Inspired by the underground music of the 90’s, award winning Australian Director/Producer Shaun Katz (Sleeping in Blood City) has set off on a huge undertaking to document this historic musical era in the upcoming Underground Inc: The Unsung Story Of Alternative Rock. With the help of Co-Editor/Co-Producer and Animator, JB Sapienza, prize winning Editor/Co-Director of the documentary, My Name Is Jonah, regular collaborator, Writer/Producer Adam Lovett (also of Sleeping in Blood City notoriety) and the combined musical genius’ of Grammy nominated Peter Mengede (Helmet, KRS–One, Handsome), Grammy nominated record producer Alex Newport (Mars Volta, Bloc Party, At The Drive–In) and Mark Bardridge covering the documentary scoring have their dreams set on bringing Underground, Inc. to fruition. Interviews on what promises to be one of the most important music documentaries of this decade will include members of Queens Of The Stone Age, Failure, White Zombie, Stone Sour, Primus, Helmet, Bad Religion, Ministry, Quicksand, Jawbox, Filter, A Perfect Circle, Down, Revolting Cocks, Corrosion Of Conformity, Jets To Brazil, Rocket From The Crypt, Clutch, Red Fang, …Trail Of Dead, The Sword, Sugartooth, Steve Albini (producer – Nirvana, Pixies), Matt Wallace (producer – Faith No More, Deftones), Only Living Witness, Alex Newport (producer – At The Drive In, Bloc Party), Public Image Ltd, Sepultura, Agnostic Front, Biohazard, Texas Is The Reason, Killing Joke, Monster Magnet, Handsome, Stegosaurus, Brad, Cop Shoot Cop, Course Of Empire, Fishbone, My Head, Sense Field, Trouble, Downset, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Skrew and many others!
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Once we caught wind of the Underground, Inc. project, we wanted desperately to be part of this defining moment in musical history. It is with great pleasure that we were given the opportunity to interview who many rate among the best drummers around, Kellii Scott of Failure, presented here! I have to say that his insight, intelligence and honest rapport rate just as highly! So, without further ado, I give you my interview with the ultra-talented, Kellii Scott!
Interview question/answer with Mr. Scott:
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions in preparation for the release of Underground Inc. We are truly flattered to be part of such an important release spotlighting underground music and its effect on the industry as a whole. Once we caught wind of what Shaun Katz had in mind, we were on board and are honored to interview a legend in, what has become, one of the most pivotal bands from the time!
Odyssey: How did you get involved with Underground Inc. and Shaun Katz?
Kellii: He just kinda contacted me out of the blue and I just jumped at the chance to be involved. He presented me with such a great idea I think anyone in my position would have done the same. But I understood that when he started contacting people about the movie one person mentioned another and another person mentioned another and so on. I can’t remember whether he thought of reaching out to me or if someone had presented him with the idea of seeing if I’d like to contribute.
Odyssey: Had this idea ever been floated by you before?
Kellii: Once I was approached and gladly lent my voice to a doc about TOOL. I think it was unauthorized but I was so in love with the band I had to say yes. I only gave my personal account which is that they are a mind blowing band. Have and always will be a big fan.
Odyssey: What is your perspective on the importance of this highly lauded endeavor?
Kellii: I think it is a historical document of what it was like from the mouths of the people that were there. A huge oversight that it had to wait this long to be heard. The period was great for music and the enrichment of music listeners despite how good or bad some of the music business stuff was back then. Honestly I think even all of that business stuff had an influence on the direction music took.
Odyssey: Knowing that Failure has always done its own thing and published opinions run the gambit: in the grand scheme of all of the stellar, underground bands being highlighted in Underground, Inc., what do you consider your contribution to the development of modern music and this groundbreaking documentary?
Kellii: I think being a spectator is my largest contribution. Anything I’ve ever created was only a direct extension of what I saw and experienced and then internalized. My part I suppose was only that I was given a modest voice and a small P.A. in which to broadcast it aloud. It’s extremely humbling for me that something decided, despite some of my own personal choices, that I would still be around to give back to a community of people and music that gave me such a wonderful life. In my estimation, a debt I will spend a lifetime re-paying.
Odyssey: Being one of the few bands that is still around and remain successful and relevant, what relationship(s) and interactions have you had with other bands involved in this project? Do you find their experiences much the same as yours or radically different?
Kellii: Honestly, there are only a few guys in the film that I have had a personal relationship with and I expect that’s part of why we have so much in common and have lived through the same experiences. But that being said even the guys I don’t personally know, after having heard them speak in the doc, I feel I know them. They have seen and experienced the same things most of us did. There is definitely a familiarity, a kinship we all have in common. We are of the same tribe, man.
