Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Great Hip Hop Hoax


How far will you go to realise your dreams? 

On the outside Silibil N Brains were a young up and coming hip hop duo from California. They were taken on by entertainment impresario Jonathan Shalit, they signed a deal with Sony and were on the verge of bringing out an album and single.

Sililbil N Brains

Sililbil N Brains

But underneath the American accents, low-slung jeans, skip caps and bravado was a huge secret. They were Scottish, lived in Dundee and their real names were Gavin Bain (Brains) and Billy Boyd (Silibil). Astonishingly they fooled everyone for three years.

This film documentary excellently put together by Jeanie Finlay tells their fascinating story.

It’s hilariously funny, remarkable, sad and thought-provoking. It raises all sorts of questions about identity and highlights the fickle nature of the record industry.

The boys met at college, bonded over music, and became best friends. They spent most of their time rapping, crafting hip hop tunes and dreaming about making it big. However their dreams for the future were quickly quashed by record companies who cruelly dubbed them “the rapping Proclaimers”.  It seemed that “Scots boys can’t rap”, according to the so-called industry experts.

Sililbil N Brains

Sililbil N Brains

After a failed London trip, stubbornness set in, the boys returned home and pestered people on the phone. Again they were met with the same laughter and distain.

Fed up and for a laugh, they picked up the phone, spoke in an American accent, and got the record company’s attention. It was the same people, the same songs but as far as the record company was concerned, coming from a different place.

They were invited to London and when they arrived – they had a choice – own up or carry on with the charade. Sweating and waiting to be found out, they went with the charade, a decision that put them on a different path. They become “American”.

They donned the accents and constructed a back story of their origins and American life.

And they got away with it. It seemed as if they began to believe it themselves. They were living some kind of American dream funded by the coffers of their record company. They partied hard, mingled with stars, Billy went to the Brit Awards and they appeared on MTV.

Silibil N Brains on MTV

Silibil N Brains on MTV

This was a situation that grew arms and legs and showed no sign of slowing down but living with such a huge lie inevitably brought its problems. The sad casualty was their friendship. So while Billy legged it back to Scotland to his girlfriend back home, Gavin remained in London wondering what was going to happen next .  He dealt with a few demons and wrote a book, which became “Straight Outta Scotland: A True Story of Fakery, Money and Betrayal in the Music Industry”. (There is also another version called – California Schemin’) It seemed to have been a cathartic process for him.  Having picked up on the story, Jeanie Finlay set about making the documentary.

Book Cover

Book Cover

When the film was shown at Glasgow Film Theatre, there was a Q&A session with Gavin. Hearing about the actual filming process was interesting.

Quite a few years had passed, Gavin and Billy still weren’t on speaking terms. For the purposes of the film, they were interviewed separately. This meant each of them quizzing the interviewer “What did he say about that? How did he answer that?” It must have been strange for them to see the finished product.

At the GFT, we wanted to know – had they made up?

They have, and Gavin expressed regret for the missed years of their friendship. They eventually made up in a typically male and Scottish kind of way.

Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd

Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd

When they met it went something like this – “How are you doing? Listen to this mix/rap I’ve made. What about this piece of music?”

It was as if the preceding years hadn’t happened.

They are apparently recording again and seeing where this latest chapter and renewed interest takes them. They are both likeable chaps and you can’t help but wish them lots of success.

You can now buy the film on DVD.

It’s also available on BBC iPlayer for two more days and the film is showing on BBC4 Storyville on Wednesday October 23rd at 10pm.

BBC iPlayer link

For more information about the film and an interesting Q&A feature with filmmaker Jeanie Finlay – see BBC Storyville Link

For more information about the film – BBC Feature

Also worth mentioning is the great animation throughout the film by Jon Burgerman.

Animation from Jon Burgerman

Animation from Jon Burgerman

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Filed under Books, Films, Glasgow Film Theatre, Music, Scotland

The Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry, Scotland – October 2013

The Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry

The Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry

Overheard at the Enchanted Forest at Pitlochry … “I wonder what one is The Faraway Tree?”

The words a little girl uttered to her parents. It took me back to my childhood and to the Enid Blyton book. It made me smile, the little girl had got it spot on.

For the month of October Faskally Wood near Pitlochry has been magically brought to life by clever lighting (Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes – lighting designers) and sound (RJ McConnell – sound designer). A particular highlight is the specially composed music by Jon Beales and RJ McConnell.

