An interview with Scott Kennerly (bass)
By: Alex Steininger
With the release of a new EP, San Diego's pop-ska band Buck-O-Nine is gearing up for yet another tour. Taking some time to chat with bassist Scott Kennerly, we sat down and discussed their forthcoming full-length, the new EP, and touring plans.
Alex: What are you guys up to today?
Scott: Well, today is basically the first day of the tour. We drove up from San Diego, and it was pretty cool. This is our first time traveling in an RV, normally we travel in vans. Last night we got in around seven, kinda early, so we went to a KOA in Cascade Rocks or whatever, and stayed there. It was rad, because we got to go swimming, shower, and had a camp fire. That's the rad thing about the RV, you can go camping. In a van, you can't go camping. But with this RV, you're always camping.
Alex: How many does the RV sleep?
Scott: It sleeps five, and then one carpeted area on the floor that someone can sleep on. So, it sleeps six. We were thinking of going out and getting a pup-tent, one of those small ones that sleeps two, because these KOA's are rad. They're only $38, and you can't find a hotel for that. They had showers, you could swim, and they had an area where you could buy beer. It was sic I tell you. We're going to see if it works out, and hopefully try more camping along the tour. We're trying to do that a little more, because it turns the tour into a summer vacation. We got advice from a lot of people when we did the Warped Tour last year, so we're going to try and stay at camp grounds as much as we can on tour. We got this big camp book that has all the camp grounds from here to Canada. It's rad.
Alex: So, you're going to try and stay at camp grounds throughout the tour?
Scott: We'll see how it goes. This is our first time in an RV, so we have to see how everything goes. But yeah, we would like to do that more often.
Alex: Camping in New York, is there such a thing?
Scott: I don't know about in the city, but usually when you play New York you go across the river to New Jersey and stay there. You can't find parking or anything in New York. But camp grounds are everywhere, so I'm sure there is some in New Jersey. But this is the first day of the tour, and tomorrow we drive up to Vancouver and start our tour of Canada with the Suicide Machines. It's going to be cool. We did our third tour with the Suicide Machines about three or four years ago. It was their first tour, I believe, and it was before their CD even came out. This was back when SKANK FOR BRAINS was new. We became really good friends back then, and it was really cool. We're all a little bit older now, so we'll see what happens.
Alex: So you guys just put out a new EP. Do you want tell us about that?
Scott: We went into the old record with like eighteen songs, and we had a bunch of outtakes. Something had happened where there was a moving coming out called HOMEGROWN. It was an independent film about people growing pot, and they wanted to use "Pass The Dutchie" for the soundtrack. I don't know how it worked out, but we wanted to go back into the studio and re-do it like how we do it live. It wasn't totally different, but it had some different spots. The one we did on BARFLY was done in about an hour. It wasn't really how we did it, because before we recorded it we hadn't done it live or anything very much. We just went in and half-assed it. But now we've done it so many times live, we had a certain way of doing it. So we went into the studio and re-recorded it, and gave it to the people who were doing the soundtrack and said, "Here, if you want it, you can have it." They used it, so it got us thinking about doing an EP with the new version on it. We also decided to throw all the outtakes on it, because we did work hard on them. We were going to call it something else instead of "Pass The Dutchie." I think "Spare Parts" was one of the names we came up with, because they were kind of like the 'spare parts' of the album. But we ended up calling it 'Dutchie' instead. It's pretty cool, it has "Pass The Dutchie" and four other songs on it. "Fall Guy," "Split," "Dear Anna," and a totally different version of "Twenty-Eight Teeth" that has a huge intro, a bunch of pre-choruses, post-choruses, and extra verses. It's the epic version of "Twenty-Eight Teeth," so we call it the "Hot Party Mix." You know, in the old days when you'd get EP's they would have different versions of the same song and they'd label them as different mixes, so we thought it would be cool to call it the "Hot Party Mix." But it's a completely different sounding version. We wanted people to hear that, and experience the glory that is "Twenty-Eight Teeth." Wait...there's one more song on it called "Rock At Billy." It's kind of a rockabilly/swing song. It's not too rockabilly/swing, but it has a big swing horn line. We wrote that a long time ago, but we didn't want to put it on our last album, because then we'd look like a cheesy band trying to do swing, since all this swing stuff is breaking now, which we're not! It was just done for fun. We don't do swing. Swing's a whole new beast.
Alex: Do you like swing?
