Whether you’re listening to her record or watching her per- form, Scout Niblett never fails to produce something intense and raw. Since 2001, Niblett has been churning out dynamic, headbang-inducing records, often with nothing more than a drummer’s accompaniment. We met up for a late-night cup of coffee in Portland to discuss Niblett’s background and technique behind that sound.
What are the benefits of being a two-piece?
You earn a lot more money, and there’s not much shit to carry every night, and there are fewer people to fall out with. Fewer people to annoy the shit out of you (laughs).
I know you write a lot of the drum parts on your records. That being said, how much creative input does the person you’re drumming with have?
It’s a balance. I write a lot of the drum parts for my songs, but the good thing about working with different people is that their personalities bring out different ways of playing [those rhythms], and I like to encourage that. It’s all about navigating what sounds right for you as the songwriter while allowing [the drummer] to feel like there is a place for them.
Yeah for some people that’s hard to do. To navigate their drummers as the songwriters in their personal project.
It’s just easier for me because I’m not really seen as a band. I’m seen as one person for some reason, even though I’ve consistently toured with a drummer for, like, seven years. It’s not a fucking jam band, you know what i mean?
You can definitely tell by listening to your music that it’s not a jam sesh.
Yeah, that’s kind of my worst nightmare. I hate jam bands. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve jammed in my life (laughs).
You play so many instruments. Which one did you learn first?
I first learned piano when I was nine. And then I learned violin. I didn’t really pick up the guitar until I was in college- about 21. I remember playing drums in ‘97 during college, but I didn’t really concentrate on them [until 2002].
Why did you pick up the drums?
When I was living in Nottingham, there was a guy in his 60’s who used to go to an open mic night. Sometimes, he’d just get behind the drum kit and sing, like, Beatles covers by himself. And I just found it to be one of the most inspiring things I’d ever seen. That’s why I started – so that I could just sing songs and play drums.
You’re super heavy on the dynamics. Is that how you write your songs or do they naturally develop that way?
Yeah, I think that’s the whole thing with being able to make noise in your own house and not have people hear it. Whatever the song requires, noise-wise, I have the freedom to do that. I always sing through a P.A. at home, as if I’m playing a show in my own room.
How do you write songs?
I just play music in my room. Circumstances affect how you create stuff: I was an only child and I used to write stuff on the piano as a kid, and now I’ve lived most of my adult life by myself. I’ve managed to somehow have quite a solitary existence. I can’t play music in a room if I know other people can hear me. The whole creative process for me is completely dependent on me being by myself.
What’s your set up?
It’s a Fender Pro Reverb Twin and a ‘64 Mustang. I’ve got a digital delay pedal, which I’ve only recently incorporated because I only use it on some songs. I have an Ibanez Tube Screamer that’s on all the time. It gives it a low end overdrive sound. And then the Big Muff comes on for the huge guitar sound. I keep all the settings on the amp and pedals low. I do everything at a bass level.
Read the rest of the article in She Shreds #1! Available online or in stores in Austin, TX and Portland, OR.