Late last month, Scour, the black metal band fronted by metal legend Phil Anselmo and featuring members of Misery Index and Cattle Decapitation, dropped their new album, the Black EP. The recording weighs in at six-songs-long with a running time of 16 minutes and is the third in a trilogy of six-track EPs.
Following the release of the album, we chatted with Derek Engemann and John Jarvis to find out more about this new release, the trilogy, what their plans are now the set has been completed, and if they’d ever considering a tour with a different frontman than Anselmo.
Might I say, this is an excellent EP. Are you happy with the way it turned out?
Jarvis: “Absolutely. The way we do things here is that Derek takes it from the top and writes the stuff and we’ve stuck with the same plan we’ve had for every EP. If it’s not broke you don’t fix it. This time around, we know what to expect from each other and I think it’s turned out to be our best record yet.”
It’s one of a trilogy of EPs. Can you talk us through the whole process of how that came about?
Engemann: “When we first started we didn’t know which direction we were going and we thought we were going to just do an EP at first. Then, we said well, six songs, naturally, the most brutal amount of songs then we decided that we might as well do three EPs with six songs so it’s been a plan all along.”
Six songs, fifteen minutes…
Engemann: “Yep, I think this is the longest record we’ve put out yet. I think it comes in at 16:31 or thereabouts.”
Is there a concept running through the three EPs?
Jarvis: “I think there are some concepts running through the EPs, but, on the whole, I think they just stand on their own.”
Has that always been the plan to put out three EPs?
Engemann: “Well, John and I started this project so it’s always kind of been our plan. Now, getting everybody else involved, it just developed over time but it was our plan from the original thing, and then the other guys involved just fell into place.”
Jarvis: “We always said we would stick with the plan and while it isn’t easy to do that all the time, it’s better if you just stick to the plan.”
What about the future then or is the conclusion of these three EPs it?
Jarvis: “Oh no, we’ve talked about the future. The idea was to kind of build up the band with the three EPs and give people time to check you out but there is still plenty of people who haven’t checked out Scour yet. There are people who will say that it’s not a real record or it’s not a full-length but I think that, naturally, that’s the next step, to make a full-length and finally give people the full record.”
Have there been any steps made towards that full-length album yet?
Engemann: “Yes. New music is already in the works, probably about six different songs, not completed, but definitely in the works. Sticking with the Scour way but expanding for sure and just more brutal right off the bat.”
What is the Scour way?
Engemann: “The Scour way? The Scour sound is very minimal, intentionally minimal, and very direct and to the point. Short songs, most of them are about two minutes long. The last song, ‘Sub-Prime’ on the Black EP, is actually the longest song in our catalogue and is about 3:33 long. That is one of the conceptual songs that we threw in. Pretty much straight-to-the-point material as we don’t want to overthink it. That’s the thing with Scour and the music. Go with your gut and stick to the plan.”
How does the writing process work and has it been affected by lockdown?
Engemann: “Pretty much business as usual. For the writing, I do all the writing myself and I’ll even map out the drumming and stuff. Adam Jarvis will lay down his own parts and jazz them up a bit. It’s been pretty much the same even through lockdown as I did most of the writing in initially. Then I’ll shoot them over to John for his opinion and get his thought on things, maybe make it a little more brutal or whatnot. Then it’s off to Phil and he takes it from there. He hasn’t had any changes or any requests for changes yet which is surprising but welcomed. He always writes the lyrics and they’re never what you’d expect to hear or what I would think but it’s always what we need for the band.”
Jarvis: “It’s always like Christmas morning when he sends the lyrics. We’re always waiting to see what he’s going to send and what it’s going to sound like. When they finally show up, he always seems to nail it. He doesn’t discuss it with us, he just sends them back and tells us to do what we want to do whether that is add parts or take parts away. We’ve never taken a part away that’s for sure.”
It must be great to be able to work like that.
Jarvis: “Absolutely. I’ve been in bands with 40 or 50 different people over my life but he’s been the most laid back, chilled dude I’ve ever been in a band with and that’s no bullshit. He’s just easy going. He goes with the flow. Very rarely will he not like an idea, he just goes with it and it’s been really great.”
Engemann: “Echoing John’s comments. Phil in Scour is the easiest working relationship that I’ve ever had. Now, when it comes to The Illegals, I’ve seen a whole different side of Phil. It’s very worked out with every member of the group and Phil’s been critical on that. So, I know he’s got that in him but, for Scour, for some reason, he just rolls with it.”
