Scott Lucas on going solo, what he learned from Nick Jonas
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Scott Lucas is synonymous with his long-running rock duo Local H—of which he’s the sole remaining original member—so when he decided to go solo last year with his name on the marquee as Scott Lucas And The Married Men, it was a little surprising. Lucas’ new band has little in common with Local H: The quintet, which includes an accordionist and violinist, is all about embracing quieter and more introspective songs, and like Local H’s recent output, is dedicated to an almost uncomfortable level of soul-baring. That’s likely because Lucas originally intended these songs only to be heard via e-mail by his girlfriend during their yearlong separation. All that will change come Feb. 20, when Lucas and Co. play a record-release show for George Lassos The Moon at Schubas and an acoustic set at Reckless Records earlier in the day. To help keep Lucas focused during his first steps into the solo spotlight, The A.V. Club talked to the frontman about lessons he’s learned from less-than-graceful solo bids from his favorite bands, his love of Goodfellas, and why Nick Jonas depresses him. (Local H fans, take heart: The band isn't breaking up—its next show in town is May 23 at the Metro.)
The A.V. Club: Your list of unfortunate solo bids starts off with Eric Clapton.
Scott Lucas: I think the Eric Clapton thing was just—he was in Cream, which was great. The Derek And The Dominos record was terrific. And then pretty much everything he’s done solo has been absolute total shit. It’s pretty embarrassing. I mean there’s the cover of “Cocaine,” which is pretty terrific. That’s about it. I think the worst thing he ever did was that acoustic version of “Layla,” and just gutted it. He’s probably the worst, worst dude that I can think of that’s ever gone solo.
AVC: But a lot of people have made that argument. Have you ever heard of anyone defending Clapton’s solo stuff?
SL: I don’t know. Who could defend it? The '80s stuff is so bad and that seems like what what’s-his-face, Mr. Aniston, seems to really be swinging for all the time. John Mayer! So [Clapton’s] given [Mayer] a template, which is another thing that he’s going to burn in hell for. And that whole “Tears In Heaven” song reminds me of that Mr. Show bit, “Sad Songs Are Nature’s Onions.” Yeah, it’s really bad. Bad career move going solo, which is incredible because he sincerely is one of the best guitar players ever. And I love that Cream stuff so much and there is just no excuse for what happened to him.
AVC: So what do you think happened?
SL: Probably no taste, you know. He’s just not good by himself. He’s not good calling the shots.
AVC: And being unchallenged?
SL: I think he thrives in a band. The last thing he did that was really terrific might have been that first Roger Waters solo record [The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking]. He put him back in a band and he was great. He was on fire. Anything you see him doing where he’s part of a duo or he’s working off of somebody or even if he just shows up and plays one song it’s pretty great. But he loves Phil Collins, and there are just so many things that are bad about him.
AVC: Are you saying there is no such thing as a good Phil Collins song?
SL: You know what? I see this Phil Collins/Genesis resurgence happening lately and I am not with it. I am not down with it and no one will ever change my mind. I remember those solo Phil Collins records and I remember Invisible Touch and I remember all that stuff that came out and there’s no amount of afterglow nostalgia that will make me forget "Land Of Confusion" and how awful it was.
AVC: So, getting back to Clapton. When you make the decision to go solo, are these things in the back of your mind? Are you concerned that you’ll need to be accountable and challenged?
SL: I think with this it wasn’t really thought out. It was like, “Wow, these songs are never going to work as a Local H record.”
AVC: Well, you never intended for these to see the light of day on any record originally.
SL: Yeah, not really. It was the kind of thing where before I even knew what was going on, half the record was written. I didn’t necessarily think that this would be anything that anybody would ever want to hear. So it wasn’t really a conscious decision to go solo. And I think one of the worst things about going solo is, “Well this sounds exactly like the band that they just went solo from.”
AVC: But not as good.
SL: Yeah, that never happens. It’s never as good. Right. But it’s like, what’s the point? What would be the point of even trying something like this if it’s just going to sound like the last record your real band made?
AVC: Did you ever reach a fork in the road where you thought maybe these songs were too personal and you should hold onto them instead of putting them out into the world and subjecting them to comparisons to your other band?
SL: Even if it’s a two-man band, there is a certain element of a band being a gang, a group of guys. When we started, we couldn’t have songs that name-checked girls or talked about girls or anything like that. I remember getting into a huge fight when I was 20 about that type of thing. And so, with something like this I don’t feel comfortable bringing it to the gang and going, “Hey, let’s go soft.” You know what I mean?
There are [cases] where you feel these things but you should definitely go it alone with your thoughts on these matters. If you want to make them public, I think the older you get the less you need the backing of someone else. You don’t need the anonymity of the gang. You can sort of say, “Well I think this, and fuck off.”
