Skum was always more hype than band. Starting out in Williamsburg, VA, in the 1980s they were better at promoting themselves than playing their instruments. They did everything in their power, including calling the cops to shut down their shows, to make certain they weren't exposed as only knowing how to play three songs.
After relocating to Miami, in a cruel twist of irony, Hurricane Andrew destroyed all their equipment and master tapes, so that the album they actually did record would never see the light of day. Decades later, a box of tapes were found, inspiring Skum to make a movie about their story called Skum Rocks. The last scene of this documentary will be filmed Friday night at Baroos Beachside Bar in Indiaalatnic where Skum will reunite with an actual live show for the first time since 1990 (assuming nobody calls the cops on them).
New Times spoke with Skum frontman Hart Baur and guitarist John Eaton about Skum's not so illustrious past and their more illustrious present, where if accomplishing nothing else, Skum has become the only band to ever record in both Sun Studio and Abbey Road in the same calendar year.
New Times: What is Skum?
Hart Bauer: We just wrapped up the movie about it. Skum officially broke up in 1990, but had created quite a stir prior to that. There was talk of a record deal. When Hurricane Andrew hit, we lost everything. The band had broken up prior to that, but the album was still being worked on. But recently we found the tapes we lost and we decided to make a behind the music type thing, but it got bigger than that as we started cataloging all the people we knew and met on our run.
We started getting cameos from the guys from Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Paul Stanley, and then pretty soon it snowballed into this massive project because everybody loved the band and everybody wanted to be a part of it. Alice Cooper wanted to narrate it and that's when Clay Westervelt jumped in to direct it. We're finishing up the final concert scene Friday night in Melbourne.
That scene is the band's moment of redemption?
Hart Bauer: Pretty much. The band gets back together. I grew up down here in Miami and Skum had all this wild success when I was living up in Virginia with virtually no musical talent. I'm not going to lie, we blew. But we wrote all our own songs. Then a friend I grew up with Pat Burke said he had a guy John Eaton who was a guitar virtuoso and we sat down together and John said, "You wrote pretty good songs. Let me fix them."
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John Eaton: The songs were raw. Skum weren't musicians, they were athletes. But the melodies and hooks were there, so we rewrote the songs and recorded them with real musicians. People were getting excited. They said this would be the next White Album, that's how big the hype got to be. Then Hurricane Andrew went right through our warehouse. We lost all our equipment, our master tapes, we were back to square one.
Who were Skum's influences?
Hart Bauer: If you took a pyramid shape with all the influences on the outside everyone would give you a different pyramid. I look at it as a little bit of Kiss, a little bit of the Clash, Van Halen, Motley Crue, and somewhere in the middle there is what we sound like.
You describe Skum as fuck-ups. How so?
Hart Bauer: Back in the day, when we originally started, we sucked but we were a huge draw. We were all athletes we'd work out right before, oil ourselves up, come out in these outrageous costumes, but by the second or third song we stripped down to basically nothing. The girls are loving it. But we only had two or three songs we could play, we had to find a way to get out of these shows. We were drawing a thousand, two thousand people paying two or three dollars to get in and our shows were over in seven minutes. We had to figure ways to end these mammoth shows early so we'd call the cops on ourselves.
Not only did it work shutting down the shows, but we also became cult heroes. Here we were this punk/metal rock band being kicked off the stage by police in Williamsburg, Virginia. That's the most rock n roll thing to happen in the area in 25 years.
John Eaton: Loading our shows with pyrotechnics is another fuck up.
Hart Bauer: We headlined a show at University of Miami where we had this huge fifty foot stuffed snake. We started riding on it. The crowd went in a frenzy and started pulling on it and Styrofoam balls started falling out. It looked like it was snowing.
John Eaton: That was a snake I won at the Dade County Youth Fair and years later we'd still find Styrofoam from it in the monitors and speakers.
Hart Bauer: Then in Williamsburg, we needed a road crew. As in any tourist town you have transients. One night we needed help carrying an amp, we gave this transient guy a couple beers to help us carry it. We're like that worked pretty well. Next show we got three or four of these guys. All of a sudden we had fifteen guys looking to help us out for beer. They had nothing to do with the band, nothing to do with Skum, but it was like an army we created, but we couldn't get rid of them.
With all the cameos in the movie Skum also seemed to have attracted a lot of celebrities.
Hart Bauer: We're like the classic children's story The Emperor Has No Clothes. Here's a band everyone was talking about, but no one really heard. It was all visual, they got an article in the paper and then the cops come and bust the show down and people think it's the best thing they've ever seen. No one's talking about the music, they talk about the event.
The cool thing to do when you came to Miami was go see this band Skum. When we'd play outside Miami, rock guys would come out to see our shows. Alice Cooper had heard of us. He swears he went to our shows, but I think I would remember that. He didn't see us, but he thinks he'd seen us. Bruce Hornsby is from Williamsburg, and he came to two shows. He liked it. He said, "I don't know what you guys are doing, I know it's something artistic, and I'm not getting it, but I dig it." We don't have a velvet rope that separates the "celebrity" world from the "real" world. I think celebrities saw a freedom that there was not a pretension that we were greater than the people we played for and found a peace in it.
John Eaton: At the time, the cool thing was to do what's not cool and that was go see a Skum show pretty much. Over the years we built up a lot of friends. At the show Friday night we even have Martika, who did the song "Toy Soldier," do a song with us and Frankie Banali from Quiet Riot is going to sit in on drums for a couple songs with us. Back in the day they were fans and they still are.
What else can we expect with Friday night's show?
Hart Bauer: There's one particular song we're doing that will be the final piece of the film. Any fans that are there will be in the movie. If it goes great, then great. If it goes bad, then that's how it is going to end.
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