11 Questions for What’s Up Magazine

Photo by Jessica Garr

11 Questions for What’s Up Magazine - July 2017
Interview by Brent Cole

In all the years we've been doing an 11 questions piece, I think we're at over a decade now, we've never doubled up on an interviewee. Until now. Many moons ago we covered Scot Casey, he'd probably only lived in town a couple of years but I already thought the world of the guy. Creative, funny and incredibly kind and sincere, I first met Scot through the Black Drop, which he was part owner of at the time and he soon began writing for the magazine. Scot always covered music that others weren't talking about, but that desperately deserved the attention... and he covered it with the honesty and love that made Scot SO incredibly well liked in town.

Welp, after seven years, Scot is leaving our fair city and I am crushed. He has been one of those people in town that MAKE Bellingham what it is - he'd become part of the fabric of this town’s music, art and culture scene and someone who I enjoyed talking to every chance I got. In all the years I've lived in town, Scot Casey is truly one of the most special people. He will be very much missed.

And with that, Scot was kind enough to answer 11 questions on why he's leaving, if he'll come back and his thoughts on the town he loves.


• Who are you and where did you come from (tell us about yourself, for those who don’t already know)?

My name is Scot Casey. Currently, I work at Honey Moon Mead & Ciders, handling sales and marketing, hosting Open Mic, booking shows. I also book Old World Deli. And probably met most everyone I now know from when I was a barista / part-owner of the Black Drop Coffeehouse. I’ve been fortunate and am extremely grateful to have been associated with three of the best businesses in town. I’ve often joked that they pretty much reflect my basic appetites: coffee, sandwiches and alcohol. I also write on occasion, engage in a strange graphic design and perform sporadic episodes of music. I’ve been in Bellingham now for about 6 years, having moved up here from Austin, Texas.

• You are moving away from Bellingham after years within the art and music community. What’s prompting the move away?

Well, it’s difficult. Of all the places I’ve been, Bellingham is one of most beautiful. I’ve never found anywhere else like it. A community like no other, with some of the nicest, most generous, engaged and insanely talented people I’ve ever met. I have a great place to live, a great job, a loving extended family, wonderful friends, everything anyone could ever hope for. But… some odd splinter in my being compels me towards solitude and isolation, makes my suspicious of any contentment and interrogates my happiness. I am haunted by the Buddhistic parable about how the house is on fire and we are are all just sitting around in the living room discussing the metaphysics of fire. To extend and probably corrupt this lovely analogy, I guess you could say I am leaving Bellingham to find a dark place out there in the Desert to walk out of the House of Scot Casey and watch it burn to the ground. I say this with laughter and take solace in William Burroughs’ mantra: “It’s ain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.”

• What one thing do you think you’ll miss the most about Bellingham?

There’s no way to narrow it to one thing. And if there is one thing, it is Bellingham itself. It often seems to me like a sanctuary, a last hold-out for poets, musicians and dreamers, for a vital and active community, more of a town than a city, where you seem to know everyone, where people still greet you with a smile on the street, where small businesses not only can thrive but are celebrated. I came from Austin, which I still dearly love, but I watched in dismay as all of these simple, almost undefinable, qualities that make up the unique personality of a place faded away. I’ll miss the vital Pulse of this place. I’ll miss the music and the poetry of the city itself in all of its amazing, weird, sublime, ridiculous, quixotic, poignant, proud, sad, funny and absolutely enchanting manifestations.

• So where are you moving too? What are your plans when you get there?

Nowhere - if it’s still out there. I’m trying hard to have no particular destination in mind. I’d like to “wander aimlessly” in the manner of Chuang Tzu, following the fractal paths in the landscape as they appear in the moment. My loose sense of it is to head down along the Sierras, into Death Valley, the Mojave and then pass the winter in the Sonoran Desert, perhaps Northern Mexico. I’d like to find a place of extreme isolation where I can experience the full of weight of solitude. My plan, as it might be simply expressed, is to live as close to the bone as possible, life at degree zero. In more poetic and idiosyncratic terms, I’d like to find the bones and skull of the dead god that haunts my world, cover them with honey and set it all on fire.

• What will you be doing your last night in town? What is your last meal going to be?

