Scott Krauss played drums in Pere Ubu from 1975 through 1981, then again from 1987 through 1994. On the album Story of My Life, Scott also took over some keyboard duties.

Scott is also the central figure in the band Home and Garden, which is generally a studio project and is now his main musical outlet. MP3s of Home and Garden can be found on the MP3 page.


[We started with a conversation about Peter Laughner and the Timm Kerr records release PETER LAUGHNER AND FRIENDS: Take the Guitar Player for a Ride]

I was really happy that Tim Kerr Records put out that album, and hope that somebody at some point will put out the Rocket from the Tombs recording, since I've heard bits of it but not the whole thing.

All I know is I saw Rocket from the Tombs one time, and people can get all wowie-zowie about it, but it really wasn't much of anything.

I like the work that's in there, what I've heard of it. It's not like Ubu, but it's interesting. But they did a lot of covers, too, and a lot of what's good on that Tim Kerr Peter Laughner release is moments inside of other people's songs.

True. True… True. All I know is I saw them once and I really wasn't impressed at all. That may have been when they were on the verge of breaking up, though.

As far as Peter Laughner goes, you mentioned having some music in common with him.

We both could relate to the hissing of the steam coming out of the radiator. He had some weird records, John Cage and all that minimalist stuff. And I dug some of it. There was one record where this guy had strung a long wire between two buildings in New York, and then he somehow amplified the wire, so the final recording was the sound of the city through this wire. Stuff like that. I always thought that was pretty sharp stuff.

Tell me about the radio you were listening to growing up. There was a good Motown station in the area, right?

Booming out of Windsor was WCKLW, 800khz.

What from that period sticks in your head?

ALL of that Motown stuff was great. "Working in a Coalmine." I remember hearing "Stop in the Name of Love", with that massively powerful organ intro… There were a lot of secondary hits that they'd play at that station that wasn't like the big national hits, and you could tell that Motown was fishing around to see if they could have another hit with the same kind of theme. Like, say, "Ball of Confusion" came out by the temptations, then a little while later there'd be another song with the same kind of feel to it, same stuff going on. But it never really had the massive impact. They also played a lot of odd tracks that were maybe studio outtakes or something.

So you guys were part of the test marketing for that stuff.

Yeah, I think so. Actually I think Cleveland is still a test market for fast food companies.

Any other early music that sticks out in your mind?

I remember hearing "Tamborine Man" playing on one of the neighboring town's FM stations, and I was just blown away by how huge that sounded… how majestic. I remember hearing "Little Red Rooster" by the Stones and thinking "yeah, this stuff is okay."

You mentioned "Working in a Coalmine", and I know you guys played with DEVO a few times. Any good stories about playing with them?

This one friend of mine was telling me that there's this really weird band down in Akron. He said, "You're not going to believe this but they all wear these uniforms and sing about the de-evolution of the human race." So we go down to check this out and it was at a little club called the Crypt. It was definitely one of the weirdest bands I've ever seen. I kept wondering, "Aren't these guys afraid of getting beat up?" I don't know how it all got worked out, but sometimes they'd come up to Cleveland, and we'd take turns headlining. They got into a bunch of philosophical discussions, Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh versus David and Allen, and it was pretty interesting. I think they got the impression that Pere Ubu was never going to make it because we didn't care whether we made it or not. And we thought they were going to the other extreme.

They also seemed to have a pretty strict touring regimen, where they'd go out for long periods of time, which is something Ubu didn't do early on.

I think the year that they put out "Modern Dance", "Dub Housing", and "Datapanik" on Radar Records, maybe '78 or '79, for about a year then we did work pretty heavy. After that we did "New Picnic Time", and things were starting to come apart. David and Allan seemed to want to take a hiatus, but Tony and I wanted to go out on the road. And then it took a while, but they decided they wanted to get back and do some giging, so we got Mayo Thompson.

This was after Tom Herman had left obviously.

He left right after the album was recorded.

So no shows when the record came out.

Rough Trade said they'd put up some money because Mayo was involved with them, so we did a couple of quick tours once we had him on board. Then things were starting to get really strange, and Rough Trade decided they wanted to make a solo career out of David.


Oh yeah. We were doing this tour of Europe, and we had 3 days off in London. I thought we were going to book some studio time and record some new material. The closer it got to London, though, the less talk there was about this happening. So when we were about 2 days out from London, I said, "So what's happening with this London recording thing?" Silence. I had just assumed we had it under control. I said, "Are we not doing this?" And Allen said, "Well, actually, Mayo has invited me out to his cottage and I'm going to go there and take a break for 3 days." Tony said he was going to go hand out with some friends. Then there was a message that somebody asked me to give to David, saying that his 8-Track machine was in his hotel room. And I said, "David, what 8-Track machine?" And he told me he was going to do some spoken word recording in his hotel room. So I said, "If Mayo and Allen are going to be gone, and you're going to be busy, what am I supposed to be doing here?"

