Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Scott Devours, a drummer who calls Long Beach his home. Our conversation took place shortly before he left for Dublin to join rock and roll legends, The Who, for a sold out European tour. In Part 1 of our conversation, we spoke about his childhood in Maryland, leaving everything behind and coming to California, getting a taste of the big time with Speaker, and helping to foster the local music scene via an underground music hot spot called The Space.
At the end of Part 1, Scott’s hopes and dreams of stardom via Speaker had come crashing down.
Scott: I was so broken-hearted, but you want to remain positive. And the guy who produced the Speaker record, who’s now a really good friend of mine, his name is Rich Mouser, still one of my favorite producers to work with by far. Absolutely love him. He was producing a band called Oleander, and they’re out of Sacramento, and the best description I can give—Oleander was very much that post-Nirvana, post- grunge influenced guitar-heavy rock stuff. Very straight-ahead, unapologetic rock stuff. They even sounded like Nirvana; a Nirvana- inspired, Nirvana wannabe band.
Rich was producing them, and I guess something happened with their drummer. I guess it wasn’t working out in the studio. They were having problems getting the drum tracks down. And I think, personality-wise, they were clashing.
That was another absolutely poignant, pivotal moment in my life. My whole life I’d been like “I’m going to make it. I’m going to keep drumming until I make it. I’m never going to give up until I get where I want to be.” It was like a mantra that I just had to keep telling myself every minute of every day. “Never give up.”
And right then and there, Speaker fell apart, I got a job. The job went really, really well. I got a bunch of promotions. I started making more money than I’d ever made in my life. And right then and there, my dad and I spoke, and again, my dad was very practical. He never wanted to hear anything about music. He just wanted to hear that I was working. And I remember I was walking into the Lava Lounge. I’d just gotten a promotion and I’d just gotten the biggest pay check and I was so bitter about the band falling apart and I was on the phone with my dad.
I think, now, I knew that’s what he wanted to hear. I said the words. I’m almost embarrassed to say them, but I said for the first time, certainly the first time to my dad, I said, “You know what? Screw music. I’m going to take this job as far as I can. I can’t stand the disappointment anymore. I give up. I’ll always play music because I love it. I’m not going to make it my career anymore. I give up.” And my dad was stoked.
I hung up and I was about to walk into the Lava Lounge, I hung up my cell and it rings right then, and it’s Rich up at the Record Plant, recording Oleander, and he was like, “Can you come up? I think I’ve got a gig for you.” I knew they had a gold record, but I didn’t even know their music. I might have heard one song, but knew nothing about them. I knew the style of music they were but…
I look at this as a much deeper thing. The second that I let go of everything that I had held so close, so tightly to that dream of just making it, and for the first time ever, I just said screw it. I’m done. Fuck this. Literally, the second I said that to myself, the phone rang seconds later with the biggest opportunity of my life. And in sixty days, I was playing 20,000-seat arenas completely sold-out.
And that was such a pivotal thing for me. Like, “You know what? Maybe you ought to just let things go. You don’t have to cling to your version of what you want. Here’s the box I want my life to cram right in there. If it doesn’t cram in there, I’m not happy. I won’t stop until I get what I want.” Maybe you have to say, “I don’t even care about all of that,” to get what you want. That’s how that next level, that national touring level came. I don’t want to say it fell in my lap, but it seemingly fell in my lap.
Sander: Well, you had an established relationship with the producer, and he obviously recognized your talent and ability and professionalism in the time he worked with you. So, it wasn’t like an accident.
Scott: No, it was who you know, and it was a connections thing, and that’s all any industry really is. Most people get their jobs because…
Sander: My point, though, is that he probably had a big, long Rolodex of people that he could’ve called. He called you because he knew you were the pro.
Scott: I’d like to think so. Rich made me. He doesn’t want to hear this, but he made me the drummer that I am, whatever drummer I am. He made me that, because with the Speaker thing, when we started recording that record, the thing that I’m most proud of, he recognized very quickly that I thought too much.
