Scum - Old Tyme Religion

By Dr. Abner Mality

You can't find a much more interesting collection of musicians than this bunch of "Scum". First off, we have that cheerful sailor of sleaze, Happy Tom from the Norwegian trash rock messiahs Turbnonegro, handling the bass. Guitarist (and real guiding force behind Scum) Samoth hails from the legendary black metal pioneers Emperor and also death metal maniacs Zyklon. On drums, we have Samoth's former Emperor mate Faust, infamous for being sentenced to jail for murder and now in the industrial black metal band Aborym as well as Scum. Second guitarist is Cosmocrator from up and coming death metallers Mind Grinder. And providing the voice to this eccentric conglomerate is the subject of my interview, Mr. Casey Chaos, most well known for his stint in punk-aggro outfit Amen but a dabbler in many bands and styles.

When these five men get together, the result is explosive. We call it Scum and the first salvo from Scum comes in the form of "Gospels for the Sick"...a record bursting with a kind of filthy punk fury mixed with generous dollops of black and death metal. It's a raw, invigorating record that can reach across many musical borders and can give the rather poppy punk scene a kick in the ass.

I recently had a pleasant chat with Casey, who was situated in a remote cabin in the Norwegian woods at the time. Contrary to the hatred he spews with such venom on record and live, he comes across as a genuinely friendly and humble guy who was only too glad to talk about Scum and his other musical projects. So much for the bullshit I read about the guy on scandal-mongering, rumor-fueled internet sites...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Now that Scum has been around for a while, has it turned out the way you thought it would? Has it met the expectations you had at the beginning?

CASEY CHAOS: Well, for me, it's an honor to just be a part of an incredible, legendary line-up of people that I have so much respect for. On that level, it's beyond my expectations. I never know about the sales, I never judge music on that level. I don't any thing about that part of it. I do know that it's a beyond a dream that this record actually happened. I couldn't think of a more incredible group of people to work with.

WC: Have these guys now become like "brothers-in-arms" to you, is that the way the relationship has progressed?

CC: Oh yeah, definitely! We're talking about 3 years ago, when we had our first meeting about the band. It wasn't like we just got together and started making music, we actually sat at a table and discussed the reason why we would do this band. What's the intent, what's the purpose of doing this? It wasn't like "we're gonna do this because we're gonna make a fuckin' million dollars!" We were all on the same page and we wanted to create together.

WC: Is if fair to say you are the "punk" voice of the band? The guy who keeps the punk aspect of the band to the forefront?

CC: That's an honor. I think so. I think today that punk means so many different things to so many different people. For me, punk is a lifestyle and I've been living it since I've been 12 years old. That's when I started making music. I've always, always just wanted to be truthful and honest. I'm not somebody who's really, really talented like the other guys in Scum. Their talent is beyond my comprehension, how good they are on an actual playing level. In my band Amen, I play everything and write everything and I don't try to reinvent the wheel. Basically I just create and it's not technical or anything that a musician would hear and go "wow, that's really impressive!" It's just kind of like "Louie, Louie", you know what I mean? (laughter)

WC: It's got a lot of feeling. It's seems to me that Scum is more about a kind of feeling as opposed to how many notes you can play a minute or how many riff changes you can do.

CC: Right.

WC: You mentioned there being many different kinds of punk I can't imagine you being into poppy stuff like Good Charlotte. Or am I misreading you?

CC: No, that's not my scene. For the guys who are in Scum and the guys who black metal in general and the people who play punk like back in the know, even stuff like Little Richard and Elvis' cock...they are everything that rock and roll forgot it was about. When punk came around, it was shocking to the status quo the same way that rock and roll was when it came out.

WC: Jerry Lee Lewis. Even to this day, it's hard to find someone as whacked as him.

CC: That's right. And it's always about the honesty for me. I listen to everything today. As I get older, I listen to more and more different styles of music. The one constant in my collection of music is that I would think 99% of it is honest and not motivated by money. It was always not a Top 40 Record, it would be a record that was under the radar and maybe a few years later, people would recognize it and go "Wow, what a great band!" or "How come they were never popular?" You know what I mean? Like, how about you? What CDs are you listening to right now?

WC: The other day I got the latest from a British band called Cathedral...

