Issue 5 Cover This interview was between Steve Scott and Gord Wilson - who contributed it some time afterward.

If you were at Cornerstone, you might've caught Steve Scott singing with his former EXIT labelmates, the 77s, or after Vector's set, which turned into an EXIT reunion, with the 77s, Vector, Charlie Peacock and audience members on stage for a 3 a.m. jam session of Scott's "Ghost Train." Steve also gave four seminars on Christianity and the Arts which will be compiled later this year in a book called Scratching the Surface.

A founding member of Britain's Arts Centre group, Steve is best known Stateside for his brilliant 1983 EXIT release Love in the Western World and two acclaimed albums on Alternative Records, Lost Horizon (1989) and Magnificent Obsession (1990).

In this interview, Steve talks about music, missions and modern art. Balinese music was playing in the background while Gord Wilson interviewed Steve in his Sacramento home, where he lives with his wife, Debra, and daughter, Emma.

ACM: When did you come over from Britain?

SSC: The first time was just for a visit in 1976; it was the Bicentennial year and they were selling greyhound bus tickets cheap--$76. I had points of contact in New York to do poetry readings - St. Mark's and the Bowery - places like that. I brought a copy of my film with me (Ghostdance) and showed that a couple places. Then I took a five day bus ride from Port Authority, New York, all the way across to the Bay area, across America. I visited San Francisco for a while, and stayed with a friend, and then hitchhiked down to Los Angeles, and stayed with my friend, Randy Stonehill. And with Larry Norman, whom I'd met in England previously, Tom Howard and those guys.

I came back in 1977 with the idea of making a record for Solid Rock. That didn't quite work out and I moved up to Sacramento, and eventually ended up going for the legal status change from visitor to permanent resident. Between 1977 and 1981, I'd visit the U.S. and go back to England. I met my wife as a friend in 1982.

ACM: What's your film?

SSC: I made a film called Ghostdance when I was in art school in England - a collage film, an experimental film. At that point I was very interested in making films and going multi-projection events. I brought the film to trek across the country with me, and I had a book of poetry of the same title published in a small edition in England. The idea was to do a reading, sell copies of the book, show the film. That was published by a small, independent publisher called Monolith Books, headed up by Tony Lopez, who is himself a poet and performance artist. In 1985, when I last saw him, he was completing an advanced degree in modern literature at Cambridge University.

ACM: You've also lectured at Oxford, have you not?

SSC: No, the key word there is "in", as opposed to "at". Myself and Brooks Alexander were just coming off traveling through India, and as part of our traveling itinerary - in India it was research - but in both Hawaii and England we had speaking engagements. Some Christian movements in Oxford had put together an all day thing on new religious movements and the cults, and we spoke at that. It was organized by some churches within the vicinity of Oxford.

ACM: Can you give us years on these trips?

SSC: We left for India in December of 1980, and came back to America in March of 1981. We were in Hawaii for a week, Christmas in Hong Kong, Singapore, trainride up to Thailand, nearly a month in India, Berlin, Germany, then I stayed in England, where my family is, for a few extra weeks.

ACM: What's the other trip?

SSC: 1987. An organization called Gospel for Asia headed by K.P. Yohannon does these trips for American pastors and missions people types to go over and see the work that the native church and native evangelists are doing, with the idea of going back and giving a report to raise money to support the self-generating churches. There was me, some Calvary Chapel people, and others making this trip, seeing the work the local church and missionaries were doing in India - Delhi, Bombay, Madras, all the way down to Rama Swaram, which is a little island. There's a little apostolic type church begun there by a man named M. Pavlose, on this Hindu holy isle. When most of the trip left, I and Yohannon's business manager, Kris Juett, who had put in time in Calcutta with Mark Buntain's ministry, she and I hightailed it down to Calcutta when everyone else split. I also saw Mother Theresa's work in Calcutta.

The first time I went to India was under the auspices of the Dialog Center in Denmark, under a man called Johannes Asgaarde. They were a Lutheran organization setting up trips so pastors could see what was going on with European and American youth in India, so that we might catch the vision of setting up a counseling center for all those people who get burned out on the gurus, have sold their passports and are stuck over there. So the first trip was with evangelical, ecumenical, pastors from all over - Lutheran, Baptist or whatever. The second trip was about third wave missionary stuff, about Western support for self-grown works in the developing world. The third Asian trip was to Bali, for a conference put on by Bruce and Kathleen Nichols and the protestant church in Bali, in conjunction with the Traditional Media Section of the International Christian Media Commission (ICMC). They'd organized this conference, "Artists as Agents in Re-Creation," which was gathering Christian artists from all over the world, predominantly the developing world, with a view to exploring the use of traditional and extended media as art, as cross-cultural communication, either as the assertion of implicit Christian values, or the exploration of what's involved in explicit Christian communication across cultures. Both facets were explored through a variety of media. That was the beginning of '89. When that was over, I spent a few days in Java.

ACM: Do you see these ethnic influences influencing your music?

