Scott Hardware On Making Vulnerable Music 

FOR THE RECORD is an ongoing artist essay series at BeatRoute where we invite some of our favourite artists to explore themes on their albums to provide a deeper level of insight into their work. On April 3, Toronto’s Scott Hardware will be releasing his sophomore album, Engel, on Telephone Explosion Records.

“Engel” was the first song written and the last to be recorded for the album. It’s difficult to listen to — it brings to mind so much frustration and self-doubt. It represents the difficulty and the ecstasy of making this album.

Some songs just pour out of you — “Engel” was like that. I wrote it first and subsequently named the album after it. I’d tell people I showed it to during the process that it was the “thesis statement.”

It came out in one day, lyrics and all, which almost never happens for me. And it just gave me all the ideas I needed to make a whole record; it was a break up song, sung to a telepathic angel. Angels can hear your thoughts, so dating one would be the absolute height of vulnerability. I suppose that’s what was going through my mind that day.

From there I saw my “in” to writing the lyrics for the rest of the album. If I wrote songs from the perspective of the nosy angels, I had enough of an abstraction to freely write some of my deepest / most difficult thoughts, and those of my loved ones as I perceived them. 

Recording it turned out to be the biggest musical challenge I’ve ever faced. There are three scrapped versions of this song, including one I spent hundreds on a mix for. One was a “house” song closer to the stuff on my last release (Mutate, Repeat, Infinity), another an ADD freakout, another stripped all the way back to my voice and a piano but none of them sat just right.

In the end, with about two weeks left before the whole collection went off to be mastered, I decided to give it one last try. I had been dabbling with found sound and sound design as a production tool (certainly not groundbreaking, but new and very exciting to me). 

I’ve always been obsessed with the accidental music that happens around us at all times living in a city — the clang boom of a construction site, a car horn and a church bell sound at the same time in harmony, stuff like that — so I set about filling out the song with these types of sounds. To my great satisfaction, they took the song out of it’s hyper-personal context and made it a sort of montage in a film. The ideas were intact but the experience was more immersive.

I hope people will take this song for a walk and let smashes and crashes of industry in their headphones mix with the unpredictable and uncontainable soundscape of their surroundings. I hope the chords and melodies give them that autumnal feeling of melancholic butterflies in their stomach.