This interview with Scott of Scholomance features questions by U.
1. First of all, I don't know that much about the history of Scholomance beyond what I have read in official press releases/bio material, etc. - could you tell me a little more about the musical history of the individual members leading up to the formation of Scholomance? How did you guys meet? Were you in other bands before this one? Have any/either of you had classical training in certain instruments? Scott, was it difficult to find other musicians who were willing or able to work with you? Have there been any line-up changes or additions since the release of your album?
Well, aside from the bio information, Jimmy and I were both in bands around here quite a few years ago, around 1991-93. We were actually in two separate bands, trying to rival each other basically. There was a time when we didn't like each other very much. Jimmy's ex-wife used to play drums for my old band. Then somehow she, Jimmy and I ended up in a band called Communion. It was a cool death metal band somewhat like Disincarnate. The bass player from Communion made it in Scholomance for a time until he quit Scholomance. Now we have Jerry playing bass and he was in a technical/speed metal band called Injection Temple. I've had no training whatsoever. Jimmy has had training so far as to his own research into classical theory. I've always found it difficult to find other musicians to work with, because I've been known as being rather difficult and demanding. While I play music for fun first, I also do it with the goal of making my endeavors heard by others. There haven't been any line-up changes since recording, other than Jerry has found a more permanent spot in the band.
2. Scott, I know from reading messages on the usenet newsgroups and from talking to you that you are an avid collector or explorer of many kinds of musical genres - do you try to maintain a wide range of listening influences? Is it important for musicians to listen to a lot of different styles of music, especially in the genre or scene that they consider themselves to belong to? If so, why?
It's not about trying to maintain a wide range. That's just how I have always been. There is music out there for every mood and emotion and I like to have variety. I hear a lot of bands who think they are the most original thing out there, but they often only think that because they haven't exposed themselves to the multitude of other bands. It usually is not a good thing to remain ignorant of the world around you. There are exceptions to every rule and some bands that are isolated from the world can be quite original since they lack outside influence. I just don't come across it often.
3. Can you tell me a little about the classical or symphonic element that is so prevalent in Scholomance's style? Do you have any direct influences in the classical realm that shaped your aesthetics? How did you discover these composers? What is it in their music that is so appealing or fascinating to you? Do you find it's difficult for people to understand the structures or references that you incorporate in your music from classical influences - is it something that you are constantly having to explain? Why do you think so many metal fans react negatively to classical music?
We use a lot of classical elements, particularly in counterpoint. Everyone is almost always playing something different and playing off a theme. We all try to bring in something of our own and somehow this massive amount of ideas flows together. From my end, I don't approach it in a classical sense. I just feel out some of the open spaces and melodies and build on them. Jimmy does things in a more calculating way. I think Jerry is somewhere between the two of us. We like Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Ravel, Liszt, Glen Gould and others. With the Russian composers, I find the bleakness and overwhelming power most appealing, along with the extreme technical skill. I think among all composers, the Russians are the most expressive in representing their country and state of mind. We just discovered most of them by chance over the years, through listening to various pieces. I don't really have to explain our music in much detail very often. Its rare that we get a technical or theoretical question about composition. Most metalheads I know like some form of classical but they haven't sought out the good stuff. They take the common stuff like Vivaldi and Bach and ignore the more obscure pieces, which are always the best! There is even a sort of underground in the classical genre. The masses didn't want to listen to dark, brooding, and indulgent pieces that we've come to adore.
4. I am also very interested in the jazz element that is obvious in your music...have there been examples before of metal bands that have successfully incorporated jazz structures or influences into extreme metal, besides Cynic? What I'm asking is: are there precedents for the style that Scholomance espouses? Can you explain how a metal band goes about using jazz influences in their music? Do you find that these types of elements are often too challenging for your listeners? Is there a difference between the structures of the songs on record and the way you play them live? Which jazz composers/musicians do you find inspiring, and why?
Oh, there are definitely a number of bands that incorporate jazz into metal with huge success. Examples are: Candiria, Meshuggah, Athiest, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Opeth, Theory In Practice, Red Tide, Gordion Knot, Spiral Architect and probably a number of others I'm forgetting. A couple of those bands may not consciously try to incorporate jazz elements so these jazz tendencies may be somewhat of a natural evolution of musical skill. That is basically how we came to have some jazzy sounds in our music, by natural experimentation and just evolving as players. To explain how to use jazz in metal in a more technical way, I would say it has a lot to do with challenging time signatures and unorthodox rhythms as well as not using the typical scales and modes to which most people are accustomed. This is something I have always done unconsciously because I never learned regular music theory by the book. If we have parts that are too challenging for a listener (and assuming the listener is intent on closing his/her mind and not attempting some understanding of our music), then we probably aren't the band that person should listen to, period! I think people should be challenged. What is the point in not challenging boundaries? We do play the songs on our cd more technically now; more flourishes and quick solos here and there. I really couldn't name any jazz composers because I don't listen to the genre. I find modern jazz much too light if some distorted guitars aren't in there! Maybe you could consider the classical composer Ravel as being a jazz pioneer. I enjoy some of the big band jazz stuff from years back though. That stuff has a real class and charm to it.
