The 1990s was a fruitful decade for pop culture and art, retrospectively defined by Seinfeld and Friends, Blur and Oasis, Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys, Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction, grunge, hip-hop, the rise of electronic music into the mainstream, and pop-punk. The perception of the “fun, coke and capitalism” ’80s resulted in art that was at least aiming for an earthier, more “real” vibe.
Nearly two decades on, and it’s only natural that younger people, artists who either weren’t around to experience the ’90s at all or were too young to fully immerse themselves in the culture, are looking back with a nostalgic glee fueled by the music of the time, and by reruns.
Dylan Jackson Scott of the alt-rock band Rad Horror became a teenager in the year 2000 but remembers observing the ’90s though eager, youthful eyes as his sister, a few years older, was able to enjoy the decade a little more.
“I wanted to be a part of it,” Jackson Scott says. “There are other decades that I enjoy as well, but the ’90s I just missed being a teenager in, so for me it was about re-grasping what I had missed. Living vicariously through my sister, and bringing it to an audience now is something I feel is important.”
Rad Horror formed a little over a year ago, Jackson Scott initially starting it as a solo project. He was previously in a band called Young Rising Sons for a long time, while simultaneously producing other artists, and he got to the point where he decided he wanted to do his own thing. He relocated from New York to L.A., found a group of like-minded souls, and Rad Horror was up and running. The name is a tribute to ’90s teen slasher flicks.
“I always felt these movies were super super-rad,” Jackson Scott says. “But there was also this idea behind the resurgence of teen slashers in the ’90s, with Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Movies like that inspired the horror element of the name. It was deeply rooted in ’90s culture, and our music is heavily influenced by the ’90s as well.”
It certainly is. While Rad Horror often are compared to Nirvana, Jackson Scott says that it is in fact the Smashing Pumpkins that are his biggest influence.
“I like Pearl Jam a lot too,” he says. “Bands like even Third Eye Blind. So all across the board, not just grunge bands. I still listen to Oasis to this day. Biggie is another big one for me. I listen to pop music now, whether it be Drake, Halsey or whoever’s on the radio. But Biggie and Tupac in the ’90s were extremely important. Everything culminates to me within that culture. I was never a huge Blur fan but I do enjoy some of the catalog. Radiohead is another important band too.”
Rad Horror have become known for their explosive live show, something Jackson Scott puts down to a release of pent-up energy that is organic, unrehearsed and of-the-moment. It makes sense that he feels the music so intensely; the lyrical subject matter is extremely personal.
“I talk a lot about mental health and my mind in general,” he says. “All of my songs have that common theme. The constant struggle of feeling inadequate or that your mind isn’t right. But also there are themes of love intertwined within the idea of not being 100 percent stable. That’s something that means a lot to me.”
Jackson Scott hopes that he can bring rock music back to the forefront in a Los Angeles that he feels has veered away from the guitar-driven format. He says he was never a Sunset Strip, ’80s rock kind of guy, but that rock & roll is sorely lacking in this region now.
“I feel like we’re a black sheep or a fish out of water,” he says. “Nobody’s really doing what we’re doing. We play with other bands that are either not true rock bands, or they’re heavily based in hip-hop. The L.A. rock scene is missing a scene, if you will. Playing rock music is not a very safe thing to do in 2018. A lot of people are afraid to even pick up a guitar because it’s not played heavily on the radio. Everything is very electronic-based. We want to make kids want to pick up a guitar again, the way I wanted to when I was 11. Learn different songs and figure out the way it’s played.”
On Wednesday, Rad Horror play the Hi-Hat, opening for The Stolen Patternist. It’s not the band’s first time at the venue, with Jackson Scott referring to it as a “cool spot.” It’s the perfect room for them, too, with local indie-rock bands gravitating toward it rather than to the sleazy glamour of the Strip. Wherever they play, though, Jackson Scott promises a good time.
“There’ll be a lot of angst, throwing of guitars, smashing of drums,” he says. “Debauchery. Whatever comes out, comes out. I might make a weird speech onstage, or call somebody out, or bring people up onstage. There might be 30 people up onstage. You never really know. We never have a plan. We go up and play, might not even make a set list, so it can get wild.”
We would expect nothing less.
Rad Horror play with The Stolen Patternist and I the Victor at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, at the Hi-Hat.