Scorn has been getting a lot of spins at the D.U. desk lately, so it’s a good time to clean up an old Scorn interview, and add some detail, from archive zine issue #11 from 1994, below. In the middle of our original published interview, the subject switched to a related band, Painkiller, and that’s broken out and posted on the blog separately.
Scorn is a band from England that has some famous members from the grindcore scene [Mick Harris and Nick Bullen of Napalm Death]. Of course, Scorn is about the farthest thing from that sort of sound one can think of these days. The new album, Evanescence, is a lot different from the band’s previous material [the first two albums are Vae Solis and Colossus], but so are all the other records different. Here the man behind the madness, Mick Harris, has a few things to say.
D.U.: How is everyone taking to the new album?
Harris: Oh, fine. Earache seems to be working a lot hard—well, God, I’ll be honest. They did nothing with Vae Solis; they did nothing with Colossus. Which is a shame, because we’re as happy with those recordings as with the new one. Obviously our new one is gonna be our favorite because it’s the last thing we fucking recorded, but they seem to be behind this one. I can’t say it’s a major success—I’m not lookin’ for that with Scorn, I don’t expect it to be—but people have finally discovered Scorn and a lot of people think that Evanescence is our first record, y’know what I mean; they don’t know anything about the background of Scorn. But, yeah, things are goin’ quite well.
How are you guys gonna pull of the songs live these days?
It’s not a problem, y’know what I mean. We play to a backing DAT tape, for starters, which is the backbone of Scorn songs. It’s just the backbeats and sequences put down to a backing tape. On top of that, the bass is 100% live, the vocals are 100% live, the guitar is 100% live, and on top of that the loops are live: a lot of extra samples are thrown in on top. Now, on stage, there’s just two people: Nick’s on stage and Jimmy’s on stage—Jimmy Plotkin, who plays guitar for the band. He’s American. Nick shows Super 8 films as visuals, which work really well. Because, basically, where we say “live,” it’s live as much as we can make the music live, but it’s not like people runnin’ around on stage, sort of thing. It’s very still. And I’m behind the board controlling the whole thing and also manipulating the whole sound in general, and then adding a lot of loops and live samples on top of it. So it’s a decision we came to, obviously.
See, I used to play drums in Scorn. We just had a meeting between me and Nick, and I said, “Look, I just wanta be in control of the sound. I can’t trust sound engineers anymore with our sound, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s as important as what the playing is for us to feed off each other.” So we put it to the test and it works perfect. It’s just a perfect show for us, I mean, the sound and the visuals.
Whatever happened with [former live guitarist] Pat McCahan, anyway?
Yeah, we tried Pat, a friend of mine, and it just didn’t work. Pat’s style was just too rigid, it was too straightforward. Pat likes to play straightforward chords in a more rock orientated style, and we just wanted a more loose, psychedelic-sounding guitar. So that’s why Nick ended up playing guitar on Colossus. I was sort of half-happy with what we were getting guitar-wise on that LP, so I approached Jimmy for this record. We just let Jimmy improvise in the studio. We just ran the tapes, and it fuckin’ turned out perfect.
So what do you want people to get out of Scorn? Is it just for them to enjoy it, or is there something more than that?
Just enjoy it, y’know what I mean. Scorn is just something, for me, that people can listen to and get a lot out of. It’s something people can move their bodies to if they want to. You can dance to it because the grooves are there. I dunno; for me, I get 100% pure pleasure from it, whether it’s listening or dancing.
There’s no messages within anything Scorn has got to say. It’s purely music from our hearts and what we feel for, and I think that’s essential. It’s prob’ly why there’s so much shit music around nowadays, because people don’t think of it that way. They’re just straight out there to make a dollar, and that’s what most people are concerned about. I think music over the years has gotten worse. I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve got old or … I dunno. I just analyze music a lot more. I don’t think we’re doin’ anything fuckin’ more special than anybody else; I just feel and I know that we’re doin’ it because we believe in it. There’s no other reason before that. I think that’s positive. ■