It's too bad that the entire interview wasn't printed.
This interviewer really understood my humour and personality.
I've posted the entire interview below the scan.
1. I get that feeling that your engineer/production work (for albums by such notable and varied acts as Mudhoney, Transmissionary Six, Black Cat Orchestra, and Animal Collective) is more hands-on than hands-off--more collaborative, experimental, and involved than passive. This is probably because I also know you as a frequent member of and experimenter with Climax Golden Twins and Sun City Girls, so I tend to think of you as a behind the scenes guy *and* an active performer. I also Googled your name and found out that you could be an 83 year old western clothing store owner in Detroit. Will the real Scott Colburn please stand up?
The creative process of recording or making music is such an emotional experience. How could you _not_ get involved with the process? Sure, I could sit there pushing faders and twiddling knobs, but that would make me go insane - I truly feel that what I do is art. Besides, my name is on that record along with the musicians', so I need to be happy with the results.
The budget for a recording always dictates how experimental or involved I can be. I am in a service industry, after all. My job is to help a group realize their artistic visions. I work fast and intuitively, and that keeps everyone happy.
As far as the western clothing store... just one of my many empires.
2. You've recorded just about every band in town and lots of great touring bands as well as KEXP's live sound engineer. How did your association with the station begin and what is your involvement with them now?
I _think_ I've only recorded about 57.3% of the bands in Seattle. KEXP is a godsend, as any of the other engineers at the station will attest to. My association with the station began while I was recording Debra Bartley. Her bass player - Brian Lerned - worked at the station and suggested that I come down to work some of the broadcasts. This was 2001. It fit my style of efficient, intuitive mixing, and so became a great way of meeting bands while also supporting the spirit of the station.
3. I know you've also worked on old recordings by Northwest legends the Sonics and the Wailers. How did those projects come about and what was involved? What's it like to have license to fiddle with such beloved artifacts?
I didn't really have license to fiddle, my involvement with Sonics and the Wailers was in answer to a crisis. Several boxes of old, original tapes (of which Sonics and the Wailers material was included) were discovered to have been water damaged in someone's basement so my job was to save them. I had to clean them up and transfer them to a digital medium. The cleaning process almost put me in the hospital because of all the mold I inhaled, but what was really cool about this project was pulling a moldy reel out of a crate, cleaning it, processing it, and finally being able to play it once all was done. Hearing the original 2 track recording of Boss Hoss and realizing that it sounded better than the CD I used for reference made me realize how robust the analog medium is.
4. I know you were asked to record John Fahey and at the time, you didn't know who he was. I imagine this happens to you frequently; engineers/producers get calls to work with people they've never heard of. Do the majority of people call you because they know of your work with the Sun City Girls or is that just a romantic notion on my part?
There are certainly those who approach me because of my association with the Girls, but the majority of people approach me because I have a reputation for doing good work (if I do say so myself). This whole business is word-of-mouth, and I always do my best with the best interest of my client in mind.
5. Holy crap, I've heard that you live and work in an amazing 1908 church in Ballard. We know that place and setting can have a profound affect on one's creative work; how does/how has your space's former identity played into your music and the music of those who have come to record with you?
The church is a new addition to my big bag of tricks. I've been there for two years now and have not looked back. The influence of the space comes not so much via its religious identity in the past, but through its present acoustic and atmospheric qualities, which have been quite inspiring while at the same time comfortable for the musicians whom have recorded with me there. We can have a roaring fire burning to influence deep lyrics, candles galore for melodic pieces, and boast a 17' ceiling for drum tracks. It's a gas! I have always worked to make my studios creative environments, and moving in to this space has allowed me to realize my production method of "deep space". Most recordings just layer sound in a vertical direction (ie: vocals on top, drums a little lower, guitars lower still, etc.), but there is another depth direction that a lot of recordings ignore completely; the church's acoustics allow me to place instruments in a 3 dimensional space without artificial means, and that's an amazing quality to provide for any sound!
6. At your studio, you employ both digital and analog technology. On your website, you have a page of Real Audio "nuggets" available for perusal. Any thoughts on where the industry is going in terms of digital distribution? If you were running Universal or Sony or some big stupid label for the day, what would you do?
Thoughts? Ohhh yes, I have a plethora of thoughts, but they can also be termed a myriad of unpopular opinions. I think digital distribution and downloading is permanently reducing music to the level of a disposable commodity, like a sodden paper towel. Music is very rarely "listened" to anymore - it has become background to other tasks, like washing dishes or visiting with friends. I've dabbled in surround sound for five years now, and I know it's not going to fly because it demands that the listener sit in one position and "actively listen" to the music. It's sad, really, especially since one of my greatest joys in life is _listening_ to music.
7. Among your peer group are several field-recording enthusiasts, but I don't know that I'm aware of you participating in this found-sound genre. Correct me if I'm wrong.
No one has ever asked me to participate, which baffles me to this day. To answer your question more clearly, I've been recording the world around me since I was a kid, but very few have actually heard these recordings.
8. Also among your peer group are several obsessive archivists and collectors. Obviously, you do participate in these activities as well. Tell me about your collections.
My collections are extensions of my interests. I'm a huge music lover and my music collection spans nearly every genre out there. I'm not as obsessive about it as I could be, but I tell my wife that I would have ten times the amount of records I do if I didn't have to buy studio equipment. I'm really into psychotronic films, books by Henry Miller, and paintings by Mark Rothko. I also create within these disciplines as well. I search for the surreal, the humorous and the absurd in life.
9. I'm always really interested in people's personal geography. What brought you to Seattle? When did you get here and what made you stay?
The Sun City Girls brought me to Seattle in January of 1992. I didn't really know where Seattle was, but I didn't care - I had lived in LA for two years prior (coming from Chicago) and just wanted to get out of that stinking hole.
10. Say there's a gun at your head and you have to name one band/artist that inspired you to do what you're doing today and one band/artist that inspires you to do something interesting tomorrow. Your answers are?
One band? One artist? I guess my brains are on the wall, because I can't say that one group or artist inspired me to become an audio engineer. I have to give that credit to the entire punk rock scene of the early 80's, which was ripe with examples of those doing things their own ways, becoming whatever they desired, and paying no heed to the judgements of others around them along the way. I've obviously made a living working on the fringe and existing outside of the box, and I'm thankful for that. Technically, I'm probably more old school than people think, but while most people will follow the book exclusively, I know when to destroy it with a flame thrower.
11. I was just reading a great feature that Erik Davis wrote about SCG. In it, he quotes Byron Coley as saying that the band is responsible for turning the tide of hardcore towards the psychedelic and tie-dyed. (I'm paraphrasing, and so was Davis.) It strikes me as interesting, since you recently recorded the Animal Collective's latest record. Do you hear the influence of SCG in those bands, do they openly acknowledge it?
The most satisfying records I've done over the past few years have been those in which the artists were pushing the limits musically. The creative stride in music is completely lost on most people. While I can say that Cerberus Shoal or Animal Collective have listened to Sun City Girls, I can't say that I hear any similarities between the three bands and their sounds at all. I can say, without a doubt, that I attract this kind of group - the kind of group that is doing something unique and challenging (lucky, lucky me!) and therefore keeping music exciting. In any genre of music there are 10% creating new colors and 90% recycling old formulas; I like working with that special 10%, and hope that the siren sound of these gifted few will encourage the other 90% to come to the edge of the cliff!