The Bassist: Scott Thunes Interview

Interview with Scott Thunes in the January 2011 issue of Bass Guitar Magazine (found: Idiot Bastard).

31 Responses to “The Bassist: Scott Thunes Interview”

  1. Nowski says:

    Anybody else wondered how you get to read the interview (except for buying the magazine of course)?

  2. Thinman says:

    People make magazines in order to sell them.

    Th.

  3. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    A quote from Nowski:

    Anybody else wondered how you get to read the interview (except for buying the magazine of course)?

    Not a clue at all – but that photo up there, it speaks… volumes :)

  4. Nowski says:

    A quote from Barry’s Imaginary Publisher:

    Not a clue at all – but that photo up there, it speaks… volumes :)

    It certainly does. As a matter of fact – after trodging across mile after mile of his navel-gazing tundra of a blog at geoscott.com, this is exactly the way I imagined him.

  5. P-Rip says:

    It’s always a shock to see that other people have aged. ;-) It’s especially true of many Zappa alumni who rarely pass this way. You sort-of get to know them only from album photos, so they seem ageless. Then you see them live and it’s…”Shit, they got old!” On a related note, it’s evident what “life on the road” did to Tommy Mars by comparing how he looks on the Baby Snakes video vs. the Torture video. The performances are only what..5 years apart?

  6. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Thinman:

    People make magazines in order to sell them.

    Th.

    Quite true. In the meantime:

    http://www.cidanka.nl/keneally/stbp0397.htm

  7. Robert says:

    I never met the guy personally (of course), but i like what i read from him and about him. Seems that he tries to be honest and actively takes the risk of pissing people off. I’m of course slightly biased because he has been working in a realm similar to mine for several years, so for example the notion of a consultant being a moron by definition rings quite a few bells in my memory.

  8. Nowski says:

    Actually it seems like he sees pissing of people as a way of life.

    I mean: 7 out 10 guys in the 1988 band thought he was an asshole, so maybe there’s something to it?

  9. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Nowski:

    Actually it seems like he sees pissing of people as a way of life.

    I mean: 7 out 10 guys in the 1988 band thought he was an asshole, so maybe there’s something to it?

    7 out of 10 people think I’m an asshole. I take that as a sort of compliment. One cannot go through life trying to be everyone’s best buddy. I may not personally “like” Scott Thunes as a person, but I respect him as a musician, and really, that’s all that matters.

  10. Dark Clothes says:

    I don’t think 7 out 10 KUR people feel that way about you, UG!

    Which reminds me of a dialogue from Playground Psychotics: “How many of the girls you’re with have found about you?”

    Dunbar: “None, but they still quite like me…”

    Which isn’t logical, but understandable in the context.

    In the case of Thunes (and Urban Graffito), the situation is a bit different – people haven’t found out about you, and they think you’re assholes, while you’re really honest to God great guys :-)

  11. urbangraffito says:

    DC, I’m speaking most of all of the 7 out 10 people who don’t grasp my sardonic sense of humor. The remaining three are often fans of Zappa, too, and like most Zappa fans that I have known in my life, their sense of humor has been quite skewed and obtuse (like mine). While some artists are content to just be clownish in their humor, Zappa’s humor almost always had a unique bite to it that I relish to this day – which I confess, influenced my own dark black sardonic humor. Indeed, some of my very best friends have also been some of the biggest, most unique assholes I’ve ever known. In this day and age it takes guts to stand out and be your own asshole. It always made me wonder why Zappa chose to read Burrough’s “The Talking Asshole” on tape given all that Burroughs had written? Secretly, I think FZ admired those who spoke their minds regardless of the immediate consequences.

  12. Nowski says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    7 out of 10 people think I’m an asshole.

    Maybe so, but I guess that those 7 never quit their job in the worlds greatest band because of you?

    I think you’ll have to be a very serious asshole to make that happen.

  13. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Nowski:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    7 out of 10 people think I’m an asshole.

