Scott Lee Andrews on: Mutation in a live setting, depression, misheard Wildhearts lyrics, Exit_International’s possible third album and new project Strange Unit.
Part 2 of my conversation with Scott. I start by messaging Scott some photos.
You see the first one?
Scott: Beautiful. Ahhh, amazing. Thank you so much for coming to a show!
Ginger, Scott and Denzel during rehearsals for the first few Mutation shows.
We’ve been chatting about Mutation and we’ve never mentioned the powerhouse that is Denzel. What a fucking drummer!
Scott: Ah man… unbelievable! And that setup that you’re looking at there, kinda having him front and centre made sense with the mountain of cabs in the background. The intention of the layout to be visually confronting in terms of it being like a gang, so you don’t have the standard band formation. Especially when you’re standing that close to the front of the stage, normally the drummer’s kinda far off but, in this setup, Denzel was hitting the shit out of stuff right in front of your face. It was a part of the intense world we were trying to create for these shows.
That gig was unbelievable! Like I said I’m generally not into that much intense heavy stuff so I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never really been to a gig like that, or the way the performance was with you at the front of the stage. Also, Ginger loves communicating with the crowd and chatting, so was it a conscious decision to walk on, play the set, then walk off without saying a word to the crowd?
Scott: Correct! Yeah, that’s it one hundred percent. It was supposed to be that confronting – if there was any conversation or anything like that, it would break the barrier we had created between the band and crowd. One review cracked me up but then I realized they’d got it: they said it was like an art installation so you’re not watching a normal gig, the artist and crowd separated – it was like an assault. It was a really weird thing man; going on stage and you see the crowd, and the usual go-to feeling is you’re super happy to see everyone and you can have a load of fun and everyone’s gonna leave smiling, sweating and we do this because we enjoy it and it brightens your day. But with Mutation, without taking it to like mythical levels or anything like that – there was zero bullshit in regards to how intense it was because of the head spaces the band were in.
I remember after the gig, we got outside and it was like, “Fucking hell, what just happened!”
Scott: Ha ha ha ha…
It obliterated us in the best possible way that gig. I was in a good head space at the time; I wasn’t depressed, I was on one of my highs. I remember thinking, I kinda wish I was depressed then I would’ve experienced how it was supposed to experienced, as the music was wrote, you know what I mean?
Scott: Well that’s the funny thing isn’t it? I’m not sure if it’s the same for you but I know if I was depressed I wouldn’t be going out. I completely understand where you’re coming from but I’d have to be dragged out, do you get what I mean?
Exactly, I wouldn’t have got to the gig as it were. Going back to 2016 I was unwell the whole year and only left the house a few times. I’d booked up several gigs the year before and I was torturing myself by following everything on Facebook and anytime it got to one of the Ginger gigs or other gigs I was going to go to I would rip up the ticket and throw it away.
I also remember Ginger’s Birthday Bash, 2010 I think it was. It featured in the original draft of my book but was cut in the edit due to the ridiculous word count, but that’s another story. Anyway, basically I did get out of the door but it doesn’t often happen – because it was Ginger I managed to drag myself to London. I went into the gig but walked out half way through – I assume the music wasn’t doing it for me, I was self-conscious and everything else. This was a Ginger gig, my favourite artist in the world and I walked out and went home.
Scott: Yeah a lot of that makes sense, it is that powerful. It would have been lovely if the music had snapped you straight out of it, but it’s not like that, is it?
It can help, maybe something like that can knock the first brick out of the wall of negativity, you could build from that, I think that’s what music can do to me but that night obviously it didn’t work.
In April you posted a video advertising the ‘Live At Le Pub’ Exit_International album as well as also mentioning you were in the demo stages of a new Exit album. Is that still happening and if so how is it coming along?
Scott: Yes. This is the one thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I love writing as it is but I do miss the experience of being in a room with people writing. I reckon there will be a third Exit album, I started writing something yesterday that sounded like it could be an Exit song but then thought, ‘Don’t get too excited, Don’t get too excited’. We’re still like best of mates and chat online, taking the piss and that – there’s just no rush. I’m 10,000 miles away from the lads. One day, when we get to move back to the UK from Australia, I feel that would be the best place to start, being geographically available to be able to get back in a room together, at our own pace.
