Shooting The Shit with Take Away The Ugly
Interviewed by Michael Meade 10/16/14
Photography by April Holland, Courtesy Take Away The Ugly
Posted 10/26/14 - 7:35 PM ET
On October 18, TLR's Michael Meade sat down with Take Away The Ugly to talk about how the band got together, their new music video, opening for The Misfits at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on October 30, and what they planned for the future. The trio is based in the heart of the Poconos in Northeastern Pennsylvania, keep an eye on TLR for more with Take Away The Ugly in the near future!
TLR!: Thanks for joining today, here.
Ray Scavo: Thanks for having us!
Dan Lavache: Yeah!
TLR!: For those that don't know Take Away The Ugly yet, want to introduce yourselves, go around the table?
Ray Scavo: Sure, I'm Ray Scavo aka "Scaggs", I'm the bass player in Take Away The Ugly.
Sonny Weeks: I'm Sonny Weeks, rhythm guitarist and lead singer.
Dan Lavache: Dan Lavache; drummer.
TLR!: Alright guys, thanks. First off, I know we just introduced you, but let's get people that may not be familiar with Take Away The Ugly, let's get them familiar with what you do, what kind of music you play. So, this one's kind of open, you want to give us a run down on the band?
Dan: You want a rundown on the band, huh?
TLR!: Yeah, just what kind of style you play, so on.
Dan: You know, where the band really starts is, just, it's more like an idea. It's you know, you remember, you remember, you were doing a band right? So, every time you're in a band, you ever been in that band where it's not punk enough or it's not metal enough or you're so boxed into this little genre and you just gotta follow that all the time; that's not exactly what we do at all. We're all kind of tired of that, so we went the complete opposite way; so you gotta start with the name of the band. Basically, Take Away The Ugly, that's actually a play on the movie the Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Dan: So, we're taking away the ugly, we'll play the good and we'll play the bad; but we won't play the ugly. Now to us, it's kind of like pop music is the ugly, it's been... if you go through the history of music and you look at the beginning of it, you have all these classical pieces, with these composers that could play every single instrument. They were mind blowing what they could do, commanding hundred piece orchestras and then you move along in time and you just see it get narrowed down and cut down and cut down. You get to the 50's, where rock and roll is, and people are experimenting with it. And in comparison, it's very simplistic; you keep moving all the way into the 2000's and what do we have? You listen to the radio, and it's just this straightforward, very simple... everything.
But what happened to James Brown? What happened to surf rock? What happened to all these legendary styles that no one sees anymore. So, now what we do is basically that; we play all the things that everybody forgot about. We'll write a funk song, we'll write a... reggae song. We'll write a rockabilly song, we're going to open our set at the [Misfits] show with a 60's surf rock song no one has ever heard before, y'know. So, to experiment with all those genres and basically since we have the name, Take Away The Ugly, and this is the principle idea; we can't stop writing songs that are all over the place at any moment in time. In reality, if you want to know what it is we're writing, it's three punk rockers trying to write everything but Punk Rock in the first place. We're writing all the genres... literally. So you'll catch us doing big band jazz, with a fifteen piece horn section. And then, like today, we released a video, just for the fun of it, of us covering a Misfits song. I mean we'll just go every field you ever thought of. In the end, I would say, once we've written all the records we ever wanted to, we would have probably covered every single genre on the face of the earth that we respect and love. You know, that's pretty much it.
L-R: Ray "Scaggs" Scavo, Sonny Weeks, and Dan Lavache -
Photo: April Holland, courtesy Take Away The Ugly
Sonny: I will add in, that although he said "everything but Punk Rock music", I want to clarify; you will still hear Punk Rock music.
Dan: That's for sure. It comes out no matter what.
Sonny: A little disclaimer there.
Ray: Little disclaimer... [laughs]
Sonny: MMMM, this beer is good.
TLR!: [laughs] Excellent, I like it, I like it. Alright, now that we pretty much got the origin and the stance, you know what Take Away The Ugly stands for as a band, as a unit, how did you guys get together? I know we covered who you are, but how did you get the band together?
Ray: It's actually a crazy tale, man, it's like literally all the fates and stars aligned just to make us meet. He [Dan] had another bass player, Take Away The Ugly existed before I was in the band; but it didn't exist as far as it does today. It was so funny, he happened to know my cousin and I don't know this, I don't know Dan. I get a phone call that they broke down a block from my house, so my mom goes and picks him up; and my mom is a nut. She drives a '69 Buick Skylark, all rat rotted monster, monster. Like a little lady driving to school in a monster Skylark that should be on a drag strip. And she comes putting up and picks Dan up, and my cousin Gina, and they come to my house; and my cousin Gina calls me and says "I'm coming up, I'm on my way with my friend, he's a drummer; he has toured all over the country and all over the world and all these places. You've gotta meet him". So, he comes in and we look at each other and make eye contact, and it was just like... we knew. We knew there was something and there's more, I don't how much I can say... [laughs] You can edit this out later, but I looked at him, I was like "do you smoke pot man?" and he was just like, "of course" [group laughs]. And yeah, we sat around my room, I showed him I could slap around the bass, and I don't know, man; it was, I don't know man, just like something clicked between us and before we knew it we were hanging out and we buddied up really fast.
