Great Scott: Heavy-Hitting Two-Piece Local H Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Tour and New Studio Album

local h Thursday, Feb. 12, Musica, 51 East Market St., Akron, 330-374-1114. Tickets: $12,

Local H singer-guitarist Scott Lucas doesn't remember a helluva lot about the band's first-ever live show that took place on April 20, 1990, at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater.

"It was Earth Day," he says matter-of-factly in a phone interview from a Kalamazoo tour stop when asked about the gig. "The band was a four-piece. It was definitely a college show at the quad or whatever they called it. We had some songs and it was pretty inauspicious. It wasn't a big, huge earth-shattering deal."

So did he think the band would be around for 25 years?

"I don't know," he admits. "I have no idea what I thought. I know I always wanted to play music. I probably didn't think I'd be doing anything else. It wasn't any type of thinking."

Lucas grew up in Zion, Illinois — a place that isn't exactly teeming with rock bands — and looked to acts like R.E.M. for inspiration. After all, those guys had come out of another small American town (Athens, Georgia) and ascended to international fame after being embraced by college radio. Ironically enough, Local H, a duo that plays heavy, grungy rock that straddles the line between metal and indie rock, is still going strong while R.E.M. has called it quits.

"Starting to form bands was a way to play music that I was writing," says Lucas. "That was the main point. I wanted to do that stuff live in front of people and flesh out the music that was in my head. That was the main reason for even learning to play guitar. I just wanted to write songs. It's always been about serving the song. Our guitar player was a major Replacements fan. I was a major R.E.M. fan. There was a lot of that going on. Our bass player was a dyed-in-the-wool punk. [Our music] was coming from different '80s underground American music. On one end of the spectrum, there was R.E.M. and on the other was 7 Seconds. By 1990, R.E.M. were pretty big. The first time I was aware of them was seeing a video for 'South Central Rain.' I saw them again on Letterman. I thought, 'What the fuck is this?' That made a big impression on me."

The band self-released a 7-inch EP as well as a few cassettes; it would become a two-piece by default after an original guitarist and bassist quit. And back then, two-pieces were as cool as they are now.

"At the time, there weren't a lot of two-pieces and there weren't any heavy two-pieces as far as we know," says Lucas. "That was a big hurdle — to figure out how to make heavy rock as a duo. I was aware of Flat Duo Jets and Chickasaw Mudd Puppies. I remember seeing them thinking how entertaining it was. I remember seeing this band called the Farmers. I was in a punk band in high school and we didn't have a bass player. Bands like Chickasaw Mudd Puppies and Flat Duo Jets were blues-based bands and we weren't doing it. Even today, most of the bigger two-piece bands like White Stripes and the Black Keys are blues-based. It lends itself well to that and not as much to heavy rock."

The band signed to a major label in 1995 and its sophomore effort, As Good as Dead, became a huge hit as "Bound for the Floor," a song with sneering vocals that sounded like a distant cousin of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," became a hit on commercial radio.

Eventually, a line-up change would take place and original drummer, Joe Daniels, a hard-hitting player who nicely complemented Lucas, left the band. Brian St. Clair joined and the group continued to roll along.

"I met Brian in [the rock act] Triple Fast Action," says Lucas. " We had gone on tour with them quite a few times. When they lost their guitar player, I subbed and filled in. It was definitely a thing where we clicked musically. There really wasn't anybody else that I was thinking about when I needed to find another drummer. It was a no-brainer."

The band rolled along once again until St. Clair left. Lucas recruited Ryan Harding and has recorded a new studio album, Hey, Killer, with him. It's due out later this year.

"We spent this entire year just touring and instead of just recording right away, we got tighter," says Lucas. "We would collect riffs and tour and we recorded an EP last March. We went on tour with that EP and kept playing. He had been in the band for almost a year and it was time to make a record. We wanted to get it out by the spring. We booked time in the studio in December. Then, I realized we were in a bind. There were a few ideas but no real songs. I got panicked and I went on a getaway for a couple of days and started listening to the voice memos on my phone and realized we had a lot of ideas there and there were about 20 ideas for songs that were really good that I had forgotten about. It was surprising how many things that had been there waiting to happen."

Given that the music industry has changed so much in the past 25 years, one has to ask: If the group just started playing in 2015, would it last for 25 years?

"Probably," says Lucas. "Who knows? There's no way to know an answer to a question like that. I would assume if I was 20 years younger, I would still be a hard-headed prick. To me, that accounts for the longevity as much as anything. It's just wanting to do it and not giving up."

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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