Scott: Personally, and remember this is Scott talking, No! I don't like swing, I think it's shit, and I can't fucking stand it. I like Royal Crown Revue, but that's it. For some reason, when I hear swing, it might as well be industrial music. It really bothers me. I don't know what it is, when I hear it I can't pinpoint it, but I have to turn it. It's a personal thing. Right now on the radio they're playing Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, bands that are just...I think it's like the way some people look at ska, like it all sounds the same. I don't know. It's just too fake for me. If you compared ska and swing together, ska can be merged with other types of music. Take the Suicide Machines or the Bosstones, for instance, when they merge punk and ska it feels so natural. It seems like it comes straight from the soul. Swing, however, seems so soul-less. It's like fluff to me. Just regurgitation of history. Some people have came up to me and tried to compare ska and swing, but you can't, they're two different things. Ska has soul, when it's done right. There are a lot of ska bands that play the music with soul, and don't do all those cheesy things. However, there are a lot of ska bands I know of that start up and do the cheesy ska stuff right from the beginning. But there isn't any swing stuff I can think of that has soul, maybe Royal Crown Revue. If I'm going to listen to swing, I'll put on a Frank Sinatra record. Nobody does it better than him. Remember, that's my personal opinion. I know a lot of the guys in this band love the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and have all their CD's. I just can't get over how fake it seems.
Alex: Personally, I love swing. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is great, and so is Royal Crown Revue. But, the thing about it is, you can't have a swing band get up on stage and play in T-shirt and jeans. The crowd just wouldn't accept them as being 'authentic' swing.
Scott: There you go. The crowd needs it to be fake. The crowd needs to be taken back into history. For some reason, I don't need to be taken back into history. I'm just not into it.
Alex: Tell us about the new album you guys are working on.
Scott: We just finished it. We're totally done with our end of the bargain. They did a mix of it, and went to get it mastered, but said the mastering was really bad. So they re-mastered it, and it was still really bad. So we think it was the mix, so they're hiring someone else to come in and mix it. See, the guy who originally mixed it was the same guy who produced it. He brought this guy named Phil out of Philadelphia in to help him mix it, and they were under heavy time constraints. They had to do two songs a day, which was not enough time for them to do it, considering they usually spend a day on one song. We were doing it because we wanted to get the album out in October, but I think now we're going to push the album back to February. It would have been ready for Christmas, but they have this thing about not putting records out around Christmas time. There is this whole two month time span when they don't put records out. Even in October, because the two weeks around when we wanted to put our album out, every big name artist is putting an album out. There are just too many things going on around that time, so we're not even sure it would be a good time to put something out. You want your album to get noticed by somebody. Hopefully in February it will be cooled off, and we can just relax until then. We'll probably do another tour in October, and some other things until then. Maybe another tour of Australia. They have some festival shows that start at the beginning of our winter, when their summer is starting, so we might do some of them. It's a really cool album though, I can't wait for it to come out. There are some great songs on it.
Alex: Care to give us a brief verbal rundown of the album?
Scott: There are going to be fourteen songs on the record. We have a song that we mixed two different ways, a reggae song, which is called "Swimming In Sand." We're going to put both versions on the album, because we think both versions are pretty cool. There are a couple of outtakes that we won't put on the album, one of them is a song about being pigeonholed as a ska band, which we were thinking of starting off the album with. We did a reggae version of it too. It has this light, bouncy 'fuck-you' feeling to it. You know, it just has this 'fuck-you' feeling to it. It's kind of funny. We got a bunch of other songs, I don't know. Basically thirteen different songs that we recorded. It's going to be cool. The album is called LIBIDO. We had it all pretty much done, but the mix threw a monkey wrench into it. We had the album work done, and had all the photo work done for it. They were just beginning to work on the designing of it. Now we'll just put it on the back burner for a couple of months and see what comes of it.
Alex: Did you have a first single picked out?
Scott: I don't think they had any singles picked out for it, they just talked to us about which songs they wanted to choose. But they had the singles picked out when the mix was bad, so when the mix changes, who knows? They might pick a different song or something. The mix is just a huge part of it, so maybe when everything gets mixed again, another song might sound better. As for what they had picked out, I think they picked out a song called, "Tell It Like It Was," which is a song that is based all on the downbeat. Kind of like [The Clash's] "London Calling" is all based on the downbeat. It's like that, but a bit looser than that. It's not as harsh. They were talking about that song and some others as being singles. There was another song called "Something Funny," which was all about the guitar and bass playing the same thing. The guitar took us up to a harmony note, and everything was based around this one relentless note. It wasn't ska, it was more like rock. It had a Police-ish kind of feel. Kind of like how like how the Police always sounded like they were reggae, but they weren't. We definitely stretched and broadened the sound of what we do. It was cool, because we just went in and wrote some songs, and didn't force ourselves to stretch our boundaries. But I think we definitely stretched ourselves, you have too. I think we stretched ourselves on every album, because if you don't, it just isn't interesting anymore.