So they set up 3 days for him to be doing some solo stuff.

Right. And then when he did his first solo album, they didn't want anybody from Pere Ubu on it. It was pretty obvious that they wanted David to be a solo act without any Pere Ubu people.

That seems like an odd choice for them to make. One of the things I like about those early Ubu albums, one of the reasons I think it works is the way the disparate pieces fit together, and taking a piece out of that...

In the beginning Pere Ubu was a solid group effort.

And you don't feel like it was later?

It definitely wasn't later.

How do you mean?

In the beginning there was a whole vision. Cleveland would shutdown at 6 o'clock at night, and we owned the whole downtown. We could do anything we wanted because Cleveland was a scary place to be. And we were a bunch of friends who got together to do this thing. Peter came over to my place one day and said, "There's going to be this recording session and these are the people who are going to be involved. Do you want to play drums for it?" We all kind of knew each other and what each other were doing, and when Peter asked me to play drums I was into it.
Then we all went over and had a meeting at Tim Wright's apartment and David said he wanted to record "30 Seconds Over Tokyo". And it was all for one and one for all. But the problem that started to develop… I would hear things like, "You know, Scott, the newspapers only write about Allen and me, they don't care about other members of the band." Just stuff like that. What's happened now is that the band has been overhauled so many times that it's just not saying anything to me. Not any more.

Now, you told me that when the band reformed, that it wasn't really the duck story (as David summed it up, there were enough Ubu's playing in his back-up band the Wooden Birds, that it was basically an Ubu reunion, and "if it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and smells like a duck, it's probably a duck"), but instead you had approached David and Tony and Allen about doing some more shows.

Right. And it was because I thought that Pere Ubu had a lot of unfinished business. And the proof of that was when Terminal Tower came out and the president of Rough Trade and David's manager were both getting excited. They kept saying that now would be a good time to have another Pere Ubu album to release. And they started trying to make plans to get that to happen. Allen told them they were out of their minds because David wasn't going to play rock music anymore, and they decided he was right.
When I heard that, I said, "Allen, don't you understand how hard it is to get a record label interested in you? Do you realize what just went down if you read between the lines? They want to see a new Pere Ubu record." So I wrote them all a letter saying we should get back together. I heard back that they all had contractual obligations with this Pedestrians/Wooden Birds stuff, but David's manager did approach a couple of record companies with the idea that there was the possibility of a new Pere Ubu record coming out, and they all got excited. When he realized how many people were into it he realized we had to cement this thing so that it would happen. So they said they'd finish out the round of commitments that David had signed up for.

And the result was "Tenement Year", which I think is great, and "Cloudland" which is good, too…

Well, everybody has their favorites. Some people like those albums, some people don't. I can't get any perspective on it, it's too close. I can't stand back and look at it and judge this or judge that. They were all a project, and we all did the project. So maybe one is better than the other, I don't know.

I'm sure you have favorites, though.

Not really, no. There's bits and pieces out of every recording that I like, but there are things I'd change. But I'm too close to it all. It's all Pere Ubu, and everybody was involved. It was what it was.
The thing about the Art, Allen was an artist, but so was David and so was Tom. I think maybe to a degree I was, and Tony made the whole thing work with the bass lines, which weren't just bass they were supportive melody lines and supportive melodic themes.
We used to do this thing called "Reality Dub" live. This is the art thing. We'd be playing a song, and David would start looking around at the ceiling, and then he'd start waving his arms and shouting at everybody to stop the song. We all knew where everything was going, but here's this song disintegrating right in front of the audiences eyes. Tony would walk off the stage on one side and Tom would walk off on the other, and David would be hollering, "Something's not right! Something's not right!" Then Allen would throw all of his papers up in the air and he'd storm off the stage. David would apologize to the crowd, saying, "We just had something horrible happen here, and I lost my mind. But it's under control now. We're going to have a time splice here, and pretend that this little mishap never happened." By this time the band was back on the stage, so he'd say, "Okay, we're going to restart the song --- 1, 2, 3, 4." And we'd come in exactly where the thing blew apart, and we'd be back in with the same intensity. And the crowd would go nuts! Who was going to pull that kind of stunt way back then?
Tom's whole thing with art was… He wouldn't change chords if he didn't need to. And Tony would do the changing. Tom had this minimalist approach to it, like "I don't need to change chords so I'm not going to."
The way it worked originally, was you could do whatever you wanted just so long as you didn't get in anybody else's way. And everybody understood that. But as time went on it got to be… Before the Raygun Suitcase sessions, we'd be trying to rehearse, and David would sit there with his head in his hands, and he'd say things like, "Jimmy, don't play that. Make it sound more like Neil Young. Make it sound more like the Velvet Underground. Scott, don't play that skippy beat." And I didn't want him telling me what to play. So it went from being a big experiment to being brought down by a lack of communication. I don't know what everybody else in the band thought about that but… I don't want to sound bitter or anything, but the direction the band was going in wasn't the direction I wanted to go in.

