In the Meet The Band spotlight this week is Skotose. The Texas black metal band recently issued the demo King Of Human Sacrifice. Bassist/lyricist Darren Cowan, a longtime metal journalist who writes for numerous publications (including this site), introduces us to the band.
Describe the songwriting process for King Of Human Sacrifice.
Darren Cowan: “King of Human Sacrifice” was the first song we wrote, Carl and me. The second was “Spirit of Madness.” Carl loves to write riffs. He has recorded hundreds of riffs. He’ll take something that sticks, and attach to something else that sticks. He always shared his riffs with me. Once he had a song ready, he taught me the bass lines and I wrote lyrics. In the beginning, I wrote all the songs, then COVID hit and he, for some reason he told me he was going to take over vocal duties. I was pissed at first and wanted to quit, but decided, after having put down the bass to focus on vocals, to once again take up the bass. He also wanted to rewrite the songs. I think this was because he arrived at the name Skotose. In Greek it means “kill,” “to kill,” or a commandment to kill. I think this moniker stuck and he wanted us to focus on serial killers.
At first I was pissed because he wanted me to rewrite the six or so songs I had already completed, but I know that subject well. I’ve been fascinated by true crime and serial killers since watching the Mark Harmon film about Ted Bundy called “The Deliberate Stranger” on television. Then, in my senior Government class I had to write two book reports. At first I chose “The Misbegotten Son” by Jack Olsen. This was a story about the Buffalo-based killer Arthur Shawcross. Fun fact about him, he is the speaker on the intro to Cannibal Corpse’s “Addicted to Vaginal Skin” song. CC are definitely an influence. The other thing about me changing the songs is now I have six songs already written for my sophomore album.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
My strongest memory is not really a single memory, it was the whole process. I had only played bass for about two years when we went into the studio at our drummer, Longpig’s Outhouse studio. I think that’s a funny name for a studio as it was only a small building, like a shed. I had some experience playing guitar, but I never studied hardcore. I play with a pick. I’ve gotten better playing with my fingers, but a pick is much easier. So my experience was a bit of a bane to me. I had no problem nailing every song in practice, but the whole recording process was difficult. For one, I was nervous. Two, I wasn’t used to stopping and starting for Longpig. I was used to playing whole songs all the way through. Longpig was a great producer and always gave me tips. For instance, I had problems with timing, so he told me to start the riff before I came in, that way, I could time it just right. He edited out the stuff that had already been recording. In fact, he did a lot of editing. He was great in the studio. I am thankful I had someone with patience like him for my first time in the studio.
Being that it was your first album, how did the process compare to your expectations?
Well, it went a lot worse than I expected. Because, as I said above, I wasn’t used to the studio and my timing was way off. Interesting fact, Longpig played the intro to “Implements of Hell” because my timing was so far off and I think he was getting impatient. He added the bass loop in the intro to make it sound cool. When I release the full-length, which he mixed 12 times, there will be synth on this track’s opening segment.
How would you characterize its style/sound?
We are a mix of Norwegian black metal, punk and death metal. “Implements of Hell” is a good example. This song was originally two songs. The latter half was about Albert Fish, and it was titled “Pain is Heaven.” My bandmates, including original drummer Johnny Trevino, thought it sounded like “penis heaven” so I changed the title to “Implements of Hell,” which refers to Albert Fish’s killing tools (handsaw, butcher knife…). The first part of the song and the prevailing riff was originally another song, which tied into “Implements of Hell,” but was about Doctor Faustus. Anyway, near the middle part of the song, Carl busts out a punk riff. “Raped By Nocturnal Manifestations” has obviously punk influence, too. That being said, we’ve been told we sound like Burzum, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Enslaved and others.
What lyrical subjects do you cover?
Our motto is “killing and Satan.” We cover serial killers such as Albert Fish, Richard Ramerez, The Zodiac and Charles Manson (cult leader). Also, I have penned songs about death and where you go, suicide, and Carl changed “Mountain of Suicide” from a song about literally jumping off a cliff to kill myself, to a classic black metal trope about Christianity being a bunk institution. Christ was only a man, born from a whore. Christians live their lives according to this ideal of perfection that they can never attain, and I think that trying to live your life to perfection is only setting yourself up for failure. It’s like a mountain you climb your whole life, only to get to the top and jump off, because that ideal of perfection can’t be realized. It also is a classic black metal song with a chorus about burning churches, killing preachers, and raping Christian women to prolong the Satanic race!
What has the response to the demo been like?
The response has been great. I do the promotion on it with my promo company, Shapeshifter PR. I would say the promotion on this album has been the best of my career. I’ve broken even and made a few bucks and thousands of people have listened to our tracks!
What is the status of the full-length album?
I’ve been working with Craig Rossi of Drift Into Black on artwork. He did a great job on the cover of our second demo, the tape rip Longpig made for me, “In Celebration of Your Demise.” This is my ode to Charles Manson. Anyway, I have all the tracks for the full-length, I’m just waiting for things to slow down for Craig since he’s constantly busy doing art and video for himself and his friends. That will be around early July. Then, when he has time, I’m going to work with him on the layout. The album will be called Pain Is Heaven, which is a slap in the face to Carl since he hated that title. It will include artwork/photos of each killer I wrote about including Fish’s obsession with pain and his masochism.
