“I used to write and play anywhere – bedroom, living room, kitchen, street – until I set up my first music room in 1988, when I was 29. It was in a house on a hill overlooking Galway Bay. The view was incredible but once I started singing and playing I’d forget all about it; the only landscape that mattered was the one in my head. I finished writing The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues album in that room and since then I’ve set up a music room in every place I’ve lived: twelve of them in all, including Baile an tSleibhe, Waterloo Rd, Hudson St., Kilmashogue Lane, Marine Cottage, Lansdowne Road, No. 69, No. 72, Primrose Hill, Broombank, Raglan Lane – of which the current one is the best.
It’s an extension of a mews house in south Dublin city. My wife and I have a home in Scotland but we’re in Dublin for a year while I develop my Appointment With Mr Yeats project, a show The Waterboys are doing at the Abbey Theatre in March 2010, for which I’ve turned around 20 of WB Yeats’ poems into songs. The music room is at the rear of the house, reached by a glass hallway, and feels quite separate from the rest of the building, giving it a removed atmosphere.
The command posts are my electric piano, which is plugged into to a Fender guitar amp and a large desk on which my computer sits. I do all my home recording here using Apple’s Garageband system, which I prefer to Pro-tools (less mental energy is involved running the system, freeing up my mind for music). I have guitars, a bouzouki, a mandolin, various drums, tambourines and sleighbells, two speaker systems (KRKs and Yamaha NS10s) and a couple of huge boxes of Venetian masks that got worn on the last Waterboys tour.
There are a couple of cupboards; one’s full of books, sound effects CDs and tapes; the other contains effects pedals. I love Electro Harmonix pedals: the Pog, the Hog, the Stain, the Wiggler. They sound as great as their names and I spend many psychedelic hours sticking keyboards and guitars through them.
The floor is wood but I’ve covered it with eastern carpets purchased in that famous and most exotic bazaar, Dunne’s Stores in the Stephens Green shopping centre. The room is well-lit, with about a dozen bright ceiling lights. The family who rented us the house used this space as their office, and the bright lights suit me – I’ve no patience with working in shadowy, dingy places where I can’t see what I’m doing. I like atmospheric lights on stage, not in my music room.
The Waterboys sometimes rehearse here if we’re preparing for an acoustic show, though we could squeeze a drummer in too, I guess. And Steve Wickham and I are doing the string arranging for the Yeats’ show here, the two of us sitting together at the desk sorting the manuscripts on our computers. He’s a trained reader who went to music college, and works beautifully fast. I taught myself to read and write music only a few years ago, and though I compose quickly, it takes me a day to write out a page of manuscript.
I don’t work specific times; I just get in here whenever I have a ‘go’ feeling, which is most days. I used to stay up working all night but now I prefer to work only when I’m fresh and at my peak. I make less mistakes, keep my perspective, and it’s easier to stay “on” all the time. In common with all my music rooms just the fact of the room itself enhances the creativity. I only have to walk in to feel stuff start happening. That’s the beauty of it: a dedicated space where alchemy happens.”
Mike Scott is the founder of The Waterboys, a band who have released hugely successful albums like A Pagan Place (1984), This Is the Sea (1985) and Room to Roam (1990). They are probably best known for their 1988 album, Fisherman’s Blues. Scott has also released two solo records to date and his next project is An Appointment with Mr Yeats, a show fusing the poetry of W.B. Yeats and the music of The Waterboys. The WB Yeats show runs for five nights from Monday March 15th, 2010 to Friday March 19th, 2010 on Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. Scott also plays a solo gig on Saturday, November 28th at the Clyde Auditorium, (part of Scotland’s SECC complex) in Glasgow. For more information, visit www.mikescottwaterboys.com.