Who is the narwhal? Scott Bywater introduces Greetings from Adventure Bay

Okay, so a new release from Scoddy Bywater.  There are so many Scoddy songs out there – does this mean we finally get proper recordings of iconic songs like Flying into Pochentong and I Heart Kyoto? That long awaited EDM remix of Phnom Penh Driving School

I’m afraid not, they are going to have to wait.

Hmm.  We’ve already been waiting a long time.

Yes, yes, I know.  Can we talk about the new one first?

Sigh.  Okay.  Tell us about the new mini-album.  It’s called Greetings from Adventure Bay?

Yes.  It’s a five track mini-album featuring a collection of acoustic-based songs that I’ve written and worked on over the last couple of years.  Mostly ones I’ve been playing at Sunday Sundowner Sessions at Tacos Kokopelli (or on the boat), with Nathan Fanoni on bass.  At Nathan’s encouragement and urging, I took this collection into the studio with Jan Mueller, AKA Professor Kinski.

Professor Kinski is all about the dub and the punk and the remixes, right?  He seems an unlikely choice for acoustic singer-songwriter songs.  What’s the connection?

Nathan suggested Jan, and I’ve known him for a long time but it’s been ages since we worked together – we were in the studio once in the early days of the Cambodian Space Project, during a brief period in mid 2010 when I was co-heading the band with Kak Channthy.  Jan organised a hasty recording session to capture Ke Kromom Ta Ke Djah  (La la la la), a newly introduced crowd favourite that shortly afterwards, during the first CSP tour of France, Marc Eberle made a video for, in a little village in Brittany.  Anyway, that was the first and last time Kinski and I worked together, but we have followed and appreciated each other’s efforts over the years in different corners of Phnom Penh.  Knowing his work, I was intrigued – where would a quite different recording approach take this collection of songs?  And me with it.

How is this so different from what you’ve done before?

My last full album, From Shore to Shore, recorded at the late lamented Links studios in 2017, included mostly full band tracks, and the Quietly Blue EP in 2019 was just me solo, recorded by RJ Marshall.  Jan’s studio is not big enough for drums, so I went in knowing that there would be certain restrictions.  I also knew I didn’t want to just use digital drum kit loops, which would make it sound like there was a kit and a drummer when there wasn’t one.  The outcome was something in the middle, where I took advantage of Jan’s production and remixing-ready bag of tricks to create a completely different sound.

I see, so samples, beats and autotune? 

Well, kinda.  But that paints the wrong picture.  Acoustic guitar, bass, saxophone, a little ukulele and harmonica, with lush voices on top – it’s still the basic sort of singer-songwriter format.  But the beats and percussion are all electronic, and there are a few tricks that make it clear that it’s a studio production.

Certainly with Jan at the helm there’s a certain pop-ish feel that may surprise some.  If you’re familiar with my serious singer-songwriter stuff from a place like Tacos Kokopelli or Botanico you’ll know that side of my work, and if you’ve heard Moi Tiet, or The Extraordinary Chambers on Thursdays at Oscar’s on the Corner you’ll know my rocky side.  But if you listen to my radio work on RadioOun.com you will understand that my musical instincts range across many fields, including pop.  It’s been interesting to see what the songs turn into as recorded tracks – there’s a long way between what you start out with and where it gets to.

And is this use of beats and loops and such going to impact your live performances? 

No.  I will not be getting involved with loop pedals or harmonisers or other such digital nonsense in a performance context.

Besides Nathan and Jan, who else that will our readers recognise is on the recording?  

Veronica Janouschka (Checkered Past, Maki Orkestr) blew sax on a couple of tracks, and Marianna Hensley (Grass Snake Revival/Trio, Scotch’n’Soda, Mimi & the Merrymakers) added the final icing at the last recording session with some great vocals.  In addition to bass, Nathan actually makes his vocal debut – not to be missed!  Each player was generous with their time and ideas, and helped take my humble songs into new dimensions.

And are you pleased with the result? 

Delighted.  Some turned out more or less as I expected, others found their own directions, but in all cases I’m very happy.  Each track will find its own fans – I don’t think any one track will stand out as everyone’s overwhelming favourite.

Any favourites of your own?

At any given time, each of them is a favourite.  To Coin A Phrase is a straight up poppy tune that’s been made to hop, Jane and Her Significance is in a place of its own, Slow Moving Clouds has a strange hypnotic quality.  As you might gather from the choice of title for the mini-album, though, I’m rather proud of Adventure Bay.  An edge city ballad, kind of Beat lit influenced, layered with irony.  It took a while to twease out the pieces and let the song find itself.  And there are not many songs that have been written featuring narwhals, that’s got to count for something.

And tell us about the Extra Goodies extended version.

Well noticed.  There is an extended version that includes extra unreleased tracks from my archive.  One is the original 2008 demo of Lost Along the Way, a personal favourite.  Three further tracks come from a particular rush of blood to the head when I was in France in 2014, writing songs for a fictional English tortured artist pop star character from the early 1980s, christened Adam Whittby, as a kind of writing-prompt exercise.  All four extra tracks are offered as an indication of other styles of my songwriting and soundmaking that provide something of a background of the journey to the sound now on offer.

Well, okay, so you’re all electropop for the moment, but what’s next for Scoddy and the on-going Battered Hat Creations catalogue?  More beats?  More guitars?  More poetry?  More waiting? 

As you alluded to earlier, there’s an extensive back catalogue of songs that I want to get recorded just for my personal satisfaction and indulgence.  Flying into Pochentong is about to have a whole different level of poignant meaning for many, it would be nice to have that out in the world.  So yes, I have plans for a big ol’ 1970s sprawling four-sided official bootleg of an album – it’s been on the drawing board for the last year or so and will come in good time.  And then there’s the Hong Kong sessions from 2019 that will with any luck find their way to the surface in the near future.

And there’s always more poetry.  With Beginner Mind is the latest collection, published last month; folks should contact me through the regular channels if they want a copy.

But what’s been great about getting Greetings from Adventure Bay out so quickly is that I’m back on track the plan to get songs into the studio and released while they’re still relatively fresh.  I’d like to spend the next year on recording the bulk archive, and by then I hope to have enough new material for another go at a more up-to-the-minute release.  We’ll see.

 



The mini-album Greetings from Adventure Bay (also available in the extended Extra Goodies version with four extra tracks) is available now from scoddy.bandcamp.com – also by direct purchase of download code, where you can even use cash or ABA if you wish.  No CDs though.

 

Like the rest of the musicians in Phnom Penh/the world, Scoddy hopes to be playing in front of real audiences very soon, where he will be only too happy to field requests for Phnom Penh Driving School.   Keep track at scoddy.net.

 

 

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