I was in a metal band getting ready to tour Belgium, and he calls me one day like, "it's falling apart, the bass player doesn't want to be in the band and I need this to keep going". And I had been trying to get in a band with Dan since the day I met him, 'cause I just knew I needed to play with him and I thought maybe... ten minutes about it; because I was afraid of the conflicting schedules. I was like "I'm in", that's it. And then before I knew it, I realized this is what I wanted, this is where I wanted to be, I'm creating things that are right here; like things I've never heard before, things that inspire me with him because of our agreement that there's no limits. Music is not to be limited, it's just to be created and expanded upon constantly, and that's how we look at it. And then we went through a singer change, that was crazy, I'm sure Dan can elaborate more on what went down...
Dan: That's somewhat recent. We had an original singer, his name was Riggs, sweetheart of a guy; we love him. But, as time went on, we made two albums with him, they were fantastic; he worked really hard with us but as time went on, we wore him down, big time. It's just his life conflicted with it and he just, he had to go the other direction with it.
Ray: And he had a brand new baby on the way...
Dan: Yeah, he has ababy on the way, he's starting a family; there were so many reasons why he just couldn't continue with us so we had to reach out for, you know, what were we gonna do now? We didn't know what to do yet, so before we made any changes, we spoke to Sonny. And that's when we got in the band, and we kinda knew it was right, because within three rehearsals we had written twenty-three songs. Which was the amount of two albums already of Take Away The Ugly, so we were like "wow, okay, you're rising to the challenge; you've never done surf, you're learning it now. You've never done rockabilly, you're learning it today.", you know? So, we haven't looked back since then really. It's only twenty-three songs later.
Ray: Perfect fit, perfect fit, like non-stop.
Sonny: Dan and I also have a history that goes back like eight years. We were actually in a band like eight years ago, and it was awesome, and then the lead guitarist was just too involved with drugs and alcohol; but I went on to join other bands. And it's funny because of what his story was, I'm still in them, but I'm in a metal band and it was one of the genres I had never done before. It's going good, their name is Revelation Now... a little plug, you're welcome. [laughs] Yeah, so, I joined with them [Dan and Ray] a couple of months ago, just telling them yeah, I'll try it out. And you can't deny what it's all about, you know, that's what it is for me as I've worked with signed musicians now, I've worked with great producers and I've had that whole thing behind me of like this is how you do it, you gotta look this way, you've got to speak that way, you've gotta act this way and all that. And, eventually it just all felt so fake. Especially with someone like me, I love playing music and I'm an entertainer. You put me in front of a microphone and it's like I'm the monkey with the cymbals, you know. But it just felt like all that lifestyle, because I've always wanted to be a rock star, and I found out, like that's bullshit, you know? I don't necessarily want that at all, I just want the opportunity to play to people and for the to love it; and that's what these guys are all about. And I gotta add... no, nevermind, that's not even part of the conversation... [group laughs]
L-R: Ray, Sonny, and Dan - Photo: April Holland, courtesy Take Away The Ugly
TLR!: Leave everybody wanting more there, Sonny. Always leave them wanting more. [laughs]
Ray: There's more, stay tuned... [laughs]
TLR!: We'll be off record for that.
Sonny: We've got amazing, cute cat videos! [laughs]
Ray: Cuddly kittens, hashtag...
Sonny: Hashtag: adorable cat, puss-puss [laughs]
Dan: This is what we did today, we released a video today. We were scheming on how people see things on Facebook, and you'll have a great artist that'll post an amazing song or video or whatever and people just bypass it. But, then you write something stupid like, "I can't believe what was on number five", you know, and everyone clicks on it to see what number five was. So, these guys are over there going "you know what? We're going to put 'those kittens are so adorable'" [laughs] So, the opener to our video is "those kittens are so adorable" and like two lines later tells you the truth about it. We're experimenting with that advertising plan now.
Ray: We're waiting to see how that goes... [laughs]
Sonny: My cover band, Wreckless Marci, posted "I can't believe the kittens were so calm through all the loud noise"... [laughs]
Dan: So, you know, this is our marketing plan right now. [everyone laughs]
Sonny: The results are coming in! [more laughter]
Ray: We're not sure how this new tactic works, but we'll let you know. Might be revolutionary, disguise things as cat videos...
