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INTERVIEW – John Scott, Mark Of Cain, October 2012

| 23 November 2012 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar
Originally published in Xpress Magazine – below is the full transcript of our conversation.

Rising up from Adelaide in the mid-nineties, MARK OF CAIN were all over Triple J through to the end of the decade with singles such as First Time, LMA, Interloper and [R] Retaliate.  With producers Steve Albini, Henry Rollins and more they fashioned some of the most bludgeoning hardcore influenced rock ever produced in this country but in the past decade have barely raised a mention.

With the release of new album “Songs of the Third and Fifth”, the name Mark Of Cain should be on many lips once again, especially with a national tour scheduled for March 2013 – but why so long between records?

“I think I went back to work, Kim [Scott, John’s brother and Mark Of Cain bassist] was working. From 2000 onwards John Stanier [drummer, also with HELMET] was in the band now and we could only tour when he was available, so really we stepped back from being a band who could play at the drop of a hat to playing when John was available.  But it was our decision – I never saw us as about to conquer the world or anything, so we stepped back. I felt that it was the right thing to do with where we were with our lives.”

The new album took quite a while to come together with recording sessions beginning in 2008.  John takes up the story:

“I guess we played on and off for two years, whenever John came out with his band, we would take that opportunity to tour as well, and rehearse. I was working, I had a daughter just been born in 2005, Jim already had 2 kids and I guess the band was starting to gig when we could and we were just aiming to try and get songs out there. I’d been writing with a drummer in Adelaide and rehearsing with him just to keep my hand in, and still writing songs and when John came out in 2008 with Helmet to play the Big Day Out, that seemed a good time to grab him and lock ourselves in the recording studio. And from that point on it was up to me, when I could get the time to go in and record guitars, or finish off vocals, and then Kim.”

So how did the gestation of the songs come about; had you written them in advance of that and then just the timing was right and you went in and recorded them?

“Yeah, I mean we do take ages to write songs. We normally like to write songs with the band as a whole, so what had happened is; I was just still playing music. It was myself, my brother and Ben White, a musician/ drummer here in Adelaide, and it was mainly just to keep playing and trying to write. There was no sort of real formal formula about it. It was… trying to write enough songs to record when we could. I felt the need that I wanted to get something out there, and when we started recording we probably had 4 or 5 of the songs finished, and then probably another 5 were in bits that needed to be worked on in the studio.”

So then you had a series of delays which pushed the release date back bit by bit, what happened there?

“The delays were more me trying to get into the studio. I was in the middle of a big break up, we were selling the house, leaving work, and then trying to push myself into the studio. It was just when the nights were available. We did it all ourselves, made it all ourselves. So when I could get in there I did, and then other times it would just be too much after a day at work, and all the bullshit that was going on. Then we were looking at doing September this year, but then John couldn’t make it to Australia so we just postponed it. I mean, a lot of it is just the logistics of having a member overseas, but also the other logistics was just my whole life fucking falling apart and taking the time to finish the album.”

The end result is an absolutely pummelling album. I put it to John that he must be thrilled with the way it’s turned out so huge sounding.

“This is such a good album. I mean, we were kind of on our own, we wanted to go back and do it ourselves, and that’s what we did. The band basically paid for everything: we recorded it here in Adelaide, we mixed it at Sing Sing, so it’s really been an Australian do it yourself album, and I’m really fucking over the moon about it.”

You must feel really vindicated, especially as you’ve just said, financing the whole thing by yourself, when people like Rolling Stone Magazine are suggesting that its every bit as impactful and exciting as your debut?

“Yeah, that was pretty damn nice. I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. I love all our albums but this one in particular just feels so right and it doesn’t have the feeling of something that even though I know it took ages to make, it still has an immediacy attached to it. It’s there, the sincerity is there, yeah. Even old mates of mine, we all started in music 20-30 years ago, [with who I’ve] drifted musically, they’re coming to me and saying “fuck, I love that new album, I love it, I can’t stop listening to it.” That says a lot to me as well, that old mates are singing its praises as well.”

Mark Of Cain – Kim Scott, John Scott & John Stanier

Awesome. So, what does the album title refer to?

“With “Songs of the Third and Fifth”, we wanted to call this “bloody songs to the third and the fifth”, because all I can ever do is write around the third and fifth fret of the guitar, which is very simplistic. We just thought “ah yeah, Songs of the third and fifth”, that sort of lends itself to that military imagery that we go for, as if it was songs of a particular band of brothers or something so… it stuck. But yeah, the reality of it is that it describes the sort of simplicity that we use when writing!”

