As Bryan Adams winds up his latest greatest hits tour of the UK, we just thought we’d pull this gem out of the archive!
We had the privilege of attending one of the shows on this leg, and had previously had the honour of catching up with Keith Scott – here’s what happened when we did ...
How many bands or artists, past and present, could honestly proclaim to have captured the hearts, and ears, of a global audience? It seems to me that during the past 4 decades, Bryan Adams has done just that.
Since the success of his multi platinum selling album “Reckless”, to the present day (A new greatest hits album “Ultimate” was released 3.11.17) – Bryan Adams has toured the World almost none stop ; playing to packed out stadiums in Japan, India, Scandinavia, the USA, throughout his native Canada, and practically everywhere inbetween.
As a recording artist, Adams has consistently produced some of the most popular rock anthems of all time ; “Run To You”, “Somebody”, “18 Til I Die”, “Summer Of 69”, and not forgetting the epic “Everything I Do (I Do it For You)” ; from the soundtrack to the Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves’, which spent an amazing 16 weeks at the number one spot in the UK charts. [I know, I know – you either love it or you hate it, right?!]
I wonder if it’s fair to say that Adams may not have enjoyed this amount of success, without his loyal band of merry men?
There have been a couple of line-up changes, even becoming a 3-piece band for a while – but Mickey Curry was there with BA at the start ; Norm Fisher and Gary Breit since 2002 ; and for the major part of the past 35 years, KEITH SCOTT has been Bryan Adams wing man, and is ultimately responsible for defining the guitar sound that we have all come to know and love.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1954 (you do the math!) – Keith Scott has toured and recorded with Bryan Adams since 1981.
A self confessed sufferer of ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ – based on the feast of guitars and gear he’s amassed over the years – he also admits to being “a glutton at the buffet table of sound”.
I don’t doubt it, or his sense of humour!
In 1992, Gretsch produced a “Keith Scott Nashville Gold Top” signature guitar, to Scott’s specifications as a thank you for using his orange Gretsch in the video for “Everything I Do ...” [You’re singing it now, aren’t you?]
Keith Scott is hardly an un-sung hero, and it isn’t too hard to appreciate how he has become somewhat of a legend in his own lifetime – although he would never admit it! – but He even has his very own global following, affectionately known as “Troobies”.
There’s an inclusion in the Urban Dictionary which explains :
“Troob” – nickname of Keith Scott, Canadian and guitarist for Bryan Adams. Troob is a short version of the nickname ‘Troubadour’ which was given to him by Mutt Lange ; “Look at Troob over there, he sure knows how to rock a stadium”.
Despite the universal fame and attention, little is known about the man behind those beautiful guitars, and huge sounds.
In a rare interview, here’s what we found out as we dug a little deeper into the life, and the guitar collection, of the loudest , quiet man in Rock ...
HR : Were your family musical at all?
KS : My father played jazz piano a bit. My mother liked to sing and she had a nice voice.
Other than that, my siblings and I really enjoyed all kinds of music.
HR : Was there a moment in your childhood where the music just grabbed you, and you said to yourself “that’s it, that’s what I want to do!”?
KS : Like most kids my age, in the 1960’s, popular music was becoming more accessible. We had fewer choices to entertain ourselves, as compared to what’s available now.
So, when the Beatles came to North America, our world began to change. They really were responsible for us becoming more involved in music. Also, music ended up being a very big part of film and television, which we viewed a fair amount of growing up.
HR : What would you have done if you hadn’t have picked up a guitar, and joined a band?
KS : Hard to say, but my mother encouraged me to go to college after high school and maybe become a teacher?
Which mind you, I never did!
HR : What was the name of your first band? What kind of music did you play?
KS : The first band I actually rehearsed with didn’t have a name, since we were just trying to learn how to play songs . But ultimately, we played whatever we wanted – a lot of David Bowie during his “Ziggy” era.
I wanted to be like Mick Ronson!
And some Hendrix, Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett era, Alice Cooper , stuff like that.
Before that, while I was in high school, I would get together with music friends and jam.
There usually wasn’t a complement of enough people to form a band, maybe a few guitars and a drummer or whatever.
