Back in 1998 Unwritten Law released their self titled album that would go on to become a huge success for them featuring hits like “Cailin”, “California Sky”, “Holiday” and “Lonesome”. Now to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the album the band is headed down to Australian in February 2018 to play the album in full over 15 massive dates. We caught up with Unwritten law vocalist Scott Russo for some insight into the album and he shares his love of Australia.

SCENEzine
Firstly how’s 2018 treating you so far?

Scott Russo
It’s been good I’ve stayed out of jail (laughs) no that’s a terrible joke. It’s been really good nothing negative has happened. We are coming to Australia, everything’s great.

SCENEzine
You are celebrating 20 years since your self titled album was released. Does it feel like 20 years has gone by?

Scott Russo
You know what I was just saying this earlier that it feels like about seven years ago.

SCENEzine
When you guys were in the studio did you feel like you had something pretty special or were you just stoked to be recording another album?

Scott Russo
I’m going to go with the latter. For sure we did not know anything was cracking. We were just excited to be alive and to be making music and be putting out a record. It wasn’t until after we recorded it and released it we realised it was a moment in time, maybe not even until this moment did I realise fuck that was something special. So at the time we had no idea how well it would do we were just making music.

SCENEzine
Was the song “Cailin” written by yourself before you went into the studio?

Scott Russo
It was written by myself before we were in the studio. It’s kind of a crazy story and ironic story. We were recording the record and our A & R guy was like what else have you got? What other songs do you have? I showed him the song I wrote for my daughter. We were a punk rock band and I wrote this song that was strictly a gift for my baby, for her mommy and for her us. When I played the song for our publicist he was like that songs a fucking hit it’s going on the record. I was like no bro it can’t it’s pop and it’s not Unwritten Law. He said no it’s going on the record and I’ve got to be honest with you, if I had not of had that girl I wouldn’t of written that song. If I didn’t have the girl and hadn’t of written that song my career would of ended. That was my first top twenty single here in USA and we were about to get dropped just previous to this. So me having her and writing the song for her and about her it making the record and becoming a single then single handily saved and made our career. Honestly that’s a fact.

SCENEzine
When she was younger did she have any idea how special she was?

Scott Russo
She was about three or four when I wrote the song for her. It was a lullaby that I would play for her and sing to her. Did she know she was special? Well I think that every human being is in their own bubble. Did Prince Harry know he was the son of England, he doesn’t really know any better you know what I’m saying. She had literally Gwen Stefani giving her presents for her birthday, she had the Blink 182 guys at her birthday parties. So that was her reality. I would take her on tour with me, she was this beautiful, cute, humble little girl. She would wake up and see daddy on TV and that’s all she knew. She’s always been extremely gracious, extremely humble.

SCENEzine
Now she has a music career of her own it’s gone full circle, that’s crazy.

Scott Russo
It really is crazy. She started modelling when she was like 14 or 15. She got signed up and became extremely successful. She came to me when she was 17 and she was like daddy I’m ready to sing. I produced a couple of tracks for her without lyrics and gave them to her and she came back with the lyrics. Before we started she sat me down and said now dad I don’t want you to be upset these lyrics are pretty gnarly. I’m like don’t worry I wrote many records about partying and being heartbroken. I get it. It’s all art really.

I remember getting her on the microphone then putting on my headphones and pressing record. This might sound a bit bias because I’m her father but in all honesty even if you were my own child and sucked I would say honey you suck. But she got on the microphone and she dropped this fucking bomb. I produce and write for everyone and I’m very particular with my music but when she got on the microphone I was blown away for real. I was like fuck you are so devastating, her voice wasn’t corny, it was cool and layed back.
It was magic. Amy Winehouse meets Mickey Avalon meets Erykah Badu, that’s a dope combination.
Lyrically she just smothered me. I fucking sucked on my first three records. Her first song out of the box without any help from daddy was fire.

Cut to three years later she is on every billboard in Los Angeles, she’s in every magazine. She’s a fashion icon. Then I get a call from her agent saying Cailin just quit and turned down an expensive pay check with a huge company. So I said to Cailin what are you doing, you can’t turn this kind of money away. She said daddy I want to follow in the family business, no one will take me seriously if I’m a model so I quit modelling. I’m like fuck babe that’s the worst decision ever (laughs). For real like don’t do it (laughs).

So I supported her and sure enough she’s now got her own record deal. She released a song that went number one in London. The Ep is dropping very soon and I’m not going to lie it’s fire, it’s dope.

SCENEzine
Do you have any memories of filming the video for “Lonesome”?

Scott Russo
I do I have a lot of memories from that. That was a crazy a video. What happened with that song was “California Sky” was a single here in America and “Cailin” had happened. For “Lonesome” it was a single in Australia and they needed a video for it immediately and we didn’t have a budget for it. So I’m like fuck how do we make a video for it. At the time a Tom Petty video had come out and it was this long solid shot, how can we do that with no money. I drafted the whole treatment for that video. My friend was going to university in the film department and I was like can you get a camera. I told him it was going to be us walking down the street in San Diego while I was singing the words and Wade is going to be beating everybody up. That’s the video, just one shot. I fucking love it. So we did it about five times. We took the song and sped it up and filmed the video to it that way. I was singing in fast motion like a chipmunk then when you slowed it down to real time in looked cooler in slow motion. We shot it in five different takes and just chose the best for the video.

