The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

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Scout Niblett

Scout Niblett

Musician, astrologer

Posted

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Scout Niblett. Born in Stone, England in 1973. I have been writing and performing music since I was about 9. I've recorded 6 full length albums. I'm also a professional astrologer.

What hardware do you use?

I would say I use my voice mainly.... but the voice tends to come out when it has a backdrop. The backdrop is usually me playing my 1964 Fender Mustang guitar plugged into a vintage Fender Pro Reverb tube amplifier. The guitar is usually being fed through an Ibanez Tube Screamer, and sometimes an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff pedal. I amplify my voice through an amp that was made by a man who has sadly passed away, he was called "John Martin". John basically used the shell of a small space heater and turned it into a small but beautiful tube amp. I bought it from him when I was living in Philadelphia 10 years ago.

I also use my Gretch Catalina drum kit as a backdrop for my voice. It has a silver sparkle finish, an 18 inch kick drum and I play it with huge sticks, that look more like trunks.

And what software?

For musical purposes:

For demoing ideas, I usually use my Zoom H4n. I keep it pretty simple and use it on the stereo microphone setting.

Before I bought my zoom, for years I was using a Sony MiniDisc recorder. I think I've gone through 3 or 4 of them over the last 15 years. My last one finally died after finishing a project where I released the same song but in 100 different versions. Each version was only sold once. So each song was a one off. but as if by magic, the MiniDisc recorder actually stopped working after I uploaded the 100th recording.

I also like to use my "realistic" hand held tape cassette recorder for capturing ideas down from time to time, especially when I'm not at home, as they are small and simple enough to keep in your handbag.

In 2009 I released a single ("It's time my beloved") on Drag City Records that was recorded at home by using a 4 track recorder as a make-shift mixer and running it straight into Garageband.

I like to use Garageband to write string arrangements. The parts are then transcribed and then recorded in the studio with human string players and captured onto tape.

Most of the recordings of my music out there in the world have been engineered by Steve Albini, and were recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago. This process consisted of recording live straight to 2 inch tape and then mixed to tape. So it was all anaolgue. And I love the sound that that process produces.

For my most recent album that is coming out in 2013, I decided to switch it up a little. I recorded here in Portland in a couple of studios. I used 2 inch tape for the bare bones of the recording, and then had the tracks turned into a digital form. In the end, I ended up taking the tracks for each song, and mixing them at home in Garageband. It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed the process of being the producer.

For my astrology I use my Macbook Pro. To generate the birthchart itself I use astro.com. Back when I was learning astrology I used to have to do a hell of a lot of maths in order to work out the positions of all the planets, and then I'd have to plot all their positions out in a hand drawn chart, which could take hours. But now in a few seconds charts are up on screen and I have more time to devote to the artform itself which is interpreting it.

What would be your dream setup?

Well, in a perfect world, I'd have a professional engineers with knowledge about recording, and be able to troubleshoot any problems that recording on a tape set up at home would require. But I don't have that, so I think recording with Steve Albini is pretty much as close as it gets to the dream set up for me in terms of how the recorded sound is captured.

...one thing I noticed in this most recent record, is that I had a lot of ideas evolving and changing as I was mixing the songs. Mixing in itself became part of the creative process to me, which I really enjoyed, but had avoided before as I was always wanting to make live sounding records. I guess I was beckoned into the idea of producing a record rather than purely capturing how we played. And it's left me feeling really open to the idea of making records in whatever way seems fitting at that particular point in time. So I think the dream setup is going to be potentially different for each release.

One thing that excites me about the potential to record things either at home or out in the world (mobile/field recording) is that of capturing things in the moment that only happen in that particular moment. There's definately a point where a performance that happens in a particular time space sequence overrides how it was recorded.