What would you do if the acclaimed drummer for one of your all-time favorite bands announced they would play on any song sent their way during the pandemic? If you’re Winnipeg singer-songwriter Scott Hinkson, you get them to bash the hell out of the skins on your entire new album.
“There’s an element of ‘pinch me, this isn’t real,’” he admits. “I was only one song into the writing of this album when I realized Kellii could play on everything. Every musical choice I made from that day forward was with him in mind. I stopped thinking about it as a solo album and more as a collaboration with one of my heroes.”
Kellii Scott, drummer for Failure, the art-rock space lords best-known for 1996’s sprawling concept album Fantastic Planet, and this year, ambitious new full-length Wild Type Droid. Failure is considered by many in the rock world as “your favorite band’s favorite band.” For Hinkson, a fan since catching the group’s opening slot for TOOL at long-defunct St. Boniface event center Le Rendezvous back in 1994, the chance to have the group’s notoriously heavy hitter keep time (and deconstruct it) was a dream come true.
“There’s an element of ‘pinch me, this isn’t real,’” Hinkson admits. “I was only one song into the writing of this album when I realized Kellii could play on everything. I was motivated to write as quickly as possible, ensuring I was pushing myself to step into sonic areas I had only vaguely explored on other records: more rock, rhythm, pulsing guitars, and keys. Every musical choice I made from that day forward was with him in mind. I stopped thinking about it as a solo album and more as a collaboration with one of my heroes.”
From the outset, Hinkson was up to challenging himself for >> (pronounced ‘Fast Forward’), his fifth full-length solo effort. The resulting first cut, “I’m the Medicine,” is a deliciously buzzy, undeniably hooky, electro-pop departure from his primarily acoustic guitar-driven back catalog. It also quickly distinguished itself from the other ten songs on >> as the clear choice of the first single.
“I let the experimental tone of ‘I’m the Medicine’ set the vision,” explains Hinkson. “I saw what was possible once Kellii put drums to the demo and thought, ‘I can go electronic, I can go heavy, I want all of that.’ It helped dictate where I wanted to go with everything else.”
While Hinkson happily effuses about Scott’s distinctive playing, Failure’s star drummer is similarly generous in his praise for the veteran Winnipeg songwriter.
“[Hinkson] creates those rare and wonderful moments when the mind stops, and music just pours out of me, unfiltered, unedited,” Scott says. “These moments are exactly why I love participating in music that beckons my true self.”
From the opening seconds of “I’m the Medicine,” you can tell Hickson has grown as a solo artist. << is a record about change, speeding through the last seven years since his previous solo record and the trials he faced due to the pandemic.
“New shores / Ahead with your best,” Hinkson roars on “I’m Medicine.” “Turn your eyes and stay focused on them / You warn, all that weighs deep on your chest / Take the time, take the test, through the trough / it’s all starting to crest.” >> is a record about growth, rebirth, healing, and moving on from the things in life that hold you back.
Without Scott’s involvement, Hinkson says he isn’t sure he’d have shifted from the writing stages to purposefully assembling an album, so critical was the drummer’s commitment to shaping it over the span of 11 months.
“I wondered if an arrangement like this would lead someone like him to leave his best chops for Failure,” Hinkson confesses. “I’m happy to say that I don’t think he held back in any way, shape, or form. It’s just awesome.”