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Exclusive! Interview With Saliva Vocalist Josey Scott

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Friday, November 19, 2004 @ 1:30 AM

Survival of the Sickest: Sting

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Saliva is a five-piece rock band from Memphis, Tennessee, that first came to national attention with the success of Every Six Seconds and the single, “Click, Click…Boom!” which they followed with Back Into Your System and the hits “Always” and “Back Into Your System.” Out in support of their new record, Survival of the Sickest which features the radio-rocker of the same name, Saliva are gearing up for a fall/winter tour with ZZ Top.

The day after their tour bus broke down and on their last date with Skillet, Josey Scott took time out one afternoon at the end of the summer, before their soundcheck, to speak to me on the phone from Providence, Rhode Island.

…without further ado, Josey Scott speaks…

JOSEY SCOTT: Hey Mick, how are you?

KNAC.COM: Good, fine man, thanks. I know you don’t have much time: how are you? I heard your bus broke down yesterday…
SCOTT: Yeah… we were in the middle of nowhere, dude.

KNAC.COM: This was where, West Virginia or Pennsylvania?
SCOTT: Uhh… I have no idea. I sorta slept through it. We’re in Providence now.

KNAC.COM: The new album, Survival of the Sickest, is on Island Records. Recently, there’s been a big turnover -- a lot of people left IDJ (Island/Def Jam): Lyor Cohen, L.A. Reid, Julie Greenwald… all big-time players at your label jumped ship. Has that impacted you at all? Do you feel that Saliva is in good hands, or are you concerned about the future of your label or your tenure on it?
SCOTT: Well… I love L.A., man. He’s really cool, and he and I really hit it off. We actually met in Dallas at a radio convention and got to hang out and talk about music, and Saliva. He listened to some material that we were working on at the time. He was really into it, you know, it was sorta his first foray into the rock and roll world, and he seemed as enthused about it as any of his other projects. That was inspiring. It’s inspiring for me to make music for someone who makes music, you know? And really, to be able to break it down and talk about writing and song structure and… everything. I just hit it off with him, very positive, like a beam of light. He’s a very charismatic guy and I really enjoyed meeting him.

KNAC.COM: Well, so-- you have, or you haven’t been affected by the shake-ups over there?
SCOTT: No, no. We’re different… and we’re different from where Lyor and Julie-- they actually sent me a wedding present. And they still send me birthday presents. And the people who are at IDJ are treating us just so well, so it’s all good.

KNAC.COM: A friend of mine from Billboar Magazine and I were just talking about your new record, since we both got an advance from your label. She and I both dig the first two Saliva records, but we split on the new one. I like a lot of it -- I think so much of it is what I would call “cock-rock.” She doesn’t like it at all. So, I’m pointing this question a little bit here, I know, however because I want to discuss your lyrics. My friend was saying that she didn’t like the record because you seem to have a reliance on the phrase “rockstar” and in one or two of the songs that I can think of, you use that: “I’m a rockstar!” You did it with “Superstar” and “Superstar II.” You do it on this record. I said you weren’t taking yourself seriously; she thinks that a real rock-star wouldn’t have to say it over and over. Could you talk about your lyrics a little bit, and tell me what motivates you here?
SCOTT: It’s more about the explaining the “poetry” of this lifestyle -- “this lifestyle.” It’s more… I’m not saying, “I’m a rockstar” as much as I’m saying, “This is the hand I’ve been dealt” making music. This is how I’m dealing with it. I think if you read deeper into the lyrics, you find that I’ve had to overcome… some demons. Some monstrous hurdles to get over, for myself. If that’s what being… that this is what being a “rockstar” entails for me. I’ve never been one to speak of it arrogantly or anything like that. I think I’m more… I’m trying to explain what happens when, in my case… lower-middle-class Southern boy is submerged in this lifestyle. T[These are] the cards I’ve been dealt, you know? It’s more like what you said -- I’m not taking this so seriously.

KNAC.COM: On one song on the record, “Fuck All Y’all,” you have something in there… a lyric that says, “Take your nickel back”… I understand that there was a little bit of an incident between you and another party over royalties… was that a direct slam, or… what?
SCOTT: Yeah! It was! It was a direct slam, and I had my issues over a situation I had with Chad Kroeger (of Nickleback) that-- it was more of a slam at our ex-manager. I say in the song, “Here’s to all the fuckin’ money you make, so take your nickel back and default the rest of your take!” And what I mean by that is that we all had the same manager. He managed Saliva, Nickleback and Default. It’s more of a slam on him… that song is just about the businessmen of rock and roll, and how you can get, uh, or how you are sorta swimming with sharks… and that song refers to our ex-managers, our ex-lawyers, our ex-business associates.

