INCUBUS - Schott Latour (bassist and ex-vocalist)
On February 1986, the Howard brothers Moyses and Francis formed Incubus and they put you on vocals, how did it happen exactly? Were you their first choice or did they audition other bassplayers too?
I was playing in a metal cover band called Fallen Angel when I met the Howard Brothers. The New Orleans metal scene was fairly small, so I had seen their band, and knew of them(though I can not recall their name at the time). They approached me after one of the shows that my band had played, and said that they were looking for a new bass player, and were interested in me. I had been looking to do originals instead of covers anyway, so we set up a tryout/jam session.
It was Francis, Moyses, and a singer named Brian Jeffrey. We were in a small room at the Howard’s apartment. We decided on some covers that we all knew so that we could break the ice. When we jammed Flight of Icarus by Iron Maiden, the room came alive, and we all knew that we had something. The chemistry was undeniable. We played a mixture of covers and originals for several months, including some studio work, before making the transition to all originals. Shortly after that transition, Francis and Moyses asked me if I would be interested in doing vocals. Brian’s voice was great, but not quite what we were looking for with the new material that was being written. I reluctantly agreed, and we broke the news to Brian. The rest as they say is history.
They moved from Rio De Janiero to New Orleans a couple of years earlier, do they?
Yes, They moved to New Orleans from Rio De Janiero when they were in Elementary school, i’m not sure exactly what year. Of course I did not meet them until 1986.
You are a New Orleans born bass player, what were your influences to become bassist?
I come from a musical family. My Father was a jazz trumpet player, and both of my older brothers are musicians, so my interest in music started at an early age. I started playing drums and learning to read music in the 4th grade. I played drums and percussion, in school and in small garage bands (playing stuff like Styx and Journey), through 10th grade, when my interest started leaning towards heavy metal and more guitar-oriented music. Some friends of mine were starting a band, they already had a singer, 2 drummers, and 3 guitar players, what they needed was a bass player, so I bought a bass, and joined the band. We were called ’Neves’, which is Seven spelled backwards, because there were 7 of us in the band. I learned bass really quickly, and wanted to start playing gigs, so I started trying out for bands that were actively playing gigs.
What about your musical past? Is it true, that you have been playing also in the same Heavy Metal bands under different names with the Howard brothers for quiet a few years before the birth of Incubus? Can you tell us more about it?
Well, I kind of touched on my past with my answers to the previous questions, so it’s a good segue. Speaking strictly from a bass-playing standpoint, my early influences were Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, and Jaco Pastorius. As stated earlier, me and the Howard’s did play together in another band prior to Incubus forming. We went through several names. Excalibur, Sabre, and Martyrdom are the ones that I can remember, before we settled on Death metal and the name Incubus. With Brian as the singer, we did covers and originals, though we tried to do covers that not many bands did. I mean, back then, everyone was doing ’Breaking the Law’, and ’The Trooper’. We took it a step further and did more obscure covers, like ’The Trees’ by RUSH, and ’Zero the Hero’ by Black Sabbath. We always tried to separate ourselves from other bands, and what other bands were doing.
What about the New Orleans scene at this point? Were you familiar with bands, such as Exhorder, Nuclear Crucifixion, Acid Bath, ShellShock etc.?
The New Orleans scene was, and still is, very small. Most all of the metal musicians knew one another, and tried to help each other out as much as possible. There was an underground metal scene, and the Hair Metal band scene that was popular at the clubs and with the ladies. It was a very tight-knit group of musicians, no matter whether you played hair metal or underground metal. We looked out for each other. We had friends who played the Hair Metal stuff, and they even let us open for them, to help us work on our live performances.
We were very familiar with those bands that you mentioned. We opened for Shell Shock, when we first got into the underground scene, and played with both Acid Bath and Nuclear Crucifixion. As for us and Exhorder, arguably two of the biggest metal acts in New Orleans at the time, we never got to play together. They have re-united this year as well, and I am still friends with those guys, so it still could happen.
Did these bands put New Orleans on the map of the metal scene? What would you say about the ’80s New Orleans metal scene, compared to the ’80s New York, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Texas or Chicago one?