CC: I know those guys, I know Lee Dorrian, the head guy.

WC: I also just got something from the Devin Townsend Band...

CC: Oh really?! How is that?

WC: It's pretty indescribable. He's the definition of a guy who just does whatever he wants to do.

CC: Oh yeah, yeah. I'm a fan of him, I've got most of his CDs and the ones I have I think are great. Do you have the Devin Townsend Band or is it Strapping Young Lad?

WC: It's the Devin Townsend Band. It's not the total aggression of Strapping Young Lad...some of it is pretty aggressive, but a lot of it is ambient. There's an acoustic song, there's folky bits, there's parts that are very spacy and heavy. It's not a commercial record at all.

CC: What label is it on?

WC: InsideOut, which is a division of SPV.

CC: I just remembered a record I got that came out on that label that I really liked. I don't know if you've got it, but it's a band called Spiritual Beggars.

 WC: That's the band that has Mike Amott from Arch Enemy in it. I haven't heard them yet but I'd like to. I'm into that sort
of Sabbathy doom metal.

CC: Oh, you gotta get their last one, man! I have all their records but the new one...whoa! It's called "Demons"...oh, you gotta get it, its great! I know Mike, he's a good guy, a really great guy.

WC: A lot is made of Scum's black metal connection but when I heard "Gospels of the Sick", it didn't have as much black metal influence as I thought and what I did hear was more from the 80's black metal bands such as Celtic Frost...

CC: That's right. We wanted to focus on the groove. Those bands always had that beat, that groove. It was a feeling and that's why Nocturno Culto from Darkthrone...I don't know if you've heard the new Darkthrone...but that's very, very much what the Scum record sounds like. He told me it was going to be very punkish metal like Celtic Frost and Bathory and Venom. That's what we were focusing on. One of the working titles Samoth came up with for one of the songs was "Bathory". You nailed it right on the head.

WC: The last Darkthrone record I got was "Sardonic Wrath".

CC: This new one is so different. This is how strange it is. They do a cover of the most obscure 70's punk rock song by Siouxsie and the Banshees. It's so different and it's so's really, really something.I think you'll really like it. The new Darkthrone is similar to Scum...that's why Nocturno Culto wanted to hook up with us.

WC: My philosophy of a cover song is to take something people wouldn't suspect you'd cover and twist it to your own style, instead of remaking an old song note for note.

CC: I agree with you a 100%. If you're not gonna make it your own, why do it? Why copy the original? Who's gonna do it better than the guy who wrote it?

WC: Moving on to the lyrics of Scum...are they totally nihilistic or is there some kind of hope buried in there?

CC: This record was such a labor of love. We worked on it as a unit. In the beginning, Faust was still in prison. When he'd get out on weekend leave, we'd rehearse on the weekends. I'd fly in from Los Angeles to Norway to stay for a week. Once he got out, we became very, very good friends. What really hit me was that Faust was such a good person...he became inspirational to me in that regard. In the rapping world, they kill somebody and it's almost like a normal thing. People make mistakes throughout their lives. Faust and all the other guys in Emperor and the black metal scene were all teenagers when that stuff went down in the early 90's. The person that he has turned into is such an admirable person now. He's a very TRUE person now.

WC: The prison experience was actually beneficial to him?

CC: Oh yeah. He did a 180. I never knew him before the incident but I know this about the man: he's a man of his word and he's not somebody that's out to fuck somebody over or make the same mistakes twice.

WC: I've heard he's quite a quiet guy...

CC: Yeah, very quiet, very soft-spoken and an incredible person. It was a real honor. I wanted to reunite these people who were family...Faust,Samoth and Mortiis. They were all in Emperor originally and they really are brothers. Watching them play together is very moving because there's so much history there, there's so much feeling. I was moved by that to write a lot of my lyrics. I was the outsider, I was the only American. I was almost jealous. They were so incredible as far as being people go and it made me, a person whose been playing music my whole life, reevaluate what I do and why I do it. I had to step up my game to stay on a level with those guys and compete with them.

WC: Now that you've worked with these European musicians and had some experience in the European music industry, is Europe really a lot better market for your music than America?

