Best known as a radio DJ, Vic Galloway is also a musician, journalist and presenter. He has now fulfilled a personal ambition by adding “published author” to this list. His book, Songs in the Key of Fife, tells the story of the hugely influential musicians hailing from the East Neuk of Fife, many of whom went on to form the recently disbanded Fence Collective.
As a self-confessed “music nerd” and friend of most of the artists involved, Galloway was perfectly placed to write on this subject. During the session he told of his experiences playing in bands with a number of the people he then went on to write about. As a child he lived opposite James Yorkston, one of the key artists in the group, and played Star Wars figures with Steve Mason, lead singer of the Beta Band who formed in St Andrews and whose music has been described as a mix of folk, electronic, experimental and rock.
Galloway discussed the importance that music came to have in his life, saying, “Music has informed everything: my daft haircuts over the years, my fashion sense”. Although the book started out as what sounded like something of an early mid-life crisis – he was approaching 40 and his relationship of seven years had just broken down – it clearly became, like the music itself, a huge passion for Galloway. He told of his time interviewing the various musicians and how their work came about and evolved. His immense energy and enthusiasm was evident throughout the event, as was his in his knowledge of all of the artists featured in the book.
The event finished with a performance of three songs by Galloway’s friend, and former member of the Fence Collective, Jonny Lynch, also known as the Pictish Trail. Light hearted, and without giving much away, Lynch talked of his future plans for his new record label, Lost Map Records, and about the Fence split. In between his jokes, it was touching to hear him call the split, “kind of good, but only kind of good”. The first song he played was a medley of songs by the Beta Band and another Fence Collective member, Lone Pigeon (Gordon Anderson). Lynch’s exquisite acoustic performance of two of his own songs rounded off the event perfectly.
Galloway told the audience that his aim in writing Songs in the Key of Fife was to tell the story, “warts and all”, of this “supremely talented” group of Fife musicians. He was keen to document not just their success but their battles with mental illness, failure and debt, without it resembling a gossip column. The fact that he has thus far had only positive reviews from the musicians themselves is surely testament to his success.