In September last year, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Scott Evans from Kowloon Walled City before their excellent set at the Camden Underworld. The band had arrived late so while I was interviewing Scott he was restringing and tuning his guitar, but this did not distract him from the interview as we talked about the tour with Minsk, the band’s album Grievances, the differences between Europe and the US and balancing the day job with the band.
Jack: How are you doing?
Scott Evans (Vocals/Guitars): Great, tired, but great.
Jack: How’s the tour been going so far?
Scott: It’s interesting I guess as the day to day have been up and down in certain ways, we’ve had the usual set backs and some problems. But overall we’re all ecstatic as to how the tour has gone. Great shows, we’ve seen so many cities we’ve never seen before and without fail have gotten extremely warm welcomes in every place we’ve gone.
Jack: Has any show stood out?
Scott: Amplifest, which was a big fest in Porto, and we played to a packed 800 or 1000 person room. That was pretty wild and it was a great show. We played in Barcelona in a youth centre. The guy hit us up and said “I see you’ve got a hole in your schedule and do you want to do a show?” and we were like “yeah sure.” It was fucking great, it was sold out. We’ve had lots of great shows and they’ve stood out for different reasons.
Jack: What’s it been like touring with Minsk?
Scott: It’s been totally 100% painless. They are great guys, experienced, touring pros and there are no lunatics or divas in their band and we all got a long from the minute we met at the airport and three weeks later we are still… You know often by the end of a tour you’re pretty much done. But nah, we’re still getting along great and it’s been fantastic and it’s great as we get to watch them every night.
Jack: Were you a fan of theirs before the tour?
Scott Evans: Yeah, I actually know them because we actually recorded some of Tim’s vocals on their newest record. I have a recording studio in Oakland California.
Jack: Is that your day job?
Scott: No but it’s sort of my second job. And Sanford Parker was recording their record and they ran out of time to do vocals and he said “I know this guy” and that’s how I met Tim.
Jack: When did you first discover Minsk’s music?
Scott: I don’t know really. I’ve known about them for years and they’ve been a band for 14 years I think. I can’t even remember which record of theirs I first heard, I don’t have a good answer for that honestly.
Jack: I read that this is your first time in the UK, what has taken you so long to get you over here?
Scott: I think it’s a few things. One is that we all have jobs and families and that makes it hard to find time. You need a large block of time to make it worthwhile, you need about three weeks as plane tickets are so expensive and all that and that’s a big block of time for us so that’s one thing. The other thing is that we don’t know much about anything about booking. We book our own shows in the US, but we don’t know much about anything about booking in Europe, so you need a booking agent to book for you. To do that you need to get to a point where a booking agent and promoters will be interested in your band and I think that’s taken a long time for us. It’s not to say we couldn’t have done some DIY tours earlier but I don’t know for whatever reason it’s been…. we don’t tour much and it’s always seen as a huge challenge to tour over here.
Jack: Some of friends have put stuff on hold to come see you tonight. One has left their kids with the grandparents and another has cancelled another gig to see you. How does this make you feel?
Scott: I’ve done that plenty of times for other bands and often bands that mean a lot to me but not many people know about but for whatever reason they resonated with me. So I totally get that and I think that it’s surprising and super cool that for someone it’s our band. But I totally have done and still do that for other bands. So I get it and it’s extremely flattering and super cool.
Jack: The Camden Underworld is a legendary venue whether for bigger bands wanting to do a small show or for up and coming bands. What do you think of the venue?
Scott: It’s fantastic, it’s amazing. We were at immigration at Calais and the guy was looking at us and he was like “you’re obviously a band right?” And we were like “yeah we are.” Then he was like “Oh you’re playing the Underworld. I’ve been there before, I saw Motorhead there in 1975.” We were all just like, “what?” [Laughs]. So it’s super cool.
Jack: Opening the show are two of my favourite UK bands, Bossk and Wren, do you know these band’s music?
Scott: Yes, definitely. I know a lot of people who like Bossk a lot and I’m super excited to see them. I had not heard of Wren I do not think before the show.
Jack: They’re quite a new band.
Scott: But I did listen to show stuff before the show and it’s a great line up.
Jack: Do you always check out bands before the show?
Scott: Yeah I do. I typically do. I still like listening to music actually which is maybe unusual.
Jack: I’ve noticed a lot of big tours have a local opener to give younger bands a chance, is this something you value?
Scott: I mean the majority of out of town shows that we do there’s always locals. It was very surprising on this tour for us to play a number of shows, well most of the shows, where it was just our two bands so it’s just what I’m used to. When they’re good it’s great. When they’re not good, it’s a good story. [Laughs]
Jack: As a band from San Francisco, what are the main differences between Europe and the US?
Scott: With regards to?
Jack: A lot of American bands I’ve interviewed said the drives in the US are much longer and harsher. When I interviewed Will from Karma to Burn he said “Touring the US can be very taxing as the drives are insane and the booking agents get a map and play darts with it.”
Scott: [Laughs]. On the West Coast of the US the drives are very long for sure, on the East Coast they are not. Philadelphia is very close to New York, which is close to Richmond, Virginia which is close to Albany. So the difference for me is not the drives and the truth is we’ve had miserable drives on this tour. Yesterday we drove 13 hours, we’ve done a number of overnight drives you know, 12 to 14 hour overnights drives, over 900 kilometres, that kind of thing. So that has been difficult or tiring or trying or something. I’ll go with tiring. But the main difference is and I think everyone in a band says this but if you play shows in the US you’re on your own. There’s not going to be any food waiting for you, there’s not going to be any place for you to stay. Bands regularly say “hey does anyone have a place for us to stay?” from the stage. But we’ve heard about that from everyone in a band forever but what everyone says about touring in Europe is true, we were treated very humanly and it’s great.
