Interview with Adam Scrimshire (english version)
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau, for Paris DJs - February 2012)
Maybe you're not familiar with the name of Scrimshire. No, it's not the name of a hidden british county (even if it could have been), but a new and young talented multi-instrumentalist from Rugby, England. Adam Scrimshire released a first and advisable record in 2009, Along Came The Devil One Night (Wah Wah 45s). A cliché says that a second album is dicey, but Scrimshire has transformed this so-called trap in a superb achievement with The Hollow. We can understand, at a glance to the gorgeous art cover and perfect typography, that he is a man of great taste, a craftsman who loves working detail in every aspect. The record starts with A Promise Is All It Was, a virtual one-man-band track where Scrimshire plays and sings every single note, and it ends without him: on the eponymous and final track, he's vanished and leaved harpist Rachael Gladwin (Matt Halsall and Nat Birchall's longtime collaborator) alone. She draws indeed a moving epilogue and makes us think that maybe The Hollow is a metaphor of disappearance and vanishing souvenir itself. This is one of the surprises of a subtile and mutiple record that welcomes folk, soul, spiritual jazz, afrobeat, malian splinters and fine electronica in one single flow, with a predilection for the female voices (Heidi Vogel and her Nina Simonesque tone, the warm gospel of Stac...). Fans of The Cinematic Orchestra, Nostalgia 77 or José James will love the exquisite fusion delicacy of The Hollow for sure. Adam tells us how he imagined it and, as one of the Wah Wah 45s' label owners, evokes the label's latest news and the music industry.
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau, for Paris DJs - February 2012)
01. You've just published 'The Hollow' a highly peaceful record with a fantastic cast of singers and musicians. What was the idea behind the album?
Early on I wanted to make something less polished than “Along came the Devil”. I knew I wanted it to be darker and more introverted and I wanted to make music that was more like what I made when I first started making music. Which was a lot more electronic, a lot more cinematic.
I also knew I wanted it to be in some ways simpler. Less solos, a little less jazz, more soul and groove based music with distinctive elements. So I got a drum kit, borrowed a bass guitar, got some more microphones and began recording an album that would be entirely home made and, mostly, played by me.
It’s a dedication really to my childhood, musical influences of that time and to the basement of my current home - my studio - as I will be leaving this place this year. Very sentimental. Haha!
Scrimshire - The Hollow by WahWah45s
02. You write in the liner's note that this record is 'a trip back in time' for you, 'closer to the music you started making when growing up'. Isn't it something strange to say this for a man as young as you are?
Haha! I wanted to be a musician when I was 15 years old - 18 years later I’m finally achieving that dream. It feels like a lifetime ago that I started putting sequences together on an Amiga in my bedroom, 10s of ideas every week.
03. Speaking of this, what was the music you were listening as a teen?
Most prominently probably Herbie Hancock, Jamiroquai, Genesis, Phil Collins, Galliano, Portishead, Bjork, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, Burt Bacharach and Paul Weller.
04. The way you mixed the album suggests it has to be listened to in full in one time.
If you don’t mind! I kept it a reasonable length to make that easier for you too. I still like the idea of an album, and the album as an experience. Also by the end I was telling the mastering engineer “I just want it - bang, bang, bang, bang, over - no hanging about”. Stevie always put his tracks really close together and I like that no messing approach too.
05. Strangely, all the musicians on the album are not credited. For instance, who's playing with you on "A promise is all it was"?
No one. That’s me on drums, guitar, piano, bass, vocals and percussion. All played and recorded live except for the Mellotron strings which are a synthesiser.
There are only a few guest players on the album, by and large I played and recorded it myself. Where people have joined me they are credited. Maybe I should have mentioned it but I didn’t want to come across as a show off. It’s just how I like to work.
06. The Hollow presents many colors and textures, although it's compact and homogenic. It reminds me of a score with black and white or a calligraphy with downstrokes and upstrokes...
Thank you, I think that’s a really lovely way to put it. I try to establish at some point not too far into the project how it should sound as a whole, but as long as the overall vision is strong I think you can do some really diverse things. And sometimes you just have to breathe deep and be brave. Like a five minute piece for harp. It felt like the right thing to do.
07. It seems there's a kind of renaissance of British jazz these days, with young and very promising artists. With you, we could drop the names of Matt Halsall, Nat Birchall, Greg Foat, The Portico Quartet, Ben Lamdin, Rachael Gladwin, Richard Spaven...
