Robert Scott has made some of the most influential music to come out of New Zealand in a career spanning nearly four decades, and he plays live in Edinburgh for the first time this month. As the bass player in The Clean and singer/guitarist in The Bats, as well as his solo records and other ventures too numerous to mention, Scott has many fans around the world, and bands including Pavement and Yo La Tengo have cited his music as an influence.
A native of Dunedin, New Zealand – a sister city to Edinburgh – Scott is involved in Sister Cities: Tartan Ties, a tour featuring musicians from both cities that is coming to Scotland after two shows in New Zealand. The concerts are a collaboration between Dunedin and Edinburgh, made possible with support from the British Council New Zealand, British Council Scotland, the Dunedin City Council and Creative Scotland. Scott and his compatriot Jay Clarkson will join Edinburgh musicians Withered Hand, Craig Lithgow (Emelle), Dean Owens and Hailey Beavis for the shows.
Scott has learnt several Scottish songs for the tour – both well-known and obscure – and will also play his solo material as well a song or two by The Clean. It’s an all too rare chance to see one of New Zealand’s greatest musicians – don’t miss it!
- Have you played in Edinburgh or visited the city before?
Not played in Edinburgh before, but Glasgow in 86 and 92.
- Do you have Scottish ancestry at all?
My dad is from Kirkaldy in Fife. He came out to NZ in 1958.
- Obviously Edinburgh and Dunedin are sister cities, but how did the Tartan Ties concerts come about?
The concerts have been the idea of Simon Vare who worked with the Dunedin City Council and the British Council Scotland to make it happen.
- How did the Tartan Ties gigs go in NZ?
The concerts here were good, although only two. There should have been more – not a lot of people knew a lot about the Scottish performers.
- You learned a few Scottish songs for the shows – why did you choose these songs?
I learned Into the Valley by the Skids and two others – Norland Wind is on an LP I have by Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezize, quite obscure, but she is the sister of Archie Fisher who I love, and it’s a great melody. Star is by Stealer’s Wheel, a great band, I really like Gerry Rafferty’s work.
I will also be doing some songs from my last LP The Green House and some other NZ songs that the Scottish team will join in on – Downhill racer by Shaft and Anything Could Happen (by The Clean).
- Who are your favourite Scottish musicians?
There are a few – Archie Fisher, Withered Hand, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Pilot, Ivor Cutler, Boards of Canada, Dick Gaughan, The Skids/Big Country, Orange Juice… and many others.
- Were you aware of any of the Scottish musicians involved in Tartan Ties before the shows came about?
I was only aware of Withered Hand a little, Hamish (Kilgour) from The Clean gave me his first EP that also had some extra tracks, that was a few years ago. When I heard we would be working together, I dug it out and started enjoying it again.
- What is your next musical project?
Will be doing another solo album this year and possibly doing an album with my brother Andrew of our great uncle’s poems, written in Scotland many years ago.
- From what I have read it seems like The Clean may not perform or record again, or is that still up in the air?
The Clean will possibly be playing somewhere this year, can’t say much more.
- Is it likely that The Bats will perform or record again?
The Bats will be releasing a new album later this year, and doing some concerts in NZ.
- If you had to choose one of your albums from your career as the one you’re most proud of, which would it be?
Hard to say and be objective about my own work. I really like how The Green House came out, I feel like I have made some progress in my songwriting and arrangements, there is lots of previous work that I enjoy when I hear it but I don’t go and put on my own records by choice. I like hearing them on the radio – we don’t get played on commercial radio here, just the national radio which is much better anyway. It is hard making a living from music here in New Zealand, not enough people to play to.
Interview: Simon McKenzie
Robert Scott plays two shows in Edinburgh as part of the Sister Cities: Tartan Ties concert series – the first on Saturday January 23 at Neu Reekie’s Au Burns night at Pilrig St Paul’s Church (https://www.facebook.com/events/951417254940263/) and on Sunday January 31 at the Voodoo Rooms (tickets £10 from http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2478398)
He also plays on January 27 at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, January 29 at the Tower Centre in Helensburgh, and January 30 at the Paisley Arts Centre. More details at https://www.facebook.com/events/1680853565530260/