I’ve heard earlier recordings now, and I’m like, “Ugh.” I just cannot stand the way that I played. I played very cerebral. I wanted it to be right and perfect. I’d think things out before I played them. And Rich, the first time we sat down with him, before we recorded the Speaker record, he whispered to the guys, and he didn’t tell me, I learned this later, “Your drummer’s really good when he doesn’t know that he’s playing, so we have to record when he doesn’t know he’s being recorded.” That’s all he said.
So, he set up a bunch of mics, and he’s just like, “We’re just going to rehearse.” And he recorded all the rehearsals. And a good portion of that Speaker record was him just hitting record, and never told me, because I just went for shit and didn’t think. And finally, once we mixed one song, he played it back with us in the studio, and the whole time I’m like, “But this isn’t the drum track that I want. This is a rehearsal. Listen to that mistake.”
Then, once he pulled up the band—which it was just a rough mix. It wasn’t a finished product—and he just looked at me and he was like, “You’re much better when you don’t think. Don’t think. Just play.” And that was just a life-changing moment for me in the way I drum. So, I’ve embodies that, every time I sit behind the kit. I just, okay, listen to whomever, Shave, what are they doing? Alright, go. Maybe it’s not going to be great, but you’ll get something real. You’ll get something original. Or at least I hope it’s original.
So that’s the bond we had. He made me realize you have something of worth when you don’t try to be something. Don’t try, just be what you are. And that was the moment where I play on recording and go, “Wow. Oh, wow. That’s even good. That’s not terrible.” You know, I’m no longer listening with that critical ear like, “That is wrong. It should be better or faster or whatever. And so that’s why I love recording with him because he gets me in that zone. He just blanks everything out and we just watch each other through the glass and he’ll be kind of groovin’ and I’m like. “Oh yeah, it’s fine. Don’t worry.” For the most part, everything I’ve heard, I’m like, “Hey man, sounds good, mistakes and all.”
So, fast-forward to the Oleander sessions, when he instantly, in my mind, I didn’t even have time to listen to them. I never heard a note. I went up to record the record and didn’t know what they sounded like, what they looked like, but I knew Rich was producing so I’m like, “Don’t think, just trust Rich.” And I walked in and recorded and then we were on a tour with some other ‘90s bands.
Sander: You did the Oleander thing for a while. How long did that go for?
Scott: I think we had a decent run. They never had mega-success. A lot of the bands from that time-frame around us shot through the roof, and they’re bands that anyone can have any opinion they want. Whatever, it doesn’t matter to me but Nickelback and Creed and all those bands; Oleander was in that framework. So, not to take anything away from that band at all. It wasn’t necessarily the music I was passionate about and some of those bands certainly aren’t my taste. So, it was this really difficult trade- off where I walked into that level of success I never even imagined.
I’m sitting behind the drum kit at my first gig, hitting the kick drum and watching the arena shake, and the audience roar was like cocaine. It was the greatest drug in the entire world. But I wasn’t necessarily playing music that every note of it I helped write and it meant something to me. It was more arduous for me to find things that I loved. It took a long time for me to sync into the material; “You know what, I really like this chorus, I like what he’s saying here, this lyric means something to me.”
Most of those songs were written without me, and again, not stylistically where I come from. It was a really weird—It was a good lesson. Like I got the biggest success of my life, made the most money I ever made, sent a gold record to my mom and my dad with their names on it. It felt great. That little moment felt fantastic, and to play for those big audiences. I got to cut my teeth. Those were the formative years, like “Oh, there’s people up in that section and there are people behind the stage.” You learn to perform, you know? People are there to watch you. It’s not just you’re just playing to these faces that you see. That was a huge, huge experience, a formative experience. I learned how to play to a bigger crowd, and had a lot of fun doing it.
They had two gold records, soundtrack success, a couple of top-ten rock hits, but never any enormous success. Still, to this day, if I say I was in Oleander, I think maybe only once or twice someone will say, “Oh, yeah I know that band.” In Texas and Sacramento they were huge. I’d come home and no one would even know anything I’d talk about. They don’t know the band, they don’t care, whatever.
