Local H’s Scott Lucas Talks ‘Hey, Killer,’ New Drummer Ryan Harding + 25 Years of Rock
Local H are back and delivering one of their stronger releases with the new album Hey, Killer. Loudwire had a chance to chat with frontman Scott Lucas about the disc, the addition of new drummer Ryan Harding and what it means to be celebrating 25 years of the band. Check out the chat below.
I love what I'm hearing. One of my favorite albums this year. Great job.
Did you have a higher set of standard for this records in terms of what was going to make the cut? Are there perfectly good songs out there because you wanted "more killer, less filler"?
Maybe, we just had a different set of standards. The last record, Hallelujah! I'm A Bum, we could get more experimental and do things. It was all serving a concept and sometimes songs were picked lyrically. It was all about pushing a central idea. Whereas with this record, there really is no central idea and so songs were picked by their hooky-ness or the power of the riff. There are a lot of riffs that are pretty good, but if there was a song that was similar to another song, we just picked the one we were feeling at the time and left the other one maybe for later. The idea was just put your head down and try to cut out all the fat, get to the point.
We had a chance to premiere "The Misanthrope" here at Loudwire. Thank you very much for that. I know that's one of several tracks on the album that touch on religion and death and while this isn't a concept album, when did you start to see that some of the themes repeat?
That was the first song that was written for the record. I remember I was loading into a show in New York and just had the melody in my head. Didn't have too many of the lyrics, but a vague idea of what the lyrics would be. Just kept working at it. There was this idea after doing a political record, because people were so pissed off that we had a political record. I mean, which shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. Given the state of discourse in this country. I had this reverse idea, well if you're pissed off at a political record, wait until you hear my religious record. Then, it kind of ... there was a point while writing that song where the record was going to be a lot of religion. I kind of dropped that for a few reasons. One of them was there was this idea going around that we couldn't make a record without leaning on a conceptual crutch, so I kind of dropped that.
What did happen, despite my best efforts, was that themes start to emerge out of the record. There were three themes and three like the holy trinity -- religion, death and the blues. Every song mentioned one of those things. It was interesting to see how those three subjects are kind of the same thing but they're different. Once again, like the Holy Trinity. So when you listen to the record, it has all these references to the blues and religion. It starts to become a concept record in spite of itself and I like it. I like the way the record hangs together in a way that I didn't really envision.
Another track where you mentioned the blues, "John the Baptist Blues," (heard in the player below) which I think is one of the standout tracks on this disc. If you can tell me about where that came from and where it was in the process of putting the album together?
That was me and Ryan getting together and just riffing. Just start playing a riff, he'd start playing along. If it was something I liked, we'd just record it. So by the end of the year I had all these messages on my phone and when it was time to make the record I went through them and listened to all these and thought, "Well this is great. We can use this, we can use that." That was a song where I was cramming riffs and just sort of almost like playing a math puzzle and seeing how much we could remember in a single song and just when you can move the song and try to f--k it up a little. It really came out great and really shows how much Rush I've listened to.
Ryan [Harding] has been with you for a few years, but can you talk about what his addition has meant in terms of your approach to this new album?
Just a lot of energy and a lot of being together more and doing more writing and in the practice space rather than on an acoustic guitar. So there's a lot of things that just had ideas right away and that affects the energy of things and it'll affect the way I sing a song. The melodies are more somber, whereas if we're in a studio in a practice space, everything is cranked up and I have to fight to be heard above everything. A lot of things that went into that. It does affect the music.
Getting a chance to record at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studio as well as Andy Gerber's Million Yen Studios. If you want to talk about the process and maybe how the room affects what you're doing as well.
I've been wanting to get Ryan into Albini's studio to record his drums for quite a while. It never worked out for whatever reason. So, having this record where we're introducing people to him, it's very important to get the best drum sound that we could, you go to Albini's. So we brought him into this huge silo of a room and it just sounds massive. That was our main contributor to the way it sounded. We'd record everything live over there and then we'd take it over to Andy's studio, Million Yen and put it under the microscope and just -- we'd have these onions and just peel the layers back if the guitar sound we had didn't interest us for a certain song. We'd work and come up with a better guitar sound or a more interesting guitar sound and we'd put that in there instead. So, it was sort of the best of both worlds of getting this live performance down. Being able to go back and color it in and make sure it wasn't monochromatic type of a record.
You've got a lot of dates lined up for this tour and I think this album would be great for the road. What songs are you most anxious to work into the sets and see what reaction they get?
We've been playing almost half the record live already. We're just really anxious for people to hear the record so we can really cut loose and start playing almost all of it. We're prepared to play any song live and it really is one of those records that you can tell is going to lend itself well to the live situation. There's stuff on the record that I don't feel confident will go over well, live. We can't wait for people to hear "John The Baptist Blues" live and it is just a lot of songs and we're really psyched about it.
