Scott Laub left behind the life of a hard-drinking musician and turned to woodworking


B.C. Kowalski/City Pages

Scott Laub quit alcohol, and has turned to woodworking instead.

Scott Laub sat on a couch in his apartment alone, gun cocked, with plenty of alcohol in him. It had finally come to that point. The point of clarity, in alcoholic terms. 

That was after decades of drinking. Laub was never an angry drunk, as he tells it. Never the type to come home and yell at the kids and kick the dog.

But he did drink. A lot. “They would say I was the life of the party guy,” Laub says in his garage surrounded by plenty of tools and wood projects, “with all the friends, all the toys, having 30 friends over for a cookout and a keg of beer. That’s the guy I was.” 

But it had become something very different that evening on the couch with a loaded gun in his hand. He’d left his wife again after rekindling things with her, had moved out and bought the furnishings for an apartment 12 days ago. 

He uncocked the gun and picked up the phone. He searched and found an alcoholics helpline and dialed, telling the person who answered he needed help. The person on the other end of the line told him to hang on, someone would call him back. Laub was incensed. He was having a life crisis and someone would call him back? 

But 90 seconds later, by his account, the phone rang and he was talking to someone who could help. Before long, he had a ticket for Florida and a plan to enter rehab. 

It was the start of an entirely new life for Laub.

Today, Laub runs Skeeters Woodshop out of his garage on the city’s southeast side, creating cutting boards, cribbage boards and coasters among other things when he’s not working at a paper mill. It’s been 10 months since he’s had a drink. It’s also been 10 months since he’s played the drums. As part of his recovery process, Laub gave up the drums, something he played since he was a young teen, and sold his motorcycles. 

Why? Both were part of his drinking lifestyle. Laub played in bands in his early 20s in Wausau, Milwaukee and New Orleans, toured the country, and opened for major acts such as Bush and The Smashing Pumpkins. When he returned to Wausau he joined the band Kaos and was one of the top three bands around the area, opening for every major act that came to town. 

But the music lifestyle for Laub was also a drinking lifestyle; even band practices usually began with someone walking through the door with a case of beer. And his motorcycles, in his words, seemed to direct themselves toward bars. 

Both had to go. Woodworking took their place. 

Life in the band 

Laub was a young man when he walked into a familiar club in the Milwaukee area called The Unicorn — part of the since razed, multi-colored Sydney Hih building. The owner, a friend of his, called him over to introduce him to a friend of his named “Bill.” Laub sat down with him and shared a couple of beers with him. 

That someone turned out to be Billy Corgan, the frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins. It was still the early days of the Pumpkins, when they were lesser-known a Chicagoland band. Nirvana played at the same club well before they were a household name as well; a show that attracted about 30 people. Corgan still had long black hair, not the shaved head look he sported later on. “We shook hands, shared a couple of beers and went about our days,” Laub says.

Later on his band ended up opening for The Smashing Pumpkins. 

Laub grew up in Wausau and moved to Milwaukee, joining a number of bands but chiefly a zydeco band that played three to five nights per week, making Laub a working musician. 

It might have seemed an odd choice to those who knew him then; he was inspired to become a drummer from seeing Motley Crue as a young teen, and embraced the whole long-haired, hair band rocker image. He was friends with Enuff Z’Nuff bass player Chip Z’Nuff. But the zydeco band more than paid the bills in the 90s in Milwaukee. They sometimes played more than once per day, playing for example the Milwaukee Zoo one day and a wedding at night. 

It was a great time for Laub, but eventually it came to an end. The band chose to focus on recording instead of playing out, which meant no money coming in. Laub decided it was time to move back home. He played with Kaos through the early parts of the 2000s, until the lead singer decided to go back to school and that band broke up too. 

Before then, Kaos has been a pretty big band in Wausau. Wausau Music owner Neal Zunker says Laub was a great customer. “He was a no-bullshit kind of a guy, he knew what he wanted,” Zunker said of Laub. “He really did his research. But he wasn’t too demanding, and very appreciative.” 

