This year marks two decades (!) since Scooch released their debut single When My Baby. We recently caught up with David Ducasse to talk about a possible comeback, what it was like working with Mike Stock, the oft-rumoured Steps rivalry and just what exactly is the best Scooch song…
The Scooch Twitter account has been a bit more active recently and there was a lovely picture of the four of you recently – is there something we should know?
Well…it’s a great question. This October will be the 20th anniversary since we released When My Baby and Russ and I had a conversation last year and he said to me we need to do something to mark the occasion.
I went on holiday to LA and stayed with my best friend who’s a music producer/songwriter. We listened to some music and ended up creating a plan to do something with the Scooch sound. We got some songs together and I contacted Natalie because it wouldn’t be Scooch without her voice – you hear her voice and instantly it’s a Scooch song. I asked if she’d be seriously interested in doing something and she said ‘yes’. Natalie and myself remember Scooch as such a fond time
Russ has got reservations about stepping back into the Scooch bubble. He and Caroline had the same opinion – they’re happy to come along on a bit of a journey, but they don’t want to do anything that takes up a great deal of commitment. They felt that the new songs weren’t very Scooch, so we parked it for a while. We were going to record a single, drop it a week or two before Eurovision as a little present and then release a new single – or potentially an EP – in October for the 20th anniversary.
The heart and soul of Scooch has always been friendship and we want Russ and Caroline to be involved. It sounds so cliched but it’s true and I’ve worked with a lot of bands and you see people turn up in separate cars because they don’t get on. Not us four, we are genuinely like brothers and sisters and we always will be and that’s no bullshit. I think that’s the one thing I learnt being in the recording studio myself, writing music, hearing my voice and thinking it could work. Russ and Caroline will take a bit more convincing. I want everybody to hear this music. It’s so current, fiery and new. There’s one song in particular, it’s an absolute banger of a dance track for anyone who likes pop. For anyone who loves Scooch.
Caroline and Russ would be happy to do a birthday thing at G-A-Y. Jeremy Joseph is a lovely guy so hopefully he’d have us! After that we’ll have to see how they feel dipping back into things, but Nat and I may potentially continue to do something after that. I think we’re ready to perform again.
“We are genuinely like brothers and sisters. We always will be and that’s no bullshit”
It’s in the position now where we’ve got about 12 songs and the next step is to whittle them down and then record the best four. There is a bit of fear. The music industry is a different world to the industry we were in in the ‘90s. Now you can literally press a button and release music. Our brief then was every single has to make the top ten or the top five. This would be very different and what have we got to lose?
It’s been two decades of Scooch, but what have you been doing outside of the group for the last 20 years?
I’ve done some TV work. There was a LGBT Tuesday and Thursday night show and I was brought in to give my take on the Eurovision songs. The channel asked whether I’d stick with it, which I did. Then for Valentine’s Day they asked me to do a six-week show of love songs which I really didn’t want to do. I wanted to play pop songs, not Barbara Streisand, that’s not my thing.
I got asked by one member of the TV if I’d ever thought about doing radio. One of the guys from the TV show bought a LGBT radio station and now I’m very much involved with Pride World Radio.
They asked me to do another love special last year and it was the reaction from the listeners. People opening up to you and telling you what a song means to them and things that happened in their life just blew me away.
When I moved back to the North East, I opened a stage school which’ll be 20 years old next year. We’ve just announced our shows so I’m directing Legally Blonde and Avenue Q which is exciting.
I also work for Slimming World – people never know this about me, but I’ve always struggled with my weight. It’s not too bad when you’ve got something like Scooch or Eurovision because it’s performing. But when that came to an end, I’d go back to eating pizza, chips and burgers. I joined Slimming World as a member, became a consultant and now I’m a manager for the Tyneside area. It gave me back confidence and a way to enjoy food and not worry about it. At best I lost three stone and it’s such an achievement. It beats any two-week diet I’ve ever had to do to get into a cabin crew outfit.
I’m constantly spinning plates, but I love the fact that I can turn my passions into things that pay the bills.
As a fan of pop music did you go into the industry with your eyes open or were there pressures you weren’t expecting?
The flipside of being a pop fan and then being in a pop band was I got to see things which broke the bubble sometimes. I think a lot of people just got into that sort of thing to be famous and forgot that it’s hard work.
If we had a single out, we’d be doing 16-hour days trying to get from one end of the country to the other. We always had to be happy, upbeat and bright – and that’s alright because as four people we are like that but we’re also human too and there were things that we missed. Three of us were in relationships and we had to make Scooch a priority over family. We weren’t allowed to say our real ages, that I was gay or that Natalie was married. There were lots of pop secrets – you had to be aloof and available to everybody. That was the pop game at the time.
