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Scott 'Scoddy' Bywater Interview - Part Two

Bywater later decided to let the space voyagers continue their journey without him. He quit his day job with the United Nations and moved to France. Scott began to focus on songwriting, poetry and performing as a solo musician. When he returned to Phnom Penh in 2012 he found a transformed music scene and some incredible opportunities.

In March 2011 I had started writing poetry again.  I was starting to feel poetry and in an over-excited state one night set up a blog (Silver Pepper of the Stars). I got some really nice responses from people and after a while they started asking ‘when are you going to do a book?’. ...one of these people was Ken White and so I threw it back in his court ‘do you know a good printer?’. Sokkha [Ken’s wife] suggested one and we went down there, negotiated back and forth. January 2012. Printed the book, had a launch. So there was this other thing that I was now doing, and that sort of broadened the base, in a way.  When I came back this time last year, I had plans on for another book and therefore another launch. It was like I already had  credentials and people were looking forward to me coming back.

Musically, having played open mics in front of Paris audiences, I had an idea of what I could do now. And immediately the gigs started coming in. I went to the Riverhouse to see Up2UMango, Ukulele James and Sam and Greg, when I walked in James called from the stage: ‘Scoddy, are you free next Friday night, can you play drums at Paddy Rice?’ I met Toby the manager at the bar and I said I do a bit of this. He said he was thinking of getting some music in for ladies’ night, why don’t you come in we’ll make it a paid audition. I walked away that night with two gigs and it’s just been like that ever since.

It’s only in the last 12 months that I’ve actually stepped out of the shadow of the Space Project again. You still hear people refer to me, or introduce me as ‘Scott from the Space Project’.


One of the things that I bang on a lot about is that this city is very special simply by way of its size and the accessibility. Everywhere you go in the world people complain about how hard it is to get out. But if they did decide to go out they would go downstairs and get in a tuk-tuk and they would be in the venue in 10 minutes. Also its a place where people are forced to find their own social networks because most people don’t have family here, they are forced to find a substitute family among people with similar interests. Musicians are very fortunate because they have something in common immediately. You walk into the various open mics around town three times and suddenly you are part of the family. ‘I remember you’.

The high point of that for me was the Leonard Cohen afternoon we did at Rubies. This whole string of people coming and doing their own take on these songs. Recalling the rousing chorus of So Long, Marianne at the end of the evening that still makes my hairs stand up. It’s easy to put together a band from that point of view because musicians are looking for the contact to hang out with each other and they will put aside a night or two per week to play music with each other because they don’t have those other connections. Also to get to the gig you jump on a moto and put your guitar on your back. Taking away that complexity of ‘how do I get there?’ just reduces that barrier to entry. There was a time when those connections weren’t being made.

The whole scene is different now. It used to be that what music you could find tended towards bar bands and blues-rock. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that was all you found. It would be like going to a town and all you could find was reggae bands. They might be great, but after a while...

Also what grabbed me was there was a great tendency for people to put together bands not doing original material. As someone like Ziad [Samman] was showing, you can just get out and do that stuff. In the end I’m not breaking any musical barriers here, apart from the fact that we’re saying we’re only going to do original songs. All it takes is a commitment to say ‘this is what we’re going to be doing’.

The last thing Phnom Penh needs is another middle-aged, English-speaking white male playing the classic rock covers on a guitar. This is the place where you can stop playing in your bedroom and come out and be whatever you want to be. There aren’t the normal rules of you must not do this and you must not do that, you can go to the extremes that you want. The streets are full of people going to extremes that may or may not be good for their health. For me it’s a place... what did you dream of when you were a kid? Did you dream that you could be in front of a punk band? Did you dream that you could be in a Hank Williams band? You can do that. People will muck in and help you out. It beats sitting at home and watching seasons of American TV on one DVD. Anyway...

There is a great demand from the venues and people are struggling to put together the bands and they’re possibly not as... There’s probably two or three professional bands and the rest... I think it would be really nice to see more people coming in and building up and having the confidence to take the next step and then following through with that. Here is your chance to behave like a professional and do like a professional and this is going to help the whole scene.