KNAC.COM: Are you on better terms -- or any term -- with Chad Kroeger?
SCOTT: I haven’t spoken to him. I was just upset about how it was handled. How I was compensated. I really don’t have much problem with Chad Kroeger personally, I think that, you know, I’m from Memphis, Tennessee, and where we come from, a man works a day and you pay him a day’s pay. You pay him according to what the job entails. I just think that, you know, I didn’t get… what I was told on a handshake that I was gonna get. And then I was told I was lucky to get that! So, I just thought it was a shitty way of handling it, especially, the front part is the artist, you know? I could understand if it was lawyer to artist, or company to artist… but artist to artist… I couldn’t believe that is how it was handled. And I just felt like telling the truth about it on this record.

KNAC.COM: In your opinion is this still unresolved?
SCOTT: Sure.

KNAC.COM: You have lyrics that seem to refer about other bands… this record has references to “whining.” Is this correct, is this about emo-bands, or bands like Linkin Park, or is this just my impression?
SCOTT: Sometimes, yeah. You know? I think that we’ve said something on all three albums, about these bands that sort of take their fans to a therapy session… which may work for some people, and God bless ‘em for that. But, I know when I went to a rock concert when I was a kid, I went to escape the problems I had at home, and I went to escape my alcoholic father, or whatever the case may be -- I went to get away from that, to a concert. I went to see bands like Motley Crue and AC/DC and stuff like that. They weren’t talking about their fucked-up childhood! They were talking about girls! Cars! Partying! I don’t want to give kids some empty message, but I certainly want to give them something to lift them up and not bring ‘em down! Damn! But, this is just about the overall music industry since the mid-‘90s. I just wanted to make rock and roll fun again. I don’t want to single out any certain band or say that’s the problem. I don’t think that’s the solution at all. I just want to speak for myself and say that I want this… I mean, listen, I absolutely love Linkin Park, for example… they’re very positive and uplifting.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned bands that you grew up on and were influenced by… You worked on your last record with Nikki Sixx. When I first heard Survival Of The Sickest, that’s what I thought -- this is total cock-rock.
SCOTT: [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: I mean, hey, I’m 36 years old. I grew up with that music. So I heard this song, and I thought, “Oh, Jesus! They really turned the corner here!” I love it, but am I mistaken about this? Isn’t there a shift in direction from the previous records, which embraced a more of a hip-hop influence, at least a little bit?
SCOTT: Sure! I think that we’ve all tried to throw a curve ball with our records. I think with Every Six Seconds, you know, it had an obvious hip-hop flavor, which is hard not to have as an influence with all the hip-hop that was coming up from Memphis, like “3-6 Mafia” among others. There’s just a big hip-hop scene there. And after we’d been out in the world and experienced a little bit, we sort of took another turn putting an alternative twist on Back Into Your System… so, I think we turned the corner again and sorta got back to our roots and influences on Survival of the Sickest because we just listened to our fans this time around. We asked them, “What do you want to hear from us? What do you want to see us do next time around?” And they said, “We just want to see rock!” We just… we did a few things differently for this record. We stayed at home, and used an old friend of ours, Paul Ebersole, a great rock and roll producer from right there in Memphis, Tennessee. Like I said, we stayed at home, at our own houses, instead of a month at some motel somewhere; we stayed in our own beds and I think we made a better record for it, you know?

KNAC.COM: Well, I think there’s a helluva lot of rock on this record, and that’s something I live for… it’s refreshing.
SCOTT: Well, thank you. That’s what we wanted to do, I think that’s the bottom line is that we wanted something refreshing. We wanted to please our fans and at the same time we wanted to throw the world another curve ball and keep it interesting, you know?

