Perfect Sound Forever

Scott Booker

Image from Scott's MySpace page

Interview by Diane Roka, Part 2

SB: President Webb from the University of Central Oklahoma is a visionary. I mean, he's told me since that he was already thinking about having some kind of music classes or something that was more contemporary. You know, more about country, or rock or something like that.

And then, I met him through an organization here in Oklahoma called The Oklahoma Creativity Project. What we were trying to do was kind of change aspects of culture, commerce and education, and try to tie them in together better. And, I thought, wouldn't it be great if I could teach a music business class at a university level about my kind of music business?

'Cause there's lots of music business classes out there. But the majority of them are about theater production, and classical music and things like that. There's very few, especially in the Midwest, that do talk about what I do for a living. And he totally got it, just immediately.

And then, as our conversation was going you know, things aren't linear, they kind of go in and out of space and time, in a way. And, as that was going on, I came across the ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music) School in the UK. I was actually in France at MIDEM, a big music conference. And they were there not trying to get students, not trying to raise money but they were there trying to get jobs for their students at record labels. And they were there handing out demos for the bands from their school. And that's what intrigued me, that's cool that a school was doing that for their students. So then I got to know them, found out about their program, and then I shifted gears, and was like, wouldn't it be great if we could tie a program like that to a university in Oklahoma?

And to make a very long story short, basically, one of the Regents who decide what goes on in colleges and universities, is a big music fan, and was friendly with me, and I told him about it. And he came to South by Southwest, and the ACM guys were there as well. And I put 'em together at a table at my showcase of Midlake and a bunch of bands.

And I was like, "Look, you guys have to talk." So, the ACM guys told them all about what they did, and this Regent, a guy named Phil Moss, came back and was like, "This sounds amazing." Talked to President Webb about it. They were going to England for a whole other reason. Went ahead and visited the school, and came back and said, "We've got to do this." They were just blown away.

So, what the university did was begin the process of licensing their program for the U.S.. At that point, I kind of felt like my job was done. It was like, OK, I got this going this was awesome. Maybe I can go teach over there or something. And then President Webb came to me, and was like, "Would you run it?" And I was like you can't see me, but I'm shaking my head no.

I'm like, "I would love to, but I've been working with The Flaming Lips for 20 years, I'm not going to quit that. I make a good living from that. I mean, the Lips and I are family."

He said, "Oh, no. I don't want you to quit." He said, "I think it would make the school better if you were still working with the band."

And I was like, "Well, if it's not illegal, I'm in!"

So they figured out a way to make it all work. So, yeah so I'm basically runnin' the school and managing the Lips. And then I had to go to the Lips and say, "Hey, I've got this opportunity. And it'll take up a lot of time and effort what do you guys think?" And Wayne was immediately like, "Go for it! That's awesome! You've always talked about wanting to do something like that!"

So, you know, it was the best possible scenario ever. And I am the luckiest guy in the world!

PSF: You are! (laughs)

SB: I'm telling you! I manage The Flaming Lips, who are not only my dear friends, and people I've worked with forever but they're my favorite band! I mean, I used to before I managed them, I would go to every single one of their shows within a hundred mile distance. And just hang out, and I got to know 'em because they shopped in my record store, and we became friends.

And, actually, while I was working at the record store, I got my degree, in education, from the University of Central Oklahoma. And it was right around that time that I started managing the Lips instead. And just thought, "Oh, I can always go back to teach." And, here I am, you know.

But then, the other side, to run a school about the thing I love, is beyond belief. I mean, put the two together, and it's like eating coconut cream pie for breakfast! It's like, one of the greatest things in the world, you know? (both laugh)

PSF: Well, you know what I wanted to ask you, too? I've been working forever on this Gram Parsons project. And so I did a lot of research into who influenced him, and who he was around. And I read about the Tulsa Mafia: Leon Russell and J.J. Cale and all of those guys. Jesse Ed Davis. And the whole 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' tour, which supposedly was Gram Parson's idea, and then he didn't get to go.

So, sort of a two-pronged question, because number one, I was wondering if some of them would be involved. But then, also, the fact that they came up from being studio musicians -- I wondered if studio musicians, session musicians, back-up singers if that's also going to be in the curriculum

SB: Absolutely. I'll start with that question. We've got Performance and Production as two different paths that you can follow. If you're a Performance student, there's guitar, bass, drums, vocals. Then there's Production. And, a lot of our Production students, as you can imagine, are actually artists in their own right, who either want to learn how to record their own band, or they're DJ's or hip-hop artists and they want to learn how to use the studio as an instrument in a way.

