Alistair Macfarlane

Yonge Pet Hates and All's Done

Alistair is a man of many songs and one great voice, so today we chat about his beginnings in music then onto his first deal and all what happened after that and then we go right up to date with his new project All's Done with Dunsy Dunsmore.

Indie deals, EMI missed chances and a Hanoi Rocks tour, interested? Read on.....

Hi Alistair, you are a man with an ever growing musical catalogue, all of which we will get to but first could you please tell us where, when and how music first grabbed you.

Alistair Macfarlane ; I must have been around eight years old. We were living in the Lake District. I heard "King Of The Rumbling Spires" by T.Rex on the radio. Made me want to play the drums. Although i do have a picture of me and Stuart (Macfarlane, brother) when I was about four with a Beatles guitar and him (Stuart) on the drums.

So drums it was first and a killer record to hook you in to the rock n roll bug. Was this the start of a fascination with all things Bolan? You were pretty young at the time to say the least.

A . M ; Drums first. Never taught but I had good rhythm. Played my first gig in a pub when I was twelve. The guy looking for a drummer for the night thought I was older. As for Bolan I must admit that really only "The Slider" is the album I can still listen to. I started back then getting into Bowie around '72 but, it was David Live that really made me love him.

Tell us about the pub gig, was it scary at all and what sort of music did you play that night?

A . M ; No not scary it was just a pub in Kendal where we had moved to. Music was basic country stuff really.

O.k. so you got the bug there and then?

A . M ; Especially because I got paid five pounds to do it! Then I started doing a bunch of gigs with different bands. Me and my brother Stuart started a band called Baton Rouge. That lasted for a few years and we were mainly doing Thin Lizzy covers with other stuff sprinkled in. That was when I started writing. I picked up the guitar shortly after taking up the drums. I also learned to play bass and keyboards. I taught myself to read music and I was also doing big band jazz on the drums with my Dad.

So nothing was out of bounds, learning wise. So you started writing. Did you have certain specific points to your creating? Were you aping other songs or was it more organic and just coming from within yourself?

A . M ; I definitely didn't have a style to begin with. I didn't try and copy anyone. I just wrote what came into my head and that hasn't really changed. I started writing a lot when I was fourteen. A friend of my brother brought home "Sunburst Finish" by Be Bop Deluxe. First time I heard it I was mesmerized, still my favourite album. Then the punk thing came along, then Gary Numan so, I had a ton of influences.

Nice. So let's move onto when it all got a little more serious. Did you have a band that at this time you thought were the bomb?

A . M ; Be Bop or Thin Lizzy saw both bands multiple times.

Ok so with all your influences and playing under your belt it is true to say the music bug was alive and well within you. So was the next band you were more serious about, was that Silverwing, or was there more before that band?

A . M ; Well I was playing in a bunch of cover bands on the drums and another band on bass but, Silverwing was the first band I was in doing mainly originals, that would have been 1980.

So take us back to 1980 how did Silverwing come about?

A . M ; Stuart was in Silverwing first and he said they were looking for another player so I went down.

The timeline for Silverwing is all a bit vague. When I fully joined them it was suggested I change my last name as they didn't want a band with two sets of brothers. I thought it was a good selling point but it was the Robert's band so I just agreed. Why Terry (Alistair Terry)? No idea. I think it was just me opening a phone book, honestly. As well as doing the Diamond Head tour we also did some shows in London with Roy Wood. In 1982 I'd had enough of them and that is when Rob Ingham (?) stepped in. Then in 1983 they enticed me back as they were changing direction and they wanted me to write more songs. Of course, when you look at an album it says all songs by Silverwing but that just wasn't the case. I was too young and stupid to really care. A friend of mine had just come back from Finland with the first Hanoi album and I loved it. I played it for the Roberts brothers and they decided that's the way we should go and they changed the name to Pet Hate.

Wowie, so not all great memories from that time. So tell me how Hanoi changed you. We know you liked all the usual glam stuff so what was so different about Hanoi to make you all change your direction?

A . M ; Hanoi's look reminded me of early Japan. They also wrote killer songs and were killer live. Dave Roberts (Pet Hate's bass player) was writing for Sounds magazine at the time and he had the opportunity to go to Finland to see and interview them. That's basically how we got to support them on tour. And yes, I don't have a ton of good memories from that time. I did have a lot of fun but the Roberts brothers were a stubborn pair who didn't listen to anyone but themselves.

Ok so before we leave the Pet Hate era any memories of that tour with Hanoi at all?