HR : You’ve been on the road with Bryan Adams, pretty much since the beginning – How long had you known each other before you joined the band?
KS : We actually met in Toronto Canada in the summer of 1976 via a mutual friend, but I certainly had heard about him.
He had been touring as a replacement singer for a band from the Vancouver area, ”Sweeney Todd”, at that time in Toronto.
We met for lunch and he was talking about trying to get a record label to give him a record deal with the songs he was writing with his partner Jim Valance.
I was playing in a club band named “Zingo” and we had just begun writing our own material.
I didn’t start working with Bryan until 5 years later.
HR : How did you handle the rise to stardom?
KS : Hah! Well, we were just working away, quite unaware of what was going on.
It wasn’t until many years later we took time to step back and look at how quickly the years were rolling by!
HR : Do you ever look back and go “WOW!”?
KS : More like, “Cripes, I’m exhausted!”
HR : Ha! Yes – You’ve had a pretty arduous working schedule for the past 35 years. What keeps it fresh for you after all this time?
KS : I think that we’ve always enjoyed the process of trying to come up with something that we might enjoy.
Even at the time, we may not realise the value of what is going down – that is the strangest part of the act of recording ideas.
It just happens a lot of the time, and it’s a mystery why something works, or doesn’t work.
I’ve never noticed if there was magic “formula” at work, there just isn’t one.
And when touring, we focus a lot on what the crowd is doing and the energy they usually send back. That is what keeps us feeling good about it.
HR : Has there ever been a time where you’ve considered giving it all up?
KS : Before I worked with Bryan – yes.
I had been in a band that had exhausted its means to continue on, and I was having trouble finding people and even ideas to make me want to carry on with it.
I wasn’t making much money either! But while I considered doing that, I got a nice offer from another local band named “Bowser Moon” that were extremely popular , and I worked with them for a few years, right up to when Bryan came calling ... 1979-80, around that time.
That was one of the most fun times I ever had being in band. It was very well organized, but there wasn’t much emphasis on writing or recording, so I felt that it was the right time to hook up with Bryan to see how that side of it all worked ...
HR : Good move ..!
How much of the world have you experienced whilst you’ve been on tour?
KS : Well, we’ve been very lucky to have had the types of songs that can appeal to a very broad base of people.
So, the result of that is, we are able to go to so many areas of the world to play.
Certainly, in the first few trips abroad we were good tourists – checking out places the normal tourist crowd would visit.
But more so lately, we try to gather at a favourite restaurant or something.
HR : Do you have a favourite song to play live?
KS : For many years and still now, my favourite song by Bryan is the title track for “Into the Fire”.
It was the right song at the time, for me and still is.
HR : You’ve helped to craft 9 of Bryan Adams studio albums.
When it comes to recording – what’s the process? Are you all involved in the evolution of the songs?
KS : In the early years like “Cuts like a knife” and “Reckless” it was the 5 guys in the band in the studio recording live off the floor.
There may have been an edit or two, but that was it, and then we would add a guitar here and there, percussion, and some vocal stuff. Then, it was mixed and mastered. Generally, the songs came to the band as finished demos and we may have changed a few small things, but most often a straight copy of the demo arrangement.
When Robert John “Mutt” Lange got involved around 1990, it was different.
Basic tracks were pre-done and we came in later to overdub, which was the way he worked.
It was a lot more work, but I really enjoyed it and think I learned a lot from it all.
He is a very gifted producer/writer and an incredible person.
I would also add that if by some chance, while recording a track live, they kept a solo or something, it was joyous … and rare.
I love those moments best.
HR : Which album did you most enjoy making?
KS : Well, the first few for sure, since it was new territory for me and very exciting.
“Waking up the Neighbours” was a different again, but also very fun to do … and most of “18 til I Die”.
For a live session, “Unplugged” was a terrific experience, live and with strings etc.
I have to say that in my many years working with Bryan that we have had tremendous people working with us, helping us get through it all, especially the producers.
We had Jim Valance at the beginning years demo stages and my first “real” recording experience was with the great Bob Clearmountain, who helped make it all so fun and relatively easy.
