Josh Scogin of ’68 doesn’t know what to do with himself at home
“Being forced to chill” is how ’68 frontman Josh Scogin replies when asked how he’s doing. As a member of a band who spend a good seven months on the road, he doesn’t sound too happy.
“It’s like you wish you could just chill, you know?” he begins. “And then all of a sudden, when it’s forced upon you, you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, this sucks.’” He starts to laugh at the absurdity of “mandatory chillaxation.”
Scogin seems lighthearted about it, but the bigger picture has him worried. Plans to release ’68’s new record, Give One, Take One, have been moved to later in the year. The rationale being there’s no reason to release something if he and drummer Nikko Yamada can’t do the touring to support it. For now, he’s hunkered down outside Atlanta, waiting for the all-clear. They are slated to open this summer’s Korn/Faith No More/Helmet tour, with an even bigger tour to follow that. (He’s keeping mum on that one until he’s sure about its status.)
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Ever the raconteur, Scogin spoke with AltPress about the big plans that still might happen for ’68. He discussed the unusual corners where his band have been accepted, as well as the hardcore lifers who still want to hear him fronting Norma Jean and the Chariot. Scogin takes it all in stride knowing that this too shall pass. Well, the real important stuff...
It’s good to be around family at a time like this. But I bet it feels a little weird for a dude who lives on the road.
You know, if I squinted real tightly, it felt like a normal day. My publicist hit me up with an interview. My manager texted me a couple of times about several different things. I posted about a show. [Laughs.] It almost felt like my normal life coming back. But we’re hearing reports about the number of people who have died, and it’s like, “No, we’re nowhere near [normal].”
What are you doing? Do you have a room in your house where you can make noise three hours a day?
Not really. I own a warehouse that’s about 10 minutes away. If I wanted to make loud noises, I’d go there. It’s very strange: I haven’t had income since the end of last year. There was this one massive tour that we got confirmed for. I was chomping at that bit about it. “When can we announce? When can we announce?” And as things got crazy, we had to cancel it. It was nine or 10 days, so I was already in survival mode.
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I’ve been touring forever, so I’m always pretending I don’t have money. You never know when it’s coming until it’s officially there. I’ve always treated my money like I don’t have any. Who knows when you’re going to get it again? I’m already in this [mindset] of, “Well, I’m not making any money until summer.” And then when [the coronavirus] landed, I was like, “Oh. We’re definitely in this until summertime,” with the hope that sometime during summer all this will pan out. At some point, I’m going to have to go out and shoot a deer or something. [Laughs.]
And everybody is kicking their spring plans into summer…
The big band we were going to tour with moved their spring plans to fall and winter. I hope we’re still committed to do those dates. But everybody is holding their cards pretty close to their chest right now. It’s a real mess right now. As much as I want to be heartbroken by that sweet tour, if this goes on for four, five, six months or more, nobody is going to care about entertainment anymore. People are going to try to figure out how they can save a dollar to buy more toilet paper. Priorities change, and being part of the entertainment business, that’s the first thing to go when survival mode kicks in.
So the record is being pushed down the road, as well?
I had a call with my manager yesterday that made me feel a little bit normal. Tentatively, depending on how this all wraps up and how things happen, we’re hoping that the Korn tour doesn’t have to cancel or postpone. That starts for us in late August. So we’re talking about releasing it then. If come July everything is still out of shape, that’ll change. Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to flex our rock ’n’ roll muscles a bit and see where we’re at.
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He lives 30 to 40 minutes south of me. We chat day to day. He’s doing good. It’s funny. We’ve been practicing a ton. Not together, but he has tracks from me doing our basic, generalized set. As you know, it’s not always the same. It’s a generalized version that we can practice from. And then I have some drum tracks. So I don’t have a room I can be loud in, but I can just have headphones in and jam out. It’s funny: I’ve probably practiced more on this break than I ever have.
Everybody’s trying to not twiddle their thumbs or go stir-crazy. I’ve picked up some projects that I haven’t done in a while. I started writing a children’s book eight years ago, just an ongoing project. I’m finishing that up since I’ve got infinity-time right now. [Laughs.] Since ’68 started, I don’t think I’ve been home longer than two months. I’ve never been sitting at home for two months straight. When you live like that, you come home, decompress for a minute and then it’s not that long later [until] you need to get ready for the next tour. This is the first time ever in a long, long time where I’m not writing for a new record and [there’s] no real tour in the foreseeable future. I got time to do auxiliary stuff. There’s no complaints at home on my end for being home, believe me. It’s just interesting for me to not be doing anything art-related for six months.
