Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to for the last decade?
My name is Jesse Scott, but most people know me by J. Scott G. (formerly of the Deepsky duo… back in the day).
Sheesh, the last decade… where do I begin? Well, I left Deepsky in 2006 as some people already know, and I got into the electro house scene for a while, then kind of retired from dance music in 2012. It was a decision stemming from a lot of variables including wanting to live a healthier lifestyle (the party lifestyle was DEFINITELY catching up to me). Plus, I was getting bored of the same old shit after doing it for 20 years. Primarily, though, I just wanted to shift gears and make music that was more emotionally compelling and memorable, instead of the same old disposable dance tracks I’d made for 2 decades.
Make no mistake, I still have a deep love for electronic dance music, and in fact, plan on writing some new dance tunes in the near future, but I started making music for film and T.V. as a more sustainable career choice, and also started doing a lot of sound design for synths and other stuff. I also started a couple of new companies, one of which is a multimedia studio for video and website production called Libra Rising Media, as well as an acoustics company called PSY Acoustics.
Unfortunately, because no one buys music anymore, it’s become nearly impossible to make a sustainable living from it, unless you’re a touring A-list act. I’m actually quite happy with my new life changes, though. I’m a much more balanced (and sober) person these days, and I make music for enjoyment again, instead of constantly being bitter about how no one really seems to support musicians. I do pretty well with T.V. & film licensing, but even that is drying up for a lot of people because of over-saturation.
I also got married to a wonderful woman who I’d been friends with for 12 years prior. It was crazy, I was the last person anyone thought would get married, but ya know, at some point, being the “old young guy” is a bad look. Plus, it brought a lot of much-needed balance to my life that I’d been missing before. When you find the right one, you can’t sleep on it. Those opportunities are rare, and you have to be wise enough to know when to jump on something when the universe presents it to you (so to speak… haha).
The mastery of music seems to have a lot of similar parallels to the mastery of one’s own life (balance, intensity, timing, etc). Has the mastery of your craft run parallel to the mastery of your personal life, and if so, in what ways?
It certainly does, and I’ve often drawn a lot of parallels with these two myself. For instance, music is about balancing the right frequencies, the right sounds, as well as the right timing and placement of it all. If you have too many sounds happening all at once, your song just becomes muddled and incoherent. This is much like life. If you have too many things going on, you cannot focus on the important things. Hell, you might not even know what the important things are because you can’t see any of it clearly. Sometimes the best way forward is removing non-essential things, and choosing what the priority is, much like the proper way to make music.
What is the most rewarding thing about music to you, personally?
So many things, but lately I’ve been teaching a lot. It’s been really wonderful to enrich young people’s minds and teach them how to be better at something. My favorite part of teaching is that “Eureka” moment someone has when they figure a production trick out for the first time. I love the look on their faces when they see that something they’ve not been able to figure out on their own, suddenly becomes possible. It’s a good life lesson too, because you realize in those specific moments that *nothing* is truly impossible or unattainable.
Outside of teaching, I’d have to say that that the most rewarding thing about music is pretty much everything. Without music, I’d be dead. No joke. Music has brought me everything good in my life that I’ve ever had, from my friends, to my income, to my sanity, etc. Music has never lied to me, never stolen from me, it’s never tried to hurt me or take advantage of me (not to say the business hasn’t)… but really, music’s been my best friend. It’s always been there when no one else is. I love as much at 45 as I did when I was 12. Music has *literally* saved my life.
What are some of your favorite methods for making music? Also, tell us a little bit about how you approach sound design?
Well, everything I do is in the box these days, meaning all in the computer and no outboard gear. I used to have a room full of synths and outboard processing, but to be honest, all of that seems to be distracting for my workflow. The software tools these days are mind boggling. Not to say that having outboard gear is bad (everyone is inspired to make music in their own special way) but for me, I find that everything I need is right there in the machine.
It’s funny, but 10 years ago, I sucked ass at sound design. It was always so intimidating to me, and I always ended up using presets and samples, and then tweaking them. One day I just got sick of it, and told myself I needed to man the fuck up and learn how all of it worked. So I did. I stopped putting records out, and basically went “back to school” for about 5 years. It was a pretty weird shift for me after putting out records consistently for 20 years, but I knew that if I didn’t do it, I was gonna become obsolete. That scared me enough to get my shit together and up my game. Now, I’d say I’m an expert at it, and am really glad I stuck to it.
