and has since moved to the USA to pursue a career in film soundtrack creation. The musician is reportedly also preparing to record her fifth album whilst stateside.
Biffy Clyro (2010)
Harder rock acts like Glasvegas and Biffy Clyro have been up for the Mercury Prize, although the former had to wait six years and the latter two decades to be noticed. While Biffy Clyro have gone from strength to strength since their 2010 nomination and are reported to have a new album in the works, the trio are currently taking some time away from music.
Like Biffy, Glasvegas did not take the prize a year earlier in 2009 but are still touring together. However, after an encouraging reception of their 2008 self-titled record, the four-piece haven’t seen the same kind of success since. Their last release came in 2013 with the album Later… When The TV Turns To Static.