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Who's Steve Scott? Two interviews

Q and A with HM:       
an interview with Steve Scott
by Doug Van Pelt.
August 2009.

Excerpts from this interview appeared in the
Sept./ Oct. issue of HM. Used by permission.

Q. Name 3 bands that, had they not released a certain album at a certain time, you would not exist as an artist.

A: The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Gavin Bryars.

Q. If there wasn't music, what skills would you use and what would you do?

A: I'd concentrate more on making (better) visual art and I'd do more writing.

Q. When asked to describe yourself by comparing yourself to others, who would you list?

A: No idea. I could list the  different artists I like for different reasons....but whether I'm anything as good as them, or if I have unconsciously borrowed from them is really not my call.

Q. What's a secret or little-known fact about you that would make you the darlings of the music world if we all knew it?

A: I still write songs. Larry Norman, 77s have covered stuff. I'd like more covers. I'd like to write for people.

Q. If there was another band and another album that you could give everyone as a present for Christmas, what album would that be? Why?

A: Comsat Angels `Fiction'   Strong album by under appreciated band from late 70s/ 80s/90s. Chiwoniso Maraire `Rebel Woman'   Amazing voice, songs and Mbira.

Q. What is one belief, conviction, idea, or passion that you honestly think might've been deposited inside you or given to you by God?

A: The Gospel of John is an important text to consider when thinking about Christian Art and culture(s)

Q. What's one of the most memorable things (either good, bad, or funny) that's happened at one of your shows?

A: Performed `No Memory of You' at a 'Christian' coffee house (this is a spoken word piece using looped background of Indonesian prostitutes talking)  During an intermission some Christian truck drivers wanted to take me to one side and `show me the way of the Lord more perfectly...'

Q. If you had a chance to perform for most of the televised world and play just one song, which song would you play ... and why?

A: (In theory) `No Memory of You' me...its so sad, and  even more relevant today.

Q. If a super surgeon removed all of your emotions and the ability to feel any emotion for the rest of your life, which one or ones would you most want to have back? Why?

A: I'd like grief and joy back, please...and maybe anger. Serenity would be good. Feeling the right things at the right time, and doing something (constructive) with or about them.

Q. If you could ask God one question, what would you ask Him?

A: How did something so simple end up so complicated?

Q. What's the best video on youtube (if our readers had to type in a word or a few to search it, what would the keywords be?)?

A: There's a youtube clip of the Comsat Angels performing  `After the Rain' and 'What Else' off 'Fiction.' (Comsat Angels live 'after the rain').

There's a youtube clip of Nicolas Bourriaud, current director of Tate Modern, I think...explaining why Postmodernism is dead, and comparing today's artists to computer programmers and Turntablist style DJs (Bourriaud Altermodernities)

There's a youtube clip of Chiwoniso performing at the Luna Cafe.(Chiwoniso live luna)

Q. If someone came to you and said, "Hey! I need to make some changes in my life...Help me out! I'm going to take one piece of advice from you and apply it to my life and/or make it a habit for 30 days. What would that piece of advice be?"

A: Read the Gospel of John (a lot!!), call me  regularly and let me know what you think.

Q. In 4 sentences or less, explain how you as a creative entity (as a solo artist) came to exist (and give us a date).

A: Official four sentences:

When I left art school in the mid 1970s, I was not a very good artist, and I really did not understand or emotionally connect with much art.

When I came to USA in late 1970s, I hoped to survive as a singer/songwriter, and spend time thinking about and exploring  the 'real' art that I liked.

During the 1970s/80s I found myself thinking about the different relationships/connections between art and faith more deeply...I hoped this showed up in what I was performing and writing.

When I got off the plane in Bali, Indonesia in the late 1980s, everything began to connect/ integrate/ make sense in a new kind of way.

Q. Please list all of your album titles, instruments played, book titles, and location/ hometown.


OK, on the fly from memory. approx dates.


`Moving Pictures'  (unfinished/unreleased) Solid Rock Records  1978-?