TLR!: Hey, no it's good! Cat videos sell. [laughs]
Sonny: That's true, cats are... the new black.
TLR!: [laughs] Following up on the video itself, as you said, you released the video earlier today?
Dan: Yes, this afternoon.
Ray: It's a cover of the Misfits' "Hybrid Moments", and man, the video is just killer! So much fun, man, I've never seen Sonny act such a fool before in front of the camera.
Sonny: You sound like some kind of reporter outside of a grocery store.
Ray: [cheesy reporter voice] This just in! Breaking news, Channel 10...
Sonny: Those eggs are delicious. [group laughs] We made the video for, obviously, for promotion for our Misfits show. It's us covering "Hybrid Moments" by The Misfits, and we woke up one day, a little late, we were up late the night before as bands may be some times... [laughs] We were all fighting about how we woke up late and how we have no time...
Dan: Waking up at 10 am means waking up at 2 pm.
Sonny: Yeah 2 pm, it was bad. There was work to be done at 5 pm, we had no time and so we fought for an hour about how we had no time. And then we finally just started trying, we set up six videos ourselves, we got our lovely Merch Girl; Denise, who is also the wife of our drummer, Mister Dan, to help with the directing.
Dan: She was the cameraman.
Sonny: She was the camerawoman.
Dan: She worked all the cameras.
Sonny: Yeah, and we got all six angles, it took about six or seven takes on the song... two being serious, the rest being a train wreck of fun. And we proved, we proved that in three hours you can make a kick ass video; so stop trying to invest millions of dollars to make your dumb videos that I don't care about, because THEY'RE BORING! [group laughs] THE END! Thank you, good night. [more laughs]
Dan: Making that video was more than just trying to do this, it was more of a proving ground. We had actually been trying this for the last year or two, and you know it's like, yeah, you ask someone to help you and they're great at what they do, it's their field right? But they never come through, you wait a year and nothing happens, maybe you film something but nothing happens, nothing happens. So, eventually we were like you gotta take the bull by the horns, right? So how can we do that? Well, we got the show so let's do something for it, and really we have way bigger goals in mind than just this video; really, this is kind of trial and error, let's see what happens...
Sonny: We're writing an album right now....
Dan: Yeah, let's stick five, six, cameras in a room... what can we make of that? And can we turn it into something? That was the big question, because there's a bigger goal. We're doing this twenty-three song album, but what we're thinking is that we're gonna do... we're going to release one video at a time for the album. We're actually going to start recording them before the album ever gets recorded. Now we have demos, we know how fast they go, we know where the tempo is right? What we're thinking is that we're going to, now that we have this experience, now that we've learned about the equipment and the cameras; and what we can and can't do, we're going to make an album that has a video for every single song. Every single song connects together, and by the end that you've watched them all, it's a complete story, and it's very much a story about zombies and being crazy musicians trying to find a cure for the ugly virus.
Sonny: Which is a whole other thing you're going to get an interview about soon. The story of Take Away The Ugly, he [Dan] is actually writing somewhat of a novel that will continue to grow each season of this band. And we're all characters, I just joined and I had a great entrance, you've gotta see that. There's definitely a story to it, we have big ideas and it's going to be modern and it's not just, I gotta stress, it's not just zombies... there's a very deep meaning that is in our hearts and minds about all of this.
Ray: Really, when we're saying zombies, we're talking about people that are not subjected to music that requires effort to make. A brainwashed person, by standard pop music that only knows the bubble-pop market.
Sonny: Not even that, just somebody who... who just gave up enough to say "you know what? It's on the radio so I love it. It's a busy life, it's hard to search for music but when you do, you should search. When you're at the concert, you should put down your fucking cell phone, man, enjoy yourself; enjoy yourself. People will say, "aw shut up, get the hair out of your ass, it's 2014", or whatever, but guess what? Not too long ago, they were much happier years and much more adventurous years; and I can remember that it wasn't just because I was young, which is why I miss being young because I had to anticipate getting a phone call. I had to anticipate making one, I had to anticipate seeing the girl I had a crush on, because I had to wait another twelve to fifteen hours until school started again; I couldn't just go on her Facebook and see her in a skimpy little outfit; from when she went to North Carolina in the summer and she's only fifteen... parents, fucking be better parents. [group laughs] The moral of the story... we don't even have a band, we're just against parents... we're against peaceful dinners too. [Sonny gestures to the those dining at tables surrounding our's]
Ray: Family dinners suck! No... [laughs]
TLR!: This is a good interview, this is a good interview! [laughs]
Sonny: We'd also like to tell you Tastes Like Rock has been... we met Mike about two hours ago, it was supposed to be a half hour but he's having a great time!
