Carter Lee, a war buddy of mine, was harassing me from a small hamlet in New Hampshire. As a co-producer of our online radio show, The Bravo Mike Bravo Show, he had every reason. I had promised to send him the latest recorded episode which featured an interview with a local guitarist, and my description over Skype would have to satisfy him until I had gotten off my lazy butt to send it.
“So, how did it go?” he asked.
“I thought it went well,” I responded. “The skits went well, I was much more comfortable, and the guitarist had some people tune in.”
“No shit,” he said. Having any audience whatsoever was indeed news. Not only is our show relatively new, but it has gone almost completely unadvertised by WSPR, the Saint Peter’s University radio station. Despite setting up my own Twitter, email and Facebook pages, I hadn’t been able to even convince the station to type my name into the online schedule. I was convinced, after three shows, that I was broadcasting into dead air; having anyone tune in whatsoever was a watershed moment for us.
“So, who was this guy?” Carter asked, indication the guitarist.
“Luke Scvm,” I said.
Lucas Ackerman can often be seen around the Saint Peter’s University campus. I work with him in the mail room; and despite being 26, Lucas dresses as many of the traditional undergrads do. His shaved head is perpetually covered in a trendy cap depicting one of several NBA teams. His tee shirts declare allegiance to obscure bands, his jeans are baggy and show the tops of his boxers, and his gym shoes are loosely laced. He has an easygoing personality, a relaxed laugh, and is eminently approachable. What the students at Saint Peter’s might not realize, though, is that Lucas has an alter-ego. He’s a founding member of popular local band called the Hudson County Scvmbags (yes, the spelling is intentional), and portrays the lead guitarist, Luke Scvm.
‘Luke Scvm’ is quite a different entity entirely. I had no idea how different until I invited him to appear on the show. I asked Lucas what his doppelganger was like.
“Well, let me put it this way,” he began. “If you are someone that is easily offended, or politically correct, then you are going to hate us.”
Awesome, I thought ruefully. Just the guy I need to bring on an online radio show at a Jesuit institution. Still, it’s not like anybody from the school is going to listen, so screw it. Luke Scvm was booked.
I prepped the studio as early as I could, because the system can be temperamental. I got everything ready, and mentally went over the questions I would ask. I knew some things beforehand, simple background info. Lucas and the lead singer started the band five years ago; and though they’ve rotated through a myriad drummers and bassists, the duo has been the one constant. They’ve played all over Hudson County, but haven’t broken beyond. They apparently have stand-up skits in between songs like ‘Colt 45 Drunk’ and ‘Feasting on Human Flesh’. From their Facebook page, which I could only find once and haven’t been able to locate again, there are questionable wigs and bandanas involved.
Lucas met me outside the studio early. We gingerly walked around the cables and wires as I explained one bump could knock out the entire system. He was accommodating, calm, and in high spirits. We performed mic checks. I reminded him not to curse –it is a Roman Catholic institution, after all– but that I wasn’t going to censor him. He seemed pleased. On a Wednesday night in a roach motel of a studio, the clock ticked over to 6:00 p.m. I played my intro, and introduced my guest to millions of possible listening computers that were undoubtedly listening to something else.
And that’s when Luke Scvm emerged.
It’s not so much of a voice change, I discovered. Rather, it’s a change in attitude, of –appropriateness. Things started benignly. I wanted to ease into Luke Scvm, his music, and the band’s persona.
“So, Luke,” I started. “What exactly makes a scumbag?”
“Well, it’s all about a state of mind. It’s all about not being politically correct, about drinking, hanging out with friends, chasing skirt…you know. Just being a typical scumbag. Just think of a scumbag in your mind, and you pretty much got us.”
“I see,” said I. “So, just to make it clear to our three listeners, if you want to be a scumbag, you must get blind drunk, hang out with fellow degenerates, and harass random women?”
“Yep. Pretty much.”
“Now, you pretty much have to be a male to be a scumbag, right?”
“Oh, no. We have female scumbags.”
“Yeah. Scumettes. Even the Scumettes do all that stuff. Our lead singer is a Scummette.”
“Really. You should give me her number.”
“She’s a lesbian, dude.”
The story of my life. But I digress.
I then wanted to get into one of his songs. He had assured me the two songs he had picked we radio safe. So I led into ‘Colt 45 Drunk,’ playing it straight from Facebook, and cut the mics. I turned to Luke Scvm, now Lucas, and had a pleasant conversation. He was really enjoying himself, and was stoked for the publicity. I listened a little to the music; it was rough, raw, and angry. True punk; nothing like Green Day or some other faux punk pop bands. Lucas fielded several text messages from his friends stating they were listening. The song was almost finished and I got ready to transition back into the interview. It was then I noticed the lyrics were heavily referencing rape. This was not The System is raping us punk. This was Imma RAPE you punk. I inwardly shuddered, but the show had to go on.
“We’re back. That was the legendary Hudson County Scvmbags with ‘Colt 45 Drunk’, only on the Bravo Mike Bravo Show. And if you’re just joining us, we have their guitarist, Luke Scvm in the studio.”
“Now, before we go on, Luke wanted me to pass on some info on local shows happening around the area.”
I was glad for this, as covering local bands eats up time, makes me and my show look trendy, and piques the interest of my imaginary listeners. We covered several shows in New York and New Jersey, and Luke wanted me to mention the friend that sent the info in: Wandy Blackheart, from Argentina.
“Really?” I asked. “Wandy Blackheart from Argentina? Well, thank you, Wandy! We appreciate the help.”
“Yeah,” Luke said. And then in a horrible, false Latino accent, “Oh! It make-a me cry! Ha-HA-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaa!”
