Artist: Pheroze Karai - Lead Vocalist of Scar Culture
Interviewed by: Glenn Milligan, BA Hons CS (Via Telephone)
Date: 30th January 2002
Pheroze: The band started basically in the fall of '97. Originally we were called 'Scrape'. The was me and our guitarist, John. We started to jam and write material and played together. I had just moved to New York so I answered an ad actually and joined the band through that.
We decided on the name 'Scrape'. We played our first show in January of '98 with Brutal Truth in Queens and we recorded a demo, put it out and got rid of about 4,000 copies. The we parted ways with our old bass play Sean and got the new bass player, Frank. We recorded out second E.P. and then we decided to put our money together and record a full length. If no-one picked it up we would put it out ourselves but Century Media picked it up - there you are.
Glenn: Yeah - excellent. Why did you change your name from Scrape to Scar Culture?
Pheroze: Well basically there were a few reasons. One was when we were first negotiating with Century Media - they wanted us to change our name from 'Scrape' to something else because they thought the name 'Scape' was too generic for us. We didn't want to because we'd spent so much time with it - building up the name 'Scrape' and it was kind of our entity. But then the other band named 'Skrape' came out - they came out on RCA Records - toured with Pantera and they basically beat us to it. So legally we didn't have to change our name (because of the difference - the 'c' and the 'k') but we started getting calls from all these labels who were like "The band Scrape - we didn't know about you guys".
Glenn: So it started confusion.
Glenn: Why did you choose to call the band 'Scar Culture'?
Pheroze: It was a book I was reading at the time - written by a British Author named 'Tony Davidson' called 'Scar Culture' and I just thought the vibes and themes of the book really fit the overall vibe of the band.
Glenn: What was book about?
Pheroze: It was about a Psychiatrist and three of his patients and the treatments he gave them. The book kind of blurs the line between Psychiatrist and patient - so you kind of walk away from the book thinking, 'Who's more f*cked up?' - the Psychiatrist. It's a good book - it's really intense.
Glenn: Have you read much of the authors other stuff as well?
Pheroze: He doesn't have much other stuff to my knowledge. I think that was his debut novel.
Glenn: I noticed you've played alongside bands like 'Brutal Truth' and 'Soilent Green'. How did you meet up with those guys? How did the gigs go and where did you play?
Pheroze: Those big bands were out in the first two or three years that we were together. Basically we built up a decent name for ourselves in our home area of New York, so whenever a touring band would come through we would end up playing with them. We'd be on the bill as the support local act. So that's how we ended up playing with a lot of good and different bands.
Glenn: So you found you built your fan-base up through a lot of supports.
Pheroze: Yeah. We built the fan-base up though that and also through sending our demos out everywhere.
Glenn: Did you ever have to pay to play or tour with any of these bands are did you simply become mates?
Pheroze: No. We had a booking agent who would contact us and said 'Do you wanna do this gig? and we were like 'Yeah, sure'. We made about 40 bucks (laughing). The exposure is what was important.
Glenn: That's it. You gotta do it to get noticed to build it up.
Pheroze: We wouldn't have done it if we'd have had to pay to play. The only things we've ever had to pay for are the Metal-Fests - the New Jersey and Milwaukee Metal-Fests. If you are not signed you have to pay a thousand dollars and the price actually went up to $1500. In return for the thousand dollars you get tickets, which you can sell and make your money back. We started doing that, but I mean, it's a pain in the ass!!
Glenn: Especially if you are stuck with tickets because you might as well just give them away because you might as well get people in than not. But it's annoying - you don't really wanna do that.
Pheroze: And you really don't know what time slot you are gonna get. You could be playing at 11am on Friday and no-one's there. You're playing to people who haven't even got to setting up the stage. It's ridiculous. I am anti to all those festivals, at least the New Jersey and Milwaukee ones. The New England one though is well run and very professional.
Glenn: How did you go down at these festivals?
Pheroze: We went down really well. We lucked out each time - we got a good time slot. People liked us and we broadened our fan-base a lot.
