We need the interview because the Internet is full of duplicated, pasted nuggets of information. And there are 20+ articles where you can read that Gray started out in a punk band – The Family Von Trapp. There’s no photos, recordings, reviews or details available, yet it seems clear that punk must have had an impact.
Muriel became well-known as an interviewer on TV alternative music show – Channel 4’s The Tube in 1982. Apparently the job came about after The Family Von Trapp auditioned, but Gray is self-critical:
“Oh man, I was awful. And so snooty. But I certainly wasn’t after fame. In fact, the 1980s was all about anti-fame, which is the opposite of the way life is now.”
I remember how radical it seemed at the time to have a presenter with a broad Glasgow accent, and you could tell that she was an ordinary lass – one of us – not a public-school posh boy.
In this interview, with Mark E. Smith of The Fall, Gray is down-to-earth and a great match for Smith’s supposed braininess. She’s not impressed when Smith says he throws fan mail away without reading it; when a young Brix speaks at the end, Muriel Gray quips about Brix’s forthcoming birthday:
“Don’t send her any birthday cards or fan mail as they’ll just get chucked away!”
In the Mark Smith interview and this one with Siouxsie Sioux, Gray is quite insightful in pursuing the theme of longevity and how to survive long term as a punk, suggesting ‘bigger ideas’ like being an actress….
“Imagine 20 years of punk in the NME and they’re looking back – would you hate that?”
Muriel Gray originally did art school training in Glasgow, and her interest in The Arts has led to a range of TV and journalism work. She set up a Scottish TV production company and wrote some horror novels and a play, as well as taking on important public roles on the board of the British Museum, and as the chair of governors for the Glasgow School of Art.
She’s a keen user of social media; interacting with her followers and seeming to be an all-round lovely and very human person. On her fame she says,
“I’ve been on TV since I was 24 and recognised for most of my life, and had torrents of abuse. I once called U2 British by mistake and was sent a card with used condoms used as the writing stapled on, telling me off.”
Although this is a fairly specialised off-topic video about the British Museum; the point is that a young working-class Scottish woman of Jewish descent has made it into some of the most influential and important national forums as a result of her involvement in punk rock 40 years ago. And that’s to be celebrated.
Muriel Gray, we salute you and your work. We hope to be able to meet you in 2019 and find out about the punk bit of your story that we’d all love to hear.
One of Muriel Gray’s great journalistic pieces for The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/aug/22/gender.uk