`Love in the  Western World' Exit records 1982

`Lost Horizon' Alternative Records 1989(ish)

`Magnificent Obsession' Alternative Records  1991(ish)

`The Butterfly Effect' Blonde Vinyl 1992 (ish)

`Empty Orchestra' Glow Records  (1993/4)

`We Dreamed that We Were Strangers' Glow Records(1996)

`More than A Dream' Glow/Radrockers (i think!!)  (1997)

`Crossing the Boundaries' Glow/Radrockers (1998 ish)

`Love in the Western World (with bonus tracks) CD reissue m8 records (2000)

'Emotional Tourist: A Steve Scott Retrospective' Arena Rock (2012)


`Ghost Dance' Monolith Books, London 1976

`AfterImages: Boundaries vol 1     (self published) California   1991

`The Saint Petersburg Fragments: Boundaries vol 2 Cornerstone Press, 1993

`Out of Order: (Dutch materials) Boundaries vol 3   Inertia Books, Kansas City 1994.



`Crying for a Vision' Stride books UK 1991

`Like A House on Fire'  Cornerstone Press, 1997

`House on Fire (reprint) Wipf and Stock 2003

`Crying for a Vision (expanded)  Alivingdog/Authorhouse 2005


Q. What is the release date of your next (or latest) album? Or what is the next big date on your calendar?

A: `Emotional Tourist'  (retrospective album) early 2010, Arena Rock Records, Portland Ore.

Currently in the works????

Well, in addition to the Arena Rock retrospective album, I'mcreating/ finishing up  more sound loops  from my travels to accompany another spoken word project (working title: How Many Words for Sorrow?).

My next `book on the arts'   will be a reflective/ devotional commentary on the Gospel of John ( title: `The Wedding at Cana '). I'm writing it now, will blog sections soon, and already have an interested publisher.

Q. What is one of your most lasting memories of St. Petersburg , Russia ?

A: Visiting a children's hospital ward. We were in a side room crammed with kids. Geoffrey  Stevenson did a mime piece, and then while Graham Kendrick led all the kids in a Russian language version of 'Shine Jesus Shine'....a  small worship team from Korea (apologies to them: cannot recall exact name of group) did a beautiful fan dance. To say 'you had to be there' is an understatement.

More background on Steve Scott and his works can be found at:
which includes a link to his 1990 ACM Journal interview:

Door Number Two An Interview with Steve Scott by Gord Wilson, April 2007.

Q: Well Steve, now that your book, Crying for a Vision and Other Essays is out, how do you
feel about it?
A: In many ways I am glad Crying is back out, because I hope it draws attention to the companion volume 'Like a House On Fire' and clears the way for a new book I'm writing, In the Shadow of God. In other ways I am saddened by the state of things. Last summer I was at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and I spent hours in the Robert Rauschenberg 'Combines' show. Some twenty years ago, I stumbled across an interview with  Rauschenberg in which he explained why he left the Church of Christ as a teenager.  He could not understand why he had to live in fear of someone else’s possible reaction or 'stumbling' if they happened to see him dancing (for example.). 

Rauschenberg abandoned his early aspirations as an evangelist, and went into the world of contemporary art. The artist has stated that he wants to `stand in the gap’ (sound familiar?) between art and life. As I wandered through his show, and caught what I felt were occasional faint allusions and references to Biblical themes and images, I sensed that the church’s loss was the art world’s gain.  As I look at some of what is offered in the name of `Christian art’ in today’s postmodern and multicultural world, I feel like there is still a lot of ground yet to cover, and that in some ways  the mindset that Rauschenberg encountered is still  around. It is on days like that that I feel that Crying for a Vision is a very tiny drop in a rather large bucket.
Q: The core of the book is Crying for a Vision, which was originally published in Britain in 1991  and distributed in the US by Cornerstone Press.
A: Not really. The relationship was much more informal than that. Let me explain.
Rupert Loydell connected with me by mail in 1989 or 90. He was a published poet and widely exhibited painter in the UK who also ran a small press called STRIDE. The press published a magazine, books of poetry and art criticism, and all stops in-between. We began to discuss a small run  of books of my arts essays. Hence `Crying for a Vision’. This was made up of essays and lectures published and delivered from the early 1980s on. Rupert, at that time, was also on the Fine Arts committee of an arts and music festival in UK called Greenbelt. He got me invited to do some lectures there, and launched the book.

