|February 22, 2002
BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC
Eighteen months ago, Zion native turned proud Chicagoan Scott Lucas was
sitting around without a drummer or a record label. Joe Daniels, his
longtime partner in the tuneful but hard-rocking duo of Local H, had quit
the band, and the group had parted ways with Island Records. The future
seemed uncertain, to say the least.
Now, Local H is back with a new drummer, Brian St. Clair, formerly of
Triple Fast Action, and a new label, Palm Pictures, founded by former Island
head Chris Blackwell. It's been four long years since the release of the
group's last album, "Pack Up the Cats," but it was worth the wait: "Here
Comes the Zoo" is as strong as anything the band has ever given us,
propelled by massive guitar riffs and great chant-along choruses.
I spoke with Lucas from his cell phone as he walked through the security
check at the airport in Phoenix, where he'd been doing some preliminary
promotion for the album, which will be released on March 5.
"I can't believe I'm talking to you from the airport," he said. "This is
the most rock 'n' roll interview I've ever done in my life!"
Q. No, that would be if you were talking to me from the back of a limo
while being ministered to by a beautiful blond ...
A. [Laughs] I think this is as about as good as it's ever gonna
get for me!
Q. So, you've made another fantastic record. But a few months
ago, you were sitting around without a label or a drummer. Were you
thinking, "Hmmm, I'm going to be washing dishes soon?"
A. I wasn't sure what to do. But once we got Brian, I was pretty
confident, and we started writing songs like crazy. The songs we had to
leave behind for this record were amazing, because we only wanted to put 10
on it, like [AC/DC's] "Back in Black."
Q. As a songwriter, you seem to have an innate flair for
crafting great melodies. It's like you get up in the morning and spit out
five hooks before breakfast.
A. The first band that I really loved was ABBA, and I've been
listening to them like crazy lately. This is probably where I got all my
sissy pop stuff, just being a total freak for them. Those songs are
amazing--even songs like "The Name of the Game." It's unbelievable how great
that song is! Incredible! And then there's things like "Dancing Queen,"
which everybody knows is one of the greatest songs ever written.
To me, you can dress it up however you want, but a great song is a great
song, and that's pretty much it.
Q. It seems that in the current rock spectrum, the hook has
been almost completely devalued, especially in the nu-metal world. I mean,
hum a Slipknot song for me.
A. I think that's probably always been there. Think about Led
Zeppelin; that was a band that was all about the riff, and it wasn't really
about great melody-based songs. Even the Stones at a certain point were just
about the groove and not necessarily about melody. I think sometimes too
much melody ruins rock. One of the things we tried to do on this record was
have no songs in major keys. We just wanted to have a hard-rock record.
Q. Still, there's always that hook in the tune. And I'd
disagree with you about Zeppelin: The hook doesn't have to be a vocal
melody. Some of those guitar riffs or even the drum or bass parts act as
A. Well, see, maybe the people who are listening to [nu-metal] can
hear those hooks. It's just that I'm not gonna sit down and listen to it and
hear the hook, and I don't care to.
Q. Was there a moment after Joe left when you asked yourself,
"Should I keep pushing ahead?"
A. The weirdest thing was when [roadie and backup player] Gabe
[Rodriguez] called me up and said, "I'm not gonna be able to go on the road.
They offered me this great job and I've gotta take it." That was the point.
I was like, "Man, how can I go out on the road without Gabe?" That was the
one time where I was like, "I can't do this." Everything else was pretty
easy. Being off of Island was not a curse. It wasn't a big deal. It was
like, "You don't want us? OK, we don't want you." Everything that's happened
to us seems like it was a bad thing and then it turns out to be a great
Q. But did you ever consider calling it something other than
A. No. I'm not ready to stop. I want to make "Led Zeppelin IV." I
don't want to start all over and do this thing again. I've always got this
thing in my head about the arc of all of your records, and your career. I
wanted this record to have a relationship to the last one, and I didn't want
to start over. If you listen to this record, it's the fourth Local H record,
and I'm not sure that I would have done anything differently if it was
called something else.
Q. Was Brian the obvious candidate to replace Joe?
A. Yeah, he was pretty much the only one. We spent a week trying
people out, and that was pretty weird. Then I called Brian. He was out with
Cheap Trick [on the road crew], and he said, "I'll be there tomorrow." He
played "Cool Magnet" and that was it. I was like, "Call Cheap Trick and tell
them you're not coming back!"
Q. How did you link up with Palm Pictures?
A. It's the label that Island was--it's what we signed to
originally when we signed to Island. Chris [Blackwell] is the kind of guy
that doesn't like to be told what to do. I always say he thinks he's James
Bond, living out of Golden Eye in Jamaica and thinking he's this
international man of mystery. And he kind of is! He's not going to be in a
situation where there's shareholders telling him what to do. So, he left
Island and started Palm, and a guy who'd been working radio for us at Island
went to Palm, and we always liked him, so that was that. Island had Sum-41
to work on and they didn't know us and they didn't think that we could do
Q. The music business has changed so radically just in the time
you've been it. I mean, a band like Wilco gets dropped from its label for
"only" selling 500,000 copies ...
A. Yeah, but they're doing fine! Their record is coming out,
everybody wants to hear it, it's gonna be great, and they're gonna go out on
the road and sell out places. They're a great band and they've got a great
career. That's what I want. I want to be like Wilco. People come to see them
and really like them. What could be better? Who cares about anything else?
All I really want is to make the records I want to make and have people
come see us. If I can keep doing that, great, and so far, it's been OK.
