Chain D.L.K.: Ok Scott, let’s start from the roots: many people out there knows you for Girls Against Boys and New Wet Kojak, but being an old fart I remember you paid duty in seminal Washington bands like Soul Side, Rain and before that Lunchmeat right?… How have you come in contact with punk and has it changed your life for good or for bad?
Scott: I think punk rock is almost a rite of passage for young people, at least it was for me. Soul Side was the main band, and we existed on Dischord Records in Washington DC from about 1987 to 1989. My favorite album from Soulside is “Hot Bodi-Gram.” It was progressive punk rock for it’s time, non-generic, which is what Dischord was known and is known for, I guess. I remember that was when we first started hearing the term Emo thrown around, though it was nothing like what it later came to mean. But that was the beginning of the idea for us that this, doing music, was something possible.
Chain D.L.K.: ..later you moved to New York…Girls against Boys and New Wet Kojak…..I think everybody who has had to do with the alternative scene during the Nineties has heard about you. The big apple is not exactly easy but you were part of the “the next big thing”…
Scott: Yes, I moved to New York to attend film school. In fact, I thought I was already done with music and wanted to do film. But after a couple of years in NYC I was wanting to play again… so we started Girls Against Boys. Our first show was in 1992 at CBGB’s on an off night. We met some people, but we also had some connections from the WDC days (although back then no one in New York really cared about our previous bands in DC)…and yes one thing led to another: We were recommended to Touch and Go, and those were the highlight years (1993-1997 or so). The success of Nirvana changed everything in 1991 and there was all this attention from the majors into what was formerly strictly indie music, and we were swept up in that wave. The US economy (and music industry economy) was bursting with what was later called “irrational exuberance.” Girls Against Boys became by 1995/6 was one of the better known indie alternative rock bands in the US as well as probably Europe, and we signed to Geffen. That’s just how it happened I guess. We were extremely motivated, and in the right place at the right time.
Chain D.L.K.: …and now Paramount Styles: the music is softer, you live in Europe and you’ve even become dad…”baby punk’s not dead and I will see you around”, you’ve stuck to your promises
Scott: I wouldn’t call them promises, everything I say is usually dosed in caustic humor, or so I like to think. I picked up an acoustic guitar at the beginning of 2000’s and had the idea that I should be able to make something good without amplifiers and effects…I don’t know… the idea of embracing limitations… and over time started making music again, which is Paramount Styles… its not as bombastic as GVSB but still retains a healthy amount of anti-social qualities… its not really singer-songwriter. So I also think there is still some punk in it, in attitude anyway. And yes, I guess as a father I can really start playing baby punk for real, whatever that is.
Chain D.L.K.: …sure, your caustic humor..I’ve always loved it. I don’t even have to read the lyric sheet to remember “We were great, maybe not the greatest, but we were great” or “that’s what I like to see, what can you do for me”. It’s hard for me to tell if what you sing sounds more cynic, ironic or “destructive”. Sometimes people with a good sense of humor hide a depressive side (here we use to call it “the sadness of the clown”). I’ve read you crossed a bad period some years ago..right?
Scott: For me writing lyrics was and is a very personal thing, often in the old days there are specific references that only the person I intended it for would understand explicitly. Many, many GVSB songs are directed to specific people who will go un-named. That was the way I found importance in what I was doing; was a dialogue I was having with others and with myself that has, apparently, lasted more than twenty years. It was very romantic to me, at the time. Nothing made sense otherwise. I always wanted to sing something that made me a little uncomfortable. The indie rock scene was always great, but I found also maybe too proud of itself, sometimes even pretentious (or even worse, precious). I sang about envy, lust, greed, jealousy… all the bad things I could find in myself that one is not supposed to be proud of… and that I presume other people are also aware of in themselves. I suppose because it seemed more honest to me. Its nothing new, most people who write or do things of this nature have a propensity to stay in the negative, the dark, the traumatic. Who wants to hear about happy people? As to the bad times, yes I will just say, it was nothing interesting. Somehow I had some addiction problems, it’s really so boring and took away a lot of years I could have been doing something more productive. So I missed the early parts of the last decade. Nothing cool about it, a waste of time.
Chain D.L.K.: The last month I happened to think that sometimes Americans are indirectly emphasizing their nationality even when coming from a counterculture. Sometimes in my head it is quite similar to the how “blasphemies” indirectly underscore the centrality of “God”. Titles like “Failure american style”, “This is the USA”, “Supermodel citizens USA” are obviously critical, but what do you think about this crappy idea?
Scott: I agree with you, but on the other hand it would be hard for a person like me to write a song called “This is Italy” instead. I do believe in writing about what you know. But yes, its a very interesting point. What does it mean when you put the letters USA in a song? Why are you doing that? Coming from the counterculture it would be presumed to be critical but you’re right, its not that simple. I think the USA is also fascinating massive place full of cities and histories, music, art, people… that cannot be narrowed down into one thing. Lyrically and geographically speaking I have been able to hit a few places… I always liked including city names in many songs for one because it gave the “story” a setting, and secondly because I think these PLACES are full of intruiging myths: Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Prague, Amsterdam… off the top of my head, have all been in songs. People dream of cities, often the ones they aren’t in. To be honest though, the USA referrences weren’t always that critical: “there’s something nice to be said about Los Angeles” (GVSB/Tucked-In).
In the 20th century the USA was made on this idea of the American dream, which was not total nonsense, it was an idea… and it wasn’t only any American one. If it doesn’t always live up to it, that’s to be expected. With songs like “This is the USA” I feel like its criticizing as well as championing. I’m OK with that.
