Tributes have been paid to musician Billy Samson, who passed away last week.
The multi-talented singer and songwriter was best known as founder of 90s electronic act The Electroluvs and later, Paraffins and The Decider. However, he was also a familiar figure on the scene in Ayrshire, aiding the careers of many upcoming acts via his studio and production work.
Billy in fact started his career in local punk tribute acts Last Year’s Men and Straw Dogs, and though he soon moved on to making original music, that independent spirit stayed with him throughout his career.
The studio, in Knockentiber close to Kilmarnock, had various names over the years – Junkman’s Choir were among the bands who recorded there when it was called ‘Full on the Hill’ and more recently it was known as ‘Bric-a-brac’.
Also on the CV were many projects involving Topplers Records. The Ayrshire label – which took its name from a local post-punk band from the early 1980s – was founded by that act’s bassist Allan Henry. As well as being a vehicle for a variety of Swell Maps-affiliated acts, Topplers also put out releases by the NoMen – a band which included Billy in its ranks alongside Cal Murray (later in the Plimptons), George Dreghorn, Brian McCluskey and original Topplers singer Lew Mitchell.
That same group released an album, ‘Men, Women & Alcohol’ under the name The Decider, as well as a single, ‘Unshakeable’, which many will recall, its ‘borrowing’ of the hook from Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control a favourite of John Peel and getting considerable airplay.
Billy also worked with innumerable Scottish acts including How To Swim, Motormark, Glue, Joe Howe of Gay Against You/Banana Oil, Dolby Anol and Flying Matchstick Men, though music fans of a certain age may remember him best as one half of synthpop duo The Electroluvs, where along with Susan Vennard, and then Kaye Brewster, he released a couple of long players, ‘Mk 1’ and ‘Bubblewrapped’.
Following a short-lived combo called Rabies Nation, came The Paraffins. Mostly a solo project, aside from occasional contributors like Cal or Junkman’s Choir’s Stephen Wiseman, The Paraffins were Billy’s brainchild and as well as the writing he was responsible for the production, which would stand him in good stead for his later work in the studio.
The Hector Collectors’ Adam Smith, whose band employed Billy on their last album, described him as “an inspiring and heartening presence”, while Thee Moths’ Alex Botten, who knew him from back in the early ’00s, said he was “an incredibly talented and funny guy.”
Neil Colquhoun, who promoted the Electroluvs in Edinburgh concurred, described Billy as “really one of the good guys,” and Chris Boyd, who worked with Billy on the Popcorn club nights, said he was “a stalwart of the west coast music scene for as long as I can remember – a true gentleman, always ready with a kind word or quip, he will be sadly missed.”
And Cal Murray, who provided much of the background info for this piece, said: “Billy was a kind, quiet man and an outrageous provocateur all at once. His wit, intellect, and creative instincts were incredible to witness. He could create mad, sprawling electro-pop hellscapes with some daft toy instruments he found in B&M. A true one of a kind personally and artistically.
That is the pervading memory of Billy Samson – for all his talents in music and the arts, and his inspirational influence on fellow musicians, he will be remembered as a warm, witty and generous human being.