EURO GOES POP in conversation with David Ducasse from pop band Scooch

A previous blog made a link from South Shields born jazz musician Kathy Stobart to Radiohead. This time trying a bigger stretch from South Shields to Swedish Kings and Queens of goth pop ABBA…. Well there was two boys and two girls (laughs). We were more like STEPS than ABBA….tho’ I wish we’d won like Abba !

What happened after Scooch had been selected to represent the UK ? Well it was just mad, I wouldn’t say it was scary, just full on. When we were chosen things were never the same. The last UK entrant to win was Katrina and the Waves in 1997 and she was brilliant. It’s almost like a Eurovision family once you’ve done it. We’ve done quite a few gigs around the Eurovision night and you all perform on the same shows, your paths cross. It’s because you have achieved something, a milestone in your career, it was a moment in time for us or you can get unbelievable success like ABBA.

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In 2007 Eurovision was held in Helsinki and the UK representatives were pop band Scooch including South Shields born David Ducasse. The song Flying the Flag reached number 5 in the UK charts, unfortunately didn’t do as well in the competition…. We came second to last but the experience was the closest we got to huge exposure. It was something we never imagined, just to have that opportunity. Sometimes it feels like five minutes ago and other times it’s like Did that really happen ?

Not many people get to represent their country at anything… Yeah that was the lovely thing about it, almost having a second life with Scooch because we had done stuff in the ‘90s and the demise of the band then felt like the rug was pulled under our feet. Our lead singer Nat got pregnant and of course needed time off, and sadly Russ and Caroline just went separate ways and we all chased very different dreams. We thought why get back together and pursue something which was really hard work and we were at that point where it was make or break. Coming back for Eurovision ? We just didn’t see that coming.

How did the Eurovision entry first come about ? Russ had been in the audience of Eurovision with his friend James Fox (UK representative 2004) and at the end of it they were talking to the producer Dominic who he had met years before when he was a runner on a show called Liquid TV. Dominic told Russ he can remember Scooch and asked him what are you doing now sort of thing, well Russ being a chancer just said ‘How do you think we’ll go down on this show ?’ Scooch still gigged now and then and within a few months of that conversation we got a call saying ‘Would you like to give it a go ? We never thought it would happen but I remember it was on a Valentines Day 2007 and we were in ! An old Scooch song which we demoed but never done anything with, was submitted but Dominic said it was too good.

Too good ? What did he mean ? The entrants for that year were all blasts from the past, remember we hadn’t got to the actual Eurovision yet this was the selection process to find who was going to represent the UK. It was all people who had done something before like Liz McClarnon from Atomic Kitten, you had Brian Harvey from East 17, Justin Hawkins from The Darkness was thrown in as the wild card at the end. So you had your own niche like R&B, a ballad type of thing, rock, and for want of a better description we were the cheesy act. This was a new label for us although we had been around in the ‘90s as a pop group.

Dominic asked if we had anything else. Russ was doing some work in film at the time and he was working with two songwriters, Morton from Sweden and Paul Tarrie, they were writing a song for an animation movie featuring aeroplanes. One idea was around the inflight announcements, they went with that and Russ had the bap de da bap chorus, they asked for more but it didn’t exist then ! Meanwhile we got to a studio in London where Morton and Paul were writing the rest of the song, we put it down and then left them to craft it all together for what became Flying the Flag.

Originally, how did you join Scooch ? The manager Steve Crosby was a former DJ, he put STEP’S together and wrote their big hit 5,6,7,8 with Pete Waterman. But he was ousted from there so put together Scooch as a big two fingers up to Waterman, that’s why he went to Watermans former partner in the record business Mike Stock. What happened was Scooch had just lost one of their members so put an advert in The Stage newspaper and I sent my cv and demo in. Natalie, Caroline and Russ liked me so I went down and hung out with them in Surrey where they were based, just got to know each other, and got on really well. Steve said go back to Newcastle have a think about it and so will we and we’ll speak soon. Next day the call came… ‘You’re in’. I was already in development with a boy band called Northern Line but they didn’t seem as settled, a few members came and went, so I jumped ship to Scooch.

When was this and did you move to London ? Around late 1997 cos it wasn’t another 18 months until we got the deal. No I didn’t move straight away, every so often I would go down rehearse, record a vocal , learn a routine. I used to clean Kirkpatricks pub in South Shields to pay for my train ticket.

