The Year of Living Strangely 12-10-99

It's been a heck of a year for Scott Lucas. In mid-1998, Local H released a killer third album, "Pack Up the Cats," just as its label, Island Records, underwent one of the biggest corporate shakeups in the history of the music industry.

At the same time, modern-rock radio seemingly decided that smart, catchy, passionate rock 'n' roll was no longer much in vogue. (Please pass the Limp Bizkit and the Korn instead.)

The final blow came this summer, when, after a decade of playing together, Lucas' friend, drummer, and fellow Zion native Joe Daniels left the band--thereby reducing its membership by 50 percent.

A lesser man might have thrown in the towel at that point. But Lucas remains committed to his vision and his music. I caught up with him as he geared up to record a new album and bid a not-so-fond farewell to the preceding annum.

Q.Like a lot of fans, I was surprised to hear that Joe left the band. What happened?

A. Joe left in August, but it had been coming for quite a while. I guess he just thought he'd be happier. It had been about 10 years since we started playing together in high school; it wasn't really an overnight thing. But I feel better now about things than I have in quite a while. It's important to have everybody involved really want to do it, instead of thinking, "This really isn't fun anymore."

For a while, I was kind of thinking I should just start fresh, start another band, and actually play in a band with a couple of members. But then I started thinking, "Well, the songs I'm gonna write are gonna sound exactly like Local H songs." It's not like I wanted to start doing acoustic stuff. I really wanted to make another rock record, so I decided to just keep it as a duo. Whatever it is and however it sounds, that's the one thing that I've stumbled on that nobody else does. I thought, "Do I really wanna become just a guitar player like everybody else?"

Any time you get beat down, I think it's best to turn right around and go back at it, before anybody even knows anything is wrong. So before anybody even realized Joe wasn't in the band anymore, we were on the road again.

Q.How did Brian St. Clair come to be your new drummer?

A. The summer was spent auditioning drummers. When Triple Fast Action broke up, I thought that was it for Brian. The last time I talked to him, he was talking about how he didn't want to play drums anymore. He's always been one of my favorite drummers; I put him up there with the drummers I was listening to as a kid. Finally I was at the end of my rope and I called him, and he was in within two days. We started writing new songs in August.

It's been so much easier than it should have been. We just got back from a monthlong tour and the kids are with us. It's been great.

Q.The band's identity was very much based on you and Joe. There hasn't been any resistance from the fans?

A. I think people are resistant before they see it. I've read a couple of things that people have written on the Net, like, "It's not going to be the same." But then they go and see the show and they're down with it. This tour was hard work, but it was fine; it was cool. We were playing some of the new stuff, just going out and playing new songs and testing them out.

Q.Do you feel that "Pack Up the Cats" got the attention it deserved from your label?

A. That record should have come out a year earlier. The week it came out was the week that PolyGram announced it was getting sold to Universal, and then the entire year was spent with who was gonna stay and who was gonna get fired. That's what it became, and it wasn't about our record. It sucked, but so what? We're still here, we're gonna make another record, and I don't know how many bands have gotten dropped in the last year. There's no sense in whining about it.

Q.When will you start recording the new one?

A. January. We're gonna do it really quick, and we'll be done in February. I want to make a straight-up rock record, 10 songs--10 rock songs--no pop songs, no ballads or anything. We're not doing a concept record this time, but I feel like it's just as focused as the last one in terms of what we want to do and how we want it to sound. I'd really like to bury "Bound for the Floor," and I think I've got a couple of tunes that can do it.

The trick right now is to make a record that sells us like the live show does. I want to figure out how to bottle that. Basically, I just want to make a record like "Back in Black."

Q.Seems like you've had a bit of an AD/DC fixation lately. Didn't you do an AC/DC tribute on Halloween?

A. That was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life! I sang four Bon Scott tunes, threw up all over myself, died, and came back as Brian Johnson to do four Brian Johnson songs. Singing "Hell's Bells," I really thought I was gonna die. It was tough.

by Jim Derogatis