In July you posted a little teaser video indicating you’d be playing ‘Black Junk’ in full at some point. Obviously Covid has put a stop to that at the moment.
Scott: Yeah we’re gonna have to shift it to next year, but we’re gonna do a couple of gigs where we play ‘Black Junk’ for gig one then ‘Science’ gig two. It’s a riot, man, it’s so much fun and stupid loud! We always kinda make sure that people leave a little bit deaf and also with a shit-eating grin on their face.
I kinda missed out on this but didn’t you do something called Jaws of Deaf?
Scott: I did! Huge lesson – think before you post it online, whatever “it” maybe, ha ha. It was a ballsy move to commit to releasing 10, five-track Eps – I didn’t consider how much of a huge task it would be, considering the way I write. I’m pretty prolific, but that was a lot of self-imposed pressure. Each song has gotta be interesting and I was self-producing them so they were never gonna be fucking mind-blowing in terms of production. A few weeks after releasing the 10th – I deleted everything. From my hard drive, from bandcamp. I can barely remember half of those songs – I was not in the best of places mentally during that period.
You deleted them?! Why?
Scott: I was struggling with my mental health, and got into my head the idea that if I deleted what I had created during that time, the shadow would fuck off and leave me alone. A rather odd thing to do, and a good sign of how self-destructive I had become. I did listen to them again recently thanks to my buddy Pete sending me the tracks. There’s some decent stuff in there, but the production lets it down in places.
Tell us all about your new project Strange Unit?
Scott: For the Strange Unit album that I put out in November last year, I went over to the UK and spent two days with Dave Draper wrangling those songs into shape, but the funny thing is, they were all demos that were supposed to be for the new Exit album. So there’s versions of those which are Exit versions, just two bass and drum versions, so they were all written with no guitars, Exit style. With Exit, all of the songs were written in the rehearsal room so no one brought a full song to the band. The only way we’d write stuff is we’d walk into the room, turn everything up as loud as possible, go for a cigarette, everyone start making noise. I mean, that sounds fucking stupid! Imagine it. Imagine three people in a room and someone just pulling a starters flag down… then it would just be like (Scott mimics a chaotic drum and bass noise), no notes, nothing. Then something would happen where someone would pick something out: ‘What did you play just then?’ That’s what we’d start working on for the next song. With the Strange Unit album, as I intended to play live to backing tracks, I added guitars and weird noises and kitchen-sinked the fuck out of it.
I guess it’s interesting working in different ways to what you usually do?
Scott: With Exit, because all of the songs are born out of chaos, I attempted to create songs by referencing what we had done previously. I also asked the lads who they were into band-wise at the time and tried to use those influences to create the sketches to some songs. It didn’t work for Exit as I’ve already mentioned – we have to be in a room together to write. The by-product was then, hang on I’ve got a decent bunch of songs here, so then I thought OK then, let’s try and make them sound, not make it more traditional – I just wanted to play guitar, so it was kind of an excuse to smash guitar down. I realised I’d kind of hit upon a particular style I suppose. It’s given me focus, whereas the Jaws of Deaf stuff was crazy all across the board, there was so many different styles within those songs, they were all over the place – never intended to be replicated by a band, so it’s kinda nice to work on something that has more of a focus, that will be performed live. Some of the new tunes I’m working on – I’m trying to keep myself on my toes so I’m trying not to write with guitars or bass. I’m writing with sequencing software on my phone, for example. You can sit down and write a riff… I’ve got tons of songs that are riff-led, so I’m wanting to see what happens if you do something wrong on purpose. I’m a contrary prick, I’m one of those people I can write a decent riff but would rather spend like twenty minutes rolling round on the floor plugging my phone into my amp and making weird noises, hoping that that gives me an idea for a song. It’s amazing having two mates of mine onboard now to turn it into a full live band experience.
