Chicken suits and Mozart tunes are the Scatterbrain way



By Steve Newton

When a group of musicians perform a composition by an artist as renowned as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, you might expect them to deliver it in a dignified manner, in a way meant to show the utmost respect for the composer. Then again, if your band’s called Scatterbrain, you’ll perform the Austrian prodigy’s Sonata No. 3 so that singer Tommy Christ has a chance to change out of his chicken costume.

“Some nights it served that purpose,” says guitarist Paul Neider, the arranger of the Mozart selection. “Some nights it just gives him a chance to have a couple of beers backstage.”

Chicken suits and Mozart tunes? You betcha! Hey, anything goes with Scatterbrain—the band posed for the back cover of its new album, Scamboogery, in pyjamas and big, fluffy animal slippers. And it’s not just an anti-macho image these New Yorkers are trying to cultivate; they wear those cute bunnies and bears at home.

“Of course! And you’ve gotta see our bus. We have every kind of animal slippers you can ever imagine!”

Most bands, when it comes to having guest spots on their albums, go out of their way to hire the hottest studio musicians around. But former heavyweight boxing champ “Smokin’ ” Joe Frazier was Scatterbrain’s choice to add vocals to the new disc’s title track.

“Joe Frazier was on a New York radio talk show, and we heard him saying, ‘You gotta beware of all them scamboogers out there.’ And we had already been using that word, so it was like, ‘Wow, we gotta get him to sing on “Scamboogery”. It’d be perfect.’

“So we sent him a tape and asked him if he’d do it, and he was totally into it. He came down to the studio and he was definitely jammin’, man. He was dancin’ around and stuff.”

The wild and wacky—not to mention musically awesome—Scatterbrain was resurrected from the remnants of Ludichrist, a thrash band that Neider, Christ, and guitarist Glen Cummings recorded two albums with. “We just got sick of doing that type of music,” explains Neider. “We wanted to just be able to branch out.”

So Neider recruited two high-school buddies from Hicksville, Long Island—bassist Guy Brogna and drummer Mike Boyko—and Scatterbrain was born. Their first album, Here Comes Trouble, sold more than 150,000 copies, about twice what Neider and his mates had expected. Heavy touring undoubtedly boosted sales, and it also gave the band inspiration for the tune “Bartender”, which Scamboogery’s liner notes say is, “dedicated to our bartendin’ friends all over the world”.

“There’s thousands of ’em,” says Neider, “and it’s just a tribute to every one of them. You know, we’ve been in Australia, Europe, Canada, and the States, and everywhere we go we get treated well by the bartenders, so we figured, ‘Hey, why not write a tribute song?’ ”

After the band plays 86 Street this Wednesday (December 18) on a bill with Ugly Kid Joe, some of that club’s own staff might be blessed with their own dedication from the band. But they’ll have to get by without the chicken suit. Scatterbrain has grown up; its members have matured in the last little while. So now Christ is looking for a lobster outfit.

“He’s trying to get one custom-made,” says Neider, “but it’s kinda rough, you know. Shellfish problems and stuff.”

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