–Jeremy Radnor – UK Music World
When the rock band Skum entered legendary Abbey Road Studios on the 26th of September, they were walking into history. No band had ever recorded in Memphis’ Sun Studios as well as London’s Abbey Road in the same calendar year. Ever. The occasion was momentous, to say the least.
Skum was in London for the Raindance Film Festival premiere of “Skum Rocks!”, the rock documentary helmed by notable director Clay Westervelt. And with their album still underway, they thought, “why not record some tracks at Abbey Road?” It was no easy feat booking time at the Beatles-famed studio, especially with a mere two weeks’ notice, but a few calls were made and a few generous artists — who wish to remain anonymous — swapped their studio slots to give Skum the needed time.
Skum rhythm bassist, Todd Mittlebrook, said, “It’s great that we made rock and roll history with these recordings. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge accomplishment and one we’ll be telling our grandkids about for sure…But we didn’t do this to get into the history books, we did this for our fans. We want these bonus tracks to be something special, and they are.”
By all accounts, the Abbey Road session was vintage Skum, laying down their tracks in one or two takes. In what has become an urban myth, Skum likes to do everything live. “There is so much more that goes into a good recording session other than recording,” said lead guitarist, John Eaton. “We figure if we knock the main stuff out in ten minutes or so we have a lot more time for what makes this band great. And that’s hanging out.”
While in the studio, the band recorded their underground 80’s classic, “We Are Skum,” which will be the opening track on their upcoming album, Lost at the Circus. They also completed a blistering cover of the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR”.
“We wanted to pay homage to the Beatles, especially the White Album,” said lead bassist Pat Burke. “The background vocals alone (performed by Victoria Rummler and Roveina) will knock this track out of the park. They made our job easy. This is simply a classic version of a great Beatles song. It may even be better than the original version, to be honest. With all due respect, of course.”
The session was intense as fans kept pouring into famed Studio 2. By noon there were over thirty people crammed into the control room to witness the madness unfolding below. Once the levels were set and Skum producer Mark Brasel was satisfied, the band knocked out their tracks, including a piano/accordion sonata lead-in for the Beatles track. Written and performed by Dr. Andrew and Peter Watson, “Drowning the Gypsy in the Volga” is a sad tale of life under the yoke of totalitarianism in an age when life was measured in days rather than years. “‘Gypsy’ tells a story no one wants to hear,” said Dr. Watson. “It’s very much in tune with this album’s theme. Except this tale takes place outside of Samara in 1937.”
Musically, these tracks will blow you away. Skum’s powerhouse drummer, Tommy Craig, drives both tracks with a vengeance that will make even the casual fan turn his head. “I wanted to give the tracks an edge,” said Craig. “I played around with the intro, and Johnny just told me to go for it, so I did. I’m really happy with the results.”
Eaton was in epic form on both tracks, and his preparation showed. His solo on “USSR” was sharp and on target. “I had about eight days to prepare. I was ready,” said Eaton. “Besides, Abbey Road, are you kidding me? This is what this band is all about. Skum at Abbey? Next up, Electric Ladyland!”
Burke and Mittlebrook laid down the bass lines in one take, high fiving each other after, as they listened to the playback. “It’s what we do,” said Burke. “It’s just cool we did it at Abbey Road in front of our fans.”
“The importance of recording at Abbey Road really goes without saying,” said lead singer Hart Baur. “We wanted to give our fans and investors something special. The bonus tracks, from Sun Studios and now Abbey Road, deliver that. They’ve waited over twenty-five years for this album, and we’re giving them everything we can. Abbey Road is our thank you to the fans. But it’s also a thank you to the greatest band ever, the Beatles. They are why we have rock and roll today.”
The Abbey Road session legitimized this album. Lost at the Circus is destined to be one of the most explosive albums of 2014. This band is crazy. To the untrained eye, they may seem scattered at best. But without a doubt, these guys know what they are doing. And they’re laughing the whole time. Skum: fun mixed with sinister brilliance.