The interviews

When a great musician passes away—especially one with a number of fairly recent albums to his credit—he doesn’t completely die in the literal sense. His or her music also retains its earthly spirit for the living to identify him. I say that not because I wasn’t shaken up when I heard that Erik Scott had left the earthly plane on October 11th, 2019. I say that because I, like many other writers, music critics and fans will want to remember Erik, with his nickname “Eski”, for his one-of-a-kind music and looking back, his historical relevance as a go-to bass player in the lineups of some very big rock music icons back in the early days. He had told me he was quite ill and up to the end, the last thing he told me was, “Forgive me but just I went into the ER with a health crisis.” A brave man and a musical genius is now part of what we living ones choose to call “The Afterlife”. As a side-note, the day I found out Erik died, something weird happened, something that never happened to me before. I spotted a wild coyote running loose outside my home and then this large coyote came right up to my ground floor apartment window and gave a good look at me and my cat. Scary but illuminating, at the same time!

I met Erik Scott back in 2011 in the afterglow of his album Other Planets, which greatly impressed me at the time as a mixture of instrumental New Age and jazzy, experimental music. His work on the bass guitar was very phenomenal on CD and looking back at the start of his coming later life career in his interview from 2011, Erik told me, “After almost 40 years of recording records with bands and touring to promote them, I just kind of stepped off the bus for awhile. I really didn’t think anything about what genre this music was going to be. I just wanted it to be cool, and maybe show what could be done with the electric bass, and not having a band or singers around me, there were no rules. Having said that though, it really wasn't about the bass, it was about making some cool music...and since I was the only guy there, I grabbed the instruments I knew.”

In its era, Erik’s music was quite revolutionary sounding, bringing together a subdued, meditative kind of rock energy, underscored by an irresistible instrumental edge featuring his ringing, bass-centric ideas. It’s rare that a rock bass player would stretch out as a New Age Jazz instrumental artist but, doing the revolutionary on CD was Erik’s calling card. Still on the topic of Other Planets, from that interview Erik also said “Some compositions I started with a kind of a banjo type articulated picking of the chord changes, like "Bartalk" and "Proper Son", done on the bass with a chorale type effect, and then played the melodic lead, again on the bass, frequently with effects normally used on guitar leads. Then playing a vocal/string patch on the keyboards gave me the idea to blend this warmer upper register bass sound with steel guitar. I dug the warmth of this vibe a lot, and used steel guitar on four of the tunes. I really had no idea I was making what folks might call a New Age rock instrumental, or 'ambient' music. After some time, I did realize that there was a chilled out moody vibe to most of the music.”

After 2011, Erik and I met up again in 2014 for his second interview, this time for his album And The Earth Bleeds. As I started the interview off, I finally asked him about his roots, and Erik told me that he was “Born in Milwaukee Wisconsin, I was an Air Force child, as my father flew the earliest jet planes. I’ve spent half of my adult life either in Northern Illinois/Chicago or in California; first in LA, then Northern California, which is a wonderful place to live.”

Although I didn’t now who he was in the 1970s, in that interview I also told Erik that way back in 1974, I was lucky enough to see him play with Flo & Eddie at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Around that same time, in the Summer of 1974, I also met Mark Volman and we had a little chat at a Market Basket on Sunset Strip. That was L.A. back then: rock stars everywhere! After reminding Erik about that show in that interview, I was surprised he remembered it, adding, “But seriously, you were at that 1974 show? How cool is that! It must have been cool in the audience, as the buzz went around: ”Alice Cooper is here with Keith Moon... they gonna get up there?” I know I was buzzed in the band…the brand new kid from the Midwest. Yeah? Alice and Keith Moon? Of The Who? Yes, that era provides many memories and stories for sure!”

