Give One Take One is the grooviest, most swaggering statement of Josh Scoggin’s career, but retains both the white-hot noise and the spirituality that you expect from a ’68 album. We sat down as he ruminated on lockdown, the blues,and how a love for emotional rawness permeates his art.
For an elevator pitch on Scoggin’s DIY universe, look no further than the music video for ‘Bad Bite’. Scoggin painstakingly cartoonified every frame of the footage they filmed performing the song, resulting in what appears to be a punked-up version of A-Ha’s Take On Me video. “It took the entirety of 2020. There was probably a total of about a month I didn’t work on it. I started it in January. The way we tour, I would never have been able to finish that if it weren’t for quarantine. It gave me something to do.”
Despite the arduous work, an appreciation for the raw and real is what drives Scoggin’s creative vision, whether that’s in the squeal of his guitar or the speed of his scribbles. This results in an album that bleeds and churns, with every improvised string bend feeling like it’s happening right in front of your ears, much like how the video’s frames crackle and wobble with Scoggin’s hand.
“When I started this video, I just wanted something that created mistakes,” Scoggin explains. “I didn’t want to erase any of those mistakes. Nowadays you can photoshop blemishes away, you can pro-tool your voice so it’s perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s human. Every time I messed up, I made a rule that I couldn’t erase anything. I want to show how beautiful blemishes can be.”
Animation isn’t a newfound love for him either, as he recalls his childhood dream of being a cartoonist. “Before starting my first band in high school, I wanted to be an animator and create my own cartoons. I love the idea of creating a world that doesn’t exist yet we all can relate. We know how Homer Simpson is gonna react even though he’s not real,” he laughs.
The first taste of the album came with the riotous single ‘The Knife, The Knife, The Knife. A playful and subtle reference to a quote from legendary bluesman Lead Belly, one of Scoggin’s heroes: “You take a knife, you use it to cut the bread, so you’ll have the strength to work; you use it to shave, so you’ll look nice for your lover; on discovering her with another, you use it to cut out her lying heart.”
This idea of triple meanings carries over to tracks ‘The Silence, The Silence, The Silence’ and ‘The Storm The Storm The Storm’. In Scoggin’s own words, “That idea that this one thing has three completely different lives is something I extrapolated upon, but the rawness of all of that old blues stuff is something I find beautiful in general, most of them weren’t trained, they just had an emotion they had to get out.” It’s no coincidence those three tracks are the most passionate and hypnotic on the record, with ‘The Storm’ in particular showcasing a dramatic dirge of sound, as Scoggin repeats “Stood outside the storm, couldn’t make our way back home” so many times that these multiple meanings start brewing in the listener’s head.
Blockbuster rock producer Nick Raskulinecz stepped up to the chair to record Give One Take One, fresh from working with the likes of Evanescence, Code Orange, and Halestorm. Though not the obvious choice for such a raw band, Raskulinecz has managed to beef up ‘68 without losing any of their bleeding, screeching excesses.“He had no interest in making us sound like a top-40 band. Working with him was brilliant. Think about what it takes to make a Korn record sound incredible compared to an Alice in Chains record. They couldn’t be further ends of the spectrum. He’s done both of those virtually back to back!”
Their meeting was purely by chance, with Raskulinecz’s beady eye unable to ignore the palpable chemistry of 68’s live show. “We were on tour with Stone Sour, who he was working with. On his way to find the backstage room, he found us playing, and in his words, he couldn’t stop watching us. Afterward, he introduced himself and said ‘I really wanna record you guys.’”
This iteration of the band would be nothing without the pummelling stomps and dexterous fills of Nico Yamada. Scoggin is the first to admit that he’s not the only component of the band, and explains how Yamada added his own charge to this album, his first full-length as drummer for ‘68.
“His whole aesthetic comes from the jazz world. This album has a bit more of that flare. That’s definitely something you might see more of in the future,” he explains before diving into his brotherly friendship with Nico and the absurdity of touring with someone as a two-piece,” When on the road, we live together 24/7, so it’s got to be someone you’re compatible with. We were talking the other day about how we miss sleeping in airports. Using the three hoodies I packed as a pillow. We’re just two dudes. I’m carrying ALL my guitars, all my tech, and he’s got his whole world of drum stuff. The best adventures don’t come from everything going well,” he laughs.
After his history in hardcore escapades like Norma Jean and The Chariot, the fusion of delta blues and noise from ‘68 is definitely a head-scratcher for some. When asked if he enjoys being so hard to define, he chuckles again,“Of course! Any artist would. You never want to be comfortable. No great art has come from a place of comfort. The moment I’m nervous about something, I know I’m on the right track.”
His singular vision is something pretty irreplaceable. Josh admits he doesn’t even consider an audience’s reaction until the very last minute, preferring to let his visions bear fruit first.
“A band is only as good as their last album. We’re all only one terrible album away from not existing, but I can’t personally write with that in mind. We write music we’re gonna enjoy playing over and over again. That’s all I’m thinking about.”
Give One Take One Is Out now.