Band Spotlight: Exit_International

In our next band spotlight, we chat to the delightful Scott Lee Andrews of Exit_International (and Jaws of Deaf) about moving about, new music, plans and other cool shit. It’s all good.

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S] All right, man! How’s your day?

SLA] Hey buddy! All good my friend – How’s yours? I know you are asking me but, ya know? I’m interested too! Thank you for this chance chat. I like interviews. I can complain, but I’m pretty sure some people have had a worse day than me, so I can’t really complain. But I could, but I wont.

S] What’ve you been up to?

I’ve been living in Australia since November 2015 with my wife. Living in the upside-down…No….The land down under….That’s the one. I started the Jaws of Deaf project up as soon as I landed – My Visa stipulated that I couldn’t work for three months, which in hindsight I should have just made the most of, but daftly opened a can of worms for myself. That happens when you post something online. No going back then; release 10 5-track EPs in 12 months.

My in-laws kindly made some room in the shed and I set up shop,  9.00am-5.00pm. I was, and still am, learning the ropes production-wise. I don’t believe in tutorials or being told what to do. Also, I wasted my BSc (Hons) Degree in Music Tech trying to learn this back in ’00-’03. The (sound) quality is not incredible, but it’s getting there. I did a few shows supporting Funeral For A Friend, and the odd solo show which were great and weird. I was using the laptop to trigger the backing tracks, and struggled to get soundmen (there were no ladies…) on my side. But the JoD project was making me just enough money to live off.

I then got myself a ‘proper’ job, as the semi-hobbyist/unprofessional musician would say. I initially thought – I want to make a living from doing what I love, and I have the chance now. I did try to get some music teaching jobs, session work, but I’m unqualified on paper. I can’t read music. Once back in the real world I had less time to work on music, but my hunger for it grew.

I also joined a band with a mate who was kind enough to offer me cash-in-hand work, under the proviso I could play keyboard/guitar – Both are bit of a stretch if you want honesty – The band (Social Haunts) are cracking lads, yet the music is a bit more traditional to what I’m known for or how I choose to express myself, but it’s good to be out of your comfort zone. I think and perform FOR the band, as opposed to my natural form. It’s opened my eyes to approaching writing from different angles.

I did a show with Luke from Horsefight (Incredible band – debut album is being funded via PledgeMusic now – Google it) and his original drummer Steve (whom he played with when he was growing up in Australia), very recently, and I fucking loved, loved, loved playing bass and screaming my tits off. We did a quick rehearsal, got sprung some songs I hadn’t learned and nailed it for a gig a few hours later. I did some shows in the UK with the lads when Paul Mullen (Young Legionnaire/Losers) was out of town back before I left.

S] How was working on the Mutation record?

Dream come true, mate. From going from being a 14 year old with posters of Ginger gazing down on me while I discovered what masturbation was, to knuckling down – not like that – for a week in a caravan in North Wales writing a record together still seems unreal, and I’m so grateful for the chance to have made a record together.

Fans of the previous records know it as being Ginger’s outlet for his darker/heavier material. I wanted to bring something different to the table, and colour it with my personality and style. We were both mentally skull-fucked during the period, just prior to and during the writing, and I think it shows in the result.

I have written a diary from my perspective which I was meant to drop during the week of the PledgeMusic release, but now we have a UK/Europe and Japanese commercial release in the bag, I’ll get it out then. I wrote, lost, rewrote, re-lost, gave up and finally restarted it. I’m unsure how much of the stuff I can say as some of it is flat-out distressing, and there were a few bad life decisions made during that time, but I still loved every minute of it. We are hoping to turn the record into a six-legged life proposition for a few shows later this year. I imagine it will be a short-lived love affair across the UK, Europe and, fingers crossed, Japan.

S] How it the process of working on Jaws of Deaf different to your other work?

It’s a one-man band. I always wanted to be a drummer, but my old man wisely vetoed that. Then I asked for a bass for Christmas so I could be a 10-year old Duff Mckagen, and again my Daddio steps in and gets me a guitar. I take the E and B off straight away like the little cunt I was. I grew to like the guitar then. So before I even played a note, I’d already been around the block.

When I finally started a band with the boys  -now men – of Midasuno I was writing the lion’s share of the parts as the songwriter. Matt (Drums) and I actually had lessons together in school, and he smashed it way better than I could. I’m just not happy with two guitarists doing predominately the same thing, and have a thing for weird tunings. I did my first ever four-track recording which turned into ‘The Art Of Fear’ single back in 2000. We even used to do the old two cassette karaoke machine trick to track ideas. I tried to go into rehearsals with enough layers and parts to construct a full song. Absolutely NO jamming.

When I joined Exit_International, we wrote in the room. This was the opposite of jamming. We would just make noises – no tune or starting key – Just the three of us messing the room with pointless volume until someone heard something of interest, then we would stop and take a look at that part, and aim to finish a song by the end of the night. This was a completely new experience to me, and changed my world. Now I was experiencing what is was like for each member to have their own style, and how the three of us combined made something bigger. Adam is a fantastic drummer not from a predominately ‘rock’ background, so his approach helped shaped some of the tracks just by having a fantastic non-straight 4/4 drum beat. Fudge, is a very economic bassist, with a sound that is just ‘Fudge’. This gave me enough wriggle-room to add a slightly pop element and make us – or try to be – accessible to a certain degree. I gave up on singing properly as I was/am a natural vocalist. Ego makes you do things.