Then Mike Stock got involved and re-recorded one of our songs, he put his magic on it and Steve started knocking on doors of record companies or they would come round to a rehearsal. On one day you’d have a couple of A&R from a company coming at 1 till 2pm, then another like Polydor at 2 till 3pm. We’d sing When My Baby, Syncopated Rhythm, a cover of You to Me are Everything then When My Baby acapella to prove we could sing. Then we’d sit down and they’d ask a few questions, they always asked would I move to London. Which I did eventually in May 1998.

Where did you live ? Our manager Steve had a record shop in Stoneleigh and he lived in the flat upstairs, then he moved out and Russ and I moved in. I think it’s an Italian restaurant now. Thing was then, I was 22 years old but I always had to remember my Scooch age in interviews. We played it a few years younger than we really were.

Who were the songwriters for Scooch ? The majority of the songs were Mike Stock and Matt Aitkin, Morton a songwriter from Sweden also wrote some. We had a development deal with Mike Stock and part of that agreement was that we were to write some of our own songs and Morton was the guy to help us develop those skills. It was a nice team we all knew and trusted each other.

What studio did you record in ? For Flying the Flag it was Mortons house in Fulham but back in the day it was 100 House, the home of Love This records run by Mike Stock. It was an incredible place to be, it had the recording and dance studios, with amazing choreographers working there. One day was Diana Ross rehearsing for Top of the Pops next day Atomic Kitten and Christmas parties with everyone turning up. Basically it was pop heaven seeing all the artists in the canteen and their records on the wall, people I had grew up listening to. Yeah it was a great experience.

What was your experience of dealing with the record company ? Basically the record label are like a big bank so you get a budget for whatever deal they give you. We were at EMI on their pop division label Accolade records, and they just liked us. Our first deal was a single and they gave us x amount of thousands of pounds to promote the single. They said ‘Let’s see how it charts and then we’ll see where we go’. We got a second single out with an option to a third and our second release More Than I Needed to Know hit number 5, a great success. The record company said ‘ok let’s do an album’.

But being four naïve youngsters we never made any money from ‘90s Scooch. Every hotel you were staying in you were spending your money, you had to make money back before seeing a penny. I spent a lot of time with the management and asked them ‘Why are we staying in the Malmaison with four separate rooms? Why do we have four separate cars ? I cottoned on. I went to the band and said we need to get clever here, get some endorsements, we only got an advance of around £2,000 between us. So how do you pay your rent in London ? We had to wise up a bit and find ways to cut costs.

I loved our manager Steve as a friend, but as I was spokesman for the band we would also have business conversations. One day he said he was putting his expenses in and I asked him what expenses ? He said ‘When we’ve went for a meal or I’ve paid for your train ticket to Newcastle’. I needed to investigate further, we were learning as we were thrown into it, because with the record deal came lawyers and who was paying them ? When we done the two singles and looked to the album we were potentially going to do more work, that was another expense so we needed to look after our side of things.

How did you survive in the business ? Just things like when we done Top of the Pops, this was our third time, I told Steve we had to wear something different from the music video we had filmed for the single. Top of the Pops wanted us to film three versions for different episodes of the show so we borrowed outfits from the All Saints girl band, then Steve got £50 off the record company to buy new outfits.

Russ and I were due to sign on the dole in Epsom on the afternoon when we were supposed to record the show. So I rang up the dole and explained why we couldn’t make the signing on time…’Cos we’re doing Top of the Pops’. He didn’t believe us at first ‘Can you prove it and are you actually seeking work ? I said ‘Of course I can prove it our faces are on cd’s, it just doesn’t pay well that’s why we’re signing on’ (laughs). They agreed we could sign early, so when we went there we signed autographs and had our pictures taken, then made our way to the TV studio. We still got our Job Seekers Allowance because we really needed the money for our rent in London.

Our biggest earners where sponsorship deals, we were paid ambassadors for the Children’s Health Authority and the Rugrats DVD things like that. Touring is the best way to make money that’s why Little Mix go out twice a year.

Looking back to your time in Scooch where there any moments that stand out ? You can’t get better than the live Eurovision audience, knowing that for three minutes everyone will hear something you’ve worked really hard at. Although I did have two nearly pinch myself moments. One was meeting the Prime Minister Tony Blair in the corridor at GMTV and he shouted ‘Look it’s Scooch!’ and getting to press the button on the National Lottery draw ! Yes easily pleased (laughs).

Was there a moment when you thought this is it I’ve made it ? I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way as a performer because I’ve always viewed each job as a role or a stepping stone to where I always wanted to be – an actor. My dream job would be a 6 month stint on Emmerdale – so I can get home on a weekend!

What’s next David ? We have something planned but can’t tell you just yet. Watch this space.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  January 2020.