Looking forward to a time when live shows return, has there been any thought given to making Scour a touring band?
Jarvis: “We do get offers for tours and even out of the country. I think we’re more of just a festival, big event kind of band rather than Scour playing in your town twice a year. It’s like rather than missing a show because you can catch Scour when they come back a few months later, it’s more of a big event, a big deal like a festival type situation. Anything could happen though, especially these days. I sure would love to do a Scour tour someday but, at this point, I think we’re better off just doing the Hellfests and the Roskildes and the bigger festivals.”
Does it take the pressure off that you’ve all got lives away from Scour?
Jarvis: “Definitely. Everyone has got their other bands and things going on in their lives. Everyone has been on the road for a long time in their own bands like Misery Index. Derek and I have toured together many times before so we know going on the road is kind of difficult and some people can handle it. When Derek and I toured we would make the most of any shitty situation so if the show wasn’t great we’d go and find the best bar in town and make a good night out of it. That’s the Scour way really. When we go and play a show, we have some other activities around it. You don’t want to be focused on playing brutal metal music all the time, you want a break from it. That’s one of the best things about Scour, we can go and do some fun stuff together as well and not just make it a job.”
If you were offered a tour but Phil couldn’t do it, would you consider going out with another vocalist?
Jarvis: “Oh no. I think say if someone like Slayer reformed and said they wanted to take Scour out, we’d make it work. To be honest though, I think the demand at the moment is for the Illegals and the Pantera shows. If I was Phil, that’s what I would be doing and giving the fans what they want, which is a rippin’ Pantera set. There’s time for Scour in there though. The thing is that, with a lot of musicians, there is this need to be creating all the time. I don’t know if it is ego or what but there’s always that need. Take someone like Paul McCartney for example. Does he need to tour ever again? He has more money than he could ever spend and has done everything he could dream of but he’ll still go on tour and do it. It’s like an addiction.”
Phil has never hidden his love of really extreme black metal. What about the rest of Scour? Where do your tastes lie?
Jarvis: “Our tastes are all over the place. As far as extreme music I’m checking out bands like Fleshgod Apocolypse. I’m checking out Dark Funeral, Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, all the key players. I’m also checking out Tears for Fears all the time, Depeche Mode. I love a lot of ‘80s music as well and, if you know the era, you can hear some of those influences. Scour is inspired by a lot of horror movie scores. I think we draw influence from a lot of places though. There was one song, ‘Propaganda,’ and the riff for that hit me when I was riding my bike. The sound of the wheels going over the treads just hit me.
We share a love with Phil of The Beatles but I love Duran Duran, Madonna, that poppy stuff as well. We listen to all sorts of stuff, it’s not like we turn up and start talking about Bathory. If myself and Phil start talking about music, it’s usually classic rock stuff or stuff from the ‘60s and ‘70s. There was a quote that said that no good music came out after the 1970s and Phil has always said he agreed with that. He’s still up to date with the underground and he’s still signing bands to his label and he’s still connected to the underground. He’s a music nerd like we are. He knows his shit man, it’s always cool to sit down and talk music with him.”
Away from Scour, Phil has a ton of other bands and his Housecore label. What about you guys? What else is keeping you busy?
Jarvis: “I have a band called Nest and we’re actually playing a socially distanced show tonight. We’re playing another show in Texas on Friday night. These will actually be my first two shows in a year.”
Engemann: “I’m crazy busy right now. Music-wise, my band Cast The Stone is working on some new material. The band also has Mark (Kloeppel) who is also in Misery Index and Jesse who was on Scour’s Grey EP and we’re working on those songs right now. I’ve got the Illegals who have some new material in the works and Scour’s full-length is something I’m working on too so super busy.”
Finally, thanks for your time. Just to finish, given all your other projects, why was now the right time for Scour to come back together for a new EP?
Engemann: “We actually wanted to put out the new EP last year that’s why we released the Bathory cover also on Black Friday. It was always the goal I guess to release the Black EP on Black Friday so that’s why we pushed it back to this year. I think it’s a good time to release new music. You can’t tour around it but Scour hasn’t necessarily been a touring band. The fans are on lockdown like everyone with nothing to do so, yeah, I think now was a great time to put out new music.”