CC: In the rest of the world, my band Amen plays to big crowds, we play to a lot of people. It's the polar opposite of America, which is our weakest market. Draw your own conclusions there. On a working scale, with other members of different bands, it was similar in one way. I had a band going with Josh and Nick from Queens of the Stone Age and Twiggy from Manson, Nine Inch Nails and Perfect Circle and also Shannon Larkin who's my drummer in Amen. We just recorded 48 songs together...

WC: Shannon used to be in Wrathchild America?

CC: That's right. He was in Amen for the first five years. He's such a good friend, the guy leaves me speechless. The project I had with those guys was called Headband. Then I had another project with Darren from System of a Down and a drummer named Zack Hill who's in a band called Hella and who also plays with Les Claypool in Team Sleep. We did a record together called "Scars on Broadway" which actually gave birth to the song "BYOB" which is on System's latest album. I wrote part of that song...the chorus. The majority of the stuff Darren and I worked on together he wrote. He just wanted me to sing. He was also the guy who signed Amen to Sony Records at the time.

I've had incredible luck in working with these people. There's been no real difference in the work ethic between the European guys and the American guys. They're all successful and they're all good at what they do.

WC: That's an incredibly diverse bunch. I can't imagine you'd ever get bored working with these folks.

CC: And that's kind of why the last few years have been so hectic for me. It's because all these things coincide. I go from one day working with Darren to the next day working with Josh and Nick and so on. I DJ'd on the album "Songs for the Deaf" by Queens of the Stone Age and right after that, we started working on Headband. And during that same period, Twiggy quit Manson and Larkin joined Godsmack. Shannon's leaving didn't affect our friendship, we're brothers. Amen was making no money and he had a family to support. It was a great time, I'm so lucky to have experienced it. It was the same time Scum was starting to talk and getting ready for rehearsals.

WC: Moving on to some of the other members of Scum, how about Happy Tom? Is he really a happy guy?

CC: (laughter). He's happy, he's a happy guy. You wanna know more?

WC: Yeah, sure! What does he bring to the table?

CC: What I wanted was somebody who would be from the punk rock world and who had lived it the way I had. He has and does. Being in his band Turbonegro, he brought an entirely different world to the table. There was a lot of stuff that he was able to write and play that wasn't from the metal world, y'know?

WC: He keeps a straight rock and roll vibe in the band. On the other hand, you have Samoth. In his own bands like Emperor and Zyklon, he plays very intense, hyper-complicated music. I would think it would almost be a relief and a pleasure for him to play the simpler Scum material.

CC: Samoth was the driving force of this unit, he made it happen. He wrote a lot of the stuff and I arranged it. We would co-write some, like "Protest Life". I distinctly remember writing that song with him and Faust. We're sitting in a room, I'd have a guitar strapped on, he has a guitar strapped on and Faust is playing drums. Samoth's playing this crazy riff and I'm going "How do you play that? I can't play that, forget about it! When it comes to the second time around, stop at this point, I will play a riff and then you guys come in and play whatever you want." And that's when the chorus happens, when it stops.

WC: And the chorus is one of the catchiest parts of the whole record.

CC: That's what I brought to the table, the moments like that. The more simplistic things to balance the very, very technical stuff Samoth did. Not as technical as in his other bands, but more technical than I'm able to play. He kept the vibe and wrote incredible stuff in my opinion.

WC: Some of the Emperor stuff is almost inhuman.

CC: No doubt. I remember sitting in the room for the first time watching him play with Faust...I had goosebumps. It was scary how talented these guys were. There is one thing I will say about the guys from Norway...their musicianship is on a different level than anything I've seen in my life. There's something in the water there. Everybody that is in a band up there...I have another friend Satyr who's in the band Satyricon...

WC: I've talked to him.

CC: Yeah, he's one of my closest friends and an awesome musician. His drummer Frost is just incredible, he's so intense.

WC: He's a beast. He plays drums in 1349 and his performance on their new album is probably the single fastest drumming I have ever heard.

CC: I agree with you wholeheartedly and the other thing I'd mention about that is the intensity he plays with on that record is phenomenal. It's so fast, so technical and so ferocious, it just attacks you.

WC: The last piece of the Scum puzzle is Cosmocrator, who comes from the band Mindgrinder. Is he the metal voice of the band?

