Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tom James Scott 13 Questions

Tom James Scott is a british classically trained guitarist, composer and producer. Tom's influences stretch far and wide, touching upon aspects of traditional music, improvisation, vocal music, composition, and field recording to name but a few. Tom's compositions  are guitar based with added piano and even tuba, distilled through a minimalist mind set to create some of the most beautiful elemental melodic lines that take the listener on a journey of meditative contemplation.

His first LP - while maintaining similar melodic sensibilities and a feeling of hushed expanse - sees piano become the main focus, with the title, ‘Drape’ (defined in literature documenting past and present dialect native to what is now Cumbria, as, ‘to speak slowly’) determining pace and durations across the four pieces presented. Strings of single notes become humming, shadowy resonances within the body of the instrument, echoing into frequent pause and fragmentation. 

United by a preoccupation with modern composition, traditional music, and improvisation, Scott's published work to date has a seen a shift from the sparse acoustic arrangements of 2007's Red Deer, to the dense, heavily-treated atmospheres of his most recent full-length album Teal. His second full-length for Bo'Weavil. School And Rivers was a selection of five slices of minimal guitar compositions. These are varied pieces that were written immediately after the release of Red Deer, to those that came about just before recording began in March of 2008. David Aird's tuba playing on the title track and "Seabird" provides a necessary weight, pulling at the high notes of the guitar that hang in mid-air, with droning, near-dissonant tones in the more fluid sections.

Tom has an interest in melodies that drift in and out of focus, moving between abstract and more concrete forms, leaving pockets of silence where the listener can escape. The pieces on his recordings remain quite static, following slight variations through time. Not to be mistaken as coming from the tradition of Fahey et al, Tom’s cues are from a far more varied pallet, modern composition, ethnic / folk recordings and the wealth of improvisation are but a few

Electrical & analogue exploring, Teal is full of lots of nice washy synths which slowly penetrate your brain and take you away from a rainy november evening in Leeds. He also intersperses acoustic instruments, some barely audible and some taking pride of place, but never overwhelming anything .. ever. Recorded during summer 2013 after returning to his hometown on the North-West coast of England, Teal draws on a wider palette than Scott's previous solo releases, moving between rich, densely treated atmospheres and lucid reflective moments. The tensions and ease of summer spent in a place haunted by distant memories and fading childhood sentiment.

He is currently establishing his own Skire imprint. A platform intended principally for the publication of his own music and collaborations, the label also allows him to combine his work as a musician with burgeoning activities as a designer and photographer.

 at Cafe Oto, 15th May Photo Alasdair

What do you remember about your first approach to music?

I made a guitar from balsa wood, cardboard, and fishing line when I was 10 years old. I can remember trying to overdub using a walkman plugged into an external speaker and a portable tape player/radio which had a built in mic. I also used to make covers for albums I had on tape using Microscoft Publisher.

Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?

I can't remember the first, but the last was Loren Connors 'Portrait of a Soul'.

How's your musical routine practice?

I'm becoming more aware that different things I'm working on are best tackled at certain times of day depending on how they sound. I've started building up a collection of piano pieces that seem to work best at night, on headphones.

What's the relevance of technique in music, in your opinion?

It should only be a means to an end.

What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?

Its made it easier for artists to distribute their own material, whether its digital or physical. Live events often seem more special to me now. You can't really replace that.

Which is the main pleasure of the strings? What are their main limitation?

The way I play piano involves no direct contact with the strings. Guitar is the opposite. Sitting in the standard position with the guitar, your body is essentially wrapped around the instrument. Piano feels much more removed. I like both. And there's no sustain pedal on an acoustic guitar.

Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?

Talking Heads 'Stop Making Sense'.

Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music.

Morton Feldman's 'Rothko Chapel'.

What is your relationship with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater ...?

More and more my music feels like an attempt to frame a moment and suspend it, like a photograph. I often think of sound in relation to the visual, and text. All can create such distinct atmospheres.

What would you enjoy most in an art work?

Something honest, personal. An approach to music that considers the fact that a record will be heard in an environment that has its own sounds/character. You never hear a piece of recorded music in the same way twice.

What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?

If you're stressed, then you're probably worrying what people think.

What instruments and tools do you use?

I don't own a piano, so just play which ever I can get my hands on. Nylon string and electric guitar. Some really primitive sample keyboards and samplers. There's a drum kit in the cellar where my studio is at the moment so I've started using that. Different recording devices give such a different effect, dictaphones, reel to reel tape, SD recorders. Between all that, reverb and EQ, there's already too many options.

What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?

The latest Charcoal Owls album is nearly finished and should be released on Blank Editions. There's also a 12" with Andrew Chalk coming out on my own label. I need to get my head down and finish a few things of my own over the summer and then maybe issue a few smaller editions on tape/CDr.

Selected Discography

Tom James Scott
Teal | Skire 2014

Andrew Chalk & Tom James Scott
Wild Flowers | Skire 2013

Tom James Scott
The Landing | Where to Know 2014

Tom Scott
Teal | Skire 2014

Tom James Scott
Drape | Bo'Weavil 2012
Tom James Scott  
Crystal | Carnivals 2012

 Tom James Scott 
 Red Deer | Bo'Weavil 2007 

Tom James Scott 
School & Rivers | Bo'Weavil 2009

 Charcoal Owls
Remastered Gardens | Night People NP123 2010        

Charcoal Owls
Completely Smashed ‎ | OneC Records 2011

Charcoal Owls
Tin Roof | Night School 2014

Cosmogonal Studie 1 | Cosmic Germ ‎2007

Untitled | ‎Paha Porvari 2005

The Letter | ‎Alter 2011

Sane Men Surround | Savoury Days 2013