    Maybe so, but I guess that those 7 never quit their job in the worlds greatest band because of you?

    I think you’ll have to be a very serious asshole to make that happen.

    Agreed. Takes a very serious asshole to accomplish that. Still, from my understanding Thunes was only implementing Zappa’s directives. When Zappa did it, he was a stern authoritarian bandleader, yet when Thunes did it, he was an asshole the rest of the band wanted to be rid of. Though I wish the 88 tour were longer, I think FZ did the correct thing by cutting his losses and going home.

  14. Nowski says:

    I just wish people could play fantastic music AND be nice, but 1 out of 2 is better than nothing, I guess.

  15. Robert says:

    A quote from Robert:

    Takes a very serious asshole to accomplish that.

    Or seven.

  16. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    With regard to the ’88 band implosion: I think FZ made one fatal mistake, which was to completely delegate ALL power to one Clonemeister (in casu, Scott Thunes). Here’s an entire band in awe of FZ, wanting to play his music as best they can, and there’s Thunes, caustic and with a confrontational streak, being appointed Clonemeister and having to lead rehearsals — appointed by FZ himself. The story of the ’88 band and its demise is textbook material with regard to what happens when the alpha-male pulls out. There was a vacuum of power, and understandably, Thunes failed to neutralize it.

  17. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Barry’s Imaginary Publisher:

    With regard to the ’88 band implosion: I think FZ made one fatal mistake, which was to completely delegate ALL power to one Clonemeister (in casu, Scott Thunes). Here’s an entire band in awe of FZ, wanting to play his music as best they can, and there’s Thunes, caustic and with a confrontational streak, being appointed Clonemeister and having to lead rehearsals — appointed by FZ himself. The story of the ’88 band and its demise is textbook material with regard to what happens when the alpha-male pulls out. There was a vacuum of power, and understandably, Thunes failed to neutralize it.

    Perfect analysis, Barry! I think we’ve all experienced that “caustic and confrontational” boss everyone eventually hates who makes one’s job and the workplace a living hell. Still, having said that, FZ put Thunes in an impossible “no-win” position. Frankly, I’m surprised the 1988 band remained intact for as long as it did. Although musically it shined in it’s own way, it certainly had none of the comradery or unity of earlier bands.

  18. Matt says:

    Thomas Wictor later released the complete, unedited Thunes interview in his book In Cold Sweat. Thunes goes into great detail about the ’88 band’s collapse. Read it, and I think you’ll agree that everyone, including FZ, shares the blame.

  19. jonnybutter2 says:

    A quote from jonnybutter2:

    Read it, and I think you’ll agree that everyone, including FZ, shares the blame.

    That was my guess (haven’t read the entire interview). The band probably acted a bit childish, but there’s no doubt Zappa knew very well how people would react to Thunes’ personality. Being an asshole no one can tolerate is nothing to be proud of, IMO. It can sometimes be a byproduct of brilliance, but having talent can also be just an excuse. It’s kind of like politicians and lying; pols have to lie (strictly speaking) sometimes, particularly when they have a lot of responsibility – you don’t want a PM or President who is incapable of saying anything but the absolute whole truth all the time. But some pols lie when they don’t have to do (e.g. Darth Cheney), as a matter of course.

    I like Thunes’ bass playing, but… there’s a fine line between ‘mutation’ in the more positive sense Zappa used the term – i.e. in the evolutionary sense – and just an everyday mental health problem. I don’t know which side of the line we’re talking about here (maybe both sides), but I certainly understand an aversion to gratuitous assholery on the part of pro musicians. You already put up with a mountain of stupid shit to play music, and sometimes just that extra mittenfull puts you over the edge.

    This kind of relates to my take on Baby Snakes. I think sometimes Zappa makes a category error about weirdness, glorifying it for its own sake. But being weird is not, in itself, really a value; the value is independent thinking/perception which makes you *seem* weird to more docile people. But there is also just garden variety weirdness resulting from whatever – bad mental health, downers + wine, etc. I know all about that kind of bathos/pathos and don’t need my nose rubbed in it. I suppose the nose rubbing is the point, but..ech. What’s interesting about ‘weirdness’ is the way someone creatively synthesizes their weirdness with the ‘normal’ – like Zappa himself did. Otherwise, it’s just weirdness, and sad – like an injury.

