Scott Kelly of Neurosis on how he and the band treat every show like it's the last one they'll play
Brendan Tobin Photography
Founded in 1985 by a group of teenage friends who had been part of the Bay Area hardcore scene, Neurosis was never just a conventional band. Dabbling in heady ideas and archetypes of the human imagination, Neurosis is one of the most influential metal bands of the last two decades, casting a shadow on any music in which mood and atmosphere are informed by diving deeply into the imagination. With Neurosis, the five members of this group all wanted to do something markedly different, and to this day, they continue to explore their creative expression through the music. As a result, the outfit has never been short on creating an alloy out of the emotional, the intellectual, the spiritual and the visceral.
The band's latest effort, 2012's Honor Found in Decay, strikes the balance between the glacial pace of The Eye of Every Storm and the primal catharsis of Souls At Zero. We recently spoke with the always engaging, humble and bright Scott Kelly about the shedding of the band's signature visuals, the music as a ritualistic celebration of anti-time and how being people who have always been outside the center of mainstream culture has lead them to the path that has informed the group's experientially rich music.
Westword: What made this the right time for what seems to be a more extended tour?
Scott Kelly: I think we've been stretching out a little bit and getting more in the groove of playing more shows every year. Kids are getting a little older. We basically added maybe five or ten more shows this year than we have in the last few. We set out to really make sure we could get to a lot of places that we hadn't been in a long time and be selective regionally. We wanted to play places people could travel understanding that it's hard for people, especially financially speaking, to travel.
But we put ourselves in positions where people can get to see us if they so choose and if they're able to. We're not in a position to travel and hit every place, and I don't know if we ever will be again. We may, but it's difficult to imagine the entire band being free to tour for two months at this point. I don't see it in the next ten years. We work regular jobs, and we have children, and we have other commitments, and that's basically how we decide what we can do.
Your shows are obviously known for being a multimedia affair almost as much as a musical experience. When did that become an important part of your show?
Ironically, that's not a part of it anymore. We don't do visuals in our show anymore. But we started doing them about twenty years ago. It was part of our original vision for what we wanted to do, as well as incorporating keyboards and stuff like that. It took us about five years to get to the point where we could actually figure out how to do it, and found people who could do it, and we started collaborating and working together.
Twenty years later, we kind of felt like we needed to revisit that whole idea of the visual presentation for a number of reasons, mainly being that we felt like we wanted to turn it off for a while. We felt like there were enough screens in the world between all the phones, computers and TVs that are flashing in people's faces all day that us contributing one more hypnotizing image machine wasn't helping the world in any way.
So we are taking a stripped down approach to it right now. We're basically just going with a real basic lighting set-up, nothing special, and concentrating on the songs. It's freed us to be able to change the set when we feel like it. If we decide to do an older song, we just learn it and play it. We're not tied to the visuals like we were and like we have been for the last twenty years.
We may revisit them in the future. We're already talking about possible ways to do it, but we just kind of decided we wanted to do it a different way. It needed to be done differently. The way we had been doing it for twenty years just wasn't inspiring for us. Josh [Graham], the guy who's been doing it for the last twelve years, felt the same. It was a mutual thing. He was kind of done being a projectionist and wanted to focus on his band, A Storm of Light.
Continue reading for more from Scott Kelly.