Directed by Jordan Kinley
Camera by Tyler Kohlhoff and Thomas Oliver
Engineered by Ryan Olson
Mixed by Jeff Hylton Simmons
Finishing by Matthew Gamlen
Interview by WG
Filmed in Portland, OR.
“We’re all going to die, we’re all going to die, we’re all going to die, we’re all going to die.”
It’s soundcheck, the room is mostly empty, and Scout Niblett is on the stage by herself, warning us of the inevitable.
For “Your Beat Kicks Back Like Death,” our crew deployed three cameras on the floor in front of the drum kit, each capturing a different dimension of Scout deep in focus. After the shoot, she was gracious enough to sit down and answer some questions, touching briefly on living in Portland, working with Steve Albini, and dealing with the astrological events that impact her psychological (and artistic) states.
Into the Woods: You’ve lived in a lot of different places after leaving the UK – what brought you to Portland?
Scout Niblett: Well, I’ve lived in about four or five different places in the US. I started off in Indiana, went to Chicago, went to Philly, went to Oakland, and then I ended up here. I basically came here because I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else, and I knew I wanted to live by myself, because the way I work is if I don’t have a space… Well, if people can hear me, I can’t work. So I have be somewhere where no one can hear me.
ITW: Is that a self-conscious thing, or more based on complaints from neighbors?
SN: No it’s a self-conscious thing. I’ve lived alone since I was 16, so that’s like over 20 years. And I’ve only spent maybe three or four years of that time living with people cause of necessity, like lack of money or whatever. So I’ve spent a lot of my writing time just completely in solitude, and it’s really hard to get out of that. So that’s why I moved to Portland, really.
ITW: But you don’t record here, do you?
SN: No, I’ve done like my last four or five albums with Steve Albini in Chicago.
ITW: I heard that you’re working on a symphony. Will that be your next major project?
SN: That’s kind of more of an ongoing thing that I keep talking about but I haven’t finished - it’s like a slow thing. I’m not really doing that at the pace I normally make records. Its kind of something on the back burner, but I don’t think that will be the next thing that’s finished. I think the next thing will be like a set of new songs.
ITW: So will the symphony be with Steve Albini also?
SN: Yeah, probably.
ITW: And will it sound anything like the rest of your music?
SN: Well its a lot more of a classical sound, there’s no electrical sounds. It’ll be like just a full orchestra.
ITW: Everyone likes to talk about how Steve Albini is so good at “capturing a musician’s sound” in the studio, and I didn’t really get that until today when I saw you playing live, and then it hit me. Your performance has exactly the same sounds of the record, which is great. So Steve Albini is completely hands-off in that sense?
SN: Yeah, he is hands-off. He just really wants to record how you sound, like just naturally, and that’s what he does very well.
ITW: So do you think you’ll ever work with anyone else?
SN: I just feel really comfortable working like that. To me, its actually kinda like having a restriction, because I feel like the more restrictions I have, at some level, the more inspired I am. And so for me, for my brain to say, “ok you’re going to in the studio at this time, and you have to have the songs written, worked out, rehearsed, and really tight, and that’s it - there’s going to be nothing else going on,” to me, that really inspires me. Where as if someone said to me, “hey here’s a computer, you can do what the fuck you want for the next four months,” I would find that more overwhelming, and I think I wouldn’t be as inspired, because I need to feel like really restricted.
ITW: On the new record, the lyrics in the title track make reference to your “self-made sweat box.” Is this sort of what you’re talking about when you say that those restrictions inspire you?
SN: Yeah, the sweat box is a metaphor. It just refers to the whole idea of the “calcination” thing, which is really about being in a psychological position that’s really difficult. Like basically where you’re personally dealing with your demons and the shadow side of your personality that you don’t really want to look at it. And when that happens, its kinda like…
ITW: You gotta to sweat it out.
SN: Right, does that make sense?
ITW: I think so. I know you’re interested in astrology, and the effects that planets can have on your productivity. Is there anything recently that’s been influencing you?
SN: YEAH, I mean if I talk about it, I’m going into like astrology talk, which might be kinda boring.
ITW: Yeah, well maybe first you could explain, for someone who knows absolutely nothing about astrology, what it would mean for me to have my “chart read.”
SN: Ok, so I would get all your birth data, like the time you were born down to the minute, where you were born, the day, month, year, and the exact place on Earth. And I put it in a computer and it gives me this mathematical diagram, which is like a circle with where all the planets were. It’s basically like geometry, so the division of a circle. So however those planets interact with each other, depending on like the angles they make to each other, determines basically your fate, your blueprint, your life. And so when I read someone’s chart, I basically just point out to them like all the different parts of what’s going on in their personality. There’s like over 20 or 30 things that you need to seriously look at and point out.
ITW: So then, how have the angles of the planets been affecting you lately?
SN: Well, I’ve had Saturn on my Sun. Like where the Sun was when I was born, Saturn right now in the sky is going over it. So that’s like a time of huge responsibility. And you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.
ITW: Damn, so you’re working really hard?
SN: Yeah, and I’m taking a lot of stuff on, like a lot of responsibility.
ITW: And is that feeling ok?
SN: It’s kinda scary, honestly, but I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing, so I’m just getting on with it.
ITW: Well it makes sense to just be aware of those things, and be conscious of what’s expected of you.
SN: It makes things a lot easier, because what happens is when you’re not aware of naturally what’s occurring that’s effecting you, you tend to feel like its happening to you. Like you’ve become a victim of it. Like a static version of “Saturn on your Sun” means that you feel completely alone and depressed. But because I know what’s coming up, I can use that energy in a dynamic way - I just work hard, and then it doesn’t depress me as much. It’s just about being informed about how to use your energy, really.
Catch one of Scout Niblett's winter West Coast shows, starting in Olympia, WA on November 30th:
11/30/2011 Olympia, WA, Backstage at Capitol Theater
12/1/2011 Seattle, WA, Comet Tavern
12/2/2011 Eugene , OR, Sam Bonds
12/3/2011 Seaside, CA, The Alternative Cafe
12/4/2011 Santa Monica, CA, Sanctuary
12/5/2011 San Diego, CA, Soda Bar
12/7/2011 Los Angeles, CA, Bootleg Theater
12/8/2011 San Francisco, CA, Hemlock Tavern
12/10/2011 Portland, OR, Mississippi Studios
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