White Pines – Homes
White Pines – Woods
I was lucky enough recently to get the opportunity to interview Joseph Scott a.k.a. White Pines. He is the man behind one of my favorite albums of the year, The Falls. It's a beautiful, emotional journey of a record made by a really genuine guy.
The Falls is one of those albums where every spin gives you that "alright, it's really sinking in this time" feeling. Which just means the music is burrowing deeper and deeper into your soul. Scott has been playing for years in various bands and has found a home in Yer Bird Records. It was a thrill to be able to talk to him and learn more about his recording process, movie soundtrack interests, and concert fantasies.
Those Who Dig : What was the recording setting like for The Falls and did it contribute to the sound and feel of the album?
Joseph Scott : Yeah, the set up was essentially my spare bedroom. I track everything myself, I record everything myself. Normally, I do that completely, but this time I outsourced and had Stephen Clement on drums and piano and Joseph Minadeo on synthesizer and piano and those we tracked at Joe’s house. Yea, I guess when you’re recording yourself there’s a unlimited range of what you feel you can do. It made me try more weird things that might not work.
What was the process of writing this album like mentally? Did you experience the journey of the highs and lows that the songs take you through?
Yea, I did. It’s kind of accidently a concept record. I wrote it piecemeal while I was on tour with another band for 15 weeks. I was kind of writing it down in my notebooks while I was gone. Just words and different scenarios, and dreams I was having. I have a girlfriend I’ve been with for a really long time and when you’re away from the people you care about for a really long time you start to feel like you don’t really have a home anymore. So I sort of made the music follow my mental path through it.
There’s a lot of electric guitar for a sparse folk album on The Falls. Are you secretly a shredding guitar god?
I don’t think that I am. If you go back in listen to all the bands I’ve been in the last ten years or so you wouldn’t think that I’d be the kind of person who plays a lot of electric guitar, but it turns out I do. I just found that out about myself this year. I wouldn’t call myself a shredder, but I try to be. All I’ve been listening to lately is heavy guitar stuff. A lot of weird psych shit from the 60’s and 70’s that’s got a lot of awesome guitar work in it that I admire and try to emulate.
There’s a significant amount of instrumental sections and ambience to The Falls. Is composing these sections intentional or is it just the way the music ended up playing out?
When I first started recording myself I was still doing stuff as if I was still paying for the studio time. I would be really specific about what I wanted to do. With this one I’ve been writing as I record. I’ve been using recording as a tool for writing songs. So I’ll put down a guitar part and then walk away from it if I have nothing else to add and then maybe come back to it 6 months later. So a lot of that stuff wasn’t really composed. I kind of just followed the sound wherever it was going and if I felt like it needed vocals I put them there and if it didn’t need vocals I didn’t put them on. The two instrumental songs on the record I did about half way through recording as short interludes between tracks. There’s sort of a story arc to the record and it helps with that as a kind of palate cleanser.
I have to ask you about The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly since it’s the inspiration for our blog’s name. There’s some serious Morricone influence in the instrumental sections (especially "Hinterland"), are you a big fan of the film and spaghetti western soundtracks?
Morricone has been floating around, but I don’t listen to him on a regular basis or anything. It’s just been floating in my brain the last 20 years of my life. Some of that stuff just sort of happened. I did it and then I was like “well, I know exactly where that came from”. His stuff was always very pretty and clean sounding, but it’s also got this menacing overtone and I really like that. When I first recorded it I was like “oh no!”, but I made peace with it about 5 minutes after.
Who would be the two acts that would play with you in your ideal concert?
If you mean people that make music I really like but are also people I really enjoy being around then I just got done doing three days of with White Pines, Cotton Jones, and Frontier Ruckus. Both of those bands have been very dear friends of mine for a long time. If it’s bands that I don’t know then I think David Byrne would be one of them. I don’t think he’s ever made a song I didn’t like and I love his live show. I like Black Mountain a lot. I would feel like a dwarf at that show.
Working on any new material yet?
Yea I’m always working. When I finished The Falls it was done three months ago I put the final master on and then had to figure out who was going to put it out. I was with a label, but we were unsure if we were going to work together again. By the time Yer Bird picked it up, I already had the next record completely tracked and it just needs to be mixed. I’m also working on an EP I’ll hopefully by out by the New Year for free download. I’m just trying to be as prolific as I can be and record at least one song a week.
Is the sound similar?
It’s different sounding but it keeps moving with the hollowed out, psychedelic thing that I’ve been using. I’ve been using more synthesizers and organs. I guess it’s still a folk record because I feel like anything I make will always have a folk aspect, but I’m definitely trying to move a little deeper with the sound. Trying to make it a little more layered.