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Having Words With Local H

Zion, Ill., duo Local H had been together since high school, and alt-radio was very kind to them. But Scott Lucas now finds himself without a label and with a new drummer. Read our interview. BRIEF: If you buy into the idea of "post-grunge," Local H is one of those bands that brought about the moniker. Front man Scott Lucas sported a groan-and-scream vocal style that would have made any Seattle band proud, and themes of alienation and loserdom coursed throughout the band's debut effort, "As Good As Dead."

But if at first blush this duo didn't have much to distinguish itself, Local H should stand out now as one of the better projects to emerge from '90s alt-rock. The duo format and Lucas' unpretentious approach kept the music simple, stupid, while his solid selection of influences (Pink Floyd, AC/DC) allowed his work to withstand repeated listening and gave him a string of good-sized hits, including "Bound for the Floor," "High-Fivin' MF," "Eddie Vedder," "All the Kids are Right" and "Fritz's Corner." But two major disasters kept third release, "Pack Up the Cats," under water, as their record label fell victim to a huge merger, and drummer Joe Daniels decided the rock life wasn't for him. Lucas talks with music editor Jack Shay about rebuilding a band, label mergers, the split with Daniels and what the uncertain future holds.

CitySearch: People have called "Pack Up the Cats" a "concept album." What do you think of that?

Scott Lucas: It is a concept record. But I didn't want it to be about aliens or anything too pretentious. The record is set up as an arc or a circle. Because I think most people have the kind of personality that they make the same mistakes over and over and over, and the record is basically set up where you start out and your intentions are good. And then you f*** up, and you realize you f***ed up, and then you're just back at where your intentions are good again ... I'm a big Pink Floyd fan, and I'm always interested in albums and songs that have a theme. I like the songs to have a sort of relationship to each other.

Q: Do you consider yourself a songwriter or guitarist first?

A:Uh ... Probably both? I don't think that I do anything really good on guitar, or that I'm a really, really good songwriter. It's about all of it. I would never write poetry or anything like that. I pretty much think that the whole rock-star-as-poet type of thing starting with Jim Morrison is kind of a crock of s***.

Q: Kurt Cobain.

A: I think he's dead.

Q: You must have heard some of the comparisons. Do they bother you?

A: I've heard them; I guess it's not totally unjustified. I don't really have too much of a problem with it because I think the more records we put out ... I think when we started out people tended to fixate on it, and I've seen it get less and less with each record. I think at some point people are going to stop. But either way I don't really care. You can think of back when Aerosmith was pegged as a Rolling Stones ripoff.

Q: What's the theory behind the two-person format?

A:Well, when we were stepping out, and our bass player left, we didn't know any bass players. It was just a case of not wanting to whine about how we didn't know anybody, just kinda wanting to get out there and play.

Q: As the story goes, the thing that broke up the Jimi Hendrix Experience was that Hendrix found the trio thing to be too limiting. Have you ever found that to be the case with the duo format?

A:Well, if I have, we've already beat it just by having the crew get into the act. [Lucas plays almost everything on the recordings, and at live shows, guitar tech Max Ton and road manager Gabe Rodriguez often pop out from offstage to play a brief bassline or provide backup vocals.] And it works out fine. It was cool to figure out a different way for the band to grow without really losing the essence of how it's done—the two-man thing ... If there's a part that's played on the record that I can't play, I'll have them do it. Maybe it's cheating, but whatever.

Q: What happened with the split with [drummer] Joe?

A: Joe just didn't ... his heart wasn't in it, didn't want to do it anymore. And I think I realized I didn't wanna stop. I thought for a second about starting another band, and I realized I wasn't done with this and I wasn't going write songs that were any different.

Q: What's he doing now? A: He's in real estate.

Q: Was his decision to opt out of the band a surprise?

A; No. This is the kind of thing where you've gotta get into for the right reasons or you'll drive yourself nuts. And there's not a whole lot of money in this for people who just want to make a lot of money. And I'm not saying that that's what Joe wanted to do at all, but you have to love every aspect of this to do it right. For me, getting up and playing is what I want to do no matter what. It's not hard work. I did it before anybody paid me and I'll do it after they stop paying me.

Q: You and Joe had been doing this since high school. Do you feel like you're starting over?

A:I worked real hard getting everything back to get back up to speed, and I think we are. I don't feel like we're starting over as much as I feel rejuvenated. Like, Brian [St. Clair], the new drummer, has given the band a much-needed shot, and everything's way fun again. Brian is every bit the drummer that Joe is, if not better, and that's the goddamn truth. There's no way around it. Brian's great, he's always been one of my favorite drummers. I used to go to see Triple Fast Action and just salivate over him.

Q: Any difference between them [Joe and Brian]?

A:Basically, when it comes down to it, [Brian] just bashes the f*** out of them [the songs]. And I mean, he knows how to play the gentle stuff, but really, when it comes down to it, he's just a Neanderthal behind the kit.

Q: Do you find that you're writing to make a hit?

A: Thing about that is that I don't really know how to make a hit. The bands I like, they're just not huge. I have no idea why people would rather listen to Everclear than Rocket from the Crypt. I can't really sit there and predict, because I've already seen that I can't do it.

Q: Well, considering you've had three CDs out, I'd say you have a great ratio in that a lot of folks can sing along with seven or eight of your songs, and that's rarely the case with [the airwaves] so crowded. Do you see, in retrospect, a common thread in the songs that have taken off?

A: I don't know. There are songs on our records that weren't singles that I think totally could have been, that should've been. I like full albums, I don't like people who put out albums with a couple radio singles and then the rest of it is crap. The problem with making full records now is that DJs don't pick a track off the record and just play it. They have to be serviced with a single by the record company, and that's the only song they're going to f***in' play. And it's kinda frustrating, you feel like you're wasting all these songs. I feel like rock bands should just be making singles. We all should probably be doing what the Beatles or the Stones did before they started making full albums.

Q: What do you see happening in the future?

A: I just want to make another record, and then I wanna get back out there. We lost a lot of ground, with this thing with Joe and our label [Island] getting sold to Universal with this whole huge Universal/Polygram merger. A lot of people got fired, and we lost a lot of ground. We didn't have anybody working our record for almost a year and a half, whereas we used to have lots of people in our corner. Everybody was just getting fired and worrying about their jobs. So we're off Island, and we're looking around. We wanna go somewhere where people are going to have a job in six months. I mean, I don't even think Island is going to exist in a couple months. It's a shame because it happened the same month we delivered our last record to them and put it out. So, from the first week, we had to deal with [the record] not being the priority, with people worrying about if they're going to get fired. I don't think anyone blames us for that, everyone knows that we gave them a good record—the best they've had in a while. So I don't really feel bad about it. It just bums me out that we gave them that record.

Q: Where are you creatively now?

A: I mean, the last record had a lot of different textures and all that bulls***, and it was a concept record, and blah blah blah. And pretty much now I just want to make a f***in' rock, rock, rock record. Just 10 songs, like "Back in Black"—just make anything that's more rockin' than anything we've done since our first album. It's completely done and it's just a matter of where we go to make it. It's probably the first time we've got more songs than we actually need.

Q: You're at the point in your career when I can ask you about smaller bands you like. Is there anything that you can't get off your CD player?

A; Queens of the Stone Age. I think they're the best rock band around—it's a couple of the guys who used to be in Kyuss.

Q: Anything you hate about being a professional musician?

A: Well, I don't like having my picture taken at all. And it's kind of a cruel joke, you know, I've never had my picture taken so much as when everything else is going well.