During those years (90-on), I had been a lecturer for  Cornerstone Festival's `Artrageous Seminar’. So in 1992, the guy then  overseeing it  (Bruce Bitmead) decided to invite Rupert plus other worthies over from the  UK . I think Rupert was over in 91 also. ANYWAY 92 was a good year, because Rupert, Steve Fairnie and others descended upon the Cornerstone crowd and nothing was ever the same.
I have fond memories of a hotel room, late at night (or early morning) with Rikki Michelle, Mike Knott, Jim Abegg  and others, and Steve Fairnie attempting to hypnotize someone.  Some years earlier Fairnie was actually in the Guiness book of records for hypnotizing chickens.

ANYWAY, at this time, Cornerstone Press was about to get going, and there were lots of informal discussions between those running the press and Rupert. Out of those conversations came a whole slew of poetry chapbooks, featuring myself, Rupert, Evangeline Patterson  and so forth. Also, Mike Knott (Blonde Vinyl) had just put out my `Butterfly Effect’ album project. All this to say there were no formal distribution  relationships as far as I can recall, just a lot of tangled connections and informal cooperation.

Q. You've been called a Renaissance Man in an age of specialists. You don't fit a narrow groove. Your interests seem to range widely. You seem, if I may use the expression, too bloomin' alive to be confined to one thing. This bodes badly in an era of niche marketing. I think Bono has the same problem, and has simply decided to use his name and fame to further his causes. So, what’s going on here? How do you do what no one else seems able to do?
A: This `no one else’ is flattering, but I can think of plenty of people who work across genres and media.  Art school in UK from the 60s on bred that kind of mindset. Early 60s Art school, of course, is better known for people who got into the blues and rock music and stuff. Mid 60s on it was all alternative, psychedelic, mixed media. In the late 60s I used to hang out at Jim Haynes Arts Laboratory in the center of London…this was combination  gallery, wholefood restaurant,  theater, movie house and all  points in-between , poetry readings, experimental drama, underground film  and experimental mixed media events.  I saw Mark Boyle’s liquid theater at the arts lab (he did lights for the Soft Machine) and on into  other hybrid mixed media art events.

In 68, I saw the Bread and Puppet theater at London’s Royal court theater, and I also to hang out at bookstores like Betterbooks, Indica and then, later, Compendium. All this to say that transmedia/ transgenre was very much in the atmosphere, and on into the 70s when the influences of conceptual and performance art entered the mix, also keep in mind  that  stuff in  the early  to mid 70s channeled  some of the more aggressive and adversarial aspects of the social theory fueling much of art mix  into something that came to be known as `punk rock', but by now (mid 70s on) the artist was someone with an idea or an attitude who chased that idea and attitude  (sometimes via a persona) through all kinds of media. David Bowie. He’s a good example. Steve Fairnie is another.

Fairnie was someone who would turn up on children’s TV as a Charlie Chaplin look-alike, turn up in the club and pop charts with his wife Bev as `the Technos’ and turn up in the offices at Virgin punting a board game he was working on  based on the ins and outs of the record business. All this from a guy who I think was studying painting and sculpture at  the Royal College of Art. Bev was a photographer, but she was out and about doing voice overs and rap on some of the early club and house stuff. It helps (maybe) if we look at the shift between modern and postmodern culture. If we can associate `classic’ modern art, painting sculpture etc as being concerned with the exploration of `formal’ (design and material) relations, then we can look at genre bending post modernists like Steve Fairnie  as making art by exploiting pop culture public relations. In fact, since his untimely demise in the early 90s, his influence has continued to grow. Dave Tomlinson dedicated `The Post Evangelical’ to him. There are websites up about him now. He may not have been a household name as a rock star, but  I understand that Bono was at his funeral.

Left to Right: 27th and 4th by Robert Lax, illustrated by Steve Fairnie, Stride Books, 1994; The Museum of Light by Rupert Loydell, Arc Publications, 2003; Closed Volumes: Stride Magazine no. 36, Stride Books, 1994.

