Scott Metzger talks WOLF!, Almost Dead & meeting James Brown

By Lizzie Morelli

Photo by RLPhoto

Scott Metzger seems to have his hand in everything right now and it’s literally music to our ears. From selling out Red Rocks with JRAD to solo appearances in modest rooms in New York; there is no gig too big or too small for Metzger and we love that about him.

Did you grow up listening to The Grateful Dead?

No. I had one record, which was “Live Dead.” That’s about all I knew about it.

What did you grow up listening to?

It was a lot of punk rock. That was really my first love of music. That was the first time I really felt a part of a community because of music.

When it comes to JRAD and playing lots of Grateful Dead music, do you like to play it? Do you like to make it different? Should certain things not be changed because it’s such a staple?

Well, I like the way we play Grateful Dead music. I love the freedom in it.  After this punk rock foundation, somehow in some cockamamie way, it led me into being really into jazz. The way we (JRAD) play the songbook is no different than how jazz musicians play jazz standards. I love playing with those guys and I think the chemistry that we have really is what sets the band apart.

Is there hope for any more original music from JRAD?

Sure. I mean nothing is off the table with that group. We’ve played one song. Tommy and Joe wrote it mainly and then we all learned the parts. In terms of sitting down and writing material together, we’ve never done that. It’s not out of the question. I think we look at it like this… the parts of the shows that we are improvising; we are composing on the spot. We are actually writing, in some cases, writing songs in front of the audience in real time.

Lets talk “Dream sit ins.” If you could pick one person to sit in with either JRAD or Wolf! who would it be?

I would like Scarlett Johansson to come in on WOLF!

What instrument would Scarlett Johansson be playing?

She sings. We could do some of her songs. Whatever she wants.

You’ve been a fixture in the New York Music scene for quite some time now. What’s is your favorite room to play there?

It depends on what band I am playing in. Of course Brooklyn Bowl. That’s home. There are a lot of different rooms and they are all cool. That’s the beauty about New York. It’s like everything that has to do with New York, there are a million options. There is the best of every option here. In terms of venues it is the same thing. I have a show coming up at Joes Pub where I am going to do a solo gig. That to me is like the perfect room. It sounds amazing. It feels amazing. The audience. It’s a listening room so no one is talking. That’s a tough question, though.

The story behind WOLF! is that You, Jon Shaw (bass) and Taylor Floreth (drums) were all doing a gig and the singer didn’t show up. You guys just ran with it?

Yeah we ran with it. We didn’t have much of a choice. It was at this place in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) called the Lovin’ Cup.  There were people there to see the show. The club people were like something has to happen. The singer was late, then later, and then it was clear that they weren’t even going to show up. The club was like well something has to happen so you guys can figure it out. We put on our big boy pants and we were like “Fuck it!” We are just gonna go out there and make shit up for an hour and a half. Hopefully, these people don’t start booing us and the exact opposite thing happened. People loved it. That show got taped and I went back and listened to it and a lot of the stuff we played that day, just making it up, we still do today.

Is WOLF! putting out another album?

There is a record on Royal Potato Family called 1-800 Wolf! and we are actually going in tomorrow to start recording new stuff.

Is WOLF! becoming your primary focus right now?

It’s one of them. I don’t think I am ever going to be a guy with a primary focus. I am not really that kind of musician. There are just too many things I am interested in at any given time. I have a lot of ideas in my head and I am interested in trying to get them all out. WOLF! is one of those things.

You’re driving somewhere the windows are down and you’re feeling on top of the world. What song do you put on?

It’s a song called “Total Destruction to Your Mind” by a guy named Swamp Dog. It’s from the seventies and it sounds like it cost about seven dollars to record. It sounds like really bad, like it was recorded in someone’s garage almost. The concept of the song is that the guy is headed somewhere. It sounds like he wrote it on the way to the gig. It’s like, “I am totally going to destroy your concept of reality because I am so… well in his case, he’s like “I am f*cking Swamp Dog, and I am going to totally destroy your mind!”

Do you have a tour story most fans haven’t heard before?

There are a million of them. I played at a festival once in about 2002 and my band RANA was playing at the time. We were on the bill. It was in Florida and we were playing in the afternoon and James Brown was scheduled to headline that night. We looked over in the middle of our set and James Brown was on the side of the stage busting full on sex machine dance moves to our show. After the set a guy came up to me. He was clearly a security guard of some type. He was like seven feet tall and built like a refrigerator and wearing a three-piece suit. He came up to me and was like “Hey, you’re the guy who just playing guitar, right?” and I said “Yeah.” And he said “Mr. Brown wants to meet you.” I went back. I followed this guy back there and sure enough I got to meet James Brown. He told me he liked the way I played guitar. We hung out. The festival was in Florida and we kept saying how hot it was and how uncomfortable it was and he kept saying how badly he needed a “Showah!” He was like “It’s too hot, I need a showah!” I told him meeting him was better than meeting the President to me. That was a good one. I feel very fortunate to have had that. I feel lucky to have had a lot of the experiences but that’s a highlight reel moment for me.

That’s the thing I look to the most… all the experiences you guys get to have as musicians, just meeting all these people. It’s incredible.

It’s amazing. It’s been amazing with Joe’s band in particular because the fan base of The Grateful Dead is so wide that people from all walks of life love and I MEAN LOVE the music of The Grateful Dead. They are also very friendly people. It is an incredible fan base just top to bottom. I have met some amazing people.

One last question… How was playing Red Rocks, was that the first time you played there?

It was incredible. I had only played there before with JRAD when we did a quick opening set last year. This time was a very different experience. It was almost like so overwhelming, I didn’t really get to think about how cool it was while it was happening. I mean cause essentially I am there to do a job and I need to stay focused. I can’t be like staring at rocks meanwhile the cue for me singing is coming up. You have to stay focused, but there were a few moments especially towards the end where we played a ballad. The place was — I mean it was pin drop quiet in that place and I am a tough critic. I don’t get emotionally overwhelmed very often on stage, but I’ve gotta say when I realized just how quiet it was ’cause I mean the band was playing really quiet and you could hear people shouting from different sections in the venue. You could hear it reverberating off the rocks. I got chills. I mean I just got chills talking to you about it. It was kind of an incredible life moment. It was unbelievable.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s