The gestation of “Where the Action Is,” premiering exclusively below from the upcoming Waterboys album of the same name (pre-order here), has been, well, action-packed.
Group leader Mike Scott had the song in motion for the better part of a decade, in a variety of different forms. “To begin with, I like to play around with sampling and stuff,” Scott tells Billboard. His initial take on the song blended a drum loop from the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” with a bit of Lord Buckley’s “The Nazz.” “It came out really great,” Scott notes, “but there was nothing I could do with it ’cause it was a Beatles sample,” and therefore too expensive — if it could even be cleared.
Then Scott “feel in love” with American R&B singer Robert Parker’s “Let’s Go Baby” after hearing it at a Northern Soul disco in Dublin. “I thought, ‘I’d like to do this song’ and then thought about putting the Lord Buckley thing over it, at the beginning and the end.” With a biting guitar riff propelling the track, “it worked out great, and it turned into what you hear on the record.” For the video, meanwhile, Scott took his mobile phone and a selfie stick around the side streets of Tokyo as he sang the song, complete with Godzilla-sized sneering close-ups.
“The wonderful thing about Tokyo is that nobody pays any attention since there’s so many people taking selfies and pictures with their phones, anyway,” Scott says. “If I’d have done it in Dublin or London, people would’ve been diving into the shot, photo-bombing me and all that. In Tokyo, nothing. It was great. And I was on a series of pedestrian streets, where it was safe for me to be strutting around like that. I didn’t have to worry about being hit by a car.”
Where the Action Is comes out May 24 and contains an autobiographical song dedicated to the Clash’s Mick Jones (“London Mick”) and “Out of All This Blue,” which was the title of the Waterboys’ last album in 2017. “It began as a kind of mixtape album that I was going to put out almost privately,” Scott says. “After I finished the last record I had a number of instrumentals left over, and I started playing with those and putting vocals over them. Then a couple of them turned into actual songs and little by little what began as a mash-up mixtape record turned into a regular Waterboys record of serous songs.” But rest assured there’s still plenty of stylistic variety throughout the 11 tracks.
“I’m afraid that’s gonna be the case of all Waterboys records,” says Scott, who kicks off European Waterboys dates on May 19, will be part of Fairport’s Cropredy Convention during August, and is working on a North American tour for fall. “There’s always variety. I don’t work within one style of music. I like them all and feel free to move within them all.”
And he hasn’t put the idea of the “mixtape mash-up album” to bed yet, either. “It’s still an entity,” Scott says. “I’m still working on that. It’ll come out one day.”