I lost a lot of confidence in the ‘90s; it’s tough, you feel judged. You feel like you’ve got to get a chart position to prove your worth and back in the day we also had the comparison of other groups who were already massive – we were never trying to be another Steps or S Club 7; we were trying to be Scooch. Of course, there were similarities. It’s pop music and certainly with Scooch, we had the same managers who’d put Steps together so there were going to be similarities
There may have been some similarities between Scooch and Steps. But was there ever really a rivalry between the two groups?
I don’t think there was any rivalry – certainly not from us to them. Of course, it was frustrating to be compared to them, but we understood it. Claire Richards has got a very different voice; but Natalie has got a better range.
I think the other difference from what I observed in the ‘90s was that Steps were five people who didn’t always get on. Scooch have always genuinely got on and I think we were probably more real and approachable. Put us in an environment and I think people would certainly be more warmed to our personalities than the five I knew in the ‘90s.
“It’s tough, you feel judged. You feel like you’ve got to get a chart position to prove your worth”
I did a TV project with Faye a couple of years ago and she’s lovely – she always has been. But that’s Faye as “Faye Tozer”, not Faye as part of Steps. There’s only five people who knew what really went on and that’s those five – just like any group.
Were there ever any tensions within Scooch over the vocals?
We needed each other. We all knew what we brought to the table – my involvement was probably the person who spoke in interviews and answered the questions. I wasn’t shy and retiring but I didn’t ever go into the Scooch project thinking I was going to be the lead singer. Natalie’s got a cracking voice, she deserved to be featured more than anybody else.
You didn’t need seven people to make S Club 7 work – you needed maybe four of their voices to make an S Club record. Similarly, with Steps, you only really needed Claire until later when they introduced a male sound. But I think that was probably the band getting cheesed off and wanting to have more clout.
The music we were making sounded better with a female voice. And if anything, the three of us encouraged Caroline to sing more because we knew what she could do. There always was a plan beyond the first album for the boys to do a bit more because we both can sing. I think songs like Never Stop Believing, The Next Step and One Of These Days showcased that.
So, no rivalry between Scooch and Steps. But did you ever sense that there was perhaps a rivalry between Stock, Aitken and Pete Waterman?
I think the real rivalry was probably between the producers. It was two people in one camp and one person in another who had once worked so closely together. As much as I love the early Steps stuff – and I’m a big fan even now – I do think in terms of production and songwriting Mike Stock is a better songwriter than Pete Waterman. Mike is a musician, he’s very skilled so I think the rivalry was moreso from the people who made the decisions.
What was it like working with Mike Stock and Matt Aitken?
As much as I love Mike Stock and working with an icon, a legend – when you’re in a recording studio and you’re an artist working with him it was a very different relationship for me.
When we stepped back into the recording industry in 2007, we were older and wiser and asked questions that we never would’ve thought about being in the ‘90s. Some of the decisions we made back then we were mad to have made – we signed a production agreement to Mike Stock so any music we wrote or songs that were pitched to us, Mike had the final say. We weren’t legally able to overlook him and go to our representative at EMI and say: ‘listen to this song, can we record it?’ That wasn’t the deal. Mike and Matt would submit the songs and the record company would decide whether to finance it.
“I do think in terms of production and songwriting Mike Stock is a better songwriter than Pete Waterman”
The guys who produced Zoom also worked on some S Club stuff and Lolly’s album. We did want to work with S Club 7’s producers – so Mike and Matt were lovely in the sense that they gave us our wish. But they chose when.
Did you ever disagree with the decisions they made?
For Sure was a great song but it should never have been the fourth single. The original plan was a double-A side: Music To My Heart and Zoom. The amount of fans who still love and talk about those songs is great and I always wonder if we’d stuck to that plan what would’ve happened. Natalie would always have gotten pregnant and we would always have taken time out but…
Caroline and Russ were both saying that we should release an up-to-date version of Music To My Heart for the 20th anniversary but Natalie has already released it as a solo single, which was great. Our version is great so let’s not try and fix it, let’s do something else instead.
On reflection, do you think releasing the album after four singles was a mistake?
We didn’t have a choice. We got single deals for When My Baby, More Than I Needed To Know and The Best Is Yet To Come and only then would the label pay for us to make an album. They wanted to see whether the fourth single would push us further up the chart. I never believed it was going to get us in the top five for no other reason than it was a gamble and there were safer album tracks that we had at our fingertips
How were the album tracks on Four Sure chosen?
