Engineer Jim Scott Interview

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Mr. Bonzai



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For projects recorded by other engineers, Scott takes a different approach. “When the material comes to me from an outside source, the first thing I do is listen to each sound source — just to know it is what it says it is, and that it sounds like a pure tone, not broken or distorted for some mechanical reason. I just want to hear what the guy is calling his bass DI sound or his acoustic piano sound. I just quickly take inventory to know that everything is working and this is what I am up against today.

“Then I usually start with the drums and bass — but as quickly as I can, I like to get the music up, sounding like some kind of music before I dig too deep. They didn't record their album thinking about what it would sound like when I was going to mix it. They recorded it thinking that it sounded good when they did it. You gotta bow down to that philosophy, and say, ‘They had something. What is it?’

“There is a natural balance in there somewhere. I might not like the drum sound, but that's okay. Maybe the drum sound goes with the bass sound. Maybe the drum sound goes with the piano sound. Maybe it all goes together as a sound. You have to figure that out.”

At Plyrz Studios, recording is done mostly to Pro Tools. “Honestly, in the last three years we had two projects come on tape. One was Wilco, and that was on multitrack for Sky Blue Sky. I was the mixer and we played back off multitrack and mixed down to half-inch. It just sounded great.”

Current Projects

Now that Scott has his own studio, the pace has not slowed in the least. “I am doing a record with a young band called the Sons of Bill, sort of a country-rock band from Virginia,” he comments. “I am also in the middle a project with Citizen Cope — that's Clarence Greenwood. I recently finished my fourth album with my good friends Lowen & Navarro, Learning to Fall.

“And after that I am going to New Zealand for a project,” he adds. “I was invited by Neil Finn of Crowded House to work with his organization called Seven Worlds Collide. A few years ago, he invited a great bunch of musicians, singers, songwriters to make an album of original music and live performances for DVD as a benefit for Oxfam. This year, I have been invited to co-produce and engineer, with Neil and his brother, Tim, and his sons, Liam and Elroy. Wilco is joining us, and three or four members of Radiohead, Johnny Marr, Lisa Germano and Sebastian Steinberg from Soul Coughing. We have a song from Eddie Vedder and hopefully one from Tom Petty. The goal is to make an album of new and original music, putting together different combinations of the musicians gathered there. Everyone is donating their time, and it's a way in which I can give something back to rock 'n' roll, which has been very good to me.”

When asked for an explanation of how he achieved his successes, Scott offers this advice: “Every day you go to work, you have to do your best work. If you slack off or get a bad attitude, the artist or producer will remember that and call somebody else the next time. That's my hot business tip of the day — be great.”

For more from Mr. Bonzai's interview with Jim Scott, including favorite session moments with Tom Petty, Wilco, Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones and other top artists, visit

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