Scott Cook Music | Interview

Scott! How are you man? We're practically neighbours! How come I never see you? 
We could have met in the alley. 

So, you have a PhD and an MA in music theory from (UBC) University of British Columbia, a BMUS (Bachelor of Music) from McGill University and you are currently teaching music theory, aural skills and the history of rock'n roll at Vanier College. Is that pretty accurate? 
Yup. For what it's worth, I have a Masters in music theory also. Music nerd, ya know. 

What made you decide to get into that profession?
I've been playing guitar and playing in bands since I was 12. I graduated high school in '91 and went into the music program at Vanier. Part way through my second semester is when I turned 18 and my parents who have always been super supportive were also the type who were like, "When you're 18, you can make your own decisions." So, as soon as I turned 18 I said I was dropping out of school and moving out of the house. It led to nothing and I was like, "I need to get a job." I have a professional degree in graphic design, so I did that and worked in a design studio for about 5 years. That studio decided to move to Florida and I didn't want to move to Florida and I didn't really like the job anymore anyways. At that point I thought maybe I'd go back to school so I auditioned for McGill and I said to myself, "If I get in I'll go and if I don't then I'll go look for a job with another studio." So I started at McGill when I was 26 but I think because of my age and my mindset and that I'd already been working, I didn't know if I wanted to go into performance. I was aware of the fact that I could keep playing, but if I wanted to have any chance at getting some kind of steady work, then teaching might be a good direction. I liked Music Theory as much as I knew of it at that point, so that was the motivation behind following Music Theory. The only thing is, when I went back to school I had no intention of doing a doctorate or anything. I wasn't into the whole research thing but I got more and more into it, the more I got involved. At 26 I went back to school and at 38 I finally finished school (Laughs). 

"I remember listening to Detroit Rock City and I'd slide along my linoleum floor when the car crash happened."

How long have you been a music instructor at Vanier College?
8 years.

You're also pretty heavy into Jiu-Jitsu, right? 
Ya, as much as I can be. Covid really shut a lot of our activities down and Jiu-Jitsu is something that's obviously hard to do alone, so the training has not been too existent for the last year and a half. I only started going back once the vaccine passport came into play. I train as part of Brazilian Top Team and there's a lot of pretty high level people there. I do know a lot of people who continued training all the way through, but admittedly a lot of those people are in their early twenties and all they do is Jiu-Jitsu and they don't care if they get Covid, you know what I mean. That's not the case for me. I don't have any intention of stopping, but I try to not stress myself out when I'm not able to train and I just say that it'll always be there. 
How and when did music become a part of your life and what genre introduced you to music?
When I was 5 or 6 my babysitter gave me the first Kiss record. I totally got into it—what kid wouldn't. I remember listening to Detroit Rock City and I'd slide along my linoleum floor when the car crash happened. At the same time my dad had the Queen Greatest Hits record. On a side note, Kiss I've outgrown and Queen I haven't. I brought my son to see them last time they were in town and he loved it, but it was a bit hard for me to get into these 70 year old guys in halloween costumes. (Laughs) So that got me interested in guitar and I started putting pictures of electric guitars on my wall. There was a show that was called The Power Hour on Much Music. I think it was on Thursdays at 4:00, so I'd watch it every week after school and I started to see the hair metal bands like Mötley Crüe especially, and then Ratt and WASP. I super got into Mötley Crüe and I remember going to the (Hudson's) Bay with my mom to buy the Shout at the Devil cassette and when I was 11, my dad bought tickets for me to go see Mötley Crüe on their Theatre of Pain tour at the Montreal Forum, so that was my first concert. Also that year, my dad bought me my first electric guitar and I totally got into it. I went to my very first guitar lesson with my guitar and my Mötley Crüe record thinking, "This is what I wanna play," and the teacher was like, "Well, you gotta learn some basics." I was like, "Forget about those guitar lessons." (Laughs) 

"I spent a lot of time studying classical music as a theorist, I've done over five or six hundred jazz gigs as a jazz guitarist, but my heart has always been into rock, heavy rock, hard rock and punk rock."

At what point in your life did you get into heavier stuff like punk rock and hardcore? 

By the time I was 12 I had a couple of close friends and they ended up getting drums and a bass so we formed a band. Around that time too, I was starting to transition out of the hair metal stuff because I heard Never Mind the Bollocks and so I started to get into the Sex Pistols and that really quickly led into heavier stuff, so I became a huge fan of The Exploited. I was 12 and starting high school and I was a little wannabe punk rocker. I grew up on the West Island by the way. I started meeting 15 and 16 year old punks and I went to a show called Suburban Invasion which was at a local park and there was a band called the Asexuals playing. As far as my band was concerned, we weren't good enough to play anybody else's songs so we immediately started writing our own stuff. As soon as I discovered what a power chord was, I could play millions of songs. We kept going, kept pushing at it.

