“His time, the energy, the creativity, the soul.” – Wayne Krantz
“Kevin is family! He’s that rare kind of musician who always plays to the song and loves all kinds of music.”- Jimmy Herring
Kevin Scott is one of the unspoken captains of this brand new ship brimming with young musical guns from the South, among them- Darren Stanley, Matt Slocum, Mike Seal, Rick Lollar, Duane Trucks, Carter Arrington, Nic Johnson, Mark Raudabaugh, Carter Herring and many others. Its been a storied career for Kevin, who holds down the fort with some of the most admired and cutting edge musicians: renegade guitarist Wayne Krantz and the amazing Jimmy Herring. He delves into soul, jazz and experimental adventures with Henry Hey’s Forq, jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin, and Matador Soul Sounds, and does occasional hits with legendary drummer Bernard Purdie. Between all of this, he hosts “Kevin Scott’s Tuesday Night Musicians Jam Session”, a weekly event that turns into an Atlanta version of unchained, experimental musical and performance art. An old soul at heart, Kevin got a first hand education about music and life on the road from his mentor Col. Bruce Hampton, who continues to serve as his life long guiding force.
Abstract Logix: Kevin, you have had a storied career until now, and I am sure you have a long way to go. So what’s the story of the man from Dothan, Alabama who gets to hold down the groove for some of most groundbreaking musicians of our times?
Kevin Scott: I grew up around a very musical family. My uncle Jay Scott was an amazing session sax player in the 70s & 80s; my mother Laura Scott is an amazing singer that did sessions; my step dad David Adkins is a multi-instrumentalist that toured the world with his band Beaverteeth and also continues to do sessions; my Aunt Linda is a singer/actress; my late grandmother was a dancer and vocalist, and my late Grandfather Jay Paul Scott played bass for Mel Torme and Ella Frizgeirld, to name a few.
When the bug hit me around 10 years old my family was excited and horrified at the same time (laughter). In middle school my band director Larry Smith would stay after class to teach me how to read music. He also introduced me to prog and fusion. David got me playing in one of his bands “Dear Abby” when I was around 14. We played private parties and bars around Dothan and the pan-handle. By the time I was 16 I had a steady gig at this bar called Moontimes where I would do the occasional improv shows. Around high school I got heavy into jazz and my band director at the time, Tim Gilley, saw potential and pretty much let me have free reign around the band room. Having amazing support from my family and Tim Gilley gave me the confidence to want play for a living. Hit the southern bar/frat circuit for years and years with Highly Kind. I was lucky enough to cut my teeth the old school way of being broke and playing 5- 7 nights a week.
AL: In my own travels, people talk about the music scene in New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles, but I feel there is something very vibrant with new music happening in Atlanta. Tell us what’s going on down there.
KS: Atlanta is an amazing “sleeper” city when it comes to the arts. In terms of music, the most important sounds, producers, musicians and bands have come from there in past 20 years. It has grown so much in the past 13 years because you can actually afford to live there (laughs). In the past few years, this amazing melting pot has been happening, where all these people with different backgrounds are inspiring each other and playing together. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York and all the amazing people I have met and worked with, but Atlanta has this underground vibe that I hope lasts forever.
AL: “Kevin Scott’s Tuesday Night Musician’s Jam” in Atlanta comes across as a musical church of creativity, freedom and experimentation. How long has that been going on? How far do you guys go “out” ?
KS: Ha! The jam is going on its 13th year. I started it with the intent of merging all these players together that normally wouldn’t meet and making them as uncomfortable as possible. The evolution of the concept has organically grown into a little bit Zambi meets a little bit performance art. Col. Bruce Hampton said, “Don’t take yourself seriously, but take what you do seriously”, and that statement is exactly what the jam is about. Without Kirk Hollingsworth, Mike Jakobs, Pete Jakobs, and the amazing musicians that have been coming out over the years just for the love of doing it, it would have ended a long time ago. For a club owner to let me throw chairs, scream, make fun of the audience, tell offensive jokes, and sometimes play bad shit is everything. Having a gig where I am improvising with the my favorite musicians every week has done wonders for my ear and overall well-being. Starting the jam was the most important thing I have done musically in Atlanta. I found myself and met everyone I play with through that gig.
AL: You have a very deep connection with Col. Bruce Hampton and his music, don’t you ?
KS: Bruce was like my surrogate father it felt like. The amount of influence he has on me is beyond words to me. Randomly being gifted a record of his at a flea market in Dothan, AL when I was 16 changed my musical life. His concepts of getting past your ego and not being scared to be yourself musically in all situations was THE game changer. He embedded in me how important intent is when it comes to creating music. Its not about the girls, drugs, money, or status. Number one thing is and will always be about the music. He would say, “Gawd, all we do is push metal to wood for a living… we aren’t doctors or firemen”. He also stressed how important pure intention-based art could change the world… yin and yang. I miss him dearly. It’s been a major transition after he passed away, musically and mentally. He always seemed to have the answers to everything. I feel like I’m on my own after he passed.
AL: So how did you leap from Bruce Hampton’s galaxy to Wayne’s World? Can you fill us in on Wayne Krantz and his music, approach and philosophy?