So that was the trade-off; best success you’ve ever had but it also isn’t the most artistically gratifying. No disrespect to Oleander at all. They had their thing. And they’re still out there doing it. Just released another record right now. But then, after that, their career, obviously like any career, waned a little bit. Sales dropped off, tours got smaller, and I just couldn’t afford to support myself on it anymore. And I still had The Space and was doing shows there every now and then.
Then a band called IMA Robot came along. And that was a whole other weird experience. Not many people know that band either. It started out as guys from Beck’s band, earlier in his career. I want to say like Odelay, and stuff like that. I was a huge Beck fan. Not everything he did, but a lot of the Mellow stuff, Midnight Vultures and Sea Change I thought were just incredible records, and I thought the musicianship was impeccable, so I knew those musicians, at least their work. I knew them all. I didn’t know them personally but Joey Waronker is one of the greatest drummers in the world, to me. Justin Meldal-Johnsen; they played with everybody, as well as Beck.
This was while Oleander was on hiatus so, of course, I’m back to the drawing board, not making any money, don’t have much going on, and needing somebody to play with me, something new. That was another really strange moment. I remember my career being at such a shitty moment.
My mom, who’s a big supporter, a very supportive person, she talked to me. “You know, honey, your cousin that you’ve never met, he’s in a band, and they’re called The Robots.” My mom’s giving me career advice. “Thanks, mom.” And I remember getting on the phone and rolling my eyes. Mom is trying to get me a gig. That’s how shitty my career is right now, from back east. A cousin of mine is in a band. “Maybe you could play with him.” “Thanks, Mom.” Her heart was in the right place, but it was, “Oh, my God, I’ve got to get my career going.”
I went to the Detroit Bar and one of the guys from Felding – I forget which guy – he was out on the patio, and I overheard, I didn’t mean to spy on his conversation, he was like, “Well, since Joey doesn’t want to do IMA Robot anymore, I don’t know what they’re going to do without Joey.” And it just caught my attention. I’m like, “Joey who?” He’s like “Joey Waronker. He’s the drummer from IMA Robot.” I’m like, “The guy from Beck?” He’s like, “Yeah, all the side guys, that’s their band. The side guys from Beck, IMA Robot, that’s their band. You don’t know that?”
Instantly, I thought of my mom saying, “You need to join The Robots.” I’m like, “My mom was right!” And instantly, I’m like, “There’s a cousin of mine that I’ve never met that’s in a band with my heroes. So right then and there, I drive straight from the Detroit Bar, go straight to the music store, Fingerprints, buy IMA Robot, look on the back, and I see Joey Waronker, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, my heroes. I’m like, “This is IMA Robot. This is the band my mom was talking about. One of these guys is my cousin!”
I went home and listened to it, and it blew my mind because, instantly, it was nothing I had ever played. I mean, I came from the eighties, actually played in the eighties electronic drums and stuff, loved Devo. And they sounded like Buzcocks; Devo to me. They’ve got this punk thing. And the singer had a mullet, which at the time, I’m like, “He’d dared to rock a mullet? I’ve gotta meet these guys.” And my heroes are the band, and the added mystic that someone I’m related to is in a band with my heroes. This has to happen.
So I listen to the CD and I’m like, “Holy crap.” It was the most challenging drumming I’ve ever played. Didn’t even know if I could play it. It was like two o’clock in the morning. I’m shredding through the liner notes and see “Managed by Mike Barzman, Los Angeles, California.” And I just picked up my phone and I’m like, “Los Angeles, California, Barzman, Mike.”
