Thursday, 23 May 2013

An Interview With Musician and Comedian Andrew 'Skatz' Scattergood

We here at Curiosity of a Social Misfit are happy to welcome Andrew 'Skatz' Scattergood in to our midst to talk to Patrick Challis about his various careers and his new one man show 'Father Used To Say'.

PC:  You've worn many hats in your entertaining career.  Singer, songwriter, comedian and many more.  What would you say has been your favourite thus far?

AS:  They’ve all been loads of fun and very challenging. Stand up comedy taught me so much about timing, thinking on my feet and how to judge different audiences. Being a singer and a musician both in the studio and onstage is a creative thrill where there’s nothing much better than arriving ‘in the zone’ and playing a blinder. Playing lots of different instruments and recording/mixing them has helped me to appreciate how sound is like a 3D picture with different tones, pitches and textures as the colours.

Everything good that I have done in my career has been to do with music, even the stand up comedy act was all about songs. I couldn’t imagine being without music. So I don’t see a divide between the different hats, they’re all musical. The universe is one vibrating instrument in which we’re all a series of notes, some ordered, some chaotic, all flowing in and out and around each other in a cosmic symphony of sound and light, matter and dark matter, quarks, strings, electrons and magnetic, kinetic and quantum energies. My favourite hat contains that. Cosmic man!

PC:  Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration during your varied career?

AS:  I could name quite a lot of individuals, singers, musicians and performers who have been influential or inspirational in my life, from Music teachers and English teachers to the director of the amateur theatre company who chose me to play a decent sized role in my first musical and encouraged me for the few years I knew him; there was also my mum who always encouraged me to sing; there was Elvis Presley whose music when I was quite young really rocked my world along with the other 50’s rock’n’rollers; there were the comedy acts I grew up with - Morecambe & Wise and The Two Ronnies; there were bands in my teen years like Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd who created huge symphonic tracks with complex timings and when playing live had amazing light shows; there were the bands who lived on pure energy and shouted their message like they really meant it (too many to name but they were punk and rock and grunge); there was, of course, Bob Dylan who showed us all how you could say anything in a song, Neil Young who showed us how to do things our own way and not listen to what record companies demanded, Nick Drake who opened me up to all kinds of new guitar tunings and picking styles, Bjork who opened me up to a whole new soundscape, Peter Gabriel who brought us music from all over the world, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills & Nash and many more who have all inspired me.

However, my biggest inspiration overall has been my wife Liz. She has helped me in so many ways to be a better person and that has made a big difference to my career. Before I met her I didn’t know why or who or what I was. I knew that music defined me but I think I was still hoping it would make me money or a certain amount of notoriety. Since meeting her and realising she was my soul mate, she has filled the gap in my life I was trying to fill with fame and success, thus leaving me free to express myself and create music for other reasons. I work with children now who have the most profound and challenging learning difficulties, I write songs about what moves me, I write plays containing songs which have no limits of style and structure and content based on other’s preconceptions. The last few years have been the richest musically, I’ve written and achieved so much more.

PC:  Your new show is a one man show.  Do you find that more daunting to perform?

AS:  Yes, I won’t have my former comedy partner beside me, I won’t have a band with me, and I won’t even have an instrument to hide behind for most of it. I’m laying myself bare and yes that’s very daunting. It certainly making my heart pound when I think about it. There’s nothing quite like being alone on stage for relaxing your bowels!

The show is called 'Father Used To Say' and is about a man with a magic notebook and a pocketful of songs.  How did that project come about and what can we expect from the show?

It all started a decade ago when I started writing songs about local characters and events with Steve Cartwright, another Leicester musician/folk singer. We toured as Scattergood & Cartwright, with a bunch of songs we called ‘Daniel Lambert’s Trousers’ which we intended to turn into a play. To cut a very long story short, eventually I wrote the play and applied for Arts Council funding to put it on, won the funding after several attempts and lots of hard graft of organising a tour, then injured myself during a charity sponsored walk which left me incapable of putting on the show so I cancelled the funding.

While I was convalescing from my injuries, I decided that negativity (people only seem to be in the history books when they do something really bad or strange) wasn’t what I wanted to be writing about any more, so I came up with the idea of collecting stories about those who have inspired the people who live in Leicester today. Immediately, I was inspired by the idea. It gave me the opportunity to gather real history from real people, and meet members of communities I wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to meet, like Gypsies, the Jewish community, different Asian groups and individuals, as well as the many and varied communities in the housing estates surrounding the city, refugees, people old and young, those with mental health issues, the blind and the deaf. Everyone I could get hold of who would agree to let me visit them and ask them questions about the people who meant the most to them.

