Jonny Scott. What is there to be said about Jonny Scott? Well. He’s awesome. A fantastic drummer – you don’t to get to play with The Kills if you’re not. And he’s a gentleman. Quiet, considered and a total pro. We caught up with Jonny recently and picked his brains about what he’s been up to.
Musically, you’re playing with The Kills. How’s it all going?
It’s going great, toured for around 9 months last year, was tiring but loads of fun.
How did the gig come around for you?
My friend Scott Paterson (Sons and Daughters) called me one day and asked me if I’d be up for being a part of a ëdrum corps’ for a band from London called The Kills. There were four of us all standing up with 2 floor toms and a snare each, all dressed the same doing choreographed parts. It looked really awesome and it was really cool putting it all together. The live setup has evolved since then and I’m now on kit (and Ableton duties) with Scott on Keys and Bass.
What’s your favourite thing about the gig?
It’s hard to pick out one thing actually.. I guess just having the opportunity to play night after night in so many amazing different places. I feel really lucky to be doing this gig, I love the music and they’re super cool people, they have this insane energy onstage and it’s great to be a part of that.
It’s just 2 of them in the studio from what I understand. How much further is the band augmented live, besides you?
Besides Jamie and Alison we have Scott Paterson on Bass and Keys.
Is the gig a typical sideman gig, where you take the records and recreate them exactly as asked for live, or do you have any input on arrangements?
It’s usually pretty straightforward, we tend not to mess with the arrangements too much. Since most of their songs (on record) don’t tend to have much live kit going on I’m just trying to complement the programmed stuff and not get in the way too much, it’s really about adding some weight and energy. There are a few songs in the set we do without any drum machine or tracks and they tend to be more free, arrangement-wise.
From some of the clips and things I’ve listened to, it’s clear that there are electronics involved. Had you experience of that stuff before or was it a learning curve?
Yeah, there’s a fair amount of electronics involved but nothing I haven’t had experience of before. I’ve been working with bands using Ableton/samplers/SPD/ etc for a while now and have a wee studio in my house full of synths and drum machines so I feel really at home with all that non-drumming nonsense. I did have to think of Ableton in a different way for this gig since I didn’t set up the original session so there was definitely a wee learning curve in there.
You’ve been a fixture in the Scottish music scene for a number of years, playing in different bands. Does staying active like this between tours suit you
I always like to stay as busy as possible and there was a time where I think I was probably trying to do too much. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time for that last year being away so much. I’ve been doing more production and writing recently and that tends to be what I do when I’m home now. That and hang out with my cats. I’m hoping to do some shows later in the year with my other bands, I miss it a lot.
Do you write a lot of your own music?
Yeah but I always need a co-writer, someone else’s opinion on whether an idea is shite or not.. I’ve got no confidence in myself that way! I much prefer bouncing ideas off someone else. I recently finished producing and co-writing a record with Helen Marnie (Ladytron), it’s out in March. I’ve also been producing a record for BDY_PRTS and I contribute to some of the writing there as well. The album is in the final stages of mixing and will be out in Spring, I’m super excited about that!
You’ve recently just signed as a Ludwig artists – congratulations. What gear do you use?
Thanks! Yeah, I’m so excited to be a part of the Ludwig family, I’ve been obsessed with their drums for a long time so it’s great to have their support. I’ve always loved the sound and look of the Vistalite kits, been playing a red 1970’s vista for the last 10 yrs so it made sense for me to get one for touring. I’m currently playing the Tequila Sunrise reissue kit in 24″, 18″, 16″, 13″ with a 6.5×14 Black Beauty and Atlas Classic hardware. The new Vistas sound HUGE, I absolutely love them. Good looking things too. I only use one cymbal with The Kills because Jamie hates cymbals.. I figured if I could only have one it should be massive so I’m using a 24″ Paiste Giant Beat which I bought from you guys a while back along with a set of 15″ Paiste 2002 Sound Edge hi-hats. I’ve got a special new kit coming my way this year too..
Have you always been a fan of American drums – I know you played Gretsch before?
Not always american drums specifically though it probably looks like that.. I’ve played everything from Pearl to Mapex to Premier over the years, anything that sounded good really. It wasn’t until my first tour of the states with Emma Pollock that I developed my Ludwig obsession. We were supporting The New Pornographers and had borrowed Neko Case’s drums for the tour, a 1960s super classic but The New Porno’s drummer Kurt Dahle had this amazing mod orange vintage Ludwig with a 24″kick which sounded insane, he ended up letting me use that for most of the tour to save us dragging our gear on and off the stage. I kind of fell in love with that kit so I bought my red Vistalite with my wages from that tour as soon as I got home!
