If you thought that the re-emergence of influential underground rock unit Scratch Acid also meant that David Yow was returning to music full time, think again.
"No, I'm not," the legendary lead vocalist tells Exclaim! "I've been focusing more on visual art and acting. I kinda figure that, after this Scratch Acid thing, there'll be the occasional collaboration but, as far as being in a full-time band, I really doubt I'll ever do that again."
When Yow and his mates in the Jesus Lizard reunited for a tour in 2009 after ten years apart, their shows reminded fans how sorely missed their thunderous, demented rock really is. Prior to the Jesus Lizard, though, Yow and bassist David Wm. Sims spent most of the 1980s in a mighty, Texas-based outfit called Scratch Acid, a sinister force that earned comparisons to the Birthday Party and were a huge influence on Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, among others.
In 2006, Scratch Acid, rounded out by drummer Rey Washam and guitarist Brett Bradford, were invited to reconvene for a concert in Chicago, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their last record label, Touch and Go. The band's first show in 19 years inspired a short tour of the U.S. and then Scratch Acid seemed to be gone again for good.
But when Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum was asked to curate part of All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, UK this December (which has subsequently been postponed to March 9 to 11, due to unforeseen circumstances), he invited Scratch Acid to appear once again. The band agreed and set up a surprising North American warm-up tour, which brings them to Canada for dates in Toronto and Montreal this month.
"Well, once we had talked about doing ATP, the idea was brought up about 'What about doing an actual tour,'" Yow explains. "And y'know, David and I did the Jesus Lizard tour a couple of years ago and really, really had a good time. It was a blast. And we got paid very well. So, it seemed like, if we can do the Scratch Acid thing and if it'll be as much fun, that'll be great. So, the idea is, 'Let's get together a bunch of old guys doing young guy music and have a lot of fun and see how much they pay us.'"
Between Scratch Acid and the Jesus Lizard, Yow has been in at least two significant, noisy, edgy bands that have reunited after much time apart. Why there's so much demand for his defunct bands is a mystery to Yow.
"At least with the Jesus Lizard, there was probably a fair number of people who had seen us and maybe wanted to see us again. With the Scratch Acid thing, I'm not really sure what the deal is because I think that there will be a pretty fair percentage of people at the shows who were in diapers when we broke up. So, I'm not sure. Maybe it's curiosity or word of mouth? Apparently there's not much interest overseas. We're doing two shows in England but nothing else on the continent. Which is kind of disappointing but I kinda don't care."
Scratch Acid are one of many punk-infused bands who came to define the '80s and '90s and have been swept up in a wave of appreciation and reassessment these days. From Pixies, Pavement and Archers of Loaf, to Jawbox and Polvo, subversive artists are playing bigger, sold-out rooms on more lucrative tours than they ever could have demanded towards the end of their original runs together. As Yow points out, it's not simply nostalgia, as some fans were far too young to have caught these artists back in the day. Instead, it's a weird offshoot of our information age where puritanical music fans seem capable of willing old bands to come back to life, so they can witness history firsthand, for themselves.
"I remember, not long ago," Yow recalls, "my girlfriend and I were watching TV and one of the guys from Mötley Crüe or something like that said -- and this is verbatim, and goes a long way to explaining why kids these days are listening to whatever. This blond guy said, 'Green Day single-handedly brought punk back into the mainstream.' And I fell out of my chair. I was like, 'What the fuck? None of that is true. None of that makes any sense whatsoever.' That's so fucked up. So what these people consider punk rock is a commodity and now younger people are interested in where it all came from."
When the Jesus Lizard called it a day in 1999, Yow all but disappeared from music, briefly emerging to front the bizarre trio Qui in 2006. Although he's revisited the two bands he's best known for, fans should not expect anything new from the Jesus Lizard or Scratch Acid.
"There's no such thing as a rare or new Scratch Acid song," Yow laughs. "There haven't been any discussions [about new stuff]. I think that would be pretty much impossible to do, largely because I'm in Los Angeles, David's in New York, and Rey and Brett are in Texas. And the kind of music that we did, if we were to continue in that vein, all four of you have to be in the same room. I suppose we could completely change the style and send MP3s back and forth and figure it out that way but, I just think that's impossible."
What about the Jesus Lizard?
"Same thing. And also, I personally just have no desire to do that. There's some beautiful girls that I've been boyfriend-girlfriend with before but, I don't really wanna go fuck them again either."
Below, you can see all Scratch Acid's upcoming reunion shows, and at the bottom of the page, you can listen to the entire interview with Yow.
11/4 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
11/5 Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer
11/7 New York, NY - Webster Hall
11/9 Boston, MA - Paradise
11/10 Montreal, QC - Il Motore
11/11 Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace
11/12 Chicago, IL - Cabaret Metro
11/13 Louisville, KY - Cropped Out Festival
12/8 Dallas, TX - Trees
12/9 Houston, TX - Fitzgerald's
12/10 Austin, TX - Emo's East
12/13 Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre
12/14 San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
12/16 Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
12/17 Seattle, WA - Neuomos
3/9-11 Minehead, UK - All Tomorrow's Parties
David Yow on Scratch Acid's Reunion Shows, The Jesus Lizard, and More by vish khanna