Erik Scott in the Company of Clouds: R.I.P.
On October 11th we lost a wonderful musician, Erik Scott. If you don’t know that name, then you haven’t been listening to Echoes for the last decade. But that’s okay. Up until 2009, I didn’t know anything about Erik Scott. I knew the last group he was in, Sonia Dada, and I knew bands he was in in the 70s and 80s like Flo and Eddie and Alice Cooper, but I really had no idea about him. So when a friend of Scott’s told him to send me a copy of the demos for his solo debut album, I may not have given it the attention it deserved.
“It was not quite done, and you went nahh,” recalled Erik and then he burst out laughing, which he could do now because we had a nearly 10-year history of playing his music, including that record which turned out to be Other Planets, and we played to death. In my review I said, “It’s an album that’s more Pink Floyd than Jaco Pastorius. Scott isn’t a frustrated electric guitarist. He’s a composer as much as a bass player who dives into the deep soul and nuances of the bass, extracting sensuous melodies and atmospheric moods.”
I’ll stand by that. Since then, Erik Scott has been a staple of Echoes. That debut, Other Planets, was an Echoes CD of the Month as was his fourth album, In the Company of Clouds.
Born in Milwaukee on January 17th, 1948, this child of the 60s made his first record all the way back in 1969 with a psychedelic band called Food. They did one album, Forever Is a Dream, with a cover featuring a surprisingly preppy looking quartet of long hairs.
“I was young so I was trying to look cool,” recalled Erik last year. “I had that bit of a mustache and wore that scarf, and, you know, we kind of dressed up for the photo looking. And I had the caramel looking coat. We were stoned. We had smoked a joint before the photo shoot and we were out on this little thing in an abbey, or was it a monastery in Mundelein, IL. And that’s why we’re laughing so hard is we were blind.
Food just made one record and Erik went on to other bands including Otis Plum and Jambalaya. His career took off when he moved to Los Angeles, and began playing with Flo & Eddie, who were the two singers from the 1960s hit machine, The Turtles, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. Coming off a stint with The Mothers of Invention, their brand of rock was more satirical.
One of Erik’s favorite memories is Christmas at the Troubadour in LA with Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Peter Asher, Alice Cooper and Keith Moon.
That’s when he met Alice Cooper and became part of his band during the Special Forces era in the early 1980s.
“I remember thinking this is the circus,” laughed Scott, “because you could come to a town on the radio, you know there’s “Alice Cooper’s Coming” and you’d know they’d be hearing this for three weeks in whatever town you’d come to and so here you are, you’re the circus. So that was a little new to me.”
He also played with Kim Carnes, Ted Nugent, Triumph and later, Pops Staples.
Erik Scott’s final stop in the rock world was the Chicago-based band, Sonia Dada, who had a hit with the song, “You Don’t Treat Me No Good.” By then, Erik Scott was hearing a different path that would take him to still another world. Instead of hanging with people like Alice Cooper, Keith Moon, Carl Palmer, Ted Nugent and Kim Carnes, he found himself in the midst of Gurujas, David Arkenstone, Will Ackerman and Deuter.
“It’s a different world. It’s a different life” he said with a bit of hesitation. “I mean I had no idea what I was getting into. I was approaching a certain age that I’d been doing the popular commercial music for 40 years and I knew that I wanted to make some more use of the bass than had been generally allowed in commercial records. The melodies that I would sing or the events, sonic events even, I wanted to do them on a bass and instead of thinking of them and suggesting a guitar part or a drum thing. So I started doing that and I didn’t know where to take it.
Scott’s sound is melancholic, driven by his bass melodies which were full of ornamental bends and twists. While Pink Floyd is a sonic touchstone, he would compose works with African-like choirs, jazz trumpeter from Jeff Oster and world music elements.
Now, that sound is gone. Erik had been battling cancer for a few years. In 2015 and sixteen he overcame esophageal cancer. That time inspired his album, In the Company of Clouds which won two ZMR Awards including Album of the Year. His follow-up, A Trick of the Wind, was an album of renewed life and buoyancy. It would prove to be his last recording as the cancer returned with a vengeance in early August and entered multiple parts of his body including his beautiful brain. He entered the company of clouds on October 11, 2019.
Erik Scott was a friend and I don’t say that about a lot of musicians. He was actually a subscriber to Echoes On-Line and I cried when his wife Mickie told me that even toward the end, they listened to Echoes together every night. Erik would always drop me a line when he heard something interesting on the show When we had an emergency fund drive this past summer, Erik was one of the first and most generous donors.
Erik would always drop me a line when he heard something interesting on the show and that was usually followed by long conversations about music. I was often graced with early versions of his recordings.
Among my favorite hangs at the ZMR awards in New Orleans over the last few years have been drinking Bulliets at the bar with Erik. I spoke to him a couple of weeks after his diagnosis and I could tell he was down. When Echoes 30th anniversary passed on October 2nd and I didn’t hear from him, I knew something was wrong. I called him. Mickie answered the phone and said he was in home-hospice. The news I got on the morning of 12th was not unexpected.
I’m going to miss Erik’s music a lot. And I’m going to miss Erik even more. We had so many laughs talking about the serious business of music. Play on Erik.