Interview: S.C.U.M.

Interview with S.C.U.M.



S.C.U.M.’s forthright frontman, Tom Cohen, talks us through debut album Again Into Eyes, reveals the band’s plans to work with Brian Eno and explains why he reckons the music industry is “caving in on itself”…

Questions and answers

Hey Tom, what are you up to right now?

We’re in the studio rehearsing; just trying out some new ideas...

And you’ve just finished touring with The Vaccines: how was that?

Really good. They’re actually the nicest band we’ve been on tour with. Usually, when you tour with another band, you get the feeling that you’re on somebody else’s turf. But they were completely not like that; they allowed us to do what we wanted and were really sweet.

The tour was great. I think every show apart from the gig in Brighton was somewhere we hadn’t played before. And we played in Bridlington and it was the first rock n roll show they’d had there in four years.

So, can you tell us a bit about the making of Again Into Eyes please?

We actually recorded the album in September 2010 but the way the record industry works meant it took a year to come out. I don’t know why. So, yeah, it took us two weeks to record the first bit, and then we had a week’s break, and then two weeks to finish everything else off. We did it with Ken and Jolyon Thomas, who were amazing to work with. And we’re really pleased with the album still, as a piece of work. But I’m definitely ready to make a new album.

With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you’d change about the record?

No, I wouldn’t change anything about it. I guess while you’re working on it you can be in the mentality of “change this, change that”, but if you haven’t done that once you get to the end of it, there’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

Probably ‘Whitechapel’ because I get the most from listening to it as a song. And while we were making the record, it was definitely the one I was most excited about and most proud of because it felt like the most accomplished song on the album.

What were your musical reference points for the record?

Everything from when we were 12 ‘til when we finished the record. I mean, you really get the opportunity to put all of your youth into your first album and we were still in our teens when we made the record. But Portishead’s Third really changed a lot for us when we heard that as a band. And I’m kinda sick of it now but when I was a kid I used to really like Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, and I suppose that was a big influence on our sound.

After touring the album though, our listening habits have changed quite a lot. The stuff I listen to and that influences me now, is so different from then.

What’s on your stereo at the moment then?

Loads of Neil Young, Philip Glass, Serge Gainsbourg, a lot of soundtrack music… In particular, there’s a guy called Jean-Claude Vannier who’s a French composer and did all the arrangements and production on Histoire de Melody Nelson.

I actually started emailing him, trying to convince him to work with us. It’s amazing though: it made me realise the power of the internet! I literally searched for his website and emailed him from the website, being like, “Hey I’m obsessed with you: not in a weird way, just in a creative way”. And he emailed back like, “Hey, thank you for your email. I like the way your band look, what do you want from me? Best wishes, Jean-Claude.” It was a big thing for me! So I emailed him back straight away and we’ll see where that goes.

We’re doing a festival for Brian Eno and we really like him and he’s a big fan of the band. So I guess, if I get his email [address], I’ll probably do the same thing.

As you said, your first record is a culmination of all your experiences. With that in mind, how do you feel approaching the second record?

I’m excited because I know it’s going to be a whole lot better. Because I think we’re all better songwriters nowadays. Not that we were bad songwriters before but we’ve definitely developed. And I think when you’re not that successful with your first album you don’t lose that bite; you’ve still got so much to fight for so it just means so much more to you.

I feel like a lot of bands, who are successful with their first record, are scared of their second album and don’t really know what to do. I guess a few of our contemporaries have made really good second records. These New Puritans made probably my favourite contemporary album, and I know they’re working on their third right now, which will be really interesting. Way more interesting than so many bands who are around.

Have you written much material for the new album yet?

We’re in the very early stages. We have some ammunition, we just need to hone in on it, and go work with a producer on it.

And what can we expect sonically?

I guess you’ll have to wait and see. I think the way we perceive our music and the way our music is perceived could be very different. I mean, some people think that they’re really taking a brave new step [with their music] and they’re not. I don’t think it’s going to be a complete departure from what we do, because we really like what we do. But hopefully it will have evolved and grown and matured.

What’s your favourite album of the year so far?

I don’t know. I haven’t really listened to any albums that have come out this year, I don’t think. I don’t really listen to a lot of contemporary music. I mean it probably happened to people with us too, but you hear loads about a band and then you hear their music and you’re like, “Oh god, it’s this, again. Do we have to go through this again?!” It’s another f*cking record label or another f*cking band just trying to push this whole thing that’s dull as f*ck. I’m sure there will be an incredible record out this year but it hasn’t happened yet.

So what’s been the highlight of being in S.C.U.M. so far?

Probably making our album as it’s the only time we haven’t been toured or placed or put somewhere we don’t want to be. We were just allowed to be who we wanted and do what we wanted with our music.

Do you find that a lot then in the industry; that people are always trying to pigeonhole or control you?

I try to ignore the industry as much as possible. Not because I want to fight against it, or any of that sappy sh*t: it’s just that it’s caving in on itself. It’s terrible. Ideally, what I want to do with our second record is totally avoid the music industry, and be a part of something else where we can stand aside from all the nonsense that people involve themselves in.

One thing that we wanna do is make our second and third records at the same time or maybe try to do a double record. It could be quite difficult but I’m quite up for it. That way we can avoid all that sh*t people go through with their second albums; it’s just a bit bland and a bit dull. I don’t know, maybe we’ll do five songs on one record, and five songs on another and call it a double album.

What would you like to achieve ultimately with S.C.U.M.?

To have a body of work: a serious number of albums that we’ve created, and to continue to do so.

Who are your musical heroes?

Lou Reed, even though he’s made some terrible music. I think The Brian Jonestown Massacre are another band we look up to, with them releasing an album every single year.

Yeah, but have you seen the film ‘Dig!’? There’s definitely a fine line between genius and madness...

Yeah, the music industry can be amazing for insane people; it can be the perfect home. But musically, I think [The Brian Jonestown Massacre] never lost it, which is what I admire.