Alex: Let's talk about future tours that may happen before the album is released.
Scott: We're going to go to Canada and have some fun, then come home and kick it for awhile, and then in October we'll do a normal-sized U.S. tour. All the summer tours will be over by then, so hopefully the heat will be off. You just can't compete with Warped. It will destroy all your shows. Alex: Anything else happen since our last interview in December?
Scott: We took some time off for the Holidays, and then we went out again and did a bunch of shows in little ski resort type places. Places like California and Colorado have lots of ski resorts, so we'd go up on weekends and play these snowboarding competitions. We were doing a lot of snowboarding ourselves around this time as well. Then we went to Idaho and Utah, and a bunch of little tours like that. Then we came home and started writing the new record, and our drummer quit. So we took some time off to find a new drummer, and then we got this guy named Robin. He was ripping during practices, but when he played live he couldn't remember anything. He has an attention-deficit disorder, so when he got on stage he'd forget everything. We took him to Australia, and it was pretty bad. We finally came to the conclusion we were going to have to kick him, and then he quit. He finished out the Australian tour, and then left. We had some very embarrassing nights, it was very rough. He'd start playing parts to different songs, or he'd write out the set lists and wouldn't make them the same. We'd all get so mixed up, it was just little things like that. It was very embarrassing, so hopefully Australia will let us go back there. Tonight though, we have Jeff from G-Spot. He's a good friend of mine, and he's filling in for us. Last Friday night we had a local show at the Belly Up, and he ripped it up. It was great. We have all the faith in the world in him, so he'll be with us for awhile. That's that. Most of the time was spent working and recording the new album. It takes a real long time for us to do records. We just can't go into a studio and bash out a record in a week like we used to. We do it differently now. Before we'd write them, tour with them for a year, and then go into the studio and know every move we were going to make. We have the luxury now of writing them and then going in and recording them. It takes longer though, because you have to go in and figure out your parts to the tracks. Even on the day you're supposed to record your bass tracks, you still have no clue what you're supposed to play, so you go in there and wing it. I love that though, going in with nothing, and creating it there. Knowing where the chords are and having a basic idea of what to do is good, but I'm at my best when I can just go in there and lay it all down.
Alex: Anything else happen?
Scott: I worked a bit on my side project, Plural. Jeff plays drums in that as well, and our roadie John plays guitar in it.
. Alex: What type of band is it?
Scott: It's like a pop band. One part will sound like old U2, and one part may sound like The Cure. It's just weird, 80's stuff. It's very cool.
Alex: Do you handle the vocals?
Scott: Yeah, I sing and play guitar. We write songs, and then I record them in my home studio. I have a computer where I can make CD's, and then we have a website. You can find the Plural website at http://www.plural.addr.com. That will take you there, and you can get MP3's and download songs. John Meeks also has his own solo stuff, and you can get his MP3's there too. If you like the stuff, you can order CD's from us. We sell them for three bucks on CD-R. I just make the CD-R and send them out to you. I just started it a week ago, actually. The web is great for that kind of stuff, I'm really getting into it. Meeks and I started our own record label called Nah Pescado Records. You can just go to the web page and check out all the material before you buy it.
Alex: Are you thinking about a Buck-O-Nine rarities album on Nah Pescado?
Scott: Yeah, I was thinking about putting up some alternate takes or stuff like that from the tapes I've got, because it just takes a few minutes to make MP3's. I've also got some Buck-O-Nine links on the Buck-O-Nine page I'm working on. It has a bunch of links and tells you what we're up to. Almost every member of the band has their own Buck-O-Nine page that has different things. Jonas has a page with tabs, Craig's has a lot of pictures and cool stuff, and then there is www.buck-o-nine.com. You can get to all of our pages from there. My page also has some links to places where people have bootlegged some MP3's and stuff. I'm totally cool with the world of MP3's. It's great. If you're into computers, you know what I'm talking about.
Alex: Is Nah Pescado primarily an MP3-based record label?
Scott: It's not like a real record label, but it's there to legitimize what we do. Otherwise, we end up making these tapes and giving them to friends who are like, "WOW! I love this stuff." We're even talking about doing a Jonas Kleiner solo album for Nah Pescado, because he has a lot of songs he writes on the side. The Plural album is an EP with six songs, but John Meeks' albums have ten songs each, and there are two of those. I mean, go to the site and check out the stuff. If you like them, send me three bucks a disc and I'll mail them to you. It's a lot better than sitting down at a listening station at some record store, and then paying ten to sixteen bucks for some disc.