Your lyrics and vocals have always been really intense and angry sounding, but talking to you, you seem very affable and calm, do you use music to sort of purge the rage inside of you to a certain extent?

“Yes and no. I don’t know, I can be a real asshole on lots of days. I can get upset. I think you are right, I think any form of art work is cathartic and it definitely helps. I think you’re right in what you’re saying – you do get it out there. You just need to be careful that then when you’re playing you’re not sort of reliving it and going over old ground, but I think it’s a cathartic thing and you can get a bit of your angst out. But it certainly doesn’t stop me from getting pissed off in general.  I mean I used to be an angry young man, and now I’m an angry old man.”

I’m just a grumpy old man, but that’s cool. So how did you cope with that when you weren’t writing and touring as much, like through the 2000’s without having that outlet?

“It’s hard. I mean, I always love touring and I love playing, and I guess part of what changed, my focus was obviously my daughter coming along. So from like 2005/06/07 whatever, [I was] dealing with something completely new. So I think I was probably diverted somewhat by that and not needing as much to get out there and play. But then of course, when I do go out and play then I realise how much I do miss it… but I don’t know, how did I cope? I’m not sure, but I think mostly I was diverted by having something else in my life at that time.”

Well, having been through the same thing, my daughter is probably a couple of years younger than yours, but it definitely softens you, doesn’t it? It changes who you are as a man, I think.

“I think it’s a great experience because you have to re-examine your life and, you know, when you have a child it does change your point of view. It certainly changed my point of view of what I listened to on the news. I cant stand anything that I hear on the news now regarding children being hurt, or abused, whereas before I could sort of bleep all over it, but it changes your perspective a great deal and I think it does soften you because it… well softens, I don’t know if that’s the word but you… it’s a much greater experience and that can only be good.”

Absolutely, I’m glad I’m not the only one who can’t stand that sort of thing on the news anymore.

“I just used to bleep over it but now it’s like argh, fuck, that’s terrible.”

Yeah, have a cry, the whole deal. Now, you and Tim Pittman produced this album. What did that combination bring to the music?

“Tim Pittman was our manager from years ago and he’s still our manager. I trust him enough to give him part of my royalties, so that’s how much I trust him. He understands the bands and as far as production, he’s a guy that I would definitely have to play anything we do and bounce it off of him, just to get an idea of… I mean if he hates the song it doesn’t mean I’m not going to record it or play it, but I definitely like… Because some of the songs that were unfinished, like Milosovic was a bit of a dirge that just went on and on and on, and it had some breaks and changes in it, but I definitely needed Tim to help me work out how I was going to arrange it, and Tim is also really good at working out the run of what tracks go after which track on the album. He’s the guy who sits there and plays every different sequence he can think of until he finds the right one, and I think he did with this. I think sequencing of the tracks on this album even though of course you can shuffle them if you want, but I think it’s really good. That sort of stuff Tim brings to it.”

Yeah, cool. So how do you and your brother cope having been in a band together for 25 years, does sibling rivalry rear its head?

“No, erm… if anything, for the last 5 years it’s been so reduced, the interaction band-wise, that as long as I get to tell him what to do, I’m happy.


“He’s 2 years younger but as far as I’m concerned, in the real world, he’s done very well for himself in industry work, so I was in the position where he was actually the boss at a place I was working. But I always knew that I could make him do the right things in the band room, so there’s not really any sibling rivalry.”

That’s good to know. So to wrap up mate, if you could magically go back in time and be a part of the creation of any one album in history, what would you pick?

“I reckon… I tell you, I wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall for probably LA Woman, The Doors.  That’s an interesting album.”

It’s certainly that, and it would have been interesting to see the dynamics between them at that stage too.

“Yeah, it’s just near the end and I think their producer walked out on them. I think they were making cocktail music. Music for cocktail lounges or something.”

All those chips on their shoulders would have been interesting to observe…

“Would have been good!”

Awesome man, really appreciate the time and best of luck with the album. We’re looking forward to seeing you when you get over here to Perth in March!

Mark Of Cain’s “Songs Of The Third And Fifth” tour dates:

Friday March 8th    HQ            Adelaide                   SA
Sunday March 10th    Golden Plains    Meredith                  VIC
Friday March 15th     Hi Fi      Melbourne                VIC
Sunday March 17th    Capitol     Perth     WA
Thursday March 21st    Hi Fi      Brisbane     QLD
Friday March 22nd    Coolangatta Hotel   Coolangatta    QLD
Saturday March 23rd    The Metro     Sydney    NSW

Category: Interviews

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