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 or

How did the band start? How is the NYC scene these days?

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 know everybody.


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 stand out.



How did you hook up with Billy Milano? How has he helped?

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 psycho-therapy.



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 "Inscribe".



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 lyrics.

Frank: Well, I'm a mutt and mutts can be rabid.



Who handles the songwriting? Where does it come from?

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 groove input.



What single will go to radio? How has it done so far?

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 now.

2001 Metal Rules!!

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Monday, February 04, 2002