5. Scholomance's music is incredibly strong when it comes to the layering of different melodic and/or rhythmic elements - is this something that just seems to come about naturally when you are first composing all the different sections of the songs, or is it something that you add later - building layer upon layer of sounds? Do you have a certain composing ethic that you follow in how 'difficult' Scholomance's music must be? Would you feel uncomfortable writing 'simple' music that is relatively free of contrasting elements - i.e., music that follows only one path or idea in the simplest manner possible? Is repetition anathema to Scholomance? Do write music for other projects outside of Scholomance?
When I am writing a song, the layers generally come about one after another as quickly as I'm able to put the ideas down. Once I get a main riff idea, the layers and counterpoint riffs just come instantly. I can't properly explain it... it's like I hear the entire idea as a whole, but yet it can still take off into unknown directions. I never set out to make the music difficult. Its simply that difficult music is pleasing to my mind and ears and therefore it's natural. The general assumption is that everything is worked out so carefully, but to me it is second nature. I wouldn't write simplistic music but maybe more basic riffs. I would get bored playing songs with just one or two riffs, unless maybe it was some winding, ethnic, improvisational jam on one theme. In our music we do repeat riffs in some songs while other songs have little repetition.
Scholomance staring you down...
6. How much is Scholomance's music a reflection of your own convictions concerning the composing of music - do you find that the ideas you have as to the 'ideal' structures of composition radically influence the way that you express yourself through your music? How have your ideas concerning composition changed since the release of your album? Will this change (or growth) be reflected in the manner of the songs on your next release? Are there new elements or sounds that you want to add to Scholomance's style - other instruments, for example, or different structures? What direction do you see Scholomance going in from here? Can you give us some information about your new music or your next album?
The first part of this is hard to answer, because as I've said, music is natural to me and I don't put too much thought into analyzing the music. I have my ways and methods but I will often change the way I write to get different feelings. My ways might be ideal for me but not for others. Jimmy and I write in completely different ways. You will hear a change in the music next time. You'll hear a more confident band. You'll hear even more complex riffing, yet the whole of the songs are much heavier than most people will anticipate. On my side, the next album is more about rhythm and getting to a more primal and brutal sound. The working title of the album is 'The Immortality Murder.' It is another lyrical concept. The ideas won't flow directly like on the first album. You might say its a mystery that people will have to put together. Depending on the person, there will be various solutions. So far, the people who have read the new lyrics have found them quite disturbing. I'm going to redesign our website and it will help tell the story of the cd in a more visual way with additional pictures and perhaps extra lyrics. Anyway, I really don't want to give away too many details about it yet! It will be worth the wait.
7. What is the reaction to the band like when you play live? Do you rehearse often in order to attempt to faithfully reconstruct the atmosphere of your album live, or do you approach playing live in a completely different frame of mind? Is it difficult for you to get shows where you live? What is the support for Scholomance like locally? Is there a chance that you will tour the United States soon - or anywhere else, for that matter? If you did tour, what bands would you like to play with - are there any that would compliment your playing style or add to the atmosphere that you strive to create?
We get pretty good reactions from people. We get a lot of musicians studying us and also a lot of younger kids who are enthralled with our skill. We also get the occasional person who thinks we are over indulgent or are show offs, but hey, we are indulgent and we do show off sometimes. Its our right and we will exercise that right! We rehearse about 2 times a week to stay tight and keep up the endurance needed to speed through our set. My live frame of mind is perhaps not very good. I've never enjoyed playing live because I hate the social aspect of it. When we play, I do the show and immediately pack up my stuff and go home. I don't stick around for the other bands because I simply don't like crowds of people in bars. We can get shows when we want but the metal scene here is minuscule and no longer supportive of the individuals involved. If The End puts us on a really good tour we would probably do the states, but I'd certainly prefer to go overseas and see places I haven't seen. I'd love to tour with bands like Meshuggah, Fates Warning, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Obliveon, SUP, Opeth, Ulver... there would have to be musical respect there because we're not a party kind of band.