What electronics are you using for The Kills?
We’re running Ableton Live on two Macbooks through a Radial SW8 switcher which will switch from A laptop to B laptop if anything goes wrong (it hasn’t yet, touch wood). I have an Akai MPD to my right which I use to line up the next song in the set and Jamie has a footswitch linked to that to fire the tracks off. Also have the obligatory Roland SPD-sx in my setup with a few triggers. I sampled a load of the drums from the record into that so I can play as much of the programming as possible live.
Does this change for your own projects?
The MPD setup isn’t something I’ve done with anyone else, I usually try to keep things as simple as possible for my own stuff, sticking to just an SPD where I can. I can usually load full tracks into that which negates the need for a laptop, it really helps when you’re doing tight festival slots when you’re not throwing cymbals and drums around then having to worry about a unplugging a load of cables and putting a laptop away. That stresses me out!
You stepped in for Martin from Mogwai very last minute recently. How was it learning their set?
It was very last minute.. I got the phone call while I was still in bed asking if I could do it, that same night I was on a plane to Hamburg listening to Mogwai on repeat trying to drill the songs into my head, thankfully I was familiar with a lot of their songs already. I never got a chance to physically play the stuff until I got to the venue and sat down with the band at soundcheck.. I’m not gonna lie, I was shitting myself! I can barely remember the 1st gig now, it was such a blur, I do remember Barry exclaiming that ìwe got away with it” afterwards. Ha! I settled into it pretty quickly after that, Martin was on hand for the first week of the tour to help me out which was awesome. I’d been a fan of the band for a long time so getting to actually be on stage with them was ridiculously fun. And loud. Very, very loud.
Did you find it challenging having to work without vocals – where you perhaps maybe take a cue from etc?
That was probably the trickiest thing about the gig. I always rely on vocal cues when I’m learning other bands’ material so not having that was definitely a challenge. there was a lot of eye contact and nods going on for the first few shows, sometimes conflicting nods depending on who I was looking at.. There were some other cues going on but I don’t wanna give too much away. Some of them were pretty funny though.
You came through a music programme and your Dad is a music teacher. What is your opinion of music education these days?
I think there are a lot of great people doing really amazing things in music education but they’re up against it when it comes to funding, music and arts are always the first to have their budgets cut and that’s a real shame. When I was teaching in Schools a pupil’s drum lesson might’ve been the only reason they bothered coming in that day, I know that’s what kept me going when I was at High School. What’s gonna happen to these kids who can’t afford private tuition? Where do they go?
Do you teach drums?
I taught drums in a few High Schools for around 8 years but had to pack it in to concentrate on touring, production and session work. I’d like to get into some private tuition this year as i have a little more free time and i miss it.
What’s your favourite thing about being on the road?
Tequila! No, playing drums every night is my favourite thing about it. I mentioned this earlier but I really do feel lucky to be in a position where I can play for a living.
Being away from family/friends/my girlfriend/my cats. It’s really difficult not seeing the people you love for months at a time.
Favourite venue to play?
It’s hard to pick one.. I think L’Olympia in Paris, it’s bloody beautiful.
Top 5 records and why?
Hmmmmm.. This is difficult as it seems to change day to day.. At this particular moment in time and in no particular order.
The Cure – Disintegration
I’m a sucker for a huge synth pad..
Steely Dan – Aja
It has all my favourite drummers on it plus I love a bit of Yacht. grew up with this one.
Depeche Mode – Violator
Amazing pop songs but also dark af. I never get tired of this record.
The Blue Nile – Hats
I love Paul Buchanan’s voice and I love the fact that there are basically no drums on it. Great example of letting the songs do the talking. I listen to this on tour a lot, it reminds me of Glasgow.
Prince – Purple Rain
This needs no explanation.
What was the last gig you went to?
The first gig I went to on my own was Oasis at Loch Lomond but i think officially my first gig was Fckn Kenny G.. My parents took me when i was learning saxophone. Scarred me for life. Thanks Mum and dad.
Give me 1 piece of advice for the younger generation?
Don’t be a dick. Nobody will hire you if you’re a dick.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Still doing music in some capacity, I’ll be 45 in 10 yrs so hard to say if I’ll still be able to handle touring life.. I dunno, 1 phone call can completely alter your path in this industry and that’s one of the things I love about it. Unpredictable.