I remember when we had the album tracks and there was always a reason why they were included on the album. For example, One Of These Days was included because there was a sitcom that was about to be released – so if we recorded the song, it could’ve ended up as the theme tune. There was always a reason why.
So, let’s fast-forward to Eurovision in 2007 – what are your memories of that?
I will always look back at Eurovision with the biggest smile and I’m so glad it happened for us. We got to revisit something that was part of who we were and it allowed four people who felt like the underdogs back in the ‘90s to get back together and make a bit of history. We want to keep that legacy because with Eurovision we were the public’s choice. It wasn’t the record label or anybody else – it was nice to feel people chose us.
It was a four-month commitment and it was tough to manage it all – Caroline was on tour with The Producers, I was in the middle of a degree and Russ was doing TV work. But I don’t think any of us regret it and off the back of it we went on to do some things that we would never have done. It got us back together and I think it’s kept our bond alive. This time of year, people want to speak to you again and ask you questions about the latest entry, so it’s nice to know you’re there. Like being part of a yearbook.
Flying The Flag (For You)was a huge hit off the back of it as well…
It was the biggest selling since Katrina & The Waves – and if we looked at how many sales there were compared to the ‘90s it would’ve been #1 for two-weeks back then. It is such a great song but thinking about new music now, I’m very much pushing for us to focus on the ‘90s.
“We want to keep that legacy because with Eurovision we were the public’s choice”
Eurovision brought us back into everyone’s mindset – some people had never heard of us in the ‘90s and so it did create a feeling – probably outside of the gay community – of Scooch just being a novelty act. We were a pop group with great pop tunes, and that’s what we’ve been putting on social media. Although, come May we’ll probably remind people that we also did Eurovision as well.
What do you think was the best Scooch single?
If you asked me the worst, I’d say For Sure. I love the other singles for totally different reasons, but I’ll never forget the importance of More Than I Needed To Know getting to #5. I think that’s got to be the best Scooch single. I love the video for The Best Is Yet To Come too – it was so bloody freezing!
Do you still have your cardboard cut-out?
No, but I do have all the outfits though. They’re in a garage somewhere. I never got rid of anything.
Which songs get the best reaction from audiences when you perform them?
When you perform things, you get a feel for what is loved more than others – Flying The Flag raises the roof and we always do that last because it’s such a nice way to leave the stage. But when people hear that shrill riff at the start of More Than I Needed To Know…people love that one.
What do you think was the best Scooch album track or B-side?
The best album track…If I was self-indulgent, I love what me and Russ did with Never Stop Believing – I love that song. As a pop fan I loved Stay – the other three hated it. I loved it, it was so poppy and camp.
But I’m going to go for my favourite; I love Syncopated Rhythm. I remember falling in love with it the first time I heard it and I used to love performing it as well. At the very beginning when we didn’t have the other songs to back it up, Syncopated Rhythm was massive. It was #1 in the line dancing chart – we only had one front cover of a magazine and that was Linedancer Magazine.
I talk to people now who love that song and I think: ‘how do you even remember it?’ I like the words as well. It’s about getting so close but not quite getting there. I think that’s life isn’t It – you’re always so close but you feel a bit unbalanced.
The deep and meaningful lyrics of Scooch…
I’m an actor above and beyond a singer, so I always analyse.
We need to ask you about our favourite Scooch song: Don’t Look Back
That was the song the four of us wrote together and it was the only time all four of us went into a booth together and recorded side-by-side. Back in the day on MySpace, I’d get people messaging me saying it helped them through a tough time. It sounds so cliched, but it was about believing in yourself and making anything happen. It was a really positive sound – I remember when we wrote that, that was us consciously thinking we want to sound a bit more like S Club 7 and the chants at the start ticked that box. It wasn’t a masterpiece like More Than I Needed To Know, but it was four people having a go at trying to write a pop song
And a bloody good one at that
I want to listen to the album now, you’ve inspired me.
What would you say to the Scooch fans still here after 20 years?
It’s nice to know that people still love the songs and there’s an anticipation of what’s to come and that’s what I’d hoped for in sharing stuff on social media.
“This would be very different and what have we got to lose?”
So, thank you for the reaction that we’ve always had, and we really can’t wait to get in the studio and see what Scooch sound like now. It’s excitement, not fear. And it will happen.
You can catch David’s Tunnel of Love on Pride World Radio