I would like to make an announcement. For those who have been following the band, you know there is a schism between the two founders, Carl and me. Carl has trademarked the band name, so I’m going to release the full-length under the name SKOTOSE666! That way I can continue with my vision, and I was integral to writing this album, without Carl giving me a hard time. This is just as much a part of me as it is him. He didn’t found the band. We did in my garage in Georgetown, Texas. I wrote most of the lyrics and play bass. Longpig did the most work of all of us. In addition to recording drums, he recorded and produced the album and added midi synth. Carl has a disclaimer on “his” Facebook page (he literally copied social media pages I created) about him owning the music as he is the founder. Both of those claims are bunk since I founded the band with him and Longpig recorded the album. Longpig registered his recordings with the Library of Congress. He told both of us we can do what we want. He is not interested in money or fame. He’s just a chill stoner who likes making music.
Now that you have written and recorded an album, has it changed your perspective on how you review other artists’ material?
Yeah, absolutely. Now I know the process.
How did you discover metal?
I started with KISS when I was three years old. I remember seeing a commercial for a concert they were filming for CBS, but I was too young to stay up and watch it. Bummer. Then from there I loved hard rock and “classic rock” in the eighties. I loved hair metal. In 1991, there were influencers in my life who led me to bands like Faith No More (knew them by the radio and MTV), Suicidal Tendencies, Megadeth, Metallica and King Diamond. It was about my sophomore year in high school when I went full-on metalhead listening to ST, Danzig, Slayer, Deicide, Black Sabbath, Metal Church, King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, etc.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Funny enough, my first concert was in the late ‘80s with my family. We saw Weird Al Yankovic in concert at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Jackson, Michigan. He was hilarious. I still love Weird Al! My first metal show was late ’92 when I saw Megadeth and Suicidal in concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills. This was where the Detroit Pistons played. That was an amazing concert and experience. I bought a program just like a sporting event. My second metal show was Metallica playing a 2.5 hour set by themselves in Saginaw and then Pantera, White Zombie and Megadeth, again, at Pine Knob in Clarkston, Michigan. Shows back then were so special. First of all, they were new and fresh. I’ve probably attended 500 concerts in my lifetime. Every now and then I get that special tingle, but it’s just not like the olden days. Back then I had fewer health problems and youth on my side so I liked to crowd surf and mosh. I played JV and Varsity football and taught martial arts, so I liked the contact!
Who have been some of your favorite interview subjects, and why?
Wow, that’s a heavy topic as I’ve interviewed hundreds of acts. My first interview, interestingly enough, was with Trevor from The Black Dahlia Murder. He is from Michigan, like me, I even saw TBDM open for Blind Guardian in Detroit before Metal Blade signed them. Shame about Trevor. I’ve been where he was and I was lucky I survived. It’s very important to understand suicidal ideations and how to deal with those if your friends and family have them.
On a lighter note, I would say Chris Cafferty from Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra was a good, early one. Tchort from Emperor and Green Carnation made me nervous before the phone. King Diamond was amazing! I interviewed him twice. Although I have interviewed such pop metal acts as Doyle, Five Finger Death Punch, Staind and Rob Zombie’s bassist Piggy D, I love interviewing extreme, underground bands. I have interviewed everyone in the extreme scene from Mayhem, Burzum, Gorgoroth, Cradle of Filth, Ihsahn, Cannibal Corpse, Grave, Unleashed, Obituary, Death (two members), Gwar, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Pestilence, Unleashed, Dismember, Entombed….
What advice would you give somebody who wants to be a metal writer?
I would say to keep your expectations low. Stay humble and be patient. There isn’t a lot of money writing in this genre. If you expect to make a career out of it where you can pay your expenses and support a family then you are gravely mistaken. I’ve made some money, but even the money I made has been crumbs compared to a 9-5. I would say get experience, get good, have fun, work shows, interview bands. If you still dig it and think you got what it takes, then shop your writing to ‘zines who will pay. Again, don’t expect to make a living off of it. This is why I started Shapeshifter PR, to make some money writing about metal.
How did you transition to also doing PR, and how do you balance the two?
This transition was very slow. I actually did a type of internship in 2013 to get my feet wet. I worked the band War Master, who contained members of Insect Warfare, Goatwhore, Oceans of Slumber and Necrofier. I did this for a whole year and only charged $250. It’s been long going. I didn’t have any capital and there have been times when I don’t have work that I lose money on overhead. It’s been very trying as I can’t control what journalists and publications do with my artists. I can show them what I’ve got…lead the horse to the water, but you know the saying. I’ve quit several times due to not making money or not being happy with results. Right now I’m at my peak. I have a good contact list of pubs and journalists who pay attention and give my artists support. I also have, for the first time, a team. I’m very optimistic about the future of Shapeshifter PR. Did you read this, bands? I can help you!
Many of black metal’s pioneers are still making music, and there have been generations of artists following them. How would you evaluate the current state of the genre?
Doing the Within The Abyss column for HMHQ has been great. Every month I review several great black metal albums. I see artists that are consistent in their art and new ones who interject youth and sometimes originality. I think black metal is a great art form and I don’t mind bands living on tradition.
Who are some up and coming black metal bands you’ve been impressed with?
Hulder is really good. That’s all that comes to mind. Read my column!
Is there anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Yes, I would like to promote Craig Rossi’s new project, Days In The Abyss. Craig has made some waves with Drift Into Black, which I call the My Dying Bride of the Eastcoast. Days in the Abyss is very different. Sure he still jams on the keys, but this is Sci Fi soundtrack music in the vein of Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Lion King, Gladiator). In addition to being a great multi-instrumentalist, Craig also makes his own videos, his friends videos and my videos (check out his vision of “Spirit of Madness). Each track has no words, but the story is told through video. Each track is a new day documented by a space probe on a newly discovered planets. ALIENS, BRO! Yeah, make sure to check out his vids and buy the album when it comes out July 1. Peace!
(interview published May 28, 2022)
Listen To Skotose – “The Spirit Of Madness”