KS: I got the call for Wayne from a recommendation from Tim Lefebvre. I tell people that my musical concepts come from Wayne and Bruce. When I first heard Wayne 11 years ago, it floored me. His trio with Tim and Keith (Carlock) got me excited about instrumental music again. I remember getting his book, “The Improviser’s OS” and thinking, “wow, this is what I’ve been trying to do but didn’t know how to explain it”. I really studied that book and got as many bootlegs as I could. My buddy Carter Arrington and I flew to NYC 10 years ago just to see him at the 55 Bar. Seeing it live inspired me to push my jam towards an all-improv concept. When I got the email that Wayne wanted me to fly up to NYC and do some playing, I literally dropped my phone. I was horrified and excited that I would get even more deep into the concept I was studying on my own for so many years. Now I fly up to NYC once or twice a month to play with him. After two years of working with him, the connection we have musically is very strong. I have to pinch myself, to this day, every time I play the 55 Bar with him. I think that he is a national treasure for sure.
AL: Can you discuss your relationship with Jimmy Herring and the rest of the Invisible Whip?
KS: I consider Jimmy Herring family. He’s another one of my huge influences growing up. His work with Bruce set the bar for many guitar players. Some of my friends and I were so into what he was doing, we would buy everything / anything he was on as a guitarist. Once I got to know Jimmy I realized that he has an amazing soul and really loves what he does for all the right reasons. He is also one of the most humble musicians I have ever met on top of being one of the greatest to ever have played the guitar.
As far as the rest of the Whip, Matt Slocum is one of my best friends. Matt and I have our own group called King Baby. We have shared many miles on the road over the years. I got his back and he has mine. Jason Crosby and I met last year and we hit it off immediately. He is a hilarious, brilliant musician. Every time I hear him or play with him it’s very inspiring. He always plays the prefect part at the right moment. Jeff Sipe is another all-time hero. I first heard Jeff with Shawn Lane and Jonas Hellborg. When I was 14 or 15, Emil Werstler showed me this album called “Temporal Analogues of Paradise” that Jeff played on with Shawn. It started my obsession with all things Shawn Lane. Jeff is one of the greatest improvisers on any instrument, ever. I remember how excited I was once I first played with him. I was like, “Oh my god, I am playing with THE Jeff Sipe!”. I still feel that way after every gig. I love everyone involved with this band dearly… musicians and crew alike!
AL: For the bass player readers, What’s the magic in Moollon instruments?
KS: The first person that I saw playing them, and probably everyone else that plays them, was the amazing Tim Lefebvre. Tim has been my bass mentor and big brother for years. I was skeptical at first since I was a Fender guy. A few years ago Tim and I were doing a double bass gig with Kebbi (Williams, saxophonist) in Atlanta. I played his Moollon P-bass and was floored! How could this be? A bass that has an old Fender vibe but plays & sounds better. He put me in contact with their rep, Andi Roseland, who then sent me my ’58 maple neck P-style bass. I don’t know what magic Young Joon puts on them, but its something else. Its basically like having a P-bass or J-bass on steroids. They play and sound perfect! I have converted many bass players to Moollon without even having to say a word about them. They hear it, then they play it, and then next thing you know they have one in a few months (laughs).
AL: You come across as a fearless rock-solid, low end bass player that holds down the groove. What is your personal approach to the instrument and how do you see yourself fitting in to various musical contexts?
KS: Years of experimenting with different styles… I started playing bass because of hearing Duck Dunn on Booker T & The MGs hit “Green Onions” when I was 10. Of course around the age of 12 when I got serious about the instrument I started seeking out all the bass heroes. My first, biggest heroes were Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, Flea, Les Claypool, Cliff Burton, and John Pattituci. Jaco had the biggest impact back then as a bass player. I transcribed as much of his shit as I could find.
I studied jazz and fusion from age 13-24. When I was 24 I was pretty much trying to be a Matt Garrison and Otiel Burbridge clone. That got real frustrating since thats impossible (laughs). I had an old ’73 P-bass that I bought very cheap when I was in high school. I never played it because I couldn’t play fast on it. All the drummers I was working with at the time would come over and say, “Dude, why aren’t you playing that thing?”. So, I made the switch to approaching concepts that were influencing me at the time, which were funk, R&B, Drum-n-Bass, Jungle, and Dub. I was also starting to play with Bruce and do more and more session work. It was very frustrating at first to make the switch. I am glad I did! My personal approach is, “what can I add that works musically for the moment or for the song”. Sometimes a lot of notes work, sometimes the same four notes for 20 minutes work. I think that not caring what musicians think helps too. “Easter Island arm-crossers” will always exist. They don’t matter to me at all.
AL: Will we see a Kevin Scott solo album one of these days?
KS: I have been working on my project “WAXpaper” for a few years now. The band consists of Darren Stanley on drums, Spencer Pope on keys / synths, and Zach Pyles on keys/effects as the core. The record features some guests; Chris Spies, Carter Arrington, Emil Werstler, Scotty Bryan, and Marshall Ruffin. The concept is that I record hours of improvised moments live and in the studio, slice them up, and make songs out of them. I have three albums worth of material I want to get out there. Its hard to describe what it is (laughs). I am very influenced by old dancehall and dub music, so there is a lot of that in the songs. There is also a lot of EDM and sludge metal going on. It’s all over the place!
AL: Thanks Kevin, get out there and keep kicking some ass . Safe Travels!!
Find out where Kevin Scott is playing at his website.