Mike Scott, founder of Ireland’s favourite Scottish-Irish band The Waterboys, tells Fiona O’Brien how his Japanese artist wife – and Ireland – shape his music
Out of All This Blue is the largest Waterboys release to date, with 23 tracks on the double album. But that isn’t because lead member Mike Scott couldn’t decide what to do away with.
“No, no. I’m absolutely brutal when it comes to cutting songs. I’ve let some terribly good songs die before.
“This was always meant to be a double album. And lucky for me – and I hope the listener – the songs just kept coming, and in pop colours,” he says.
And just as well it is. It takes the band in a completely new direction, as Scott experiments with hip-hop and R&B beats, but also stays true to the folk and blues that the Irish-Scottish band are known for.
“Out Of All This Blue is two-thirds love and romance and a third of stories and observations. I’ve never had that many love songs on an album before.
“But with the relationships I was in, and then meeting my new wife Megumi, it is just the way it was influenced.”
But after 16 albums Mike does not feel that he can go back and listen to an album of a particular era and use it as a diary for the past 35 years of his life.
“Not really. This is probably the album which has been most directly influenced about my real life.
“Most of the time my songs are observations and stories about other people, rather than about me myself.”
And such songs are evident on the new album, one such song, the brilliant New York I Love You, is a hip-hop influenced take on a New York cop narrating the song while singing opera.
“All of the background noise from that was actually recorded by me walking the streets of New York on my iPhone.
“I use it for everything, the sound quality is excellent. I used it in Japan too.
“I love the fact that I can be out and about and an idea for a song can come into my head and I can record a lyric or a tune there or then to listen back to later.
“I remember reading a Elvis Costello interview one time, and he said if inspiration struck him he would just ring his house phone and sing down to his answering machine so the song would be waiting for him when he got in. I love that, and now my iPhone does nearly the same for me.”
The album also has a lot of Japanese influence on it. “I just love the culture, the colours and everything.
“It is a magical place. And there is all this shiny new techno funk.
“And then an echo of the old world. Their traditional art is amazing, but then I love the Manga. There is such a coming together of two completely different worlds which really works.”
And of course, it is the land in which he first met his wife Megumi Igarashi, better known for her artist name Rokudenashiko.
“I first became aware of her when I seen that she had gotten into quite a lot of trouble at home with the government and authorities for her art work, which was based on the female reproductive system.
“I was fascinated and watched how it all unfolded, but what struck me was when she was coming out of the courts she was always smiling.
“So I followed her on Twitter. I’m not huge on social media but I do really like that as an outlet and getting to follow and find out about other artists.
“And she followed me back. And every now and then we would comment on each other’s posts.
“It went from there. Then eventually I plucked up the courage to private message her.
“I was travelling to Japan to learn more about them and their music and how I could work with it, and I asked her to meet up with me and told her I really liked her.
“She, quite wisely, told me that she could not yet like someone she had never met but was happy to meet up with me as friends.
“And that is all it was. I was worried there would be no chemistry face to face, but it was completely the opposite, we had the most wonderful time together.
“I stayed in Japan for a few weeks and then by the time I left we had met on a romantic level. She ended up moving to Ireland and we have since married and have a little boy so family life is good.
“She loves Ireland. She is very much a free spirit and the Asian culture does not really seem to support that. It is quite conformist. But here in Ireland, everyone is mad.
“Even for a blow-in like me, it seems like ‘if you’re not crazy then you’re in the wrong place’. She has really taken to it.”
This newest album was recorded at the famous Puck Studios in Dublin.
“Our previous album was recorded in Nashville, with this huge backing band. But we didn’t make as much money as we hoped on the tour so there wasn’t the money there for big recording elements for this next one.
“And it probably actually worked out for the best. I had the ideas and rough songs in my head and didn’t want to delay it, so just got to work on it in my own studio.
“I couldn’t afford a percussionist there all the time, so our usual drummer got me on to this website where you can get beats online.
“I became like a kid in a sweet shop with all of these hip hop beats, and I got to cross them over and mix it with sounds I had recorded on the street.
“It worked really well. It’s just giving me a headache now in terms of the tour because I need to work out how it’s going to work on stage and we need to bring two drummers with us!”
Long term Waterboys member, Sligo’s Steve Wickham is also an integral piece of the album, if his physical presence cannot be heard as much it is clear that there is a great deal of trust that has come from their relationship of almost 30 years.
“Yes, Steve is on there on electric violin. Because of the different genres on the album that only counts for six or seven songs. But he contributed to each and every one.
“I consult him about everything, all the time and I know that he will be completely honest with me. If he says ‘I don’t know, I’m not sure about if that works’ I can take his criticism on board.
“And similarly it means when he says he really likes something, I really know that it works because he isn’t going to feed me with rubbish. There is a huge mutual respect there.”