When word that Jackson Scott was going to be opening for Unknown Mortal Orchestra for their Fall tour, circulated we found ourselves caught by the Brill Building-Sunday morning sparkle of the single, “Sandy”. His recently released Fat Possum album Melbourne brings more retro psych vertigo than if The Ronettes were allowed to cover Brian Wilson “Don't Worry Baby”, where we marvelled at the rolling audio imageries from the low cassette bias recorded of contemporary classics. While catching up with Mr. Scott, we got an introduction to the cool side of Asheville, NC, talked about the legendary house of Melbourne where the album was made and took its name, and soaking up some vintage psych sun.
Was recently listening to that 2PPM EP the other day, and those dudes Chase and Sean were doing some wild jazz goes to the moon kind of thing. What is up with the Asheville creative scene right now?
Asheville’s a cool place for music now because there’s really no restraint whatsoever on what kind of music you want to make. There’s a weird experimental scene with lots of drone music and electronic kind of stuff, but there’s also tons of guitar bands and shitty hardcore bands and stuff. So it’s nice ‘cause there’s not really any expectation of what you’re supposed to do.
Best mom and pop record shops of Asheville?
The three that me and my friends always go to are Harvest, Voltage, and Static Age.
When did you discover the work of Syd Barrett? What kind of effect did it have on you?
I had heard some of the famous early Floyd songs back in middle school, but it was around my last year in high school I started to get really into him. I just found the music very inspiring and optimistic, but very dark at the same time.
The biggest Barrett-y affectation I can make out is perhaps some of your delivery flow and progression. Is this intentional?
Well, I definitely like a certain style of 60’s psychedelia, I think that Syd has it down really well, but so do the likes of Marc Bolan, Beatles, Pretty Things, Kinks, lots of others. So it might be kind of intentional in that that’s often the music I get inspired by.
How many takes did it take to get the perfect amount of skronk atmosphere on “Together Forever”? What was the recording secret, pedals of choice?
That one was funny because I made an effort to be really lazy with it. I recorded almost everything in one take I think. Recording secret for that one was just tons of distortion and tons of reverb, nothing too complex.
The re-visitation to the Village Green Preservation Society on “Sandy”, what were some of the challenges of making that bowl echoed vintage pop vignette with such precision and dare we ask what strategy?
Trying to figure out the perfect way for the melody to tie everything together is usually what I strive for with every song, especially that one. With songs like “Sandy”, often with a very poppy or catchy melody, it’s better if it comes out without too much intellectual thought beyond whether or not it’s gratifying to the senses.
What is the “That Awful Sound” a commentary on? I had always presumed it was some sort of slap at contemporary music.
Wow, that would work pretty well, never thought about that. For me, it was about a few different things. For one, it was about the feeling of someone in your head telling you something you don’t want to hear, whether or not you’re actually schizophrenic or just feeling really anxious or something. It’s also about trying to be a good moral person after having a complete existential breakdown and realizing the apparent meaninglessness of everything.
There is the feeling that you're psychically bringing about a variety of different groups through those tape-pitch and cadence shifts and such. Was this one of the goals of creating this kind of underground, freak beat- metamorphous sound?
I just like when art can take you by surprise or throw you off in a way you’re not expecting. Like you’re really mellowing out to some ambient music and then suddenly the most distorted shit hits your ears, I think that’s cool.
Will your record the follow-up for Melbourne in the decadent, hedonist Asheville home your reference as Melbourne?
I’m not sure, if anything I might record it back in Pennsylvania, that’s where I’ve been hanging out for the last few months. I’ve been a lot more hedonistic this summer than I was during the recording of Melbourne.
With the isolation and wild times, how was that able to let you hone your craft?
Well, even if was to get drunk or stoned or whatever, I was still thinking about writing and recording music. I could usually try to not let too many things distract me.
Do you dig any artists from the current slate of rad, Melbourne, Australia groups? Or was it just kind of a catchall term to describe that transitional kind of place in life?
Well I just met this guy who told me Melbourne has an awesome music scene so I guess I need to check it out. The term as a title was meant more as a literal thing like being the name of where I recorded it, but also to illustrate the time spent there.
Jackson Scott's album Melbourne is available now from Fat Possum. Jackson Scott's solo tour begins September 11 in Columbus, OH at Ace of Cups. He joins Unknown Mortal Orchestra September 25 in Sacramento. Dates are here.