I called three or four different numbers. I called at three in the morning. I didn’t think twice. I was just like, “I gotta get an audition before it’s too late, before they get another drummer.” Because I’d just heard the night before they’re auditioning. I can’t wait. All these strange Mike Barzman’s, wake ‘em up. “Hello?” “Do you happen to manage IMA Robot?” “No!” Click. I did this over and over until finally I got some guy. He’s like, “What?” “You don’t happen to manage IMA Robot, do you?” He’s like, “Who is this?” I’m like, “Do you? You’re the manager, right?” He’s like, “Yeah, I do.” I’m like, “Don’t hang up. Don’t hang up. I’m a drummer.” He’s like, “Oh, God. The auditions are already planned, they’re already filled.” I’m like, “You just gotta give me a shot. I’ll take whatever you’ve got.” I begged and pleaded for anything they could give me. I was like, “Look, I’m not some loon. I’ve got a couple gold records, I’m a professional drummer, just give me an audition.” He said, “There’s nothing available.” I said, “What time does it start tomorrow?” He said, “Ten.” I said, “Give me nine.” He said, “You can have nine. I don’t even know if the guys…” “Give me nine. I’ll be there at nine.” He said, “Alright, you’re on at nine. Don’t ever call me this late again.”
I had to study all night long. Get up there at like 9 AM, go in there, played the three or four songs that they wanted to play. Really hard. Joey’s sitting right there. J&J is right there. These are my heroes. I was so nervous. Played. Didn’t’ know if it went well. I left. That was it. Then days later I got the call. “Hey, you did great.” Joey called me. My hero called me. He said, “You got the gig.”
So we went up and rehearsed, finished the first rehearsal. Joey was there, all of the Beck guys in that band were there, or a couple. And then we finished the rehearsal and everyone’s packing up and right then and there, I look around and I’m like, “Well, it can’t be him. No, it’s not…It’s not the singer, no way.” And I turned to my left and the guy named Tim looks at me, the guitarist, he goes, “Are we related?” And I was in a band with someone I was related to. We had never even spoken to each other. That was such an odd thing to me, to be like—I actually got in the band and were rehearsing and then we turned to each other, and we’re like, “Your mother is related to my mother. My dad and your brother…” you know. A lot of people at that time were like, “Well, you got the gig because he’s your cousin. “ I’m like, “No, he didn’t know I was. I wish I could’ve used that.”
Sander: Does your mom take credit for it, though?
Scott: I had to eat so much crow to call her. “You were right.” She’s like, “I told you. Don’t ever doubt me again.” I’m like, “I know. I know Aghgh.” My mom got me a gig. It was so embarrassing.
Sander: Tell me about being in that band. What was that like?
Scott: That was my first real experience with being in a band that — it’s a little tongue in cheek to say it now, so far removed — but they were the cool band. They were the band playing all the cool events. They’d just got off tour with White Stripes and Jane’s Addiction and I don’t know, a couple other bands. What else? The Yayaya’s.
I just came from the Oleander thing, and I’m just being honest. They’ll admit this, too — the least cool band in the world. Nickelback: not a cool band. Creed: not a cool band. They’re in that category. And here I am in IMA Robot and they’re playing the Vans Warped tour and that makes them a cool band. But at the time when I came in, they were an incredibly edgy band. They would sell out the Honda, Henry Fonda, and the fans were super-avid fans, you know.
The level of chaotic energy with the singer, especially, and the band would just go nuts on stage. It was the most heavy-duty performance I had ever witnessed, certainly from behind the drums. I’m like, “Holy crap.” The singer reminded me, not vocally, but the antics of Jim Morrison, David Bowie, the voice of David Bowie, and all the great punk rock front men. You just never knew what this guy was going to do. Whether he was going to punch you or fall over the drums or kick someone in the audience. Every night was just something crazy, and I absolutely loved it.
It was the most growth for me, musically, to jump into Joey’s shoes. That was the most difficult, by far. And also the cool fact that it was very difficult for me to feel like I’m not cool, you know? To me, cool, you have to believe you’re cool, and I’ve never been cool and I never will be. So, they had this cool factor, and I could see them looking at me like, “Is he going to be cool enough to play with us?” And you could see on my face, like, “Yeah, maybe not.” But I tried.
Sander: What happened after that.
