Sunday 17 December 2017

Mike Scott: All Rock 'n' roll at heart

POETIC: Mike Scott of The Waterboys
POETIC: Mike Scott of The Waterboys
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

In late 1985, Rolling Stone magazine called him "the new poet laureate of rock 'n' roll". Twenty eight years later, Mike Scott is still the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll of sorts. I hear it in the music. I see it in Mike every time I bump into him around Dublin, which he now calls home, with his wife.

His hair might be a bit salt and peppery but the Edinburgh-born iconoclast is very much the same at heart. He and his band The Waterboys' 1988 album Fisherman's Blues is a timeless masterpiece as much about the almost creative telepathy between Scott and violinist Steve Wickham and saxophonist Anto Thistlewaite as it is about Scott's Yeats-like vision of the world (Scott did, of course, release the album An Appointment With Mr Yeats to grand acclaim in 2011).

The big music sonic splendour of Fisherman's Blues, The Guardian rightly said, "documents his love affair with Ireland" yet Scott himself says it is one of the biggest misconceptions about the record that it is all "Irish" music.

"The main influences on Fisherman's Blues were American -- country, gospel and blues," he says. "There is a Celtic trad influence on the second side of the album, but fiddle tunes like the one on When Will We Be Married are Scottish, not Irish; the Celtic influence came from our two countries."

The other main misconception about one of the most mythologised and discussed albums ever recorded in Ireland is, Scott continues, "that we spent three years making it -- as if we were in a studio for three years solid without seeing daylight.

"Of course we weren't. I researched it for my book," he says referring to Adventures Of A Waterboy, published last year, "and discovered we did 21 days in the studio in 1986, all spread out, a day here, a day there; about five months in 1987, also spread out, and three months in 1988."

Another big misconception about Fisherman's Blue, he says, is that "it's a folk or folk-rock album. It's not. It's a rock'n' roll album. There may be fiddles and mandolins but the beating heart of Fisherman's Blues -- and The Waterboys -- always was and always will be rock 'n' roll".

What are his favourite memories from making that album?

"The sense of brotherhood between the musicians," (Great) Scott says. "And all the fun we had. We used to set up and play in the studio same as we would in a rehearsal room or on stage. No overdubbing or bit-by-bit graft, no one telling us what to do or trying to influence the outcome. No record company looking over our shoulders. We simply played -- and I mean 'played', as in playtime. Making music during the creation of Fisherman's Blues was fun, joy and magic."

Asked about his favourite songs on this mag ical album, Scott smiles.

"The title track, recorded in a couple of takes on the first day of the sessions a couple of weeks after I moved to Ireland. So effortless -- it landed in our hands like a gift. We Will Not Be Lovers, which came much the same way. It didn't exist and five minutes later it did, fully recorded and all.

"And The Stolen Child which for me evokes all the magic we found in Galway and the west when we decamped there towards the end of the album's creation two years later.

"But a lot of my favourite Fisherman's Blues recordings were left off the original album (because I'd lost perspective at the time) and are only now released on the six-CD Fisherman's Box which came out a few weeks ago. These include Higherbound, Too Close To Heaven and our version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken with Liam O'Maonlai [of Hothouse Flowers] guesting on piano and wild backing vocals."

The Waterboys play Fisherman's Blues Revisited tomorrow at The Convention Centre in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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