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Back to Ground Zero: Local H, November 8 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 01 November 2013 05:43

Local H's Scott Lucas. Photo by Wade Hawk.

It would have been the perfect time for Scott Lucas to close the door on Local H.

In February, he was mugged in Russia, an attack that left him with damage to his vocal chords – and they still aren’t fully healed. In August, Local H announced that drummer Brian St. Clair was amicably leaving the guitar/drum duo after 14 years.

On the plus side, the band was coming off Hallelujah! I’m a Bum, which one PopMatters.com author dubbed the “best rock album of 2012,” and which TinyMixTapes.com called a “watershed album ... . Not only is it the most intricately arranged and carefully structured of the band’s 20-plus-year history, but it is also their first to delve so deeply into the polluted waters of partisan politics. ... Musically, Hallelujah! is on par with the best entries in the H catalogue. Lucas has a knack for crafting heavy rock with strong, distinctive hooks.” As epitaphs go, a band could do much worse.

But when I asked guitarist/vocalist Lucas last week about shelving his Chicago-area band given the events of 2013, he said he never seriously considered it. “This would be the second time in my life where I would sort of think that,” he said. But “at this point it’s kind of hard to separate myself from the band. When I’m dead, you won’t have to wonder what I thought and what was going through my mind. All you have to do is put on these records, and you’d know. ... This has never been a job for me. I honestly don’t know what else I would do. It is part of me, and it always has been.”

A better opportunity to deep-six Local H, he said, would have been before St. Clair joined initially, following its three-album 1990s tenure on the Island label – which spawned the top-10 hit “Bound for the Floor.” “That would have been the smart time to try something else,” Lucas said. “Now it’s just too fucking late.”

Local H’s November 8 show at RIBCO will be its first with new drummer Ryan Harding – and I do mean “new.” I asked Lucas whether Harding was a long-term replacement, and he sounded unprepared for the question. “Uhhhh ... yeah,” he said. “I guess you’re the first person I talked to about this, so I don’t really know exactly what to say about it. But yeah.” When asked about Harding’s strengths compared to St. Clair’s, Lucas suggested that their relationship is still a bit too fresh: “I don’t think we’re going to know that yet.”

But he said the new start with Harding has given him the chance to revisit the band’s songs as they were originally recorded. “Having played with Brian so long, there’s a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of that we were doing ... ,” he said. “But it’s also interesting that you get into ruts with people. It’s a chance to break your own habits, as well. That’s really interesting to me. ...

“You see that Ryan’s coming from the recording. And then you realize that what me and Brian might have been doing is coming from the way we’ve been playing it live, which sometimes is completely different. ... So in a way, Ryan knows these songs better than I do. ... It’s kind of cool to go back to ground zero. It kind of gives you a look into what you were thinking originally.”

Another benefit, Lucas said, is the intensive rehearsal process, which is something that doesn’t happen when two people have been playing together for more than a decade.

“I kind of feel like the band had become sort of under-rehearsed anyway, so I don’t really mind rehearsing like this,” he said.

And he said that the duo has been able to resurrect “songs that had fallen off the band’s radar for a while, and you don’t even know why.” Lucas wouldn’t name it, but he said that Local H has been practicing his favorite song off its 1995 Ham Fisted debut – a track the band had abandoned on its set lists.

As for his voice, Lucas said that “it is getting better all the time. There are a lot of things I can do now that I certainly couldn’t do six months ago.”

But it isn’t coming back as quickly as he’d like – almost certainly a function of disregarding medical advice to rest it. “I don’t think any of the doctors that I saw have any clue what I do every night, which is damaging enough,” he said. “If they knew, they’d probably want me to stop. ... [But] taking it easy isn’t the vocabulary when it comes to this band.”

Local H will perform on Friday, November 8, at RIBCO (1815 Second Avenue, Rock Island; RIBCO.com). The show starts at 9 p.m. and also features Satellite Heart and the Post Mortems. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

For more information on Local H, visit LocalH.com.

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