Initially a Manchester-based collaboration between guitarist Peter J Taylor (formerly of Action Beat) Gnod co-founder Chris Haslam on bass and his bandmate Jon Perry – also of Shuck – on drums, the thick gauze of Holy Scum’s jams from deep inside a Victorian mill have been pulled apart in production by one of half of legendary hip-hop duo Dälek, Mike Mare (aka Mike Manteca). In fact, he also provides the growling, guttural vocals that fight the elements around them. This all comes together like a ten-car pile-up on their debut record Strange Desires.
“At first we were just turning up to our space in Brunswick Mill, having a chat, drinking some beers and jamming on some riffs, which eventually started to become this mostly improvised, free noise grind” says Haslam. “When Mike got involved it became another thing entirely to what we had originally perceived. He added a whole new dimension to what we had been working on.”
Taylor, Perry and Haslam came into each other’s orbit at Salford’s Islington Mill, an artist studio space and former venue where Haslam spent many years living as well as forging new frontiers in dark and heavy experimentalism, and where Taylor and Perry were frequent visitors. Mare and Taylor, meanwhile, go back to 2007, with Action Beat having subsequently played numerous shows with the former’s solo project Destructo Swarmbots as well as Dälek. Taylor initially reached out to him to provide some guest vocals, but once the producer started opening up the tracks he found himself adding synths alongside his vocals, as well as twisting, contorting and layering up the group’s already lacerating fuzz into something even more behemothic.
“Mike was the ultimate producer” says Taylor. “He kept asking if it was okay to fuck what we sent him up and we kept asking him to fuck it up even more. I kept referencing My Bloody Valentine in terms of creating a wall of noise, but we wanted it to be heavy as fuck.”
The result is a thunderous tumult of sound – slabs of synapse-mangling noise that snarl their way through the scorched earth of Mare’s production. As the group howled and thrashed their way through the surrounding sonic fire, Mare kept his vocal takes to single run-throughs, keen to keep the spontaneity of the original sessions front and centre of the album.
“All of the lyrics revolve around the collapse of society, feeling numb watching it happen, what it's like on the other side communicating with the dead and looking to other worlds for relief” says Mare. “These were the ideas flowing through my head as I freestyled the vocal tracks, definitely inspired a lot by 2020 but also by a lifetime of curiosity about speaking with the dead.”
Strange Desires is a record for the moment, and beyond. A celebration of the collaborative spirit in all of its twisted forms, and a howl amidst a world fallen off its axis. Holy Scum are unflinching in their confrontation of it, meeting fire with fire on this most stunning debut.
Limited edition pink vinyl.