Ha ha… ok, I’m laughing saying this as when I use this phrase my friend Martin pulls me up on it saying that I’m down with the kids. You’ve just dropped ‘Nail, Meet Hammer’, ha ha…
Scott: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… That’s what they says isn’t it? “Drop” your new single?
Ha ha ha, he’ll appreciate this. Yeah so you’ve just dropped the ‘Nail, Meet Hammer’ single and video. When we were messaging the week before you told me that when they played it on BBC Wales they didn’t notice the lines, ‘Sometimes you are the cock and sometimes you are the cunt.’ I’ve got to say neither did I and I’ve listened to it countless times.
Scott: Ha ha ha ha ha! It’s funny you say that as a couple of people said, ‘Yeah it sounds great, can’t understand a word you’re fucking saying’. That tells me that with my production, there’s room for improvement. The vocals were done so quick; they were pretty much the first take. My laptop fucking blew up so I was having to write stuff on my phone, then I got my laptop back and I was so excited to start recording again. It was started on a Monday morning, then I think by the Tuesday afternoon it was done and I was already thinking how to do a video for it. I think I’m getting better at lyrics but I’m more interested in the combination of vowel sounds and weird imagery – it’s like that’s more my kinda thing. I see lyrics and voice as another instrument but not the focal point in a song.
Can I just say because you’ve jogged my memory on something… I love, love, love lyrics, especially with Sparks…
Scott: Aha man!
With The Wildhearts and Sparks sometimes I love to listen with the lyrics in front of me. When I listen and read in unison the song takes on other dimensions. Like with Wildhearts songs, if I’ve been singing the wrong lyric for bloody years, which I often do…
Scott: Ha ha ha, I know what you mean.
… then go back to it and know the correct lyric, the song’s like brand new again.
Scott: Yeah I find that as well mate. What is it with Wildhearts lyrics being misheard? ’Cause it’s not as if what Ginger says is indecipherable; the vocals are very clean, so how do we mishear them? I’ve misheard loads of lyrics by him as well. I just love it, it cracks me up!
Yeah, I think it’s funny. I suppose when you mishear a lyric for the first time it’s then lodged in your brain.
Scott: Yeah that’s it, you’re right!
The track ‘Nail, Meet Hammer’ is one minute twenty seconds long – short but brutally sweet. I’ve noticed from your first band Midasuno then onto Exit and now into Strange Unit, things have got progressively heavier…
Scott: Ha ha ha ha ha!
… the stuff you’re doing now could be off ‘Dark Black’.
Scott: Yeah. This is like a bad analogy but I’m gonna say it anyway: start smoking cigarettes, oh, start smoking weed, oh, start taking coke, oh, on the smack…. oh, on the ice. My old man thinks it’s funny because he’s like, ‘You’re supposed to be hitting that age now where musically you’re supposed to start to chill out.’ He goes, ‘Why are you exponentially getting angrier and angrier, as you get on musically?’ I was like, ‘Yeah that does kind of… I didn’t think of it like that.’ How do you poke through the glass ceiling, if that makes sense? After ‘Dark Black’ being that extreme I suppose it kinda turned the volume down on everything else. I’m going to try and make more and more extreme music if I can – whether that be extreme pop or dance even.
Like I said earlier, CJ’s output is becoming heavier and angrier. Perhaps subconsciously or maybe consciously as the world is more fucked up than it’s ever been. I guess if you’re a writer that can only reflect in your subject matter. Even if you’ve got a contented life at home the shit going on outside has got to bleed into your music. Does it yours?
Scott: Yeah I think so. There’s me saying in one breath how I don’t care for my lyrics and don’t think much of ’em but there’s one of the B-sides to that EP where it’s directly in relation with COVID: ‘Reality has risen to my level of distress’. Basically what I was trying to get across was, you know if you were anxious and depressed pre-COVID, it seemed like when COVID happened everyone started getting freaked out. Then all of a sudden I thought, ‘Hang on, I feel normal now’ because the rest of the world seemed to go insane. Does that make sense?
