Scott Hansen and his band use the sport to unwind, connect with nature
September 30, 2016 by Steve Hill in Interview with 0 comments
Scott Hansen is living the dream.
As the creative mastermind behind ambient electronic act Tycho, the San Francisco artist is currently on the road, bringing sonically-expansive, visually-enhanced instrumental music to packed houses around the globe.
And when it’s time for a day off, Hansen, his band members, and their crew all find the nearest disc golf course. It’s a way for them not only to enjoy nature, but also to bond over the flight of a Frisbee.
We caught up with Hansen and tour manager Forrest Reda before a show in Raleigh, North Carolina, earlier this week to talk about their love of disc golf, struggles off the tee, and Tycho’s new album, Epoch, which was released today.
How did you guys get into playing disc golf?
Scott Hansen: We’re a really tight knit team, and we’ve been together a long time. Forrest introduced us all to disc golf, and then we brought on a couple other people who happened to be into it, so now it’s like everybody plays disc golf.
Forrest Reda: I first became familiar with disc golf, like many people, in college. We had one of those courses that was just posts, and we played with an ultimate, like 175-gram disc. This is in Washington State, in Pullman, Washington. So we’d go out to this course, and we’d huck the Frisbee at the posts, and it was like a nine-hole course and we’d play it frontwards and backwards. That was great because I’d always enjoyed Frisbee, ultimate, and everything like that.
That was the beginning, and at some point someone showed me, probably in California, the Huntington Beach course. Actually, the Santa Cruz course was the first one I played. Then I became aware of the idea of chains, and smaller discs, and what a great concept, you know? I continued to play – I lived in L.A. for a long time and played the Chavez Ravine course a lot, then going out on tour as a tour manager you go through a lot of college towns. And in these college towns, you find disc golf courses.
It’s really hard to bring golf clubs on tour, but you can bring a football, or discs, and you can get out for an hour or a little bit and play, and it’s a great way to relieve stress and a great way to bond with the people you’re touring with. When I met Scott and we started touring together, [with] his background in Frisbee it was just a natural progression that he’d be really good at disc golf.
When I first showed him my discs, he was like, “What are these? These are small, what do you do with these? How do you catch these?” Sure enough, the first time we went out he actually beat everybody and it was just like, OK, he’s a natural and he’s going to be really good at it.
Scott: But then I was never good again! [Laughs] I completely fell off.
Forrest: I did not let you win that first day, though! I tried, everyone tried. None of us have, like – we don’t have a huge satchel of discs. We have a driver and approach and a putter, and a few guys on the crew are more adept at flicking it or throwing underhand or whatever, but we’re not super – not nerdy, but we’re not like really intense about it. We just love to be outside and throw the Frisbee, and it’s a great way to see beautiful parks around the country.
Scott: My dad taught me to play Frisbee, so I was way into it – just playing catch – and then when I moved to Sacramento in my early 20s I got into a rec league and I really fell in love with ultimate. When we started touring with Forrest – I don’t remember the first day, but we went out there, and I knew what disc golf was but I didn’t understand the draw of it. And then I got hooked immediately on the first day.
But I can’t throw a frickin’ – I can’t throw a driver, so I was just using a putter the whole time because it feels more like an ultimate disc. So now I’ve been trying to transition into drivers and learn how those work, so I’ve had a pretty bad streak lately.
So how long have you guys been playing together?
Forrest: I think 2012 is when – I think the first course we played was [Centennial Park] in Lawrence, Kansas, I want to say in 2012 sometime. Remember that course behind the hotel?
Scott: Yeah, that was the one we walked to.
Forrest: We’ve played some really cool courses. We kind of now look at our off days and look at our routing and figure out what we can do, where we can play, and we have a whole band selection of discs so everyone has a disc when they want to play. We just played last week in Michigan – everyone, band and crew. We had eight people out on the course and it was pretty cool, it was great.
Scott: And now every time we play I’ll post it on social media, and like 20 people will be like, “Hey, you’re going to wherever tomorrow, you’re going to Detroit tomorrow. There’s an awesome course right by the venue.” People will give us tips and stuff, it’s awesome.
Forrest: Even when we’re not on tour, if we see a highlight on YouTube or ESPN or something, it’ll get sent to our group text that we have, and everyone’s like, “Yeah, alright!”
So if you’re watching highlights, you guys know there’s a professional tour, then?
Scott: We know now.
Forrest: We were somewhat aware of it, yeah.
Scott: Yeah, the hole in one guy. He threw it around like a blind corner.
The Albatross! That was definitely a big moment in disc golf. What discs do you guys throw when you go out?
