Apparently the drive from Canberra to Melbourne is about seven or eight hours, and pretty hilly, so the conversation with drummer in soundscaped rock outfit Scaramouche is disjointed to say the least. However, John Milton is most gracious and apologetic, and doesn’t even mind that (probably like a tonne of other Queen fans) I thought ‘scaramouche’ was a nonsense word. “It’s the Italian street theatre character; the dude with the long nose,” he explains, as he and singer Pat Little travel from the capital city they grew up in to their adopted home.
“I think being in a rock band, obviously you love the intensity and drama of live music,” he says. “One of the most significant things is just how cheeky the character of Scaramouche is, and how flamboyant he is. He creates havoc, and a bit of humour as well. I think we are all pretty over the sort of rock band [deal]: white t-shirt, pretty serious sort of thing. So Scaramouche is fitting, a little bit light-hearted.”
In a genre where there are varying degrees of piss taken, the boys have many influences, but aren’t in the same camp as last week’s cover story act. “We’re definitely not in Steel Panther league, in terms of that sort of [comedy],” he laughs. “I guess our main influences are The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Who... as far as classic rock sounds. But then we’re all also really into Queens Of The Stone Age, Jane’s Addiction... sort of modern bands as well.”
Milton’s drumming chops are a stand-out feature of Scaramouche’s sound: clever but not show-off, with the evidence of extreme technical skill behind each little decision. “When I was in high school I had played the oboe and piano. But at that stage I [found] I was getting into a lot of rock: Nine Inch Nails, Tool and Marilyn Manson. And what are you going to do with the oboe,” he laughs uproariously. “I always really liked the drums. My sister actually had a drum kit. As the older sibling sometimes you don’t want to tread on their toes too much but eventually I just said, ‘Look, you’re not playing them, can I play them?’” Milton then trained as a jazz drummer. “You hear jazz drummers doing really amazing things. You think, ‘Wow, the rhythm is so complicated, and that’s what really inspired me. But these days I’m getting into AC/DC and more drummers who are really, really simple. Hopefully I don’t become too simple, but finding simplicity is really appealing to me at the moment.”
This simplicity complements Scaramouche’s often atmospheric style, and a parallel with The Doors is the first thing the guys’ paced, wailing and sexy sound brings to mind.
Guitarist Leigh Barker and Milton’s brother Grey on bass make up the rest of the group, and Milton says Grey was one of his first musical accomplices. “I really like playing in a band with my brother,” he says. “There’s this cohesion of sound there. I know with bands that I like [which contain] family members, there seems to be a bit of a shared perception. Even though we disagree and have our arguments, when we play together there’s a certain unity there and that’s really cool.”
Milton was responsible for scoring Cherry Bar as host for their upcoming EP release, by simply sending in a promo pack he put together. The EP, titled Welcome To The Parlour, was recorded at Crosstown Studios in Preston after Scaramouche cultivated a close friendship with the owner, Josh Whitehead. “We were rehearsing there for about a year. On a whim we thought, ‘Oh, this place has opened up’ and we just never went anywhere else again. We talked with [Whitehead], who’s the engineer for [the EP], and over the period of the year we just had a really nice, positive relationship with him. Obviously he heard us rehearsing every week so he was familiar with our sound,” Milton smiles. “It was really natural.”
BY ZOË RADAS
SCARAMOUCHE launch their EP Welcome To The Parlour at Cherry Bar on Friday October 19, supported by The Dukes Of Deliciousness and Apache Medicine Man. Tickets are $13, and doors are 8pm.