I’m with you. I think you’ll find this interesting. Martin who pops up in my book in 2005 and features a lot and helped with the edit, has obviously gone over it several times. He doesn’t have an underlying mental health issue but he’s been working from home on his own what with COVID – I mean he’s a sociable guy, he’s normally fine but he hasn’t seen people or gone out properly in a while. Anyway we were doing a video call and he said he was seeing parallels with stuff I had said in my book regarding depression and me not going out. I don’t think he was depressed as such but certain ways of thinking that he’d never previously experienced I’ve mentioned in the book. I think you’re getting a lot of people who’ve never experienced anxiety and depression who are experiencing things they’ve never experienced before.
Scott: Getting a bit of a taste for it. You’re right mate, especially in these times – fuck man, it’s a weird one because there are people who you think it’s gonna exacerbate what they already have, but as you’ve just said if you’ve got someone with a potentially clean bill of health and in that respect is starting to feel like this, it’s just a fucking mad time.
We’re at the end of the main interview but there are a few fun questions to finish on. One from me, one from the legend that is Kerry Bowler and one from my lovely lady Kiki. This one from me might turn out less than funny, I’m not sure…
I know you love horror, so what’s your favourite horror flick?
I know… I saw you in one of your update videos recently wearing a Creep 2 t-shirt. They’re awesome films. I know it’s probably like choosing your favourite child but…
Scott: Man that’s so hard, that’s so hard. Aarghhhhh….
Scott: Ok. Right. Aarghhhhh, fuck it!
Ha ha ha, I feel your pain.
Scott: This is hard. I would probably have to say An American Werewolf In London is one of my favourite horror films just because it ticks all the boxes. I’m probably gonna have to stick Martyrs in there because that blew me away again the first time I saw it… annnnnnnd (Scott makes a noise that I can only describe as gargling with a mouth full of whisky and razorblades). You’ve got me now, we could be here all day. I’ll think and pick some more then message you. That’s kinda stumped me…
Ok then mate. I’ve always liked horrors but never really delved into the Japanese stuff etc. until Ginger started mentioning various horror films like: Martyrs, Inside and Switchblade Romance. When I was young my mum and dad used to watch all the horrors, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and all those sort of films. I must have been nine or ten when I used to watch them with my parents. They’re sensible, responsible people, but the shit I watched with them!
Scott: It was exactly the same as me; exactly the same as me man.
Actually I don’t remember having nightmares from them but I’m sure I did, however I remember having nightmares from Tales of The Unexpected. I watched one where there were body parts buried in the wall of this house or something. After watching the films I used to walk up the stairs and be petrified to go to bed and stuff like that.
Scott: Ha ha ha ha ha… ha ha ha ha ha!
Anyway I thought I’d mention that. Were those days different to be of that age watching shit like that? I supposed it’s worse now with the internet as kids can watch anything.
Scott: That’s it, yeah.
1. An American Werewolf In London – this always comes to mind. It has everything – Great SFX, tits, laughs…The juxtaposition of the final scene of the film jumping into The Marcels’ doo-wop cover of “Blue Moon” gets me every time. There’s a quote about that film – “Too frightening to be a comedy film and too humorous to be a horror film.” I think that is perfect. I live a similar mantra with the music I write.
2. Creep – The words “Found Footage” is enough to put most people off, having been done to death. This film I followed for a while before release and went to see it at a Horror Film Festival in Sheffield. It’s not out and out horror (you’ll see that theme running in some of my other choices) but the tension is there – similar to American Werewolf. Another film with a brutal ending. It’s a weird little film but I adore it.
3. Ex Drummer – This is also not out-and-out horror, but man – this is a horrifying film. There are shades of Requiem For A Dream to it. Three disabled gentlemen want to start a band, hire an able-bodied drummer (who cannot play) and well, it’s just a nasty piece of work. It was intended to be a black comedy – well in the vein of Man Bites Dog. The amazing soundtrack too. An absurd, dirty film.
4. Evil Dead – I’m throwing this out there – the remake Evil Dead (I love the originals though) is one of the most glorious mainstream horrors in the last 20 years. This was the director’s (Fede Alvarez) – he dropped the wackiness of the Bruce Campbell era and went hard in on the gore and horror. It was glorious.