SCENEzine
How was playing Travis Barker’s Musink Festival last year?
 
Scott Russo
It was fucking dope man that guys such a legend, the coolest and most humble. The show was booked and he and I still speak so he posted the show and I noticed on the Saturday there was only three bands. The Friday and Sunday nights had four bands. So I hit him up and was like Trav we really want to get on the show we will play it for free. He’s like I got you man and I’ll give you some money too. I’m like fucking legend. It was dope we got to play with one of our favourite bands Bad Religion and our very close friends Pennywise, it was magical we had a great time.
 
SCENEzine
Do you think one of the reasons why Australia loves Unwritten Law so much is you keep coming back rather than forgetting about us like other bands?
 
Scott Russo
I don’t know what the reason is but I do know there is a genuine infatuation with this band and Australia since day one. For me personally the first time I had ever left the country I got to Australia and I remember singing my songs and having every kid in the venue singing my lyrics back to me. This is before the internet it was crazy. I was like how do these people know these songs I wrote in my mums garage. Since then I have just been eternally loyal to Australia you can genuinely feel that from us. There’s a true infatuation with our band and Australia, you guys are a lot like us.
 
SCENEzine
Do you remember how you initially met Phil Jamieson from Grinspoon?
 
Scott Russo
Yeah I do (laughs). I can tell you exactly how this happened. We were playing Falls Festival with The Living End. At this time we were very good friends with Ray Harvey their manager. We were playing with Grinspoon at Falls festival, the Living End guys and Ray Harvey came to our show. So it went Falls Festival then New Years Eve then Australian Warped Tour in January. We were told you are going on tour with this band Grinspoon and don’t be friends with them because they have beef with The Living End. We were like ok cool fuck those guys.
 
So we played Falls Festival with them and then we get on a plane on New Years Eve to Auckland and during the flight me and my tour manager get wasted on the plane for three hours. We get off the plane and then they put two bands in each bus to travel us out to the New Years Eve festival in New Zealand. So we get on this fucking bus and I pass out (laughs). It’s a two hour drive and I wake up like an hour into it and I see this skinny dude with his arms up and glasses on saying who wants white Russians?
I’m like I want a fucking white Russian so I go to the back of the bus and he’s pouring me drinks, we are getting drunk I’m getting on really well with this kid.
 
Inevitably the point comes to who the fuck are you and I told him who I was and I said who are you? He said I’m Phil I sing for Grinspoon I’m like oh man I was told to not like you. Then he’s like no fuck those guys (laughs). So we really bonded over that. Then two days later we fly to Australia and we are in Noosa. For our band and most of the bands on this tour they had tents set up for us like you’re camping like a child (laughs). I’m like are you fucking kidding me, no way. I put all my shit in a tent and the night before the tour starts it poured down rain in Noosa and all my shit gets soaked, all my clothes and my walkman, my cd’s are fucked, my clothes are fucked I’m livid.
 
On the first day of the Australian Warped Tour In Noosa I go play the show and there’s this gorgeous girl asking if I wanted some Arnette sunglasses. I’m like yeah we’d love some and I’d love to talk to you more. She’s like cool well my boyfriend works for Arnette and wants to give you sunglasses. I’m like ok cool whatever fine. So we go to the Arnette bus and we get sunglasses from Nick Wright son of Stevie Wright from The Easybeats. Who’s Phil Jamieson’s best friend and later became one of my best friends who helped co-write several Unwritten Law songs with me. So I start talking to Nick and tell him my horror story with my tent the night before and he say’s you should stay with Phil from Grinspoon he’s in a five star resort mate. So Phil comes in and Nick says Scott’s going to stay with you for the rest of the tour and Phil’s like fucking sure.
 
So that is how it all started from the Living End camp not being down with Grinspoon then to me meeting him on the bus in New Zealand drinking white Russians. Cut to pretty girl with Arnette sunglasses, meeting Steven Wright’s son Nick Wright getting Phil to take care of me. Phil took care of me that whole tour, my band stayed in tent and I stayed in a five star resort with Phil the whole time. We partied our faces off and wrote a lot of music and had a lot of fun. That’s how the whole thing started and since then Grinspoon have come to America to record and I would go and help write and sing. I love Grinspoon they are truly Australian legends but really a true, dope rock band.  
 
SCENEzine
Do you have a favourite Aussie beer?
 
Scott Russo
Yeah I like Coopers.
 
SCENEzine
What’s your opinion on Warped Tour ending?
 
Scott Russo
I’m kind of on the fence it’s funny you asked that question because I’ve just been emailing Kevin Lyman about being a part of that. I’m on the fence with how I feel because it’s definetly not the same tour that it started as but it is certainly a par of Americana. It’s American history and without that tour punk rock might not of happened globally the way it did. I owe a lot to Kevin Lyman for my career and for the careers of a lot of punkers. It’s sad to see it go. I would of liked to see it keep going even if it’s not my cup of tea anymore or not. It’s going to be sad but there’s no doubt in my mind that there won’t be something just behind it that is similar and more relevant.
 
SCENEzine
Lastly is it a coincidence that Unwritten Law seem to always come to Australia in the summertime?
 
Scott Russo
It really is not a coincidence (laughs) we love to get out of our winter and come to your summer, it’s dope. It gives us a chance to have two summers.      
    
 
(interview by Christian Ross)
 
 
 
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