If there’s one thing The Mark of Cain understands, it’s intensity. On their 2013 tour for Songs of the Third and Fifth they delivered a gruelling set that lasted for almost two hours, leaving both themselves and audiences physically drained every night.
“Oh fuck, I didn’t realise I’d signed up for that!” John Scott says of the 2013 tour, with a chuckle. “This one is quite a long set (too), I was looking at it tonight. Kim always comes up with it and it’s like, my God…” He counts out loud. “Fifteen songs, and if you allow five minutes for each, say, that’s an hour and a quarter and if there’s a encore of four songs, that’s an hour forty.”
One hundred minutes of the stop/start bruising exactitude The Mark of Cain has always delivered since emerging from the Adelaide punk scene in the late 1980s. This year’s Tour of Duty, about to kick off in Adelaide this month, promises more of the same. But there will be more to the tour this time than just punishingly intense performances. There will be two shows in their home town this time out, with all proceeds being donated to the SA branch of the Cancer Council. John’s brother and bandmate Kim does regular charity bicycle events for the same cause.
“Kim wanted to do that in support of some stuff he does with the bicycle riding he does,” Scott explains. “But at the same time it’s because we all know people who, as we get older — I was just thinking the other day, it really is 1 in 3 [people will develop cancer]. So it’s important to put something back into it. Kim was the mouthpiece for that. We all believe it’s a good cause that everyone should be supporting.”
That Kim is driving the agenda for this tour may come as a surprise to some, as The Mark of Cain has long been considered as very much John Scott’s band. But as he very keenly points out, TMOC would not be without both of them.
“It can’t be The Mark of Cain without [Kim]. I’ve played with many, many drummers and that’s not to minimise any of those drummers but while the band has been my baby Kim has been part of that all the way through.”
He goes on to highlight much of the work behind the scenes that Kim provides. Indeed it was Kim Scott who did all the press for last year’s tour when John was too busy with his job to do it.
“He very much double-checks the quality of what we do,” John says. “He’s always been behind the artwork – I don’t think many people realise that – and he’s always been the sign off for t-shirts, artwork, all that type of thing. He’s got a lot of talent.”
As he has pointed out, John and Kim have seen a great number of drummers pass through the band – so many that at one point they were famous for it. From the sporadic nature of their existence to the regimented stop/start character of their work, the reasons for the revolving door are numerous. The flow was stemmed for many years with the addition of John Stanier but the tyranny of distance and commitment to other projects seems to have brought his time with The Mark of Cain to an end also.
“When we first started, none of us were properly-trained musicians,” John admits. ” Kim and I got better and we needed someone to keep up, and if the drummer couldn’t… The first drummer we got who was really good was John Rickert and we wrote a lot of stuff with him and when he went it was always trying to find the right guy. Some of it was because we took a break and when we came back the drummer we had, Campbell, wasn’t available. So there was all sorts of issues there. John Stanier stood in from 2000 until 2010 and that was a highlight for myself and then, when it was getting harder to keep John because of his commitment to Battles, we needed someone to rehearse.”
That’s when Eli Green from fellow Adelaide heavy hitters Lifepilot stepped in. Green is considerably younger than the Scott brothers but they make sure they keep him on his toes and up to speed: “We expect to see blisters on his hands when he’s finished playing. If there’s no blisters, something is wrong!”
Judging by the length of the set for these upcoming shows, Green won’t be the only one with blisters. Not only is there a lot of songs, Kim has included some of the heaviest in their catalogue. Attendees can definitely expect a good pummelling.
“We’ve pulled out ‘The Hammer’… we haven’t played ‘The Hammer’ forever. We’ve got ‘Cap on John’… a lot of the heavier ones, actually,” promises John Scott. “‘Tell Me’. When I look at it, it’s a fairly brutal set by the looks of things so I expect people will feel pretty punished by the end of it.”
The Mark of Cain is touring this month:
25/11: Enigma Bar, Adelaide SA (+ Subtract S)
26/11: Max Watts, Melbourne VIC (+ Batpiss)
27/11: Barwon Club, Geelong VIC (+ Batpiss)
28/11: Amplifier Bar, Perth WA
2/12: Enigma Bar, Adelaide SA (+ InWoods)
4/12: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW (+ Thorax + Making)
5/12: The Zoo, Brisbane QLD (+ Greig + BARGE With An Antenna On It)