5. Haute Tension/Switchblade Romance – Brutal, sexy modern slasher from the “New French Extremity/New Wave Of French Horror” school of European Horror. There’s a bunch of other films in the same vein (See – Martyrs, Trouble Every Day, Sheitan, Them/Ills, Frontier(s)) – quite sick, transgressive works of art. I love them, ha ha.
When Kerry sent me his question I mentioned he’d sent the same one to ask Devin Townsend when I interviewed Devin back in 2011.
Kerry: What did you learn from working and touring with Ginger?
Scott: Touring and working with Ginger has been a huge blessing. It has given me confidence and encouraged me to believe in myself, and be true to my convictions. Through Mutation I was standing on my own two feet and solving a lot of problems and whatnot of my own volition. He’s given me a lot more faith in myself and encouraged me to be confident in what I do, in my own weird ways. If it wasn’t for that experience, and pushing myself to my limits, I don’t know if I would have gone there myself. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity. He’s opened so many doors for me (especially with Exit_International), and I’ll always be in debt for that. I think we have more in common in our love of horror films than our musical tastes though, ha ha ha. But the bond of the extreme is what worked it’s magic on “Dark Black”.
What did Devin say?
Before the last question from Kiki I’m going to send you some photos to look at. When Exit_ International played Ginger’s Halloween Hootenanny it was billed as your last gig so I was trying to get everyone to wear frocks like you do on stage and in the Safety Dance video. I also messaged you asking if we could all get onstage for your last song and you said we could do it. Anyway when you were playing we were gonna do it but Dunc (stage manager) was at the front and we were thinking if he didn’t know he wouldn’t be best pleased, so we bottled it in the end. You said to me some time after we should’ve just done it – kinda gutted we never. Anyway can you see the pics?
Scott: Yeah, these are brilliant.
You see the one where I’m wearing the black and white polka dot frock in my hallway?
Scott: Yeah, ha ha ha!
I’ve noticed that you were wearing a similar polka dot one actually. I’ve got a funny story: obviously I don’t possess a dress so I went to the charity shop and tried that one on and another. I was having a right laugh with the ladies that worked there and asked which one I should go for out of the two I tried on. They choose that on – who was I to argue. I tried it on at home and thought to myself, ‘That’s too much, just too much’.
Scott: Ha ha ha ha ha.
So I took it back and went for the other one. Do you see Kerry and I have ‘E_I F.L.T. on our chests?
Scott: Yeah, amazing.
Can you see the one of Kerry in the queue at Sainsburys, ha ha ha ha?!
Scott: Yeah, that’s genius mate. Look at that with the snacks, he he he!
There’s some from the gig – I love the one with me and Glyn and Dave with the photobomb fingers behind. We had no idea he was doing that, ha ha! I should’ve worn the polka dot one as you were wearing one.
Scott: Oh yeah!
Right this is the one I want you to look at. Do you see the one with Kerry eating his food in the takeaway with his legs crossed like a lady?
Scott: Ha ha ha ha ha, nice one!
Ah man, I was in stitches!
Scott: That’s so good.
This was the year where it was two days, for the other day I went as a zombie runner. I was going into the loo and transferring cider into my running bottle then taking it out when I went for a fag, until they tagged on that is… so funny. You see the one outside Simply Eat, fresh food fast?
Scott: Yeah, ha ha ah ah ha! They’re amazing mate!
Ok, last question from Kiki…
Kiki: What’s your favourite type of bird and why?
After much pondering
Scott: I tell you what I’m gonna say, because they’ve had such a hard time lately – and they’re not a bird they’re a mammal – bats! They’ve had a lot of stick because of the old COVID thing and they’re beautiful creatures, so that’s what I’m gonna go for, Kiki. Thank you for the question!
Ahhh lovely, big up the bats! There ya go Kiki.
Upon informing Kiki of Scott’s answer she drew him a batboy…
So there we have it, Scott Lee Andrews: maker of extreme cathartic music of the uttermost quality and one of the nicest musicians I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing.
Get your Strange Unit fix here.
Check out Scott’s soundtrack for the Ballistic Kids book here:
This is a cracking read!
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