Scooter’s gutbucket brings a hillbilly vibe to the Deadcats’ surf-punk



There’s a warning label on the back cover of the new Deadcats CD, Bucket O’ Love, but it’s not there to caution potential buyers about any explicit lyrics or backwards satanic messages. It’s more just a declaration of the kind of music the local quartet proudly purveys, “hillbilly/surf/punk”.

“We just kinda mix the elements together,” says lead singer and gutbucket specialist Scooter during a break from his day job at the Comic Shop in Kits. “We all came from backgrounds influenced by those things. We’ve all liked surf music—Gord plays a mean surf guitar—and Quentin Tarantino kind of repopularized it [with his Pulp Fiction soundtrack] at the same time as we were doing it, which was nice for us. Mike has played in punk bands like House of Commons and Bill of Rights, and brings that kind of punk-rock guitar. Punk was always a big influence on me, but I play an old hillbilly instrument, the gutbucket. And Paul used to play in a heavy-metal band, so we could call it hillbilly/surf/punk/metal, but that’s getting too long.”

Along with drummer Paul Hetherington and guitarists Mike Dennis and Gord Smithers, Scooter has been making the bassless Deadcats a barroom fave around Vancouver of late. His gutbucket stylings have been a part of the local scene since he and a friend started up the Hard Rock Miners in the mid-’80s. Scooter was eventually kicked out of that band in 1990—after it had become a mainstay on both Robson Street and the Canadian club circuit—but he managed to keep the rust off his ’bucket as a member of hillbilly act Potatohead before the Deadcats came to life. And later this year gutbucket fans the world over will be able to hear Scooter and the boys via two original instrumentals on the soundtrack to low-budget filmmaker Kevin (Clerks) Smith’s next movie, Drawing Flies.

A native of Kentucky, Scooter played cello before moving to Nova Scotia and hanging out with/managing a band called the Cooter Family, which included a gutbucket player. It wasn’t until he moved out west that Scooter took up the one-stringed wonder himself.

“When I moved out here I didn’t know anybody,” he says, “and I was just wandering around getting to know the city. I found a garage sale with a bucket and a washboard for sale, talked the price down to eight dollars, and took ’em home.”

Before any budding ’bucketeers dash off to flea markets in hopes of scoring a similar bargain, they should note that it’s not the type of instrument that just anyone can master.

“It takes a good half an hour to figure out how to play it,” informs Scooter. “But I’ve been playing it for 10 years, and a lot of it’s instinctual. The eight years of cello probably helped.”

Scooter doesn’t fiddle around with the cello anymore (“too many strings”), and it probably wouldn’t blend too well with the Deadcats’ dual-guitar attack, anyway. The gutbucket sure does, though, as evidenced by the boisterous sound of the Stefan Sigerson–produced Bucket O’ Love. And judging by the concert photos included in the CD sleeve, the rowdy resonations are cause for much enthusiasm on the dance floor—especially where sassy young women in lingerie are concerned.

“Our first gig was Friday the 13th of January ’94,” says Scooter, “and we had eight girls—who we affectionately call the Dead Kittens—come out and start dancing to us right away. They’ve been to every show, and that’s brought other people out—guys know that there’s girls there and they come out. I think [the women] are attracted to the sensual surf sounds and obvious good looks of the band.”

The Deadcats certainly look cool enough on the cover of Bucket O’ Love, from the 15-watt Fender reissue mini-amps to the snazzy guitars to the lurid logo on the drum kit. So how important is image to a hillbilly/surf/punk band these days?

“That’s a tough one,” ponders Scooter. “The band definitely does have an image—I mean, me and my purple hair, and the leather jackets and sideburns. I don’t think it hurts, because people want to come out and see a show, and they want something visual to clamp on to. That’s why the bucket does well.”

So the next time you stumble into a local bar—maybe the Niagara this Saturday (March 30) or the Town Pump on April 12—you’ll know that the guy onstage with the radiant hairdo and Hee-Haw instrument is Scooter. That was also the name of a rock critic who used to rile up Discorder readers and generate much letter-writing with his opinionated views on local bands a few years back. Could this Scooter be that Scooter, too?

“No, actually I’m not,” says this Scooter, “but I’ve been threatened [by people who think I am]. There’s me, there’s that guy, and there’s a black pimp, so I’m in good company.”

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