“I try to sound like something between the Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails,” says Scott Lamb, founder of the industrial / trip-hop / breakbeat outfit DeathBoy, about his musical style. “If anything, what we end up sounding like is probably testament to my inability to emulate others as much as having any sort of unique and defining sound of my own.”
For all his self-deprecating snarkiness, Scott’s accomplishments are a lot more admirable than he’s making them out to be. A computer and iPhone game coder by day and a musician by night (“And usually by vodka”), he’s been making music since he was a teenager. Under the DeathBoy banner, Scott’s released two commercial albums so far — Music to Crash Cars To and End of an Error, the latter of which was co-produced by John Fryer who’s worked with the likes of Depeche Mode and Jesus Jones.
But it’s mostly through his non-commercial work — tracks that he makes available online for free — that Scott’s earned a name for himself. “I started releasing music online pretty much as soon as I had the ability to do so,” he says. “I used to put up tracks in fucking awful low-fi ADPCM WAV files before MP3s had become widespread.
“Things really got moving in about 1999 when I used mp3.com. It was quite amazing seeing a track get over 1,000 downloads when you were just some anonymous twat in a bedroom in Wimbledon, singing into a ten quid mic.”
In an era where the more traditional elements of the music industry continue to feel threatened by file-sharing, a move like that more than a decade ago seems… well, ahead of its time. What could possibly have convinced Scott to take this route — putting out his music as often as possible and garnering fans, and not just sales — well before more mainstream artists caught on?
“Because no fucker would buy it?”
Well, all right. Fair enough.
He continues, “Seriously though, it’s amazingly hard to earn money from selling music right now. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you need to be astoundingly motivated and not a little bit lucky.
“Accepting that we weren’t going to get rich any time soon was quite liberating and informed a lot of the choices we made. It’s a big load off your back to be able to make music for pleasure and put the cash well down the list.”
Of course, this method of release works for Scott in other ways too. “I primarily write music to get demons off my back. I get a huge kick knowing that it’s being listened to and might have become part of someone’s personal soundtrack.”
Scott’s inks aren’t as much about expelling demons, but the stories behind them are just as personal. While he hasn’t gotten that many tattoos — he only has work done on his arms at the moment — what he does have are all his own designs. “I draw my own stuff because I don’t like the idea of rocking up to a pub with the same flash art as the guy next to me at the bar. But I always draw it in vector packages at too high resolution, and then get into arguments with folks about what level of detail can be achieved.”
“One of my pieces was done in exactly that way,” he says. “I made it too fiddly, but the local artist was pretty bad-ass and said he’d happily attempt it if I fucked off and let him set up a gun with less needles so he could get the detail in. I think it was only three-point in the end, but he really got the detail super-fine.”
The design was originally meant to be a ring of stylised dragons chasing their tails, each dragon representing a different person that was important to Scott. Things, however, didn’t go exactly according to plan. “In the first sitting, I only had time to get the outlines and a single dragon filled in. Before it was finished, I lost my job and couldn’t afford the subsequent sittings, and finally moved out of the area when I found a new job.
“The result being I only had the one dragon filled in, but in the meantime, I’d become quite distanced from a lot of the people the others represented, so in the end, I left the piece as it was. It is — and looks — half-finished, but for me, it’s complete. I’m sure a lot of my friends think I look a twat with a half-finished piece on my arm.”
The one before that — a Yin / Yang ink on his right arm — was for the people Scott met when he moved away from home. “[It was] a fucking tiny little spark that, for me at the time, represented coming out of depression and having a glint of light at the end of the tunnel.”
His last is, as he puts it, “possibly the most clichéd of the lot”: a barb wire arm band on his left arm. “I took no end of shit for [it], but it reminded me of a kick-arse club in Liverpool called the Krazy House where I got shitfaced during my degree. While I was at uni, I bought 30 meters of barbed wire from a hardware store and bent it into a necklace that cut me to ribbons most nights and was fucking ridiculous to wear out in public, but made me grin.”
“Of course,” he adds, “you can buy rubber ones from any Hot Topic now. I was young; it seemed like a laugh at the time.”
He does plan on getting more, particularly a Space Invaders band on his right arm to compliment the wire on his left, and to represent his time as a game coder. Another source of inspiration for future ink, however, would be his son Corben.
“I’ll definitely get something to represent how important the tiny bastard is to me,” he says, with a straight face. “Perhaps a grinning baby-demon overlord, ruling my life from on high. I haven’t really settled on the symbolism that’d be appropriate…”
He may seem casual about it, but being a dad has undoubtedly made a huge impact on Scott’s life, overshadowing everything — including his music. “[Fatherhood has] made me write less because I’m less broken since he arrived,” he says, honestly. “It’s painfully trite, but the tiny fucker makes my universe make sense now. I’m a hollow, empty, angry bastard usually, but since the tiny overlord arrived, you get that hit of Unconditional Love from a parasitic organism that can’t survive without you and it’s like crack. The babydrugs take over.
“So, yeah, I’m less pissed off, and that means less music. I’ve written a few references to the little guy, and a lot more regarding my break-up with his mum. But generally, if something makes me happy, it doesn’t feature in my music — and he really does make me happy.”
Scott’s future plans range from the simple to the slightly more… ambitious. “I want to get Rutger Hauer to do me a voice sample!” he says. “This is a very new idea. I got drunk recently and love schlock sci-fi and everyone has sampled Blade Runner, so I realised it’d be amazing to find out if you can pay the fucker to actually do a very small bit of voice-acting and make a sample just for your track. Probably won’t happen. Probably…”
“In much more realistic terms,” he continues, “this year, I’m really hoping to reconnect with the people from the bands in our scene who I adore. Ben from TIRS, Xykogen and AlterRed, Lee Chaos, Pete iAi, Martin Katscan, Tarantella Serpentine, Anton of Bleak — all people my music developed with and who I’m lucky enough to know as good mates, and with whom I just need to get a night when we’re not all fucking working or already booked.
“I’m [also] working on remixes for a few new friends too, such as the excellent and insane Mister Caustic. These plans will only be limited by time and North London’s vodka supply.”
As for his day job, Scott’s finishing up a game at the moment because “you’ve got to pay the bills.” Once that’s done and he’s a bit more freed up, he plans on getting the band back together to finish another non-commercial album called CogRock, planning a live set for later in the year, and “the most horrifying prospect of them all: the next commercial album.”
“My wife will be moving to the UK in the middle of the year, and mid-to-late 2010, we should be picking up UK dates again to show everyone we’re still alive,” he continues. “It’s been just about long enough that I reckon I can stomach the endless time spent in vans and eating junk food to play to three Goths and a whippet.
“It’s going to be emotional.”
(Photos are © Silver AJ)
(All tracks by DeathBoy and are licensed and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales.)