Robert Scott

Robert Scott

Friday 14th October, 2011 10:27AM

The Bats will release latest effort Free All the Monsters next week, and as a seminal contributor to the Flying Nun tome - as a member of The Clean, The Bats, The Magick Heads and many others - we caught up with Robert Scott to talk 30th anniversary celebrations (The Bats will be playing in all main centres throughout November), how he feels about the label three decades on and why he recorded the latest album in a disused mental asylum.

Tell me about the new album:

Well it all started in December 2010, when we wanted somewhere to record that was out of the city and secluded. We found this location just outside of Dunedin that ended up being the site of the old Sea Cliff mental asylum, itís about 20 minutes north of Dunedin on the coast. So we set up in the old stone stables where they keep the horses and basically stayed there for a week and worked intensely.

Did the environment provide a mood?

That was part of the reason we chose it, and whether that filters through in the music or not - thatís more for the listeners to decide. I think it affected what we were doing in some ways because it was kind of spooky and beautiful at the same time.

How was the sound affected by recording in a stone stable?

Sometimes you pick the room to sound a bit echoey and sometimes you donít want it to, and this place had a bit of echo but not too much. It had quite beautiful natural elements like wood and stone and they made the echo sound pretty cool and Dale (Cotton) was happy with the sound and so were we, so we knew the sounds we were getting were what we wanted.

How does it compare to the last release?

In some ways itís different and in some ways not at all. I would like to think Iíve advanced a bit in my writing so I thereís quite a lot more going on here. We were also able to have more time and space to explore how we wanted to play the songs and how we wanted them to sound so this album is more developed than the last one - which was definitely a little bit rushed. Thereís just basically more to the new one.

The new albumís coming out on Flying Nun, and youíve been an artist on their roster for 27 years give or take. Does it feel like itís been that long?

We did our first one with them Ė our EP Ė and over the last wee while we switched to Arch Hill for a bit. Flying Nun has just gotten back into things in the last year so itís been really good re-connecting with them. Itís been a long and varied journey with them thatís for sure. Some things change and some things stay the same but ultimately itís great to be back on board.

Tell me a little bit about what got you involved in Flying Nun in the beginning?

Prety much through The Clean. I joined the clean in 1980 and we started playing around the country in í81 and í82. In í81 we did a recording and hooked up with Roger Shepard and that got him inspired to start the label and the first thing we did with him was ĎTally Hoí and that was pretty popular and did pretty well. From then on it was a natural progression and all sorts of bands that were part of that early music were putting things out so a sound was pretty well-established pretty quickly.

Tell me a little bit about the attitude of the bands at the time:

It was very much driven by the bands and the writers in the bands so it was all about being original with the songwriting. That was a reaction to a lot of the fake pub rock that was around at the time from the other bands in the country, so when we were all doing our thing it was giving ourselves a chance to show what we could do that was different.

There was good healthy competition with the Dunedin and CHCH bands and what they were putting out and what they were doing live. It was very much driven by the bands and that followed through into things like the artwork and posters; the fact that the band had a lot of control over what they were doing. The big majors who were doing things with other bands around the country were doing such predictable things and those bands were trying very hard to be commercial, whereas we were doing our own thing really and the commercial side of it didnít come into play. We werenít getting any commercial radio play even though the singles and the albums and EPs were on the charts - the commercial stations still wouldnít play them.

Overseas people wanted to hear something that sounded new and original; they donít want to hear something that sounds like something else. We were very well aware of that and I think that was the reason for our success overseas.

Do you think itís a good time for Flying Nun to be back in action?

Yeah any time is a good time for them to back in action and to be doing something and the fact that it ties in witt the 30th anniversary is pretty cool because I guess it lifts the profile for the label and for some of the bands, too. I guess itís a case of longevity and people having faith in what youíre doing and that theyíve still got it together after this length of time.

Do you think the label faces new challenges?

I think the only challenge is trying to sell a good number of records because people are so used to getting stuff for free on the internet and itís quite a battle to sell a good number of units of something these days. Most of our fans are quite happy to buy the CD or the album because you get the artwork and have the physicality of something. Thatís the main challenge these days Ė getting people to actually buy it.

Arguably Flying Nun is in a good position to sell physical copies, because of the tactile nature of the music?

Yeah, I think the people that like the music like owning physical copies of the music as well and I think that gives us a bit of an advantage.

- Courtney Sanders

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