Denver horrorcore giant Scum on the devotion of fans and how the genre is definitely not dead
Since immigrating from Russia in 1992, Ivan Ovchinnikov -- better known by his stage name, Scum -- has grown into one of the best-selling horrorcore artists in the country, through relentless touring and with Lyrikal Snuff Productions, the label he founded more than a decade ago. In that time, Scum (due tonight and tomorrow night at the Roxy Theatre with Twiztid) has built up a massive underground following.
"I came from Moscow in '92," says Scum, who didn't speak English very well as a high-school student in the U.S.; as a result, he found himself somewhat isolated from his classmates and turned to music as a refuge. "I started listening to death metal," he recalls. "I didn't get into rap until I understood the language more." And once he did, he began to express himself in a way that has clearly resonated with a legion of fellow outcasts.
"When people are having a bad day, instead of doing something bad, they can pop in a Scum CD," Scum points out. "The genre is not for the rich guy with the awesome body and the model girlfriend. That guy is going to be talking about popping bottles, where the horrorcore fan can't afford to pop a bottle on their paycheck."
This relational bond extends beyond fans. With Lyrikal Snuff Productions, Scum works with an array of like-minded artists. Since launching in 2002, the label has issued more than forty releases, by acts such as Insane Poetry, a twenty-year veteran of the horrorcore genre from California, Dark Half from Wisconsin, Diabolik from Ohio and Smallz One, among others. Scum himself is held in high regard in horrorcore, and from the sound of it, it takes a lot of work to maintain that status.
"I have fifteen people who work exclusively on the whole persona of Scum," he notes. "I am not in the top three, but I am definitely in the top ten" acts in the genre, he says. Indeed, Scum is in plenty of fine company, having appeared on numerous tracks with acts like Esham, Mastamind, Prozak, Doomsday, Q Strange and King Gordy, all horrorcore mainstays.
And contrary to popular opinion, the movement is only getting bigger, according to Scum. "If you go to Google right now, you will find articles saying horrorcore is dead, but it's not," he declares. "It is just scattered all around the world."
It's certainly alive and well here in Denver, thanks to Scum, who runs the Roxy Theatre with Troll of Slo Pain, who handles booking. "It actually works well, because Troll is the exact opposite of me," says Scum. "I hate dealing with booking and he hates working with numbers. So he holds the place down when I'm on tour."
After playing shows in other venues, the two finally found a home base for their burgeoning scene. "The Roxy really helped us, because I'm banned from so many places in town," says Scum. "I used to have to lie to venues to play there, and they would be like, 'What's up with all the juggalos?' 'Uh, we fliered an ICP concert?'"
No need to conceal the truth anymore. The underground is thriving, with no plans to stop anytime soon. "I feel like now I have to do it for the Scum fans," Scum concludes. "If I quit, I'm going to let these people who love me down. I have people who have my logo tatted on their neck."
Keep reading for more of our full interview with Scum
Westword: As a busy business owner and head of a label, what are the most pressing things on your table right now?
Scum (aka Ivan Ovchinnikov): It's the busiest time of the year for us. We got a MMMFD [Make My Motherfucking Day] album coming out, a duo project from me and Pyscho Insane Poetry, which was one of my biggest influences growing up. The album is done except for one song. Going to press November 9th, same day the new Smallz One album drops. We just dropped a video for it.
Who is Smallz One?
It's actually our only female artist. She is formally from New Mexico and currently in Idaho. Great artist. We just dropped a video, and it's buzzing right now, called "Seldom Ever Seen." November 9th you will get both the albums for the price of one ticket. Then MMMFD kicks off a tour, and it's going to hit about twenty cities and tour all the way until Christmas. When we are on the road, the new Dark Half mixtape is coming out; our top Wisconsin selling act, they are fucking amazing. [The album is] titled The Hemingway Solution.
What else you got coming out?
We just signed an act named Dieabolik from Ohio. He is dope; his album is dropping. The final Drastik album is also dropping, so there are five albums dropping on LSP from now until the end of the year. Five albums, a new tour, got a new office, new products to support all those releases -- posters, CDs, lanyards, hoodies, pretty much everything that supplies our site gorehop.com -- hundreds of products over there. By the end of the year we will be at 42 releases as a label.
When was the first release?
The first full length album, like actual exclusive content, hit the stores in '02, which was the Lyrikal Snuff Productions. Eleven years ago, the first one came out.
So starting from then in 2002 to now, obviously a lot of things have changed, but how has that affected your artistry? Do you get to work on your artistry with all the behind the scenes things you do?
