Ill At Ease

Release Date: 1995
Label: RooArt Records [2068300010]
Producer: Henry Rollins

Track Listing:
10 LMA

Recorded: Recorded at Nesci Studios July/August 1995.

John Scott – Guitar/Vocals
Kim Scott – Bass
Aaron Hewson – Drums

Was also released in a Limited Edition Double CD in 1997 [rooArt TMOC2) with Interloper EP 5 track bonus disc
Extra Tracks:
Interloper (Who Made Who Mix) radio edit
The Contender (Rock And Roll Remix) radio edit
Degenerate Boy
Call In Anger (Remix)
You Let Me Down (Biomechanical Mix)

Re-released in re-mastered form with a bonus track in 1998 (rooArt 74321-61730-2).
Extra Track:

John Scott has provided an insight into a few of the tracks from the album.

Track 2 – Hindsight

“Some of these lyrics are intensely personal. They are about aspects of my life that while I put them out there in the public domain – I sort of don’t wish to dissect them and display them like some science experiment. The lyrics basically reflect a person who is having a great deal of regret about influencing another person’s life, such that they end up in a bad position, and that hindsight is 20/20. The idea came from a Jim Thompson book called “The Killer Inside Me” . This is Thompson’s best known novel and is the story of a doomed smalltown sheriff unable to control his bloodlust as circumstances force him to kill and kill again. It’s a very cool book.

The song was written back around 94 I think – Kim wrote the bassline that happens near the end which I really love. Seems a fight always occurs when we play this song live. ”

Track 5 – Pointman

“I was just reading about Lead Scouts last night actually, which sort of helps me explain this. When infantry are moving through enemy contested areas, they have one or two men out in front of everyone else, and these guys are totally alone and are constantly of guard looking for enemy and in particular enemy ambushes. They have a high casualty rate, as they are often killed before they even hear the bullet that shot them. In WW2, there was usually one guy with a Garand and another with a Tommy gun, and they would slowly walk ahead of the rest of the column and try find the enemy. In Vietnam, the term lead scout was replaced with Pointman, however, both names are used today. When I read about these guys it just struck me how totally full on their job is. On edge the whole time, away from the rest of the troops, eyes and ears straining the whole time, any minute expecting death. How do you deal with that? And I though also, how there is the metaphor of the pointman in non-combat life, the type of people who are out there by themselves away from the mainstream and living outside of expected norms, pathfinders, freaks, whatever you want to call them, and I thought, how cool.

This song often got tmoc and myself labelled with the term misoginist, because of the line about the girlfriend and the three ways to die. The First is man-made (and again in metaphor mode, this can be a landmine, or being hit by a car), the Second, nature (meaning illness, disease, weird jungle sickness), and the Third, she’s at home with your best friend. That last line was to reflect how relationships can really fuck with you – Ok in non-combat no-one dies of a broken heart supposedly – but the Dear John letter guys received while on duty were real killers. The poor guy who received them would often be unfocussed while on patrol and get shot as a result, or else would not give a fuck anymore, and get shot as a result. And, the fact that this is from the male point of view, does not mean it can’t be “he’s at home with your best friend”, cos women probably get cheated on more, I think. But of course, the dumb-ass critics see this as an anti-female song. It’s about being strong, it’s about being aware of the way you can get fucked up, and trying to stay alive. I get really tired of trying to explain to idiots that I’ve always seen this metaphoric view of the non-combat life we live versus the combat life of soldiers, and that there are things to learn that are common for all walks of life. I don’t think there is glory in war. I do think there is glory in those who step us and put their lives on the line for their nation and who are largely unexceptional people performing exceptionally in exceptional situations.

This song has really weird timing, and I wrote it after playing back First Time on a 4 track and turning down the guitar and bass, and playing a bass along to the drum track. I noticed that if I kept playing the main bassline that the drum stops in first time really screwed with the timing and I thought it really cool. So, the next time at rehearsal, I showed Kim the bassline, and asked Aaron to play First Time, but tune his ears out to what we were going to play. Then we played and it sounded really great, and we slowly worked on it and got it to a complete song. It’s a hard one to work out though for drummers, and even John Stanier called the drums for that one as “Calculus Rock”. Well done John. Also, we play it in E live, but recorded it in D on Ill At Ease as it sounded better. ”

Track 8 – Tell Me

“This riff was written while I was working in Israel, and then me and Kim and Aaron worked on it back in Adelaide. It took a while to get as the drumming was pretty mental and had to be solid as a drum machine, but Aaron was a god solid drum machine like player, so it worked. I remember when we first played it live and no-one could get it, cos it sounded like a mistake, but somehow finally people worked out how to get a groove going whn we played it.