The thing with JoD is that my main selling point is also the biggest hindrance. The project allows me the freedom to be the sum of all my influences. I honestly cannot commit to a style, if I knew what my style was then I could probably make something coherent that people could latch onto as a musical identity. And whereas people like say, Bowie is a chameleon from record to record, my head simply cannot allow that. Each song needs to be quite a noticeable different colour from the rest. It’s like trying to make little compilation tapes. There is something about it that is on the spectrum. Elliott Smith one minute, Strapping Young Lad the next. I do have to say – I am forever in debt to everyone who still parts with a couple of quid to support me all things considered. It’s like McAvoy’s character(s) from Split trying to make a record.

Carl Bevan of 60ft Dolls / Producer of E_I’s ‘Black Junk’ fame is drumming and producing on the re-recorded material from the first 25 songs I did. He is a brilliant man. We are getting the record finished and will do a proper physical release.

I’ve just read a semi-interesting article about the desk Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ was recorded on. There’s some serious hero-worship for what I view as a piece of expensive furniture from a time where those artists are now viewed as gods. Thanks to the internet and technology we won’t have to have, 40 years from now, that amount of legendary regard for someone’s shitty laptop. Almost anyone with a few pennies to rub together can create something, it’s just hard to stand out of the pack these days as the reach is there for any artist to get their work heard has levelled somewhat as record labels have become less relied upon. Add in the fact there’s so many people doing it, the game has changed. Tastemakers still exist – A successful business won’t sell burgers if the people want salad. I don’t want to be in that world as the shelf-life of major artists is getting smaller and smaller, saying that forces them to be more malleable which sometimes creates interesting stuff as long as it is done tastefully. Don’t listen to me.

S] What’s been a career highlight for you, so far?

Dom, are you trying to kill me off already, mate? Being so far away and slightly alone with my thoughts a bit more has made me appreciate how fortunate I have been to have achieved some amazing things with my bandmates past and present. Midasuno winning a Welsh Music Award, having a book written about us (Thanks/sorry Rachel) and getting away with calling our album, ‘Songs In The Key Of Fuck’ during the early days. Exit_International then progressing to ending up on daytime BBC Radio 1, playing Reading/Leeds and releasing a record/getting to tour Japan, and most recently the whole Mutation experience.

There are more and more instances that mean the world to me but would just look like a brag-fest to list. Releasing records, touring them, connecting with people by creating something with like-minded, great friends and making friends in the process….The simple things I’m really grateful for. Even something as simple as the wonderful and dearly missed Ashley Maile spending a day doing promo shots with E_I in London for Kerrang!/Alternative Press. We loved it.

S] So, Exit International are back?

We were never gone my friend. Due to my adventure Down Under, we adopted the term ‘suspended animation’ to replace the dreaded ‘hiatus’. As I haven’t really gone for it with the sexual analogies during this interview, let’s try now. Think of a relationship, yes it is a tryst but there you go. If you know the band, do the following math:

One party goes their way to shamelessly masturbate loads in public, and needs the release with other parties in front of people. One party has tried and, on occasion, did manage to get the end wet, but it ended in disappointment and so is being cautious before committing now. I think the person is getting there, but the relationship is not Facebook official yet. The other party did some self-love before becoming a nun because the one thing he dislikes about sex is generally the people who do the sex.

We are really, really excited and HASHTAG blessed to get to do some shows together again without the self-imposed pressure of trying to take over the world. HUGE emphasis on having fun together and playing to our small but amazingly formed fanbase.  We might try some new material, we might not – that’s not the point. It’s capturing that magic in performing together again. It’s really that simple.

S] What’s motivating you these days, outside of music – people/places etc?

At risk of sounding like a boring cunt, I have no shame in saying that making music keeps me going. It is a fucking terrifying thought of losing the capacity to do so. It’s more profound than a compulsion, it’s just what I do.

It’s not the same as a hobby, and I do not view it as such. It’s far more consuming. I’m a huge horror film fan and outside of music that is probably my biggest influence or hobby. I suppose the things that drive me are escapist and personal/solo pursuits. I don’t really enjoy group or social activities, and that says an awful lot if you read too far into it. To answer your question directly – People: Obviously my wife, family and friends, and our pets as I consider them as equals. Places – I’d say that Japan is my favourite place on Earth and hope I get my ass back there soon, as well as the green, green grass of home. Absence, and absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. Worst lonely hearts ad ever: Awkward, self-absorbed, wannabe musician seeks extreme horror, black-comedy loving, animal-loving, people-hater. I’ve found that in my wife so I’m lucky there, otherwise I’d be fucked.

S] What other plans have you got for 2017?

So, we have the E_I tour in May with dates which you will hopefully run after this interview. More JoD releases, and I’m gonna start performing the stuff acoustically sans laptop to make things interesting. The Social Haunts lads here in Aus will hopefully get something out this year, and then there’s the Mutation commercial releases and some live dates. I’m also hoping to be soundtracking a book, but will say no more as it’s early days and don’t want to jinx it.

Dom Smith

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