Veteran San Diego based punk rockers Unwritten Law took a walk down memory lane last week joining former tour-mates Pennywise. By the Barricade caught up with lead singer Scott Russo before the band’s set at The Hollywood Palladium on March 9 to talk briefly about the Unwritten Law’s new album, Acoustic and tour life.
You are now into your U.S. tour with Fenix TX and will be on the road for a while. What are you most looking forward to?
Scott Russo: Laughing – the tour ending. I think it will be great fun on this tour with Fenix TX because we have known that band forever and we have had so many good times with those guys. I am looking forward to being with them. Adam, the bass player from Fenix TX, and I have partied so much and have had so many good times. It will be great to get to hang with Adam. I’m old and though it is always about the show, I have been doing this for so long and I truly like to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a bit in different cities.
The upcoming album, Acoustic will be coming out on Cyber Tracks. From what I have read it sounds like it has quite a lot of different elements musically. Will this tour incorporate some of these experiences for fans? What can they expect from your set?
Scott: We didn’t really prep for that and the record actually comes out half way through the tour; although you will be able to get it tonight and the other live shows. The record itself was meant to be just me and a guitar with a couple of guitar overdubs and a couple of vocal overdubs. Jim Perkins and I put out the record and are both producers and so when we got the songs and were done with the guitars we thought we would mess around with them and we ended up spending 2 years producing it. I’m not saying it’s over produced, but some songs are produced, some are stripped, some of the songs have bass, some have electronic drums, lots of midi, there are string arrangements in some songs. Again it’s not overproduced, to me it is perfect. It is stripped enough to be acoustic with me and the guitar, but there is ear candy around everything else.
There has already been a lot of press out there about the line-up changes that have come with the longevity of the band. What in particular makes your current line up gel?
Scott: It’s Wade (Youman) and I back together again that is where it all stems from, but this incarnation of Unwritten Law has my baby brother (Jonny Grill) who grew up with Unwritten Law, who was the bass player in my first bands and one of my band’s, Scott and Aimee and then he played bass for Civet and now it is like family. We have Wade, me, my brother and we have Chris Lewis who is the greatest and he has been a fan and a friend for about 20 years. Here is the difference, in this incarnation, everyone wants to be on the stage with each other whereas before no one ever wanted to fully be on stage with each other. Everyone wants to make this happen. Everyone wants to be on stage, everyone wants to be making this ship float and that is really what is up.
What are your biggest challenges as a band and what keeps you going in spite of difficulties?
Scott: With any kind of relationship, even when it is two people, it is hard to make things work. With the dynamics of three people and/or now four people, in a band aspect you run into emotions because people are human. Sometimes someone might do something you just don’t like, for example, they snore loud and you don’t like that and all of a sudden you don’t like them anymore but if you have to live in a tube with them for six weeks, people get on each other’s nerves. But we are all of age and we are seasoned, so we let most shit roll off our backs and it really takes a real big nail to drive something to a breaking point.
Scott: Yeah, fuck yeah I do! Here is a great story, the very first tour that we ever left California on was with Pennywise and Sprung Monkey for the Focus Tour for the Taylor Steele surf movie called, Focus. We were in a Florida and we as green as fuck. Our manager and then tour manager Rick Devoe was with us and after a show, we pulled our 18 passenger van into a 7-11 and Rick was driving. Fletcher (Dragge) is a big mother fucker and he comes over to the driver’s seat and tells Rick to get out of the car. We were all thinking, “What is going on?” Rick has no choice but to get out of the driver’s seat. Fletcher gets in, looks back and says, “Buckle up boys!” We just thought, “Oh, fuck!” All of us are in the car, all of gear is in the car and we have no idea what is going to happen. He proceeds to back out our van, hauls ass and does a couple of donuts. There is a house there that is under construction and they have some dirt mounds 2-3 feet high and he takes our tour van with all of us in it and jumps the van, launches this thing into the guy’s front lawn, it goes through a chain link fence that stretches and then snaps. It whips around and smashes out our back windows. All of the glass shoots forward. There is glass everywhere, we are on this person’s lawn and we are holding on for our lives. He continues to do a couple of donuts on the guy’s lawn, then takes off and drives us to our hotel. He parks the car and says, “Don’t worry, by tomorrow I will have a new van for you guys.” We are thinking, “Ok, we’d love to see this happen buddy without you paying for it.” The van is thrashed. It is scratched from the chain link fence, the back windows are smashed in. None of us are hurt. So, we watch him and after he gets the rental company’s number, he calls and says, “I’d like to report our van has been stolen. We are staying at this hotel and we need a new van delivered to us.” Sure as shit, they delivered a new van the next morning. I swear to God.
Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of By the Barricade?