People learn early on that this is not a town to be boastful as a musician. You stand and fall by your performance. If you walk in and say ‘I’m shit hot’...no. You need this network, don’t expect that you are going to be given a lot of space to say how wonderful you are without actually doing anything about it. Don’t just list your CV, get on the stage and show us.


In the Spring of 2013 Scott gathered together a group of local talents and began rehearsing a repertoire consisting entirely of original songs. Moi Tiet! evolved from an acoustic project to a muscular rock band featuring 6 or 7 players. The act succeeded in winning audiences over at venues normally associated with crowd-pleasing cover bands.

I feel blessed that I'm able to play with people who are much, much better musicians than I am. I have measly technique, but because I'm easily bored I play across different styles, and I'm willing to give anything a go. Moi Tiet has been great for the chance to break out of the acoustic guitar songwriter style and write/arrange for a bigger band, punchier and funkier, maybe surprise a few people.  

But there’s some risk: you’ve got a gig on Friday and your bass player can’t make it. Suddenly you have to teach somebody two full sets of original material. But to my mind it’s like anything else you enter into, most of the things that are really worth doing are things where you’re excited about it but you’re also a little bit scared. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be, you’re relying on your own strength and skills to get it across the line.
The more you do it, the better you get. The first and most important part of a band is that people have got to get on and enjoy spending time together. I’m always a believer in the idea that there’s a certain amount of rehearsal that you have to do, but the most important part is that spending time together. I usually don’t mind if the rehearsal is playing a few songs and sitting around talking and just getting to know each other. Because in the end you’re going to be on stage together and you have to have know that you can trust the person is that you’re going to be next to, and have some idea of who they are, so that you have that instinctive faith, and be on their side as well.


WASH is the thing that I am the most thrilled and excited about creatively that I have done this year. Of all the things that I have done this collaboration, to be able to work with people of such extraordinary character who have got so many ideas to throw into something that is... put a band together, original music, great, it’s been done. Put together some electronic musicians and a poet and create something that is interesting and listenable... it feels to all of us staggering stuff. For me that’s huge. The opportunities that I have had to do that here. The wonderful sense of sitting around in a living room, rehearsing, creating this electronic music with a vocal and with people painting in the background you just think... this is the bohemian life, it really is. We all work, we all do other things but we can come together... and its hot. And the beer is cheap, you know?
Having done two shows with [Triptych], we were asked to come and perform again and we all tentatively said ‘it would be nice to do something new’ . The ideas had been growing and evolving. I said OK, I will take stuff I have written over six months or so, work with that, it was this higher level of intensity, we were adding to what we were doing, ‘so what can we do next’. We all had some ideas of various kinds and it seemed like the perfect point to take some space, record the next piece, The Next Horizon. They will now do their electronic wizardry to create a second album for next year. By the time I come back we will have completed that cycle. I will have had time off.

Maybe it’s time for me to write something specifically for WASH. Previously I have taken stuff that I have already written and used it for that. The third part of The Next Horizon was something that I had written as part of an abandoned novel from a few years ago that was written in a poetic style. I did some minor editing to craft it into a stand alone piece. That really got me thinking about the possibilities... we will see.


I’m not very good at taking a weekend in Kep, as people do.  What I can do is uproot myself for several months because part of what drives my creative process is that superpower of ‘I’m in a new place what does it have to offer me?’ Not gee.. the cheese isn’t nice, or ‘there’s all this crap on television and I can’t see the Premier League.’ In France I am planning to perform but I am not in any great hurry. I need a break. It has been a relentless twelve months here that I have enjoyed. It’s driven me creatively in some ways but it’s also time to stop and assess and check and see what there is and start building on the next phase. Where is this going.

It was very interesting coming here when I first arrived in Cambodia and it felt very much like year zero to me... what has this got to offer me, where can I find a place within this. I went back to Australia 9 months later for a short visit and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I came back to Phnom Penh and it felt like I was flying home.... Flying into Pochentong. But I do like to keep moving, not moving in a restless way, but settle down, find the rhythm; but when the time is right and the stars align it’s time to move on.

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