Along the way, we’ve had several worth mentioning as well; Steve Lillywhite, Mutt Lange, Neil Dorfsman, Chris Thomas, Mike Fraser, Bob Rock, David Foster, Phil Thornally, Pat Leonard and so many others.
Again, very lucky to have that experience, and the countless engineers, etc. that contributed so much.
HR : How difficult, or exciting, was the MTV Unplugged session?
You turned around a lot of peoples favourite rock anthems, and created something completely different!
KS : It was interesting and challenging to try that.
I think Bryan initially asked several people to help out with production/arranging, some of whom had prior experience in that type of setting. But, when a demo tape arrangement of one of the songs came in from Pat Leonard, we really felt that was the right direction to go in. I think he added a lot creatively and in how that session went down. Lucky for us he agreed to do it.
HR : The latest album – “Get Up” – was another departure from the conventional sound of Bryan Adams – were you all receptive to the idea?
KS : I was quite surprised literally when I heard about the liason with Jeff Lynne.
In fact, one day Bryan asked me to meet up with him in Los Angeles to do some guitar stuff, he then drove me to Jeff’s house!
We did a few things there for the track ”You belong to me”, which sadly, they didn’t use in the end.
I think it’s a clever partnership and I know Bryan respects Jeff’s work a lot.
HR : Jeff Lynne is indeed fabulous, and not too dissimilar to him, You have a very defined guitar sound and style of playing – how did you develop that? Who were your influences?
KS : Interesting you ask that since its one area of my career that I didn’t give a lot of thought to, as in, ”who are you”?
Musically and as a guitarist, I still haven’t figured it out or come to grips with it. I honestly don’t know what that is.
I know I respond and react to music when I hear it, or try to record it, and that is the basics of it.
If I’m working on a situation that is a little off base style-wise for me, I will research the idea more, but the true reward for me is to react and be happy with what comes out. And even then, sometimes I’m not aware of that happiness until quite a while later!
Lately, what I have been calling it is a “musical snapshot of what I’m feeling that moment”.
If it isn’t good enough, then I’ll hope to try again later.
As for influences – In the beginning, it was Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Terry Kath of Chicago and Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore , of which followed people like, Miles Davis, John Mclaughlin and the fusion era was upon us!
When I began to work with Bryan, it was more about what was going to help his songs, but we stole from everyone!
So, I was borrowing more from people of the day; Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, Stevie Ray Vaughan, things like that.
Soundwise, I had to go with what I thought would work for me at that time.
Maybe another player would have thought of a different sound or idea, in the end it is it what it is.
In our case, I felt we were all on the same page when it came time to record.
And, for the most part, the songs were pretty much written and arranged.
We just had to be able to add something that would help the cause!
In the beginning, I was asked to add something at the demo stage, so it was a head start to the final process, which for me, helped a lot. Some songs just suggested a certain sound or approach right away, and some took a lot of work!
HR : You’ve been a pretty huge influence on people across the planet For the benefit of any fans out there wishing to know how you achieve that sound – what gear do you use? Any tips you want to share?
KS : As far as the sound goes, it keeps changing every year.
My first influences were derived from the people of the day, blues based rock people and some jazzier people, so at that time I was into a rather robust and loud sound. Big amps, like Marshall and Hiwatt.
My trusty Fender Stratocaster, that was gained up via a booster pedal of some sort.
Over the years, I began to accept smaller amps and cleaner tones with different guitars, to round things out soundwise.
I’ve been working on a gear collection for several years now, which gives me a lot of choices from a sound palette point of view. Though, I tend to go back to the same ones more and more … maybe It’s a comfort thing?!
My advice for players is listen well, and be flexible to the situation ...
HR : We know you have quite an astounding collection of guitars – including your Signature Gretsch ; Do you have a favourite?
KS : Well, it seems that I go to a special few when I’m home and in session, because those particular ones are usually a good bet to get successful results.
For a long time, I have been partial to a 1959 sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a maple neck, since it is a very comfortable guitar to play. I found it in the late 1980’s and took it on tour for the “Into the Fire” era.
