Near the end of an interview that ranges from contemplative to combative, Local H frontman Scott Lucas shares one of his main motivations behind continuing his acclaimed career in music — a fierce desire to show that he and no one else controls his own destiny and shove it back in the faces of those that doubt him.
“There really is a lot of ‘F— you’ involved,” says Lucas, one half of the two man group, during a phone interview Monday. “There’s a lot of ‘don’t tell us what to do,’ or when to quit and when our time is up. You really can’t underestimate that.”
That undying fire to prove doubters wrong is one of several factors that has helped Local H endure and continue to achieve acclaim after breaking out in the mid-1990s with sophomore album As Good as Dead and smash-hit single “Bound for the Floor.” That chip Lucas carries with him emerges in an omnipresent angst, song after song, album after album. On stage, Lucas, recently dubbed one of the best songwriters to ever spring from Chicago by the Sun-Times, plays with a same damn-the-torpedoes passion that pervades every aspect of his career, even phone interviews.
Take, for example, his fervent response to the following question: “Over the course of your career with Local H, did you ever think of adding a bassist or someone else to the band?”
“Why would I do that?” Lucas spits out the line several times in rapid succession, like a series of jabs from a prize fighter that keeps his opponent off balance and unable to respond. The question to Lucas was meant to find out if he had ever thought about taking his music in a different direction, something that didn’t seem too outrageous given the changes and experimentations some, if not most, bands try over 13 years and six albums. To Lucas, however, the question challenges the very identity of the band, an identity he is quick to passionately defend.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Lucas says. “And it’s far from f—ing broken.”
The caustic response isn’t personal, it’s business, Lucas’s business to be precise, and his impassioned replies signal that others would do well to stay out of it.
Lucas has devoted the lion’s share of his life to his music and Local H. Even after the band’s PolyGram label was absorbed by Universal and the departure of Joe Daniels, the group’s original drummer, Lucas pressed on under the Local H moniker.
“The music being written was still Local H music,” Lucas says of his decision to stay the course rather than form an entirely different group. “Besides, you don’t usually get bands changing because of the drummer leaving.”
Lucas does say that it was only because of the talent of new — and current — drummer Brian St. Clair that he was able to keep Local H alive.
“If Brian wasn’t more than capable, I don’t think we would have been able to go on,” Lucas says. “It takes someone special to fill that role … someone who can carry that energy, to get up on stage and just bash.”
Now nine years after St. Clair joined Lucas and four years since the release of their last album, Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?, the energy is just as intense as ever on latest effort, 12 Angry Months. As the title suggests, 12 Angry Months is not akin to the well-adjusted, forgive and forget, wistful remembrances of most modern breakup albums. This is the loud, ugly, get mad and get even album that airs the emotions that almost always exist under the surface but are seldom spoken of in public.
The 12 tracks hit all the hot spots of romances gone awry, from the blow-up fights, to encounters with the next man up in the ex’s life. Lucas litters the lyrics with specifics from the past relationship, explaining that it is these personal references that make the songs more universal and relatable.
“When you try to be universal, you end up speaking to no one,” Lucas says. “I wanted to dig as deep as possible and not pull any punches on myself.”
Such is the passion of Lucas when it comes to Local H, no one is immune from fisticuffs, not even himself. He’s more than willing to throw a right hook at his own heart if it improves his music.
That Lucas is willing to scrap with his very soul in order to better his band is indicative of the resolve that has carried his career through three different decades since forming the group in high school in 1987. Given the undying fire, both on the record and over the phone, it certainly feels like Lucas and Local H are ready to keep fighting, for their fans and for themselves, for years to come.