The Mark Of Cain return to the stage this October performing their debut album Battlesick in its entirety. Originally released in 1989 via indie Adelaide label Dominator Battlesick sounded like no Australian album before it or since. Tracks like Wake Up, Dead Man’s Mail, The Setback, Call in Anger and the title track addressed the fear of dreams, the threat of death, anger over disappointment and personal setbacks.
The precision three piece which features brothers John & Kim Scott (on guitar and bass respectively) plus drummer Eli Green (a touring member of The Mark Of Cain since 2014) will also a perform a second set or extended ‘encore’ of classics from right across their five studio albums strong career. The 2019 tour marks the first national tour by The Mark Of Cain band since 2015. John Scott talks to Hi Fi Way about Battlesick and this tour.
Congratulations. thirty years of Battlesick. You must be really proud of that milestone?
Good to have made it and still be here. I think that’s the main thing. Yeah, it’s good.
What do you think it is about that album that still makes it stand tall?
I don’t know. I think it was a bit different at the time. It’s hard to say. We stuck to our guns, it wasn’t accepted all around the place, but I think it was a good statement for us in ’89 anyway. When we released it and I guess it seems to as not aged too badly, which is good.
It must be also good to be able to do it on your terms and not necessarily compromise on the music direction or anything like that rather than a label telling you what to do?
We’ve never really been a part of it. When people try to chase a sound, they limit themselves a bit sometimes to a movement that is occurring at a particular time, you know. I do feel proud of that album. I mean I feel proud of all our albums but that as the first, that was really great.
Looking back on the album, is there anything you would have done differently? Is there a plan to re-release the album maybe with some B-sides or some other songs that didn’t quite make it?
Yeah, I think we’ve got all the songs that didn’t make it out there. The only thing I’d do differently is of course if there was just the recording knowledge that we had now. It was still a great album no doubt about it. It was a long time ago and I think the main thing is, always trying to capture a good sound and I think we did. For Adelaide it was a bit of a different thing because a lot of bands were trying to capture a good sound. There was typically this sort of demo sound that people got, which I think we tried to avoid.
I think the thing that I always loved about the Mark of Cain is that intensity and that ferocity that you play with. It’s just unreal. I got back to that Big Day Out, what was it ’99?
Oh yes, yes.
Do you remember that Big Day Out in particular?
Yeah, that was pretty cool. I’ll always remember that. That was excellent. In the hay day.
Have you found it hard going back and listening to the album start to end to prepare for the tour?
It hasn’t been too hard. I guess we lived it for a long time. It was probably that and the second album were the ones that we actually wrote and played those songs way before we recorded them. It was a little bit different from later albums where we were writing in particular for the record and then play it later. So these ones we lived with for a long time. So, it was good getting back into it. We’ve always had Wake Up in our set. Battlesick has been in our set. You are Alone is in there. That’s always been part of our set. So, there’s a few songs we hadn’t played for a while like Summertime, Visions of Love and Suppression. It’s sounding great in the rehearsal room, sounding really fucking great.
Were some songs harder to learn and remember how to play?
Yeah, we had a bit of that muscle memory thing where we were like, “fuck, I don’t know how he did that” and then just play, well actually trying to work it out and going, “I don’t know what that is.” Then suddenly playing and in the midst of the moment going, ah, my hands just went to where they’re supposed to go. That was pretty weird. I think there’s a couple of things on there we realised that we play a bit differently or have been playing differently than on the album. On the album, it was a bit more discordant and so we went back and said, well okay, let’s do it that way. So it’s a little bit, just a bit discordant in one section but largely it’s been a good album to go through and not too taxing. I can think of albums that would be harder and that one was pretty good, straight forward.
Does Eli the drums bring a different dynamic as well to these songs?
I think it’s just youth and the energy, which we don’t have and it’s good. I’m obviously or have been known as a bit of a hard task master when it comes to drums. I think if anything is good and he’s got a wide range of playing ability, he’s very good at working out the essence of what the all the drums are on the album almost down to the kick, snare and symbol hits are almost identical. He then makes it more organic and fitting in with the band. I think he’s got it down pat. There’s no doubt about that.
What stands out most for you from that period of time when Battlesick was released?
I was thinking about this the other day, I can remember in that late ’89 period the Berlin Wall falling. I can remember watching, staying up all night watching Bundy get executed. It was a pretty cool time in music in Adelaide. There was lots going on. There were lots of venues to play in, it was an interesting sort of time.
Are there plans for new music in the near distant future?
Oh yeah! Distant future sounds good. Nothing up and coming. I mean to me it’s like at this stage, we recognise that the thirtieth anniversary was coming and we were like, “right, we’ve got to start practising now,” just to make sure we’re getting ready for it. Then we realised that the twenty fifth anniversary of Ill at Ease is just around the corner. That’s next year, so we’re thinking, well, we’ll do twenty five years of Ill at Ease. I just want to see how things go but it sounds like it’s anniversary time at the moment.
Are there any plans to, to make these albums available because they’re not easy to track down these days?
We are doing a limited release of Battlesick. We’re going to do a vinyl release and I think the digital, CD and vinyl release is limited. Golden Robot Records are going to do that for us. So that’s really good. So yes, they are going to be available.
Excellent. Great news for a lot of people who are trying to find them. I haven’t even seen them pop up on eBay for a while.
No, when they do, they sort of go quickly. Even I don’t have some. Well actually I don’t even have my original Battlesick. I don’t know where that is. I’ve got an empty album sleeve, but I do have the test pressing. So that one I will keep.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch The Mark Of Cain on the following dates, tickets from Feel Presents…