Odyssey: What insight will Underground, Inc. give viewers that they likely never knew? What do you hope the documentary will accomplish?
Kellii: Well generally I think there is probably a lot of stuff people may know but the one glaring insight is, for sure, all the personal stories and experiences. Also unlike today there wasn’t the amount of print and video that there is now to account for all the stuff that was going on back then, and what little there was would be sucked up by the bigger bands. The bands in the doc were not demanding the audiences as a whole that maybe we collectively are today. So I would guess that most of this is new information for most.
Odyssey: Looking back, did you have any idea you were onto something so special with Failure and would end up having such a profound influence on bands that developed long after your 1997 breakup?
Kellii: Honestly, No. I could have never imagined how far our influence spread over the decade and a half that we were dis-banded. That was a frequently reoccurring theme of the recent 20th Anniversary of Fantastic Planet Tour we just finished back in October. It’s frankly, quite humbling and emotional to attempt even to grasp our current scenario. I think my head would’ve exploded had I even attempted to imagine such an outcome 20 years ago.
Odyssey: Who were your heroes then and why? Have they changed today? Why?
Kellii: Well I’m not entirely sure which ones you’re speaking of, but if I were to go back to my childhood, I’d have to start with KISS, Led Zeppelin, Beatles and frankly just about any band who’s record I could hold in my hand, while daydreaming about what it might be like to be them. I was a pretty impressionable kid. Around the time that Failure was working in the 90’s I certainly dug a lot of the music that was happening around us, but the guys in my band were my heroes. I really felt that they were shaping me into a much better musician than I probably would have attempted to become on my own or even within some of the other groups I was playing in around the same time. There was just something about Ken and Greg that I really wanted to be like.
Odyssey: What have you taken from your huge body of work in other bands/collaborations that you take forward to the “new” Failure?
Kellii: Well I think broadly, I have hardened towards business affairs. I’m more unbending toward my beliefs about the music industry and mostly what I’m willing to do or not do on it’s behalf. I think that just comes from learning from Failure, no pun intended. But I think the most beautiful and important part that I’ve taken away from music is the influence that other musicians have had on my creative spirit and palate. Some of those influences are very big and obvious but I think many more are very subtle and probably even unknown to me.
Odyssey: You have stated in a number of other interviews that the Failure reunion was not some nostalgic walk in the past, but a completely organic event, much like never being separated. What has changed?
Kellii: Honestly nothing. We’re moving forward as if we hadn’t spent time apart both creatively and in our relationship to one another. The caveat though is that we have the musical chops of a band that’s been playing together for a long time, while also sharing that space with the feeling and excitement of being a new and vibrant band. The magic has only multiplied.
Odyssey: What has been the biggest accomplishment(s) before and after the hiatus?
Kellii: Just that probably. We survived the ‘before’, and the ‘after’ is even better because of it. I think repairing a relationship so well that you can not only be in the same room, but even better want to be in the same room is probably one of the greatest real life accomplishments you can achieve, or at least in real life, not this pretend rock thing.
Odyssey: Hindsight being 20/20, what would you have changed back in the day and why?
Kellii: Nothing. I’m having such a great time now I’d hate to think that changing one little thing could have an influence on how everything is playing out over the past 3 years or so.
Odyssey: What advice would you give emerging musicians/bands?
Kellii: Go for it!!! Love what you do and be as uncompromising with yourself as you can be. Listen to that little voice inside much more than all the big voices outside.
Odyssey: Knowing that the success of the current band surpasses the cult status of the past, what opportunities have you been allowed today that you never had in the nineties?
Kellii: I think the most obvious would be that we have an audience that’s much larger. At the very least we don’t feel like we are going unheard anymore. Also we have a lot more control over our output because we put out our own records. That’s basically also a bi-product of a larger audience because we can afford to more on our own financially.
Odyssey: It is highly publicized that you guys were shocked by the number of young fans showing up at your shows. Do you also find that Failure has crossed fan, music genre since your sound sat at the progressive fringes of the Grunge movement?
Kellii: The younger audience is certainly obvious but as far as our fan base collecting music fans from different tribes; that I don’t notice as much. Oddly the people that buy our music and come to our shows seem oddly imageless or of the same tribe. I’m sure they are not but they really seem like they all belong together. It’s quite beautiful. I love our audience.
Odyssey: What changes have you seen and experienced by the music industry as a whole? Did all of you staying busy in other projects make the changes gradual or come as a shock when Failure struck as hard as it did after the reunion?
