„We had friends who played the Hair Metal stuff”

Incubus: Scot Latour, Moyses Howard and Francis Howard

Interview with Incubus bassist/vocalist Scot Latour – Part I

I can’t write any introduction because it isn’t necessary at this point. Incubus bassist/vocalist Scot Latour told everything about beginnings of his musical career, first days of his band and Incubus’ Serpent Temptation record.

On February 1986, the Howard brothers Moyses and Francis formed Incubus and they put you on vocals. How did it happen exactly? Were you their first choice or did they audition other bass players, too?

I was playing in a metal cover band called Fallen Angel when I met the Howard Brothers. The New Orleans metal scene was fairly small, so I had seen their band, and knew of them (though I can not recall their name at the time). They approached me after one of the shows that my band had played, and said that they were looking for a new bass player, and were interested in me. I had been looking to do originals instead of covers anyway, so we set up a tryout/jam session. It was Francis, Moyses, and a singer named Brian Jeffrey. We were in a small room at the Howard’s apartment. We decided on some covers that we all knew so that we could break the ice. When we jammed Flight of Icarus by Iron Maiden, the room came alive, and we all knew that we had something. The chemistry was undeniable.

We played a mixture of covers and originals for several months, including some studio work, before making the transition to all originals. Shortly after that transition, Francis and Moyses asked me if I would be interested in doing vocals. Brian’s voice was great, but not quite what we were looking for with the new material that was being written. I reluctantly agreed, and we broke the news to Brian. The rest as they say is history.

They moved from Rio de Janeiro to New Orleans a couple of years earlier, do they?

Yes, they did it when they were in elementary school, I’m not sure exactly what year. Of course I did not meet them until 1986.

You are a New Orleans born bass player; what were your influences to become bassist?

I come from a musical family. My father was a jazz trumpet player, and both of my older brothers are musicians, so my interest in music started at an early age. I started playing drums and learning to read music in the 4th grade. I played drums and percussion, in school and in small garage bands (playing stuff like Styx and Journey), through 10th grade, when my interest started leaning towards heavy metal and more guitar-oriented music.

Some friends of mine were starting a band, they already had a singer, two drummers, and three guitar players, what they needed was a bass player, so I bought a bass, and joined the band. We were called „Neves”, which is „seven” spelled backwards, because there were seven of us in the band. I learned bass really quickly, and wanted to start playing gigs, so I started trying out for bands that were actively playing gigs.

What about your musical past? Is it true that you have been playing also in the same Heavy Metal bands under different names with the Howard brothers for a few years before the birth of Incubus? Can you tell us more about it?

Well, I kind of touched on my past with my answers to the previous questions, so it’s a good segue. Speaking strictly from a bass-playing standpoint, my early influences were Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, and Jaco Pastorius. As stated earlier, me and the Howards did play together in another band prior to Incubus forming. We went through several names. Excalibur, Sabre, and Martyrdom are the ones that I can remember, before we settled on Death Metal and the name Incubus.

With Brian as the singer, we did covers and originals, though we tried to do covers that not many bands did. I mean, back then, everyone was doing „Breaking the Law”, and „The Trooper”. We took it a step further and did more obscure covers, like „The Trees” by Rush, and „Zero the Hero” by Black Sabbath. We always tried to separate ourselves from other bands, and what other bands were doing.

What about the New Orleans scene at this point? Were you familiar with bands such as Exhorder, Nuclear Crucifixion, Acid Bath, Shell Shock etc.?

The New Orleans scene was, and still is, very small. Most all of the metal musicians knew one another, and tried to help each other out as much as possible. There was an underground metal scene, and the Hair Metal band scene that was popular at the clubs and with the ladies. It was a very tight-knit group of musicians, no matter whether you played Hair Metal or underground metal. We looked out for each other. We had friends who played the Hair Metal stuff, and they even let us open for them, to help us work on our live performances.

We were very familiar with those bands that you mentioned. We opened for Shell Shock, when we first got into the underground scene, and played with both Acid Bath and Nuclear Crucifixion. As for us and Exhorder, arguably two of the biggest metal acts in New Orleans at the time, we never got to play together. They have re-united this year as well, and I am still friends with those guys, so it still could happen.

Did these bands put New Orleans on the map of the metal scene? What would you say about the 80’s New Orleans metal scene, compared to the 80’s New York, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Texas or Chicago one?

I think that all of the bands helped to establish the New Orleans metal scene and sound. There were some great musicians, working very hard, and making some original sounding music. There are several things that happened to put New Orleans on the map, besides some killer musicians. There were some of the hardcore bands that were signed (Shell Shock, Disappointed Parents), before the crossover scene started happening.

Of course, you can’t mention the New Orleans scene without mentioning Phil Anselmo. He, as most people know, got his start with Hair Metal bands, he got recruited by Pantera, and moved to Texas. He still stayed involved in the New Orleans metal scene and helped bands a lot by trading tapes with people that he met. Incubus was the first of the death/thrash metal bands to get signed out of New Orleans. Exhorder, Graveyard Rodeo, Crowbar, Soilent Green, and many others would follow. I don’t think that there was much of a difference between music scenes outside of New Orleans, although, I do not think that any scene as small as New Orleans produced such a great number of quality bands and musicians.

How much were you involved in the underground? I mean, were you often hanging at clubs, did you take part in the tapetrading and stuff?

