|Thomas Frasier Scott|
Born April 12 1955
My older sisters Marjorie and Kathryn influenced my early music years by their choice in music. They bought 45's with their allowance money and played them in their room. If I behaved, I was allowed to sit and listen. They also insisted that I learn to dance. When I was taught how to use their record player I could then play their 45's whenever they were away. I think I lost my record privileges when Donovan's "Circus of Sour" was played into oblivion. I really liked that song. I haven't heard it in over 50 years. I often wonder if I would still like it or have I out grown the song all together.
I started my music studies in the fifth grade. By the time I was in seventh grade it was evident that I was going to do more with music than many of the other students in my class. Mom and Dad arranged for private lessons to help me advance my musical studies. I studied Classical and Jazz. In school, every time I had space for an elective, I added another band class on a new woodwind instrument. The Jazz Lab that I participated in during my high school years had a very good curriculum and I was exposed to many fine jazz musicians and clinicians. After school many of the students of jazz formed rock bands. I played for a short while with Cream & Coco, a Funk/Blues bar band that played copy tunes at private parties and bars (Henry Rinne, current Dean,College of Fine Arts at Jacksonville University, played Tenor Sax with this group back in the day and asked me to join when he decided to leave). Cream and Coco played most every weekend and although I enjoyed the money I left the band when my school studies started to suffer. It was around this time that I joined with Black Orchid (This band played original compositions and copy tunes). I wrote my first song in this band when Tim Tanner, our guitarist/composer (very talented teenage player/composer), encouraged me to give composition a try, Peter Princiotto (another very talented teenage player/composer) helped me with finishing up this first effort at composition, and although this first effort was somewhat disjointed, it was very enjoyable to create and left me wanting more. I found myself more interested in playing original compositions than copying what other rock groups of the day were doing. This left me less interested in being in bands that wanted to play cover songs so they could gig out more often. In early 1973 I threw my hand in with the start-up of Ancient Moon, only to leave when the band started to lean towards adding cover tunes. Ultimately it was this inherent quality in me that would eventually make The Muffins such a good fit. After Graduation from High School I was working an apprenticeship at Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center as a wind instrument repairman when Billy Swann and I met. My personal 'Muffin' odyssey began with an invitation from Billy Swann to meet the band in their communal house in Gaithersburg Md. It seems like more than a lifetime has passed since that fateful evening. 402 East Diamond Avenue was an old house with a big central kitchen. I had a meeting with Billy Swann and Dave Newhouse and I don't remember who else or what we talked about, but I will never forget the music that they played for me. The compositions were different from any I had ever heard. I liked them and I could tell that there was a lot of raw talent in the band, not polished, but quirky and for me interesting. That evenings drive home from Gaithersburg Maryland to Virginia, well, I have to tell you, I was full of thoughts, conflicted thoughts really. I knew the music wasn't going to be a commercial moneymaker, it did not show any real record label worthiness, there were no lyrics, just tunes for the most part, and the name of the band... Well, whats in a name right? I was, however, enthused by the ideas I heard on tape that night. Although fragmented and angular, the tunes flowed into one another creating a linear musical form that showed promise. The arrangements needed help, and that was a big part of what I hoped to bring to the band.
I joined the band and within a few months the drummer quit. To be quite honest, we went through many drummers, Mike Aperetti, Michael Bass, Stuart Abromowitz, then Michael Zentner our guitarist/violinist quit. The mood was low there for awhile, however, the raw talent that I saw in the Quintet was still present in the Trio, so I figured "what the hell" lets give it another go. We got out and played as a trio, a mixture of compositions and improvisations. Then we found Paul Sears and that was the end of drummers that quit and we never even looked for another Guitar player. The open sound that we had with a quartet was refreshing and it allowed each player the musical space to really stretch out. Dave's compositional abilities grew with every song that he wrote and the band was working together to arrange the songs and forge a sound that was new. Double horn, bass and drum songs started at this time. By the time we had finished Manna Mirage we had become very comfortable with the Quartet.
After <185> was released it was obvious that although we put a lot of effort into our compositions and rehearsed our music until we could play it in our sleep, it wasn't going to be accepted by the masses and wouldn't support us financially. Yes, I knew this from the start, but there comes a time when life conspires to make you see things in a new light. The overall vision of the band failed to embrace a long term plan and I started to feel restless and in need of a change. I remember the day that I told the guys that I had decided to leave the band. I was never so unsure of a decision in my life, I loved playing with these guys, they were the brothers I never had, but I needed to put my energies into my family. Family had become more important to me than the band. I had a baby boy at home and my focus as to what was important in life had changed. Driving home from the band house was another night that I will never forget. I was numb inside. I wasn't sure if I would ever play again, I was convinced that my life with music performance had reached a point of culmination. I was wrong about that, Thank God.... Turns out, I just moved to the life of a studio musician/producer for many years. I ran my new 24 track recording studio and produced many bands... interestingly enough, I did very well with punk, and produced quite a few punk bands during that time period. I also produced several albums for Billy B a performer for young people, that I really enjoyed.