Scott: They hit their peak, and we got to do some world tours, too. We got to play with the Beastie Boys in Japan, some really, really awesome gigs. Toured with The Sounds. I thought that was really fun. Junior Senior, one of my favorite bands of that timeframe. It was smaller touring. It wasn’t the big arenas most of the time. We opened for Duran Duran at the Staples Center, and that was awesome. We toured with them a lot. So there were moments of like success. Did some TV shows, and stuff, but again, it never…
Just to put it in perspective, Oleander probably sold twenty times what they sold, but their fan base was ten times more avid and crazy about the band. The shows were way more intense. The fan hysteria was off the chart sometimes. We’d walk off stage sometimes and you’d be like “Holy crap, what did I just see?” But it never took off. I don’t think it was really much of a huge money maker. I think they signed a pretty lucrative publishing deal, but all that’s recuperable. It’s not like they could retire on that band.
The singer went on to Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. That band did really well like a year ago, or something. Had a couple of big hits. And I got to run into him on the road, which was really, really great.
So IMA Robot kind of started waning a little bit, as far as keeping me busy, keeping the band members on tour. They never stopped recording. That’s the one thing I’ll give that band over any band I’ve ever worked for. They were the most prolific guys ever. The singer could probably write three or four songs a day, if you’d let him. Finally, you’d have to try to get him to work on one. [He was] constantly writing.
I found that really inspiring. That restless creativity was super- educational for me. It really inspired me. Just always do it, no matter where it goes, no matter if you have a reason to do it, just creating propels itself. It becomes like exercise. It’s a muscle you just constantly have to use, and you never know what you’re going to get, if you just keep doing it. And I loved that. That’s never changed since playing with them.
But that waned and then, of course, I’m still at The Space, still doing whatever shows they were doing there, and that was starting to come to a close. I think we were just done. It ended up that most of the key players, except for Brett, my friend Brett, had kind of pulled from The Space, so the weight was more on me than anybody else, and it was time. The lease was going to be up, and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m not doing this again. Four years at the other place and six years at this place was more time than I’ve spent on anything. More than all the bands. It’s time to go. Then the last party we did, we got raided by the Alcohol and Beverage Commission.
Sander: You got cited?
Scott: Cited. Right. We had to come up with ten grand, or something, to fight it. And that was a big wake-up call. We were already set to say we’re not going to do this anymore. We didn’t advertise it as our last event. We were just like, “Let’s just have another one because we want the memory, our friends, those were always really enjoyable to see all those bands in that small place, small location. And then when that happened it was like, “I’m done. I don’t know how we’re going to come up with ten thousand dollars or whatever.” And plus the criminal stuff. I didn’t want a criminal record.
And low-and-behold, all the positive energy that came from that place. I don’t remember who came up with the idea, maybe [Justin] Hectus might have been the one — wanted to put on a benefit at The Blue Cafe, a legitimate venue that had a liquor license and stuff, have some of The Space bands play, and charge a cover, a legal cover, and they were going to donate the cover for legal fees. And I brought in almost exactly what was needed that I was short. I’m not going to say the door brought in ten grand, but I think I might have been short $5,000, or whatever. Magically, people just donated a bunch of money at the door and, at the end of the night, paid for my…
It was such an honor, because my last memory would’ve been what a shitty way for that place to go down. I got stabbed in the heart. Not that we didn’t deserve it. We were always, you know, skating close to the edge of legality. We were underground, without a doubt. But to have all those musicians donate all their time and energy and got me out of the hole I was in, and eventually an attorney got me off of the charges and I just paid a bunch of money and I was Scott free.
Then I got a call to play at The Dub [aka the Auld Dubliner in Downtown Long Beach], a silly little cover gig with one of the guys who used to live at The Space, Bill Lanham. He had played with Joe Walsh, and the guy that he played with sometimes, his name’s Frank Simes. He played with Roger Daltrey and also Mick Jagger, maybe a couple other people, Steve Nicks. I knew it was a pedigree. I’m like, “Wow, he’s played with some people I can’t even imagine playing with.
