The Dirty Works
- What: EP release party for "Get Wrecked"
- Also on the bill: The Lucky Bastards and Cooter Punch
- When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11
- Where: The Longbranch Saloon, 1848 Cumberland Ave.
- Admissions: $5
- In addition: Chris Scum is slated for for an acoustic performance at The Longbranch at 8 p.m. tonight. Also on that bill are Ramblin' Gamblers and Arnett Hollow.
KNOXVILLE — For two years, beginning in 2005, Knoxville band The Dirty Works was the subject of "Rebel Scum," a documentary chronicling the band's gigs, tours, recording sessions and partying. The film premiered mid-January to a standing ovation from a full house at Patrick Sullivan's, but no distribution for the film has been arranged as of yet.
The band's imminent EP-release, not to mention its first show in six months, is coming up, prompting an important question. Has the documentary's objective take on the band served to change its perspective on performing, recording and life in general?
Offering an intimate, honest look at the life of a struggling, touring, substance-abusing rock outfit, "Rebel Scum" exhibits the disturbing, real-life binges and beat-downs of The Dirty Works off-stage in addition to the staple on-stage self-mutilation of vocalist Chris Scum. Having seen the montage of two years in the life of Dirty Works, Scum says that what hit home most was the excessive drug use and inter-band squabbling. He says that both these hindrances are things of the past.
"It was nerve-racking to watch," says Scum of the first viewing. "If someone follows anyone with a camera for two years, they're gonna get things they don't like about themselves. I already struggle with a low self-opinion anyway, so it was extra hard to watch. The movie itself didn't change how we interact, but watching it amazed me by how we used to act. There's a whole scene where (B. Riot, drummer) and I are struggling for control. I watch that now, and it's like, 'control over what?' We're a small time local band.
"I have lost about 80 pounds since it was filmed. Also, (the film) shows me doing drugs and being a hard-core drunk. The drugs were back when I was in the methadone clinic. I was on a waiting period switching clinics. I couldn't go cold turkey two weeks, so yes, I got high on street drugs. In my defense, but by no means an excuse, I got addicted to drugs after crushing my ankle."
In recording its upcoming EP "Get Wrecked," The Dirty Works applied lessons highlighted in its documentary, which depicts a drunken and confrontational group of musicians eating through expensive studio hours while laying down tracks. This time around the band worked more efficiently, recording and mixing its record in four days with the help of John Puckett at Funk Basement Studio.
"When we recorded 'Biscuits and Liquor,' a couple of the guys had never really recorded in a professional atmosphere before," Scum says. "They thought because the owner/engineer allowed drinking, which most studios do, that it was a damn party. We suffered dearly in sound and time use because of this. This studio experience is on the documentary. It shows (Riot) and I having a heated argument. This is something that would never happen now. Since then we've grown musically as well as individuals. We're tighter in all ways."
Another source of The Dirty Works newfound chemistry and cooperation is a reduction in the group's roster. Having gone through two bassists in three years, the band is now a trio, with Scum taking on bass duty. While the slim lineup reduces friction in writing and recording, it may also detract from the self-inflicted bloodiness of The Dirty Works' infamous live show.
"I don't like to think of (the lineup) as dwindling as much as we trimmed the fat," says Scum. "The music has only gotten tighter as a three-piece. We all have started playing as a band more than as individual musicians. I'm sure some people miss the blood and self-abuse I used to engage in while singing - the bashing myself with the brass knuckles attached to my microphone. I know I do, at times, but we still put on a hell of a show as a three-piece."
PRO-CHOICE: Monday night at 9 p.m., Vermont's JP Harris and the Tough Choices take the stage at Preservation Pub. This set will follow a happy hour set featuring Chris Porter and the Back Row Baptists.