SEPTIC TANK Bassist SCOTT CARLSON - "The Record Was So Much Fun To Make; I’m Sure We’ll Do Another One"
June 7, 2018, 5 months ago
In a new interview with music writer Joel Gausten, grindcore/death metal legend Scott Carlson (Repulsion, Cathedral, Death, Septic Tank) discusses Septic Tank’s new album Rotting Civilisation (which also features ex-Cathedral members Lee Dorrian and Gaz Jennings) and refects on Cathedral’s time on Columbia Records in the’90s. A excerpt from the chat appears below:
Q: There’s obviously a very strong Discharge vibe on this record, and I’d imagine they’re a huge influence on you guys. What was your first introduction to Discharge, and how has that band influenced you over the years?
Carlson: "I heard (Discharge’s 1982 album) Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing not long after it was released. I think I was standing in line at a Venom gig or something, and I had on a GBH t-shirt. The guy next to me was like, ‘Do you like Discharge?’ I was like, ‘Never heard of them.’ He was like, ‘If you like GBH, they’re even more intense.’ With the way he described it, I was like, ‘Oh, I've gotta have that!’ I ran out and bought it immediately. It blew my fucking head off at the time; it was just so nihilistic and heavy, and the imagery was so strong. It immediately struck a chord with me that never faded."
Q: I interviewed Lee last year, so I know he always has a full plate. With that said, where do you see Septic Tank going in terms of possible touring or more music beyond this point?
Carlson: "Maybe not tour, but we’re definitely going to play. We’re in talks right now to go to Japan, and I’m sure some other stuff will come up. It’s just a matter of time. Once the album gets out there and people are aware that it’s a band, we’re sure more gigs will pop up. But I don’t realty see us going on a full-blown tour – probably just some minor stuff here and there. There will be more music for sure. The record was so much fun to make and came together so easily that I’m sure we’ll do another one."
Q: I want to discuss something that came up when I talked to Lee. There was a short-lived time in the ’90s when a lot of extreme metal bands – like Godflesh, Napalm Death and of course Cathedral – ended up going through the major label filter. Because you came up musically before that happened, what are your thoughts on that particular major label era when you look back at that now? Did you see that having any impact – either positively or negatively – on the genre and its history?
Carlson: "I don’t think it was negative in any way. I actually came aboard Cathedral right at that time. The Soul Sacrifice EP (1992) had been released on Columbia, and The Ethereal Mirror (1993) wasn’t out yet. They were just starting to do press for it, and I met with them in New York, went back to England with them and started jamming. I was there from the beginning of the whole major label thing, and I’m glad it happened. It was an interesting and educational experience to be on a major label at that time in the early ’90s and see how big the operation was. It was amazing.
Photo shoots cost $10,000, and there were $50,000 videos. Just a lunch to talk about the photo shoot had like 15, 20 people at a super-expensive restaurant! The stereotypical excessive behavior of these labels was ridiculous. The amount of money they wasted on just shit that was going nowhere. There were a handful of people who knew what they were doing and understood the music and knew exactly what it was. In fact, the people who signed all of the Earache bands to Columbia were actually very smart people who were totally in touch with the scene and everything. These guys knew what they were doing, but the people above them had no idea what was going on. The executives were just throwing money around and ordering photo shoots and stuff that was just absolutely ridiculous.
That was fun; I enjoyed it. There were certainly some ridiculous ideas. I think they wanted (singer) LG (Petrov) from Entombed to start going to the gym and get pumped up like Phil Anselmo. They just didn’t understand what they had, but the bands made the records that they wanted to make. There was no meddling in the creativity part of it. That part of it was fine; it didn’t affect the music much, and it probably did give that music some wider exposure. Napalm Death had videos on MTV – at least on Headbangers Ball. That part of it was cool, and most of those bands are still around. Cathedral lasted for another 17 years after that. Napalm are still around, Carcass are still around, Godflesh are still around and Entombed are still around in one form or another. All those people are still out there."
The complete interview is available at this location.
If ever there were a point in history that demanded angry, scathing, explosive music then this is it. With eerie but exhilarating echoes Reagan's '80s and the bilious, hyper-aggressive hardcore punk scene that erupted in response, the world of 2018 is more than ready for the blistering return of Septic Tank. This band of weather-beaten underground veterans have existed since the early '90s, more as a whispered enigma than a full-time band, but the decisive moment of deafening reality has arrived with the unveiling of Rotting Civilisation, the first full-length Septic Tank record and the ugly, rampaging rebirth of the subversive hardcore spirit.
Originally formed in 1994 as a low-key outlet for doom metal standard bearers Cathedral's love for Discharge, Siege and other pioneering hardcore luminaries, Septic Tank's original lineup featured Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarist Gaz Jennings and drummer Barry Stern (ex-Trouble) alongside Repulsion's Scott Carlson on bass. A handful of jaw-shattering, snot-spraying anthems were swiftly thrown together and the impromptu crew jammed together on a few occasions, but thanks to a combination of logistics, geography and life getting in the way, Septic Tank lay dormant for nearly two decades.
"We talked about doing it again many times, but it took us 20 years to make a record," Lee Dorrian explains. "Black Sabbath were doing their so-called last-ever show in Birmingham and Scott wanted to come over for that, so I suggested we got together and did an album while he was here," Lee recalls. "He stayed over for five days. 14 of the songs were already roughly written but not rehearsed, another eight or so came up on the spot and were recorded straight away, and that was it. It took us over 20 years but I'm really happy we did it."
With all the vitality and venom we demand from the best hardcore, Rotting Civilisation is an obscenely thrilling rollercoaster ride that takes in everything from numerous bursts of flagrant Discharge worship ("Walking Asylum", "Victimised") to Motörhead-style snot'n'roll ragers ("Divide And Conk Out", "Digging Your Own Grave"), Frost-fuelled doomcore ("Death Vase", "Living Death") and even a skewed homage to Japanese punk legends G.I.S.M. ("You Want Some?"). Musically diverse but unrelenting in its belligerence, it's also an album full of brutally direct declarations on the state of the world today, the idiocy of the social media age and the general stupidness and selfishness of humanity in the 21st century. With his incensed worldview vividly reflected in artist Stewart Easton's idiosyncratic cover art, Dorrian has never written with such sledgehammer accuracy or righteous fury.
No longer a shadowy side-project that existed more in the minds of its participants than in the ears of the masses, Septic Tank have blossomed - or, perhaps, mutated - into one of the most invigorating musical fists to the face of our times. The perfect soundtrack to the collapse of society, Rotting Civilisation proves that legends never die, the best ideas are always worth another go and, above all, we the people will not go fucking quietly.
Rotting Civilisation tracklisting:
"Social Media Whore"
"Divide And Conk Out"
"Treasurers Of Disease"
"You Want Some"
"Digging Your Own Grave"
"Never Never Land"
"Treasurers Of Disease":