Forrest: This is not going be very impressive, because – we have a couple Terns, you know, but we don’t have really good plastic, I guess you’d call it. We’re kind of on a hobbyist level with what we’re throwing.
Scott: Last time I threw a Roc, that one with the giant buzzard on it. Then the Boss, a driver, the one with the machine gun on the front. And then the soft touch chains – what is it, Forrest? The soft chain slammers or something? [Laughs] Those are my favorite ones, the soft putters.
Forrest: We have a white Rhyno, or a Birdie or something.
Scott: We have the one with the lazer graphics on it. I don’t know, we bought a bunch in a vending machine one time [at Burns Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas]. There was a giant army tank, like an old Sherman tank or something, and then right next to it there’s a disc golf vending machine. That was amazing, we posted it on Instagram, I can look it up on Instagram. I tagged it. That was one of the best courses we ever played, it was like Last of the Mohicans disc golf.
What’s been your favorite course so far?
Forrest: That one you mentioned was really good. The one in Grand Rapids [Riverside Park], though, was really nice. It wasn’t the most challenging, but it was beautiful. Nice and wide. Both Scott and I like to throw long. When we’re in trees it’s a little more hard for us to win because the other guys are better at the position stuff. But both Scott and I like to throw long.
Scott: What about that place on the sand? Remember, it was like we were by the ocean, in Florida maybe? That place was awesome.
Forrest: I feel like that was South Carolina.
Scott: And then Ohio, remember that giant one by the dam [Brent Hambrick Memorial Disc Golf Course]? Those are my top three, I think.
Even though you guys are just recreational players, it still sounds like you play pretty often.
Forrest: Well, as often as we can, yeah. We would play every day if the opportunity presented itself, and we’re trying to get to that level of touring where we actually can.
Scott: It’s pretty much impossible with the schedule of touring.
Forrest: You hear about rock stars, where they’re going golfing a lot, or Alice Cooper is a great golfer or whatever. So we’d like to do it as much as we can, as much as the schedule allows.
Scott, are there any parallels between playing disc golf and making music? Any commonalities, or are they completely separate for you?
Scott: I think if you spend a lot of your life focused on kind of a craft and learning the process and learning how to navigate it and being strategic about it, you’re always gonna apply those lessons to other stuff. I think there’s parallels, I think it’s a little bit loose. But the idea of thinking about the long-term plan of planning out a hole, and deciding when to lay-up and deciding when to go for it, and trying to get yourself within range and get yourself into a position where you know you’re gonna be able to put it in, I think there’s definitely – with music, it can get nerve-wracking to come up with something you think is gonna be interesting and come out in the right amount of time and all that stuff. So yeah, I think there’s some parallels. Its loose, but still there.
Have you ever thought about any of your songs being used as a soundtrack to a disc golf video? What song would you choose?
Scott: I think “Awake” would work good. I think I’ve actually seen that before. I think the music is pretty fitting. It’s instrumental stuff, and it’s kinda cinematic and I’ve seen it used as a lot of sports-type situations, and I think it’s particularly fitting for disc golf.
You dropped your new album, Epoch, at midnight last night, without having previously announced a release date. Why did you go with the surprise approach instead of the typical album publicity route?
Scott: As an artist it’s frustrating, the typical release schedule. You basically turn the record in and it takes about four months for manufacturing and distribution and all that stuff. So this record comes out that you, you’re like, “Yeah, that was cool music.” But you know, since then you’ve toured and you’ve made new music and all this stuff’s happened. I want a more visceral – I want to be more connected to the people who are listening to the music, and with the prevalence of streaming and all these alternative distribution methods – and physical media is definitely not as important as it used to be – that basically affords you the opportunity to be this very linear thing, straight from you’re done with it and people are gonna hear it.
That’s really exciting for us, because this is new music that – it’s still new to us, and people are hearing it for the first time. So when we’re playing it on stage, it’s like you feel a lot more connected to it, so that was the whole idea. Plus, I think we’re all kinda over the hype cycle, you know? Kinda like, “Hey, a new album is coming in thirty days, get ready.” And it’s like, well who gives a shit? [Laughs] So like, hey, here’s new music. If you like it, awesome, thanks. And we’ll see you soon.
Listening to Epoch, the first thing that jumped out to me are the drums. From the opening of “Glider” and the heaviness of “Slack,” to the fills in “Source,” everything is very percussive. Was this is conscious shift from prior work or a natural evolution?
