The Thomas Scott Quintet release their new album, Marionette, on 22 November. With a pre sale for the white vinyl and CD starting on 24 October. More details here.
I caught up with Tommy to talk about the new album and also his time in 90’s pop mavericks, Space, and further back in time to the early 80s and the scene at Eric’s in Liverpool.
Space were ever present chart regulars in the late 90s with tracks like ‘The ballad of Tom Jones’ and ‘Female of the Species’.
I’ve been lucky enough to get an early listen of Marionette and it’s a cinematic rollercoaster of an album, with a great orchestrated sound, tipping a nod to Link Ray, John Barry and other sixties influences. The sound is organic and a move away from the more sequenced sounds of Space. Tommy explains in the interview that the album is influenced by range of filmic influences from Hammer Horror to Twin Peaks.
The album kicks off with an epic opener, ‘Shadowlands’, a dark track that sounds like the bastard child from Pulp Fiction, and shades of Urge Overkill. More on that track below.
Tommy’s voice is on top form – the wry, twisted lyrics that he used in Space are very much present on ‘She smokes oblivious’. The track also finishes off with a deep discordant guitar solo, with shades of Shack.
There are swirling delicate ballads like ‘Devilish kiss’ all wrapped up in sweeping strings and then on other tracks like ‘Rituals of girl called nightingale’ he’s stretching and rasping his voice over an epic twanging soundtrack.
Another highlight is the jazz tinged ‘’Ghost of New Orleans’ – trumpets tracking Tommy’s voice and a rag time interlude. ‘God made me ugly’ is a Stones- tinged mid- sixties rocker and then the album closes with another string tinged, guitar twanging epic, ‘Treasure chest’ – a sad tale with female vocals echoing back the chorus ‘you won’t stop, you won’t rest, ‘til you’ve bled yourself dry, done your best, till there’s nothing left in the treasure chest’. Each track is leading you to guess the dark and mysterious story behind it.
Do check out this album even if you weren’t a fan of Space – it will surprise and transport you for 40 minutes. That certain Mersey- psych magic has seeped into this one.
On the album Tommy is aided by Paul Hemmings on guitar/production (The La’s/Lightning Seeds), Phil Hartley Bass/Production, Chris Sharrock on Drums (Icicle Works, The La’s, Oasis, Robbie Williams, Noel Gallagher) and featuring award winning folk artist Emily Portman singing the spell binding ‘Treasure Chest’.
I first asked Tommy my usual opener about musical influences
Steve – Your house is burning, which three records do you save?
Tommy – Transformer/Lou Reed, Y/ The Pop Group, Wee small hours/Frank Sinatra.
What was the key influence on the sound of the album?
The key influences where – David lynch. Ennio morricone. Lou Reed. Bernard Herman.
The whole album has a cinematic, dark western, quality to it – are there any films that inspired the album?
Yeah, very influenced by movies. Death rides a horse with Lee van cleef & John Phillip Law. Twin Peaks. The devil rides out. Hammer horror movies are definitely up there. James Bernard’s score is intense.
I love the album opener, Shadowlands – can you tell me more about the story behind it?
Shadowlands is fighting depression and the dark side taking over. Hopefully there’s someone around to get you through, or you’re there to get people close to you though.
There is some great orchestration on the album – songs like Marionette. Do you conceive and hear the whole track with the strings on when you write or does it come together more organically?
The string arrangements came last. Phil Hartly our bass player producer arranged all the strings, he’s amazing at scoring . We knew we wanted big arrangements on the tracks, but we wanted to record the band first so it sounded more organic and soulful.
Your guitar sound evokes people like Link Wray on the album – is he an influence?
Funny you should say that I’ve been called his scouse double a few times. I love that style of guitar it definitely helps me create the mood I’m after. Only in my dreams could I play like Link Wray though.
Its a very complete album – the way it effortlessly flows together and your vocals sound as a good as ever – where do you feel it sits alongside your other work?
I think it’s different in as such as I deliberately stayed away from samples and the almost hip hop style grooves that space use . It’s definitely more song based.
Any plans for playing the album live when the world finally heads back to normal?
I hope we get chance to play it. I’d love to do it with an actual string quintet, think that would be cool.
Finally, a few questions looking back a bit further. I always loved the Space song ‘The ballad of Tom Jones’ – how did the duet with Cerys come about and how was the track written?
I wrote ballad of Tom Jones with Cerys Matthews in mind, we wouldn’t of done it if she said no, so I’m glad she was up for it. We had great fun recording it in Parr St studios, we both sang it together like a real duet. It’s funny as well, coz don’t know if you can tell but we were pissed when we sang it.
Could we drop back in time to the early 80s and Erics – the range of bands that came out the crowd from one club was amazing – what did Erics give Liverpool and how did it influence you?
Eric’s gave Liverpool a whole lot as far as I’m concerned. I used to go after school with my mates, we could only go to the matinees. I saw Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop explodes, Spizz energi, Gang of Four, Frantic elevators, Pink military, Au pairs. Loads of great bands and they all had a big impact on my musical life.