Among the Living #2: Scott Lewis
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Note: while this is actually the second edition of Among the Living, the first time ‘round we called it "Disposable Heroes", only later realizing that we totally subconsciously stole the column name from our pals over at Decibel mag, who have a column titled just that on their site; apologies, brothers!
Welcome to the second edition of Among the Living, a column that tracks down metalheads from significant albums past who have dropped off the radar; longhairs who played some part in an album that has been firmly lodged in metal's history but then have seemingly vanished. These guys are living a strange kind of double life now: they are among the living, amongst the normals, living life beside those who haven't played on monumental metal albums. But, even if most people they encounter from day to day don't know what they've been involved in, we know what they've done in the past and for that, we salute them, and vow to never forget them.
Got someone you want us to track down? Let us know!
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Remember Brutal Truth's first album, Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses? Listen, you damn well better: it's one of the best grind/death albums of all time, if not the best. The drumming on the album is phenomenal, a whirlwind of natural, non-triggered blast beats that went faster than most beats had gone up to that point; funny, really, considering the dude behind the chaos, Scott Lewis, had come from New York doom crew Winter, who played some of the slowest tempos imaginable. Lewis disappeared after the landmark album (and the follow-up Perpetual Conversion EP, which also rules), barely to be heard from again (he played with weirdo grinders Exit-13 from 1992 to 1994, appearing on their Ethos Musick opus).
Well, we had to break that silence. Nothing about Lewis' career up until '94 or so signified silence: it was all about the noise. Silence doesn't fit him. So we had to break it. Period. What we found out was unexpected: his life since BT has been a confusing mixture of Apple customer service, a slew of side projects with pals that he doesn't "consider print-worthy", cover bands that yer pops might like, and time spent recovering and re-figuring himself out after the whirlwind of metal the man was once immersed in.
Hey, how's it going? What are you up to today?
Things are good. Currently working on getting into film/video. I'm writing some screenplays and getting ready to do a music video and a short film.
Pardon me if this has been covered elsewhere, but I've never really read the reason why you left Brutal Truth. What happened there?
Well, probably the main reason you never read why I left is we don't really talk about it. I don't think anyone has ever put it in print, and it will stay that way. Out of respect for everyone involved, it just wasn't necessary to get into it. The official response is "creative differences."
Are you still in touch with those guys? What do you think of the post-you BT material?
Yeah, kinda. I stay in touch but we don't "hang out", per se. I will talk with Danny (bassist Dan Lilker) once in a blue moon. I really wish we could actually get together, but everyone is so scattered around, me being in Pittsburgh, and they being here and there. I really only know or have a relationship with Kevin (vocalist Kevin Sharp) and Danny. They are real busy, too. As for the post-me BT, I think it's great for what it was, but I like what the last two records were doing. It seemed like them splitting up and re-grouping made an impact on the music. It feels more raw and old school, but polished. There's some melody and weirdness in there that I can appreciate.
I left right after we had about 80-85 percent of Need to Control written. If you compare Extreme Conditions . . . to Need to Control, there is a big difference. We wanted to get more experimental and not be predictable, but still keep the grooves and grind attitude. It was very natural creating all those tracks, but it didn't feel right to me at the time, for some reason. I guess I wanted to be more "noise" but more metal and less punk. People still tell me it is their favourite BT album. I guess it was a weird transitional period and everything after seemed more punk-oriented. That's not a bad thing, just more "sloppy" for me, for lack of a better term. I guess I was thinking in terms of Napalm meets Naked City as the general vibe. But that's a tall order.
Metal fans know you for your work on Extreme Conditions, but can you tell us what you've been up to since?
After we did Extreme Conditions and the Perpetual Conversion EP, Danny, Shane (Napalm Death's Shane Embury), and I did Malformed Earthborn, and after leaving BT, I took a long hiatus. I was just exhausted with the music biz. Playing wasn't fun anymore. When I moved to Pittsburgh, I met some guys and played bass in Filthboy for a bit. After that ended, I walked the Earth and decided to be an adult and get a full-time job. I worked for Apple Inc. for a few years as a trainer and got certified in all the software I could, including Logic Pro. I was getting certified in Final Cut Pro before we parted ways, and now I'm trying to get into the production side of things.
