In the streets of Adelaide, The Mark Of Cain may as well be heritage listed. The band, who have been going strong for almost thirty years, are an institution and well respected amongst the music community. Currently touring in support of their latest record ‘Songs of the Third and Fifth’, Killyourstereo.com had a chat to founding member John Scott about what life is like for the group all these years down the road.
The Mark Of Cain started twenty-nine years ago, that’s when I was born….
Yeah. I want to know what Mark Of Cain means to you, today.
I guess to me now it’s just a very solid three piece that I still get a lot of satisfaction from playing in and I’m very proud of what we’ve written. I see it, I don’t know, in today’s music probably not so important, it’s more or less just a bunch of guys that came up in post-punk trying to do their bit, or what makes them happy. I’m just very proud of it as a band that’s lasted and I personally think that we’ve managed to not put out crap and that’s the difficulty for a lot of bands.
You say that in today’s music you don’t feel you are as important, to be fair that is a point that could probably be heavily argued by fans of your band and people that support you, what makes you say that?
I guess I think because I largely follow the idea that the music came out of a youth type movement that it is important for people to establish and make their own music, and judgement and culture, that sort of movement isn’t the same anymore and we just happened to have come up through it and maintained. I don’t personally understand the music culture that exists now and how we fit into that. We are a bit of a dinosaur that lolloped through. Yeah I guess I’m being a bit harsh, it’s a difficult one, well maybe I shouldn’t even be looking at it in terms of music, maybe I should just separate it as like our little artistic experimentation and it just happens to be in music, maybe there is no real necessity to link it to a time and place and culture.
It may be fair to say that bands like Mark of Cain certainly aren’t what would be considered "popular" music these days, but I would argue that makes you more important, to know that there are still solid bands within your genre that still exist.
Yeah, well I hope people see it that way, there has never been a huge success through the band but that’s not why you do it, it’s nice if it happens. It’s a funny one, I’m probably not yet at a point where I can really articulate what the band means in a thirty year time span, it’s still very much a part of me and what I do so I find it hard to get the distance to be able to comment on it.
You took a little time out from the band, in hindsight are you glad you did that, did it reignite things for you a little?
Yeah that break wasn’t a conscious decision, it was more life gets in the way sometimes, you get old and have families, and to some extent a lot of the reason why we were away for so long was with John (Stanier) meaning we could only play so often as his bands are much more on the landscape of touring a lot more and having less time to do The Mark Of Cain. So by the time we did the album, or recorded it, I had my own things. I could have done it in twelve months but that wasn’t a deliberate thing, that is just dealing with life how it was, I could only get in there once a month. That worked to an advantage because what would of happened if we had recorded in 2008 and released in 2009? Who knows? I don’t even remember when we recorded it, was it 2010? I don’t know, I’ve got music files on my computer from 2008 so I think that is when we started writing it. So it wasn’t necessarily a choice to take that break but the break helped. I don’t know if I answered the question….
Now that the record has been out for a little while and you have seen people’s reactions to it, is it where you wanted it to be or would you change some things?
Nah, I’m totally happy with it. We recorded it thinking it was pretty good, that it was solid and we were happy with it and then when we finished it I didn’t listen to it for a little while. Kim (Scott) did, I was over it. But he listened to it and was like "This is fucking really good" so I listened to it in the car and thought "Jesus, this is great" and when it came time to learn the songs again I listened some more and when it got released bam! people were really over the moon about it. To me I feel like we recorded a Mark Of Cain album and I wish they all had been received like that. It’s funny because I wonder if we had released this album ten years ago what it would have meant.
Well that is an interesting point let’s talk about that, you obviously feel that the reaction to this album and the band in general is a little different to how it was back in the day, what do you think a) the differences are and b) the reason for it?
I don’t know maybe we have just been absorbed into the surrounds a bit? It feels a little bit more like we are an accepted part of music, not a huge band by any means but people saw we were putting a record out and as so many bands that have been around for a long time can disappoint, we didn’t. To me, the record was like us dragged forward a little bit, encapsulating everything we have done and what we are and maybe ten years ago we were still, I don’t know, is it young enough to be part of the music framework? I think as you get older people are kinder to you. (laughs)
The music industry is pretty fickle though and the fact that you guys could be off the radar for a little while and then come back and still have a good following and be well received is pretty great, do you put that down to the work you did when you were younger?