SSC: Yeah, I think so. I like to listen to that stuff. I'm not the first person to try and integrate them into a rock background. There's a viable way of working that does that, whether you're doing Brazilian stuff, like David Byrne is now, or Oriental influences, going back to early David Bowie, or even as far back as the Incredible String Band: acoustic guitar, bongo drums, sitar, violins - it's been going on a long time and I guess I'm part of that.

ACM: When did you get involved with the Warehouse?

SSC: On and off since 1977. They were interested in using the arts for communication, evangelism, whatever, and my involvement from that point grew. I did counseling, teach Bible studies, as well as working on the arts, being involved with Sangre Productions when it was "up", being involved with Exit Records during that phase of what was going on, and now the Arts and Media group - over 100 strong - is "up" - again, with painters and sculptors and such; I'm very centrally involved with that.

ACM: How about you becoming a Christian?

SSC: 1967. Through an evangelical coffee bar held in my home town of Chingford. The idea was that you go to the cofee bar with your friends, and you try and bring up all kinds of questions that Christians can't answer. I ws 16, in high school at the time, and I met some people there who said why don't you come to our little church - it was a little Evangelical Free mission church, and I started going to the church, and I'd date my Christian conversion from around that point in time.

ACM: Were you also going to art school?

SSC: I'd just enrolled in a local college of further education that had some foundational art classes - '67, '68, '69. Then the idea is that you take a portfolio and try and get into a three year college. I didn't get in anywhere so I worked in a factory for a year. I ended up going to Croydon art school in '71, doing a three year course there. That's the other side of London, so I moved to Croydon, and went to a local Baptist church there.

ACM: You said once you thought modern art was getting the short end of the stick from Christians.

SSC: There were two approaches I recall being prevalent at that time: Either they didn't understand it, and didn't really get to grips with it - but that wasn't the Christians' fault - most ordinary people didn't really understand where a lot of things were culturally, in terms of the avant garde, why things were happnening in galleries. Some Christians were a part of one prong of a two prong approach - that prong was general and understandable ignorance - you know, "why is taxpayers' money being spent on this or that". The other prong, which is much more dangerous, is the people who'd say, "we know about modern art; we've read a Francis Schaeffer book," or "we've read the Hans Rookmaaker book - what do you need to know about modern art that Hans Rookmaaker hasn't said?" Whereas both Schaeffer and Rookmaaker, I'm convinced, would say, "go and stand in front of the work itself." People - these Christians, at least - were satisfied to let the Shaeffers and Rookmaakers do their seeing and thinking for them, which meant that they didn't really get to grips with the complex of ideas that Rookmaaker and Schaeffer were necessarily boiling down to their minimum, in order to make their case.

ACM: Do you have future music plans?

SSC: More records. I'd like to make more records. Randy Layton at Alternative Records has more stuff on tape he'd like to put out, of an archival nature, and I have a whole bunch more songs I'd like to record and get access to a 24 track studio with the right kind of technology. doesn't have to be top 40 quality, but I now think, based on the response to Lost Horizon, that there's probably people out there who want this sort of thing.

ACM: Specific songs. "This Sad Music". Didn't you once say that owed something to the approach of Eisenstein in The Battleship Potempkin?

SSC: There are a number of interesting jokes surrounding that. What happened in "This Sad Music" is I took two tv programSSc: a Jack Van Impe sermon - a famous evangelist on tv talking about the demise of the American value system; and a newscast about the whales beaching themselves. What I did was I physically cut back and forth between two sets of information on the page, and generated a poem that consisted of juxtaposition of these images with no line of connection...this owes something to the general theory Eisenstein came up with of creating images in the mind of the viewer by simply editinACM: montage, jumpcuts, you can see it now on MTV. The film Eisenstein is most famous for, using that technique, is The Battle Potempkin. But, that's where the joke comes in.

Eisenstein, when you read through his books, Film Form and The Film Sense, alludes to being influenced in turn by Japanese Kabuki theatre. The circle is completed by the fact that around the time I wrote the music for "This Sad Music", James Clavell's Shogun was being televised, and we were watching it religiously. I wanted to come up with a cheap, toytown Japanese fake Oriental soundtrack. It's all very untidy, and it would be very pretentious of me to say, "yes, I went and saw this, and I and Eisenstein went and had a beer in Berlin somewhere and we talked about it at great length"; all those references are there, but it's all pretty sloppy. The cut up technique is older than that. Dada artist Tristan Tzara used to simply pull words out of a hat; he influenced William Borroughs with the cut up technique, which Burroughs pioneered in books like Naked Lunch, Nova Express, and The Soft Machine.

No, I literally wrote things out in my journal, and I edited, moved things around, and came up with stuff that looked good in juxtaposition together. The kind of poets who impacted me were people like Robert Bly, James Wright, Thomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet who often juxtaposes images in a very calm , prosaic term, a calm, flat voice. Things come together and accumulate, and build up an emotional sense.