I noticed how weirdly out of place his segue was, but made no mention of it. I played a song from a friend of the Scvmbags called the Krays; and while praying to whomever the patron saint of bad radio is the song was Catholic-university friendly, asked Lucas about it.
“Oh, yeah. She’s hot dude. She was giving me a b*** j** and I was holding her head down like this. When she got up, she had tears in her eyes, and said ‘Oh! It make-a me cry!’ All my friends laugh about it, like an inside joke.”
Lucas had told me beforehand that Luke Scvm was different from himself. Though I had some suspicions about it earlier, the moment he explained the choking b*** j** comment confirmed something else for me: that Luke Scvm wasn’t merely a character for Lucas to portray, but possibly a vehicle for the man to act out his darker tendencies.
The Krays song ended. Before it did, it dropped an F-bomb. I had a few segments and a PSA to perform, and plowed through them. I gave little room for Luke/Lucas to interject. Afterwards, I wanted to play a song I liked when I lived in Australia.
“And that’s it for sports. This is The Bravo Mike Bravo Show. We’re here with Luke Scvm, and we’ll be back after this track from an Aussie band called ‘End of Fashion’. It’s called ‘Fussy’, and you’ll only hear it here…”
“Hold up, hold up. You’re gonna have Luke Scvm, of the legendary Hudson County Scvmbags, on your show, and you’re gonna play some girly, weak stuff like ‘Fussy’? Naw, man, play another track from our album, dude!”
He grabbed the mouse and pointed it out.
“Fair enough,” I said. “Although, I know ‘Fussy’ sounds like a weak name, but it’s an awesome track. But yeah, we’ll go ahead and play another track from the Hudson County Scvmbags called…um…’Feasting on Human Flesh’. Only on The Bravo Mike Bravo Show.”
I cut the mics and played the track. I heard no rape or curse words. Luke/Lucas got another text.
“It’s my girlfriend. She says we sound awesome.”
“No, my girlfriend, Rose.”
“So, you…but, you mentioned Wandy on air.”
“Yeah. Look, man. Wandy knows about it, and she’s cool with it. You just gotta be up front, man. You tell ‘em you just want the sex…you know, be a prick…and they love that shit.”
I couldn’t tell if I was talking with Luke or Lucas. I wasn’t sure there was much of a difference. The last track ended, and the show was coming to a close. I had to close up a few things before we went off air.
“Well, we got a few more minutes so I have to say a few things before we go. If you are a student having trouble adjusting, or coping with some problems in life, contact the Office of Personal Development immediately. They’ve got some great people that you can talk to…”
“Oh, yeah, that reminds me,” Luke said. “If you’re a little whiney baby who’s crying over being bullied, why don’t you just hit them back? Why go crying to somebody? People didn’t used to do that, you know? They’d handle their own business. So stop being a little baby.”
I was stunned, and tried not to show it by transitioning as fast as I could.
“Yeah, well, here’s something really serious to me. I don’t know if you guys know this, but if you listen to the show, you know that I’m an Army combat veteran. And did you know, Luke, that the Army averages one suicide per day? That’s a higher casualty rate than the soldiers face in Afghanistan. So please, if you’re a soldier having a hard time adjusting to civilian life –and believe me, I’ve been there—then please call the VA crisis hotline…”
I gave the number. Luke was subdued and supportive, and offered no quips. It was mercifully time for me to wind up.
“Well, that’s it for the Bravo Mike Bravo Show for this week. But before we go, I just want to thank Luke Scvm of the Hudson County Scvmbags for coming in…”
“Thanks for having me, dude!”
“…and for coming in, I present you with your very own WSPC rubber wristband.”
“Awesome, dude! The chicks are gonna dig it.”
“You know it, man. So Rose, get ready, ‘cause Luke Scvm is on the prowl.” I didn’t even mean to mention his girlfriend, and I assure you I wasn’t trying to get him in some trouble with her or Wandy. Whatever the result, he wasn’t fazed in the slightest.
“You know it, man. Scumettes beware!”
We wound up the show. We exchanged pleasantries. I saw him the next day in the mail room. His personality was just the same as it ever was: relaxed, easygoing, affable. He was thrilled with the show’s result, and wanted a copy. I assured him I’d get it to him. I have yet to send it to him, or to Carter.
“So, how did it go?” Carter asked.
I thought of the million ways I could answer. I thought I should tell him that it didn’t go well, despite having listeners for the first time. I should’ve mentioned that I felt uneasy; not from the f-bombs or rape music, or the fact that someone in control of my academic destiny might’ve been listening. I was disturbed about what is seen as normal in other men.
I don’t ever want to be a prick just to be successful with women. I’ve had several guys tell me I have to “be mean to keep ‘em keen.” It’s a mantra I cannot relate to, would never ascribe to. I have a daughter, and would absolutely murder a guy if he treated her mean just to keep her keen. Here’s the thing: I like Lucas. He seems like a great guy. I’m glad my daughter won’t date him, though. In fact, there are very few people at this school who would get my seal of approval. Their attitudes on women are horrible; and I wonder if the women respect these so-called men for mistreating them because they don’t want a pushover and can’t tell the difference.
All this went through my mind when Carter asked me how the show went. You wanna know how it went, man? As of right now, I feel old fashioned, out of place obsolete. I feel afraid for my daughter when she reaches dating age. I feel like I have no one to relate to. I’m questioning myself because I haven’t had a date in ten months, while scumbags do well. I wonder if my work for the homeless is futile, because the younger generation doesn’t seem to care. I feel like I never should have left the Army. I feel old, my friend.
“I thought it went well,” I said.