The Smokie and The Souter

The first time I met Scott, was the same as the last time. In fact, the same as every time. He walked in sheepishly to the reception of the Union in Dundee, looking for someone to speak to. Or rather waiting for someone to speak to him. And there it was. The single raised hand greeting, with the other firmly planted in his pocket. A nervous smile, and the overly humble introduction. This is how Scott introduced himself to me 10 years ago. It’s how he greeted me when he walked into the Queens Arms on my stag night, the last time we saw each other. This quickly morphed into a classic Scrab hug, coupled with the affirmative ‘hiyaahhh’ wee laugh that always accompanied it. A lot changed in the decade that followed. But Scott didn’t.

The first night we met, I had booked the band for a T Break showcase gig in 2008 at the union in Dundee. The headliners were due to be Dananananakroyd, who sadly pulled out a few weeks before hand. Frightened Rabbit were due to play 2nd on a 4 band bill, which eventually was topped by DF darlings ‘Figure 5’. I booked the band for my own enjoyment. I’d been put on to them by an old flatmate of mine, Andrew Lennie, who sent me a link on myspace (ask your parents). I quickly ordered a copy of Midnight Organ Fight, and it was on repeat for weeks afterwards. The show in September, was one of the first that the band had played in Scotland in a few months. After a run of shows when the album first came out in some quite wee venues, they were off to the states where the record took off. None of us expected what came next.

The show itself, was incredible. The idea of the gig was to expose some of our new ‘Freshers’ to new Scottish Music. I’d hoped by adding Vic Galloway as a compere and post show DJ that it would add a bit of lustre to the event, and that we might get a hundred or so folk through the door. But after State of Affairs wrapped up their opening set, something strange happened. The room filled. And not with Freshers. People had come for one thing only. 350 of them. They packed out Floor 5. And they knew every word.

 

Scott came off stage that night, with the biggest grin. ‘One more tune! One more tune!’ ‘Mate, you’d better get back on there’ ‘Aye!…. Right!’. And off he went.

Six months later, Paul Downie and Sean O’ Keefe brought Scott back to Floor 5 for a solo show alongside Ross Clark. This time, he was on top of the bill where he belonged. I managed to wrangle my band at the time onto the opening slot on the bill. Scott was so supportive and complimentary of us that night. This was the night where i fell in love with Scott, the performer. I remember sitting behind my friend Tom at the side of the stage during Good Arms vs Bad Arms, with my eyes welling up. It was a moment where you knew you were watching something special. In the presence of someone so special.

 

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                                                  Ross Clark, Davey, & Scott – Dundee Union March 2009

Later that night, we ended up at a party in someones halls of residence. Grant George spewed between the cushions of the sofa, and so he and I made a very sharp exit.

 

It was 18 months before i saw him again. I had moved the Newcastle to work at Northumbria University Union. It was generally a pretty miserable experience for me. I’d really had a particularly unpleasant break up before moving, and I really struggled to make friends in a new place with working so much. I was delighted to find out the band had been booked in my venue. I met Scott’s lovely mum that afternoon, when she was brought to my office in the afternoon having arrived from Selkirk a wee bit early. Proud as punch. Scott greeted me like an old friend. This seemed remarkable given that we’d met only twice before, and essentially in my mind I was just another ‘venue guy’. He must have met literally hundreds like me over the years. After load out, he was heading out the door with the boys, and simply shouted over the me ‘Davey, we’re off to the steam – you comin’?’. Scott was, and still is one of my absolute musical heroes. Of course I was.

4 hours later, as we stumbled out of Connection into St Nicholas Street after some incredible Karate Chop dancing action, Scott grabbed me outside and forced his number into my phone. ‘When you’re back in Edinburgh, call me! Let’s be pals!’. It was really that simple. Scott didn’t tend to mince his words. I don’t think I ever told him, but he changed my life that night. And not for the last time. I was in a bad place. It was one of the lowest and darkest points of my life, and someone who I absolutely adored extended the hand of friendship to me when I needed it the most. I was an absolute wreck, but on that night I was the King of the Tyne.

