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Progressive Rock Interviews

Erik Scott

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Erik Scott from 2014
MSJ:

You’ve had an interesting career so far. Can you catch the readers up with a little synopsis of how you got here in terms of your career?

After 35 years of playing with so many interesting artists as the bassist in an ensemble, I thought it was okay to get a little exploratory with what the electric bass could do, i.e. play horn melodies, melodies with echo and delay, make special effect sounds, and make music that was a little more unusual, like a fretless bass duet with a medieval violin, with a rocking R&B drum pattern underneath.
MSJ: With all your experience are there any particular sessions, gigs or events that really stand out as particularly memorable.
Playing “Wooly Bully” with Keith Moon, Alice Cooper, and the Turtles onstage at the Troubadour Los Angeles on Christmas night 1974 was a pretty memorable happening. And then going onstage in Tokyo with the Japanese band Carmen Maki and Oz after producing their successful album was unusually cool.
MSJ: The music you are doing now is quite a bit different than people might expect from you. Is this the kind of stuff that’s really your passion or does it depend on the particular project?
It's just something I hadn't done, and I got to a point in my musical life where I could do it, both from a freedom aspect, and frankly, from an ability standpoint. I hadn't the skill to play a lot of these more unconventional “solo” type performances earlier in my career, when I was concentrating on the supportive groove factors of ensemble playing.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Oh, it's hard to tell…. maybe coaching college basketball after playing for decades. Or maybe being on the Joint Chiefs of Staff after a military career. Acting has always seemed a bit chancy, but music isn't? Acting is a lot of fun, being on a team making believe crazy life experiences.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Everybody I have ever admired, and that covers rock like Led Zeppelin, songwriting like Harry Nilsson, the usual British bands, the Motown records… there are tons. I've always enjoyed great musical performances, and the genre was not important, as long as the artistry resonated.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Try to keep making cool music.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
In light of all the diverse artists I have worked with, I would hope that a connective description would be soulful and creative.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
Since my earliest days, I've thought Clapton was a most special player. I spend so much time working on original material though, I just hope if I ever found myself onstage with him, I would have done my homework and knew the chords in the bridge. I would like to record and play live with the drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Simon Phillips. They are amazing.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
I sometimes wonder how it would work if I got free dental work, free auto tune-ups, and the roofers did the roof for nothing. Pretty soon, there would be no dentists, no auto mechanics, and no roofers…. unless they did it as a hobby, and the quality level of the hobbyists might not be quite the thing, ya know?
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
I feel a little different about that. At least people bought a ticket and allowed the musicians to pay the gasoline and hotel bills.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
The people who stand up there and shout clichés while surrounded by aerobic dancing girls and fireworks…. who can't really play anything, but just shout infantile nonsense for the cash. If you're a teenager, it's understandable…. it's a part of being a teenager. But if it's all a non-genuine premeditated act for cash… it's the gong show.

Let's look at it from the other side. I support the performer-artist who is genuine, and whose music comes from the heart and soul…the artist who has spent the time and paid the dues to actually learn how to command an instrument, or sing.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I've been pretty absorbed with creating the new material, so I haven't had a lot of spare time. I do hear a lot of what is currently going down when I take a break and catch the cable shows with a lot of concerts, a lot of festivals. You know what?... I think the song “Royals” by Lorde was a great popular record… creative production, good lyrics. I liked that a lot, it was pretty darn original sounding... but that may be a one-off, we'll see.

I recently listened to the soundtrack album for Master and Commander. I love the themes by the Italian composers Boccherini and Corelli that are used in that film, and the performances by violinists Richard Tognetti and Bruce Dokov were brilliant. Check out track number 14, “La Musica Notturna Delle Strade Di Madrid.” I love that stuff. It just sounds so fresh nowadays, 200 some years after it was written. I like to step out of the “popular” mass feedings that most of the syndicated radio monopolies serve up ad nauseam. You can discover brilliant music and masterful performances if you just get out of the line to the trough.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I love the series of books written by Patrick O'Brian… the Aubrey/Maturin series about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. The movie Master and Commander comes from them. Mr. O'Brian imbues his characters with a humor and wisdom, and an understanding of the human condition born from life experience, and writes about the village that is a three-masted ship in the 1800s. It is not unlike a band on tour... crew members, sound guys, drivers, lighting guys… a whole traveling village that becomes a sort of family over time.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
The amazing nuance of great players. Maybe this is not a guilty pleasure, but amazing performance comes from so much time consuming physical efforts to master an instrument, and so much searing life-experience, that I value that over a clever or currently topical word phrase or “popular” entertainment… Now that would be my guilty pleasures: “happy-ending” events where I already know the happy ending, and just like to watch it to re-affirm that there are happy endings.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
We did this one on purpose: With Flo & Eddie, at a Chicago concert in '75 or '76, I think it was after months and months of touring one year, Mark or Howard suggested that we all go out and start the show playing a different instrument than the one we started the tour with. There was a four man horn section on this leg of the tour for some reason, so there were ten guys on stage all hitting the opening chord of the show on an instrument they couldn't play worth a damn. 

BBBLLATTTT!!!… outstanding. Then everybody, looking dazed and confused, gazed at the instrument in their hands with befuddlement… looked around at each other, and swapped instruments. Here, try this one. Still the wrong instruments. So here comes the big count off: one, two, three, four,

BBLLAAAAATT…again, a totally outstanding noise. Wow… really? Yessirree... A seriously wrong chord… and different… it would have been tough to chart that one out. So now, once again, we all gaze at one another in bewilderment. 

“Anybody remember the instrument they started this tour with? Huh? Well, wait a minute. That one you're holding looks familiar… gimme that one.” So we swapped off again, this time holding the instruments we normally played out in public.

And of course then the concert went on with a more harmonious approach. But that was pretty special. I'm not sure anyone but the Flo & the Eddie and the Neo-Turtles would take that kind of license, attempt that particular maneuver: But hey… there's no business like show business.

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Jesus of Nazareth, King Robert the Bruce I of Scotland, and the inventor/humorist Ben Franklin. I believe I would learn as much about the times they lived in as what kind of people they really were. I would make it a weekly thing… the second week I think maybe Winston Churchill, Buddha, and Attila the Hun.
MSJ:

What would be on the menu?

Discovery…. wouldn't you like to know what kind of guys they really were? Instead of accepting what has been passed down, altered through religious or political bias, and simply translated inaccurately from the different languages of time?

That's a big deal, how the translations have been drastically different, depending on the translator. Ya know?

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

I think it's about creativity… in life and all the arts, but especially in the music, painting, and sculpture. This creativity gets us to thinking, and maybe re-examining what we like about artistic expression; what, if anything, it can teach us, and how much is simple entertainment, and how much is a soul-searching look at life.

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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