I make sounds from anything and everything. For instance, I recorded my dog barking one time and made a playable pad out of it. I have a field mic on my iPhone and I record things in the real world and then import them in and make instruments out of them. Besides drum sounds (there are already so many good ones out there), I pretty much make everything from the ground up with a variety of different synths and sound mangling tools. There are so so so many incredible tools now, there’s really no excuse. In my opinion, people who just use loops and samples aren’t really doing anything besides faking it.
When does obsession over details become too much? How do you (personally) tell the difference between refinement and obsession?
I wish I could answer this easily, but I can’t. To me, the line is so blurred. I’m so obsessive about music and sound design, that sometimes I make myself crazy to the point of a nervous breakdown. I think all of the best artists out there are obsessive in one way or another. If they weren’t, their music wouldn’t be as good. It’s the one of the oldest human conundrums I think, because anyone who gives a real shit about what they do wants it to be the best it can be. If you don’t, I’m not sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
That being said, sometimes you just have to know when to step away. I’m still figuring this one out.
Drug use at events is as rampant as ever. Do you think that drugs play a positive role in rave culture, or would you prefer to play events where people weren’t chewing their faces off as much?
Ha! I would be a hypocrite to say that drugs haven’t brought me some of the best experiences in my life, especially at music events, but honestly, as a performer, I’ve noticed that people seem to be less into the music, and more into just being high lately. I think people are so over stimulated now, that anything besides the drop is boring, and drugs aren’t helping that at all. I think that has to also do with the kinds of music that are popular these days, but I do miss when people grooved along all night, instead of just standing there until an exciting part of the track happened.
As I’ve gotten older (and sober), I’ve definitely been more interested in playing to crowds who are more interested in the music, rather than coming to something where they can get high with their friends. I think if you’re a real music lover, being *that* fucked up is distracting from what really matters, and why we’re all here to begin with… but I do know from experience that listening to music in an altered state can be a religious experience. I don’t really know where the balance is… maybe moderation? Who knows.
Music is deeply ingrained in every culture around the world in one way or another. How important do you think music is to the future of human beings, and in what ways have you seen music transform people/culture for the better?
Well, it’s important enough that I stopped making fun of genres of music that I didn’t like (like country and gangsta-rap). I came to this realization a few years ago, that without music, life would be meaningless and boring, and just because I might not like a style of music, personally, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bring joy to someone else. It was a realization that came with a more mature outlook on life, and having the wisdom and understand to realize that we all see and experience the world in different ways. One thing is never “better” than something else, it’s just different. We have to respect that, I think.
When I was a kid, I remember this Coca-Cola commercial where a bunch of people of various ethnicities were all singing in unison “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…” (god that was back in the 70s… I’m getting old) and I think it made a huge impact on me. In 2016 my wife, Naomi and I started a project called Qisvara. I’d written this song and decided that I wanted the world to sing the chorus to it… so I posted it online, and surprisingly got around 100 people from various countries to send me recordings of themselves singing the chorus.
This made me think… if I can get 100 people, why not 1000? Why not 10,000 or more? So we made an executive decision to sell everything we had that didn’t fit into a trailer, and travel up and down the west coast for a year recording people in various places. By the end of 2016, we had recorded 500 people, one person at a time. Now, if you know anything about recording, you’ll know that recording 500 people one on one is a grueling and time intensive task. By the end of the year, we were exhausted. We had tried to get funding to go bigger, but it didn’t’ work out, so we had to put the project on hold. We just couldn’t keep going without support.
It’s how we ended up in Portland, actually. It was the last city we’d went to, and we just decided to stay. Portland is AMAZING btw. We love it here. Anyway, Qisvara is still on my to-do list, it just needs to be the right timing, with the right support. I believe in my heart that a project like this can help change the world for the better by demonstrating that we can all put our differences aside and make something beautiful together.
Define “fun” 10 years ago. Define “fun” today.
10 years ago = Strippers & cocaine. Now = Dinner parties, hikes & being amazing at what I do.
Where do you see your career heading over the next decade?
I’m working on some new music projects that I’m pretty excited about, that I won’t talk about right now… but besides that, more teaching, Qisvara, and working on the things I have going right now like the label, event production and my companies. I have a LOT on my plate.
David’s father has three sons : Snap, Crackle and _____ ?
David? Ha, you can’ fool me.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be, and why?
I guess it would be the ability for people to have a little more empathy towards one another. I think that’s the biggest obstacle we face, is not having the wisdom to understand what other people are going through. I think it’s the main reason the world is in the state it is today, and why we aren’t helping those in need more. People only seem to change when something bad happens to THEM, and it’s sad to me that we can’t put ourselves in other people’s shoes, and perhaps, try to treat other people’s problems as our own. We’re all on team human here… and I think we need to start acting like it.