It was starting to get a lot of wear on it, so I made plans to keep it at home.
I was reluctant to take guitars from that vintage on the tour after that, since they just didn’t hold up very well.
So, I tried to use ones that I didn’t worry about any damage to. Thing is, I always wanted to play the fragile ones!
At home, I keep a nice nylon string close at hand, since I love the sound of that kind of guitar. It forces me to play a bit differently, but the reward is lovely when I do get it right, the odd time!
I have a 1954 Fender Telecaster I use a lot and a red 62 Gibson ES335 which is very nice.
Also, a ‘64 sunburst Stratocaster which I found in the U.S., in 1983, while on tour with the band ‘Journey’.
It’s been a regular piece at sessions.
There is a 1956 Gretsch 6120, which has a wonderful sound quality to it.
And a 61 Martin D-28 which was the most used guitar on the “Unplugged” session.
But the guitar that was used most in the early years, was a 1970’s era white Stratocaster, which did most of the first recordings with Bryan. It was featured in the video for the song “Please forgive me”. Shame is, I never touch it anymore.
I also love the sound of a 12 string guitar, acoustic or electric.
I have a gorgeous Gretsch 12 string acoustic and a Danelectro electric I favour a lot.
HR : Aside from Bryan Adams you’ve played with a number of other high profile artists – Bryan Ferry, Tina Turner, David Bowie, to name a few – do you have any particular memories that stand out?
KS : Hah! A few memories tend to stand out, and after all this time that is the most endearing part of it all.
The silly stuff that went on, the stuff that makes fun stories.
I was a big fan of the Avalon record that Roxy Music made, so it was a real honour to get to throw a few notes on Bryan Ferry’s record. He is a consummate gentleman! It was a quick session, while I was off in London, in the spring of 1985.
Many thanks go to Bob Clearmountain for recommending me for that.
At the David Bowie session in Los Angeles, there were comedians hanging around every day.
Dennis Miller and Bob Goldthwaite were there, which made in it very funny.
They were taking the piss a lot. I was asked to do that via the late Bruce Fairbairn, who was from Vancouver ...
HR : Is there anyone who you would really love to work with?
KS : I haven’t thought about that much, but I would love to TALK to a lot of people that had an influence on me while I was younger. Especially how sounds and sessions went down.
Jeff Beck would be one for sure.
I’d like to say that I’d like to work with him, but what would he need me there for? Hah!
In the 1970’s I was a very big fan of Canadian singer Gino Vanelli, and though it’s a bit out of my realm, I would maybe like to play something with him. The fellow who played on the “Brother to Brother” album, Carlos Rios, just killed it on that.
Amazing playing and I’m still trying to figure out what he did on it!
I’ve followed John Mclaughlin’s music since my teen years. I would love to meet him one day and thank him for making music that has inspired me greatly over the years.
I love great drummers! Billy Cobham, whom i am a fan of. I wish Tony Williams was still around, I miss his playing.
HR : You regularly tour and record with Jann Arden – how easy is it to change mode, and guitars, to play with Jann?
KS : I love Jann Arden!
Originally, I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with her band, since I thought her music compared to Bryan’s required a more dynamic approach. More texture type sounds and things like that, but I love the music she makes so I was keen to give it a try.
She is talented singer/writer and wonderful person and maybe one of the funniest people I have ever met!
I am very proud of the last studio record we made with my good friend, Bob Rock, producing ”Everything Almost”..
HR : When you’re not on the road with Bryan , or Jann, you write and record your own music.
“The Fontanas” album is really brilliant – it’s very Dick Dale! Was that fun to do?
KS : Yes! “surf “ style guitar is fundamental to how I look at modern electric guitar, so its been a lesson in music and guitar history for me.
HR : Any plans for a Keith Scott solo album, or more from “The Fontanas”?
KS : I’m very nearly completed the 2nd effort for it! Fontanas 2!
HR : One last, and slightly obscure question – Possibly some of the most quoted lyrics of all time come from a Bryan Adams song ; for some people it’s become a code to live by, but is it actually possible?
Can you really be “18 Til You Die”?
KS : No, it’s impossible ... but what fun trying!