Bill called me and said, “Hey, man, I got a cover gig at The Dub,” which I knew he did but I’ve never felt very good about playing covers because I don’t know my Zeppelin. I don’t know a lot of classic stuff. I know what I know, but… And I always felt like I don’t want to play covers. I don’t want to get into that vicious cycle that’s all I play. So I had my artistic hand up, like, “Oh, I don’t know if I can do it,” you know? And Bill’s like, “Come on, man. It’s a hundred bucks. It’s fun. They’ll feed you. Play for some people and have fun.” It’s like, “What is it again?” He’s like, “It’s me and Frank, you know, the guy who played with Daltrey.” I said, “I’ll get back to you, and hung up. And I was like, “The guy who played with Roger Daltry is asking me to play with him and I’m heming and hawing about it? What do I have to do? Sit at home and watch TV? Sweep at The Space? Of course, I’ll play with him! Why would I not play with him?” So I called him and said, “Yeah, it would be stupid to not play it,” and he’s like, “Yeah, come on. Frank’s a great guitarist. You need to play with him.” I’m like, “Yeah, he’s great.” So, they sent me a set list, and it was Stones and Beatles and Floyd and all the typical stuff. I didn’t know most of it.
At the bottom it had two Who songs: one was My Generation. One was Bargain. And all I remember was looking like, “Oh, shit! Bargain. That’s a tough one.” I’m like, “What if they call that song? I’m not going to fuck up Keith Moon with the guy who plays with Roger. You know what? I’m going to hit that one out of the park.” I didn’t listen to anything else. All I did was study Bargain. I never told Bill that. I was, “I’ll just wing all the other songs. I’ll even admit I don’t know Zeppelin very well, you know. Rock and Roll, that’s all I know, which is sacrilegious, as a drummer, but that’s all I did was listen to Bargain. I studied the hell out of that thing, and I played it and played it and played it. I’m like, “I want to kill that song.”
I went to The Dub. We play everything on that list, but never touch a Who song. We did well. It’s a cover gig. Who cares? Everyone was clapping and the lights came on and we took our little bow. We got a tiny, little ovation from the tiny, little Dub crowd, and Christy, the manager, was like, “You can play one more.” And he asked the crowd, “What do you want to hear?” And someone said, “Play a Who song.” And I remember Frank going, “Yeah, let’s do Bargain.” And he leans back to me and he’s like, “You sure you can do it?”
Me and my little ego, I must’ve smiled and said, “Let’s go for it, man. I’ll give it my best.” He had no idea that I was like, “Fuck, yeah!” But you don’t want to say that because you look like a dick. Like, “I can do it in my sleep.” You don’t want to be that guy. It’s only the most difficult Keith Moon EVER. So, I just kind of winked. I’m like, “Let’s go for it. If I screw up, whatever. We’ll do it.”
We played it. I just dove off the high dive, and played my ass off. Didn’t give a shit how loud it was. It’s Keith Moon, screw it. It’s a loud club to begin with, tiny. Get to the end. Big standing ovation from the little crowd and then they turn the lights on and I start tearing down my kit and I just remember so clearly, Frank came over to me and was like, “That was awesome. That was exactly what I wanted to hear out of that song. That’s the best Keith Moon I’ve ever played with, right there. You know what? I’m going to get you an audition with Roger.”
I’m like, “Oh man, you saying that is just such a huge compliment.” He’s like, “No, I’m really going to get you an audition with Roger.” And I’m like, “Thanks, man. You made my night.” He’s like, “You don’t believe me, do you?” I’m like, “No, no, no, it’s not that. I just don’t want to get my hopes up. Just you even saying that you thought it was good…” He’s like, “Agh, you’re going to get a call, trust me. You’re going to get a call.” He tears down his stuff, I tear down mine and that’s it. We went home. I’m like, “Yes, I did it.” I never thought twice, for a second, that there was any truth to what he was saying.
About two months later, a Thursday afternoon, my phone rings, and Frank is saying, “Alright, your audition is Monday at 10 AM. Be at Center Stage…” I’m like, “What?” “I told you you were going to get an audition. You didn’t believe me but I’m calling you like I said I was. Here are the songs.” He gave me like seventeen songs. He’s like, “Bring a bassist.” So I was like, “What the fuck?”
Sander: How long did you have between the phone call and the audition?
Scott: Probably no less than a week or two. I’d say probably at least a week.