8. Can you tell me which authors/writers you enjoy reading the most, and why? Are they in any concrete way an influence on the way that you write lyrics? Do you feel that the style that you write lyrics in is a corollary of the way that you write music? Are they meant to compliment each other? If so, how? Are there any themes in your lyrics that you feel are central to Scholomance besides the obvious background to your first album? Do you feel that the effort of composing, playing, and recording 'A Treatise On Love' was an effective attempt at catharsis?
Unfortunately, I don't have enough time to read as much as I'd like. I'm always studying for school. I'm only able to read poetry lately due to it having shorter pieces. I like Rimbaud, Dickinson, Ovid, various mythologies, and I tend to read a lot of science, things about astronomy, the animal kingdom... I prefer fact over fiction. I think Rimbaud had an influence on the first album, just as much as Scriabin's writings did. With the next album, the lyrics are more central to my own mind because I haven't been influenced by other writing during the course of penning these lyrics. The music and lyrics are definitely meant to compliment each other. We're very careful about which lyrics go to each song. The mood of each one must go together. I don't know that we have any main themes to our music, other than the emotional experience of life itself. You won't see us writing about politics or serial killers and things like that. The lyrics on the first cd were very cathartic. Most of mine were written directly after and during some fucked up times. We think the emotion of that was captured very accurately. The music then was more calculated on my part, whereas the lyrics were pure bleeding emotion. This time the lyrics are more thought out and the music is more emotional.
9. Do you think that the music for Scholomance is an 'ideal' creation in that it is solipsistic (referring only to your own emotions) or is it a reflection, in some way, of the world around you - the landscape of politics, ethics, events that transpire, etc? Or is it both? What I'm getting at is: do you seek inspiration for your music mainly from within, from your own thoughts and emotions, or does it also come from your experiences? And does the music serve mainly a personal impetus in that it allows you to express things that you couldn't release or understand any other way? Is it important for a musician or artist to seek out a wide range of experiences to further his own self-enlightenment and thus his art? Do you think there are musicians who strive to keep their art 'pure' by refusing to acknowledge the outside world?
Our music relates to our emotions and the world around us. While we don't focus on specific events in society, we do get inspired to take pen in hand by society in general. Its more of a general dissatisfaction with how people interact. When we write about our own experiences we twist things around and fill the music with metaphors and symbolism. Music is the primary way that I express myself, but my artwork runs a close second. It depends on my mood. If I'm angry I tend to want to paint or write lyrics. If I'm happier, I'm more inclined to write music. I have not been one to shy from experiences and because of that, I have learned a great deal about life. I know I'm more wise than many people twice my age. People who shelter their lives don't hold much interest for me, conversationally or otherwise. I think I basically answered the last part of this question in number 2.
10. And now the last question: Scott, I know that you have a great deal of enthusiasm for supporting underground music - how does the underground scene really differ from the more mainstream levels of the music industry? Is the underground really just a step on the way to bigger and better things for a lot of bands, or does the underground truly have a different set of priorities or ethics than the mainstream? Have you found that there is a higher level of integrity in the underground, and that the musicians are eager to help each other out or to support music other than their own? How has the underground scene changed over the years that you have been involved with it? Please add anything else here that you want our readers to see.
Lately I am pretty irritated with the underground. While I praise the internet in general, it has made it far too easy for the average moron to take advantage of a scene built on years and years of struggle and hard work. You have people who will buy up many copies of rare cds just to sell them for inflated prices on ebay. I think cdr copying/bootlegging should be stopped as it really takes away some of the small profits bands can make. There are too many web zines out there with no insightful content... just hundreds of short, badly written reviews, too many labels releasing low quality products, and too many big labels releasing too many cds to keep track of. Things like that are getting out of hand. The underground as it was, flyers, diy paper zines, demos... its so small now. I miss things like that. It seemed a lot more fun 10 years ago. You used to have to work a lot harder and obviously the harder you work, the more something means to you and also to those who follow your work. The internet has almost allowed underground music and mainstream music to completely merge. Amazon sells Dark Throne cds right alongside Britney Spears. I think what made the underground great in the first place was that bands were willing to help each other out, to mail flyers, to put their friends in their thanks lists and just respect and help anyone. Now, that seems to be gone. Very few people are willing or even know how to help. Its unnecessarily selfish and it takes a lot of the fun out of this kind of music when its just about success and notoriety. Individual integrity is quickly going the way of the dinosaurs. That's my rant I guess! I'd really like to encourage people to get our cd and be looking for the next one. If you're in a band and wanna trade cds, just send me an e-mail! People can buy the cd from us for $10US/$12 overseas.