Sometime in the first quarter of 2012, Neurosis’ frontman, Scott Kelly, toured Australia for a handful of intimate acoustic shows with support from none other than John Baizley from Baroness and Blackie from The Hard-Ons. Before the show in Melbourne, I sat with Scott Kelly and chatted with him about all things Neurosis and other such delights. Having been a Neurosis fan since the release of Souls At Zero, this interview was long overdue. I had wanted to include Neurosis in an issue of Long Gone Loser for years so when the opportunity came up to interview one of the band’s driving forces, I immediately jumped up and found myself at the Corner Hotel armed with my iPhone and questions to conduct an interview that can now be ticked off the bucket list. Now on the lead-up to his return to our shores in November, I felt that this interview is a good taster to get you guys psyched for the shows that I am sure will be nothing short of phenomenal. I now present to you the article in full and please keep in mind that this interview was done and written before the release of last year’s Honor Found In Decay album so with that in mind, grab a drink, crank up some tunes and read on and enjoy this interview from the archival vaults of “conversations with Damo”…

Back in 1985, David Lee Roth quit Van Halen, Mercyful Fate called it a day and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider testified at the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) Senate hearings on rock censorship in Washington DC. More importantly, one other major event happened to the world of heavy music. In the city of Oakland, California, four guys decided to put together a hardcore band that would soon become one of the most unique and interesting bands to ever explode into the heavy genre. The band is Neurosis; a band highly regarded as the pioneers of experimental metal. After nine studio albums, countless singles, splits and DVD releases, 2012 has seen the release of two of the band’s landmark albums Souls At Zero and Enemy Of The Sun being given the reissue treatment almost two decades after their initial release. The 180 gram double vinyl albums have been completely remastered and repackaged with newly expanded artwork and released through the band’s own label, Neurot Records. Vocalist / guitarist Scott Kelly, took time out from his recent solo tour to let yours truly delve into his mind and discuss the band’s history, being ripped off by a punk rock icon, the band’s views on touring, and sobering up.

To really understand the sound of Neurosis, one must take a look into just what kind of ingredients made for such an interesting style. The band’s first album, Pain Of Mind, is a crust punk hardcore barrage of raw noise and riffs that sounds a little disjointed but shows promise for what was to come. “We were really into Rudimentary Peni, Amebix, and Antisect mostly but we were also into Joy Division, Pink Floyd and Black Flag at the time as well but we couldn’t really play that good so it took us time to really pull what was in our heads out.” The band ran into their first bout of trouble with being ripped off so for their next record, they turned to their friends at the Berkeley, California punk label, Lookout! Records; the label whose roster also included, at one time, the likes of The Donnas, Rancid, Operation Ivy and Green Day. “Lookout! Records was a group of local people that we knew that we were friends with. We trusted them and that was pretty much what it came down to. We got ripped off on our first record so we were looking for a place where we could go and wouldn’t be ripped off and they were those people. It worked for one record but after that it was a little bit tough.”

The Word As Law sessions also saw the beginnings of the band’s move towards a more experimental sound. A move that wasn’t really noticeable until their third studio album, the 1992 release, Souls At Zero. This also had them once again joining another label and it seemed that signing to Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label was the right decision to help define the band’s move towards their new sound. “Basically when we were finishing up The Word As Law, we were already there. We just didn’t have a keyboard player at that time. As soon as we were done with The Word As Law, we went and found somebody who could play keyboards and started incorporating all the other sounds. We felt that we were ready for it at that point and that we had the parts and the ideas. It seemed like they could be used in such a way; obviously the use of samples was wide open and all the textures you could build using keyboards but it would also eliminate the whole issue of talking between songs and we could just do a seamless performance which was all stuff that we really wanted to do. We spent a lot of time from the origin of this band, probably through Enemy Of The Sun, or even Through Silver And Blood where we were experimenting constantly and expanding our minds. We were pretty self-destructive at that point and there wasn’t a lot of thought as to a future as much as it was just about the music. Everything was about the music. We were just so obsessed with digging this stuff out and getting to where we wanted to be. I think since Through Silver And Blood, there’s been an even flow to each record since then but they haven’t been the monumental leaps like the first 4 or so. We got ourselves to where we wanted to be but then we started deconstructing and removing some stuff. Then we started developing our vocals and we started getting more comfortable with deeper atmospheres.”

Neurosis

This experimental stage also came with some low points for the band, mainly in the form of a battle with drugs and alcohol. While Scott is sober now and happier than ever, he also understands that his ways did play a huge part in the band’s sound. “I’ve been sober now for 11 years. I haven’t had a drink or done any drugs but I’d be lying if I said that drugs didn’t have a lot to do with it. There was a lot of acid involved and different variations of drugs but eventually they get a hold on you and your life. I don’t want to say that everyone in Neurosis was strung out on drugs because they weren’t but I was and I couldn’t handle it. At a certain point they become totally destructive and they turn on you and you’re no longer getting any insight or anything like that from it. Sobering up has made me more prolific and more focused. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, for sure. It was a hard thing to do but the decision was easy because it was pretty obvious. It had to happen. I couldn’t handle anything and didn’t have an off switch for drugs and alcohol. I would just go all day, every day and all night. I’m a dad and I’ve got four kids and I want to be a part of their lives and I want to be able to help them understand the difficulties of the minefield that is life and if you’re just wasted all the time, they’re not gonna listen to you. Why should they? I mean, who listens to their alcoholic father? A lot of us have had parents who have struggled with these things and it falls short when they’re trying to talk to you about stuff because you know that they’re not living it, they’re just talking it.”

