Local H really not that local

If you are one of those music fans who still can’t tell Britney Spears from Britny Fox, here’s an update for you: With the fall of the Smashing Pumpkins, Local H has quietly become one of Chicago’s successful rock bands—but don’t call them a local band.

"I don’t want to be like a local band, we tour everywhere," said Scott Lucas, front man and guitarist for Local H. Lucas is from Zion, Ill., where he grew up listening to classic rock—mostly Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin —he calls "pretty standard stuff for a teenage kid." Joining a rock band seemed like the right thing for him to do. "I couldn’t really think of anything else, nothing else really interested me," Lucas said.

As happens to many bands, Local H has seen its attempts at success mired in record label conflicts and lineup changes. Local H has recently switched from Island Records—which released three albums: Ham Fisted, As Good As Dead and Pack Up The Cats—to Palm Pictures, which released Here Comes the Zoo in February.

According to Lucas, Local H’s record company struggles started when Polygram (Island’s parent label) was purchased by Universal Records.

"We didn’t know anybody there anymore; we didn’t have a support group and the people that we did know went to Palm. We just kind of followed them over there," he said. "It was just a case of knowing people and feeling comfortable with them and working with them already."

Though most bands have at least three or more members—nine if it’s Slipknot —Local H remains a two-piece. But, Joe Daniels, who manned the drum kit for all three albums released under Island, is no longer a member and was not involved on Here Comes the Zoo. The new man beating the drums behind Lucas is Brian St. Clair.

"I wouldn’t want to keep the band going if I couldn’t have found a great drummer," Lucas said. "I don’t think a two-piece works unless the drummer is phenomenal."

That’s right, the thunder of noise in recordings such as "Bound for the Floor,"— that "You just don’t get it / You keep it copasetic" song—"Eddie Vedder," "Fritz’s Corner," "All the Kids are Right" and "Hands on the Bible" is created by a two-man band. How is the noise a larger band created by two? The logistics are technical but Lucas makes it sound as if it’s child’s play.

"I’m playing out of three different amps. We mix up the amps and the parts—one amp is for the bass, another amp is for the clean guitar and another amp is for the distortion," he explained. "I try to think of it as three different things, use dynamics, and we just turn it up really loud."

The current tour—which brought Local H through the Double Door, Lakeview Links and the Canopy Club in Champaign—hit a few stumbling blocks along the way. Three different buses broke down, two trailers have fallen off, many PAs have blown and the band had to cancel a show because it was too loud.

During the sound check, Sept. 22, about 15 minutes before Denver’s Bluebird Theater was open, Local H was forced to cancel its show because Lucas and St. Clair couldn’t get their sound level below the club’s noise limit. "We did everything we could do to get quieter," Lucas said.

St. Clair even tried turning around so his back would be to the audience, and turned Lucas’ amps around, but nothing would keep the sound under the limit. "We did all this stuff and then we finally realized that there’s no way to do this and make it sound good," said Lucas.

Though there have been some stumbling blocks along the way for Local H, the tour picks up again on Oct. 16 at the Middle East in Boston and will continue through Oct. 29 at the Southgate House in Newport, Ky.

By Randy J. Klodz Staff Writer