A , M ; Oh yeah! Lots of fun. They were a great bunch of guys. I'd hung out with them before but this was when myself and Razzle (Hanoi Rocks drummer) became good friends. Got to play the Hacienda which was a blast because we used to go there all the time. "The Pink Toothbrush" in Rayleigh was the most fun. We arrived in the afternoon but there were no staff there. The club was open so we (the ones that drank) just helped ourselves to beers and got completely smashed. Took about a minute of playing the beginning of "The Bride Wore Red" for me to remember the words. Hanoi also liked drugs so when they hit the stage they were a shambles. I had been taking pictures of Hanoi but then I had my camera stolen in Glasgow. All the money from the gig in Liverpool was stolen from the office during our soundcheck and it was the first tour where I was approached by groupies. We also did some University gigs supporting Phil Lynott's Grand Slam as a three piece they didn't have a lead guitar player at the time. After those gigs I said to Dave that we weren't going any further with Steve on the drums. He was okay but just wasn't good enough in my opinion. Shortly after that I was asked to leave. My solo album (Yonge At Heart) was recorded in between all of this so I'll get to that next.

Great times with Hanoi sounds like a true rock n roll tour! So when Razzle passed, we all felt loss but you were close so it must have been a major blow for you?

A . M ; Yeah. We last hung out backstage at Donnington (Monsters Of Rock festival). The 1984 one that Motley Crue did. They (Hanoi) were leaving the next day for Toronto to start recording the "Two Steps From The Move" album. I could be wrong on that timeline. A girl I knew In LA called me to tell me the news, I was crushed I just didn't think it was true.

Wow those are stories of legend so thanks for sharing them! Ok Pet Hate was over however do you still like any of the songs at all? "Girls Grow Up To Fast" is a personal fave, so any lasting love or indeed hatred for any of those tracks?

A . M ; I didn't like the covers. I thought I had plenty of good songs so I kind of resented doing those. I'll take a look at the tracks and tell you the ones I didn't write (I don't like those haha)

Haha yes I thought the covers were a waste of time, but yeah anything you can share

A . M ; On "The Bride Wore Red" I wrote "Moya", "Love Me Madly", "Wanting You", "Caught" and "Party's Over". On "Bad Publicity" I wrote "I'm Not The One", "Girls Grow Up To Fast", "Cry Of The Wild", "She's Got The Action", "Stale Lipstick", "One Step Ahead" and "Dancing On My Heart".

Why wasn't "Teenage Party" a full song?

A . M ; No idea to be honest

Haha, so onto the ECT (UK tv show for hard rock and metal bands) program, How did it come about?

A . M ; ECT was a blast. Best we EVER played, but I have no idea. I wasn't involved in the day to day stuff as I was writing like crazy at that time.

Yes you were as we shall find out later. Just as an aside did you ever see any money from the records? Guessing not?

A . M ; You would be correct. I'm sure you've heard the stories about Paul Birch and HM/FM Records. That guy was an asshole and a robbing bastard.

I guessed not as the stories are rife. Does he still make money from iTunes and Spotify etc???

A . M ; Yeah. I'll touch on that later. So to my solo album "Yonge At Heart" (named after Yonge Street in Toronto, hence the spelling). I've always loved recording, I started in studios when I was fifteen. I first came to Toronto on vacation in 1982 and when I got back to the UK I started writing a ton of songs. A lot of them about the city and the things that had happened, I had about sixty songs that they were considering for "Bad Publicity". I played a ton of them for Roger Boden at Cottage Studios, where we did both Pet Hate albums and he said he loved the songs and I should do a solo album. We agreed that no money would change hands and he would recoup the costs hopefully from the sales of the record. I would go in and record whenever there was free time. It took about a year to complete. We took it to Birch and said here it is if you want to release it. I couldn't go ANYWHERE else as I was under a publishing contract with him.

About five years ago someone told me the album was on iTunes. I went and had a listen and what they had done was rip it from the vinyl. I still have a CD that was burned from the original masters. It cost a fortune back then. So I contacted Birch and told him he had no rights to the album as he didn't pay for the recording. He seemed to think that he DID! I also asked him that seeing as the Pet Hate albums were also up on there, where's my royalties?

Wow what a character. So let's discuss the solo record for a moment. I love the record it does have an eighties vibe to it but it still sounds great! First track I adore is "Moon Over Malaya", a great opener what's the story with this track?

A . M ; It's a line from a book, I think it was Catch 22. Basically a song about being dumped then leaving town as far as you could go.

We all know that story haha. Ok next up "Language Of Love", great upbeat track this one is it just "let's get to bed" vibe or is there more to it?

A . M ; Ahh, This is the groupie story. Don't think I told it you?

Oh nice, no you haven't but please do

A . M ; Oh after the aforementioned Hanoi tour, this girl comes up to me and says "I want to fuck you something rotten". Exact words, Still remember it, We were in Leeds but we were going back to Macc. She was an hairdresser in Manchester so I gave me her number. I contacted her after the tour and went to meet for a drink. I get there and she has another girl with her. Have a few pints then back to her place. We have another drink then she says we should all go to the bedroom. I go in and there are rubber sheets and chains and whips and dildoes etc...haha. I got the HELL out hahaha.