I think that all of the bands helped to establish the New Orleans metal scene and sound. There were some great musicians, working very hard, and making some original sounding music. There are several things that happened to put New Orleans on the map, besides some killer musicians. There were some of the hardcore bands that were signed (Shell Shock, Disappointed Parents), before the crossover scene started happening. Of course, you can’t mention the New Orleans scene without mentioning Phil Anselmo. He, as most people know, got his start with Hair Metal bands, he got recruited by Pantera, and moved to Texas. He still stayed involved in the New Orleans metal scene and helped bands a lot by trading tapes with people that he met. Incubus was the first of the death/thrash metal bands to get signed out of New Orleans. Exhorder, Graveyard Rodeo, Crowbar, Soilent Green, and many others would follow.
I don’t think that there was much of a difference between music scenes outside of New Orleans, although, I do not think that any scene as small as New Orleans’ produced such a great number of quality bands and musicians.
How much were you involved in the underground? I mean, were you often hanging at clubs, did you take part in the tapetrading and stuff?
I was very much involved in the underground scene. I traded tapes, and went to as many shows as I could. I have seen myself in the crowd in some old videos of metal shows, you may have seen me and not realized who it was. I love metal, and have always supported the scene.
What were the venues in New Orleans that opened their doors for metal? Did you have a healthy club scene?
As for clubs, no not really. Most of the clubs, either didn’t think that we could bring in the money that the Hair Metal bands did, or that the crowds were too raucous and would tear the place up. Most underground metal bands rented halls to play in. The V.F.W. (Veteran’s of Foriegn Wars) Hall on Franklin Avenue in New Orleans became infamous for hosting some of the greatest metal bands of the era. It was an empty hall, so it was all ages, and there was very little to break or damage, so it was perfect for hardcore and metal shows that lent themselves to having large slam dancing pits.
How about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers?
We started off by just practicing in the Howard’s spare bedroom in their apartment. But then, due to the noise, we had to rent a mini-storage garage and would practice in the evenings before it got too late. We eventually got a practice room above an indoor shooting range, and we were free to practice any time of the day or night.
When I first joined the band with Francis and Moyses we did a mixture of covers and originals, and eventually went to doing all originals. The problem back then was that it was very difficult to get a gig playing only original material, most club owners wanted you to play at least some covers. Not to mention that you had to have enough material to be able to play for at least an hour. Covers are, and were, a great way to build your chops, because you’re playing someone else’s style, so it all worked out for the best.
In May '87, you recorded your first demo, entitled; „Supernatural Death”, how were that songs penned? I mean, who was responsible for the music and for the lyrics?
Correct. We did that recording in May of 1987. Francis wrote all of the music, and we all pitched in on the lyrics. I wrote some lyrics by myself, Francis and Moyses wrote some together, and we all three wrote them on some songs. Of course, Moyses and I wrote our own drum and bass parts, but the main music of the songs were all written by Francis.
Do you still remember how was the demo recorded?
Well, Stonee’s Studio was in a toolshed, that was in the owner’s backyard, that he converted into a studio. Nothing high-tech at all. He advertised in the paper, and it was affordable so we did it. It was an 8-track studio, which was plenty for us, because we practically did the whole thing live anyway. I did a scratch vocal, and Francis over-dubbed the guitar solos. That’s about it. Most of the tracks were occupied by drums. We all had prior studio experience, so we were in and out of there in two days.
Can you tell us more about the tape?
I think that I covered everything that I remember about it. We recorded 10 songs total. Of those we made two different demo tapes. We had a 10-song tape that we traded and sold at shows. We also made a 4-song tape that we shopped to A&R people at record labels, of course this is back in the day of press kits.
Was it originally a four track demo or a six track one? I ask, because demo recordings of „Death”, „Hell’s Fire”, „Caraleptic”, „Rigor Mortis”, „Blind Vengeance” and „Assault” were also done, but never properly released, why did you never spread these tunes?
I guess I jumped ahead a bit with my answers, but I can perhaps shed more light on why we did it. Basically, we put what we felt were our four strongest songs on the 4-song demo tape. That’s marketing 101, really. You have to catch the attention of the listener right away or you lose them, and it just did not make sense to shop a 10-song demo in those days. It’s not that we didn’t spread the 10-song tape(we probably made more copies of that one), it just seems that the 4-song tape spread further and faster for whatever reason. And not so coincidently, most of the 6 other songs never made it past that demo tape. Again, because we kept what we thought were the four strongest songs, and eventually just wrote better songs, and dropped the others, even from our live sets. If you listen real good, you will find a riff or two that shows up from one of those songs on a song from one of the later albums. Haha!