Not nearly [enough]. If I get 20 percent to dedicate to Scum the artist, that would be great; chances are I don't. As far as all the changes, that's all it's been the last eleven years, surviving and adapting. CD game is pretty much is over. Physical copies are declining. Digital is on the rise. This website is going down; this one new site is appearing.
We sold thousands of copies of CDs on Myspace, and then Myspace died. Now Facebook has come around, and Facebook is being monetized. I mean they are doing everything in their power to cock-block an independent artist from promoting without having to pay. So I'm barely keeping up with it.
To be honest, when people talk about Scum, I think of team, because I have fifteen people who work on the whole persona of Scum. Without the label backing me, the merch guys, the website moderators, the promoters, my family helping me each step of the way, I'd fold and hang myself in the closet. [laughing] My drunk ass hopping and screaming on stage is probably 25 percent of it; the other 75 percent is my team, realistically.
Tell me more about your fan base, and about some of the things that really opened your eyes on the road that show just how big the brand has become?
As far as eye-opening, we are working on a collage of LSP-related tattoos -- we just were like, 'Hey, send us pictures of your tattoos,' and we now have over 200 pictures from all over the world. I mean there are cats in Australia, England, Sweden.
I feel like if I quit, I am going to let those who love me down. I have people who have my logo tatted on their neck. I mean they have our shit on their head. [shakes head in disbelief] If I quit, they may want to kill me. [laughing]
I mean look at John Lennon, Look at Dimebag, once you build this cult, build this brand, if not for yourself, [you] do it for the fans. They wake up and have a fucked up day and need you to help them get through it. All the sudden, I start to do R&B or something and someone might cocktail my house. [laughing]
I love our fan base. I mean, these guys -- what made me realize the change, when we were first doing this thing in Denver, we'd have a lot of people, but I knew almost everybody by name -- that's the difference between real fans and homies: Artists say, 'Yeah I got a lot of fans.' No, you have a lot of friends.
A fan is someone who is decked out in your gear, got your tattoo on their arm, and you don't [know] who the fuck they are. But they know who the fuck you are; they know your lyrics, got your albums. That's a real fan, and you owe them; they are supporting you, and they don't even know me as a person, but they like my music. We value those. We go to places all over the country.
I realized that you cant be stationary with this genre. You can look up on Google right now, and you will find articles saying "horrocore is dead," but it's not dead; it's scattered all over the world. There might be ten fans in this small town, or this small town, a hundred fans there. Unless you travel and you're willing to go to spot to spot, you're not going to reach them, it's not a wealthy scene.
Where is this next tour taking you?
West Coast, Nevada for sure. I don't know if we will hit Cali, but it is where Insane Poetry is from, so we kind of have to hit California. Spokane, Austin, Dallas, Houston. I like Chicago, love Wisconsin. It's a great market. Massachusetts, Ohio, around Cleveland. Shit you could do a whole week in Ohio. Albuquerque, gotta hit Albuquerque. Can't skip Minnesota; it's a dope spot. Indiana. Man, there are so many.
So it seems like you're hitting this Midwest, hardworking, blue-collar type of fans.
Yeah. Not happy, a lot of depressed areas, a lot of alcohol and domestic abuse. Oklahoma is good for us. The list goes on and on. Michigan used to be great, and I just had to cut it off the list.
People are just too broke and depressed. The economy has died off; people are broke. People don't have enough money to eat. Five or six people living on a McDonald's income is not going to work. I mean the people come out to the parking lot and say, "Hey, Scum, great to see you. I wish I could have come, maybe next time." You can't expect them to buy jerseys and hats and CDs. They have kids to feed. I really love Michigan, and I hope something turns around there. I used to play there four or five times a year.
Why do you think those type of places really identify with you?
It's the areas. Horrorcore doesn't appeal to wealthy people. The genre is not for the rich guy with the awesome body and the model girlfriend. If you have a perfect life, you're not going want to hear about random shootings and burning down business and random acts of violence. That guy is going to be talking about popping bottles, where the horrorcore fan can't afford to pop a bottle on their paycheck.
Do you think maybe its catharsis?
I really do. I am one of the most positive people, and I make the most negative music. Really because a lot of that negative shit goes into my music, and that's why it's authentic. It's the same for a lot of my fans. When people are having a bad day, instead of doing something bad, they pop in a Scum CD, and feel like, 'Hey, maybe my life isn't so bad." Then take their ass to work and have a good day. Go to our show jump in the mosh pit, have a bloody lip but feel better. I was the same way.