When I spoke with Scott Tracy, vocalist/guitarist for Skunkweed, the music of Ravi Shankar was the backdrop for our conversation. As we spoke, I realised that what Skunkweed is, among all things I've said before in my review, is an amalgamation of various musics. My conversation with Scott reaffirmed that belief, as we talked about various bands from Radiohead to KISS to Primus, the release of Skunkweed's first album Keep America Beautiful (available on Royalty Records), and future plans:
Can you tell us a bit about Skunkweed and the making of Keep America Beautiful?
We all knew each other for a while from other bands playing around LA, and we began jamming a lot. This evolved into booking a gig, which turned out to be fun. Eventually we started playing around and Royalty Records offered us a record deal. We finished the recording in fourteen days, with all the basic tracks recorded live. We recorded a lot of stuff, and picked out the songs that fit together musically and lyrically. All the stuff was written in the same frame of mind.
A lot of people when we went to make this record said you should make this a flat out rock record. That was something that didn't interest me. It's the smarter business move, but it just doesn't interest me We really want to keep pushing out and trying new things, and keep things noisy and minimalistic.
What is the current lineup?
Peter Highney left the band, due to some personal problems. We are currently a trio, with Matt [Littel, bass] and Paul [Sinacore, drums].
Are there any plans for a tour?
Absolutely. There are no official dates, yet, though.
Your lyrics appear to have a strong pro-drug stance. Do you believe drugs should be decriminalised and/or legalised?
I think people should have a healthy respect for whatever drug they're experimenting with. I think that if drugs were regulated and taxed, like alcohol is, which is a drug too you know, it would solve a lot of problems. I believe in the responsible use of drugs.
Your music appears to have a wide variety of influences, from hard rock to psychedelic pop. Who would you cite as musical influences? What are the bands you currently like?
I listen to a a lot of 70s rock and psychedelic pop. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Motown, The Beatles, KISS, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Ravi Shankar, and I also like the gothic stuff like My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, and Bahaus. I like everything except today's country scene.
You've been on a major label before, and now you're an indie. Do you have anything to say about this transition?
In my experience it's not a big sell-out to be on a major label. If you want to have your music heard, a major label is the obvious place to be if everyone's into you. If everyone's excited about your band it can be a good thing to do since you're dealing with so many people who don't even know the other people in the other departments. If people from major labels pursue you excitedly, then you hold the cards and you should use that gigantic machine to your advantage. The flip side is that if you go through a bad situation through a major label, the word goes out that you were dropped cause you sucked. Besides, the distribution is good. On an independent, there's not so much pressure to make money. Bands on major labels don't get a chance to have many album careers these days unless they pull in a lot money. One-hit wonders are the fault of the industry as well. Basically, there're pros and cons.
What's your view with regards to making music?
I'm driven to do it. I constantly think about music. I'm consumed by it and I think it's the only thing I was put here to do. I'm thankful I have a purpose in life. I'm glad I can write a song, you know? Also, for the record, we have no problems with recording shows and bootlegs. Anything to get the word out.
What do you think of the current music scene?
The scene in LA isn't in the best shape possible. There're a lot of good bands, but compared with five years ago it isn't that great. Earlier, bands were supportive and friendly and now it seems like high school. There are a lot of cliques, and you have to sound like this to be part of this tiny scene. This is not good for creativity. It's really a drag since I know how positive the scene can be.
You've been leading the life of a starving musician for the last ten years.. can you shed a bit of light on what that's like?
Life is difficult and hopefully it'll change. When you have to have money and rock's not paying the bills, you gotta do something else. I've done some degrading things, but that's life. We just want to get on the road and play all over the country. It's something we really want to do. Our future plans are basically to tour as much as possible, make another record, and do a few singles. Hopefully it'll all go well.