The Employee Interview XXI: Scott Walker

Posted by Miss Ess, November 4, 2008 05:52pm | Post a Comment
Scott Walker
Years of Employment: "Since the turn of the century."
Jazz floor dude

Miss Ess: What initially got you into jazz?

SW: A horrible answer: I don't remember. Most probably, like many people, it was a mid-era Miles Davis [record]. Pinpointing which one, twenty something years down the road, I would only be guessing.

ME: What album do you consider to be the pinnacle of the form?

SW: To me, there are different forms: Free/Avant, Bop, Trad, so I am tempted to answer one example for each, but won't at risk of boring/alienating readers. I would say an early [Thelonious] Monk recording: one of the late 40s sessions.

ME: What present-day jazz artists do you enjoy?

SW: Seeing Marilyn Crispell last week was pretty heavy: solo piano. I like solo piano stuff a lot, it's kind of like listening to a demo of a song -- it's distilled down to an essence, whether it's Fats Waller, Monk, or Sun Ra. It's hard, because like blues, jazz is so much about re-releases and focusing on history, standards, and regurgitation.

Is there a jazz record you love that crept up on you-- maybe one you didn't love it at first but grew to adore?

I didn't like electric Miles Davis when I first heard it. It was probably parallel to when people first hear electric Dylan: "Is he really serious/allowed to do this?" Now I listen to the electric stuff more often than the acoustic.

What artist's live show would you most like to attend/have attended (living or dead)?

Again, late 40s Monk: Maybe at Minton's Playhouse with all the greats, but it's hard because if I was there with a current mindset -- seeing separate drinking fountains, things like that -- it would make me feel horrible to witness that aspect of United States. Maybe late 60s Europe -- one of the Art Ensemble [of Chicago] shows, or [Anthony] Braxton, the expats.

What music do you like to listen to while you skateboard?

I don't skateboard as much as I used to, because work has hurt my back, but it's always been mixtapes -- the music that they played at the Marina Del Rey Skatepark in the late 70s: punk/classic rock. I remember longhairs and punks together, carving to B-52s, Aerosmith, Devo, Ted Nugent, Circle Jerks -- that's when eclecticism first entered my aesthetics.

What was the first punk record you ever heard and how did it impact you?

That's easy, unless you consider Devo and Blondie punk, it was X: Los Angeles/Wild Gift. My best friend's sister, who lived two doors down, was a few years older, and I remember her taking her dad's Foghat/Jethro Tull LPs off and putting those on. I remember thinking that this was way more dangerous than the Nuge; then, going to the skatepark, I realized that rebellion is rebellion -- no matter what color, flavor or method. When they re-released those a few years back, all shined up with killer bonus stuff, It was like New Year's and all those religious holidays rolled into one.

What punk band do you think made the biggest impression on you and how did it influence your life?

If it wasn't X, it was Black Flag -- especially mid-80s Black Flag. I had long hair, still, at that time, and when that dirge-y, slow, My War stuff came out, I thought: "Maybe I won't get beat up at this punk show."

What was the LA punk scene like back in the 80s?

Seeing Jane's Addiction every month for a few years was real nice; because I grew up with those guys, I rarely had to pay, and shows were more intimate. [Then there were] Black Flag and X as mentioned above. Seeing real early Red Hot Chili Peppers before their 2nd album was real fun. There were some of the older bands still riding the end of that 70s wave that I could see: Gun Club at the Cathay stands foggy but proud in my memory. Seeing Social Distortion play next to my friend's pool, when they (along with The Dickies) could be had for $800 (each) was sweet. I only saw Minutemen once, but it was free, outside.

Since we heard Tim today in the store, might as well ask: what Replacements album is your favorite and why?

That's real tough because of all the new reissues with all those bonus tracks. Right now it's whichever one is on -- and they're on very often. If pressed hard, I would say "don't press so hard," then say Tim -- because it was the first, and I got it for free at school because I went to school in Burbank, and Warners donated a bunch of cutouts for a silent auction. My mom bid highest and won. I don't even remember the other records in that stack.

