Since breaking onto the scene in the mid-'90s, and bolstered by the hit “Bound for the Floor,” Chicago post-grunge two-piece LOCAL H have been relentless in touring and bringing the rock. Their most recent release, Hallelujah! I’m a Bum, dropped late last year to excellent reviews. Raised by crunching guitar work and the brutal howl of singer Scott Lucas, it’s the type of stuff tailor-made for the road, like tonight’s scheduled gig at Brighton Music Hall.
Except that show ain’t happening.
Name-checking Morrissey and Animal Collective, who have also had to cancel or reschedule dates recently, the band put out a lengthy statement online last week which included a disturbing tale that followed a date in Moscow late last month where Lucas was assaulted and robbed.
“The attacker came up from behind and put me in a chokehold until I passed out,” it read. “When I came to, I was in a stairwell with all of my pockets empty. No phone, no wallet, no cash, and (worst of all) no passport. Nothing. Even my hat and glasses were gone. It wasn't until I found someone to ask for help that I realized something else was gone -- my voice. When I opened my mouth to ask that person to call me a taxi, nothing but a scratchy croak would come out. I touched my throat and could feel that more damage had been done than I initially thought.”
Upon returning to the States, and realizing that rest wasn’t healing like Lucas expected it to, he hit up a voice doctor after a SXSW show by his mellower collective, Scott Lucas and the Married Men. Damage to one of his vocal cords required that it be popped back into place, which just sounds gross. A handful of dates were shelved at first, and then everything up until March 30 was nixed.
I’ve known Lucas for quite a while now, and one thing I’m positive of is the guy does not like to miss shows. He’s played sick, injured through shit weather, so this situation had to be ridiculously serious to warrant these cancellations. Dude just had a vocal cord popped back in, so calling him up wasn’t going to work; we ended up going back and forth through e-mail this weekend and I got the skinny on the extent of the injury, the nightmare of getting home from another country with no money or passport and if there will be a rematch with Mother Russia.
MC: Where is your head at right now - just bummed out, hopeful, pissed off?
Lucas: I feel helpless. And I don't like it. I've lost my voice before -- but I've always been able to work through it. This is something different. And bummed, too, I guess. I don't fucking cancel shows, and to have to do that just sucks. I can do this -- it's just gonna be a bit harder than usual.
MC: Do you think you were targeted, or was this just a random mugging?
Lucas: Targeted? No. But that guy definitely saw me coming.
MC: How were officials over there -- did they seem overly concerned or was it a sense of, "Oh well, just another tourist who wasn't paying attention."
Lucas: There was a bit of that. And I couldn't really get mad about it -- because, in a way, they were right. It was kinda funny, actually. This one guy at the embassy just shook his head and said, "My friend. This is not Florida. This is not Texas. This is MOSCOW! You have to be careful." I was like, "Great advice -- now that I don't have anything left to steal. Can I get a new passport now?"
MC: I know you had a hassle and a half getting back -- what hoops did you have to jump through with no passport to get back?
Lucas: Had to go to the embassy first to get a new passport. Since I didn't have a visa, they suggested I go to the police station and fill out a police report. We went to the station -- which was just a shack, really -- and the door guy was packing an Uzi. Kinda freaked me out. They weren't too keen about filling out a police report -- they were like, “It's gonna be more trouble than it's worth and you're not gonna get your shit back anyway.” I didn't care. I just wanted to get on the plane. So, finally they agreed to make out a police report that said I wasn't mugged and that I just LOST my passport. Their words were, "It wouldn't be good for Russia and it wouldn't be good for you."