When I was about 14, I heard Master of Puppets and that was a great combination—a punk rock vibe with people who could actually play quite well. I really got into Metallica and I think I stayed in that genre ever since. I still love The Exploited and I still love Cro-Mags. When I went to school as a guitar player, your choice is either classical or jazz guitar so I chose jazz because I guessed it was closer to rock. In my academic world, I really started getting into post-tonal classical music. I'm just throwing that out there because I do feel like I'm a little all over the place in what I like. I feel like I have a decent amount of experience in those different genres. I spent a lot of time studying classical music as a theorist, I've done over five or six hundred jazz gigs as a jazz guitarist, but my heart has always been into rock, heavy rock, hard rock and punk rock. 

What was your first show and what were some of the most memorable shows from your early years?
I super got into Pantera! I remember seeing them three times in one year in Montreal. One time they came and I think it was at Verdun (Auditorium) and they opened for Skid Row and then I saw them maybe once at the Spectrum and then once at Metropolis. It was because of Pantera that I decided to shave my head. I graduated in 1991 and I remember in my high school grad picture I've got super long hair, ya know. I remember seeing Pantera play and they had the back lit strobe light and Phil Anselmo had his head shaved and I was like, "Fuck, that looks wicked!" Another cool show that's worth mentioning; in '92 I went to Burlington (Vermont) to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers play... I actually auditioned for the Red Hot Chili Peppers too which is another funny, stupid story. So I went to see the Chili Peppers play and the band that played right before the Chili Peppers was The Smashing Pumpkins and before Smashing Pumpkins was Pearl Jam. I remember being like, "Who are these bands?" They totally blew me away compared to the Chilli Peppers. Pantera was the first heavy band that I was really passionate about. I was a big Tool fan for a while. I remember seeing Tool at Metropolis for the Ænama record and for their first record Undertow at the Spectrum and I think Failure opened. All that kind of stuff I found really exciting. 

I remember another funny story when I was at Vanier in '91 coming out of school walking to the Côte-Vertu metro station and seeing all these 8.5" x 11" flyers for this band Nirvana, playing at Foufs and I didn't go. The next day a guy who I knew in the music program who went to the show had the cassette and that's when I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit." 

You front the rock band Colonel Sun which is on Stand Productions. Can you give me a little breakdown on CS and your relationship with Stand? 
Through Mishka Stein's connections, he contacted Simon Angell and Robbie Kuster. Those 3 guys were basically Patrick Watson's band. So the first Colonel Sun EP and the first few shows; that was kinda me and Patrick Watson's band. We recorded the first EP, I wrote more songs and we went in to do a second EP at a different studio and that studio is the one that is attached to Indica Records. So Peter Edwards from Grimskunk was there and heard the stuff that we were doing and was interested in maybe pitching it to Indica. They passed on it but he said we'll sign you to Stand right now. 

More recently you've released a 6 song EP entitled, "Topics" which dropped on October 21. Tell me about your solo project, who features on it and what you did for the release? 
My first instinct was, I'm just going to write something even fucking heavier than Colonel Sun and so I started doing that, and to be honest, it just sounded like more Colonel Sun. I thought, "Maybe I'll just try something totally different and maybe I'll just try to sing. Who would I want to write like if I were to try to write something totally different," and the first two people that came to mind were David Bowie and Roger Waters. I thought, "I'm just gonna try to write like those guys; I'm going to get into character a little bit." Singing in this way is definitely new for me. I'm set up to record at home so I just started writing these songs. Because we were in lockdown, it was an opportunity to practice recording and mixing at home—stuff that I don't have a lot of experience in. The six songs that I released are the ones that made the cut. I played everything, I recorded everything at home, I mixed everything and the only thing I didn't do was mastering. As you know, there's a couple of guest appearances. I asked a couple of friends to do some extra stuff that I couldn't do, like Stefanie Parnell who sings on a few of the songs and Joe Grass who is actually now the guitar player for Patrick Watson—he does the pedal steel on the last tune I put out. For the first song I put out, "No Bones," I actually did write the piano part but when I recorded it, I decided to ask somebody who's actually a piano player to track it. Everything else is me. 

"The Pin in My Grenade" video dropped in October. Great song and vid, by the way! It's a touching song. What's it about? 
I wrote it for my wife and it is a love song. My wife and I have been together since high school so she's definitely crept her way into lots of my lyrics. 
The fact that I started trying to sing really provided me with a new instrument to keep writing. It was a nice change for me. I still know that I have a ton of work to do as a singer but I think if I just keep doing it then I can keep writing. I do hope that I can at least release a few more Colonel Sun tunes. But ya, right now my focus and energy is just on this new stuff. I already have the follow up to the EP single written.