Photo by Jeremy Gordon
It’s hard to keep up with all of Scott Metzger’s bands and collaborations. Aside from regular stints in Bustle In Your Hedgerow, RANA, and the Gene Ween Band (among many, many others), he has also recently played with Chris Barron, the Everyone Orchestra, and Jason Crosby. This Saturday at Sullivan Hall in New York City, he adds another band to the list with Scott Metzger’s Heroin, a one-time grouping of local all-stars who will vibe through a late night set of Velvet Underground covers. This past weekend I talked to Scott about the Velvet Underground, his studio work, and how during this recession he has become an in-demand “New York City guitarist.”
JR: Where did the idea for Scott Metzger’s Heroin come from? Is it going to be an ongoing thing?
SM: I think that it’s kind of a one shot thing, as of right now. But you never know with these things. I mean, Bustle in Your Hedgerow was a one shot thing the first time that we played too. And five years later we’re still doing that.
First and foremost, this is a visual art opening for my friend Jess Pfohl at Sullivan Hall. It started off with her asking me if I wanted to come down and play a couple of songs. And then at some point it came up how much her work is influenced by Andy Warhol and how much she loves the Velvet Underground. One thing led to another and the next idea was: “Let’s do a full set of the Velvet Underground.”
JR: Are you a big Velvet Underground fan?
SM: I went through a big Velvet Underground phase right out of high school—of listening to the early stuff like the live 1969 album. I really liked the band and it just seemed like they were dudes—and a girl—playing music. They made playing music seem very accessible.
A few years later, I went through a big phase of listening to their album Loaded a lot, which almost sounds like an entirely different band. The drummer is different, but the level of production and everything is so… the whole philosophy behind the music is different at that point. I always love it when you can hear bands develop from album to album.
JR: Have you ever met Lou Reed?
SM: I have not—but I spoke to him on the phone once. When I was 19 years old, my friend Matt Kohut was playing bass for [original Velvet Underground drummer] Moe Tucker on a solo tour and they took me out with them for a few shows to play guitar. It was me, Matt Kohut, a guy named Sluggo from Half Japanese playing drums, and Moe Tucker. On that tour, she played guitar and sang and pretty much exclusively did Bo Diddley tunes. This was probably in ’99 or ‘2000.
Once, when we were doing a sound check, Moe’s cell phone started ringing and I looked down and it said “Lou” on the caller ID. I picked up the phone and said “Hello, Moe Tucker’s phone,” and the voice on the other end said [in a stern New York Lou Reed accent], “Put Moe on the phone.” That was far as my friendship with Lou Reed ever went.
JR: Who is in Scott Metzger’s Heroin?
SM: Kevin Kendrick, from Fat Mama and A Big Yes and a Small No; Jonathan Goldberger, who is from those two bands as well; and Ryan Thornton, who is the drummer for Sam Champion, RANA, and Sean Bones. All three guys are great musicians on their own and all are well versed in the Velvet Underground. That’s exactly why I called them. Jonathan is an outrageous guitar player, but he’s going to be playing bass on this show. We just had our first rehearsal last night and it turns out that he’s an outrageous bass player too.
JR: Are you playing songs from one album or from the whole catalog?
SM: It’s pretty all over the place. Like I said before, I think that the Velvet Underground is a band that went through a bunch of phases. Each phase is pretty well represented in the list of songs that we’ve got so far on the setlist.