    Developing PTSD is a very sane, very human reaction to having spent a year slaughtering a bunch of strangers in a foreign country. Military establishments should *expect* normal, sane, 25 year old kids to be seriously twisted and fucked up by that experience. But it’s another thing to sort of revel in the PTSD itself. Another fine line, I guess.

    Also, what Barry said.

  20. P-Rip says:

    A quote from P-Rip:

    With regard to the ’88 band implosion: I think FZ made one fatal mistake, which was to completely delegate ALL power to one Clonemeister (in casu, Scott Thunes). Here’s an entire band in awe of FZ, wanting to play his music as best they can, and there’s Thunes, caustic and with a confrontational streak, being appointed Clonemeister and having to lead rehearsals — appointed by FZ himself. The story of the ’88 band and its demise is textbook material with regard to what happens when the alpha-male pulls out. There was a vacuum of power, and understandably, Thunes failed to neutralize it.

    Over the years, I have worked for a couple of brilliant “mad scientist / entrepreneur” types. They all like to do..or at least micro-manage, everything themselves. As the business grows, they can logically see the need to delegate, but have trouble letting go. They will try “experiments” like the Thunes situation. But even if they stand in front of the other employees and say; “This guy is in charge”, the others know he really isn’t in charge. The employees complain to the Mad Scientist mostly using the “him or us” strategy. Usually it is “him” that is gone. I would like to eventually by Andrew Greenaway’s book. Because wasn’t the tour bleeding serious money anyway?

  21. Nowski says:

    Getting back to Thunes: doesn’t it take an asshole to accept the role of being an asshole?

  22. Matt says:

    Clonemeisters were paid extra, so I’d say that accepting the position doesn’t make one an asshole.

    Thunes was also Clonemeister in 1984 with no problem. Ed Mann was a former Clonemeister and seemed to be resentful of Thunes holding the position in 1988. Add to that a disrespectful horn section (Thunes says that they were constantly late to rehearsals), and you have a mutiny brewing before the tour has even started.

    I would also like to disagree with Barry’s comment about “an entire band in awe of FZ.” Half of the band had already played with FZ for a number of tours — I would guess that the “awe factor” had diminished by then. Chad Wackerman turned down the salary offer of $1,300 a week, telling FZ that he needed at least $2,500 (eventually, FZ agreed to pay all veteran bandmembers $2,000 weekly, and the new guys received $1,300). Someone in awe of FZ doesn’t play hardball like that.

    I want to read the Greenaway book too to see if it sheds further light on the tour’s collapse.

  23. P-Rip says:

    A quote from P-Rip:

    I would guess that the “awe factor” had diminished by then. Chad Wackerman turned down the salary offer of $1,300 a week, telling FZ that he needed at least $2,500 (eventually, FZ agreed to pay all veteran bandmembers $2,000 weekly, and the new guys received $1,300). Someone in awe of FZ doesn’t play hardball like that

    With Zappa bands, does anyone know the typical arrangements for road expenses? I assume Zappa covered hotels and they were on their own for meals? Or maybe there was a per diem stipend? I’m always interested in the business aspect of things.

  24. jonnybutter2 says:

    A quote from jonnybutter2:

    I’m always interested in the business aspect of things.

    I don’t know what Zappa’s deal was, but in general, hotel and (very basic) meals are covered – sometimes not three meals, but breakfast and dinner, or something like that. Sometimes there’s a per diem instead of meals. I think meals *and* per diem is rare, but someone else would have better knowledge than I on that. Theoretically, you’re supposed to be able to save your whole salary while on the road.

  25. Matt says:

    Keneally mentions receiving a weekly per diem of $400 in his 1988 tour diaries. So I guess that was for food.