That’d be the last Sunday in July. I imagine I’ll probably take a slow evening walk around Lake Padden, share a good conversation and bottle of wine at Temple Bar, wander around downtown getting intoxicated with nostalgia, stop into Cap’s for a shot of Hussong, sit on the curb along State Street and hope I can always see the stars from those gutters, then end up where all good nights end up: at the Redlight in the Red Room sharing a last drink with all the beautiful ghosts. 

• Who is your all time favorite Bellingham musician? What about artist?

There cannot be just one! I’m really fortunate to know so many talented musicians. My heart is always with the Honey Moon and all the performers that play there. It’s a loosely held secret that at every Open Mic, we like to end the night with the Saddest Songs in the World. Tad Kroening and Pete Irving have so sweetly broken my heart on so many of these nights, I always be grateful just for the melancholy echo. And like most everyone, I believe Sarah Goodin hung the moon and sang the stars into shining. Meghan Yates and the Reverie Machine have restored my ragged soul so many times. Jan Peters and the Irish Crew. Louis Ledford. I could go on and on. Bellingham is blessed with an exaltation of great musicians - or whatever you call a great gathering of musical wonderment.

As far as artists, there is only one for me: Michelle Schutte. Her sublime and stark expressions of bonelike beauty just stop me in my tracks with wonder and laughter. It’s my sense that she sees into the radiant skeletal nature of the world and celebrates that in everything from the contagious terror of horses to the worried wisdom of a bunny rabbit.

• Do you have a favorite artistic moment in Bellingham, whether it’s something you created or experienced?

As far as any of my shows go, I’m really proud of The Last Meal of Calouste Gulbenkian at the Honey Moon. An “authentic” Armenian 8-course dinner that Linda Melim helped to conjure up, with each course reflecting the various stages in the Gulbenkian’s life. With all the usual suspects-musicians performing “authentic” Armenian songs. It was beautiful! Armenian professors from Western, an Armenian family, grandmother and all, were all there having a wonderful time. I presented it as an exact recreation of the millionaire’s last meal. And the thing I’ve never revealed publicly is that it was a complete fabrication, a beautiful, enchanting lie! Calouste Gulbenkian was the only real thing about it. The rest, myself and Linda and all of the musicians, made-up. And it was great! All art is a lie in one form or another. And if it’s beautiful and it’s entertaining, that’s truth enough for me.

• Thinking back to your first moments arriving to town – was there a “I love this town, I’m going to stay here” moment that made you fall in love with Bellingham?

My sister, Shannon, took me first thing to the Black Drop Coffeehouse, where I had a double latte that seemed a work of art. Then we walked over to Henderson’s where I found a good copy of Olson’s Call Me Ishmael. Went up to the corner to Everyday and Avalon. Then back around to Film Is Truth. Amazing coffee, bookstores, record stores, celebrations of film. As we sat at Temple drinking a bottle of wine while the sky was evening over the bay, I had that thought: yes, I do believe I could live here for a long time.

• What would it take for you to come back?

Well there’s that Bellingham Curse, right? Everyone who ever says they’re gone for good, always comes back. I’ll be back. Family and friends hold my heart here. But I’ve a rare window it seems: I’m not in love and I’ve got no kids, no pets, no plants, no house, no debts. I do have freedom and health. And I know how fragile each of those are. So before my mind or body or heart gives way, I want to do this thing that won’t leave me alone. But I’ll be back, in one form or another, bones in a box or still dancing around in this flesh.

• If you could wave a magic wand an change one thing about Bellingham, what would it be?

It’d have to be a big magic wand, but I’d want to change the conditions of the homeless and all who are lost and suffering out there on the streets. I imagine every city in the world would like that particular magic wand to solve these difficult problems. And the weight of responsibility and irony is not lost on me as someone who has the privilege to choose a life of nomadic homelessness.

• Any last thoughts?

I would just like to thank everyone - and there are many - who has offered me a hand up, provided opportunities, opened doors, supported me and stood by me as friends and co-workers and Bellingham family. I am deeply grateful. Thank you all. Y’all are all golden - down to the bone.

Scot Casey at Dead Musician's Cover Night
Photo by Ed Viladevall