Who designed the logo of the band and the cover of the demo?
If I remember correctly Moyses drew the original logo, and the Supernatural Death cover. He, Francis, and their brother, Reginaldo, are all excellent artists.
The demo was spread thru the underground Death Metal scene, did it open some doors for the band? Did it help to expand the band’s popularity in the underground?
Yes, I think it certainly helped. Even now, with the internet, it is very difficult to spread the word about a band without physically touring. The tape trading circles were a way for lots of bands to get a following and open up doors for them, whether it be for gigs or just as a fan base to use as a selling point for any record label that might be interested.
What kind of reviews did you get on the demo?
I personally have never seen or heard any formal review of the demo. I have had people tell me everything from „it was great and ground-breaking”, to „it was good for what it was at the time”, which I think are all fair statements. It’s very hard to be subjective about your own material, so any feedback that I get is welcomed and accepted.
What about the live activities at this point? How often did you play live?
I’m guessing that you mean, at the point of the demo release. At that point we had played at least 10 shows as Incubus. We had played shows prior to me being the singer, as well. So, 10 is a rough guess, it could have been a bit more, but it was at least ten, i’m fairly sure of that. And, of course with other bands and/or line-ups, we had all played shows before. We were not new to the concept of live performance.
In my collection is a bootleg that was recorded 8/28/1987 at the VFW Hall in New Orleans. Do you still recall this particular gig? Was it your first show what you have ever played?
Ah, yes. The day after my 19th birthday. I remember the gig, and have the recording myeslf. It was a very hot August night in the hall. It was our 3rd or 4th headlining show. Flagrantz and Seveth opened for us. Good times indeed.
A few months after the release of your demo, the band released their first debut album „Serpent Temptation” through Brutal Records (USA) and Metal Works (UK), at which point did you enter the studio? Were you prepared to record the material?
It was about 6 months in between recording the demo and the album. We were very prepared for the studio, nevertheless. We could almost literally play the material with our eyes closed. We went into Southlake Studio in January of 1988, and laid down most of the tracks live. Steve Himmelfarb was the engineer, and though a mighty fine engineer, he had very little experience with the extreme metal that we were doing at the time, so we decided to fly to Los Angeles to mix and polish it. We entered Track Record in North Hollywood in February of 1988, and it was a perfect fit for us. We had Ken Paulokovich engineer and do the mixing. He was a relative unknown at the time, but he had spent a lot of time working with Bill Metoyer, who was our first choice, but he was working at Music Grinder down the street with Flotsam and Jetsam on their „No Place for Disgrace” Elektra debut.
Did you constantly write the songs for the record?
Francis was always writing new material. As for the stuff on Serpent Temptation, that had all already been written and practiced to death. He would come to practice and play a new song that he had written,and Moyses and I would follow along until we learned it. Francis would of course tweak it, and sometimes make major changes, come back to practice, and we’d do it all over again. It was really a pretty straight-forward and effective way of writing new songs. Since Moyses and I learned it as he made the changes, we could play the song very tight shortly after it was finalized by Francis.
How did the recording sessions go? How long did the recording sessions take?
The sessions went fine. We enjoyed it, and learned a lot. We were inSouthlake studio for about 10 days, and Track Record for one week.
What made you to record the material at the Morrisound Studios? Do you agree with that it wasn’t as popular at this point as it became later on?
„Serpent Temptation” was not recorded at Morrisound, that was the 2nd album, „Beyond The Unknown”, I was not on that record. Morrisound started to get popular in 1990, when the heavy metal record labels started sending their bands there.
Do you agree with, that Incubus made a strong start as one of the heaviest bands in the eighties?
Yes, I believe that is a fair statement. I know that not many bands were doing what we were doing at the time.
Is „Serpent Temptation” an example of pure thrashing rage in its finest form, with barking vocals and rampaging guitars?
Yes, I think that „ST” was definitely a thrash album. The later Incubus/Opprobrium records lent themselves more to death metal, but I believe that „ST” was pure speed/thrash.
Especially the ultra-fast guitar solos on this album often sound downright rushed, making even bands like Slayer sound almost progressive in comparison, right?
We were very proud of the fact that we were one of the fastest bands around at the time. I think Cryptic Slaughter were doing the kind of speed that we were, but that’s about it.
Do you think that, „Serpent Temptation" is furious, very fast thrash/death which took the genre into its next stage?
