Scott Blasey of the Clarks (September 28, 2011)
First off, can you tell readers what you’ve been up to lately and about your new album and upcoming gigs?
Well, I just wrote a new song last night so that’s exciting. The last Clarks record was in ’09 and I wouldn’t mind making another one in the next year or two. Show-wise, we’re in the college season- lots of schools and our annual Halloween cruise on the Gateway Clipper.
The Clarks have been a stalwart of Pittsburgh’s music scene for a number of years. How did you get started and what advice would you give other local musicians who want to make it as well?
We started as a cover band at IUP in ’86. We put out our first record (on vinyl and cassette!) in’88 and made Pittsburgh our home. WDVE started playing our stuff in the early 90’s and it just took off from there. Starting out in the music business is very different today than it was back then.
Play anywhere and everywhere. Write great songs (easier said than done). Get on the youtube and get yourself out there.
Many see the life of a musician as all bright lights and glamour, but it’s a tough business. What’s been the most difficult aspect of the music business for you and how have you been able to overcome it and stay active for so long?
Traveling is difficult. I’m a homebody. I like routines and working out and eating good, and those things are hard to do on the road. Getting along personally and creatively with three other guys for 25 years ain’t easy either.
How has the band managed to stay together through the years when so many bands seem to struggle doing so?
It boils down to respect. You have to respect each other’s ideas, lifestyles and choices, even if you don’t embrace them. That’s hard. And you have to compromise and have common goals.
I know there are hundreds to choose from, but what have been some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had as a musician and what made them so?
The Late Show with David Letterman was a career highlight. It legitimized us to a lot of people. The first Surge Festival at Starlake Amphitheater in 1997 was a defining moment. We headlined a show with Gathering Field and Brownie Mary that drew over 17,000 people.
Who influenced you most in terms of your approach to music and how have you been able to use that influence to create your own sound as opposed to just “copying” another’s?
We were influenced early on by bands like the Replacements, R.E.M. and U2. The Replacements were a big influence because they embraced the punk ethic of it’s more important to be passionate than good.
I think it took a couple albums for us to find our own sound, maybe Let It Go was the first where we took our influences were more subtle and our own voices were coming through.
What would surprise fans/readers most about you and the band?
I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was in college, same with Greg. I joined the band 6 months later and learned on the job. The Clarks are the only band I’ve ever been in.
The Pittsburgh music scene has been growing in prominence but hasn’t launched that huge local artist recently. Is anything missing from the local scene to foster more musical talent?
Actually, hip hop artist Wiz Khalifa is from Pittsburgh and he broke through huge this year. Mac Miller is next I hear.
As far as rock/pop bands there hasn’t been anything big nationally since Rusted Root in the 90s. Anti-Flag tours internationally but they’re not a mainstream success. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened. There are a lot of talented people here. It’s a tough industry and I don’t think it’s anything that Pittsburgh is not doing that’s keeping it from happening.
On to sports….are you a sports fan –and if so, what teams to you follow most and just how avid a fan are you?
I’m a big sports fan, but not huge one like some folks in this town. I can walk away from a Steelers loss without feeling suicidal!
I was a Pirates fan first. My dad used to take me to games at Three Rivers Stadium in the early 70’s. Steve Blass was a hero, and I’ve had the pleasure of talking to him a few times. Then I became a die-hard Steelers fan. Four Super Bowl victories will do that to a sports-loving teenager.
Then of course the Penguins in the early 90s when I was living in Shadyside made me a hockey fan. I got to drink beer out of the Stanley Cup late one night at Doc’s Place thanks to Paul Steigerwald.
Have you had any experiences playing for/around some of the area athletes or hanging out with them? If so, what were those experiences and players like?
I had the pleasure of performing for the Lemieux family at the home of a mutual friend. The kids are fans of the band and Mario and Natalie are great to talk to. Bob Errey is a fan and I’ve talked to him a few times, same with guys like Craig Wolfley and Tunch Ilkin. Walter Abercrombie came up to me after I performed the National Anthem at a Steelers game, shook my hand and told me I did a great job.
Those things stay with you. Everybody I’ve met has been a class-act.
If you could be the GM or player for any local team, which would it be and what would be the first thing you’d do?
Pirates- sign Derrick Lee.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Thank you for all these years of support. Pittsburgh has been very good to us and we love this place.