As Good As Dead (Island)
An interview with vocalist/guitarist Scott Lucas
by Scott Hefflon
As Good As Dead is a forceful title compared to your more ambiguously-titled last record, Ham Fisted; what changes does this imply?
It’s kinda the whole theme of the record – being stuck in a small town and never getting out. We needed a title that would tie it all up, and we got… that.
You did pretty much get out; all the tours and trips to the studios and all. Do you still feel like a small town boy?
I still live there (Zion, Illinois), though I have plans to not live there much longer, hopefully. When we were writing the record, we spent a lot of time there, and I think that came out, lyrically. I just kinda wanted to close the book on that town.
Where are you thinking of moving to?
Chicago. I have no interest in being a big fish in a little pond. I’m kinda sick of being bored all the time, I want to have something to do.
A lot of your songs seem to come from the boredom, the isolation, and the desperation of wanting to get out; aren’t you afraid you’ll lose that?
Well, I did notice that when I lived in Chicago for a couple years I was writing a lot as a sort of political vent. In the city, there seem to be a lot of political faction groups. That doesn’t really interest me. I don’t want to tie any of our songs to a particular movement that’s soon going to be out-dated. I guess we’re going to have to stay in Zion forever.
Without answering that you like them all for different reasons, what song, lyrically, sums it up best for you?
I think “Nothing Special” is pretty good. It kinda captures the hopelessness of never getting out, just getting that job at the power plant…
Some of the writing seems kinda reactionary – like pissing on an icon like Eddie Vedder, a parody of himself, and calling the meatheads at your shows “stupid steroid fucks” – isn’t it almost randomly choosing someone to be pissed at, just because you’re pissed?
I worry sometimes that I’m too negative. I don’t want the perception of our entire body of work to be based on negativity. I’d like to move on to something… I think if you listen to the record, toward the end, it achieves a sort of resolution. As far as “Eddie Vedder” goes, it’s not really a crack at him, it’s more of a crack at… other people. We wrote that song out of frustration. We felt that we were being ignored. We figured if we called the song “Eddie Vedder” we’d get it played on the radio, no problem.
What else inspires you to write?
One thing that really fascinates me is scene politics. There are songs on the record, like “High Fiving Motherfucker” and “Back in the Day,” about the hardcore scene. The whole judgment attitude. Things like that really interest me. Straight-edge is great; ’cause you think about it, and it’s a sort of anti-jock stance, which is kinda cool. Other times, there’s that whole “harder than thou” thing going on.
So you’re pretty anti-jock, huh?
Oh yeah. I definitely am.
I don’t know, I see them too, but I have no reason to ever interact with them. They’re like furniture; they’re obstacles to walk around. They don’t really affect my consciousness to any great extent.
Yeah, it just seems like they take over so much stuff. I’m just really against the sports and music unity thing, like MTV Sports and shit like that. Fuck that.
Do you think that the straight-edge thing is similar to the jock thing? Instead of talking about sports, they talk about bands; and instead of working out, they don’t eat meat or whatever.
It can get to be really macho. I think that’s what bugs me.
It’s a clique thing and an elitist thing, just like everything else.
I don’t like when you get involved in a scene that tells you what to do, any scene like that. Like an indie scene, that says you gotta make records a certain way. Or anything that tells you you’ve gotta have your hair a certain way and stuff like that. It’s stupid. They wanna call us “metal” or “grunge,” I guess we prefer to stick with “rock.” But then they’ll be like “Well, what do you mean, like Van Halen or something?” Classifications really don’t bother me because most of time people need like, you know, a title. When you read a magazine, the writer needs something to get the point across to readers. You can’t necessarily play pieces of record in the magazine. You know, you’ve gotta come up with something. I understand where that comes from.
Yeah, so we’re in the worst business. We’re the guilty ones.
(Joking) Yeah, you guys are the problem, right.
You guys just played Boston, it’s only the two of you guys on tour?
Yeah. It was terrific, it was a lot of fun. Usually if it’s an all-ages show, the show is really great and I believe that Boston was, if not all-ages, at least 18 and over. There were some people who’ve seen us plenty of times and made a point to come out and check us out.
How do you describe your show besides two guys on stage playing good, emotional stuff that they like?
Uhm, just that the show is really intense. I really don’t know how you’d market us. I think one of the things that they’re trying to do is impress upon the fact that they’re calling us a “power duo”, you know, sort of a goof on the “power trio” thing.
Do you smoke dope?
Not now, why?
You just sound really mellow about stuff. I’m a total caffeine freak. I’m totally wired out of my skull right now. Unfortunately, it’s not translating to asking good questions.
I usually go the Mountain Dew route if I need caffeine.
I just found this great stuff called Mountain Mist. It’s generic Mountain Dew and it only costs 88¢ for a 2-liter. It’s bright green and looks like Gator-Ade; like it glows in the dark. Are you a caffeine head?
I can’t really get into coffee. Before I play, I’ll take ginseng and stuff. The shows get to be almost athletic with a lot of jumping around.
So what is that keeps you going? The love of singing? The love of writing? The love of performing?
You have a tough day and you’re like, “Fuck this, why am I doing this?” And then after you’re done playing a great show, you’re like “Oh wow, that’s why. It’s because I really do like this.” And you’re reminded of the fact that it’s fun to play, and when a show goes really well, it makes it all worth it.
I remember you ended Ham Fisted with “Grrlfriend.” It was a great way to end the album. Our reviewer quoted the whole thing.
Well, we always try to end the record, rather than just having the final songs. Ending the last record with “Grrlfriend,” we kinda wanted to put, like, a cherry on top of all this mess.
What about this album’s last song, “Manifest Destiny Part 2?”
The new record basically ends the way it starts. It’s sort of the same song at the beginning and the end. It’s like bookends. It starts off with this twisted “House of the Rising Sun” type thing, and then it ends with this big, almost metal jam meets The Cure. “…Part One” starts it off and “…Part Two” ends it. Kind of conceptual.
Man, you guys are deep.
Yeah, we are, man. So deep it’s scary.
In the review for Ham Fisted, the reviewer (Chaz Thorndike) thought the chorus said “I just wanna be like Chaz.”
(Laughs) Oh yeah, “I just wanna be like Chaz!” That’s the one! That was one of the funniest things about reading those reviews; people would try to figure out what the chorus said. It’s actually “I just wanna feel I can trust,” not “I just wanna feed, I can trust.” The song is called “Feed” – as in, “I don’t need my ego fed.” You guys thought it was “I just wanna be like Chaz” and some other guy thought it was “I just wanna beat up some chicks!”