Q: OK, so you came to the states, because?
A: Well, Larry Norman had expressed interest in my songs and we were seriously talking record deal.  And as I say in the interview in Crying for A vision, there’s someone else who is a pioneer. I think he is due a lot more than he’s currently getting. Also, let's keep in mind that it was his initial interest in my work and the generous support of him and Randy  Stonehill that made it possible for me to come here in the first place, just as the ongoing support and generosity from Louis and Mary Neely and Warehouse Christian Ministries made it possible to remain here.

BUT I also came to USA for the ART. Many of the artists I liked were living and working here. Robert Rauschenberg for example. Film makers like (the late ) Stan Brakhage. I was in New York in the early 1980s, and attended a free in person appearance by Brakhage at the museum of Modern Art , and a retrospective screening of his hand painted films. Unbelievable. Amazing to be in a San Francisco hall in the late 1970s and hear poets Allen Ginsberg and Robert Duncan read, or to run into Duncan in a vegetarian restaurant and ask him where I could find a copy of one of his earlier poems, or seeing Kenneth Rexroth read poems accompanied by a Japanese Koto player. Unbelievable to be in a San Francisco church hall  twenty or more years ago and shake hands with the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.
When I was finishing up at art school in UK , I was talking with faculty and we were discussing `what next?’ and one of them  said `Well, you could go on to another college and write a  Graduate thesis about the work of (German Performance artist) Joseph Beuys, or you could go to Berlin and have a drink with him. So, in a manner of speaking, I chose door number two.
Q: And came to US.
A: Yes, in some ways, I keep going through door number 2. The travels in Asia and stuff.
Q: The stuff you’ve written about in The Boundaries?
A. Well yes, that’s an ongoing writing project that spilled over into some of my recorded work. When I left art school and came to US I was still trying to think what to make art `about’, in addition to the songs I was writing for the early recording projects.  As I began to travel for different reasons, I began to write stuff down, and the resulting little chapbooks consisted of a mix of poetry, travel journals and so on. And then I began to record some of the poems over sound loops and put them out on albums, then I’d travel to promote the albums, and keep journals about the traveling to promote the records. So the work spilled across the boundaries of poetry and prose, across the printed page and the CD, and the work kind of looped back on itself  and incorporated commentary on its own processes. As well as a record of my own writing exploration, it served as a kind of mirror  of my own spiritual exploration.
Q: Would you call that an emerging liquid ancient- future?
A: Don’t even go there.
Q: Well all this sounds a bit inward and arty. But isn’t it in your travels that you met other artists in other cultures and got involved with CANA (Christian Artists' Networking Association)?
A Well, yes, I got involved with the arts organization that I now direct (CANA). We run conferences in Asia and Eastern Europe .  I also got to collaborate with other artists. While speaking at the afore mentioned Cornerstone, I hooked up with painter and mixed media artist Gaylen Stewart, and we did a mixed media collaboration using his paintings, my soundloops and poems, all centered on the theme of nature and natural processes. It went to several galleries in the US, and I took a slide lecture based on the project to arts events in the Netherlands , Eastern Europe and also the People’s Republic of  China.
Q: You provide a detailed description of your ideas and working process during this project in Crying for a Vision and Other Essays, and I think you and Gaylen talk about the collaborative process in the new version of `It Was Good: Making art to the Glory of God’.
A: Absolutely. Hunt those books down.
Q: Earlier, Bono’s name came up. Cross paths back in the day?
A: Nope. Never met him, probably never will. The only thing we remotely have in common is that we both knew Steve Fairnie.
Q: But you’d like to…
A:  We might yuk it up for a couple of minutes over my collection of Balinese and Javanese shadow puppets, but after that I’m not sure what we’d find to talk about.
Q: Only everything.
A: OK, five minutes with the lad? I’d fire up my laptop and spend 2.5 minutes cycling thru images of artwork, painting and sculpture by Claudia Alvarez. I’d spend the other 2.5 discussing the work of Malawi Gospel recording artist and activist Chimwemwe Mizaya.

Q: Thank you, Steve. And there's our five minutes with Steve Scott.

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