Interview With Scott Kelly, Vocalist and Guitarist of Neurosis
When you mix twenty-two years of playing music together with the determination to own the music and make it for them, you get one of the most influential bands since Discharge. Neurosis have catapulted themselves to a band that no one knew what to do with to a band to be respected and their unique sound - a mixture of post-metal, doom metal, a pinch of punk, and tribal-like drum beats - have both awed fans and inspired musicians with their sheer intensity of their recorded output and their notoriously devastating live performances. Add incredible visuals that both move and terrify and Neurosis leaves its mark wherever they go.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Scott Kelly, vocalist and guitarist of Neurosis, about their music, their legacy, and the UFC.
The Harpy: Scott, Given to the Rising is a really intense album. I would actually describe it as heavy and gritty. Do you think the process that you underwent recording this album contributes to the intensity and grittiness at all?
Scott Kelly: It definitely can, but it's something that we knew we were going to have to do since its inception so it is hard to say how much it really came into play. The process is really long and strenuous. This last record has definitely been no different. I don't know if the shorter amount of time frame for the recording is more or less stressful for me, it just depends on how you see things. I like pressure so, we always respond really well to pressure. We have pretty much done everything like that all our lives so in a way it is comforting.
The Harpy: With lyrics like "I saw God in death through you." From "To the Wind" or "Our pain cannot forgive the silent machine of the fatal flaw in man" in "Given to the Rising" once could say your lyrics are quite philosophical and poetic. Do the lyrics come first for you, or the music?
Scott Kelly: There is no real set in stone sound way that I write, but typically the guitar riffs come first for me. Although I write randomly in my notebooks, like I will right randomly on my guitar.
Typically, guitar comes first and then I will hear the sound and kinks and the sonic kind of gauge of what words are suppose to sound like in my head. Then I'll translate them into whatever works and it kind of goes through me. I don't spend a lot of time picking apart the words or the music. I meditate on them about a year before I bring them out. I kind of wonder and look and keep running it through until it feels right, and I always know when it feels right.
The Harpy: Sometimes things will run through my head and I have to write it down. Is that how it is for you?
Scott Kelly: It's all about the process and you have to be in it all the time. I mean if you are half assing it at any point, you lose twice as much as you would ever gain. For us it has been 22 years and we have been just buried in this. It's a daily thing. It has been that way forever so, that's the key to anything. At least from my perspective. For me, it’s about work basically.
The Harpy: Did you have any goals for an album when you start?
Scott Kelly: We try not to do any sort of... we try not to define anything before it happens. The only goals we have are sort of calendar and clock restrictions. I mean we all work and we all have kinds and we have to plan things a year to eighteen months in advance. We know when we are going to be in the studio and we know when we are going to practice, aside from anything else it is undefined purposely so the songs can write themselves.
The Harpy: Do you think bands that have had longer careers make mistakes in setting goals on wanting to do something different each album?
Scott Kelly: I don't know. The only rules we ever had is if we ever felt like the next record didn't far surpass previous ones in our own minds, we wouldn't put it out and we have never had that happened. There aren't a lot of bands that have the face or the attitude towards things we do. If you combine the number of years we have been around and the fact that we have never made a living at it, there is no financial pressure on anything that we do. We never have really had to compromise in anyway There is a few here and there were we had to make songs short for the radio but we don't do that anymore... It is different for us. It's just music. It is all about music and the family aspect of it and the rest of it just kinds of fall way.
The Harpy: It seems like it is about the craft for you and not about business.
Scott Kelly: Right on. I don't want you to take this the wrong way, because I totally appreciate you saying that. We would do this no matter what, you know. For us, we have to do it. There's no choice. You know, its' like we have this great debt that we have to pay and we don't know why, but we just have to and we get so much back from it and we have all grown so much in 22 years and learned so much through our music and understood so many things on a deeper level because of what we were doing. It is really necessary because we love music so fucking much.
The Harpy: Do you think there is any truth that creative people feel and see things a little differently because they are tapped into the emotional creative side?
Scott Kelly: I don't know. I'm sure on some level, yeah. I find I felt for pretty much my whole live that I didn't connect very well to the world, in general. That might be part of it. I always felt, you know, that I was this enormous dead weight walking around and I wasn't really able contribute, just felt so disappointed. When I look at what human beings had done you know. I think it is totally weak. So much more could be done.
The Harpy: If you were an UFC fighter, aside from your own music, what would your entrance music be?
Scott Kelly: "It Took A Night to Believe." that would be mine. That would be mine, absolutely. Can you imagine the intro? We judge intro music. While the judges judge the fight, me and my friends, we judge intro music. Matt Hughes is the heavy weight champ of intro music if you ask me.
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