Throwback Thursday: Star Scene: John Scott ~ THE MARK OF CAIN

Ahead of their latest tour, we reminisce with an interview with John Scott of The Mark of Cain from 2001.

Mary Boukouvalas captures a sliver of the real John Scott.

The Mark of Cain are perfectionists.  It might have taken them over 5 years to bring out another studio release, but there was good reason.  Guitarist and vocalist John Scott feels that there really is no timeline and their music is an on-going musical experiment.  “That’s where a lot of groups are pushed into getting out an album which has got about two good songs, and the rest fillers. Bmg have been real good. The band is important”.  TMOC aren’t into expendable, throwaway music.  To TMOC, music is too important.

As a result, TMOC’s latest offering, This is This is faultlessly precise. Scott says he has always had strong ideas on how he wanted the cd to sound, and this was achieved by working with Phil McKellar (The Cruel Sea, Regurgitator) and ex-Gang Of Four member, Andy Gill (Red Hot Chilli Peppers, BIS, Jesus Lizard).  While McKellar was responsible for the technical, engineering side of things, the tracks recorded with Gill were extremely important to production as he pushed Scott to try new things.  Scott says that “vocally, this is the best I’ve done”, as he adopted different personas to establish a mood and give depth to the emotions within the songs. 

These emotions, however, are sometimes perceived as too chilling and sadistic for public listening and viewing.  [R] Retaliate, for example, is inspired by, but not solely about, serial killer Howard Unrah and deals with the psychology of the loner, particularly the alienated war veteran, a common theme in many of The Mark Of Cain’s songs.  Scott was actually not surprised when [R] Retaliate was banned by television stations in Australia, but he states that, within the video clip, there was “nothing more intense than X-Files or Seven; there was implied violence throughout, but ending with enough is enough”. 

A nice note to end on, especially since Scott believes that music needs to be “more than entertainment”; it needs to be about the important questions of life; the ability to see that life is transient and everything leads to the final moment of truth.  Scott writes about things that concern him in life.  But, as existence is so fleeting, there are many reasons why TMOC’s lyrics and themes seem to delve into violence and the psychology of those who commit crimes.   Scott states that “it’s about feeling like an outsider”.  Through his love of books by Dostoevsky and Henry Miller, and also Colin Wilson’s Beyond The Outsider, Scott empathises with the struggling loner and relates this, with both aggression and sensitivity, through his music.  Furthermore, he is partial to the “fantasy elements of violence -the times when we think of what we should have done” when there is a “loss of power and control”.   As in Knockin’ about a stalker, it is expressing “this is what I should have done”.  Maybe if we acknowledge things that are wrong around us, we can start of thinking of ways to fix them.  Scott sees things from “a hardcore perspective, accepting life more as he gets older”.  He sees violence as an interesting part of life, especially its extremity. 

This view brought them their band name.  According to the Book of Genesis, God placed a mark on the world’s first murderer before sending him into exile. The ‘Mark of Cain’ proclaimed its bearer as a criminal and social outcast. For centuries, prisoners and those who broke social codes were forcibly tattooed.   However, Scott feels that “you can actually tell someone who has committed a crime just by looking into their eyes”, they don’t need to be “physically marked or tattooed” as in the biblical sense.  He admits, “Some may say it’s morbid, but it is only a sliver of what I am about”. 

John Scott is right.  There is so much more to the man and the band.  Though TMOC would love to be full-time musicians, during their band career, both John and Kim Scott have held full-time jobs, working as engineers.   In fact, engineering is what awakened him to ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier.  Back in 1990, when Scott was overseas doing some engineering work, he went into a music store in Tel Aviv and gave the guy some of their music and when we went back the next week, the guy played him Helmet’s Strap It On.  Scott were surprised at the similarity of the two bands, especially with the weird timing of their music; then TMOC met Helmet in 1992 when they supported them on their Australian tour.  Subsequently, in ’98, rumours on the Internet about John Stanier joining The Mark of Cain led to Stanier emailing Scott and basically saying “all you had to do was ask”, and so they said “let’s just do it”. 

And they do it so well too.  Scott says that audiences can expect the following from The Mark of Cain/Rollins gigs: “Tight as fuck; no bullshit; tightest we’ve ever been; enjoyment –though not visually deliberate entertainment … there won’t be anything that comes out of the ceiling and whisks me off the stage so that I can float above the audience”.   Just pure unadulterated energy. 

By Mary Boukouvalas *first printed in BEAT Magazine, 2001

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; not exactly the subject matter of an era when Kylie Minogue was queen and Ratcat were primed to become the pinnacle of the underground. It did not chart and in Australia it was barely heard out of Adelaide however, it’s resonance did find an audience even if that audience had to come from places farer rather than near. 

“Like I heard the song Wake Up and I was like ‘whooah’, I woke up! And then I heard the song Battlesick and it was all over for me, that’s just an amazing song. For me, just as a songwriter, that’s the song for which you wish you wrote the lyrics. Like ‘damn man, he wrote Battlesick, that fucker. Let me write that. I mean the imagery in the song is amazing and Deadman’s Mail, that’s just incredible” – Henry Rollins

“It was the height of my fixation on Vietnam and the idea of the countless unknown heroes who walk among us” – John Scott (TMOC)

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.

“With no frills and an attitude of absolutely zero bullshit, The Mark Of Cain mercilessly pummelled the audience into submission with a wall of sound so dense it was truly hard to believe it was emanating from a three-piece band.” – Scenestr 2015

Completing the touring line-up and making their Australian debut will be Washington DC three piece The Messthetics featuring Brendan Canty and Joe Lally (both ex-Fugazi) alongside guitarist Anthony Pirog. This will be the first visit to our shores for the Fugazi rhythm section since that band’s final Australian tour of 2003 while for jazz-trained guitarist Pirog, it will be his first. The tour follows the release of the trios eponymous debut album (Dischord) in March 2018 and a new album Anthropocosmic Nest slated for release this September.

“The freewheeling musical interplay of the band often sounded like improvisation, but ultra-quick changes and rhythmic variations attested to the fact that this incredibly complex sonic tapestry was both scripted and obsessively rehearsed.” – Riff Magazine 2019


Together The Mark Of Cain and The Messthetics makes for the hard rock thinking mans most essential live event of the coming months – or ever! Tickets on-sale 9.00am Wednesday 17th July via


Thursday 17th October 2019 – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
Friday 18th October 2019 – The Factory, Sydney NSW + feedtime
Saturday 19th October 2019 – The Basement, Canberra ACT
Sunday 20th October 2019 – Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW
Thursday 24th October 2019 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA
Friday 25th October 2019 – The Gov, Adelaide SA
Saturday 26th October 2019 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Tickets on sale 9.00am Wednesday 17th July via


Thursday 17th October 2019 – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD 
Friday 18th October 2019 – The Factory, Sydney NSW
Saturday 19th October 2019 – The Basement, Canberra ACT
Sunday 20th October 2019 – Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW 
Thursday 24th October 2019 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA 
Friday 25th October 2019 – The Gov, Adelaide SA 
Saturday 26th October 2019 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC

About Mary Boukouvalas 1207 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos,,,, She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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