Kellii: Certainly our collective experience has informed us as to where the business is and was heading but I don’t think even working consistently over the years while the business was changing could have prepared us for our place within this new model. It’s pretty exciting stuff to feel like you have a hand in your own future. Thats probably the difference between now and then in regards to the business changing. We have much more control and input into daily decisions and have control over which direction we move in. Before some anonymous person at the record company made all the decisions that mattered.
Odyssey: What do you see as going very right or horribly wrong in the music industry today?
Kellii: I think it’s all fine. There will always be shit stuff and great stuff, not unlike life itself. I’ve learned to be more at peace with how things are supposed to be – for better or worse. It’s none of my business. I don’t have the energy to police everything or have an opinion about every little thing going on in the world. I certainly am passionate about things in the world but I resign to knowing I’m not supposed to change everything.
Odyssey: What solutions would you offer for what has gone sideways?
Kellii: Again, I think what does or doesn’t work for me may or may not work for someone else. I try to reserve my opinions for my little slice of the universe.
Odyssey: What was old becomes new again. I can read endless reasons for the resurgence of any number of musical styles today. What is your perspective on the modern success of Failure and other bands from that era?
Kellii: I just think that has always been a reoccurring theme for every decade or so, when something old just catches on. It’s so random and I don’t think I’ll ever be certain how those ideas reappear and experience a revival or long awaited requiem. I can say I’m happy to be apart of this one.
Odyssey: Most agree that Failure was way ahead of its time. I am curious to get your perspective on why you guys fit now vs. being considered fringe, underground, prog-ish Grunge back in the day.
Kellii: Well I don’t necessarily believe we were ahead of our time. On the contrary I believe we were perfectly of our time. We were surely crowded out by some of the larger voices of our day but the music we were making was a product of being a part of that musical community and it’s influences. But I also believe, even today, we are considered fringe, underground, prog. Maybe not grunge but only because that’s an embarrassingly dated term for people to speak let alone be. I could never begin to really second guess the who, why or what but I do believe if you try to really make great music eventually it receives it’s just reward. Now that reward could be anything, not necessarily fortune and fame but in our case a modicum of respect far out weighs all of that. Besides we all know that people have to call everything something in order to understand what it is they’re speaking about.
Odyssey: Failure’s reunion is almost four years old now. With the success of The Heart is a Monster, do you still have the pragmatic, “come what may” attitude or is the feeling more permanent now?
Kellii: I think we have that. It part of the band personality but when we are working we get quite serious about everything. The outside stuff has never really been a predominant force within the band and at this point we all have a lot going on in our personal lives that needs to be balanced within all this band stuff. I think for the most part we approach our lives and careers the same way any normal person does. We’ve gotten this far by letting life decide how and when things should unfold so I don’t think there is a good reason to operate any differently now.
Odyssey: Are there any plans for a new album or any new tours in the near future?
Kellii: Funny you should mention that. We are as you may know finishing up on the double live Fantastic Planet 20th anniversary album and then, YES we have many plans on how to approach a new Failure record. And without giving away too much…It’s going to be exciting and new in approach, scope and sound.
Odyssey: What questions are you always asked that you despise? (Hopefully, I have not asked one!)
Kellii: I don’t really have one. That anyone gives a shit about what I have to say is nothing to be disappointed about.
Odyssey: Knowing your laser focus on your own music, is anything/anybody else grabbing attention today? Any other bands you feel need more attention?
Kellii: They’re not new but I wish Blonde Redhead was massive. Who else.. Teen, Chelsea Wolfe, Steve Reich, Elbow,. I know there are so many more. every time I’m asking this question I totally blow and draw a blank.
Odyssey: To many, you are a drum god. What is the most asked question(s) from “gear/technique” nerds (I proudly fall into that “nerd” category with guitars) and your answer(s)?
Kellii: That’s funny. I can’t imagine ever thinking of myself in those terms. Luckily.. I believe that staying right sized is the only reason I get any better and closer to the goal of playing like the drummer I wanna be someday. Thank you though. I do enjoy compliments on some level below slightly being uncomfortable with flattery. I expect most people feel the same. Maybe the most asked question is perhaps how’d you get that sound and honestly between the engineer and the drums the only credit I can accept is that I somehow as a kid merged ability with my inner voice. I play like I feel and that’s just how it sounds. I think much like some of my favorite drummers. It’s not what you play it’s how it feels when you play, that is probably 90% of the sound. That’s my understanding of it, anyway.
Odyssey: As with all of our interviews, we leave the last word to you…
Kellii: I’d like to thank both you and Shaun for considering what I may have to say as something that deserves to be heard. I’d like to thank Shaun also for making such a wonderful film that is an honor to talk about. And I’d also like to thank the musical community that still finds this stuff important and continues to whole heartedly support us all..
and check out Failure PledgeMusic to get Fantastic Planet Live into production!