So, 17 years after the breakup we did the reunion thing... It was really good to be back performing with The Muffins again! I must admit it was more exciting to play in the reunion band than it was in the early years. We didn't go at it in the practice room like we use to. We weren't as tight as we had been, but the time we spent practicing was very enjoyable. The bond that we forged years ago has grown deeper as time had passed. We really were lucky to have shared a life of music together. It felt like we still had several CD's left in us and there was a big difference this time around... I was sharing the composition responsibilities for the band and our sound was adding new elements, we were not just a rehash of what we had done previously, we were breaking new ground and looking at the band in a new way. One difference for me was that I was starting to hear guitar parts, I wasn't writing them yet, but I was hearing them, and I was also getting tired of a sound that I called "Sax Soup"... I wanted to see us find new sounds so that we did not rely on formula to arrange our compositions. I really liked the new sound we were creating. It gave the new compositions a fresh feel. It can be hard to keep new ideas coming and it is easy to fall into repetition, and I felt that we were doing a reasonably good job of editing out the unworthy and or repetitive. There was, however, an aspect of repetitive involved, and it would be less than honest if I said that I wasn't concerned.
Then came Snowmageddon 2010 and Paul started to look for another less winter prone area to live in than Baltimore MD. Arizona was his answer to snow and a new wrinkle was introduced to the digital recording for the band... file sharing. Not being with Paul to lay down tracks was very challenging and we went through an extended adjustment period where we were not making any headway. Ultimately, Paul would make the breakthrough of interpretation and capture of his own parts in his Arizona Studio, but it was touch and go there for a while.
Then came the 'issues'... and they would not go away. It was late in 2014... Dave Newhouse and I started to disagree about matters of 'music'. We were working towards a song list for the Big Band compositions. I was working on about 10 compositions and Dave was having problems creating. I figured on dropping out my weaker compositions as Dave added his tunes. Dave was concerned I was going to decide what tunes he could put in the list, and I let him know that I didn't have any intention to decide that for him. He was his own editor and I was my editor. That is how we had always done things, and as far as I was concerned that is how we would do the Big Band CD. Some issues were just technical, Dave wasn't having any luck synchronizing Paul Sears drum track files sent from Arizona. Dave started doing "Paul's parts" by Dave tracking one drum at a time. He also had his son play some of the Drum Tracks. Dave had a lot of Keyboard Bass where it should have been Billy Swann. This just didn't sound like The Muffins. I could tell that Dave wasn't yet comfortable with new world file exchange recording. That in itself wasn't a huge issue but when Dave started to force things, small things at first, nothing more than disagreement over insignificant matters. In the past we had always resolved our issues by making room for the expression of 'all other band members'. We would agree to disagree and move on. This time it was different, there wasn't any resolution, and I could feel a change in the air. Dave was working his way towards a decision, all by himself. On March 23 2015 Dave sent a letter to me in the mail. Dave had decided unilaterally to pull the entire Big Band CD project from The Muffins. This was a very big issue to me because I had written most of the music for this CD. Dave had reservations about his compositions and my compositions not sounding like a single CD, I let him know that I was able and happy to write all of the compositions for this project. I had a musical background in big bands and had studied Big Band composition. Dave was not willing to have the project move forward. As far as Dave was concerned he would release his compositions as a solo album (BLUE DOG) and I could release my part of it as a solo album, end of story, discussion finished... I knew then, that unilateral was not how The Muffins roll, and that we were done. I spoke with my wife Susan about leaving the band, and she said that she understood my point. The music is more important than the collective, if the collective is hampering the music then it is time for a change. In Fact, the collective was gone. File sharing was not working for Dave and I, and worse yet the working relationship had eroded to something very distrustful. I decided not to say anything to any band members about the end. 'Romantic Warriors' had been released and The Muffins were performing at one of it's release parties held at Orion Studios. I didn't want to takeaway from the DVD's release party moment by announcing the bands end. Susan and I really enjoyed that last performance, a rehearsal in Orion at midday, then our final performance that evening.
At a later date, when Dave asked me to record on BLUE DOG, I gave it much thought and decided it was time to let Dave know that it was over... it was time we went our separate ways. I declined Dave request to play on 'BLUE DOG'. Although Dave was distraught about my response to his March 23 2015 letter, he 'got' that it was the end of The Muffins reunion. As time went by and I saw Dave's explanation of why The Muffins disbanded in different public web sites, I let Dave know that his explanation of the band breakup being about production differences was not in-line with my experience, I let Dave know that I stopped my association with him because of his unilateral decision to terminate the Muffins Big Band project. Dave is a good friend and I felt that ending the Reunion Phase of The Muffins musical endeavors had to come about to preserve what was left of the friendship. I have held my tongue about this until now, but truth will out, so here, I have posted my reasons for The Muffins end.
