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September 24, 2018 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Avantdale Bowling Club

Around a month ago, legendary Kiwi rapper Tom Scott released the self-titled debut from his new project Avantdale Bowling Club. This record presents a sonic shift towards a cosmic jazz influence but, at the same time, embraces and furthers the same sense of autobiography, realness, and honesty that has made Scott’s work in Home Brew, @peace, and Average Rap Band so revered. I was fortunate enough to have a chat to Tom on the release day of Avantdale Bowling Club.

Josh: How’s the feeling around the release of this project compared to your previous albums? I’ve seen a lot of positive response to it already!
Tom: Yeah, you know how compliments are. It’s hard enough to take just one of them, let alone like hundreds. And I’ve been working for so long that I’ve been deprived of any kind of recognition that, when I get it, I feel like I don’t deserve it you know.
J: Yeah I can imagine. Maybe that’s the humble Kiwi in you coming out [laughs].

T: Yeah, that’s just how it is. Like, don’t put all the light on me, it’ll just show up all my flaws [laughs].

J: But maybe the flaws are a good thing too! I feel like, with this album, it’s so personal and so real and maybe that’s the thing that people are embracing in the first place you know.
T: Yeah, for sure man. It’s way easier to talk about your flaws when they rhyme [laughs]. And I guess the pessimist in me is like, I see the opportunity for a hipster to rubbish the album because it’s been acclaimed. So it’s kind of like my paranoia’s kicking in today a bit. If I hinged this on the people that didn’t vibe with it then I’m really missing out on the whole point of existence you know man. I’ve got to take all this praise I’m getting today and store it away for when I need it you know.
J: When was the Avantdale Bowling Club project conceived? How did the name come about, and how did it all end up where it is today?
T: I got a text from my old man one day, I was in Melbourne, and there was just a picture of the Avondale Bowling Club. I think he might have been playing a gig there, funnily enough, or he was just there, but I just thought it sounded like a good name for a band [laughs].
J: Did you ever consider just using your own name? As opposed to the pseudonym? Because it’s so clearly your vision and all about your life, was there ever a point where you thought about your own name as an option?
T: I had this vision that one day I’d be this perfectly formed version of myself, or at least be able to articulate the perfectly formed version of myself as a musician and that would be it, that’s the Tom Scott record. I don’t think that will ever happen. I don’t really know if it’s right you know? Like, when people call me Tom Scott it’s like “Yeah! I know who that is! It’s like this ever f**king fluid, contradictory mess of a man that I am”, you know? Like, when people call you by your name bro, you know who you are – you have this illusion of self-belief. I don’t think it would be accurate to sum it up…
J: You evolve over time and different things come out of you. Who knows what the next 10 or 20 years of that would look like, I suppose it leaves room for that creative evolution you know.
T: Hard, bro. If you solidify yourself as one thing, then that’s what people know you as. The name that your mother uses has now been tainted by this record that you thought could solidify you, that would suck – “Hey Tom Scott! You’re the guy that…” you know?
J: A lot of the music you talk about for influences fits that jazz, cosmic jazz realm. Were you always wanting to make a jazz album, or an album with this strong of a jazz aesthetic to it?
T: Who wouldn’t! [laughs] I always wanted to do it. I mean, I didn’t always want to do it, but as soon as I started hearing that music. You know, all we ever do with music is attempt to imitate something we like, or try to make something that doesn’t exist that we wanna hear, so yeah. As soon as I heard Alice Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders, it was like heroin, it was like somehow losing your virginity twice [laughs].
J: In terms of how you come to make that happen, your creative process – and obviously there’s a whole host of musicians all over Avantdale Bowling Club, and a pretty stacked lineup too, how did that all happen?
T: It started as little skeletons here and there, and then when I opened the can of worms that is making a live record, it was draining bro. I wanna make sure I’m not gonna forget this, I might f**k around and do it again you know [laughs], gotta learn from your mistakes. I’m scared I might attempt this again and have a nervous breakdown. It was really hard because it was solely my responsibility at the end of the day. That’s not to say I didn’t have help — I had f**kloads, I couldn’t have done it alone – but once the session musician goes home, he’s not thinking about your record.

J: What is the writing process like for a project like this?
T: There’s something I read, I can’t remember who it was, it’s like “to be a writer is to forgive yourself the horrors of the first draft”. As a rapper, you start believing this myth that you go into the studio, write the verse, go home or whatever. Or that you have to do it in motion you know. But no one would write a novel like that, and I’m sure rappers don’t even write like that to be honest. It was just some kind of myth that I had believed. But in the last couple of years, I’ve just been more into re-writing. I heard someone say “I’m not a good writer, but I’m a good rewriter”. That idea… just being able to go back to it and touch it up, instead of catching lightning in a bottle. I might catch a bit of lightning, but then I might just have to add to that. Some of the verses I wrote 3 or 4 times. I scrapped heaps of songs – like, fully fleshed, realised songs. There must be at least 8 – not demos, but like, have recorded, paid all the musicians, f**king mastered it and everything.

J: What does the rest of this year look like? Touring?
T: That’s probably what I’ve gotta do next. I’d love to pour as much effort into that as well. I just kinda want to see the world. I’d love [to be like] f**k the touring, and go to Nepal or something like that. I feel like I deserve a break at the moment.

Avantdale Bowling Club is out now through all the usual streaming/online music outlets, go get stuck in. Catch them live at Meow on October 25.


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