By Michael Laing
Mutual Fear were formed in early 1982 by Michael McHale, Pete McDonald and Scott Thomson, former pupils of St. Columba's and Woodmill High Schools, which are located adjacent to one-another in the Linburn area of Dunfermline. They were joined by John Woods, who was originally from Glenrothes. All were followers of The Alternative and frequently-seen faces at The Pad, the lean-to shed in which The Alternative practised. Around this time, The Actives, who had been rehearsing at The Pad, were asked to leave (rather unfairly, I thought), and, along with The Dissidents and later Heretix BC and Why?, Mutual Fear were offered the use of The Pad and The Alternative's amps and drums to practice with. Around this time, due to the unpleasant atmosphere at home, I was spending most of my spare time loitering at The Pad, and I happened one night to be present at one of Mutual Fear's first rehearsals. They had a bassist, a drummer and two vocalists, but no guitarist. I had literally never picked a guitar up before and had no playing-skills whatsoever, but, joining in the spirit of the occasion, I plugged in a guitar that someone had left lying around and began to strum along with Scott's bass-lines.
Despite their musical inexperience and the fact that I was a member of The Dissidents first and foremost, I soon found that playing with Mutual Fear was much more enjoyable and productive. There was none of the waiting to see which band-members would bother to turn up to rehearsals or time-wasting while they downed-instruments to skin-up between practically every song, which drove me to distraction in The Dissidents. Every week, Mutual Fear made clear progress; got tighter; wrote new songs. In particular, Michael McHale's drumming improved rapidly, and he also began to contribute the music and lyrics for some of Mutual Fear's songs. Michael was the younger brother of Dougie McHale, guitarist with The Alternative; music clearly ran in the veins of that family. As for my guitar-playing, I still regarded it as being extremely rudimentary, but I did use two strings, which was at least 100% more than some of the other bands who had the brass neck to play gigs at the time!
Probably the best thing that Mutual Fear had going for them and which marked them out from all the other punk-clone bands of the time was Pete McDonald. For a hardcore punk band, Pete totally looked the part, and when he was on the stage, he commanded it. He wasn't much of a singer, but he was a natural front-man. Unfortunately, in the political atmosphere of the time, it was felt that Pete was too outrageous for the band and, in the early summer of 1983, he was sacked. Perhaps he could have have cooled the posing-about a bit and given the impression of taking things a little more seriously, but, without Pete, Mutual Fear weren't half the band they'd been. I took over as a singer and Russell Wood, previously with The Dissidents, came in on guitar for a short while, and this line-up recorded a demo at Palladium Studio in Edinburgh on 12th June, 1983, and played a couple more gigs, but I soon discovered I'd been a lot more comfortable playing an instrument than singing. Mutual Fear staggered on for another couple of months, but, with the Alternative's following disintigrating in acrimony and Mutual Fear's remaining members pulling in different musical directions, they played their last, rather shambolic gig with Society's Victims to a handful of punks at the Broad Street Community Centre, Cowdenbeath, on 15th June, 1983.
Russell Wood and I soon realised the error of our ways, and, following the break-up of Mutual Fear, we recruited Pete McDonald in the late summer of '83 for our next musical project, Pink Moon. For reasons lost in the mists of time, Russell left after a few weeks; Pete, Michael McHale and I then recruited Alan Christie on guitar and became the Voodoo Idols, the name being due to Pete having a bit of a flirtation with Goth at the time. Alan was another long-time follower of The Alternative who, like Russell and me, had become disillusioned with punk and was moving towards metal. The Voodoo Idols never got around to playing a gig, which was a shame because they had the makings of an excellent band. Michael McHale was now a proficient drummer, and Alan Christie soon proved to be an extremely gifted musician. Within a few weeks of picking up a guitar, he was doing Steve Jones; within a year, Angus Young; within two, Gary Moore and Eddie Van Halen. But that's another story...