“We always worked closely with the military, but John as the principle lyricist has always had a fascination with, particularly, the Vietnam War.”
As intense as ever, The Mark Of Cain hit the Rosemount Hotel on Saturday, November 15. DAN WATT reports.
There is nothing better than a band with a good back story and it’s even better when the said band’s music is an unclassifiable mix of punk genres.
The Mark Of Cain have one of the most impressive back stories of any rock bands still active on the scene. The impact of the brutality in the band’s enthralling music and dark lyrical themes was always elevated due to the mythology which has never been debunked until now. The legend goes the two brothers, Kim and John Scott, had spent time on the frontline serving in Australia’s army.
“John and I both, as engineers coming out of University, went into the defence industry,” says Kim Scott, the younger of the two. “John’s an electronic engineer and I am a mechanical engineer. John worked for a defence company and I worked for the Department Of Defence and then went overseas during the first Gulf War and worked with the US Marine Corps. John, at that time, got deployed to Israel with the company he was working for.
“We always worked closely with the military, but John as the principle lyricist has always had a fascination with, particularly, the Vietnam War,” contends Scott before adding with a warm chuckle, “John and I never saw any real action but over the years we have happily let the rumours circulate that we were ex-special forces.”
However, this isn’t to say fans and observers were deluded in believing the Scott brothers were ex-soldiers. The Mark Of Cain’s lyrical themes, artwork and John and Kim’s constant crew cuts were all highly militaristic. With their 1989 debut album entitled Battlesick, the band were fully embracing the aesthetic.
Yet Scott points out the themes of their songs are not bound to the battleground. He uses the concept surrounding the aforementioned album and song title Battlesick as an example. “John would liken the extreme emotions on the battlefield to the similar emotions you might go through in life like the break-up of a relationship where things go wrong. Our first album, Battlesick,was an analogy for that you can actually be sitting at home and be ‘battle sick’ – fatigued of life, not just of battle,” he explains. Despite various work projects overseas both Scott brothers have remained locals of The City Of Churches, Adelaide, for their entire lives.
Anyone who has read the sleeve of The Mark Of Cain’s Ill At Ease, widely accepted as their breakthrough release, would know it lists military field hand signals. The inclusion of these militaristic instructions incurred the wrath of a Special Forces trooper at a gig in Perth, but he still bought a t-shirt.
“I have always liked combat hand signals so when John had a field manual with all the signals in there so I was like, ‘Hey great, let’s print them in the album cover and on the backs of our t-shirts’,” sets-up Scott. He now explains talks about the issue the printing of these instructions caused with one member of the ADF, “A guy came up who claimed to be Special Forces and said, ‘You can’t put that on back of shirts – that’s classified information’. The field manual John had got them from was restricted but it was from the 1950s and not secret information.
“Both John and I had top secret clearance at the time but there’s no way we would jeopardise an operation,” Scott details. “The guys says, ‘You can’t do that, I’m telling my CO [commanding officer]’ and then as quick as a flash the t-shirt lady says, ‘Look mate, why don’t you buy a t-shirt and you can show your CO?’ so he went and bought a t-shirt and off he went and we never heard anything,” (laughs).