Sander: Well, seventeen songs in a week is a lot.
Scott: Especially Who songs! One Who song in two weeks is a lot. But yeah, he just gave me a whole long list of stuff, said bring a bassist, and he even gave me a little inside information. He said, “You know, Roger wouldn’t admit it, but the truth is looks are a part of the gig, you know, like, so whoever you pick, take that into consideration, that you want to look good together. Don’t just pick some slob who doesn’t give a shit, because you’re playing with him. You’re a group. You’re probably going to give a mutual impression.”
So I was like, “Okay, well, who do I know—I know a lot of bassists. Who is phenomenal and who looks the part and who do I get along with, who will rehearse it with me a million times and I can annoy to death?” And I thought of [Dave] Beste from Wonderlove, who I’ve played with a couple of times. Brilliant musician. And he was into it, too.
We just locked ourselves into Jay Buchanan’s storage space and just played and played and played and played. We played the live version, we played the studio version, which ended up being all the wrong versions. No offense to Frank, but he’d given us the wrong versions. So I listened to Baba O’Riley 350,000 times, and it was wrong. And you know, Baba O’Riley is all sequenced, so you’re playing with all those sequenced track, which go up and down, whatever.
So, that Monday comes, and I drive up super-early, because I’m that anal guy, and I get there two hours early, pull the drums out, make sure everything is absolutely perfect. Dave calls me. He’s like, “Yeah, I’m on my way.” He’s all, “You know Roger’s not going to be there, Roger’s not coming from England. He’s going to audition with the final, you know, whoever’s got the top people. Don’t get your hopes up.” I’m like, “Bro, I’m outside the rehearsal space, and it sounds like he’s in there.” He’s like, “Dude, I’m telling you, don’t get your hopes up.” “Alright.”
We go in there and set up. While I’m setting up, Beste comes in. There’s no sign of Rog.” So, I’m like, “Guess I was wrong.” And then once my drums are up and I’m ready to play, in walks this short little guy with his New Balance shoes on, he’s all comfy and curly hair and his blue glasses. He’s like, “Hey. I’m Roger.” Instantly, I’m like, “I know exactly who you are. Yes, Mr. Daltrey,” whatever, and I’m trying not to be nervous but…
He’s a legend. To me, he’s one of the greatest front men ever. So I tried not to psyche myself out at all. And I could see Dave is like, “Holy shit. He is here. Fuck!” Oh, and right before we loaded in, Frank came out and said, “Hey, the live version I sent you was wrong. It’s not what we’re doing today.” And I’m like, “Dude.” So instantly Beste and I sit in the car and listen to the studio version. I’m like, “Alright, it’s minus two beats here plus three beats there, plus two beats, minus two beats,” and we try to memorize, like, “Do exactly what we did but here it’s different. Shit.”
But even worse than that, we go in there to play and they hook up in-ears so I could play to Baba O’Riley, the sequencer thing. So they put it in my crappy little in-ears, they were like iPhone buds. They start it and they’re like, right before they play it, and everyone there, including Roger and Frank’s real nice about it. He’s like, “Look, it’s a really long song. It complicated. There’s all sorts of cues you’ve never heard. You don’t know where to start and when to stop. You’re not going to get it the first time. Don’t stress out. If you don’t get it the first time, we’ll try again.” And I’m like, “Okay.”
So I’m freaked that I’m not going to get it. They start Baba O’Riley, and I hear it in my mix and I’m like, “Okay.” And we go to start right when the drums go gunkadunkadunka doo, my in-ears cut out. And it keeps coming in and cutting out, coming in and cutting out, and it’s out most of the time. So I’m playing to the sound of it in the room. And I’m like, “I’m screwed. I can’t even hear what I’m playing to.” So we get to the end. Baba O’Riley, at the end, has a violin solo and it gets faster and faster and faster, and I just guessed where to stop and it was exactly right. And everyone, including Rog, turned around and went like, “You got it!” Just as shocked as Beste and I were. “You got it.” It was just like throwing a dart board in the dark.