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Sally, Scott and Davey – Connection, Newcastle 2010

 

About 6 weeks later, I was back visiting pals in Edinburgh. We’d planned to go and see Franz Nicolay and Dave Hause at the City Cafe. I remember talking to my pal Grant George and saying ‘ Here, do you think I should invite Scott? He probably won’t come but, ah well’ . So i did. In my best ‘ Ah shit I hope he remembers what he said, and wasnt just pissed’ tone, I invited him. Within half an hour he replied. And accepted. Were we really pals? I remember Franz introducing Scott to Dave Hause that night. Dave soon became a huge fan, and a few years down he line, Scott even did guest vocals on one of his records. For my part, i tried not to bore the arse off my new pal with questions about his band. He politely indulged me on a couple of things, as I’ve seen him do hundreds of times since. He would never ever be put out by people coming up to him to chat.

Around a month later, my dad died. I was staying in Paisley at the time, crashing in Andy Dunlop’s spare room, who I’d known from his QMU days. I was desperately struggling to find a new job, desperately unhappy, and drinking to excess on a nightly basis. I had kept in touch with Scott, and he invited me down to a fundraiser he was playing at Stereo.

 

This was the second time Scott changed my life. Getting onto a guestlist for one of Scott’s shows in Glasgow was no mean feat. Just three months earlier I had to pretend I was Scott’s good friend Larry (with Scott’s blessing I might add) just to get into the Barrowlands shows. I’m not tall enough, and certainly not handsome enough to carry that off. I arrived to find the gig was sold out, and after grabbing a wee cider with my pal Rina, we wandered through the crowd to find Scott chatting away to someone. I gave a wee wave and said hello, at which point he stopped his conversation, shouted ‘Davey!’ followed by the classic hug. ‘C’mon!’. We were summoned to the dressing room to crack into his gratis bevvies. We got absolutely mullered that night, sitting at the bar until closing time talking total bollocks. We somehow got into a conversation about the Ultimate Warrior and Jake the Snake. I suggested we have a Wrestlemania party – it was only a week away. Scott thought that was a shite idea. We started to chat about our experiences of living in Edinburgh. He was still there with Sally, but mentioned that she was moving to London imminently to start a new job. He was planning to stay in Scotland for a while at least because so much was happening with the band. I lamented leaving Edinburgh a year earlier. I’d left to move to Newcastle, and had regretted the decision ever since. ‘Well, I need a flatmate – come back!’

Wait. WHAT!? I was still trying to come to terms with the fact that me and Scott were occasional gig/drinking pals. And that on this night, in spite of people constantly popping over for a chat, and himself being unfailingly polite to every single person, he would constantly turn back around to chat away shite to me. And now he wanted to be my flatmate.

I don’t know if Scott saw what was going on in me at that point, and felt compelled to reach out and help in someway. All I can tell you, is that’s what he did. And it changed everything.

We moved into a flat in Morningside with a chap called Ally, an old Selkirk pal of his. It was a strange flat. Kitted out almost like student halls. Heavy fire doors everywhere. It was located directly above a specsavers, but crucially across the road from the Canny Mans. And best of all, the rent was buttons. It was something of an eclectic mix in the flat. As well as the down to earth Ally, there was the mum of the house – the absolute sweetheart Rachel. She was at least 6 or 7 years younger than all of us, but she had such a maternal instinct that gave great comfort to us.

There’s a story from this flat, that sums up exactly the type of person Scott was. A musical acquaintance of mine, the wonderful Chris TT had a run of shows planned for the festival in August of that year. It was a few weeks away, and his accommodation had completely fallen through. I knew that Scott was about to head off to the States for a tour, and I asked him if he’d be ok to let Chris stay in his room while he was gone. Scott didn’t know Chris. I barely knew Chris. It took him 6 seconds to agree.

Around this time we went to London for the Jimmy Eat World Clarity / Bleed American shows. Jim had become a big FR fan, and a friend of Scott’s. I grew up playing in pop punk bands in the early 00’s. Jimmy Eat World are one of my absolute favourite bands ever. I lost my mind when Scott told me we had AAA. The train journey down fuelled by a half bottle of Jura and some Jaffa Cakes. It was on that trip that we got chatting about folk music. He had recently sent me the song ‘The Work’ from the FR EP, with Archie Fisher. I asked if he had ever heard of a Dundonian folk singer named Jim Reid. Jim was a staple in my household when i was a lad. I let Scott listen to ‘Wild Geese’ (or Norland Wind ). I distinctly remember the moment he took off the headphones, and paused for breath. ‘That’s beautiful’. And I could see in his eyes how much he meant it. I don’t think I ever really expressed adequately how much it meant to me that he then recorded and put out his own version of the song. It’s a song that means so much to me and all of my family, and for Scott to put it out on the world stage the way he did. I have no words. And the first thing he did when the advance copies arrived, was to make sure I had two. One for me, and one for my brother. I’ve just listened to this for the first time in a long time as i write. And I truly cannot see for tears.