Scott: Yeah, if you go back to the early stuff, I was really into DJ Shadow and Roni Size and all that. That’s what got me into making music. The drums actually used to feature – they were a little more prominent before, and that’s always been a thing I wanted to take further, because mostly what I listen to is rock. I don’t really listen to electronic music, so I’ve always wanted to find way to incorporate that kind of energy into stuff.
I think with [2014 album] Awake we tried to make it almost a live feeling record, so it wasn’t quite as processed and edited, and the time hadn’t really been spent to tweak it. This time, I really focused a lot more energy on the rhythm section and getting all that right. And then also using different time signatures in a few of the songs that I’ve never used before – I’ve just always used 4/4 – I think that definitely made it more interesting for me, and I ended up spending more time thinking about it.
It’s interesting you say Awake was more like a live record, because I listen to the new album and it sounds like it’s made to be played in concert. Were you trying to go for an album that was more danceable and would be more fun to play live?
Scott: I wouldn’t say it was like a conscious decision that was made, like “Let’s make this record like this,” but it’s unavoidable if you spend the better part of six years on the road playing shows. That’s gonna find its way into the music. I used to wonder, “Oh, is this gonna color things, is this gonna change the way the music sounds?” And I just realized, of course it is, but it’s not for better or worse. It just is, and it’s a different and more interesting take on what was going on before.
What are you most excited for people to hear on Epoch?
Scott: Overall I’m stoked on the amount of time I was able to spend on this record as opposed to Awake, so there’s the detail. The layer of detail I built into [2011 album] Dive is back this time, and I don’t feel like I had the time to put that into Awake. If we’re talking specific songs, I think “Glider” and “Slack” and “Division” and “Local” are all kind of this energy, space, kind of post-rock, more aggressive tones that I really think is interesting because I’ve never had a chance to explore that fully. So I’m just really proud of how those came out, and collaborating with [Tycho guitarist] Zac [Brown] on the really guitar-heavy stuff was really – I think it was an interesting way to move forward or into a different direction.
You documented a lot of the recording process on social media, and it seems like you really isolated yourself during that time.
Scott: Definitely. Especially this album, in particular, was the most isolated I’ve ever been, and that was kinda by design. I moved up into kinda the hills of Berkeley, into the woods, and got into a pretty isolated space and didn’t go out much.
So is it nice to get out on the course while you’re on tour and interact with other people and have a social outlet?
Scott: Physically, too. That was actually the biggest bummer of this record. First of all, it was [recorded] in a converted attic, and I’m pretty tall, so I could never stand up straight in the studio. I didn’t think much of it, but by the end of the year my back was so shot that like I was like getting back spasms and I didn’t take care of myself that year. I was so focused. And so we came out on this tour and I was like, fuck, man. Forrest was talking about the first day we were gonna play [disc golf], and I was like, “Dude, I can barely stand up straight, I’m not gonna be able to play.”
So I started doing yoga and stretches every day and I was able to – luckily I got it unlocked the day before we went out, and it was awesome. It’s just nice to have a thing to force you to think about your body and think about the state of it and realize, fuck, I need to get it together here [or] I’m not even gonna be able to do the basic things I enjoy doing. [Laughs]
What’s been your career highlight in music, and your career highlight in disc golf?
Scott: Oh, let’s see. Career highlight in music would be I think this last year, this record. The process of creating this record was just really fulfilling, and just seeing it all come together, and really I think just overall having this team of people and everybody coming together to make the live show happen. Just because, I feel like that’s what this is all about at the end of the day, is the way you connect the music to the fans, and the only way to do that is with a team of people who are dedicated to it and believe in it as much as you do. So I think, overall, finally finding a team and having it all gel over the last year has been awesome.
And then in disc golf, I guess my first few times I actually did it surprisingly well, and that was pretty fulfilling. Like being like, OK, at least I have some reference point to start from and I’m not absolutely terrible.
No aces yet?
Scott: I think I had one lucky long putt. Forrest, what was your [career highlight]?
Forrest: I mean, disc golf is just a process. I’ve never hit an ace. Back in college on the poles I hit one across the pond one time, but not on a real course. But Scott is great. His putting is amazing, and once he gets the driving figured out it’s gonna be good.
It sounds like Scott is downplaying his skills here. Is he just being modest?
Forrest: He is.
Scott: No I’m terrible at driving, seriously! I can throw a putter the whole course though.
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted on Tuesday, September 27. On Thursday, September 29, Forrest bagged his first ace at T.E. Avent Park in Oxford, Mississippi. He also passed along a list of the band’s favorite international courses:
- Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, Japan
- Little Mountain DGC-Q.E. Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada
- Jericho Hill, Vancouver, BC, Canada