Glenn: So you sold plenty of Cd's?
Pheroze: Well - we got rid of a lot of demo's.
Glenn: How did you get to work with Billy Milano? Was it through touring alongside S.O.D?
Pheroze: Yeah - he was touring with the band at the time. Billy, he's a Producer and a Manager and he was looking for bands to produce. We were going to record our albums so I decided to go out looking for a Producer and found out he was producing. I'd never heard anything he'd produced but I just knew the studio he worked out of and I liked the studio a lot so I contacted him.
He said, 'Send me a demo', and he made it clear to me that he really doesn't do this much but if it really kicks ass, he'd produce it. I was like, 'Alright', so I sent it to him and he really liked it. His hesitation was basically that he'd never done anyone like us before - he'd only done Hardcore or Punk or basically straight-up Rock 'n' Roll. So we met and we talked about it and decided to go into the studio and do it and it turned out great.
Glenn: What was it like financially? - Did Billy want an exact fee to produce you or just basically see how it goes?
Pheroze: As far as his production it was pretty low. It was low for what he normally charges. I think the reason for that was basically because he came in on the mix and this was like, (Quoting Billy), 'I've never done a band like this before'. I think he was little worried about how it would turn out but it turned out great. It was good for him and it was good for us. And as far as the rest of the money - we just put all our money in to pay for studio fees and all that. Then off course we shopped it around and Century Media picked it up.
Glenn: What's he like to work with Billy Milano?
Pheroze: Billy is a ball-buster. He's basically 'In-Your-Face'. He doesn't give a f*ck about anything. So he's very intense. But the persona of Billy that doesn't come across in MOD or SOD is that he is actually really intelligent. He's really well-spoken and well thought out. He knows a lot about the Music Industry and it was really good to work with him and the fact that we'd sit down for lunch or dinner and talk about the Music Industry and I ended up learning a lot of information from him. He really knows his sh*t in the end. He really helped us out (with) working with him. He just gave me so much knowledge. He's produced bands, he's managed bands and he knows a lot of people and about different parts of the industry and how it works.
Glenn: Did Billy advise you a lot on how do things a certain way in the studio?
Pheroze: No, because he was only involved in the mix. The only thing he did was with our guitar sound. He said, 'If you want a big guitar sound, you've actually gotta do it this way - so that was helpful and as far as like the actual performances he had nothing to do with it really, especially on the vocals. It was just me and the Engineer when it came to the vocals. I know exactly what I want when it comes to that stuff. But when it came down to the mix, he was pretty hands-on with that.
Glenn: So I guess working with him actually changed your mind about what Billy is like as a person - as opposed to just being the nutcase in SOD or MOD.
Pheroze: He's a nutcase - he's still a nutcase (laughing) but more like an intelligent nutcase. There's a method to his madness and he's still a good friend and I talk to him every couple of weeks or so.
Glenn: Do you hang out with Billy quite a bit?
Glenn: Do you got to local gigs?
Pheroze: Yeah - we actually got to play once with SOD at CBGB's as their direct support and it was a great sold out show.
Glenn: How did you meet the new Scar Culture members, Frank Canino and Duke Borisoff - who were they playing with previously?
Pheroze: Frank Cannino was with a band called 'Grey Skies Falling' from somewhere out of New York. The Duke has been in many different bands - I don't even know who - a lot of New York bands. Our guitarist John was in a band called 'Warpath' and myself, the only other band I do is a band called 'Earth-bound Smoke-Ghost' that's also based out in New York.
Glenn: Are they in similar style to Scar Culture?
Pheroze: No, not at all - it's actually more like a Soundgarden type sound.
Glenn: So it's sort of Grunge meets sort of Stoner?
Pheroze: Yeah - it's got that vibe to it. I actually play guitar in that band and my favourite influential guitarist is Kim Thayill.
Since this Interview took place, drummer Duke has left the band.
Thanks to Pheroze and also to Donna O' Connor for setting up this telephone.