Of course the real highlight of that trip, was the pair of us bickering like weans in front of Jim about which of the two albums was the best. I still maintain it’s Clarity.

Another favourite story from this flat involves the time we planned a night out for Bill Cosby’s birthday. What we lacked in foresight, we made up for in enthusiasm. We said at the time, that we we’re more about the idea of Bill Cosby, than the man.

Our time was short lived in this flat. The landlord doubled the rent, and as we were living there without a proper lease, we were up shit creek. Scott split his time between couches and Selkirk. I took on a 6 month lease with a friend of a friend.

A few months earlier I had started playing solo shows. I’d been offered a gig in my hometown of Arbroath. I jokingly asked Scott if he fancied coming along for a few tunes, as I knew there was an open mic portion of the night. Of course he was up for it. I emailed the promoter and asked if he could find a bit of space on the bill for an Edinburgh pal of mine. We came up with the oh so subtle moniker of ‘Morgan Fyte’. Thanks to a bit of teasing on the internet, the pub was rammed. That day Scott hadn’t been feeling too great. On top of that he’d spent the day in rehearsals in Glasgow and was absolutely shattered. I offered to drive to Glasgow and pick him up to make life easier. When he jumped in the car, I felt terrible. He was obviously not feeling himself, and truth be told I don’t think he was really up to it. But he did it anyway. Because he said he would. And he knew how much it meant to me. Ever humble, Scott insisted that he didn’t play last. He simply said ‘It’s your hometown gig’.

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Davey and Scott – Westport Bar, Arbroath October 2011 (Photo credit : Mike Andrews)

A few months later, I remember being on a bus going through Dunfermline, when I got a message from Scott. The band were in Kingussie writing what would eventually be Pedestrian Verse. I’d sent Scott a steaming message the day before, rambling about how shite my living situation was, and that i missed living with my pal. ‘Aw, I’m glad you’ve said that. I need to find somewhere to settle – when is your lease up?’.

And with that we moved to Montgomery Street.

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The wee willy watcher on the bathroom door in Montgomery Street. He protected us from pecker checkers.

Scott was on tour when the lease began. Things quickly began to take shape a few weeks later when he began to move his things in.

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Scott quickly put his stamp on the flat

We decided upon a bit of late night ebay shopping to spruce things up a wee bit. We got distracted pretty quickly looking for a copy of ‘Stuart Anderson acts naturally’ but we couldn’t find one for less than  £20. Getting back to the important business of decorating the flat, we debated over a signed photo of Chris Barrie (Brittas Empire era), but finally settled on a personalised 8 x 10 of the stunning Diane Youdale. ‘To Gordon, Love Jet’. A few days later Scott told me ‘ I won that Gladiators figure by the way. That’s me spent about £12 on Jet this week’.

Not long after we moved in, I had started working on some recordings with the intention of putting something out later in the year. Scott was unbelievably supportive. He asked me to send him my recordings, to have a listen and give me feedback. The next day he sent me a detailed analysis of every song. He told me what was good, he told me what sucked. He was incredibly honest, and it was exactly what I needed. He finished off with this

It’s good stuff man! Favourites being This Boy,This Girl, So This Is A Harvard bar, A Better Model, Fractions. I think you should now devote a bit of time to each song individually and we can figure out how to define each track, give each it’s own personality.”

Not only had he taken the time to listen to the music, he had made the effort to give me feedback and was offering to work on the songs with me. I’ve always suffered from a huge lack of self confidence when it comes to my music. I’m absolutely terrified of failure and rejection. To this day, I’m so angry with myself that after this email I did absolutely nothing. But his words still mean everything to me.