The 25th anniversary of your first live show is coming up. I realize it's a while back now but do you recall anything from that first gig? What was that show like for you getting up onstage with Local H for the first time?
I've been in bands all through high school, but then a couple of straight up rocks bands, punk bands, metal bands. I sort of had this solo thing when I was in high school. But the first show that was a Local H show, it was a pretty inauspicious debut. It was at a college in Wisconsin, in a cafeteria. It wasn't an amazing, great show. We didn't really have a great show maybe until a couple of years later at a VFW hall, at a punk rock show. That was great. It was when we were a three-piece and that kind of changed everything. That was a thing where we were like, this is what we want to do forever. There was this energy. People were literally jumping out of the windows. Everyone was crowd surfing and moshing, it was a great show. I wish that was our first show, but our first show was not legendary in any way.
You're playing the Metro in Chicago for the anniversary. That's such a great venue. Can you talk about that venue and what that means to you?
Right away, forming Local H, one of the places you wanted to play was The Metro. I remember sending a demo to them and getting a letter back from them going over, it was a typed letter, going over what they thought of each song on the demo and asking us to play some other clubs and then get back to them later. It was almost like, getting a rejection letter from The Comedy Store or David Letterman. We've had great shows there and it's my favorite club in the country.
Some of our best shows have been at The Metro. If you're going to pick one place to see us, that's probably the place. I've seen so many shows there. Shows that really changed the way I thought about music. Like, a Screaming Trees show where Mark Lanegan threatened to beat up the entire crowd. Wow, that's amazing. Or seeing a Grinderman show there and just being blown away by Nick Cave and how he commanded an audience. Things like that, so many shows there changed my perception to be a live performer. Seeing Jesus Lizard there, seeing so many great g--damn bands.
On your Facebook page, you've been reflecting on 25 years of Local H and I have to ask, which album cycle was the most rewarding for you both personally and creatively?
They've all got their pluses and minuses. I think my favorite record is Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? but I went through and looked at some video of some of the shows and it seemed like that record was such a huge thing to bite a chunk off of, it was like, it took us a while to get those songs under our belts for whatever reason. Then, As Good as Dead had this touring cycle that lasted for like a year-and-a-half because things just kept happening. There was about six months of touring where nothing was happening and we were playing to empty rooms before anything started to happen. Everything has ups and downs and it's been interesting to go back and be able to look at everything honestly and not have this nostalgia about it. To look at it and go, "Oh wow, that happened! I forgot all about that, that was great, or that wasn't so great."
Looking at the PledgeMusic campaign, you've got a wealth of pedals on there. What's the favorite piece of gear you've got in your collection -- something that you'd never part with in terms of doing this PledgeMusic thing?
I don't know. I'm not really that much of a gearhead. I've got all this stuff because it's necessary, because it's the only way that I can pull off the sound, so everything is there for a reason. I've got all these tuner pedals on my board, acting as switches. They're so important and I couldn't part with them but I don't know how much I love them. Selling a Trashmaster pedal, that was kinda tough. That wasn't so easy. I still have one for myself, but I thought about putting it back into the chain but it just doesn't work anymore, not in the same way it used to. It's really hard to let go of some of these old things.
I think the way that they're priced is not how much I think people will pay for them. They're priced because that's how much I'd be willing to accept because I don't want to let them go. There are these lyrics that "All the Kids Are Right" on there that they're like, the original lyrics and they're priced out at $750. Yeah, that's high, but that's because I don't want to give it away. I don't want to give them to anybody but I'd be willing to let you have it for that much. I don't want to let you have it for that much, but that's how much you can have it for. It really is, but not really, it's like selling a pound of flesh. Man, I really don't want to give this way but you don't want to be a hoarder either.
I saw the TV news report about the listening parties that you've been holding. Going to people's houses with beer and letting them hear Hey, Killer. What a great idea. Can you talk a little bit about that experience and what it was like to bring it straight to your fans and see that firsthand reaction?
That was interesting. That was also very humbling, to just be in these people's homes and see how they live and go to them rather than them come to us. That was a byproduct that I didn't really anticipate. Some of these people baked for us, and made food for us. It's just really interesting. For me, personally, it's been an experience I don't get to have much. People kept talking about how weird it was for us to be there. But it was equally weird for that to happen to us, more than it was for them. It was really a good thing to do.
What's on the horizon for the band? Obviously the tour dates, album release and anything else out there that you want to promote or throw out there?
It's all about this. The last I don't know how many months it's been, pointing to the release. We'll see. I guess now the real work begins, but at least the record will be out there and that's what we're really looking forward to, getting it out there and then going to the next step, which is tour, tour, tour.
Our thanks to Local H's Scott Lucas for the interview and check out the band's hard rocking new song "John the Baptist Blues" below. Hey, Killer is available now at Amazon and iTunes and you can catch the band on tour at these locations.
Local H, "John the Baptist Blues"