ACM: How is The Boundaries coming together?

SSC: An overall theme is emerging. Everything I do is pretty simple, and none of it's particularly original. What happens on Love in the Western World, and on Emotional Tourist and the Lost Horizon compilation, is you set up one metaphor, work with the tensions and problems produced form that one metaphor. What happens on LIWW and ET is the idea that relationships between people and countries and cultures and between people and God, can either function in relation to one another, and also the breakdowns and problems in those human relationships, can demonstrate the essential difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of people.

Some people will argue that romantic love is a working parable of divine love. On the other hand, Denis De Rougemont in Love in the Western World (the book), and Anders Nygren in Eros and Agape, argue that human love, and the romantic ideal, is a grotesque parody of divine love. You have the plus and the minus of that particular metaphor. One metaphor: human relationships somehow either function as an analogy of human-divine relationships, or constitute an unacceptable substitute we try and fill our lives with. Then you have the tension between cultures, the essential differences between one culture and another that add to the flavor and add some grit to the metaphor.

Then you have the idea of travelling. You take that metaphor and you roll it out as a landscape, and you travel through it. The journey's the goal. Travelling is how you get from A to B, why you get to observe what you do. So you have the idea of these relationships, and the idea of travelling through whatever landscape, whether it be an emotional, psychic landscape, and electronic landscape, a global village. All those things come into play, because the world is coming into our homes through the tv screen.

ACM: Are the songs travelling through these landscapes?

SSC: The "Emotional Tourist" scenario is very much about travel. The part about being in the taxi is literally, line for line, out of the travel journal from when I was in India. I was in Delhi, we were pulling away from a traffic signal, and these little kids came up right to the window. There's me and Brooks Alexander in the back of a taxi, and these little beggars were everywhere. The one thing I thought is that I wanted the signals to change.

Travelling constitutes the way of getting into those metaphors. Here we are, we're travelling, we're on the ship of fools, or whatever. The Boundaries will read like a travel journal, but it will include the whale poem, a whole book of stuff I wrote in the early '80s called Margins, which is a series of poems that related one to another, stuff out of my time in England in '83, time in India in '87, my time back in Bali and Java in '89. Some of it will be finished poetry, some merely fragments of a travel journal or reminiscences, or the raw materials that ended up in songs. It will look like something very much in process, and the title is set up to have a geographical frame of reference, to explore the idea of is this poetry or i sit prose? All the irregularities of form: One minute you're looking at a poem, the next at what I had for breakfast today, next a scribbled note to myself about changing the lyrics. You set up something which looks like a record of the work in process, while at the same time, reading as ajourney from A to B, and as a subteranean record of certain thematic concerns. The book is titled The Boundaries, because that seems the most economic way of covering everything that the book wants to be. At the same time it has a useful, geographic frame of reference, which has already been established.

ACM: Why do this book? What sparks it for you to pull these things together?

SSC: I've published this poetry infreuently since the early '80s. I wanted to bring together all the material from its very early stages of work, from raw material through to finished work; it seemed like a nice project to setup. You know, the boundaries between prose, poetry; life, death; sleeping, waking; the boundaries between people, between cultures, between human experience and spiritual experience.

ACM: To me, you're real close to Laurie Anderson type of performance art.

SSC: It's a similar type of thing to, say, United States. While I was at college that was very much the vogue, conceptual and performance art. I'm very interested in using different media. I'm working on a multi-media performance piece sequence now, involving entire ensemble.

ACM: Well, you did that thing with the wolves about the crucifixion.

SSC: That was Lambfire A.D., that was designed and put together by David and Susan Fetcho in Berkeley, who at that time were living in Sacramento and working with the Warehouse. That was a multi-media thing at the Warehouse about 11 years ago (1979). It was a sort of performance art-liturgy-multi-media thing. I did a thing on the crucifixion that worked very very literalistically off the frame of reference established by the Scripture, so that when Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 and elsewhere where he makes reference to the animals, we brought in the animals. We blacked the place out, played a stereo soundtrack of holwing wolves, and because the sign of Jonah came up, we used some stuff off those albums of whale songs, and had the poetry being read over the top of it. The place in complete darkness, we had the audience thinking they were surrounded by a wolf pack at one point. Large mammals were swimming around and singing to each other. That kind of performance art I'm very interested in and would like to go further with. The music is only the tip of that particular iceberg.

You take all things in the songs that you would probably explore indifferent media, and compress them into a layer of references, like a samba beat and a cheap koto sound on a keyboard so you have that song that makes sense musically, but is also like an ironic reference to a different culture. I want to do more multi-media stuff.

ACM: How come you don't go down to the local open mike and do it?

SSC: Time and stuff. I do intend to do that. One thing I want to do through Alternative Records is from The Boundaries, in which I'm working with synthesizers and spoken word. Like the whale poem, only an entire record. Journal fragments and poems read voer ethnic and electronic sounds, and set up synthesizers to do things like that.

Tom D. Stephenson