KNAC.COM: Well, for sure, that you are. And I think… a lot of the early reviews coming out were calling you “southern-fried rock” and I think some of these things in the press kit here… it’s as if none of these critics had heard you guys before… I mean this one talks about your “whiskey-soaked influences”…
SCOTT: “Whiskey-soaked influences”??? [Laughs] That’s-- that’s… we don’t even drink whiskey! That’s kinda cool-sounding though! [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Well, I mean, I understand what they’re going after, but I think there’s more to this Saliva record than they think. It’s not Lynyrd Skynyrd. There’s much more than just being from the South! You’ve got-- I hear a lot of Stones, well the “woo-woo’s” on Survival of the Sickest… and right at the break there’s a reference right there. I know I’m not crazy: you sing, “I’m gonna drive this little red love machine!” That’s a gotta be a “hats off” to Prince…
SCOTT: Oh, absolutely! It’s certainly a “hats off” to Prince! Man, we are huge, huge, huge fans of Prince! I think Prince is a fuckin’ rock and roll icon! And uh… I think that we were definitely tippin’ our hats to him. We actually, originally in that breakdown, that part of the song where we have, “I’m a roller, baby, I’m a rider, so ease down and wrap your legs around me!” Originally we had, “So reach down between my legs and ease the seat back!” And we were also tippin’ our hats to Van Halen! And Van Halen’s lawyers got on the phone and said that they were gonna take 75 percent of the publishing--

KNAC.COM: WHAT? That’s outrageous. That’s just fucking crazy.
SCOTT: 75 percent. They were just really pissy about it. I – personally I don’t think anyone in Van Halen ever heard about it, but their lawyers were just really shitty about it. So we decided to pull it. And Prince’s lawyers actually gave us a call, and were just enthralled about it. They were ecstatic! They thought it was really cool and didn’t want any money, and they just thought it was really cool that a young band like us was taking our hat off to Prince. And I just thought that was a handled with a lot more class and a lot more respect for a young artist by Prince, than by Van Halen. Or at least their lawyers. Here again, the communication between artist to artist is broken down by bullshit, red tape and money. And that’s really sad, you know? That’s really sad that we can’t live in a world that someone can’t pay a compliment to another artist without it being about bullshit.

KNAC.COM: Do you feel that your experiences, for as many good as there have been, that there have been that many “bad” which warrant that kind of criticism?
SCOTT: I do to some degree. But for the most part, my experiences are positive. I’ve always said, and I’ve met a lot of people in this industry, from models to actresses to rock and roll stars, and I don’t mind… and I can honestly say that 95 percent of the people I’ve met have been so sweet and so giving and so inspiring to me. But there’s always that 5 percent that are assholes. And you’re always gonna have that. My mother told me when I signed my record deal and I left home, she said, “Just remember son, there’s enough assholes in this world and you don’t have to be one.” And that’s true and that’s what I live by. I try to conduct myself a gentleman, I meet people with an outstretched hand and all I can do is be responsible for me. And it’s sad that other people have to expose their insecurity by being total cocksuckers. I guess that’s the way of the world.

KNAC.COM: Tell me about what it’s like going on tour with Skillet. I’ve seen them before, and I get the same feeling about them, about what you just described.
SCOTT: Yeah, they’re our hometown boys… and girls. [Laughs] And we really enjoyed their company on this leg of the tour. They have their wives and kids out with them and stuff… it’s a little taste of home out here with us and them. Cook-outs and stuff on the road; it’s really nice to have someone here from home out with us. Their fan-base is really strong, too. I was really impressed by their fans, how enthused their fans were to see them -- and us - and how our fans were just as enthused to see them, too. So it was a really cool match. And having Earshot out here with us has been really cool bill… Skillet, Earshot and us. We roll into town and have a helluva party every night!

KNAC.COM: And then you’re going to tour with ZZ Top…
SCOTT: We played with ZZ Top once at, like a fairground show. It was, you know, an honor to open for… legends. Just us with this little old band from Texas. There’s an unspoken camaraderie when it comes to Southern bands playing out, as with Three Doors Down, or Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers. They’re proud of us, and we’re honored to be with them.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned growing up in Memphis… but didn’t you used to be a bouncer at a strip club in Memphis?
SCOTT: Yeah, yeah. I was a bouncer. That was my last job I had before we got signed. You know, you hear from rock-stars the horror stories of the jobs they had, and I’m blessed to say that I had a pretty cool job the last two years before we got signed.

KNAC.COM: What was the club? Is it still around?
SCOTT: Yeah! It’s called, “Platinum Plus”! It’s the hottest strip-club in the South! It’s a really cool place to work.

