21 May 2009

Simon Scott Answers 5

Not long ago, Simon Scott and I started chatting online – imagine my surprise when I realized it was THE Simon Scott. As a founding member of the Charlottes and Slowdive, he helped define the shoegazing genre (two bands, by the way, that I plan future retrospectives on). After leaving Slowdive, he would work with many other musicians and bands, including Chapterhouse. By 2004, he would found the band Televise, and still had the time to create Keshhhhhh, a record label primarily focused on experimental electronic music. Ever the busy man, August 2009 will see the release of his solo album, “Navigare,” via Miasmah. Though everything on this blog has been personal to me, this is something special to me as it takes me back many years. I remember listening to Charlottes back in high school and Slowdive in college. I remember when Televised released their debut album. That’s twenty years time. So the fact that Simon Scott would take time out of his hectic schedule to Answer 5 is an honor for me.

1. Who are your musical and nonmusical influences?

Musical influences appeared when I was ten listening to my older brother and sister’s metal records such as Motorhead and Black Sabbath. This was why I began to play the drums as the sheer power and noise was immense but then I saw the Smiths on “Top of the Pops” and also the Jesus and Mary Chain. Around 1987 the bands began to appear with heavier sounds such as Spacemen 3 and Loop, and I went to see My Bloody Valentine before "You Made Me Realise" was released and I was blown away. "Isn't Anything" was released later and this still is my favourite album ever. I was and still am also into Can, Velvet Underground, the Cure, Love, Syd Barratt era Pink Floyd too. Movies are really important too but David Lynch's films stand out and have an atmosphere that has crept into my recent work most definitely! Milan Kundera's books are inspirational but reality is the biggest influence as I find life is ever changing and the complexities of modern day living rarely leaves little time for fiction. People's emotions, relationships, the ugliness and beauty of the human condition is always there in my musical ideas and I think I'd be unable to cope as well with this fast paced life if I couldn't release some of my emotions through music.

2. Out of curiosity, what have you been listening to in your iPod/MP3 player lately that the rest of us should check out?

Well I love the Gas "Nah Und Fern" box set as the depth and emotive qualities in that collection has almost everything I love about music but anything on the labels 12k and Miasmah are shockingly good with diversity but also a strong sense of identity. The Sight Below album "Glider," which has been released on Ghostly International, is great and I am lucky to be able to play guitar with them live when he tours. Machinefabriek is also another artist with a fast and consistent flow of great music.

3. Staring Keshhhhh Recordings and being responsible, to some degree, for the product of other musicians, how has that impacted your own approach to music?

Having my own label has really opened my eyes to how many people buy music, what format, the price of music and also the way we approach music as an art form these days. Firstly the digital world of discovering music has opened the floodgates for just about anyone to distribute their music, so there is a really huge amount to filter out. The upside of this is no longer is an a+r man responsible for helping out unknown artists as anyone can build up a fan base and sell their music. Unfortunately the sales of music have decreased as it is very CDR driven and the struggling musician has to work some awful day job just to survive, which is in these dark days easier said than done. The positives of running a label are helping an artist release their music, which you know is amazing, and also sometimes getting to play on the record like I did on Hannu's "Hintergarten" album. I also get to put out music that was lost through whatever reason so I can re release albums and they get discovered by a new audience, who missed out first time. This happens because an artist has great music but just not the platform to get it out there so a box of 500 CDs gets a bit dusty up in the loft when the actual music is outstanding. Luckily for me I have some amazing retailers who put out the Kesh releases which get good exposure for the releases such as Boomkat, Norman Records, and Smallfish Records, plus p*dis in japan and Tonevendor in the USA.

(Photo by Alex Alexander)

4. You have been on a journey, from the Charlottes to your solo release "Navigare." What are the differences in approach these days of writing and recording music as a solo artist as opposed to completing the process in a band?

The committee meeting process of doing anything when you have a band is awful as personal politics always effects the decision making process and I think every band I have ever been in has had complex personality battles that ultimately led to poor decisions being made. Without anyone to disagree with me I get to release very pure personal music that follows it's own musical path instead of one made by a compromise. This is why my solo album "Navigare" is the strongest record I have ever written and performed on as I followed my heart 100%! The Miasmah recording label, which is releasing it this summer, left me to just get on with it, which allowed me to remain focused.

I record at home in my studio that has taken years to build up and I will add my old tape recordings or field recordings of my environment to my digital audio workstation. I totally love adding dirt to recordings to give texture and emotion to a track, such as re recording a nice clean acoustic through an old cassette player then distorting it and feeding it back into the computer. Having the drums out is a pain as I don't have much room but it saves loads of money, loads of time and doesn't wreck the spontaneous element of laying down musical ideas. One positive about working with other musicians, which I still do today, is the companionship that makes gigs and traveling a lot of fun. I have a few side project happening right now where we send files over the Internet, such as Seavault (on Morr Music) who is myself and Antony Ryan from Isan, a film project with Jasper TX, Rafael Anton Irisarri and I are doing and an album together via the Internet right now, and I have also just finished a piece with Machinefabriek. All of this is made possible by digital communication which is positively transforming the way musicians work.

5. Currently many artists on both sides of the Atlantic are pointing to shoegazing as an influence; as a key figure in the creation of the genre, why do you think that shoegazing is having a revival?

I think the media has decided to write about the eighties a lot over the past couple of years, which has affected fashion and music hugely, so I guess the early nineties is the next logical progression. Some parts of the publishing media have decided to feature "shoegazing" recently and suddenly the shoegaze revival has begun but personally I feel shoegazing had a revival around five years ago as clubs like AC30 and Sonic Cathedral opened here in the UK and they started releasing records. This revival has grown year by year so now the Sunday papers have caught on and decided this is what is cool again. I must say that shoegaze was a dirty word over here but in the US, Japan and other parts of Europe it has been a very relevant and respected influence, which is very positive.

I have heard shoegaze have an influence on loads of music since I was in Slowdive as many bands took a strand or two of that sound and kept running with it such as Mogwai or Smashing Pumpkins. I remember adverts that had shoegaze soundtracks about ten years ago and many films have featured Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, so it may have been unfashionable for a number of years but the impact has lasted and filtered through the media. I love what modern electronic music has done with this influence as it has become a new style of shoegaze, dream pop, ambient, minimal techno or whatever you want to call it. I get confused when I see a band and they are an identical early 1990's style band with fender jaguars and bowl haircuts as it was nearly twenty years ago since we all formed those bands. Grab it and take it in another direction and then the world will listen.

Keep up with Simon Scott at MySpace and viist Keshhhhhh online.

Also, do not forget to get a hold of “Navigare” in August, being released on Miasmah.

1 comment:

  1. Quite interesting to read from the point of view of someone that is experienced and professional and can see the differences in each time period of music. Also, the whole going on a certain path and adding something new to turn it into something different is amazing to see.