In his first collection of solo material, Blake Scott – the sarcastic-Banjo-Paterson frontman of revered Melbourne act The Peep Tempel – grabs your wrist and leads you down a eucalypt-swept backpath, where dreams, promises, and ominous truths fill the air.
How did you come across the word ‘Niscitam’ and why did you choose it to title your first solo album?
Niscitam is the Sanskrit word for ‘definite’ or ‘confidently.’ My partner is a long-time teacher and practitioner of Yogic philosophy and thought that I was saying “Niscitam” in some of the early demos of Fever. It is a great-sounding word, and the meaning was fitting, as I needed continual affirmation that I was capable of finishing and releasing the album. It is that: a personal affirmation to move forward with confidence.
The brilliant Kalashnikov touches on many different horrors: the tribalism of class, the condescending postures of big business, violence against women, deaths in custody. Why did you decide to use the casual words of a Western tourist in Cambodia as the chorus kernel that threads them together?
I’d heard someone say “You can do what you like with them” in a conversation about travelling to Cambodia some years ago, and it has always stuck with me. It is a jolting statement – to boast of and casualise another’s suffering or misfortune. The goading arrogance still unsettles me and I feel unresolved for not interjecting at the time. I’m not sure as to why I used that line, I’m possibly trying to expel it from my being. The casual indifference certainly lends itself to the sentiment of the song.
The Plainsman begins and ends with a mesmeric spoken word tale. Do many of your song lyrics begin as imagined essays or prose?
Most of my lyrics are written post music. I don’t write very often, so it usually takes a deadline to get me on my bike. Usually deadlines are for recorded music that need vocals. The Plainsman is a rare occasion that I had written something that was to be read instead of sung. It is a loose recollection of a dream I’d had starring the great Gerald Murnane. I’d been reading his novel The Plains which led me to his spoken word album, Words in Pictures. Both influenced the writing of the album. I thought it fitting to tie it together with an attempt at prose.
Love asks us to “let yourself forget yourself, let yourself love yourself.” How do you see forgetting and loving as connected here – do you think self-love requires a measure of letting go?
Loosely. In this particular instance, yes. However, that could depend on what we are letting go of, and the timeline of self forgiveness. This line and song assumes experienced consequences and reconciliation of past misdemeanours. Accountability. In this particular instance, regarding only me. I guess if I can live with myself, I can love myself.
I certainly aspire to be able to live with myself, therefore…
…If you are locking children in offshore detention or own a jet ski, this does not apply.
Who are you remembering next to you in the car, in the bonnet and sunglasses, in the astonishing wash of memory that is Hillman Hunter? Also, why do you think cars become such anchors of our childhood memories (I certainly remember my mum’s Sigma better than many of my best schoolfriends’ faces)?
Hillman Hunter remembers my very dear friend Pia.
When we met, Pia lived in a beautiful little sandstone cottage in East Fremantle and drove a slightly bombed-out Hillman Hunter. For a period it had no brakes, and always smelt like a lawnmower. In the song, the Hillman is used to transport me through my memories of a very beautiful time in my life: 19, in love, and unemployed. We remained close after moving apart, both ending up in Melbourne.
In 2013, Pia took her own life. The sense loss and the circumstances of her passing continue to be absolutely devastating. Becoming a father has ecsalated this sense of loss. At times my memories of this time are embellished, or even manufactured.
Pia definitely drove a Hillman Hunter; I’m not absolutely sure it was Bermuda Blue. I mention ferrying picnics up to Blackies pool, though we never went there together. It was a place she spoke fondly of, so I have inserted myself or created these wonderful adventures. Some of these recollections are incredibly clear to me, though I still have to consciously separate them from my own fiction.
I’m trying to celebrate Pia’s memory and her importance to me, though also acknowledge the unreliability of memory. To maybe understand what that means as time passes, and what causes me to manipulate the actuality of the past. Most importantly, it is a song about a friend I miss dearly.
I’m not sure why we remember cars. My family had a gold Falcon which I remember clearly. Maybe it is that they transport us between our fondest memories: trips to the beach, our friends’ houses. Though I can’t be sure.
Niscitam by Blake Scott is out October 9 via Wing Sing Records.
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