AVC: What was the fight you got into when you were 20?
SL: There was a song that had a girl’s name in it, who was a girl that I was going out with at the time. You know, and it was a big affront. It was a big issue. And I was like, “Fuck you, I’m the singer, I can do what I want. I’m writing the lyrics, I can write whatever I want.” And so, eventually the song was dropped. It wasn’t that good of a song anyway. It wasn’t a big deal.
I waited a long, long time to throw my hat into this overcrowded ring. We’re putting it out ourselves. I’m putting the money up on the label and doing business stuff and contacting people and booking hotels. I’m looking at boxes of vinyl records stacked to the ceiling. There’s no label, so the warehouse has become my apartment.
AVC: Do you enjoy taking on the business end of things?
SL: Yeah it’s a lot of fun. And you know, there is definitely that sense of pride where it's like, wow, I actually did some work today. I didn’t just sit around and watch Goodfellas again.
AVC: That was on TV yesterday.
SL: It should always be on TV.
AVC: But you’d never get work done if it was always on TV.
SL: Well, I know it well enough that it can always be on. I’m always thinking the lines anyway so it doesn’t really hurt me.
AVC: Next on your list is Zack De La Rocha.
SL: I don’t know if he’s done anything. That’s the problem. He breaks up this great band, and then nothing. And then they reform again. I’ve never heard anything from his solo record, but I would have loved to have heard it. The band breaks up and he’s basically responsible for Audioslave. It’s his fault. And he breaks up this great political band right when we need a great political band. He shouldn’t have done that at the time, especially if he was just going to come back to it and not give us the fruit of his solo material. I think it’s a good lesson, and most people will go solo because of their ego. And it’s totally ego- tripping. That’s the way most bands break. It’s like, “Look, you got your name in a magazine more than I did. We can’t have this anymore.”
AVC: Well, it also gave us the Tom Morello solo career. I don’t know anyone who has checked that out.
SL: No, why would you? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him sing before—I saw him do that thing with Bruce Springsteen. What can I say? He is a great guitar player. That’s how good a singer he is.
AVC: Is there anything that you can glean from that going forward?
SL: If you are gonna do it, get something out there I guess. Don’t announce your candidacy to run and then not run. Show us some campaign posters.
AVC: Next up: You’ve got Herman “The German” Rarebell.
SL: [Laughs.] Actually, that’s kind of cool. It’s the drummer of the Scorpions, and he just puts out a cover of “Wipe Out”? It’s kind of genius. [Laughs.]
AVC: You also have here Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols.
SL: Steve Jones made that like—and in retrospect this sounds cool too—but he made that solo record that was all about motorcycles or something [Fire And Gasoline]. And he’s got, like really long curly hair and he started weightlifting and he did those “drugs suck” commercials. I defy you to find somebody who knows the names to any of those songs. And it’s pretty bad.
AVC: Most of the names on your list are from bands a few decades old. How about something a little more recent, like Nick Jonas’ new band?
SL: I fuckin’—I have no idea. I knew I was totally out of it when I went into 7-Eleven one night and looked at Rolling Stone and the Jonas Brothers were on the cover and I was like, “Who the fuck are the Jonas brothers? Well, that’s it. I’m out of the loop.” I saw him on Letterman the other day, though. I watched it because you had brought it up with the solo thing and I thought, “Well, I should probably watch this.” It was pretty bad.
AVC: I saw that as well. About two people clapped when Letterman announced the musical guest.
SL: Oh yeah, and Letterman doesn’t hide when he likes somebody and he doesn’t hide when he is totally bored by somebody either. He is just like, “All right, whatever.” Like he had The Heavy on there not too long ago and he went nuts for them.
AVC: Not so much with Nick Jonas though.
SL: No, not at all.
AVC: So what lesson can you glean from Nick Jonas?
SL: It doesn’t even rate a lesson, does it? I heard they were coming out with a movie called, The Dogs Who Fart [it’s actually titled Walter The Farting Dog—ed.]. The lesson here is: Fucking Rolling Stone. I remember being really depressed that there had come a day when I didn’t know who was on the cover of Rolling Stone. And then I thought about it and I was like, “Why am I depressed about that?”
They had some article, no, for real, where one of the guys was talking to Elvis Costello. Elvis Costello was very impressed with this young Jonas boy, and it was sort of like a roundtable discussion where he was giving him all this advice. And because this Jonas brother had worn a tie, he was supposedly influenced by Elvis Costello. That was really the logic that they used: That because this guy wore a blazer and a tie, was totally into Elvis Costello.
AVC: So the lesson for you is to accessorize. You never know what it’ll do for your career.
SL: “Who is your favorite musician?” Dude, look at the blazer: Elvis Costello is my favorite musician.