Late in 2012 I took the helm at Pivo on Calton Road. I was really excited to take on the new project. I felt there was a massive gap for somewhere in Edinburgh that people like me who wanted to do a bit of the old late night drinkin’ but didn’t want to go to  a bloody nightclub, could go. I was really trying to recreate something similar to Bloc in Glasgow. To that end, we decided to put on regular live music. And guess who was there to put us firmly on the map?

 

There are dozens and dozens of wonderful memories I have of our time in this flat. Pints at JP’s and Brass Monkey. Game of Thrones date night. Curry Cafe. ‘Internet’ Dinners at Hanam’s and Pomegranate. The 3.48am text message telling me we were having a party, for me to return home to an unconscious JP and a rambunctious James Graham. Being chastised after trips to Tesco for shopping like ‘ a 15 year old who’s mum’s left him twenty quid while she’s away for the weekend’. This whisky and tunnocks rammy. The afternoon in the Sam Burns Yard looking for old cutlery for the State Hospital cover. Getting off at the wrong stop and having to walk a mile to Roslin. And our pride and joy.

The whisky shelf.

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Clockwise from top left : This was taken on our dining table ; Our plant. Robert ; The infamous whisky shelf. ; The long road to Roslin.

Scott was soon to change my life again. I had never been to America. It was something like many folk our age, I had always dreamed of doing. Simply put though, I’d never been able to afford it. Scott made it possible. I tagged along for three weeks of a North American tour taking in a huge portion of the North East and Midwest. It was the trip of a lifetime for me. It was something again that he didnt need to do. He did it because he could.

I had itchy feet for months thereafter. I felt like the trip had really opened up a world of possibilities to me and i was determined to make a change. I loved the pub I was running, but I was exhausted. Tired of finishing at 4am every morning, and not waking up until midday.

At this point, I’d been asked to drive and tour manage my good friends in The Murderburgers on a month long tour of Europe. This meant quitting my job. This meant I would be skint. This meant I would struggle to pay rent. ‘Of course you should go, don’t worry about the rent. We’ll figure it out when you get home.’ It took me nearly 6 months to pay him back. He never brought it up once.

Soon after my return, there were some pretty seismic changes. Scott was planning to move to Los Angeles, and I met the incredible woman who would go on to become my wife. Just before we left the flat, Scott said to me ‘ Don’t worry pal, you’ll probably see me more now than ever!’ I wish with all my heart that had been true.

There have been many amazing things written about Scott this past week. Some from people who knew him well, some from folks who he had never met at all. But what is consistent throughout is the strength of feeling and conviction with which people have delivered these words.

I’m by nature a very introverted person. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since early adolescence. I suffer from shyness that is often misconstrued as being aloof or somewhat arrogant. The truth being that I really struggle talking to people. My self confidence levels are habitually low and can be absolutely crippling, especially in social situations. I can count on one hand the people in my life who I have been able to talk completely openly and honestly about these issues in any great depth and have felt comfort and understanding from them. Scott was one of them. We seemed to find comfort in each others discomfort. We were both awkward, but we both understood that in each other. We were only close for a few short years, but the impact on my life has been immeasurable. He gave me a tremendous amount of strength, and changed my perception on how i viewed my own mental health. I hope I was able to do something similar for my dear pal.

Since Scott moved to L.A. I had only seen him twice. I was so chuffed that he had made the effort to make it to my stag. The last time I saw my friend, he was happy and looked as healthy as he had in years. In the run up to my wedding I confided in my wife that there were only two people I wished could have been there on the day. One was my late father – the other was Scott.

He was on tour in Minneapolis the day of the wedding. He still managed to get a message to my best man and brother Steve that day with well wishes. His message was not included in the best man speech, with good reason. Steve had no idea what it meant, and wasn’t sure it would play out well when it seemed designed for an audience of one. I think I prefer it that way.

3 thoughts on “The Smokie and The Souter

  1. Reblogged this on doug blog and commented:
    Incredible words from my pal Davey about his pal Scott.
    It’s odd reading this and thinking “I remember him mention that” or “I remember seeing that photo on Facebook”.

    Thank you for sharing, Davey.

    Like

  2. Never met this man but my mate Jim Lockey knew him well. He sounds like such a lovely man. Sorry to all those who’ve lost him.

    Like

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