I will say this about the results of that fateful decision... As I look from the vantage point of 2018, at what has resulted musically for Billy, Paul, Dave and myself, I see growth in the new associations each band member has made. The new projects and new musical associations and performances are really exciting to hear and are in my opinion very worthy.
The new band 4S'd (4S'd sounds like forest) came together during this time. Billy Swann, Paul Sears, and Mark Stanley all expressed great support in continuing the Big Band CD effort. I want to thank them for all their hard work. The CD 'Man or Muffin" compositions were technically difficult to play cleanly, and it took a lot of time to get it right. I am forever indebted.
Paul became an old-pro at file exchange during the eight years that it took to get this project together, he would put in the time to really learn the composition then create drum parts that would propel the composition to be bigger and better than it was on paper. The thing is that Paul likes to play a composition from start to finish, no punch-ins no editing of bits and pieces into a whole. That takes knowing the piece really well and it requires a lot of listening & interpretation time to find the heart of the beast (so to say). When you listen to his playing you will be able to hear what I'm talking about, there is a certain ease and comfort to his playing, a back beat here, a drop beat there, an over all comfortable feel, that drives the ensemble but never rushes it.
Billy has always been recorded by someone other than himself. He has never been interested in owning his own multi track equipment, so file exchange wasn't going to be a possibility. Billy had done the bass tracks on about half the tunes years earlier. There was a long spell where Billy just was not finding the time to get by my home studio to record (in all fairness it takes nearly 9 hours driving to get from Billy's house to mine). So, Billy had not been by my studio to record, it was getting late in the project and then it dawned on me... I had expected Billy to come to me... he always had, and I expected him to do so now. When I thought of it that way I realized it was not fair to Billy. I offered to make the trip down to South Carolina and Billy accepted. It was a great experience, we would work on a composition go out and have lunch at one of his favorite haunts. We had time to record and live life like we did when we were younger. We even did a Fender Bender's band rehearsal one evening. I'm so happy Billy and I got to record the other half of the bass parts for 'Man or Muffin' at his house in South Carolina. For me, it would have been tragic not to have Billy as the Bass player on this CD, his interpretation and rock solid playing create for me the bedrock that these compositions needed to allow the counterpoint of the rest of the ensemble to sing.
Mark Stanley and I have only played together on stage one time, and that just happened to be at The Muffins last performance at Orion for the Romantic Warriors release party, Mark came up to play with us on 'Hobart Got Burned'. I took time to talk with Mark during a rehearsal break and cemented our relationship to work together on the 'Man or Muffin' Big Band Project. I really wanted to work with Mark on this project and was tickled that he would gladly do so. Mark and I worked together seamlessly using file exchange and his playing in this ensemble is brilliant. Mark plays acoustic and electric guitar on all the songs and even plays electric bass on 'Sophie's Adventure'.
When it came time to mix 'Man or Muffin' I did a round of mixes that feature the horn sections forward with the rhythm section mixed further into the background. The mixes sounded a lot like many big bands I had heard in the past, but the compositions were not working. There were many melodies placed in the rhythm section that were lost and counterpoint that the horn sections carried was to far forward. I corrected that situation and brought the rhythm section equal to the horns. This was better but with 17 plus musicians mixed forward the compositions were, too in your face, and still suffering. I had to learn a new way to use compression, equalization and blend to get to the place where the tunes were starting to work. Once I got to that place I was able to use automation to change levels when melodies were lost or counterpoint was to prevalent. I did all this through Master Buss mix compression. This helped me get a better sense of what I would get back from the mastering lab. When it came time to render the real master I removed the Master Buss compression. This was a gamble that I had not taken since back in the days of vinyl records. I have mastered my own digital recording for nearly 20 years. It was a gamble worth taking. Having another set of ears work on the mastering of the CD help bring it back from the heavy deep bass that I favor to a more realistic Big Band sound.
The name of the band, 4S'd comes from two factors, the first is that all four band member's last name begins with an "S". The second factor is a little more circumspect. In the line of work that I do (Millwork & Casework), we have a shortened term "S4S" that means a board has been surfaced on all four sides, "Surfaced 4 Sides" becomes S4S. It just made sense to me that the band should have a shorten term, so that Sears, Scott, Swann & Stanley became 4S'd. I'm not sure what comes next for 4S'd, the music business is changing so quickly that it requires bands that don't have the support of a well financed label to handle their own promotional efforts. Promotion of 'Man or Muffin' is what I'm handling now, and it may be some time before I start the next round of composition.