Can you compare at all the differences/similarities between the music scenes of Northern CA now and Southern CA when you lived there?

I never came up here until after I got out of high school, not even with my folks. All I knew was Dead Kennedys were from up here. Then I got Hardcore California: A History of Punk and New Wave by Peter Belsito and Bob Davis. It was divided in half between upper and lower Cali, so that was important information. When I was younger than that, I pictured Grateful Dead/Jefferson Airplane people with no shoes/showers, sucking on handrolled.

Did the music that your brothers listen to influence you at all growing up?

I was never that close to them, growing up. They listened to more mainstream stuff, and shared a room. I was the oldest, so they were subjected/brainwashed by me as I drove them to school. We're close now, but at that time it was tough: I had to seek stuff out at school or from friends, then pass it on. I didn't like their musical choices too much, but didn't mind driving them to Rush or Asia shows.

Do you have any musical heroes?

Musical heroes that I would like to play similar to? Musical heroes who inspire me creatively? I don't play much music on instruments anymore, but did a handful of years of alto sax; I can read music, so when I heard Charlie Parker, it was a revelation. Jazz music inspires me more than other types, and the amount of chapters that unfolded out of the Coltrane legacy are a never-ending source of comfort, challenge, inspiration and repeated listening. Of course, Monk. After all this renewed Replacements interest -- Paul Westerberg. That song, "You're Getting Married," on the Stink reissue is one of the heaviest things I've heard in a long time.

What song best captures your life right now, this minute?

Probably something instrumental. I've lost a few loved ones in the past few years, so maybe something super up, or super down. This is the most difficult question so far, but I don't want to crap out on any of them.

I know you are a voracious reader. Can you recommend any music-related books you've particularly enjoyed?

That's easy -- Da Capo is an amazing publisher for music books: the Best Music Writing series, edited by guest editors, is always a safe bet. Dance of the Infidels about Bud Powell is amazing. The Sonny Rollins bio. The Joe Boyd memoir, White Bicycles, was a great read, as was Phil Lesh's autobio.

Many good L.A. punk books: Marc Spitz' We Got the Neutron Bomb, Brendan Mullen's Live at the Masque. Mullen also put together a good oral history of Jane's Addiction called Whores. Another remarkable oral history: Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me.

British postpunk: Simon Reynold's Rip It Up and Start Again. Colin McPhee's A House in Bali from the 30s is incredible journalism/travel/music hybrid book. I'm about to start Fela -- From West Africa to West Broadway, edited by Trevor Schoonmaker.

What is your favorite music-related film? Favorite soundtrack? And why?

I just watched the Fela Kuti doc, Music is the Weapon, for the 5th or 6th time. It's out of print, so I feel bad recommending it, as is Sun Ra's Space is the Place. As far as available films, Monk's Straight No Chaser I could watch every Monday for 6 months. We usually have that used for round about $10. It's a good soundtrack also. Big Lebowski is my favorite soundtrack, hands down. That's all over the board, but no filler. They need to put out a Vol. 2, like they did with Boogie Nights.

You're so right: Big Lebowski has a masterful soundtrack. Townes Van Zandt's version of "Dead Flowers" is my fave on it. What is your favorite local band nowadays?

The Bar Feeders. [They'll be at] Great American with Hanson Brothers and Triclops, Sunday, 30 Nov. -- be there, or hear about it for the rest of your life, regretting it, looking at photos, and trying to build a time machine.

What has been your best find at Amoeba?

It would have to be a clearance LP. Like most people who've been asked this question, I feel that it is of paramount import to make the general public realize that if they go out to a thrift store, pick up a used turntable, or hell, buy one of those $100 Numark deals, they'll be happier in the long run.

Thanks so much for your time.

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