Interview by Christine Thompson

Critics are fond of labeling Scott Mickelson’s music as “Folk” or “Americana,” and even “Punk/Americana,” but it makes him bristle.  It started when critically acclaimed “Airstream”  brought FAT OPIE early successes including their song “Bullets In My Briefcase,” winning a national band search sponsored by MTV(Sonicnet)/7-Up.   Try as we might, we can’t fairly pigeon-hole his sound – because it’s unique.  Mickelson says it’s more like “Tom Waits meets Radiohead.”

Mickelson says the reason he says that is “Tom Waits is one of the greatest American songwriters ever, and when I listen to his writing, his freedom, and his ability to create characters using words and atmosphere.  He’s fearless in his writing.  I try to do that as well.  I probably write a bit more personally than he does, but that’s what I strive for.  I try to avoid clichés, and write something that i haven’t heard a thousand times.”

He added “Musically, when I say Radiohead – they are my favorite band.  When “OK Computer” came out, I was in the middle of mixing the Fat Opie Airstream. The way they utilize the studio, everyone was blown away when that came out.  Anyone who was making music at that time realized that it was rediscovery of what rock music was and how you could use the studio.  We did the “Airstream” recording in two weekends, but I ended up taking a year and half to mix it.”

Mickelson gave us a little more background “At that time, I started in the ’80’s.  I had a whole career before there was a Fat Opie.  Up until then, it was 24 track recording.  My engineer was a beta tester for pro tools.  We were literally one of the first bands to ever record a record on Pro Tools. We would be in the middle of sessions and it would keep sending him updates – files wouldn’t open because they were changing bit rates.  But seeing how you could treat this digital information, to be able to finesse it, play with frequencies, and trade loops, all the things we take for granted now.  To me Radiohead continues to push the envelope of what you can do in the studio.  As an engineer, I’m not as concerned with natural sound and being traditional, I’d rather play with the information.  So when I say “meets Radiohead” it’s that influence of being able to use the digital palette to explore, experiment, and fun with sound and tone.”

At one point, Mickelson was managed by Neil Young’s Lookout Management.  “The whole Lookout thing happened just after we recorded the “Biscuits” album at the Record Plant in Sausalito. We went in and recorded the 6 songs live in the studio, mixed it, all in two days.  Never even got it mastered.  I sent that out to a couple of managers, that was back in the day when you had connections in the industry…and there actually was an industry.”

Mickelson continued “We went down to L.A., and played at this place called Roggie’s, I’m guessing around 1994.  It was an old punk club that was under scaffolding because of the earthquake.  There were three people in the audience, and one of them was the sound guy who was nodding off from heroin, Neil Young’s manager and Melissa Etheridge’s manager.  The next day we got two calls, but being raised on Neil Young, that’s where I wanted to go.”

Mickelson’s latest “Flickering,” has fans overjoyed with the tracks, particularly “Hercules and Iron Man.”  With fan descriptives like “criminally good,” and “Mickelson’s head bears the crown just fine,” if you are lucky enough to be in a town near his latest tour, (I’m talking to you Texas, Mickelson will be in various cities the next few weeks) you owe it to yourself to come check him out.  You can find his latest tour dates and RSVP to some house concerts (!!!) in Houston and San Antonio through October 23rd. Find this information on his official site


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