Lucky escape there then hahah. Ok before you give us your thoughts about the record, my fave track is the tile track "Yonge At Heart" , great track and almost has a "Jack and Diane" (thank you Mick Ronson) vibe to it yeah?

A . M ; More Jack and Diane for sure. I love that album, had a lot to do with the time I spent in Toronto. I visited here three times before I came to live here.

Lots of partying in Toronto then yeah?

A . M ; Yeah. First time in 1982 I was with my pal Chris. I had answered a letter in Kerrang from someone here (Toronto) looking to connect with people in the UK. I knew that the band, Toronto, was going to tour so we booked our holiday to coincide. The guy I was writing to let us stay at his place. They were all around our age so yes, it was a boozy few weeks. Most of the album was based on things that happened from my time there back then, Even a few songs on "Bad Publicity" were done the same way, "Girls Grow Up Too Fast" and "Cry Of The Wild".

Coolio, what was the vibe like when you got to Toronto? Fun, Fun, Fun?

A . M ; Oh yeah. A real rock n roll town. Great clubs like The Gasworks and Larry's Hideaway. We also on that tour spent a week in NYC were we met up with the Kissettes (infamous KISS groupies).

Nice, legendary those girls, what were they like?

A , M ; Nice. Good NYC girls. All had nice jobs. One worked for Sony and we got to sit in the private box to see Scorpions and Rainbow. Free beer all night. When we got there we asked where would be a cheap place to stay, so we ended up in Queens at the Mets Hotel. They dropped us off and the guy at the desk asked how long we wanted to stay. We said six days. He looked at us weird. He said you can bring the girls in for a few hours if you want. I had no idea at the time that those kind of places existed were you could rent a room for four hours ha-ha. We also went to see the band Monroe.

Oh Monroe, thoughts?

A . M ; Kinda cheesy Glam Metal. They had the look and the moves but no songs.

Yes, I hear ya. So what springs to mind when you look back at "Yonge At Heart"?

A . M ; Was a dream come true to do a real solo album as I'd been playing all the instruments since I was fifteen.

What were your hopes for the record, did you want it as a way out of the band?

A . M ; Maybe subconsciously. I just wanted to make some cash. Never happened of course. The plus side was it got me into producing and that's what I ultimately wanted to do. Ray Zell wanted me to do the Marionette album. I also went into pre production with Briar, but that was squashed by Birch.

My solo career was also scuppered by Birch, he had this female singer named Tyger. American girl. Looked good but couldn't sing. He wanted me to write a few songs and produce a demo for her, which I did. He has also just opened an office in London and had another girl working there. He also set her up with a flat. She was good friends with an A & R girl from EMI who Birch was dating at the time. She was really interested in my solo album and was considering releasing it through EMI. One night the girls go out for a drink and to discuss it. They then go back to the flat to find Birch in bed with Tyger. So that was the end of the EMI interest right there.

Geez, what a state of affairs to say the least. So I guess you didn't do any dates for the record?

A . M ; Nope. It was around this time things were falling apart with the band. I think they were jealous that I did the album to be honest.

In 1985 I had an offer from Greg Goddovitz, who we met when Pet Hate did a few gigs in Toronto, to play guitar in a new version of Goddo. So in 1986 I came here and never left. I applied to be a landed immigrant in 86 and they let me stay.

Wow from Stavely to Toronto, no mean feat right there. So Goddo, what's the vibe there?

A . M ; You never heard them?

Funnily enough no, not that I can recall

A . M ; They were just a rock trio. They were pretty big at one time. He (Greg) wanted to do a more poppy version.

Did you like playing with them?

A . M ; Not really. Greg was an asshole. He pissed a lot of people off on the way up so once they weren't really big anymore, nobody wanted to help him out. I lasted a couple of months then I went to play in some cover bands. I also went to trade school and became a mechanical engineer. Still what I do, I work for the engineering department at a downtown hospital.

Change of scenery and then some, so what happened in the years leading up to your current project All's Done?

A . M ; My first wife's name was Shiraz and unfortunately she passed in 2004. I quit music when we were married in 1993. After she passed I didn't do much of anything. Just worked. Then in 2009 I tore a muscle in my leg. I was at home for two months so I figured I'd learn how to use GarageBand on my Mac. I did a few covers just to try and figure it out. Then that summer we were out at my now wife's mums pool with all our dogs. I took a picture of them by the pool and thought they looked like a rock band.

So I thought I'd write a few jokey songs and that turned into me writing again. Once I got the recording bug again I couldn't stop. I've probably recorded over two hundred songs since then.

