S.C.U.M. split last week.

This left me quite disappointed, I liked the few of their concerts I saw and I believe they had, on their behalf, an image that many indie-bands would kill for. It was still a young and premature project but with a discrete potential to break through into the art-rock meagre scene.

I didn’t want these photos to go missing, maybe there are fans who would enjoy them.
Archived the idea of waiting for the next show, I get this sad chance to use them here. It’s now or never, ain’t it?

Writing about S.C.U.M. also proved interesting to know more about a band that, in addition to the cool image, had a lot to be inspired from. And beyond the band sources of inspiration, I also discovered a lot about the London indie music scene, such a small world.

First discovery.
Out of the several meanings of the English word: scum I didn’t know the slang option in 4.

1. A filmy layer of extraneous or impure matter that forms on or rises to the surface of a liquid or body of water.
2. The refuse or dross of molten metals.
3. Refuse or worthless matter.
4. Slang One, such as a person or an element of society, that is regarded as despicable or worthless

Which is explained in depth in the Urban Dictionary

SCUM Possibly the worst word you can have your name associated with.

It is hard to define the word, but it is basically used to describe someone so disgraceful that they are seen as the lowest form of life. “Worthlessness”, “waste of skin”, “dirt”. “Nothing”. Far worse than most other insults, where the victim is often just referred to as genitalia.

The fact that “scum” is a non-swear, and seen as perfectly acceptable English, makes it even more demeaning and offensive. If you are condemned as a “cunt” or a “fucktard”, then you are simply being attacked with cliché profanity, used spontaneously and with no particular venom or thought. “Scum”, however, is usually only used in exclusive conditions where it is the only word for the job, and makes the victim feel like the lowest of the low.

All of this may be quite offensive for a human being, but it sounds quite captivating as a band’s name.

Although S.C.U.M. (the band) name refers to something more literate than the meaning of the word. Second discovery.
Valerie Solanas, wrote in the 60s a radical feminist manifesto called, dicto, The SCUM Manifesto. Within she argued that “men have ruined the world and women should overthrow society and eliminate the male sex.” (Wiki)

It was first published in 1967 and opened with this paragraph: “Life” in this “society” being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of “society” being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.”

If you got curious as me, there is a full PDF here

I am going off topic but I googled Valerie Solanas because I had the feeling I read her name somewhere. Third discovery. In fact she is the woman that attempted to murder Andy Warhol at the Factory. A moment that changed the style of the Factory, hence the art and music scene of New York in the 60s.

Plenty to write songs about.
The name of ‘our’ S.C.U.M. is, of course, ironic. It was chosen because the band (originally) was an all-male group. Formed in South London by five friends.
Just look at them and there is much more of Andy Warhol into their look that of radical feminism wanting to kill him. Which adds layers of creative confusion that increases the appeal of this fivesome.

The focal point of S.C.U.M. surely was Thomas Cohen, a magnetic singer. It’s rare to have singers that don’t play (and hide their insecurity) behind an instrument.
He reminded me of a young Nick Cave. For the look, for the stage attitude, the body language and someway the voice too. He had hints of David Bowie dandy look, a feminine, clean, angelic face.

Fourth discovery. About a year since I had this impression, Mute records, the label of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, signed the band.

I saw S.C.U.M. live at least three times… going by heart… first at 1234 festival 2010, then at the ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead 2011 and in the end at a defunct Cambridge pub, the Haymakers, in their own gig some months after the ATP.

S.C.U.M. toured their debut Again into Eyes. Mute Records boosted a high-class production signed by Ken and Jolyon Thomas, already at the court of David Bowie in the past. That’s one more to link with Andy Warhol.

Together with The Horrors and few bands (Toy), S.C.U.M. are the point of reference for Art-Rockers this decade. Due to the poorness of an art-rock, it’s a pity they won’t be feeding it in the future.

They have some close relationship. Fifth discovery. Huw Webb, the bassist of S.C.U.M., is the brother of Rhys Webb, the bassist of The Horrors.

Unless you have seen S.C.U.M. very early days at the all-males times, you have noticed the drummer. Melissa Rigby, long straight blond hair framing a catchy mysterious gaze. She is a constant presence in many London bands. She plays in the all-girls band Novella, toured with The Kills and recently recorded with Rachel Zeffira an emerging Canadian soprano.

Wikepedia also link of her involvement with Toy but I didn’t managed to get where, when and how.
As I didn’t know that Toy are 3/4 of the now forgotten Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. When I reviewed them back in 2008, I was insulted by some fans. History talks. Someone would remember J&JJJ for being probably the only band to be signed, to be praised by BBC and NME, to release a (flop) single and to have their debut withdrawn at last minute after being pressed and distributed to reviewers. Toy member did good to hide this past and keep the fresher ideas for their new band.

Back to S.C.U.M., there is more there is the gossip. Not a discovery this.
Thomas Cohen, the singer had a tumultuous year. At the end of 2011 he announced the engagement with (the tabloids star) Peaches Geldof (yes, the daughter of Bob Geldof). In January she announced to be pregnant. In April 2012 their first son was born. In September last year they got married.

All of this could have had a consequence on the band. It ultimately had.

S.C.U.M. will be missed. S.C.U.M. will not be missed. Up to you. There will be more band to follow on this path, more talented art-rockers, more gossip, more hipster, more signing… more… but if you want to have a look at live photos, liveon35mm at your service! Online you can still find old stuff here:
Listen to the Album on [spotify].


Photo tip

Compared to the daylight show at festivals, despite the ATP was indoor and dark-ish, the show at the Haymakers was more interesting photography-wise. The light engineer, overcame the usual pub darkness with a couple of spotlights in the front. One pointed at the singer and the other at the bass drum with the band name.

This situation can deliver good images, assuming you know how to handle the light and avoid to burn the most lit areas.
There are different ways to do this. The most used is probably spot-metering. What you want to do is to set the camera to spot and point your exposure meter where there is more light. Be aware, It’s better if it is not the brightest spot, so to avoid underexposure.

It works but it is not my favourite. Mainly because I rarely centre the subject and the subject moves. To apply it correctly I have to point focus, spot-meter, block AF/AS, and reframe. I am not fast enough with this sequence of buttons even if Nikon’s pro cameras are quite well suited to do it.

I prefer to leave the exposure in the usual matrix, which works quite well on modern cameras and use the exposure compensation setting. Somewhere between -1 and -2 EV will do.

With a couple of checks on the screen it’s easy. If you are in a situation, as this one, where the lights don’t change dramatically throughout the show, it’s a good procedure to set the camera in full manual mode ignore the exposure meter indication altogether and set it to the pair of aperture/shutter (and ISO) that worked.

One advantage of the spotlights are shadows. Keep an eye on it, if the background is neutral you may be able to come up with an interesting photo of you subject foreground and his/her shadow in the background.

The disadvantage is that, especially if you go for the spot-metering on the bright part, the rest of the stage would be very dark and portraiting the rest of the band, challenging.
Concert photography is tricky anyway so, let’s face it, you have to love darkness and challenges.


~ by Valerio on January 22, 2013.

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