Cryptic, yeah. But again -- I didn't care as long as it got me on the plane. So, cut to the next day and a flight attendant is holding the flight for me and running me through the airport to get to the gate -- it was real Argo shit. We get stopped at passport control -- who, as far as I'm concerned, other than the mugger, are the only real cocksuckers in this story -- and they stop us because I don't have a visa. The promoter of the show tries to explain to them what happened and we show them the police report. But they didn't care and put me in a room for a couple of hours. At this point, my flight was long gone. Fucking heartbreaking. So, finally they give me back my passport and tell me everything's fine and that I could've gone all along. They knew everything was in order but they wouldn't take any responsibility. It was too late anyway and I was left with a useless ticket. So we went to the head of Polish airlines -- who was awesome. He spoke every language fluently and was super smooth. He was like a Christoph Waltz character. He took pity on me and got me another flight for the next day. It had a 12 hour layover in Warsaw -- but I wasn't going to complain. Yeah -- it was definitely a pain in the ass.
MC: What exactly is involved in "popping" a vocal cord back into place?
Lucas: I'm not sure I wanna find out. One of the doctors I saw was concerned that one of my vocal cords might have been out of joint. But we're not so sure that's the case, anymore. It looks like we can avoid surgery.
MC: Your singing style with Local H is well documented -- lots of high register screaming -- is there a real fear that you won't be able to do that anymore?
Lucas: There is. We'll see. I may be entering the Tom Waits phase of my singing career. I could do worse.
MC: What exactly is the latest medically -- have you gotten the second opinion?
Lucas: They've got me on steroids now and we're working on bringing the swelling down; just trying to accelerate the healing.
MC: Absolute worst case scenario, do you have to indefinitely shelve Local H and focus on the less vocally taxing Married Men project?
Lucas: That's a worst case scenario? Come on. The Married Men aren't THAT bad! But yeah, that's when I first realized how much trouble I was in -- when I went to SXSW with the Married Men a couple of weeks ago. I knew my voice was weak -- so I put together a set for the Married Men with songs that feature vocals in a lower register. Something that I knew I could get through. And that worked out fine. But when I tried the same thing with an acoustic set of Local H songs at the festival -- I realized I was fucked. I just couldn't do it. And this was just an acoustic set. Having that range -- that whisper to a scream thing -- that's what I love about both bands, really -- the ability to do both. But where I could get away with a limited range in a Married Men set -- there's really no way I could do that with Local H. It's just too physical. What could I do? Sing everything an octave lower? I wouldn't sit through that. Why should I expect that of anyone else?
MC: You mentioned Morrissey in the statement, given his recent ailments and cancellations, do you think he should just come to grips with the fact that this whole vegetarian things isn't working and he needs to eat better?
Lucas: What are you talking about? Meat is murder. Haven't you been paying attention? We'll all be eating soylent green soon enough -- so you might as well enjoy your delicious vegetables while you still can.
MC: I know this a bit like asking Mrs. Lincoln how the rest of the play was, but how was Russia other than this bullshit?
Lucas: Great. Met some wonderful people. Red Square was amazing. Taught some Russians some knock-knock jokes -- I don't think I've ever laughed so hard.
MC: After the mugging you didn't have to wait in any lines for bread and cheese did you?
Lucas: I didn't have any money. I would've waited in line for anything.
MC: Do you think, as a country, they're still pissed about how they basically lost the Cold War because of Red Dawn and Rocky IV?
Lucas: WE should be pissed. Those movies suck. To have ourselves represented by a shitty Rocky movie?!? I'll take Tarkovsky any day. You know... it's not like Red Dawn is a classic -- but at least John Milius was behind it. And that dude is awesome AND batshit crazy. He wrote Apocalypse Now, directed Conan, AND was the inspiration behind John Goodman's character in The Big Lebowski. Plus -- Red Dawn was the first PG-13 movie, although I suppose that's a dubious honor.
MC: Finally, the question on everyone's mind: Russia v. Scott Lucas...will there be a rematch?
Lucas: Sure. Why not? How many people get to go to Russia -- much less PLAY there? Obviously, I wish this hadn't happened. But it's not Russia's fault that I wasn't watching my back as closely as I should have. It's great to be able to play music for people who don't even speak the same language as you. It makes the world smaller -- and that's always a good thing.
No make up date for tonight's Brighton Music Hall show has been announced. Refunds are available at point of purchase.