Souls At Zero is still hailed by many as the quintessential Neurosis album for a number of reasons. Firstly, there was the addition of two important new members to give the bands live show a whole new experience. Kelly explains “We added the visual director the same time we added the keyboards, around ’91. We’ve had three different guys do it over the years. It started out with this one guy who quit pretty early on because he didn’t like travelling that much, then we brought in a guy who was a friend of ours and he was actually on the road crew at the time and he took over and he ran them for the majority of the time that we were on the road when we were touring really hard up, right up until around 2000 and then he left and Josh Graham took over and he’s been running them for the last 11 years. We just had this idea that no matter where we were, what the club was, what the situation was, etc. that we could just transform it into our environment so we wanted to bring in our own sound guy and our own visuals. We wanted it so that when we were playing, it was something else; it was something different, and then on top of that, it was a different way to express the emotion of the music through pictures.” With the bands growing popularity, there was also a downside. The band, while excited to be a part of one of the leading independent punk labels, became aware of an issue with royalties they were owed; “Alternative Tentacles ripped us off. We confronted them about it and they denied it. They had a European deal with John Loder who recorded Rudimentary Peni and started Southern Studios and Southern Distribution out of the UK. When we went to England after the dispute with Alternative Tentacles, he gave us back the tapes and actually paid us. John Loder was a really solid guy and he had nothing to do with the crap that was going on with Jello Biafra.” Souls At Zero also lists Biafra as a Mix Doctor and Kelly explains “We got into a situation with that record where I think our ears were so blown out that we couldn’t figure out what was going on and the engineer that recorded it was probably at the end of his days of engineering and had lost a lot of hearing. We were trying to mix and we just couldn’t mix so we brought Biafra in for a fresh set of ears and to help us get the record finished, which he did and he did a good job. It was helpful to have someone with fresh ears come in and listen to it but I wish his name wasn’t on there, honestly. But, you know, he earned it.”

For a band that has been around for almost 30 years, nine studio albums and a small handful of shows a year might not seem like a lot but what the band lacks in quantity, it sure makes up for in quality. But one has to ask, why such a lengthy delay between albums and shows? “We all have regular jobs and we’re not into the whole tour, record, tour, record cycle that the industry kinda puts under you. It doesn’t work for us with our writing. We found that our music suffered when we did that; when we were touring all the time. We also found that our families and our music were just too important to us to be gone all the time. I tour quite a bit because of the solo stuff and I’m on the road more than the other guys are, maybe three months a year and about two weeks of that is with Neurosis, usually.” The band’s last studio album, Given To The Rising, was released five years ago. Itching to hear new material, I asked Scott if the band has any new plans to record again. I was surprised to hear that there is indeed a new Neurosis album. “It’s almost finished being recorded and should be out around September through Neurot Recordings. Neurosis writing is more of a process like Osmosis or something where it just takes a lot of time for the little bits to drip through. It just doesn’t go fast for whatever reason. It takes a long time to get to where we are really happy with stuff or that each part can be as good as it can be. It’s a different process.” With a new Neurosis album and a recent solo tour under his belt, one has to ask the one question left that the Australian fans all want to know; will we ever see Neurosis in Australia?

“I’m hoping so. We’re working on it right now; trying to figure it out. You know, we never considered getting out of the States. We didn’t even think about touring when we first started the band. It was something somebody else brought up to us after we put out our first record. They were like “you guys should go out on tour” and we were like “what’s that? How the fuck do you do that?” We literally had no idea. We just played an occasional show and we were just happy to be able to make music together. It’s another reason why we stopped touring when we did because it really wasn’t our intention when we started the band. We just wanted to make music and for it to mean something and to create a family amongst us. Which is not to say I’m not really thankful that I’ve gotten to see parts of the world and being in Australia is fantastic; great people and a great country. I’m a very lucky guy and I know it.”

Thanks to Heathen Skulls, this November, catch Scott Kelly and the Road Home with special guest Jarboe on tour across Australia and New Zealand at the following venues…

Thursday 7th: Melbourne @ The Corner Hotel
Tickets from http://www.cornerhotel.com
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Special guests

Friday 8th: Sydney @ The Manning Bar
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Special guests

Saturday 9th: Brisbane @ The Zoo
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Kellie Lloyd + special guests

Sunday 10th: Perth @ The Rosemont Hotel
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Special guests

Tuesday 12th: Wellington, NZ @ Bodega Bar
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Special guests

Wednesday 13th: Auckland, NZ @ The Kings Arms
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Special guests

Thursday 14th: Christchurch, NZ @ Churchills
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Special guests

Friday 15th: Dunedin, NZ @ Sammy’s
Buy tickets HERE!
w/ Special guests

Australian / New Zealand tour Facebook event page, Join up HERE!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s