Chain D.L.K.: ..but now you live in Vienna right? Austria is a weird place somehow..a weird mix of open air museum but at the same time they’re rich and still investing in cultural events. How do you live there? Ever happened to be recognized as Scott from Lunchmeat!?
Scott: I like Vienna… old historic center but also a lot of life on the donaukanal which runs through the city. I think quality of life is pretty good here,, its more affordable than some other European capital cities, and I actually still see friends passing through with their bands as its on the route. Centrally located. For instance I’ll play with Zu tonight in Bratislava sitting in on guitar. Very rarely someone says to me “hey you’re from Girls Against Boys, right?”
Chain D.L.K.: I remember Eli was in tour with you (his naked shot in Greece), Johnny Temple has been your band mates in at least a couple of bands..and when I saw you live Alexis was sitting behind the drums. You still hear all of them every once in awhile?..and what about Bobby Sullivan?…how do you relate to the past, you know for us European “your having no root” is difficult to be understood..
Scott: Our association goes back to teenage years really. We were all school friends. Eli was almost a fifth member of Soulside, in a way, doing live soundmixing, recording. Back then he only played keyboards, which wasn’t cool for a punk band in the late 80’s, but was a major part in our starting Girls Against Boys, which in the beginning was designed to be a band that incorporated keyboards (almost like early Ministery, was our original idea, but which evolved into a more heavy rock sound with all the touring we did in the early 90s… and by the time of Venus Luxure was a fully formed sound.) Johnny and Alexis were also in Soulside, and it was the four of us who really started Girls Against Boys in around 1990 with the “80’s vs 90’s” record. We are absolutely all in touch. I haven’t seen Bobby in many years, he lives in North Carolina. As to relating to the past, I can only resort to the saying “the past is the only thing that’s changing, the future is always the same” meaning everything we look back on seems to have different interpretations of events… whatever… the future is just the same moving forward into something you’re not sure how will work out.
Chain D.L.K.: …sometimes I’ve read you yourself were joking on the fact that here and there you reminded of Richard Butler from Psychedelic Furs, but beside that, jazz, post punk “eighties music” and noise rock…which were your main other musical influences
Scott: Psychelic Furs was also a very early influence, somehow I found out about them before I was involved in punk music… so it’s a latent 80’s influence that. And apart from the obvious WDC reference points, The Fall was the band that really motivated me for years. I think its mostly the idea of a non-traditional raspy voice singing, and I don’t have a great voice in a traditional sense. After that I fell heavily into what used to be call industrial music, NIN, Big Black… even things like Skinny Puppy I remember (but have no idea what they sound like now). I kind of became obsessed with the idea that GVSB was going to become a sort of electronic disco punk band, for awhile, That was around the time of Tricky, Prodigy, Portishead… it sounded so fresh, it really did. But then, circa 1998, everyone thought the future was going to happen in 2000 so we needed some sort of music that sounded like “the future.” A couple years later the future was over. I kind of burned out then. What inspired me to pick up the guitar again I can’t remember, probably mostly some musician friends in New York (like Paul Cantelon, a piano player and friend who played on a couple Paramount tracks), just people doing it because they love music more than trying to fit into a style. In general, I am inspired by any music that creates an atmosphere and a mood.
Chain D.L.K.: …our society is partially sinking into the quicksand itself has created but at the same time everything is changing so fast. Where do you see yourself during the next ten years?
Scott: I will probably be doing what I am doing now, trying to figure out a way to live as well as dream up my imaginative ideas or whatever else I want to dream up. I don’t know if our society is sinking into anything, quicksand or otherwise, sometimes I think that some of the apparent changes are more superficial than they seem. Perhaps humans live longer lives, etc… and many great advances in medicine and sciences, but I wonder if we want very different things than people did long ago. We only live in our own time which I think can make us self-centered and typically, I believe, we can sometimes feel like no one ever quite l ike us could have ever lived before, that our problems and trials and times are somehow unique. There’s an old NYC expression: If you’re “one in a million” there’s 10 people just like you in New York. I loved that when I first heard it moving there. Like against the backdrop of a city like New York, you are just anonymous. I dont think anything changed, in some ways. So I guess in 10 years I’ll be somewhere sinking in the quicksand, as usual.
Chain D.L.K.: …any other question you would have (or you wouldn’t) liked to add or anything else nobody ever asked you about?…maybe something like “how does your relationship with your mother effected your relationship with women” or anything in the likes..ah,ah..
Scott: A simple question I’ve never been asked might be: “why the do you do this? And why do you keep doing it?” And I suppose I would have to answer that making music is a puzzle you have to solve, like an itch in your brain, and its not unlike gambling in your own head. If alternative rock, indie rock, whatever, could be an analogy to a casino (which I think in some ways is appropriate) its would simply be that once you’ve started playing the game you want to have a hand in even if you lose over and over again, because you always have the impression of the one time you might have felt you won. It could be the perfect show, the perfect album, or even the idea you never realized but knew was good. The one time you might have felt everything worked out exactly as you wanted it to. And having that impression of winning, you can never stop playing the game, no matter what happens. It’s just better to believe in it than to give up the game. Believing in your own music is like that. Its a perpetual black swan. It’s the longest shot you ever gambled on. You never know when your ticket might come in, and it probably won’t, and yet… you’re still playing or at least thinking of playing, over and over again.
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