Comparing his first 2 solo albums in that 2014 interview Erik said that “The music of ‘Other Planets’ is very spacey atmospheric, and using the steel guitar of John Pirruccello in combination with the fretless bass really accented that vibe... spaceeeyyyy! Like going to the planetarium. However, early in the writing process for ‘Earth Bleeds’, I was writing melodies that had a real Celtic/Scottish vibe, so I found Shira Kammen and her medieval violin, the veille. When she kicks into the Scottish reel parts on “Battle For Neverland”, it’s not real spacey, it’s real lively. And it got me thinking “gypsy”, and I reworked a Spanish melody and we recorded “Gypsy Mother”. To top it off, I added Steve Eisen’s English whistle and Irish flute, John Pirrucello’s mandolin, and while still atmospheric as heck, we were no longer whirling around Jupiter.”

Erik’s music was quickly progressing to another realm and it was working out well and sounding great. Comparing the two albums, in that interview I noted that, “Erik’s 2011 CD, Other Planets was an instrumental music classic, although on And The Earth Bleeds he blends in several vocal tracks amid his instrumental excursions. Erik Scott’s sonically adventurous bass work on And The Earth Bleeds continues to amaze, while some of the instrumental tracks feature special sounding instruments such as pedal steel guitar.”

And The Earth Bleeds remains an eclectic music masterpiece, this from a rock bass player making a name for himself in a completely new genre was very cool. Erik summed up his approach adding, “But you know, I did not plan on any of this. The way I worked on this project was, there was no plan. For marketing purposes, I suppose there should have been, but there wasn’t. I knew it was coming out mightily diverse, but that probably reflects my career. When you work with artists as diverse as Alice Cooper, Pops Staples, Flo & Eddie, and Sonia Dada... Sonia Dada combined black and white musicians with backgrounds in rock, gospel, R&B, psychedelic jam bands, jazz, and folk, and I think some of these collisions of musical cultures has influenced the unconventionality of my solo work.”

After And The Earth Bleeds, Erik did another interview with in 2016 for his 2015 album Spirits. From that review / interview of his album, Spirits: “Erik Scott has taken several of the vocal tracks from And The Earth Bleeds and his 2011 album Other Planets and has reworked them as instrumentals with new arrangements and new mixes. Commenting on Spirits and the new mixes, Erik told mwe3, “It is mostly a compilation of likely candidates from the first two CDs, Other Planets and And The Earth Bleeds. Vocal renditions on Bleeds, “Run”, “Free” and “Earth Bleeds” have been rearranged into instrumentals, with the duet of fretless and violin on “Free” and the duet of bass and English flute on “Run” taking the place of vocals. There are some remixes and re–mastering of course.”

Commenting on Spirits which also included his fabled cover the Beatles’ 1965 classic “Yesterday”, Erik told, “With Spirits, my intention was to stay instrumental and keep the sonic dynamics in the same universe, to a degree, anyway. So I used new instruments to take the place of any vocals from ‘Bleeds’, and remixed the tracks to reflect a different focus. Some tracks are very similar except for being re-mastered. Then I recorded a version of the Beatles’ “Yesterday”, and put together the tracks that best reflected this focus. If you have the first two albums, you will find some tracks form a bit of a compilation. If you don’t, well it’s all new then.”

During the Spirits interview I also asked Erik about his unique sounding fretted and fretless bass technique and the inclusion of Baritone guitar to which he said, “A certain amount of listeners didn’t realize it was a bass when I play those melodic lines in the upper registers with the effects I have on it, and since those melodic parts are in a rather unconventional terrain from the more ensemble bass playing I do. I thought maybe I should call it something different, so I labeled it baritone guitar. Although I do use newer, brighter strings for those parts, it’s the same old Fender bass I use for the low parts. Technique for fretless: hmmm, well, left hand finger placement on the neck is obviously more sensitive, for intonation purposes, and I wiggle the notes less, which might be counterintuitive. On the fretless, I do more bending and vibrato in the upper register melodic areas, and some folks mistakenly take it for fretless, because of that vibrato and wiggle.”