I spent two whole months doing just that with the show’s director, Dawn Bowden, and heard many great stories. At the same time, Liz and I decided to grab an opportunity to change our lives dramatically and plan to move abroad after the show was over, which threw my mind into the notion of ‘moving on’ and fighting the demons that hold us back in life. So the show became a mixture of inspirational stories and a battle to get over lack of self-confidence and other issues. A real melting pot of a show into which I’ve thrown all of the things I’ve learned over the years and which will be my swansong to everyone I’ve known and worked with and met over my 30 years here. A very emotional one too.

So you can expect funny and heartwarming songs and characters in a show which also celebrates how the right words at the right time can be inspirational and send us laughing into the future. You can expect the songs to be catchy and challenging and the best I’ve ever written. You can expect some tears because it’s about leaving things behind. You can expect some laughs and some surprises. And you can expect a prize raffle, because that’s always been a feature of my shows.

There will also be a CD of all of the songs written over the course of the project, which will be selling at the shows for only £5.

The show will be on at lots of community venues for the people from whom I’ve gathered stories, and also I’m putting it on for the public at 2 other venues, Embrace Arts (on Lancasted Road, near the Fire Station and University) on 3rd July (1-3pm) and 4th/5th July (7.30-9.30pm), and Cafe Impressions at The Atkins Building in Hinckley on Fri 21st June (7.30-9.30pm). Tickets are available from www.skiddle.com or from Father Used To Say’s Facebook page, which I’d like everyone to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ please so I can get the word out. Let’s go viral people!

PC:  Your songwriting is very varied ranging from wistful Nick Drake style songs to raucous comedy.  How would you describe your style to a newcomer to your work?

AS:  It’s music with no limits of style. I write whatever is right for the song, so in this show alone you will hear reggae, ska, folk, blues, rock, punk, calypso and something like a ballad from a musical! Different styles suit different emotions and vice versa. In all of my music there’s a bit of a mixture, it’s more about the story of the song than sticking to one style. That would limit my range of expression. What you do get from me is emotion, fun, gutsyness and above all, reality. It’s not made by a company hoping to grab a demographic in the marketplace. It’s not done to create fame and wealth. It would never be on The Voice, X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. But it does grab you by the unmentionables and swing you round its head. In a nice way.

PC:  You're also touring a farewell concert on the 31st of May.  What can your fans expect from that?

AS:  Lots of emotion. It’ll be the last time we’ll play with most of these musicians, the last concerts of Bryter Layter, Woodstock and The Liz Scattergood Band. And the last chance to see the comedy act Rob & Skatz too. I’ll be doing a set of my own which will feature songs from my 23 year back catalogue, including one from my old band The Looking Glass that I haven’t played for 20 years. For Liz and I, there’s a good chance one or both of us will be struggling to keep it together! It’ll be heart wrenching to say goodbye to those really close friends. It’ll be like This Is Your Life, only with much better music!

Lots of memories then, there will be plenty of musicians there because I’ve worked with quite a few in my time. The music will vary from our own varied styles to Nick Drake, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell and the very wrong songs of Rob & Skatz. It will be unmissable.

PC:  Do you have a favourite song to perform?

AS:  ‘Whichever one I’m singing at the time’ is the easiest answer to that one. I do like singing the songs that have a good story to them, like Elephant Man and Swift Nick (both from Daniel Lambert’s Trousers) and Koshti Bok (from Father Used To Say). Also, My Head Is Bowed, that’s in the show too. Very emotional, lots of big dramatic pauses and long high notes. Then there’s Gwendoline Rumbles and Farewell To Jesus (from my first solo album) and Albion (from my latest solo album). I think that’s more or less my solo set list for the farewell gig. Actually, that’s a good guide to what I like singing best, look at my most recent setlists.

PC:  What's next for Skatz?

AS:  The big move abroad. Liz, son Oscar and I are moving to the south west coast of Ireland in the summer. We had our honeymoon there and went back last year, both times having the idea to live there. It’s a very beautiful place with such a welcoming people and a slower pace of life. It will be a challenge and a struggle to make a living. We’re planning to start a charity, and as part of that we will be helping people who need it the most, Liz with her Aromatherapy and me with my music. I will be performing the show over there too, and starting an acoustic music club to encourage songwriters to perform through good PA systems in front of listening audiences.

Of course I will be playing as much as possible. There’s a wealth of music and culture there. In fact, I think it’s true to say that Irish culture is quite unique in the way it’s spread around the world and retained it’s uniqueness. I intend to merge what I do with the local music and create a new hybrid.

I’ve heard from other people who’ve made a momentous move like this, and they all say that you never end up doing exactly what you planned, so my plan is not to plan too much, to stay open to the possibilities, and work with the community as much as possible to become a part of it while still hanging on to my English eccentricities.

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