10 Albums/10 Days: Scott Hobart from GIANTS CHAIR 22 May 2020
Hope everyone is safe and healthy out there! Recently, we checked in with Scott from GIANTS CHAIR, who went down memory lane and uncovered ten records that had a profound impact on his life. Scott breaks down each selection in detail as part of 10 Albums/10 Days, and the combined narrative serves as a musical autobiography documenting the incremental steps that influenced his artistry.
Day #1: Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger
My mom played this a lot, I think. For me, at that age, it probably could have been any album, but it was this one — my mom has great taste. If nothing else, it has a very distinctive “dry," sparse sound that was far different from anything that was on the radio. He and his manager had negotiated complete creative control with his new label on this his 18th studio album. There was a lot of country radio in my house, too (KZNN Rolla, MO), and this sounded totally different to me, even as a kid. This album also happens to be maybe the first country concept album — it‘s a whole epic tale about jealous revenge and being a fugitive cowboy.
Day #2: Rush - Fly By Night
My prog-rock tendencies could be traced to Rush. Theirs was the first music that made me realize how music could surprise me. I love this album as a bridge between straight-forward classic rock and progressive rock, lyrically and musically. It was released the same year as Red Headed Stranger - 1975.
Day #3: U2 - Unforgettable Fire
Though I grew up with music in my family, I can say it was ultimately U2 who made me need to be involved and write music. This album was the first U2 album I owned before discovering and loving their previous three albums. I love this album so much to this day and can still hear new things in it.
Day #4: Bob Dylan - Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Like I said yesterday, I was really into U2 and, appreciating their Euro-ness so much at the time, I was surprised to hear they were covering Bob Dylan’s "Maggie’s Farm" at some shows. We were visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Phoenix and my Aunt had a bunch of Dylan cassettes. I started listening to some on my Walkman during this visit and immediately thought Dylan, on this particular album, sounded a LOT like I remember hearing my, by then passed, dad play and sing around the house when I was little. Probably the next Christmas my Aunt gifted me the Bob Dylan Biography collection cassette box set - a real trove of classics and rare stuff that I really loved. I was just starting to write my own songs and was impressed by his scenes and stories - heavy and humorous. This and John Wesley Harding are my two favorite Bob Dylan records. But this one came first.
Day #5: Repo Man Soundtrack
This 1984 movie soundtrack of “punk rock” made it’s way to a circle of forward-listening kids in our small town and it definitely turned me on to an entirely new set of sounds and ideas that still matter to me. Frankly, as a romantic, I was as afraid of “punk” then as I was intrigued by it - and it would be years later until I realized the education it gave me. If you’ve always wondered about punk rock, but didn’t know where to start, this helped me a lot.
Day #6: Robert Johnson - King Of The Delta Blues Singers
Probably because of Dylan and I may have seen Crossroads with Ralph Macchio around the time, but I was curious about folk and blues. I was probably also wearing a black fedora of my grandpa’s - but, anyway, I had finally made it to the legendary St. Louis record store, Vintage Vinyl. I was looking for a place to start with blues and when asked if I could be helped finding something, I told the clerk I was looking for a good first blues record. He suggested this one. It was, again, unlike anything I’d heard up to that point - it didn’t even really sound like what I thought “blues” was. Then it became my benchmark for blues. I’d like to thank that record clerk!
Day #7: Grand Masters Of Rap Compilation
This one isn’t quite in chronological order, but before I was a folky, Jesus skate hippy dabbling in punk and new wave, I was into break dancing. This album features Grand Master Flash, Sugar Hill Gang, The Furious Five, Whodini and others! Besides being great for breakdancing, it was a good early sampler of early hip-hop sounds that also primed me for the techno and electronica that I’ve come to love.
Day #8: Pitchfork - Eucalyptus
Byron Collum and I met on the first day of school at the Kansas City Art Institute - he had a really great punk & indie record collection with him. But a lot of it sounded like noise to me for a while. This record was in pretty frequent rotation by Byron when we became dorm roommates in our 2nd year and it was the first “post-punk” or whatever that really grabbed me. First, I thought the vocals (Rick Froberg) were interesting, more whiny sneer than gruff rant, which set them apart from some of the other punk things I was hearing on Byron’s turntable. But it was really the guitar that blew my mind. So much visceral texture. Every sound an electric guitar plugged directly into an amp with no pedals or effects of any kind could make was being found and used for full, absolute, frantic intensity. And the guitarist, John Reiss, also contrasts those crazy guitar things with a genius sense of melody, drive and ass-kicking sass - with no “solos” per se. The singer and the guitarist went on to form Drive Like Jehu, maybe one of the most influential “post-hardcore” bands of the 90’s - now they are HOT SNAKES and still making really great rock. It’s astounding. I listened to this album yesterday in the car and still totally feel it.
Day #9: Johnny Paycheck - The Real Mr. Heartache
Back to country here... George Jones was by far the biggest name in country music in our house growing up and it was a George Jones “Best Of” tape I picked up at an truck stop in Maryland while on tour with my rock band that solidified my resolve to want to step into the timeless stream of writing and singing country story songs about heartache. But years later, on tour with my country band in Texas, we were at the club early playing pool and the show promoter, now friend, Bruce Burns was playing this early Johnny Paycheck collection on the bar sound system. At first, in the back ground, it just sounded like more country music, but by about the 3rd song we were all looking at each other wondering what the hell this was?! The Real Mr. Heartache quickly became the pinnacle “Gold Standard” for the sounds and wordplay that IS sheer Honky-Tonk “hard country” music to me. If I’m Gonna Sink (I Might As Well Go To The Bottom) is my current favorite from this collection. And Johnny Paycheck had been in George’s band, so there’s that.
Day #10: Phantogram - Voices
So this one brings us up to now, and I’m just as confused by this list as you are, but variety really is the spice of my musical life. My wife Paula is my resident current-pop expert. Released in 2014, the first single, "Fall In Love," came on the alt radio station in the car one day. I noticed the song and she was like... “oh yeah, I like this one.” After a few more listens, I even posted something about this being the best song I’d heard on the radio in a long time. I downloaded the full album and couldn’t get enough! At only 8 years in, it may be hard to tell just how “influential” this album really is for me, but thinking back about the other pivotal album moments on this list, I have no problem considering Voices the most influential record I’ve had in my life in quite some time for a few reasons. First, I simply love all the beats, melodies and lyrics. Just good songs and production, in my opinion. And while resonating melodically and texturally with different strands of earlier musical influence for me, electronic-but-lush with great real guitar stuff, too - it also seems new and creative. If only because this album has renewed my hope in commercial alt pop radio music, it’s pretty influential, but it also marks a moment in my life as a music maker that, for the first time, it’s a musical style that I really love but don’t think I could make. It makes me want to make music, but I just don’t have the time or understand the technology to create like this. It’s harder than it sounds. So I just get to enjoy it! Also, as an album and band Paula and I discovered and love so much together, it’s extra cool to us. We’ve traveled to see them live a few times - some really good memories wrapped up in this band for us by now and we still love this album together.