Now on its 11th anniversary, numbers are expected to surpass the 30,000 mark of last year and it’s a must-see on Scotland’s autumn calendar.

The Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry

The Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry

Entitled absorb, the show has been designed by a creative team led by Derek Allan. The word greets you in large white letters as you enter the magical wood.

The Enchanted Forest

It’s busy but there’s enough space for the forest to feel like your own. And it attracts all ages. It’s as much for the adults as for the children. There are elderly people with walking sticks and toddlers holding their parents’ hands.

The Enchanted Forest

The Enchanted Forest

The show highlights the effectiveness of good lighting and sound. The forest transforms into different magical worlds and your imagination runs wild. At parts it’s eerie and other times, playful and romantic as a pathway becomes a golden tunnel of light that illuminates Loch Faskally which is already aglow with the giant coloured balls that sit upon the water.

The Enchanted Forest

The Enchanted Forest


And then there’s the orchestral theatre played among the trees, where the forest really comes to life.

An enchanting experience. It’s on until October 27th, 2013.

For more information see: The Enchanted Forest Website

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Edinburgh Festival – Whatever Gets You Through The Night – August 2013

Whatever Gets You Through The Night - Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013It’s difficult to categorise Whatever Gets You Through The Night, it’s part-gig, part-theatre, but more simply, it’s an experience. 

The time is 4am, an hour considered too early to get up but too late to sleep. So what do people do at this awkward hour? It’s a void waiting to be filled with magical moments or a waking nightmare.

Scotland at night is imagined as a series of vignettes, depicting lovelorn insomniacs to hopeful romantics.

The show was created by Cora Bissett, Edinburgh band Swimmer One and David Greig. It also features contributions from writers such as Alan Bissett, Stef Smith and Kieran Hurley. Songs include Eugene Kelly’s Chips n’ Cheese and Emma Pollock’s Dark Skies.

Whatever Gets You Through The NightThe piano melody of Seafieldroad’s The Palace of Light was accompanied by Jen Paterson performing acrobatics with giant sheets suspended from the ceiling. The material eventually became a hammock as she disappeared to sleep inside a giant silk cocoon hanging in the air. The effect was stunning.

Whatever Gets You Through The Night


A young woman, the brilliant Frances Thorburn, was drinking wine and waiting by her laptop for her internet date. This was funny, tender and heartbreaking as her hopes for love faded to disappointment.

Saturday night in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street was played out on film, a repetitive montage to a hazy hallucinatory tune written by Kieran Hurley. And we saw a young lad as he staggered and swaggered along the streets, amid drunken bodies and neon lights.

In another scene, a taxi driver picked up a drunk, young girl and later on there was an ode to Chips n’ Cheese, a song written by Eugene Kelly which celebrates the drink-influenced delicacy of a night out.

Meanwhile further north in Aberdeen, we imaged the sea and the pier, as a woman tried to sell roses to couples romancing in the dark, and case of mistaken identity led to the sweet promise of love.

Paradoxically the darkness can serve to illuminate and exaggerate. Loneliness is exacerbated and in the dark you can feel like you are the only person in the world. It’s a feeling encapsulated by Isabel Wright as she gives birth on her own, taking a solitary journey into an unknown world.

And is the dark a comfort or a curse? A widower travels to Loch Lomond, he’s saying goodbye to his late wife, he’s alone with only thoughts of her and her ghost dancing with him.

It’s difficult to pin Whatever Gets You Through The Night into a genre. It’s a mixed bag, it’s thought-provoking and emotion-stirring.

Whatever Gets You Through The Night

Co-producer/collaborator of the show Andrew Eaton-Lewis, also of Edinburgh band Swimmer One and Seafieldroad says:

“It’s a bit like a circus. A bit like a cabaret. A bit like a party. A bit like a lullaby”.  

It’s a good description.

There’s an album of beautifully crafted songs which includes the sublime The North Star by Ricky Ross and Rachel Sermanni’s Lonely Taxi, 2am.

Buy the album here: Whatever Gets You Through The Night – buy the album through Bandcamp

For more about the creation of the show read this interview with Andrew Eaton-Lewis.

Interview with Andrew Eaton-Lewis

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Filed under Music, Scotland, Theatre reviews