Mike Mattison and Paul Olsen‚ cofounders and leaders of the five-piece band Scrapomatic‚ who recently released Sidewalk Caesars on Landslide Records, are brave and loyal proponents of contemporary blues. Loyal‚ because each in his own way brings an authentic love for the music as a means of genuine personal expression. Brave‚ because the very assumption of dedication to the blues is a heavy responsibility in itself.
In these separate conversations‚ each of these two men‚ in his own understated good-natured way‚ revealed their respective insights into the process of making music as individuals as well as part of the group‚ live and in the recording studio. As befits their devotion to their muse and their music‚ Mattison and Olsen said less about themselves than about each other and their musical comrades. Both men are clearly more interested in discussing what they've achieved so far and where their ambition might take them in the future…


I'm enjoying the new album on a lot of different levels.
That's great.
I noticed that Mike [Mattison] was listed as co-producer‚ with Jeff Bacous. I'm interested to know how that came about.
Well‚ in the past we've worked with different producers and whatnot‚ and we're malleable to other ideas on how it should go. But Mike's down in Atlanta and I'm up in New York‚ so it's nice that someone who's down there is kinda holdin' the reigns to get to it all. We did basically three months of one weekend per month to knock out sixteen songs to make the record‚ and Mike was just very instrumental from the bottom up‚ getting us all toned into rehearsing all the tunes‚ to get into the studio and stay focused‚ and the mixing process‚ so he took on the role of producer. He did a fantastic job.
I saw that you wrote some of the material and Mike wrote some of it. Actually‚ with all due respect‚ I think one of my favorite cuts is that cover song "I Just Wanna Hang Around with You." I couldn't find out who the Peg Boys were. Can you enlighten me a little bit?
That's a group that Mike had discovered back in Minneapolis who had played that song. We had an old recording of it -- we basically did a similar version of the original -- but it was hard to track down. It was just sort of a bluesy garage punk band. But the Peg Boys were a group that Mike knew that had actually played that song. So‚ we just kinda liked it and thought it was a cool one to add to the list.
Oh‚ absolutely. It's a great inclusion in the album‚ most of which is much more straightforward blues stuff‚ and coming just before "Good Luck with Your Impossible Dream‚" it makes a great contrast.
Oh yeah‚ absolutely.
How'd you come up with the sequence and choice of the songs? You said you recorded 16 tracks‚ right?
Yeah‚ three didn't make it‚ unfortunately. I think some of the powers that be thought maybe it was more focused just to keep it at 13. But I felt that it would've been nice just as a complete work to have included all 16‚ just to take it even deeper. Because I think by the time you get to "Impossible Dream‚" you start to think‚ 'Hmm‚ what can be next?" Definitely wanted more stuff‚ like have Dr. John-type stuff and Tom Waits or like an almost '20s-style ballad. So‚ it got to be pretty sweet that we just kept on with more and more tunes and great performances and stuff.
But‚ you know‚ we kind of do it both ways. We've always had a great collaborative relationship‚ and we're able to write together pretty easily because I think we have the same focus and idea on what works. And then also just writing independently and coming in and getting the band to just do what they do -- it's kind of Scrapomagic‚ is what we call it.
When it comes to the point of recording or preparing to record‚ do you guys do demos of the songs? Or do you just play them to each other live and work up the arrangements from there?
I think a little of both‚ but in more recent times we do preliminary demos just to make sure everybody who's going to be involved has a copy and can kind of digest the tune a little bit. Then we'll map out more or less the structure of how it's gonna go‚ and it might change a little bit once we get with the other musicians‚ but it's a pretty straightforward process for us all.
It sounded like you really got on a roll‚ but it's interesting that you worked only on weekends. Did you do a predetermined number of tracks on each song or did you just go with the spontaneity of the moment and how it felt?
Yeah‚ we just rolled with it. We're working on a smaller budget‚ so we have limited time to make records. We could've done twelve days straight‚ but it seemed to make more sense just to break it up and do it in three chunks.
If you were doing it in between live shows‚ it must've given you a good perspective on bringing elements of playing with the band onstage into the studio and vice versa.
Yeah‚ absolutely.
Do you notice a difference in the way Mike sings and how he approaches his vocals when he's with you in Scrapomatic in contrast to how he sings with Derek in his band?

That's a good question. I think he's singing the way he sings‚ so hopefully it's the same‚ but I think there's a different dynamic in Scrapomatic than Derek Trucks Band. There's a different volume intensity as well. We're pretty quiet by comparison. There are some subtleties that I think are apparent to any listener‚ and I think with Scrapomatic Mike can kind of go off course a little bit and get silly or a little more out there‚ but with Derek it's a bit focused and it's… what's the word… very righteous music.