  26. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Matt:

    Chad Wackerman turned down the salary offer of $1,300 a week, telling FZ that he needed at least $2,500 (eventually, FZ agreed to pay all veteran bandmembers $2,000 weekly, and the new guys received $1,300).

    Albeit, I do not know the gritty details of this tour, but at least financially, FZ had sowed the seeds of his own band’s demise. Once a group of employees realize they are not being paid an equal wage for similar work – veterans or not – people are bound to become jealous and resentful.

  27. Plooker says:

    Which 3 like him? Mike and ?

  28. Tore says:

    Well, let’s hear FZ on the matter of the end of the ’88 tour:

    GM: What was the story behind the 1988 band, the one that started out as a fairly large outfit, got smaller and then prematurely disbanded?

    FZ: “Actually, it didn’t start off large and get smaller – it started medium, and got large. It was a 12-piece band, and an argument broke out between Scott Thunes and just about everyone else in the band apart from me and Mike Keneally. The others all decided that they hated Scott’s guts; it was very weird. Basically the ringleader of the whole thing was Ed Mann, and he and Chad Wackerman decided that Scott had to go, and they brought about most of the discontent in the band.”

    – Guitarist Magazine, June 1993

    Wages can’t have been the issue here, both Ed Mann and Chad Wackerman had been in the band before then. I haven’t read Zappa The Hard Way yet, but had a look at the foreword. The one person who refused to speak about the ’88 tour to the author was Chad Wackermann. Hm… funny, innit? And from all I have heard, the book paints a picture that is a little more detailed than “Scott was the asshole that brought the ’88 tour to it’s untimely end.”

    I think there are very few here who actually have met Scott Thunes (I haven’t), and calling a person names because of some rumours about the ’88 tour is, shall we say, a little too eager and a little too little based on research and observation and, oh, rational thinking and stuff like that, for my liking. There were 12 people in that band, so there are 12 interacting complex factors (what we in the trade call “living persons”) to consider. About wich you only know what you gather in interviews. You do the math. If someone thinks there is one simple answer here, that someone prolly just dropped in from Planet Idiot.
    The radio is broken, it don’t work no moooore. ;)

    A point that FZ’s widow has brought up and that I think is very valid is that all these people were paid to do a job. As I see it, by and for the most singular musician/composer alive. As FZ later remarked, he should have instead been paid for offering that kind of music school. And they all (except for Thunes and Keneally, I guess) voted to quit rather than do that job, after the european leg of the tour.

    Blah, blah.1988 was a million years ago, FZ is dead and buried, let’s leave it to the historians. Back to entertainment.
    Scott Thunes at The Roundhouse, talking about his FZ audition:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVG-BBhncOg

  29. urbangraffito says:

    Let it be known, Tore, to me, the term “asshole” is a term of endearment. That Scott Thunes achieved this high rank among creative souls really has nothing to do with his function as Clonemeister. What makes a person “an asshole”? Steadfast belief in one’s own ability and talent in the face of opposition. In my opinion, Scott Thunes fits the bill. One needs to be a bit of an asshole to rise above the mediocre.

  30. Alex says:

    Like how in order to be a good boss, you have to have a big dick.

    Wait, have to BE a big dick. There we go!

  31. jonnybutter2 says:

    A quote from jonnybutter2:

    There were 12 people in that band, so there are 12 interacting complex factors (what we in the trade call “living persons”) to consider.

    I’d say the consensus here is that it wasn’t a simple black and white situation. I’d also note that there is more than one *kind* of asshole, and furthermore, that the odds are good (to put it mildly) that there was more than one asshole acting in this melodrama. I don’t know any of these people, but I’ve certainly met others with generally anti-social personalities (especially in bands, of course) and they’re not that fun to be around for very long. And most of us have been around ‘office politics’ of some kind, and have seen how just one or two people can completely poison the ‘esprit de corps’ of a much larger group. It’s ugly, stupid, petty. Que vamos hacer?

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