Michael Pedersen & Scott Hutchison on Oyster

Our poetry columnist speaks with Michael Pedersen, co-pilot of Neu! Reekie! and Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, to get the dirt on their succulent new collaboration of Michael's poetry and Scott's artwork: Oyster

Feature by Clare Mulley | 07 Aug 2017

The Skinny: how does Oyster compare to your first collection, Play With Me?

Michael Pedersen: It’s longer; it’s stronger; it’s likely more playful and severe in the one dollop. Most of these poems are appearing for the first time. Unlike with Play with Me where I published pieces in magazines and anthologies as I went, I kept these mostly to myself.  Having worked with Gerry Cambridge [Editor of The Dark Horse poetry magazine] editorially and published and read further and fiercer, I’m now more confident in unveiling them in one strident swoop.

The love poems remain ubiquitous, the liberalist free thinking attitude towards drugs and shagging balloons up and boogies. I’ve mined deeper with contemporary Scots language pieces and think I’ve upped my pop poetry ante. As of, the sugar paper lilted love pieces with brutal wee endings, well they get soppier and more gnarly still. Play with Me was soupy noodles, this is the full ramen.

I noticed a lot of the poems have a very strong, sensual thread… tell me more?

MP: Oyster is sensual, sure. I’ve never had a problem with candour – in fact, the opposite. Not in a gossip column kind of way, but to transmit experiences. It’s also a way of showing how new people came into my life. I’m shyer in person, so putting it on the page matters. Not a prescription, just a lusty invitation to wander into your imagination. They say oysters are an aphrodisiac – it's not conclusive. I hope the same goes for these poems and illustrations combined... 'inconclusive aphrodisiacs'... that's the dream (it's more alive than ever).

How did your collaboration on Oyster begin?

MP: The poems came first, and I knew I wanted Scott to illustrate them. Scott chose poems he felt he could relate to, or fragments he felt he could relate to at one point in time.

Scott Hutchison: We’ve known each other for six years and have been aware of each other’s work in every sense. It was a no-brainer for me to accept the offer to illustrate them.

Which came first for you, Scott – music or drawing?

SH: I'm glad to draw in a more 'official' capacity these days. It's the only job I'm actually qualified to do, having spent four years studying to earn a degree at GSA. It's strange how the two pursuits have intertwined for me, music and visual art. When I was at art school I was fully immersed in what turned out to be a wonderful, eye-opening journey to nowhere (for a while). I felt I was only making work to entertain the brains within the institution and that the wider world, quite rightly, couldn't give a shit about my project discussing the social struggle of chairs.

When I found a different mode of expression within my songs it was really freeing. It felt like that was a more real, raw and unprocessed version of me, whereas the art school lad had been trying so hard just to fit in and learn the rules for breaking the rules. The whole thing has flipped now that music is my day job, and I find drawing very therapeutic and mentally liberating in much the same way as songwriting back in college. 

How did you go about illustrating Oyster – did you plan, or was it mainly instinct?

SH: It was a bit of a challenge to distil various pieces of Michael's work into a single image, given that his work flips across the page in a way that is hard to pin down. His poems can easily pull a nutmeg on you, run rings, tap you on the shoulder and then knock you flat out. I tried not to overthink it and the drawings were often a fairly instinctive reaction to what I saw in my head while I was reading through. Some images show what’s in the poem, some are purely interpretative. which means some are simple, plainly obvious and others a little more left-footed. All take a fresh reaction to what I read; I didn’t want them to be absolute.

MP: I feel these illustrations are a very special part of Scott that not enough people get to see. It's cherished and champion to have them sit alongside these poems – the poems being special and susurrus parts of my thinking not commonly talked about in the pub or over chips.

Dare I ask, what next?

MP: The show myself and Scott will create around Oyster is yet to reveal itself. We’re still working on how to do it live, with set boundaries, and it needs to reflect the antithesis of what people expect. It’s not just about an illustrated book – it’s a living organism. The 'me reading for a bit then Scott playing for a bit' structure with a stream of surrounding chatter is a mere starting point. I'm envisioning a potpourri of songs, visuals, voices and performances which can't be categorised as either poem or song or as belonging strictly to either one of us. We take Oyster on tour soon: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham and London – in my mind the end of this tour is the starting point for something quite remarkable.

SH: I hope the live Oyster shows can begin to bring all these pieces of artistic endeavour together in a cohesive (or comprehensibly chaotic) way. Michael is the master of the variety event and I think we'll both relish chucking ideas about in front of willing eyes and ears. It's a thrilling prospect, venturing out under the wing of a great friend and admired collaborator. I'm always much happier playing second or third fiddle, or indeed no fiddle at all. 

Oyster, published by Polygon, RRP £9.99. The book launches on 1 Sep; the authors share a stage at Neu! Reekie!'s programme at Electric Fields festival on 1 Sep
Michael Pedersen and Scott Hutchison also appear at Edinburgh International Book Festival on 18 Aug; Oyster will be available exclusively from the Festival bookshop