Jack: A lot of bands I know from the UK say they find touring in Europe is great, there’s a free place to stay, free food, petrol money. Have you found that to be the case?
Scott: I mean it’s definitely the case. I think there are a number of venues throughout Europe that have…
Jack: Accommodation attached to the venue?
Scott: Yes and the government provides arts funding to help pay for bands or whatever and in the US doesn’t happen apart from Jazz venues. For some reason Jazz is something that needs to be preserved in the US but not rock music.
Jack: San Francisco is very famous to metal fans due to the thrash metal scene that was set up in the 80s. What’s the scene like in San Francisco now?
Scott: San Francisco has gotten very very expensive in the last five years and a lot of musicians have left and have moved to Los Angeles. People who are staying in the Bay Area have moved to Oakland. So most of the bands I’d point at now that are worth listening to are from Oakland, and there are tons of good bands in Oakland. There are good noise rock bands, there’s lots of good punk bands; Oakland has a really good, vibrant, rad, punk scene. Metal wise, yeah as a matter of fact there are a bunch of death metal and thrash metal bands that are great such as Deathgrave, Ghoul and Brain Oil for crusty punk. There is lots and lots of good extreme music of all different kinds happening there right now and lots of good venues.
Jack: Your latest album Grievances came out last year. Are you happy with the response?
Scott: I don’t really think in those terms. I’m happy with the record we made, we put a lot of work into it and the response has been great which is really nice absolutely. It’s not the terms I think about typically, the terms we tend to think about are “did we make a good record?” if that makes sense?
Jack: Yeah it does.
Scott: Because we’re most concerned I think about making ourselves happy. When we finished that record, I personally wasn’t sure what we had made. I was so close to it and we put so much into it, so it took six or eight months for me to put it on a few times to say “oh this came out alright.”
Jack: When I was listening to it on the train I got a feeling that it was a personal album for you.
Scott: Very much.
Jack: Was it a personally recording process in a way.
Scott: Well I record all our records so any recording is very personal, but the writing of the record is very personal too. There’s lots of songs that are about family and friends and the realities of getting older compared to what you maybe thought when you were young. I’m not a very good story teller so it works better for me to write songs based on my experiences or friends experiences.
Jack: Is that the theme to the album, family?
Scott: I don’t know if albums have to have a theme. I think the underlying theme that we all were sort of thinking about was more about work; and the power that employers and jobs and careers have over people. I think that was the overarching theme if there was to be one. But the details to that and how I laid it out, were based on experiences I had seen in friends and families.
Jack: Is it hard to balance the band and the day job?
Scott: I mean, it’s not hard like being a single parent is hard or surviving a difficult trauma is hard. It’s not hard like that, yes it is a challenge, as you get older I think your time gets more valuable and if you’re trying to make music that you’re proud of it’s a substantial amount of work and the same goes for touring and playing shows out of town. So it is challenging but we have an agreement within the band that it is worth doing and there’s not a lot of discussion about that. There are shows and tours we have to turn down, but that’s life.
Jack: What’s it been like working with Neurot?
Scott: It’s great, absolutely great. They are fantastic people, everyone who works in and around the Neurosis camp they say what they mean and mean what they say. Steve Von Til and the other guys have been in bands their whole life so they get it and they’re not trying to pull a bunch of bull shit on you and doesn’t involve speaking in code words. It’s been great, we have nothing but good things to say.
Jack: You’ve played a bunch of shows with Neurosis, was that with Sleep as well?
Scott: No we did a few shows with Sleep as well and we did three shows with Neurosis. Maybe two shows at New Years. Why do I feel like it was three shows? It was three shows, one was in Los Angeles and two were in San Francisco.
Jack: Sleep and Neurosis have had a huge impact on your music but a lot of music, how did it feel to be able to support these influences bands?
Scott: Oh I mean, how would you feel?
Scott: Yeah I mean, I think literally before we went on at a few of these shows we looked at each other and went “oh fuck. This is wild!” It was great though.
Jack: Grievances came out last year. When can we see a new album?
Scott: We’ve talked about it a bit and done a little work but we had a line up change. Jeff Fagundes our original drummer is no longer in the band and we now have Dan Sneddon drumming for us. We had another drummer briefly in between and that…
Jack: Slowed it down a bit?
Scott: Exactly. But John and I have been talking a lot about it on this tour and we’re really ready to dig in and start writing. I don’t know what that means. I never know if we’re going to do another record or not.
Jack: What are your plans after the tour?
Scott: I’m going to sleep a lot, hang out with my kids. I’m going to go back to work. We’re playing a few shows with Neurosis in November. We’re playing with Helms Lee in October and I think we have another couple of shows that we’re working on. I have a lot of couple of recording sessions coming up, back to the same old shit.
Jack: What is your day job if you don’t mind me asking?
Scott: I’m a programmer. I’m a software developer.
Jack: Finally, as it says on your Facebook you’re influenced by Dio era Sabbath. What is the best Dio era Sabbath album?
Scott: [Laughs] The best Dio era Sabbath album is Vol 4.
Jack: Thank you for your time and have a good show.
Scott: Thank you for being interested it’s a big deal to us. I hope you’re not disappointed.