I was very much involved in the underground scene. I traded tapes, and went to as many shows as I could. I have seen myself in the crowd in some old videos of metal shows, you may have seen me and not realized who it was. I love metal, and have always supported the scene.

What were the venues in New Orleans that opened their doors for metal? Did you have a healthy club scene?

As for clubs, not really. Most of the clubs, either didn’t think that we could bring in the money that the Hair Metal bands did, or that the crowds were too raucous and would tear the place up. Most underground metal bands rented halls to play in. The V.F.W. (Veteran’s of Foreign Wars) Hall on Franklin Avenue in New Orleans became infamous for hosting some of the greatest metal bands of the era. It was an empty hall, so it was all ages, and there was very little to break or damage, so it was perfect for hardcore and metal shows that lent themselves to having large slam dancing pits.

How about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers?

We started off by just practicing in the Howard’s spare bedroom in their apartment. But then, due to the noise, we had to rent a mini-storage garage and would practice in the evenings before it got too late. We eventually got a practice room above an indoor shooting range, and we were free to practice any time of the day or night.

When I first joined the band with Francis and Moyses we did a mixture of covers and originals, and eventually went to doing all originals. The problem back then was that it was very difficult to get a gig playing only original material, most club owners wanted you to play at least some covers. Not to mention that you had to have enough material to be able to play for at least an hour. Covers are, and were, a great way to build your chops, because you’re playing someone else’s style, so it all worked out for the best.

In May ’87, you recorded your first demo, entitled „Supernatural Death”. How were that songs penned? I mean, who was responsible for the music and for the lyrics?

Correct. We did that recording in May of 1987. Francis wrote all of the music, and we all pitched in on the lyrics. I wrote some lyrics by myself, Francis and Moyses wrote some together, and we all three wrote them on some songs. Of course, Moyses and I wrote our own drum and bass parts, but the main music of the songs were all written by Francis.

Do you still remember how was the demo recorded?

Well, Stonee’s Studio was in a toolshed, that was in the owner’s backyard, that he converted into a studio. Nothing high-tech at all. He advertised in the paper, and it was affordable so we did it. It was an 8-track studio, which was plenty for us, because we practically did the whole thing live anyway. I did a scratch vocal, and Francis over-dubbed the guitar solos. That’s about it. Most of the tracks were occupied by drums. We all had prior studio experience, so we were in and out of there in two days.

Can you tell us more about the tape?

I think that I covered everything that I remember about it. We recorded 10 songs total. Of those we made two different demo tapes. We had a 10-song tape that we traded and sold at shows. We also made a 4-song tape that we shopped to A&R people at record labels, of course this is back in the day of press kits.

Was it originally a four track demo or a six track one? I ask, because demo recordings of „Death”, „Hell’s Fire”, „Caraleptic”, „Rigor Mortis”, „Blind Vengeance” and „Assault” were also done, but never properly released. Why did you never spread these tunes?

I guess I jumped ahead a bit with my answers, but I can perhaps shed more light on why we did it. Basically, we put what we felt were our four strongest songs on the 4-song demo tape. That’s marketing 101, really. You have to catch the attention of the listener right away or you lose them, and it just did not make sense to shop a 10-song demo in those days. It’s not that we didn’t spread the 10-song tape (we probably made more copies of that one), it just seems that the 4-song tape spread further and faster for whatever reason. And not so coincidently, most of the 6 other songs never made it past that demo tape. Again, because we kept what we thought were the four strongest songs, and eventually just wrote better songs, and dropped the others, even from our live sets. If you listen real good, you will find a riff or two that shows up from one of those songs on a song from one of the later albums.

Who designed the logo of the band and the cover of the demo?

If I remember correctly Moyses drew the original logo, and the Supernatural Death cover. He, Francis, and their brother, Reginaldo, are all excellent artists.

The demo was spread thru the underground Death Metal scene. Did it open any doors for the band? Did it help to expand the band’s popularity in the underground?

Yes, I think it certainly helped. Even now, with the internet, it is very difficult to spread the word about a band without physically touring. The tape trading circles were a way for lots of bands to get a following and open up doors for them, whether it be for gigs or just as a fan base to use as a selling point for any record label that might be interested.

What kind of reviews did you get on the demo?

I personally have never seen or heard any formal review of the demo. I have had people tell me everything from „it was great and ground-breaking”, to „it was good for what it was at the time”, which I think are all fair statements. It’s very hard to be objective about your own material, so any feedback that I get is welcomed and accepted.

What about the live activities at this point? How often did you play live?

I’m guessing that you mean, at the point of the demo release. At that point we had played at least 10 shows as Incubus. We had played shows prior to me being the singer, as well. So, 10 is a rough guess, it could have been a bit more, but it was at least ten, I’m fairly sure of that. And, of course, with other bands and/or line-ups, we had all played shows before. We were not new to the concept of live performance.

In my collection is a bootleg that was recorded 8/28/1987 at the VFW Hall in New Orleans. Do you still recall this particular gig? Was it your first show what you have ever played?

Ah, yes. The day after my 19th birthday. I remember the gig, and have the recording myself. It was a very hot August night in the hall. It was our 3rd or 4th headlining show. Flagrantz and Seventh opened for us. Good times indeed.

(to be continued)

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