Well, I like to think that we played a part in helping metal go to new extremes. Sadly, there are some young metal fans around that have never heard our stuff. We hope to change that, now that we’re back together again.
Is the music still more thrash than death metal, but some sections are so intense that many future death metal bands would find it hard to match; a ground-breaking album?
Definitely. As I stated in an earlier answer, it was definitely thrash, and definitely not something that anyone else was doing at the time.
How do you view, that most of the tracks on this record consist of a mixture of slamming breakdown riffs or high speed hypersnare?
We picked our 8 strongest songs at the time, for the record. Those being the songs with the most brutal slam-dancing riffs, as well as, the fast drumming riffs.
Do you think, that this masterpiece made quite and impact in the international metal scene and built up a strong worldwide fan following? Were all of you satisfied with the result?
As I look back on it, I have mixed feelings. At the time, I don’t think that I realized the impact that we were having across the US and the World, but at the same time, knowing what I know now, I think that had we been better backed, and managed, we could have been bigger than Slayer. So, it’s really a happy, yet sad kind of feeling about the whole thing. Of course, I would not give up the experience, ever. I just wish the results had been a little better, that’s all.
As for the labels, how did you get in touch with them? Weren’t bigger labels interests in the band at this point?
To be honest with you, we had a manager who took care of most of that, so I was not involved as much as as I probably should have been. I know that we had shopped our Demo tapes to literally hundreds of record labels. Back then, you had to make press kits and send your stuff by certified mail. We spent a lot of money on postage and long distance phone calls. Thank God for the Internet, it is much less expensive nowadays.
How much promotion did you get from them at all? Did they support the band?
Overall, we got a fair amount of promotion from the label early on, but it eventually faded as time went by. When the album was first released, we had full-page ads in „Thrash Metal” magazine, and „Power Metal” magazine, in the US. I don’t think that we got nearly that much promotion in Europe though, and that was just the inital push, there wasn’t much more after that.
Which bands were still signed by Brutal Records besides Incubus?
I don’t know any other bands that were signed with them at the time.
What were the shows in support of the record?
We did plenty of shows to support „ST”. I do not have an exact number, but we played a lot in 1988 and 1989.
Would you say, that „Serpent Temptation” really makes its mark on the scene? Is it considered today a classic?
I think it made a mark with those who heard it, unfortunately, I don’t think that enough people heard it, in order for it to be considered a „true” classic. Of course I think it is a classic, but I am biased.
At the end of '89, the band was looking for a new label to release their second album, which became „Beyond the unknown”, does it mean that you take part in the songcomposing for the second record? Did you do some preproduction demos and stuff?
We had about half of that album written when I left the band, but Francis, being the perfectionist that he is, changed much of what had been written after I left.
We recorded a lot of our practices onto cassette tape so that we could sit down and critique it later, so there are some tapes of practice out there, but nothing of any decent quality, I would imagine.
In the mean time, in late ’89 you left the band, what kind of reasons did lead to your departure? Was the second album ready and written when you quit?
1989 was a very difficult year in my life. The band was looking for a new label, we also decided to part ways with our manager. I was not working a regular job, so I no longer had steady money coming in. Francis and Moyses decided to change the direction that the band was going in, and relieved me of my vocal duties. The event that most contributed to me leaving was the death of my Father. My Father had fallen ill, and in a matter of just a few months had died. It would take me many months to get over his passing, and start playing music again.
As I stated in an earlier answer, we had about half of the 2nd album written when I left the band, but it would change a lot before it was actually released.
How did you and Francis end up doing guest appearance on Sepultura’s „Beneath the remains”?
Good question. I think that we had some mutual friends, and somehow found out that Max Cavalera would be in Tampa around the same time as us. We called the studio and made plans to come by just to visit, and when we were there, Max asked us to sing. We hung out that day at the studio, then again that night at the hotel. We had a good time, Max is a nice guy.
After you left Incubus you joined Haate and Disjecta Membra, what can you tell us about these outfits? Have you ever recorded materials with them?