Kaos was a pretty big music player in town in those days, Zunker says. “They played all over the place,” Zunker says. “They were one of the more popular bands back in the day.”

Falling down

Life turned into something a bit more domestic for Laub. Working at a paper mill, he worked long shifts, came home to his wife, and started drinking. “Papermill life is a culture,” Laub says. “You work 16 hours, come home and crank seven beers, sleep for six hours and go back and work another 16 hours. It’s not smart. It’s not healthy.” 

Being alert working at a paper mill is generally a good thing. If you make a mistake you don’t just lose a finger — machines there can kill you if you’re not careful,” Laub says. Hangovers and sleep deprivation aren’t a good combination with such dangerous work. 

Laub says his drinking went beyond getting out of hand. Everything revolved around drinking. “If it was nice out, hey let’s have one,” Laub says. “If it was gloomy, well, might as well have a drink. It didn’t matter if it was a good or bad reason to drink. That was the culture we lived in, in Central Wisconsin. It was an acceptable habit to have.”

Laub divorced from his wife in 2012. She’d had enough of his drinking lifestyle. Laub says he really went all out in that period. He says he was like a silverback gorilla running wild for four years. “It was like watching a plane crash.” 

Ultimately they started chatting again. She would send him pictures of their kids. They talked more and more. Eventually, they got back together. He read books on remarrying and put effort into making it work. They remarried in 2019. 

He never stopped drinking though.

The return 

His wife asked him to quit drinking, and that’s what led to him packing his bags and leaving again, ending up in that Grand Avenue apartment alone, with his bottle of alcohol. He doesn’t mince words about his intentions on that particular night, 12 days from when he moved out of his house. “I was either going to eat a bullet on my new couch, or get help,” Laub says. “What was I doing? I walked out on my life. I’d just got remarried and got the family back together, and I told her to take a flying [expletive] because I would rather drink than appease her request?” 

His wife was skeptical when she told him about the plane ticket to Florida to enter rehab. But that’s exactly what he did. Laub took FMLA leave from work, got on a plane in the middle of a pandemic, managing to not catch COVID, and entered a rehab program in Fort Lauderdale, entering detox for 14 days (he’d not been drinking for three days by the time he got there, Laub explains, but they treat you as if you’re hammered the day you get there), and later into a program called HEAL in Jupiter, Florida. 

Despite not caring for the fact that he was mostly surrounded by rich kids, he learned a lot; that a lot of his drinking stems from childhood trauma, masking those issues with alcohol. He learned coping mechanisms. 

One of the first things he did was sell his motorcycles and his drum kit. Both of them were triggers for alcohol. 

David Pelo, clinical director of outpatient services at North Central Health Care, says eliminating triggers can be a common coping mechanism for folks overcoming addiction. “Anything that triggers a person by making them want to use by bringing back the fun times with fun people, it creates a potential for relapse,” Pelo says. “For a lot of folks, if they don’t take that tough love approach, they might not be able to maintain sobriety.”

His wife and kids were ecstatic when he returned. “My kids were very proud,” Laub says. “It’s sad I had to do that to get that out of them.”

For Christmas he decided to make some cutting boards for his sisters as presents. He tried to keep it secret but word got out what he was doing, and when people saw his work, they started asking about it too. 

His friend, Andy Bartelt, told him he should consider starting an actual business. “He’s a successful person, who am I to argue with him?” Skeeters Woodshop was born. 

Will it ever be a full-time business? Laub isn’t sure. Once he is retired from the mill he will focus on woodworking because Laub can’t imagine just doing nothing. He has to keep busy, he says. 

He’s since brought the motorcycles back into his life. They no longer steer him toward the bar. 

The drums haven’t returned. They might, but Laub hasn’t decided yet. 

But the alcohol is gone for good, he says. In its place, a woodshop.