People who bitch and whine about pop and rap-rock, it's like, what are you
in this for? Don't complain that Britney gets more magazine covers than you,
because if I was in charge of magazine covers, I'd give them all to Britney,
too! I don't want to see some old [jerk] on the cover.
Q. Yeah, but do you want to listen to that Britney record? I've
A. I'm not gonna listen, but when the video comes on, I don't turn
the channel. [Laughs]
Look, when I grew up, most of the stuff I was listening to was not on the
radio, and I didn't care then and I don't care now. I didn't hear Iron
Maiden on the radio. Big deal! That's not what I got into, and that's not
what I care about. I want to sell a lot of records--hell, yeah!--but there's
certain things I'm just not willing to do. If you want to sell a million
records, we all know how to do it: Write one of these new monster-ballad
tunes like the sensitive tattoo rockers, and warble and sing like a cow.
It's not a secret.
Q. It seems as if you're constitutionally incapable of writing
A. Nah, everybody can do it. At this point, it's no big deal to
write a great pop song, because everybody and their mother can do it. I'm
like, "Let's make rock 'n' roll!" That's what [the new song] "Rock & Roll
Professionals" is about: How everybody is just a little too eager to sell
their songs to AT&T and the S.U.V. makers. Everybody talks about how rock
íní roll is dead. Well, you killed it! Youíre the people who did it!
I saw Led
Zeppelin on a Cadillac commercial the other day, and it breaks my heart.
When Buffalo Tom does it, you understand; they never got a penny. But
Zeppelin? Itís crazy. You have people like Lenny Kravitz who are selling
tons of records; why does he have to give a song to a commercial? Nobody
gives a [care], and I kind of think people should. Itíd be nice if people
Youíre not making tons and tons of money. If somebody came to youÖ
Somebody did come to us a few years ago--Coke. It was a pretty easy
decision. ďDo I want to sell Coke?Ē No. I just donít give a [care]. I donít
need to prove anything. Iím not making a ton of money, but Iím making
enough. If I was super broke and I had a crazy drug habit, maybe Iíd sell my
song. But Iíve got my habits in check, so itís O.K. [Laughs]
Getting back to your melodies, I think of Local Hís best songs the way I
think of ďLouie, LouieĒ or the early Kinks hits. I have no idea what those
songs are about, and I donít care. Do you care about lyrics?
A. I do
care about lyrics, but I cannot stand when I hear somebody dissecting their
lyrics and thinking that theyíve written high art. They are rock lyrics, and
they are stupid! Iím in the middle of your Lester Bangs book, and he was
right: Rock should be stupid!
Well, you have to remember that Lester Bangs doubled back on himself all the
time. He also lauded the deep, spiritually transcendent poetry of Van
Morrisonís ďAstral Weeks.Ē
so will I! Iíll double back on myself, too, and thatís the thing: My lyrics
arenít stupid, but I donít care if people listen to them or not. Thatís not
the point. I do it for myself. Thereís something going on, and Iím not even
really aware of what it is at the time. Every time you write a song, youíve
got the chance to say something, or you can just blow it on some trivial
piece of bull. Iím kind of into that working-class guy getting [screwed]
type of thing, and thatís what most of my songs are about. And a lot of the
songs on this record are about getting old, losing your edge, and selling
out, and I think those are worthwhile topics to talk about it.
Isnít it frightening when you see somebody your age or younger give up the
will to keep investigating new books or movies or music and just slink off
to the suburbs?
but usually the whole thing is that theyíre just lazy. Everybody whines
about there being no good music or no good rock bands. Theyíre out there,
theyíre just not on the radio and you canít just turn on the TV and see them
or pick up a magazine and read about them. You have to dig for them, and
thatís fine. But people get old, and they donít care. Thatís the way it
prefer to hang out with the people who havenít given up the ghost.
but I understand people getting tired and saying, ďI canít stand another
night of sitting through three bands that I donít give a good goddamn
about!Ē But once you stop doing that, I think you should stop complaining
Youíre going to tour behind this album?
bet. Non-stop. Weíve got a couple of Alien Ant Farm gigs next week. That
will be fun.
[Laughs] How do you open for Alien Ant Farm and keep a straight face?
really got nothing against them. What Iíve got to do is keep my mouth shut!
The one thing Iím gonna try to do from now on is not mouth off about
anybody, because I cannot shut up, and what good does it do me to slam some
band? Nothing. Itís silly, and they hear about it anyway, and then they
become huge rock stars and we donít get to open for them.
But thatís always been part of your charm!
you think so. You donít care! It makes good copy, but then itís, ďWhy did
you say this?Ē Because itís true!
The topic of community runs through this record once again, as it did on the
last one, with ďAll the Kids Are Right.Ē Do you still think itís possible
for music to bring people together?
do you hear the community on this record?
Just by making fun of ďThe Rock íní Roll ProfessionalsĒ or the preachy
Christians in ďHands on the Bible,Ē youíre suggesting that thereís got to be
O.K. Probably the thing that points most to community on the record is that
weíve got all these different people guesting on it [Josh Homme, Wes Kidd,
Jerry Only, Samantha Sermaker, Shanna Kiel]. The greatest thing about rap is
the fact that they get this whole crew together and theyíre all on each
otherís records. Thatís great. I was like, ďOn the next record, weíre gonna
have all these special guest stars.Ē Itís just people that are in bands that
we like, and itís cool and itís fun.
you think the idea of a community based on music matters to kids today?
think the kids care more than theyíre given credit for. I canít really
analyze it, but I really think kids do want to hear something good. Now,
most people donít care, and thatís not any different than itís ever been.
Ninety percent of everything is [crap]. But some people care enough to find
the stuff that isnít.