Sat, Oct 25, 2003 - Page 16 News List

Making music, naturally

Shutting himself away from the world in his DIY home recording studio on Taiwan's east coast, American Scott Ezell has crafted an album celebrating nature

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Scott Ezell ahd his DIY recording studio in Taitung County, where he made his latest album, Ocean Hieroglyphics..

PHOTO: GAVIN PHIPPS, TAIPEI TIMES

Located in a small farmhouse high above the sleepy village of Dulan (都蘭) in Taitung County, American singer/songwriter Scott Ezell's recording studio is an oddity. The redbrick walls lack any form of soundproofing, the room has two thin wood-framed windows, through which the encroaching foliage is clearly visible and an assortment of recording equipment sits atop a home made table constructed out of driftwood.

Along with being one of the most unique and isolated places in Taiwan, the recording studio might also be one of the last bastions of a previous era. It's packed with dated analog recording equipment that Ezell has managed to beg, borrow and buy.

Regardless of the vintage equipment and its rustic setting, the studio bears all the marks of a professional endeavor and it's something that Ezell is proud of. Constructing the studio from an uninhabited farmhouse was no easy task.

"I knew I wanted to put together a studio, but with no training in recording I had no idea that it would work," he said. "I borrowed some gear, was fortunate enough to have picked up other stuff from a TV station and a radio station after they went digital and bought the rest. And then I spent a long time reading everything I could possibly find about analog recording."

It may not be state-of-the-art but Ezell's studio suits his atmospheric pastoral music. There's something delightfully rustic and laid back about the room in which the Californian creates his hybrid brand of what he dubs "organic folk music" and in which he produced his latest album, Ocean Hieroglyphics (海洋,漂流).

Born in San Diego, Ezell first arrived in Taiwan 10 years after he took a leave of absence from the University of Washington, at which he was a student in a Master's program in Comparative Literature. Having developed an interest in classical Chinese literature and poetry while at university he decided that the only way to increase his knowledge of Oriental literature was to learn Chinese. Shortly after arriving in Taiwan, however, Ezell realized that Taipei wasn't for him.

"I was here to learn Chinese and within a week had figured that, man, living in Taipei is not for me. So, I took my books and moved to the mountains near Hualien, where I began writing music and poetry," he said.

Moving back to Taipei in the late 1990s, Ezell took the stage name Sasquatch and began gigging up and down the country and playing at many of the popular outdoor festivals. After building a name for himself and befriending many of Taipei's indie artists and producers, Ezell set about cutting his first album, 2000's Sasquatch.

Even though the album didn't become a hit, selling only 500 copies, the lessons he learnt during the recording and marketing stages were invaluable.

"I knew that nobody was going to release an album of original music in English, in Taiwan. But I had all these songs so I thought, well, shit, I don't care if nobody wants to release it I'm going to do it myself."

"Obviously I would have liked it to have been picked up by a company, but, hey, in doing the project I got to realize the limitations of and learnt quite a bit about the recording process."

While his self-released debut was a predominantly folksy affair, his latest recording is purely instrumental. Released by popular local label, Wind Records (風潮音樂) a month ago, the album sees Ezell blending the sounds of various instruments and creating a musical vision of his environment.

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