Yeah I think so. And that is really lucky, fuck. Otherwise it would be like starting over again, we are just lucky that whatever we did stayed in people’s minds and the fans were still there. We have the most fucking loyal fans ever, they just waited and waited, I used to feel bad when we were producing the album because I thought fuck there is people waiting of it, but at the same time I thought well I’ve also got my life and it’s gonna take how long it takes. But yeah, it’s really lucky. It’s hard, I can’t quite quantify what it is…..
You guys would have to be considered one of Adelaide’s biggest and most successful bands though?
Yeah well maybe, it used to be when we would play back in the late 80’s in Melbourne or Sydney people would come up to us like "where are you guys from?" and we’d go "Adelaide" and they would say "bullshit" and we’d say "yeah from Adelaide" and they would go, "Nah, no good bands come out of Adelaide" and I used to be like "hang on…." Adelaide has a reputation for the bigger bands like Chisel and The Angels but we were sort of a little bit different……..I’m just trying to think….
Well around your time it was probably The Superjesus who were the biggest most successful. Different scene obviously.
Yeah, yeah, that’s right, they were very much chasing fame that band more than anything.
Let’s talk about the tour.
Still counts. Is it mini purely because it is hard to do this at this point in your lives, just run away for extended periods?
Yeah, I could, Eli could, Stanier has every chance if he can but obviously he is really busy so, but yeah Kim works seventy hours a week and has family and for his work he is flying all over the place so he is the tough one, he could not take two months of to say do something overseas like I would like to do. It’ll come at sometime but he will really have to make a commitment towards it.
Is that normal life/rockstar life balance tricky?
Nah, it’s pretty good, Kim does a much better job of it than I do, I always found it difficult. I’m not working at the moment, I left my job and am looking for really anything else and I used to find it tough because I really love playing music and then I’d find going to work a real drag. Back in the day if we came back from a Friday/Saturday/Sunday I would never go to work on the Monday but Kim would be back to work on the Monday, I’d always want to make the experience last as long as possible.
Surely though of all bands you guys are in a position that you could make it a full time job if you really commit to it?
I don’t know, maybe ten years ago we could have but it’s just the way it went. As you get more settled in life, especially for Kim, he wouldn’t be able to afford his mortgage just through the band you know?
That’s a pretty depressing sign for up and comers if Mark Of Cain still need day jobs….
(laughs) Well the thing is I think you can do better in the States with that sort of thing because there are so many places to play whereas we are very coastal, which is not to say you couldn’t play in Port Lincoln or something like that but demand is less. So you are playing Perth, Melbourne Sydney, Brisbane and a couple of inbetweeners and they are long distances so you drive or fly, it makes it hard to break even. We used to drive Melbourne and Sydney all the time, drive, drive, drive. Then you get to a point where you can afford to fly but I know guys who have played in band’s their whole life, and that’s all they have ever done, and they own their own house but they have done it by being on Centrelink and getting a house through the housing trust and buying a house that way, so there is ways and means to do it but it’s a tough one.
You are touring with a new drummer, what has that been like?
It was a worry at first, because it took so long to come out, Stanier was like, "fuck it just release it, the fans will buy it and when I get time we’ll tour" but the rest of us thought that wouldn’t work, if we release it we have to support it. There were other drummers whose names came up, we were thinking of going with Lucius Borich but it wouldn’t have worked, he would have had to come down from Sydney, spend the weekend with us, go back, it wouldn’t have worked. So I was looking around and I’d met Eli, seen him drum and I knew he was technical because he came from a math rock background so I pulled him in and asked for his time mainly so me and Kim could rehearse and it was pure fucking blind luck that he was on the money every time just nailing it. I was more worried for him when we started the tour because people would be mad that it wasn’t John Stanier but people were really impressed.
John was obviously all right with you touring without him?
Yeah, we’d spoken about it before with John and it’s the usual thing where they say yes but they really mean no. I know John really wanted to play the shows and when he found out how big the shows ended up being he wished he’d done it but he had the opportunity and we’ve tied ourselves to John so many times and we love playing with him, we’d play with him no matter what and if he said yes we’d do it again but it’s getting to difficult. That’s not saying it’s finished, if he wants to do it we can do it, but right now we’re in the best position we have probably been in for awhile because if we are offered a show we can actually play it now. We used to get offered shows here and there during the year that we would have loved to do but couldn’t because we’d have to fly John out for one show. So no, things are good now and John’s fine he’s got Battles happening and Tomahawk, he’s doing his production stuff and DJing, you can’t have everything. (laughs)