This interview goes hand in hand with today’s Scrimshire podcast, which you can grab here.
Photo: Toast of Leeds
Scrimshire is part of the team heading up seminal record label Wah Wah 45s, but before that he’s an artist three albums deep into his work. Bight is out now, a multi-layered ode to the sea and a thing of beauty. Listen to all of his past work at his Bandcamp.
Hi Adam! What’s keeping you busy at the moment?
Getting back on top of business at Wah Wah mostly, a little bit of writing for another project and gig preparations.
How do you like to describe your own music for the uninitiated?
I’m bad at it. It draws on a lot of influences from soul, jazz, electronic, various African styles and Latin too, plus a bit of prog rock thrown in. But that doesn’t really describe it. I think I’m still working towards what it is.
Thanks for the Groovement mix! Quite a few exclusives on there, some with your own touch – could you give us a quick heads up on those?
I did the Eddie Bradford one a while back, just a bit of classic soul I wanted to twist a bit (and catch a few more minutes out of).
The Tenth Tone edit came out of the show I’ve been doing with Faye Houston – we do it two ways, an acoustic set and an ableton/APC/MPD set where I’ve taken all the album stems and I mix/edit it live. I’d been toying with the beats and bass and wanted to get a version to take out when I’m DJing, so I’ve programmed additional beats to toughen it up, dubbed it out a bit. Might get a release somewhere.
I went to Slovenia recently for a couple of gigs and was introduced to so much incredible soul and funk from the region. Both Jedna Mala Plava and Zlatakosa are from that trip. The Pro-Arte track in it’s original form though might be a little much for English speaking audiences so I’ve messed with it a bit to deliver the beats a bit more.
Photo: Toast of Leeds
Bight’s been out a month now – how has the response been so far?
Not bad. Some of the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Time will tell. It took over 6 months from the release of The Hollow for people to really pick up on it.
Themes in the album seem quite deep – you mention on your site a love for the deep, blue sea. Is that a lifelong thing?
Yes, we spent pretty much all of our childhood holidays in the same spot in south Wales. My Mum and Dad were swimmers – met that way – and my Gramp taught swimming at the Coventry City club. So I guess we were all water babies.
The postcards are a nice idea, something you started with The Hollow. What’s their aim?
Hopefully to get across the themes and imagery that influenced the making of the music. Plus I enjoy going off with my camera and making them – sometimes it’s a break in recording, sometimes a rest from it all afterwards. I also found first time round that tearing the music apart taught me I need to be more disrespectful of my creations and be prepared to fuck with them more during the creative process. So it’s for you and for me.
Listening to Bight, I was reminded of the drawings of Ernst Haeckel (an amazing artist, despite his racist scientific views) – are there any particular pieces of art that pop into your head when thinking about the sea? I only ask this because graphics seems to be a vital element in the Scrimshire world.
I wasn’t familiar with him. They’re amazing! Actually no, though there are so many to choose from. There were some particular photographs I remembered and films and particular books – Moby Dick being one. There are definitely images in my head but I couldn’t attribute them I’m afraid.
You’ve created much of your music in the past on your own, does Bight follow a similar pattern?
Yes and no. Yes it was basically made on my own. I took on more of the live drums, bass and vocals this time. My own approach has been changing and my circumstances changed – access to space kit – so the way it was created changed.
How do you approach the release of a new album in 2013? From both points of view, as an artist and label. Is it harder to get people to notice music now than in, say, 2008?
Yes, I’d say it’s harder. For the sort of demographics we appeal to radio play is still one of the most important elements of getting an artist noticed and that remains as hard as ever to achieve with any consistency. But stations like BBC 6 Music and their approach to music makes a big difference.
There’s a lot of ground to cover these days. I guess even as recently as 2008 you would have focused on some key channels, you need to have so much covered now in terms of blogs now, websites, YouTube channels. But you need to have you’re own stuff sewn up above all. I think Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, your own blog – they’re all really powerful tools but you need to know what you’re doing with them and how you’re going to use them. You need to be consistent.
In all honesty some days it feels like a complete mystery though. I think the one thing you can focus on is trying to show as much inventiveness and creativity in your marketing as in your music. And it should reflect who you are as an artist and a person.
Are you hoping for a vinyl release for Bight? Is that harder than ever to do? Is there still the market for it?
I can’t sit here and tell you I wouldn’t absolutely be like a kid at Christmas if I could have it on vinyl. But there just isn’t the demand for it at this point – for my music. But yes, there is still the demand for vinyl albums. I buy them more now than ever. Wah Wah made its first vinyl albums last year and are continuing to make them. Some things just need it and while it doesn’t make anyone any real money it’s a great thing to do for the right album.
Have you already started thinking about themes for your fourth album? Are such themes mapped out in a notebook somewhere?
Not yet, I’ve got ideas about how it’ll sound and I’m kind of itching to get started on writing some new bits. I wish there was a notebook full of ideas but I tend to just keep it all in my head until they fuse into something that really makes sense. Then I start.
Think back to the Amiga for a minute – are there principles that you learned then that you still use now, or were you already a musician?
I’d been playing a keyboard for about a year when I started making music on the Amiga, so no I wasn’t really a musician at that point. I was writing on Octamed so you’re actually programming in individual hexadecimal controls for things like volume or any other midi based command. That made me really deconstruct what makes a synthesis of something sound good/real/other.
I could never play music in off the keyboard particularly effectively so I used to insert each note individually – it really breaks things apart. Then to multi-track record stuff I would have two tape decks – or later on mini-disc. I would record to one, swap it to the other machine, play it back and record the next vocal or instrument track over the top. All destructively of course, it’s completely committed, which makes you really consider each one.
I don’t really do punch ins now either.
— Interlude: here’s Groovement’s pal Pete Cannon with an Octamed breakdown… —
My day job is to teach children at a primary level. As I’m sat here doing work and listening to Bight, I was wondering if you have an opinion on what children should know musically by the age of 11?
I didn’t know anything really by that age. From the teachers I know and some of the things I’ve seen (we actually recorded the live drums for the album at a school in Croydon where my keyboard player Dave Koor teaches music tech) I think that there are great opportunities for kids these days and fascinating teachers teaching great things. If that could be more widespread that would be amazing. I think all they should know is that music is hard work and success doesn’t just come to you buy turning up on a TV show. That most “overnight successes” are made to look so but often are the result of many years work. You should be doing it because you have a passion for it but at that age, just to experiment and don’t imagine there are any rules.