KNAC.COM: Did they have features go through there, or was it housegirls?
SCOTT: Very rarely. Very rarely did they have features through, they got like 150 of the most beautiful women in the South. And it’s always really busy, and always a good time. I bounced there for two years, I was the head bouncer, and I only worked four nights a week and I made pretty damn good money. So it was a nice little job to have before getting signed; plus they worked with me on my career and everything. You know, if I had a show, or I had to go out on the road, they weren’t assholes about it. It was really a blessing, because I could have been struggling, and they helped me out a lot.

KNAC.COM: So it was Platinum Plus, huh? I gotta remember that. The only strip club I knew about in Tennessee was “The World Famous Boobie Bungalow”… out on I-65 or somewhere. They had a CB-radio thing hooked into the DJ-booth, and the truckers would call ahead and you’d hear them on the PA…
SCOTT: Oh, nice! [Laughs] That’s kind of a cool idea for a strip club. Yeah… maybe have like, an 18-wheeler for the DJ booth? [Laughs] Holy fuck! [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Do they play your music at your old job?
SCOTT: Oh, yeah, every time me and my wife go in there, they’re playing our songs. We’re all good friends with the DJs… they’re really proud of us, and everybody in Memphis is really proud of our success.

KNAC.COM: Now let’s see… you worked with Chad Kroeger, Nikki Sixx, Bret Arnold from 3 Doors Down… I know you worked with Jay-Z on “The Blueprint.” Heroes, friends… is there anyone you’d like to work with that you haven’t yet?
SCOTT: I’d like to do something with – this might sound weird -- I want to do something, like a southern-rock sort of country song with a female country singer. That’s always been a dream of mine. Like Allison Krauss or Jodi Messina, or someone like that, to branch off and challenge myself. I’m actually doing a hip-hop record at home, under a pen name called “Ranj-Rova,” and I’m doing that with Triple-6 Mafia, and they let me guest on their records… it’s that “dirty south” style mix-tape type rap. I just love that, it’s bare bones, all balls type stuff. And that’s always a challenge. I think when you don’t challenge yourself anymore, you sort of die as an artist. So I continue to try… to try and challenge myself.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that by separating the hip-hop and the rock that Saliva will continue to go in more of a rock-direction?
SCOTT: I still find that we have a hip-hop influence. On this album, when you listen to it, the beats, and Paul Crosby’s style of drumming, we’ve always loved a good fat beat. Something you can bob your head to. If it’s not something you can bob your head to, it’s not a Saliva song. I think that this album’s been a departure, but I can’t say that it won’t be seen again. I think our music has always been about freedom, and not being afraid to go in any direction we choose and still look good doing it! [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Well, isn’t that what rock and roll is all about?
SCOTT: Absolutely!

KNAC.COM: So, how is the rest of the band doing? You’re on your third record and you still have the same line-up. That’s almost unheard of these days…
SCOTT: Everybody’s doing great. We all get along and we all truly love each other. We’re not like most bands… I think the bottom line with us is our camaraderie and the charisma, the moments that we share, together and on stage that no one will ever know are very special to us and we certainly don’t take it for granted. And the fans, they have kept us together. Humor has kept us together. Comedy Central has kept us together!

KNAC.COM: Do you guys hang out off the tour as well?
SCOTT: Sure, absolutely! We definitely keep tight with each other; we borrow each other’s cars and stuff… we truly enjoy each other’s company.

KNAC.COM: Borrowing each other’s cars? I saw that thing in Revolver with you and your Corvette. You let them borrow that?
SCOTT: That’s actually the car I bought for my wife for her wedding present. We went home the other day and Chris [D’abaldo, guitarist] wanted to surprise his wife, and so I let him-- I mean, my wife let him borrow the Corvette when we went home. It’s always fun to do that. Chris has got a really cool Corvette, too, but his wife had it that day… and he’ll let me borrow it. It’s fine with me, because I remember a time when none of us had cars. So if he wants to borrow it, I’m happy to be able to let him -- because I can!

KNAC.COM: So what’s up with Saliva for the rest of the year?
SCOTT: We’re going to be out on the road for a while, but we’re actually going to do it right this time. We’re going to take a couple of weeks off at Christmas, be with our families, then after the holidays, probably go back out after the first of the year and tear it up. We love to tour, man. We love to play, and be out there with the fans, seeing them having a good time, and singing the whole song back to us… seeing the crowd light up is all the encouragement I need!

KNAC.COM: Well, on that note… good luck on tour, and we’ll see you out there!
SCOTT: Well, thank you brother. We’ll be in New York City soon. Thank you for the time and thank you for the good questions.

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