I was lucky to conduct one final interview with Erik for his 2017 album, In The Company Of Clouds. Looking back, that album’s leadoff track “Nine Lives” was perhaps a pre-curser of the tragedy to come. Erik was already being attacked health-wise and from that interview he told me, “While it’s true that I was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in February 2015, and spent most of that year in chemo-therapy and radiation to fight it off, thankfully…the title “Nine Lives” is more about myself musically.” From that In The Company Of Clouds interview on, Erik also said, “Up until the last two records, I suppose I had a rather artistically arrogant attitude about intentionally writing and producing the music for any certain ‘genre’. I didn’t like to do it. To my mind, premeditating the music restricts it in some ways. But with Spirits and In The Company Of Clouds I intentionally tried to produce and arrange the musical ideas in a less wildly eclectic manner, and it was easier to find a home... under the ever-broadening, non-mainstream world of the New Age and contemporary instrumental universe. To a degree, I occasionally have to lasso a few ‘rock’ tendencies when my emotions take control, unless of course I am making a rock record.”

In The Company Of Clouds
featured some well-known guest artists, and as I noted in the album review: “On the nine track In The Company Of Clouds, Erik is joined by pedal steel guitar ace John Pirruccello as well as guest artists that include rock guitar legend Steve Hunter, New Age guitarist Jeff Pearce, guitarist Phil Miller, along with a range of other artists who help Eski flesh out the sound stage.”

Anyway, life’s too short and 2019 rolled around and during that period, Erik released what looks like his final album, called A Trick Of The Wind. More subdued and instrospective perhaps than his other albums, A Trick Of The Wind nevertheless features some stunning musical moments enhanced by Erik’s work on fretted / fretless bass, eBow bass, keyboards synths, electric sitar, percussion programming, bass- generated fx and vocals. Mostly instrumental, A Trick Of The Wind features several wordless vocals from a range of singers, along with guest artists like John Lutrell (guitar), Jeff Pearce (guitar synth), Jeff Oster (trumpet, flugelhorn) and drummer Celso Alberti. Also here is the steel guitar magic of John Pirruccello, who is/was so much a part of Erik’s first solo albums. As some writers have noted, A Trick Of The Wind features a haunting cover art, which is par for the course for an Erik Scott album and then there’s Erik’s liner notes, which are kind of prophetic in a way. As you can also hear, there’s a gospel kind of tinge to the wordless vocals, which forms a kind of soundtrack of God opening the gates of heaven perhaps, befitting a great musician and an equally important artist on the contemporary instrumental music scene.

Just this past July 2019, Erik sounded excited about A Trick Of The Wind and he emailed about his new album and told me, “It has done very well. Nominated for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Instrumental at ZMR, OWM… Also nominated at the 4 Global Peace Song Awards and The IMA's. I won “Producer Award”. The Best New Age album nominations I think are nice nods of approval, but in that category, almost every album in the top 5 "Best New Age" category, are more 'New Age' than mine, so I get it. The awards won are usually in the Best Contemporary Instrumental category, which makes sense. It has a track "Ghosts of Storyville' nominated in the Jazz category at the Peace Song Awards, which is interesting, but the track does salute the inventors of that music in 1900... JAZZ, so it makes sense as well.”

Words, in and of themselves feel carved in stone now when it comes to describing the magic of Erik Scott’s music. With the fires raging in the skies in his adopted town, life has truly become much harder now than even 20 years ago. Those who want to hear and learn more can always go back and read these interviews with Erik Scott and his insightful words regarding a series of intriguing CD releases from a most intriguing artist. In the early 21st century, we all live in the age of the internet, magically reaching across continents in mere seconds. Maybe we didn’t hang out like people did in the old days, or speak on our cell phones, as is the custom in the 2020 era, but I will always appreciate Erik Scott for being the musical innovator he is.


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