Travelin’ Light feature for Point of Departure

December 1998 interview for a Jazziz feature by Harvey Pekar

October 2001 interview with Ludwig van Trikt for the September 2002 issue of Cadence magazine


Scott Fields is a Cologne-based, Chicago-born composer, guitarist and educator. His activities center around six going concerns: his string quartet and octet, whose “Frail Lumber” (NotTwo Records), was one of the more touted recordings of 2011; his acoustic guitar duo with Elliott Sharp, whose many festival appearances and two recordings have been wildly applauded; his quartet with drummer John Hollenbeck, cellist Scott Roller, and tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, whose two CDs inspired by Samuel Beckett (“Beckett” on Clean Feed and “Samuel” on New World”) are considered models for literary adaptations; his duo with Schubert; his Freetet, with drummer João Lobo, bassist Hogo Antunes, and alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel; and his early music-modern music fusion groups, with lutenist Stephan Rath, New-Music flutist Angelika Sheridan, and early-music flutist Norbert Rodenkirchen. Fields is a well-documented artist, having led over two dozen recordings and performing on approximately many others. For further information, visit www.scottfields.com.

What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

Some of those Eastern European airlines, like Aerocondor, have equipment that looks like it’s from the 50s. Of course, now with the security measures and all you can’t get a good peek into the cockpit like you used to, but I’d guess their instruments are outdated too, like speedometers that have dials instead of LEDs. At least you don’t see goats in the aisle anymore.

Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

Sometimes the stewardesses fall asleep on the job and some of the economy people make a run for our toilets and often they are moving like maybe their seats aren’t so comfortable. I’d say that the United stewardesses are worst at keeping an eye peeled for intruders, or at least it’s on United that the most econofolks break through the lines of defense, so I guess it must be United.

Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

No human should attempt to connect at Heathrow.

What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?

Heat. Really I did pack heat, but then my squeeze of the moment told me that you can’t pack heat and fly on an airplane. And that was a shame because we were headed to England and it was winter and cold where we were staying.

What is your worst lost baggage story?

There have been many times that I have flown and nothing bad happened to my baggage if that’s what you mean by “worst story.” What’s interesting about that.

What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

Recently I flew into Sibiu, Romania and the customs agent, an attractive young woman, was making goo goo eyes at me. When I went through customs on the way out there she was again, the same woman, as the customs agent. She was flapping her eyelids and smiling and said that she remembered me from when I came through four days earlier. That’s like sexual hasslement, isn’t it?

Which city has the worst cab drivers?

In Chicago the cabbies are always honking at you. If you are carrying so much a big bag of ribs and maybe a six-pack, it’s honk honk honk, as though you’re too stupid to figure out that if you want a cab you should step off the curb and hold up your hand. I’ve never been anywhere else where the cabbies bug you like that. It’s worse than the pimps in Rome.

What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

If I don’t like the looks of a place from the curb, I have the presenter drive me around until I see something I like. So all of them, I guess.

Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

Generally speaking I do not approve of PDAs. But sometimes, if your girl is new, some exhibitionist smooching is necessary to let her feel as though she has staked her claim on you.

Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use?

My music listening on the road is mostly other peoples’ sound checks. I love sound checks, especially at festivals, and I will sit through as many as I am allowed into. I like watching guys who were hired last minute try to catch up. Like at this sound check in Portugal a few years ago and I guess the piano player of this Ella wannabe, I don’t remember her name but she’s married to some famous bass player, was new and she was throwing every cliché in the book at him. “It’s like a conversation.” “Just feel it.” “Find a way in without pushing yourself in.” She was trying every way she could to prove that she didn’t know anything about music. Later, after our sets, I introduced myself and she nodded slightly and wrinkled her nose like I’d farted.

Do you do your own laundry on the road?

Sometimes I’ll hire a couple of hookers and watch while they rinse out my tighty whities.

What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

In Tokyo I was supposed to play an on-air, with audience, one day and a normal gig the next day. All my rider asked for was a guitar speaker cabinet with at least one 12. At the first gig the promoter handed me, really, handed, a 10-inch high monitor with a 2-inch speaker. I told him it was too small. He said “You try.” I said “If I try, I blow up.” He said “You try.” I blew it up. I ended up playing through a horrible Bose disco monitor. At the next gig the promoter presented an Altec-Lansing Voice of The Theater PA cabinet, the one with the 18" subwoofer and a horn. It was a pair of old PA speakers and one had a broken cross-over, which was half of the PA Samm Bennett, the electronic percussionist on the gig, had asked for. Actually, he had requested a stereo PA that did work. He ended up using a mono setup, which was the speaker with the working crossover. I refused to play until a real guitar cabinet was secured.

What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

Swordfish. One time Formanek got drunk and picked up the whole thing and started swinging it around and poking at people and damn near cut off one of my fingers. And then once in Tokyo there was fugu, or at least I said I thought it was fugu since I don’t like to eat raw fish and that was a good excuse. And fugu can kill you if it’s not cooked right so maybe that was more scary than drunken Formanek and the swordfish, except it wasn’t really fugu but I was scared to eat the raw fish.

What are your three favorite venues?

The rumor is that Teatro alla Scala a Milano is something to see. At the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago I heard some really great gigs. Hendrix and such. The Walt Disney Concert Hall that Frank Gehry designed looks great in movies and I’d like to go there some time.

Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

Usually I don’t want to go to restaurant after a gig, unless it’s an early gig, and your question specifies late gigs. If I do end up in a restaurant after a late gig, it means that someone in the group is being a whiney bitch and has stamped his little feet until I give in. Like in Saint Louis, we wanted to go back to the hotel, but the drummer complained and complained until we gave in. God punished him with food poisoning. But God punished the rest of us too because the drummer was throwing up from both ends for the entire nine-hour trip to Grand Rapids and by the time we got there he had energy for only one set’s worth of pathetic pitty-patting.

Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

Kansas City, baby. Where the cats hang out for cutting contests and for digging the chicks and by be blowin’ so cool maybe the chicks be digging them back. And the dope fiends nodding off in the corner and one cat after another struts up with his axe and each burns hotter than the last. Once I saw a documentary by Robert Altman and it proved that’s how it is in Kansas City.

What is the best city that closes down too early?

You’re not thinking of gated communities, are you, because those aren’t really cities but some of them lock their gates and I guess there must be a time that they close.

What is the best locale to have a day off?

Cologne, because that’s where I live and I can get some work done.

What is your cure for jet lag?

Delays happen, brother, and there’s really nothing you can do about it. There are weather problems and mechanical problems with the airplane and sometimes you just lag behind where you are supposed to be. Chants and chocolate and apologize to the audience. That’s it.

What is your best tip for the novice?

If you are contacted by a journalist to be interviewed, make sure that he knows something about you and don’t let the lazy fuck just read off a stock list of prepared questions.


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