TLR!: Damn right!
Sonny: You need to read his stuff and you need to support him, because he really cares about his art and craft... I know this won't be in the interview, but you can put it up later!
TLR!: [laughs] I might be put in, plugging is always appreciated! Sonny, your check will be in the mail... [group laughs] Alright guys, real quick to close, since we're going to have another interview about that album when you get it done and recorded and all the videos going along with it; I like that, by the way, it is a very cool take on a concept album. But, to close out here, you guys are playing for The Misfits on the thirtieth of October, next Thursday... no, two weeks away, sorry...
Sonny: Thank God!
Ray: Thank God! He was like freaking out, look at him, he just turned into a ghost. [laughs]
Sonny: It's not like I haven't played good gigs before, I've done things that would make anybody nervous. But I just joined this band, we write twenty-three songs in three rehearsals, I haven't even memorized the lyrics yet let alone know the names of all of them... oh, and by the way, our first gig is with The Misfits.
Dan: Well, you know, what better way to break in your new singer than to throw him to the wolves and say, "hey, I know you never played a gig with us, but we're gonna put you in front of a few thousand people, no pressure, remember all the stuff; we've only had a handful of rehearsals." [laughs]
Ray: A real nice, nice show, you'll be alright.
Sonny: Nice people...
TLR!: That's good, that's great, you guys are opening for The Misfits; that is, like you said, that's freaking exciting after the amount of time you've had together as this incarnation, this trio.
Sonny: Anybody who grows up loving Punk Rock, should be excited about doing something like that. I am. And these guys have done it before.
Dan: Yeah, yeah, we did it last year, we did it last year with them and Jerry Only is so freaking cool, we had a great time.
Ray: Truly, truly awesome person. It's so cool, blew my mind, he was hurt and he played the whole show hurt. He had a really bad back, he could barely walk, so he went to the van and we loaded up his stuff for him and then we went to go network with Jerry and hang out, because he's cool like that. And his daughter was with us, and if it wasn't for her we probably never would have talked to Jerry Only; he's so into kids... don't take that pervertedly....
Dan: We did, we did.
Ray: I saw the faces, which is why I made the statement... all he did for kids, in a nice, nice way; really Christian of him and... [group laughs]
Dan: I think what Ray's trying to say is that we noticed that Jerry Only was all about his fans, he was really obsessing over his fans. I remember, you know Jello Biafra does all those spoken words, right? He did one on The Ramones, did you ever that one?
TLR!: No, I haven't yet.
Dan: It's really cool, because he starts bashing them right away, and he's like "way back in the day I saw The Ramones and here is this repetitive band, playing this really simple crap and it was just repeat verse one, and repeat the chorus and you pretty much have the whole song"; and how how terrible it was. He really didn't like them, but he saw all these people in awe of them so he went to the show to see what happened, and what he noticed was that he wasn't into it but afterwards he noticed that The Ramones came down and made a moment for every single person in the audience. And suddenly, Jello Biafra had the utmost respect for them and realized they're human and that they really loved their art, they really loved their fans; they're really, truly nice people. They're humble. And so, Jello goes on to say that "I hated them at first, but then I realized that I absolutely loved them and I looked up to them and respected them."
Sonny: He realized he was the prick.
Dan: Yeah, he realized he was the prick at that moment and again, it's like with The Misfits, you'd think like on the cover they seem so gritty and hard and y'know scary; but then, in the end like Jerry Only's a big mush. He loves everybody.
Ray: He comes out to wish us all good luck and stuff, it's so strange...
Sonny: And I'll close with this, Jerry, you're about to see what real muscles look like when you meet me pal... [group bursts into laughter] My name is Sonny Weeks...
TLR!: The gauntlet has been thrown.
Sonny: It's ooooooon!
Dan: What are you? ninety pounds to his two hundred and twenty?
Ray: We need to start beefing with The Misfits, like a huge publicity stunt just trash talk 'em. See Sonny get beat up by Jerry Only.
Dan: Jerry Only, Jerry Only, if you read this, do not beat our singer up.
Ray: He's fragile!
Sonny: When he finally meets me I'll be ready for him. He'll be like "you're a cool guy, I like him already."
Ray: "I saw you trash talking me in that magazine..."
Sonny: That's all, it's on. [group laughs]
TLR!: Thanks guys, thanks for taking the time to hang out with me on behalf of Tastes Like Rock and we're looking forward to the show.
L-R: Ray, Dan, and Sonny - Photo: April Holland, courtesy Take Away The Ugly
For more from Take Away The Ugly, check out www.takeawaytheugly.com. Be sure to catch their show with The Misfits at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA on October. TLR! will be there, not only because we had a great interview but because TLR's Michael Meade made some great friends that afternoon as well.