Interview in The Fader #65


After talking about wrongfully ignoring Frankie Goes to Hollywood, a bungled Black Flag reunion and auctioning records pre-eBay, Scott Colburn unleashes a ridiculous nonsequitur: “That’s how reggae music started,” he says, and then unpacks the genre’s history, nonchalantly tying together years of seemingly disconnected histories. Colburn, who calls himself an “audio wizard,” is a Grammy-winning, Seattle-based record producer with voluminous musical knowledge that he sees as one big spider web, making illusionary connections freely and enthusiastically. That willingness to accept abstract ideas as linear is what has made him such a sought -out producer, working across genre with groups like Arcade Fire, Sun City Girls and Mudhoney. He splits his time between recording film and television scores and sees them as essentially comparable. “It’s the same in that you’re just creating a sound that supports the image,” Colburn says, and even when there is no tangible image, he seeks one out. “I did this French pop record where the band came together and was making this great record, but this one song wasn’t really happening. They played it a couple of times and I just got the image in my head,” says Colburn. “I went out and described this scene of a guy and a girl in a convertible going through the desert from Las Vegas down to Los Angeles and they’re really excited about each other and they’re going to have sex at the other end, and that’s the movie. The next take we did was the perfect take.” His approach from group to group, he says, is similar, always recording live to evoke how the band feels they naturally sound. “I usually get a vision—not vision like an image, but a vision of sound,” he says, then pauses to make sure he doesn’t slip too deep into the ether. “Of what that band sounds like and what that recording is going to sound like. It’s not evil voodoo magic.”