I would feel incredibly honoured to be mentioned alongside those people. They are real heroes of the British Jazz scene. In particular I hold Matthew Halsall’s work as some of the finest jazz of the last 50 years. Delicate but with energy, respectful but with it’s own originality. I feel out of my depth among these names. Having said that - they are an incredibly lovely bunch of people and I’m very proud to have worked with some of them.
08. What are you favorite contemporary drummers?
Hmmmm? I was really lucky a couple of years ago to play a number of live shows with an Italian drummer called Francesco Mendolia, he plays with Incognito amongst many others and I have to say he is another level and a total joy to play alongside. I’m working with an amazing French drummer right now for the live show called Benji Bouton. I think it would be foolish not to mention Chris Dave though. He’s invented something new with the instrument.
09. Let's talk about the Wah WAh 45s label. What's your job at the label?
I’m one of three owners, a director, a bit of everything. Day to day, Dom Servini and I run the show with some amazing young guys who have recently come on board. We are DJs, A&R, Promoter, Agent, Marketing and everything in between. My skills are specifically in the data and marketing and online side of things. Dom is an excellent promoter and event organiser to name just a couple of his talents.
10. What's the label's philosophy?
Songwriting is king. Sounds come and go but great songwriting lasts forever. Live music is an essential part of music - we put on anything up to 3 live shows a month in London and really love live music. We provide the support, love and attention that our artists need to grow, find the people who love their music and then nurture long lasting relationships with them.
11. I can see most of the physical albums' retail price are quite low (from 6 to 10£ ; around 11 euros in continental Europe). As the income from digital sales is growing, do you think physical albums are too expensive and what should be the ideal price according to you?
We think £8-£10 for a CD album is more than enough. We would rather our artists were reaching a wider audience than getting a higher average yield on every CD. Although we of course try to strike a healthy balance between the two.
12. Do you think this low-price strategy should have been set by labels 10 years ago and do you think it could have changed the situation?
I think there were a lot of mistakes made by the majors over the last 20 years and to be honest that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon either. Though to be honest, short of actually beating Napster to market with a similar product I don’t think they could have changed the current situation. Someone was always going to make music free at some point. Since the birth of recordable media it was on the cards. Adapt and change.
13. Do you think there's a future for physical albums on CD (wax is another story I think)?
The CD is on the way out. Wax will keep making a come back and other more elegant forms of physical delivery of music (clothes, art prints, posters etc.) will probably be the thing. Once all the highstreet music shops (the CD variety - HMV etc.) have gone, there seems to be less and less reason to deliver the music in an easily stackable uniform manner like CD. Cloud storage is gaining a surprisingly quick foothold.
14. I saw you your advent calendar at Xmas and also the interactive artwork of The Hollow online. You seem to be very creative both on artistic and promo sides.
People have different ways of engaging in things, we need to reach out to everyone so I’m trying to do that. And I believe that creativity needs to be in every part of what we do the music and the business - it keeps your head fresh. For me there is a lot of stimulus that makes the album and I’m quite keen to share it - the places, the images I see in my head when I’m making the music. Plus I’m a geek, so if I see something like ThingLink (the tool we used for both things you mention) then I want to work out how to do something with it.
15. Benedic Lamdin is involved in many projects of the label.
Ben records at a fantastic studio in West London called Fishmarket - it’s a treasure trove. So when we have projects that need recording in a studio we go there and we always ask Ben if he will run the session. We recorded Stac there and we did Hackney Colliery Band. I recorded my track with HCB during their album sessions hence why Ben is on this album too.
16. What can we expect from Wah Wah 45s in 2012?
Stunning new albums from Part-Time Heroes and Resonators, an amazing new artist named Bev Lee Harling. New music from Stac and Colman Brothers towards the end of the year, a couple of announcements about new artists on the label, festivals, live shows and videos. A busy year that will hopefully involve a few of us coming over to play in France too.
17. Any young artist to recommend?
Hard to pick just one.
If you haven’t listened to Tanya Auclair yet your life is about to get a whole lot better. Look out for Paper Tiger, they have an amazing live show and some great music coming. And Laura J Martin - definitely worth looking up.
Scrimshire: official | bandcamp | discogs | facebook | parisdjs | soundcloud | twitter | vimeo | youtube
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Scrimshire - Home feat. Faye Houston (Single) by WahWah45s