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You’ll make up for it, I’m sure. What I find interesting is the opportunities you’ve been given solely based on word of mouth and goodwill. You come from the underground hardcore scene, yet with ’68, you’re accessing listeners who would be regulars at a Danny Wimmer event than in a rundown club in a sketchy part of town. I doubt they could sit through one side of the Chariot’s Long Live. ’68 are still pretty unpredictable, but the interest is there. Are the masses getting conditioned for wildness?
[Laughs.] It’s tricky for me to talk about since it is my band. I would like to think that people are hearing the wild, live-sounding excitement we personally get out of our music. I like to think they hear the passion and the ideas of not hanging around long on one thing before we pull the rug out from under them. I like to think the same common threads that entertain us, entertain them. I want to think that is what’s translating over the craziness. I enjoy making those right turns. That’s what makes me keep enjoying playing these songs over 300 times a year and loving every minute of it.
On the other side, there was some dude on Instagram telling you to “listen to Norma Jean and Chariot records for inspiration” when you were making your latest record. I have no vested interest in your band, but I wanted to fight him. Do you get that kind of blowback from hardcore types?
First of all, I’ve rarely ever heard those people saying that the new music is garbage. It’s usually just the backhanded compliment. [imitates crazed fan] “Maaan, the Chariot were so amazing. I love ’68 too, but…” To me, it feels like people have this false fantasy and love for nostalgia. What makes that even shine a brighter light is when they know that they can’t have it back.
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Most of the time when I hear it, it comes from a good spot. They’re there to see the band I’m in, but without thinking ahead, they just want to go on and on about the last two times they had seen the Chariot. I am very grateful that people like it. But I think some people have an unrealistic relationship with nostalgia. It’s very easy to get lost in that. And bands give it to them all the time. “Ten-year anniversary, here we go,” because there’s a lot of money to be made. And that’s fine. Most of my friends’ bands do that.
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I remember starting Norma Jean. We were learning [and] didn’t know anything. It was a great time. I remember when I started the Chariot, all people wanted to talk about was Norma Jean. That’s it. The whole time. And then the moment I started ’68, everybody wanted to talk about the Chariot. [Laughs.] Here in 2020, anything you want, you can get right now. Netflix, music… It’s all here right now. And when you tell people that Norma Jean will never get [that lineup] back together or the Chariot will never get back together, they’re like, “What do you mean? But I want it.” At the end of the day, it’s such a hard concept. When it’s coming to me, it comes mostly from a good spot. It’s hard to accept the present and the reality. It’s much easier to think about the nostalgia. People have told me these fantastic stories about the Chariot, and I’m like, “That’s simply not true.” [Laughs.] That did not happen, but in your brain it did, so carry on.
’68 have been fortunate enough that we’ve done some big tours and festivals. There are a whole ton of people who don’t even know about the Chariot. Because they’re more disconnected from that world. They know there’s this band in front of them called ’68, and they either like it or they don’t, and they move forward. You love this because it’s standing on its own two feet and not leaning on anything about my past, only the present. And that’s a good feeling. It’s really great and gratifying to talk to any human about how great the present is. Which is fun to say during coronavirus quarantine. [Laughs.]
Do you think Stephen Harrison [former Chariot guitarist now in FEVER 333] is having similar conversations?
Definitely. Me and him have talked about it. Between Jason [Aalon Butler] in letlive. and Stephen with the Chariot, they’ve done big tours, and people don’t know about their previous bands. But people talk to him about the Chariot in much the same way people talk to me about it. There’s no scenario where it will ever end. Because nostalgia is so much brighter than what the reality was.
Back to reality, then. Which three movies should people be watching while on lockdown?
That’s a struggle because I’ve already seen all the good stuff before this thing hit. So I’d like to put out the same statement: What three things should I watch while I’m home? I don’t know why this popped up, but the first thing that came up was that movie Moon. I watched it again two nights ago. I love nearly all documentaries. There’s a good...well, “good” is an interesting word, one that I’m not sure is on any of those platforms anymore, but it’s called Tickled. [Laughs.] It’s pretty out there. It starts out light, and then it gets sinister pretty quick.