If I ever had a new aria to learn I would listen to Gedda first in order to make sure I was “doing it right.”
Garrett Harris 4 p.m., Feb. 27
RIYL: Michael Tiernan, Steven Ybarra, Joe Cardillo, Jason Mraz, Tesla
Influences: Harry Chapin, Elton John, James Taylor, Jason Mraz, Louden Wainwright III, Tom Waits, Tesla
Scott West began developing his album Sex On Sunday with Ian Samwell in 2002. “I used to have lunch with Ian on Fridays, and we’d talk about the craft of songwriting and how to capture the personality of a song in the studio. Ian was an amazing songwriter and producer.”
Samwell wrote the early top ten rock and roll hit “Move It” for Cliff Richards, and was in charge of A/R for Warner Brothers in the UK for several decades. He shared an office with the Rolling Stones’ first manager Andrew Loog Oldham and is credited with discovering and signing Rod Stewart and Small Faces and the band America to their first record deals. He also worked with and produced the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, the Isely Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, and others.
“Ian became sick and, the last time I visited him, he made me promise to finish the record without him, becasue he knew that he was dying. I stopped work on it in March 2003, when Ian passed. I was too depressed to start again until 2005, when I approached Tesla’s bassist Brian Wheat and told him that I wanted to finish my record for Ian. Brian agreed to help and jumped in with both feet, and he brought the backbone of Tesla with him; lead guitarist Frank Hannon and drummer Troy Luckketta. I hired Cake’s engineer Scott Reams to help track and organize the project, and Cake bassist Gabe Nelson played on two of the tracks with Tesla’s Luckketta playing drums.”
In 2008, West’s band was ranked number one on MTV's Best Music On Campus for 36 straight weeks, enabling Sex On Sunday to sell 36,000 CDs and over 110,000 downloads.
In 2010, West’s music video “Keep It Clean” was one of only ten music shorts (among thousands submitted) selected to the London Independent Film Festival in April 2010. The video was directed by 17-year-old Phillip Stucker.
“Phillip’s mother noticed his love of art and drawing,” says West, “and saved up the money for a computer he could use to do his own animation. He made a homemade video to the Shiny Toy Guns song ‘Don’t Cry Out,’ and it blew up on YouTube, with over 300,000 views. I was amazed when I first saw it, especially when I found out how young he was.”
However, the DIY video wasn’t authorized by the band or their management at Universal Music Group. “They made him take it down, even though he was using this video to raise money for his mother’s cancer treatments.… I ended up asking him to do my ‘Keep It Clean’ video.” To their eventual credit, Universal decided to adopt the STG clip as “official,” reposting it on YouTube and racking up an additional 150,000 views.
“Keep It Clean” was recorded with London singer/songwriter Anton Barbeau and bassist Gabe Nelson from the band Cake.
West - who studied audio engineering at Mesa Community College - performs regularly with his own Scott West Band as well as with Happy Ron Hill, Tara Nichol, and others. “I’m living near I-5, between La Jolla and P.B., which is handy access for getting around town several nights a week to gigs. I probably play out 15 or 20 times a month.”
In summer 2010, the Sacramento International Film & Music Festival chose West’s “Keep It Clean” music video as an official selection of the Festival.
His 2010 Xmas album California Christmas was recorded with Wheat and Hannon at Tesla’s Sacramento studio.
“I remember sitting on Brian’s couch in his studio with a trash can in my hands, in case I were to lose my cookies,” recalls West. “I had just come down with a stomach flu that afternoon, and I was so sick that I wasn’t able to stand up sometimes. I was throwing up between takes.”
West didn’t have the option of rescheduling. “It was the only day they were available. They had to be on the road early the next day to record the new Tesla album in El Paso. Brian said their wives were probably going to kill them, but we’d have one day — 24 hours — to do the entire album. I told him that if they were willing to pull an all-nighter, then I’d be on board too.... I actually wrote the title track, ‘California Christmas,’ on my way to their studio.”
Shortly after the session came news of a three-alarm fire at the facility. “The apartments next door caught fire, and it jumped across to the roof of the studio. I’m fortunate to have recorded there before it burned down. Many of the items lost were irreplaceable. The Neve board that we recorded on is the same console used by Fleetwood Mac to record their Tusk album. Brian had a lot of memorabilia from his tours and gigs over the years, including mementos from friends such as Paul McCartney and Queen. I just hope the insurance helps him get it back up and running.”
During its first month on sale, California Christmas saw one tune score over 34,000 downloads on Myxer.com. “Frank Hannon and I tracked a live version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ with just piano, MIDI-ed keyboard strings, and electric guitar. We only made one pass, then Frank laid down some harmony electric-guitar lines and we were done with the track.”
On New Year’s Eve 2010/2011, his “Auld Lang Syne” ringtone hit over 127,000 ringtone downloads. It hit number two among all ringtone categories on Myxer, one of the most popular download sites.
“I’m signing my first record deal today,” West told the Reader on March 17, 2011, of the publishing deal he signed with Greenlight 360, a Boston company that specializes in placing music on television and in movies. “As a result, we already have several songs being set up for various TV shows.” That summer, West opened for touring acts such as John Waite (the Babys), the Motels, and Yes, and his “Standing on the Moon” video topped 100,000 YouTube views.
His 2011 sci-fi cowboy tune “Cowboys and Aliens” was inspired by the same-named 2006 graphic novel, whose genesis is connected to the July 2011 film starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, directed by Jon Favreau, and produced by Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg. “We originally hoped that signing a publishing deal would help us place the song in the movie, but that [soundtrack] was already filled up beforehand.”
West wrote the song’s first incarnation in 2007, later teaming up with O.B.-based Justin Werner to revise it as an acoustic guitar-centered tune. The Greenlight 360 publishing deal includes both Scott and Werner. “Justin co-wrote half of the song with me. I made the cool alien craft sounds with a backwards bell sound and a backwards gong. I then used a Starbucks paper cup and plastic drinking straw with ice water in the cup to make the alien laser blast sounds. Everyone thinks that I used keyboard patches, when we did everything organically.”
Other locals involved in the recording include bassist Marcia Claire, guitarist Mark Huls, and studio mastermind Ben Moore (Switchfoot, Pinback). The song was also released on the local music compilation series Staring at the Sun Volume 9, with an accompanying comic book produced by local publisher BloodFire Studios.
Since signing the publishing deal, West’s songwriting partner Justin Werner subsequently placed his own song “This Highway” in the 2011 movie *The Wanderers.*
In summer 2011, Cowboys and Aliens director Favreau tweeted West's song and video among his favorites.
West’s album Austin includes Tesla members Frank Hannon, Troy Luckketta, and Brian Wheat, as well as Daniel de los Reyes (the Killers), James Baker (War), Pink's original drummer Josh Egan, Beck's saxophonist Christopher Lea (from San Diego), Steve Vai's violinist Alex DePue, Lee Rocker (Stray Cats), Prairie Prince (the Tubes, Jefferson Starship), two-time Blues Music Award winner (Best Harmonica Player) Jason Ricci, and Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon from Stevie Ray Vaughan's band Double Trouble.
The song “Japanese Garden,” recorded in early 2013 with Frank Hannon and Troy Luckketta from Tesla, was added to the Austin full-length. Around the same time, the West Band's longtime guitarist and musical collaborator Perry Clark picked up his second Emmy Award for his work with NBC's production of the London Olympics.
A reggae single called “Limbo Man” was released in September 2015. Around a year later, West released his song "Standing On The Moon - 2016 Air Studios London Master Mix," engineered by Ray Staff (Bowie, Elton, etc).