Nice segue way into Home and Gardens.

It's basically stuff that I was going to try to get onto Raygun Suitcase. I had done some stuff on Story of My Life, and I liked the direction I was going in. So I had these ideas, but David just didn't seem to be able to work with them. I got Dianne to do the vocals and got Michelle to do the guitar and bass parts.

H&G has been a casual band for about 15 years now, right?

Yeah. It's not really a band, even. Some of the new stuff… It's pretty sharp. I can't really explain it without you hearing it. It doesn't seem like any record companies are interested, though, since they all keep turning it down.

H&G is a studio project for the most part, but you mentioned a line-up of the band played out once or twice. Is that anything you're interested in doing still or is that too far from the project.

I'd like to go back out and gig, but after being in Pere Ubu… You can't go backwards, and if H&G had anything to say we'd be a big deal. Nobody seems to care, so obviously we don't have anything to say. I'm not going to go out and try to find gigs for a band that doesn't have anything to say. But I like what we're doing in the studio.

I know Tony was involved in that for a while, is he still doing stuff with you? And also, what's the process of you guys working together?

The way it works now is I have a little mini studio at home with a sampler, a drum machine, a mixer, all that kind of stuff. On this last one, I put together an atmospheric thing that I liked sonically, then Dianne came in and laid down a vocal track, then I bumped that tape down on an ADAT and sent it to Tony. He and his guitarist friend added their stuff and then sent it back here, where we mixed the whole thing. It seems to work pretty good.

Cheap home recording equipment is a beautiful thing.

I also got in touch with Eric Feldman because there's something else that would sound great with some piano on it. We'll see if anything comes of that.

One of the things I liked about Apocalypse Now was how much piano there is on there. He's really great on that.

Eric's a brilliant musician. He's worked with a lot of great people. Now he's working with P.J. Harvey. I'm not that familiar with her older stuff, but the one I got interested in was To Bring You My Love. He's not on that one, though, he's on the new one.

Were you in any bands before Pere Ubu?

Not really, I was just gigging around. There was a band that Allen and I were sort of in doing weird, arty stuff with 2 synthesizers, an upright bass player, and me. There were times I'd gigged with Peter both before and after he was in Pere Ubu. There was a little band we had called Peter and the Wolves. We just played around at a couple of bars, but it was no big deal.

Could you talk a little about what it was like to be in a band with 2 drummers? I don't know how that normally works out, but it sounds like you guys had a good system for it.

Well, in reviews some people thought that was a really bad idea. It was a very simple thing: Chris took over the top end with the frills and the cymbal crashes and everything and I took over the bottom end on the 2 and the 4. We never once sat down and talked about what he was going to play and what I was going to play.
One of the best parts when we were playing: Chris would just be flailing away, and David would turn around to me and say, "The drums are too loud! The drums are too loud!" He's looking at me and can't see Chris behind him, and Chris is grinning ear-to-ear, knowing that David wants him to tone it down, but since he's not speaking directly to him he's just going for it. That happened a number of times.
Chris would flail away, I'd play the rock'n'roll parts. But we never had a conversation about it. It just fit automatically. A lot of people wonder how that worked.

Chris Cutler left after Cloudland to do other projects?

He has a very busy solo career. Actually it was getting to a point where the blocks of time that he would have to block out for Pere Ubu was interfering. And a lot of times with Pere Ubu stuff, it looks really solid, like boom-boom-boom, this is going to happen. Then all of the sudden, boom-boom-boom, it didn't happen. So Chris was starting to have to do too much shuffling around of his schedule, and he decided he would rather concentrate on his solo career. I hear from him every so often. I sent him some of the H&G stuff, and he seemed to like it. He told me that he started his record label because he was having a hard time getting people to put out his stuff.

That's a sad statement.

He was already doing that years before, just after the Henry Cow thing. The whole music business thing… I just watch it from down here in Cleveland.

Anything else?

I don't really have much to say. Pere Ubu was what it was, is what it is. I just didn't like the direction I guess, and I didn't feel that I needed to be excess baggage anymore. It was time to move on. There was a lot of performance high points in there. There were nights on tours that were just so stunning. I think the first time we played in Brussels at the Theater 140… You can hear it on that live disc on the box set… We were going into the noise section on "Street Waves", and you can hear these 2 people scream. I remember that. Everybody was just sitting there staring at us, their eyes as big as pie plates. They couldn't believe that this weird band was on stage pulling this whole thing off. And then when we went into that breakdown part of that song, that pushed them over the edge. It was pretty magical I thought.