I mean I am a student of music history, much like it sounds like you are.

PSF: Right.

SB: And, even reading this book last night by a guy named (Barney) Hoskyns... It's The Hotel California. And, I just started reading it. You know, like you said, meeting Jackson kind of opened the door of "Oh, I've gotta look into this more."

But the collaborative nature of that whole Laurel Canyon thing has been something that I see kind of starting to happen here. Where these kids like, for instance, today between noon and 4:00, there's 23 bands that will all be playing.

And the kids stay there the whole time not because they have to. But because they're supportive of everyone else. And, it's amazing I mean, it's just amazing. And you can already see some of these guys get together and you can tell when the metal guys are like "Hey, what kinda thing do you like?" (both laugh)

There hasn't been this collaborative nature in quite a while, that I've seen. And I really think we can do that, not only for the school, but for the whole music scene here in Oklahoma. And that's a big part of my goal.

Will the Leon Russells and J.J. Cales of the world be part of the school? I mean, we would love for that to happen. One of my professors was interviewing Jim Keltner the other day... and went out to L.A., because he works with the museum they've got a big exhibit on Oklahoma rock. And a lot of stuff with Leon Russell. Of course, the Lips... and all sorts of things like that. So, he was going to ask him if he'd be interested in coming to the school. My gut feeling is Leon Russell will never step foot in here, because, as I have come to find out through people, it's just very difficult, and he kind of hides. I'd love to get Jimmy Webb I think that's very possible...

PSF: Oh, that would be fantastic from a songwriting perspective...

SB: Oh, absolutely. And, J.J. Cale's another one who, I love his early stuff, love those first 4 or 5 records. And the other stuff's fine. But those first 3 in particular really just are amazing. And, you know, I haven't reached out to him yet. There's a lot of these artist that I'm waiting 'til the school's been goin' on long enough where maybe they've heard about it from their friends and relatives in Oklahoma, or whatever. And then you go to 'em. It's kinda like A&R, you know... you don't just go immediately up to someone. Or a date.

You don't just go immediately ask for a date the first time, or second you meet 'em. You wait. And you wait until the right moment. And then you say, "Hey, by the way. Why don't you come to the school?" (both laugh)

But my point is, you've gotta wait until the right moment to let the right thing happen.

PSF: Well, don't I know it, from doing music interviews! Don't I know it! (both laugh) 'Cause, there's been people that I've relentlessly pursued. And then I think, "You know what? I just have to take a breath and just get on with my life." And, it comes through when it's supposed to.

SB: Exactly.

PSF: Oh last thing that I wanted to ask you about. I read [on the school's website] that you talked about [offering classes in] scoring and soundtracks, and advertising, and things like that. And I just wanted to ask you a little bit about that. I know that there are people that really don't want to tour non-stop for the rest of their lives, but that really want to get into either music publishing or soundtracks. And, of course, for some people that can completely change their career, if they can get onto a movie soundtrack.

SB: Well, definitely that's something that... It's a bit more advanced than where this first semester of students is at. But, I mean, that's something that the school in the UK has really been great at has been helping the students. They've got a great partnership, I think with EA Games, and have been helping their kids get scoring jobs for some of the video games and stuff.

And it's a win-win, because the game people get less expensive artists to come in and do this stuff. And then the kids get these opportunities to work on something and get paid for it, as opposed to just doing something for nothing.

I want to apply the same thing here. I mean, there's a lot of indie bands, there's indie filmmakers, and there's a lot of them here in Oklahoma. And they all need music. And there's just no real organization behind these people and what I'm hoping is that as the word gets out that we have students that can do these kinds of things, that we'll get young filmmakers and people like that, coming to us, looking for help with that.

And the same works for advertising. I mean, one of the largest advertising companies in the world, Ackerman McQueen, is based here. And they've already contacted me, like, "let me know when you get some kids ready to do some stuff."

PSF: Oh, that would be great.

SB: It really is about a pragmatic kind of view of, let's figure out a way for these kids to make a living doing this for the rest of their life. And, yeah, they might not become Britney Spears and make billions of dollars. But, you know what? If they went and got a job at Best Buy, they'd be making 30 grand a year. We can probably beat that, and let 'em do something that they love doing.

And that to me is really the driving point in my head behind this. It's creating a situation where these kids have a better chance than most of making a living doing this. And if that's all I can accomplish, is the majority of my students coming out of here and falling into a job be it being in a band, or being a producer, or working at an advertising agency or whatever, have some kind of job that they love, then we're the biggest success ever.

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