Correct. I formed Haate a few months after I left Incubus. I wanted to start playing music again, so I got together with some friends that I knew from the nola music scene. Jay Gracianette on guitar, who would later play with „Graveyard Rodeo” and „Christ Inversion”, James Landry on guitar, who is now in a band called „4Q2”, and Willie Larkin on drums. We started off without a vocalist just writing and polishing our sound. Once we had about five songs written, we decided to hold tryouts for our vocalist, as I did not want to sing, because I wanted to concentrate on playing bass. After trying out several singers, we enlisted Brian Jeffrey as the singer. Yes, the same guy that sang with Francis and Moyses when I first joined them. He is now with a band called „Crotchbreaker”. We started playing shows, recorded a demo, and quickly started to grow a following. We had some infighting, and by mutual decision, James left the band. We broke up a few months later, and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in June of 1991. I joined „Disjecta Membra” shortly after moving to Atlanta. They were already established on the Atlanta scene, and had a demo tape out. We played several large showsin Georgia, opening for Prong, as well as headlining some shows in Louisiana. We broke about a year later due to other projects that some of the members were involved in.
Did you remain in touch with the Howard brothers by the way? Did you part ways on a friendly term at the end?
I was in a bad state of mind when I left the band, and probably didn’t handle it in the best of ways, but we were never mad at one another. We just didn’t talk for a few years, because I was just trying to move on with my life, as were they. We began talking over the phone on occasion, and were still on very friendly terms. I always thought that one day we would be back together again, and now we are, so overall, it worked out okay.
What do you think about „Beyond the unknown”? Did the band succeed in doing another classic?
I think it’s a fantastic record. Yes, it’s a classic, and it is exactly the direction that they wanted to go in with the 2nd album. They did a great job on „BTU”.
Did the band step on a higher level with „Beyond…” in terms of sound, songs, production etc.? Did they keep their unique sound that can’t be compared to any bands?
I mean, they sounded unique, they weren’t a Morrisound band…
The writing is definitely better, and they did the entire album at Morrisound, which of course speaks for itself from a production standpoint. I think they held onto the „ST” style for the most part, but grew musically.
Did you remain involved in the metal scene during the ’90s? How did you view all of those trends (grunge, pop/punk, nu metal etc.) that appeared at this time and effaced the metal scene?
Yes, I tried to stay very active in the metal scene. I knew some metal musicians who jumped on the grunge music bandwagon, as a way of making money, but I stayed true to metal. Although, I do like some of the grunge bands, metal will always be my favorite.
What do you think about that, Incubus were a band in the early movement of death metal that are severely overlooked by death metal fans today?
It’s unfortunate for us, but I am very thankful that we were able to make an early mark on the scene. Some of the old school metallers know who we are, and we hope to continue to spread the word to the younger metalheads around the world. We hope to bring it back around again, even bigger and better than before.
Are you aware of that „Serpent Temptation” was re-released by Radiation Records/Nuclear Blast on CD with completely re-recorded vocals, revised lyrics, and different cover art (1996) and Nuclear Blast re-released the re-vocal tracked version in 2000 with „Beyond the
Unknown” in a bare bones digipak format…
Yes, I am very aware of it. When I first heard about it, I was a little concerned, and thought that I might need an attorney, until I bought it, and realized that all of the stuff that I had done had been removed. I figured that it was a money grab by the record label, to take advantage of the popularity of the original release. I still have mixed feelings about it, but it’s out there, and I guess that is the most important thing. People know about it. From what I have heard from Francis and Moyses, it was just a project that they had wanted to do. They removed my vocals, bass lines, and lyrics so as not to infringe on my copyrights.
These days you joined forces with the Howard brothers again and you released a material titled „Mandatory Evac” last year, what would you say about it compared to the classic Incubus stuffs?
I officially re-joined in July of 2009, so I was not in the band when they wrote and recorded „Mandatory Evac”, but I think it’s a good album. I think they tried to recreate some of that old school sound for this one and it turned out very original.
Is the band live and well? What about your future plans?
Yes, we are very much alive and well. They live in Tampa, FL and I live outside of Atlanta, GA. We’re doing the long distance thing right now, and as we get closer to doing live shows, i’ll be down there a lot more often. Francis is writing material for the next album right now, as well. We’re hoping to go to Europe and/or South America before we record the next album, but right now everything is on hold until we get our live performance where it needs to be. Then we’ll be doing some warm-up stuff around the Southeastern U.S. We’re excited to be back together with the original line-up.
Scot, thanks a lot for the interview, anything to add what I forgot to mention?
Look for us in 2010. We’re going to be trying to get out there and be seen. We’re going to try to do as many festivals as humanly possible.
(December of 2009)