Scar Culture - Making Waves in the Metal World
Interviewed by Keith McDonald
In 1997, a band called Scrape emerged from the ashes of the Brooklyn
metal scene. The band, Pheroze Karai (vocals), John Conley (guitar),
Frank Cannino (bass) and Duke Borisove (drums) were forced to change
their name (ed. note: because of a crappy band with a similar name)
to Scar Culture. But the name change did not stop their growing
momentum. After hooking up with S.O.D./M.O.D. mastermind Billy Milano to
produce their demo, Scar Culture quickly found themselves a part of the
Century Media family. They released their debut Inscribe with the lead
single Keep It To Myself and will be heading out on the road with Overkill.
I had the opportunity to speak with the band about the new album and
their plans. You can check out their website at www.scarculture.com
How did the band start? How is the NYC scene these
John: Scar Culture started out back in 1996 when I needed out of a
thrash metal band that I was in. We weren't going anywhere and I wasn't
happy with the direction anymore. When I suggested changes to get
heavier I wasn't taken seriously, so I left. I started working out some
ideas with my old bassist who happened to jerk around on the drums a bit
and a half-assed bassist I met through an ad. When things started
getting more serious I needed a real band. Luckily I happened to work
with Duke, a machine of a drummer, who was interested in the direction I
was headed. He was also a good friend. From there we put ads out for a
bassist and a vocalist. We met Pheroze through an ad we had placed at
Fastlane Studios in Brooklyn. We still had the half-assed bassist along
for the ride and we took the name Scrape. We played with so many great
bands and gigged relentlessly. After one of the Milwaukee Metal Fests we
had enough of the bassist guy and showed him which way the door was.
After about a year of searching Frank, formerly of SI's Grey Skies
Fallen, called us up. Things have been solid ever since. As far as the
NYC scene goes... there are so many really good bands but not a whole
lot of places for extreme metal. The bands are all pretty supportive of
each other. Since there aren't a lot of places to play you kinda get to
Frank: Well, I'm the new guy so they'll sum it up. The scene in NYC
is pretty bummed. So few places to play. It can get discouraging.
Pheroze: I had just moved to New York right before I answered that
ad. I had actually wanted to play guitar in a band, but I decided to try
my hand at doing some different vocal styles than what I was used to,
and fell in love with it. But I learned about the NY scene through the
band and playing shows and hanging out. It's an ok scene. There's a lot
of talent here, but a lot of saturation at the same time, it's hard to
How did you hook up with Billy Milano? How has he
John: Pheroze knew someone at Nuclear Blast, the record label that
put out SOD's "Bigger Than The Devil" CD. SOD was still doing
some touring but we had heard that Billy was looking for bands to
produce. Since we were in need of a producer it only made sense. We sent
him the 2nd demo that we had recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn
(Type-O-Negative, Life of Agony). He liked the material and was
impressed with what he heard... Enough so that he made a point to check
us out at the NJ Metal Fest. That's where he described us as
"Fucking brutal". Asides from just being Billy Milano, Bill
has helped us out a lot. First and foremost he produced our CD. He
helped ensure that our CD would sound incredible. Asides from that it's
been great just to have someone give you advice that you know has been
tried and is true.
Pheroze: Billy and the staff at Big Blue Meenie Studios really helped
tremendously. Billy knows metal, he knows music, and asides from just
being an artist he knows the industry as well. So he really helped us
out a lot through just talking to him and giving us advice. The staff
and facilities at Big Blue Meenie Studios are top notch, so we really
had a great team working on the record from every angle.
How did you land at Century Media? How has their
support been so far?
John: We took the CD that we recorded with Billy and shopped it
around to record labels. Very few people outside of the record labels
got their hands on copies with the Scrape name on em. We figured we'd
get a record deal that could help us get the CD into stores and onto
radio stations everywhere. If we couldn't get a deal that would help us
a lot we figured "Fuck it, we'll do it ourselves". We had
managed to circulate demos worldwide without any help. But we knew that
if the right label came along things could be great. ...And that's where
we're at now. CM felt that we were a hard working band with a style that
was different. The label people have been so much help... from getting
stickers out to all the fuckers that want em, to pestering radio
stations until we've polluted the airwaves.
Frank: All the staff at CM has been so cool, especially Steve Joh.
Pheroze: CM has so far been great. It was a slow process signing the
deal and negotiating, but that's actually a good thing. The staff has
been great though, Steve Joh has helped us out tremendously. It's really
great to see such an awesome group of people so behind this band, apart
from the staff at CM, Suzanna at Concrete has been working really hard
on this record. So yeah, we have a great team behind this band.
Tell me about the new album.