After that, I think Roger played Bargain, and then we had fifteen other Who songs [to choose from]. Well, he plays a Johnny Cash song and he and I start playing Johnny Cash together. And he’s like, “Alright, I’m done.” He puts the guitar down and just started reading the paper, and I was just like, “I’m so broken hearted. He doesn’t even want to play anymore? That’s not a good sign.” In my mind, if it was going great, you just want to keep going. So, he’s like, “Yeah, that’s all I need to hear.”
The guy to the right was British also. I remember, when we were doing the audition, I really didn’t want to be that guy who was just starring at Roger the whole time to make him feel that I was obsessing over the fact — You don’t want to make him feel conspicuous. You don’t stare at one guy in the band, you communicate with all of them, right? So my mantra was “Don’t focus on him too much.”
I remember leaning over to play and I’d see Rog and then I’d look over to the right and the guitarist to my right, the other British guy, who’s named Simon, was coming up to me and really playing off me and he looked super-excited, so I was like great, I’ll play off him. That’s easy. Boom! We started absolutely having a blast together. He was like, “Yeah.” Then at the end when Roger was like, “Yeah, I’m done,” and I’m tearing down my kit I was just like, “Oh, man.” I was just so bummed. Clearly, it wasn’t as spectacular as I wanted it to be.
So I’m tearing down, thinking the worst, and then there were three days of auditions. Frank calls me at the end of the first day, and he’s like, “Okay, you did good, but there are a lot more drummers. There’s like 50- some-odd drummers.” He named some of the other drummers. They’re all the greatest drummers in the world. I know them. They’re my heroes. I’m like, “I don’t have a fucking prayer.” I knew the next guy. I know his pedigree and I know who he plays with and I know how he plays. I was like, “I can’t hold a candle to these guys.”
Frank was nice. He was like, “Hey, you did great. Roger liked you. He liked your look. You’re still in consideration.” Well, let’s hope everybody sucks tomorrow, and the next day. And he’s like, “Oh, by the way, Simon Townshend really thought you were great.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Simon Townshend.” I’m like, “Townshend. Not Pete.” He’s like, “No Simon, his brother.” I’m like, where was he?” He’s like, “He was the guitarist, you dummy.” “That’s Pete’s brother?” He was like, “Yeah, he was the guy playing guitar. He plays with Roger.” I’m like, “I know Simon Townshend. I have his solo album. I love Simon.” He’s like, “He’s the guy who loves you. You guys were really getting along great.”
I’m like, “Thank God you didn’t tell me that because I would’ve been all ‘Well, don’t play off him too much. He’s Pete’s brother.’” I would’ve been nervous about focusing too much on him. So I had this luxury of being completely stupid. Not of being like totally unaware of anything. After the second day, Frank called me and said, “You’re still in consideration. There are other drummers who did great but you’re still in the running.” I’m like, “Okay.”
Then the third day came, and I had a church gig. Not my favorite gigs. One of those mega-church gigs. It’s kind of tough playing The Who with Roger then playing the church gig. No offense to church gigs, but it was really tough. Played the church gig, coming home from silly church gig, and I’m on the freeway and I’m like, “No call today.”
The phone rings and it’s Frank. Frank is like, “Alright, so I just want to let you know you did great. Blah blah blah.” And to the best of my knowledge he just started talking about, “Well, you know, he’s thinking about doing this and that. And he might do the Ellen Degeneres Show and he might do the Tonight Show,” and he went on for like a good thirty minutes.
I’m on the freeway and I’m like, “Frank! Frank! Frank, sorry for interrupting you, but what are you saying? Are you saying I got the gig?” He’s like, “Yeah, dummy. What do you think I’m talking about? You’re the drummer for Roger Daltrey.” And I’m like, “Aghgh!” He literally had to beat me over the head. It didn’t sink in. I pulled over to the side of the freeway and I was like, “I got it.” And that was the game-changer.
In Part 3, Scott speaks about getting up to speed with Roger Daltry, and getting the sad news that Zak Starkey, drummer for 8 years with The Who, was suffering from such severe tendonitis that he could no longer perform.
Click play to listen to this interview, or download the file.
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