A guy I worked with at Apple convinced me to come out of "retirement" to play in a '50s-'70s rock/soul/r+b/funk cover band with him. He also convinced me to try out for his real band and I agreed. The cover band is Rich Mahogany and The Leather Bound Books, and the other band is The Borderless Puzzle. Both are very far from what people know me for, but I always like a challenge and, most importantly, having fun with my music. I work with great musicians and great people who are very good friends. What's better than that?
When you look back on Extreme Conditions, how do you feel about it?
Oh, I have nothing but great memories of it. The expression "lightning in a bottle" always comes to mind. We did Extreme Conditions in, like, 2 weeks or something. We had a great producer and engineers, and we were all amped. It was just a great time to do it. We knew Napalm was the shit and we knew there would be comparisons, but we felt it was something different and special. We didn't plan for it to be as fast or extreme as it came out. It just happened. We were doing our thing and that is what is on the record. I remember being in a lot of pain after my drums were done (laughs). I was rubbing all my joints with Tiger Balm between takes. It was hard work, but it was a blast.
The weirdest part about that record is after it came out, though. It was the reactions that were so mixed and bizarre. Some wrote that it was unlistenable and garbage, and others felt it was groundbreaking and unique. It was always our perception that we were just doing grind-core with a NYC twist on it. It was a known genre, but some people didn't get the Napalm Death influences or the death metal influences. Some death metal bands didn't even want to play with us because they said we were noise. On the other hand, noise bands embraced us with open arms. One real strange incident was in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the Fear Factory tour in . . . 1993? After the show, which was manic, I ran into a kid in a hallway who was hammered drunk, sweaty and bloody. He obviously had a great time and he approached me and hugged me. He said he came to the show alone because none of his friends wanted to go. He said they thought that I was a drum machine and BT was a bunch of posers. He said he was going to the show just to make sure and that he was blown away. He said, "My friends are going to be pissed!" That was hilarious shit.
Plus, you did time in Winter! That rules. Another great band. We always got a bang out of you going between the fastest and the slowest band out there . . . does this say something about your personality?
Maybe it says I'm bi-polar (laughs). Seriously, though, it wasn't a conscious decision. It just happened that way. I parted ways with Winter, and Danny and I had always stayed in touch. So when he came to me with his demo tapes of what he wanted to do, I got it immediately, and we went for it. It just got faster and faster as we played together. Danny and I shared vocals at the time so when Kevin was recruited, I could focus on my drums, and I was off to the races. I guess, in a way, if I wasn't in Winter before BT, BT might not have been as fast and extreme. I loved Winter and still do, but it was kind of like being in traffic on the highway for two hours and finally being able to drive the speed limit. Most people speed up a little down the highway to make up for sitting still so long.
Are you still following/listening to metal?
Not really listening as much as following. I know what's out there, but I'm not a fan of much. Most of the time I listen to old shit. I'll bust out Entombed's Clandestine once in a while, and it is still the shit. Nobody is really bringing it like that anymore.
What do you do for work now?
Well, I'm in between 9-to-5s right now. I'm taking the time to develop my skills as a director and filmmaker. After working in Apple retail for the last few years, I really don't want to work with the public for a while. It's exhausting and frustrating. Being a trainer, though, did help me a lot with patience and communication. I learned a lot from Apple and am proud of my time there. For now, though, I want to take on the challenge of making films and the whole process that includes.
Got any messages to give to the metalheads out there today?
Yes. Stop being metalheads! (laughs) What I mean is, there's a stigma attached to metal, and we need to be more open to everything. I know this isn't the case with everyone, but the typical metalhead is very closed-minded. There is nothing wrong with loving metal, just don't be so closed off to other music.
Nowadays, too, it's easier to do the DIY route and not have to rely on anyone else. It's exciting to see that a whole record can be written, recorded, and distributed all from someone's bedroom. But that doesn't mean it should look or sound like shit. Get the skills and knowledge and learn your craft. Hone your skills and don't settle for "okay". We are all doing this because we are musicians and love music. That should show in what you put out. Nothing that has impact is without sacrifice.
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