So anything released of your own material before All's Done?

A . M ; I never released anything of mine. They were just for fun but there is a bunch on SoundCloud, they are all a bit more laid back generally (Click HERE to view his music page on SoundCloud) 

Now All's Done in another story. I met Dunsy (Dunsmore) in 2018 as he was a friend on Facebook and he wanted me to sign his Silverwing album. He's a really nice guy. Early last year (2019) he asked me to mix an EP for him. he loved the way it turned out and then asked me to listen to some songs he wrote twenty years ago and if indeed if I'd be interested in re-doing them. And that's how All's Done was born. He wrote all those songs on the first album, the next album is all my songs.

Ok so the first All's Done record (Drive All Night) is out there. Was there any tracks that stand out for you either the writing or the way you reworked them?

A , M ; Well they're completely different from his original demos. Dunsy has played in a few bands over the years. The Joyriders, Chickweed and Dead Eyes Opened. He currently plays with Twisted Nerve. So he first re-worked the tracks and after that I then sang and played on them. He records his stuff in Edinburgh, puts it up on Drop Box and then I finish them off. The third song we did of those tracks was "Love That's Going Around", that was when we knew we had something going on.

Nice. So how did the idea for the second album come about with you writing all the tracks?

A . M ; It was my idea but Dunsy was going to suggest the same thing. So this time we are re-doing some of the songs I've written over the past ten years and Dunsy is rocking them up a bit. In fact we just did "Solider Girl" from the Silverwing album.

Nice so nothing left out for the next album, talking of which I love the track "Break Out In A Sweat" . That's seventies glam and then some, killer track. Tell us about the track from the first germ of it through to the final recorded version.

Click on image to listen to this glam rock stormer on YouTube

A . M ; I was going through some unfinished ideas to look for possible songs for the album. I came across that riff and basically half the song was done but no lyrics or vocals. I sent it to Dunsy and he loved the riff. So I worked it into a full version with the drums and bass. Dunsy did the guitars and then I finished it off. Originally it was going to be a more straight ahead rock song but we both thought it sounded like The Sweet and we should glam up the sound a bit.

Hell yes and it sounds great! So how many tracks are going to be on the new album?

A . M ; Probably just ten in total. We have some in the works so we'll decide as and when.

Any ideas for the album title yet?

A . M ; Last one was "Drive All Night" so the new one will be "Sleep All Day".

Nice, I really like the artwork a lot. It kinda reminds me of a hallway of opportunities, looks like a New York apartment block

A . M ; The cover is a picture I took in Flagstaff, Arizona. We were driving back from the Grand Canyon when this freak snowstorm hit and we had to stay the night and the photo is from that hotel.

Oh wow, were you stranded for long?

A , M ; Just overnight. It was March so it warms up during the day and it all just melted away. You are almost seven thousand feet above sea level so when these storms come it's just too dangerous to drive.

Crazy place you chose to live in hey haha. So any thoughts when the new album will be done?

A . M ; Probably October. We both have real jobs and Dunsy has a family and he does festivals with Twisted Nerve. They were one of the original Bat Cave bands so they get invited all over Europe. He wasn't in the original band but they all live in Edinburgh so it works out well.

Nice job for him. So what are your plans for the future apart from the new record coming out, any thoughts on the old Pet Hate catalogue? 

A . M ; Not much really. Pet Hate's stuff is still HM Records property so I have nothing to do with it. As for All's Done we'll just keep recording until we get tired of it. Dunsy will be here in the summer as he has an old friend in North Carolina he visits every year. They're coming up here for a few days so maybe we'll get some more photo's for the new album.

Ok Alistair before we go let me throw some bands names at you and you can give us your thoughts?

A . M ; Ok


A . M ; Was never really a fan but they looked great. Another band I'm sure that were fucked over by Paul Birch

You said you played some shows with him so next, Roy Wood

A , M ; Great songs. Live he wasn't that good. A bit full of himself, Short too haha.

Haha yes but what a back catalogue

A , M ; Absolutely

Brain Connolly and the rest of The Sweet

A . M ; At their height they were hard to beat. Only saw them once as a three piece, Think it was at the Lyceum in London. Duran Duran was supposed to support but it ended up being The Dumb Blondes.

Ok talking of Dumb Blondes

A . M ; I saw the next band Jeff Hepting formed, can't remember the name though. He was a nice guy. The Dumb Blondes looked great but they were much better live than their recordings.

Ok we touched on them before, Japan

A . M ; Loved all their albums, Sylvain's solo stuff I can't listen to though. I only saw them once on the Tin Drum tour.

Ok Alistair great to chat be well and best of luck with all you do.

A . M ; No Problem. Take care.

Interview conducted March 2020

Photographs courtesy of Alistair and suits and the platform boots .com