The Process: Tom James Scott on making 'Teal'.

Tom James Scott Teal vinyl album cover.

A quick few questions with Tom James Scott on how he made his latest full-length 'Teal'. We have a short post on it a few weeks back here, one of our favourite albums we've mastered this year.

You mentioned before the mastering that there was a variety of techniques used to compose the songs. Can you explain how you went about some of these processes?

All of the more textural electronic parts were made by sampling instrument sounds (mostly acoustic) and looping/layering them with a basic sampler and fairly primitive sample keyboard. The first and last track were made in a much more careful and controlled way, but the rest of the processes used were fairly chaotic.

The first and last tracks create a great bookending to the narrative of the album. In particular the final track creates a kind of alarm that wakes you up after being lost in this other ‘Teal’ world. In terms of narrative, do you spend a lot of time shifting the track order, substituting tracks etc. to try and tell the strongest story with the album full?

I had the first and last track quite early on, and was undecided which I might use on a release, as they're essentially the same parts just arranged/mixed differently. The other pieces came later. Once I'd found that the track 'Ariel' flowed quite well into 'Poppy Seed' that seemed to set things going. I put all the tracks together on a playlist and listened back quite a lot on the way to work. I think I did try a few different sequences and also had a few other tracks in mind but in the end I settled on the order it's in now. I liked how the middle section has the feeling of coming up for air, and then it drops back into the more heavily treated/submerged sound world.

How much of this experimentation did you do before deciding, 'Okay this should all be on one album'. Or did you always have the album in sight as you were preparing/recording?

I often have ideas in mind based on a photograph or what might become a title, but in the end I find it better to work more by instinct and let the material build up on its own, and then the different pieces naturally become connected in some way and seem to fit one of these ideas. It's often more about a certain feeling than anything else.

I found it really interesting that you gave me the album art photograph as a reference for the mastering. Usually I get directions like, ‘clean high end’ or ‘big bass please’. Was this photograph an early landmark for you to aim for as the album was coming together or did that come along later?

Initially I had a different image of the boat in mind, of which I used a small section on the cover of the first cassette edition released in July. I looked at that image a lot through the two or three of years leading up to the making of the album, but when searching through a box full of old photographs at my parent's house I found this new image that really seemed to fit what the album had actually become. I like to have an idea of something in mind but I think it's important to keep a certain level of freedom and be open to new ideas. In terms of being a reference for the mastering, I feel the photo says so much more than I ever could in words about the overall atmosphere I wanted the album to convey.

Just one to finish on the subject of the artwork. I'm looking at the postcards that come as an option with the vinyl. They were a surprise when I first saw them, I wasn't quite sure how they fit, but quickly they found a place within the aesthetic and I think they add a nice extra dimension to the album especially the beginning and end. Can you say a little about them?

Andrew Chalk has been quite a presence on all the releases on the label so far, and each time has offered to make something in addition to the LP. We spoke about a set of postcards for this one and after sending me lots of images we chose to go with something more abstract, in contrast to the bright, saturated colours on the sleeve. We felt it might have been a little obvious to twin the album with other similar photographs. The designs are quite suggestive of different aspects of the landscape around where the photograph was taken, and even the surface of a grainy old photo, or the roughness in some of the recordings, which were dubbed onto tape and slowed down.

Buy 'Teal' direct from Skire.

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