Pheroze: We're proud of it. The material and production are top notch
in our opinions. Some songs like "Dead Alone" and
"Branded" are from when we first formed. Others like
"Reform Reason" and "Keep it to Myself" are from
after we were in negotiations with CM, so there's a wide range there,
and a lot of room for us to move in our next album.
Why did you change the name from Scrape?
John: When we first signed on with CM they had suggested that we
change our name. They felt that it wasn't fitting for us. They felt that
"Scrape" was too generic and we deserved something a bit more
stand out. We told em "Fuck no". We had worked extremely hard
to get to where we were as Scrape. When all of the sudden we started
hearing from people that we were being played on the radio everywhere...
like major stations and such. That's how we discovered the
"mallcore" band called Skrape. At that point there was no way
we could keep the name. We were being confused with another band. We
decided if we had to change our name it would be to something completely
unique.... ta-da... SCAR CULTURE.
Pheroze: I got the name from the title of a Toni Davidson novel I had
just finished. The book is great, a very twisted look into the world of
What are your tour plans?
John: We start touring November 23rd. We'll be on the road with
Overkill and Nevermore November 23rd through December 2nd. Then we get a
few days off... two to be exact... and then we're on the road from
December 5th through the 22nd with Enslaved, Electric Wizard, Macabre
& Diabolic as a part of the Metal Maniacs Holiday Ball tour. We're
also looking at getting out a lot in 2002 to support
I see there is Indian, Russian and American
backgrounds in the band. How has that shaped the band's style?
Pheroze: Duke, I know, was born in Russia and moved here when he was
about 12 or so. So he has a definite foot in that background. I'm Indian
in origin, but was born in London, and grew up back and forth between
India and the Middle East, then left home at 13 and came to the US.
Culturally, I understand a lot about the differences and similarities
between people and environments, so I apply that to my approach to
Frank: Well, I'm a mutt and mutts can be rabid.
Who handles the songwriting? Where does it come
John: I write the music and piece it all together with Duke. Once we
feel that things are up to standards we bring Pheroze in to draft some
lyrics. Frank is still relatively new to the band but we're looking
forward to his input in the writing process.
Pheroze: Once in a while I'll noodle out a riff or two we use. I
usually write the lyrics once the music is done, but sometimes I write
lyrical parts as the music writing goes on. It really depends on the
situation and feel. Lyrically, I tend to write about human nature, which
is a lifelong study for me. It's both simple and very complex. I like
people to take their own interpretation to lyrics.
Frank: I'm looking forward to writing with these guys, I'll be the
What single will go to radio? How has it done so
John: "Keep It To Myself" is the single that has been sent
to radio... although it was mislabeled on all of the promo copies as
"Keep It To Yourself". That changes the songs meaning quite a
bit. As far as I know it's been doing pretty well.
Will there be a video? What are your thoughts on
MTV these days?
John: Well, a video ain't cheap but want to do a video because it's
another way that we can get our music out to people. So we're
approaching it very cautiously. MTV has been so odd lately. For so long
I had no idea what the fuck happened to the "M" in MTV. Now it
seems like every now and then at least there's a block of videos on like
Mudvayne, Linkin Park, POD and I even see Ozzy once in a while. It's
really hard to catch a video between 23 hours of the Real World or
whatever. It'd be cool if Mudvayne led to Slipknot getting airtime and
that might lead to Slayer videos... and if the network fucks get it
through their skulls then maybe we could fit in their plan too. But
we're not looking to change for them.
Who are your influences?
John: My influences are Dying Fetus, Brutal Truth, Cryptopsy, and old
Fear Factory, old Machine Head, Suffocation, Human Remains, Pantera,
Hatebreed.... I'm into so much stuff. Lately I've been listening a lot
to the new Slipknot and Soilent Green CD's. I also just got into
Strapping Young Lad...
Frank: I like a lot of the 80's thrash metal scene like Death Angel,
Forbidden and Testament. Opeth is a huge influence on me, those guys are
amazing, live and on CD. At The Gates will always be in there. Even
though I'm a bass player, Dimebag Darrell is a big influence.
Pheroze: Vocally my influences are Chris Cornell, Mike Patton,
Anselmo...and all their respective bands. I also listen to a lot of
Indian music, cause their vocal styles are completely different than in
the west. I listen to whatever I like and feel like listening to at the
time. The new Sigh and new Fantomas have been playing constantly on my
CD player, as well as the new Sade.
What's the future for Scar Culture?
Pheroze: Tour, kill, maim, pillage, plunder.... nah, we just want to
get on the road and promote the album, as long as I can make my living
off of music, I'll be a very happy man. We'll take it as it comes for
©2001 Metal Rules!!