CC: He's a very good songwriter. He's an old friend of Samoth who clicked with us right away. I didn't know him and Samoth introduced him to me . Satyr was originally going to be the other guitar player in the band. Because of timing and touring and all that stuff, we had a hard time getting everybody together to make this happen. So Cosmo came in and saved the day and really, really contributed quite a bit. Now there are a couple of other guys who played on the album...I sang on the last song with Nocturno Culto from Darkthrone and also Mortiis who used to be with Samoth and Faust in Emperor chipped in. Nocturno was such an inspiration to us. Oh wait, I forgot that Euroboy from Turbonegro also played some guitar solos on the record,too!

WC: It sounds like you were the ugly American over there!

CC: (laughter) Yeah, I was the only outsider, the only ugly American!

WC: You certainly put a voice to it. I didn't know what to expect when I first got the record and it has emerged as one of my favorites of the year. The most important thing about it is that every song is different, each song has its own flavor and approach.

CC: When I originally wanted to do this project, I wanted it to be a bit more black metal because I'm such a fan of black metal. But when I mentioned this to Samoth and Faust, he said that black metal is what they do all the time. For them to make another black metal record is ridiculous. He said, "we don't want to be redundant, we want to make this a different record." I trusted their judgment and thank fucking God for that, man, because my mind was in a different spot and I was thinking wrongly about Scum. They were so correct as usual and that's why every time I think about music now, I realize that "oh wow, I can't go with my first gut instinct anymore". I look at things in a different light because they were so right. And that's why Scum's songs are what they are. Samoth would give one a "Sabbathy" feel and then the next song would have a "Bathory" feel. There was even one song he said had a kind of "Ministry" feel to it. But that's his interpretation of what he plays, which to me sounds nothing like Ministry, you know what I mean? It was beautiful that he had these incredible translations of these influences. It was just perfection for me, working with those people. I'll never never ever surpass was the pinnacle for me to do this. Incredible people, incredible musicians, incredible friends...

WC: Has there been any thought given to the next Scum album?

CC: We played our second show in London and we have a couple of festival appearances this summer. I would jump at doing it. But now with Emperor back together, we don't know what the future holds. Samoth also said that he would love to do a second record, we all would, it's just a matter of scheduling. In London, we were asked during an interview "is this a project or is this a band?" Everybody in the room said "this is a band". With that being said, I'd love to another album. Samoth said it could be in a year, two years, maybe more. I support whatever he says, I'll do it whenever they want. I'd love to make another record with those guys.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up for your own listening pleasure?

CC: A CD by a band called Haemoth from France, a black metal CD. I also got Deathspell Omega, a split they did with a band called Moonblood. Also the new Turbonegro. I have like 10,000 CD's, I'm a freak! It's the only thing I really collect.

WC: What was the last show you caught because you wanted to check it out?

CC: Mondo Generator, which has Nick from Queens of the Stone Age in it. I saw them. I also saw Turbonegro recently in L.A. Right now I'm in the woods in Norway

WC: That's gotta be kind of cool in a way.

CC: Yeah, I love it! Samoth lives up here and there's even a mountain named after Ihsahn's family here. There's a lot of history here. What I'm doing is I'm taking all the tracks I did with Shannon Larkin and for the first time, I'm going to record an Amen album in Norway! I'm in this cabin and I'm gonna record it right here! I'm interested in how it turns out. I've always worked in big studios and this will be a totally different thing.

WC: What's your Spinal Tap moment?

CC: (laughter) Oh there's so many! Lemme see...having people like Nikki Sixx, Henry Rollins and Iggy Pop say they are fans of Amen is Spinal Tap. It's so surreal, It's like c'mon, give me a break! These people are living legends and they're into MY band? I can't fathom that. Well, here's something on a more comical note. Amen were playing in Barcelona, Spain and 30 seconds into the first song, I jumped off the drums and hit my head on the ceiling and knocked myself out! (laughter) 30 seconds into the first song!

WC: Were you out for a long time?

CC: All I remember is waking up backstage and having all the guys in the band pouring water on me and saying "Hey, Casey! Casey, are you alright?" And then I say "what are you guys doing? Get the fuck back on stage! Make some noise!" And ten minutes later we went out and finished the show!