Lyric wise it was about needing to know. Know what? I don’t know, I think it’s more an existential question, like why are we here, why am I, who are you, and who are you to tell me anyway. Mixed anger of youth and finding your way. Next…. ”

Track 9 – The Contender

“I had this riff for ages and could never get it to work. Then I was in Sydney for a while for my job and everyday I listened to band rehearsal tapes on my way to work, and the Contender riff came on and I think there was some mistake that lasted for a few seconds and I suddenly knew where the song had to go. it was the last song worked out before recording Ill at Ease, and in fact i remember we were still sorting it out arrangement wise the day we recorded it. I wanted to write this song about lost hopes, like Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront”, where he tells his brother he could have been a Contender and made it but he took the fall that was expected of him and now he was screwed, a wash-up. Then the ending moves to the idea of the final round where his last bit of energy is used to transform into a stronger version of what he was, and even though he’s beaten, and is screaming “if not for you”, he’s re-invented himself so to speak and able to carry on. He recognises that it was his hand that pegged himself into this position. Love the bassline in this song. It’s sort of like Big Black’s “Kerosene” – which has a great bassline and drums behind it. Ours is a little more melancholy. I imagine the Contender jogging along, alone, as the guitar line plays it’s melancholy tune. ”

Track 10 – LMA

“Everyone always asks what this stands for, and I’m always a little hesitant because it is personal to me and also to friends of who this is about. Around ’86 my girlfriend at the time and I watched Haley’s Comet, while laying on our backs in a friends backyard. I said how the next time it came around we would be dead (pretty romantic hey), and she replied something of the nature of, so-what, when you’re dead what can you do, and stated it didn’t frighten her in the least. I thought this was just trying to be tough, and said I was not looking forward to my extinction and that it really bothered me. Anyway, time went by, we split, but remained friends. A few years later she came to my house, and was in tears, and I was in a relationship at the time and my new girlfriend wasn’t impressed with this impromptu visit, but, I sat outside and talked with my ex, and she said how she now realised what I’d been talking about when I spoke of death and the meaning of life and all that heavy stuff you go through when you are younger, and she said she was just starting to ask those questions herself, which she’d laughed off so toughly a few years before. And she apologised for laughing at my seriousness back then. I didn’t really know what to say, but I was glad she had become this intensely cool girl who was really trying to understand life and was reading cool books about it. I would then see her now and then, maybe at a gig, but that was the last real talk I ever had with her.

Then in about 94 (I think, and I’ve erased a lot of this period from my memory as it was pretty painful) – she died of an accidental overdose. She really was a girl who could take care of herself, but in this case, she just didn’t take care enough. Her funeral was intense, it seemed like half of Adelaide was there. And it was such a shocking loss, as she was doing well as an actor, and was getting somewhere, and even her use illegal substance use was something she was putting behind her. Just one unlucky time had claimed her. She had been growing daisies in her garden just before she died, and they had been placed in front of the coffin so that those who wanted could take one and place it on the coffin. That was hard to do.

Even though I hadn’t really spoken to her during the last few years, I had seen her about 6 months before her death, and we’d talked about life, and she asked me if it got any easier, and I told her that it does. After the funeral, I couldn’t stop thinking about the waste of life, and the hurt for her parents and brother and sister. I remember we went on tour soon after and while we were driving back from Melbourne all I could think of was “Where are you? Where are you now?”. And this wasn’t the first person I knew to have ever died either, but it was the one that touched me the most.

So, I remembered the first time we met under the stairs at the Austral Hotel in Adelaide, during the summer and that she was wearing a blue dress, and that she asked me to her birthday the next day. I turned up and there was no one there but her. I don’t even think it was her birthday. She just said it to get me to visit. I think that was why I missed her so much, because she was the first girl who had ever asked me out. And, it was a hot summer and she wore Indian perfume, which I still like to this day.

And the initials LMA? Her family called her Little Miss Australia as a nickname from when she was little. So, when I wrote some lyrics just trying to make some sense out of my feelings after her death, I placed LMA in there as it sounded like Ella-May, and I thought that it had a soft sound. TMOC are not noted for romantic songs about love, but somehow I needed to write this one. So I found a chord that sounded sad and melancholy and we worked on the song until it was finished. I really love that song. For a long time it was hard to sing. When I recorded it for Ill at Ease and did the vocals, we all got a bit choked, and you can hear my voice sort of break during it, but I left it in.

What is really weird, is around ’88 there was me, LMA, and 2 other friends of mine Steve and Pete in Steve’s landrover and we were going to a party somewhere, and trying to find a park. Steve ran down a couple of matchsticks (the thin poles with a red top) to make some room near a curb and we all thought it was pretty funny (as you do when you are young and vandalise property) – And now, in 2004, I’m the only one left. Pete committed suicide for no known reason with his new bride in 97, and Steve died in Dec 1999, never making it into the new century. We all shared a sense of humour that was the same, and a sense of hedonism that perhaps was responsible in some way for their deaths, and I think that is probably why I still feel lonely sometimes, because the people who I bonded with and who I felt really understood me, just don’t exist anymore. It’s weird. Anyway, now you know what LMA stands for, and what its about. Sorry it’s a bummer of a story, but it reminds me to enjoy every day that I can. “