Archive for March, 2009


Split Wide Open – In Depth with Cannibal Corpse

March 2, 2009

Cannibal Corpse are perhaps the best know off Death Metal bands around today. Over twenty years since their inception and their latest album ‘Evisceration Plague’ sounds a brutal and bloodthirsty as ever I met bassist Alex Webster and drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz on the eve of their first UK headline show in nearly 3 years and set down to find out if they really do have a skull full of maggots…

Paul H:Does it feel good to be back in the UK?

Alex: Yeah we’re having a great time over here. It’s the first time since 2006, last European tour was in 2007 and we missed on coming here completely not one single show! So yeah it’s great to be back and we’ve been having such great shows here! We’re psyched!

PH:You’re currently on tour with Children of Bodom, how’s that been?

A: It’s been really cool!

Paul M:Yeah it’s been different our first opener in Europe ever, so it’s a little different for us but we’ve been getting some great responses and they’re really cool guys so yeah it’s been a good one!

PH:The crowds are obviously made up of both your fans and fans of Bodom, what’s the reception been like?

A: You know, it’s been great they’re definitely nights where there are a lot of people who might not be that familiar with us they’re kinda standing there checking us out and we’ve got our core following going crazy in the pit. Were completely ok with that were happy to be out there obviously to play to our core audience but also to introduce some people who wouldn’t listen to us normally coming along and checking us out. So yeah it’s been great.

You’re only playing one headline show this time around, are we likely to see a headline tour sometime soon?

PM: O of course this by no means is gonna be what we do now where we come along and open for bands in fact we’ll be headlining and there’ll a proper tour, death metal package, heavy package so yeah that’ll definitely happen.

Death metal is a very demanding style of music to play, how do you manage it?

A: We just try to practise a lot, I know it seems like the simplest answer to give but it’s what we do and when I say a lot I mean like four days a week as a group and about 2 to 3 hours of those sessions sometimes more depending on what we’re trying to prepare for and we keep that going throughout the year. The longest this band’s every gone without playing together is about 2 months. The rest of the time we’re always practising together. Normally we just start right back up, straight after the tour we’re back in there practising. If you think about the things you do every day, you brush your teeth every day, you shower every day. When you think about all these things you do if you also play a certain group of songs everyday it’ll start to become something that’s really stuck in your head. When you’re on stage you want to be on autopilot you don’t wanna be thinking about it if you think about it you could make a mistake if you’re able to play something by subconscious memory your able to play much better and can focus on something else, like watching the stage divers or something.

PM: when we’ve been playing our instruments for over twenty years, since we were teenagers this is what we’ve always wanted to do. When you play for that long it becomes second nature in a sense of course it’s still physically demanding. You more you do it, the more you play the more you’re out here. I mean obviously we’re getting older that that kinda might throw a little wrench into it. But I mean we’re probably playing better than ever it’s just a case of playing for many years and having the will and the want to play death metal.

Do you drink much when on tour?

A: I don’t drink almost to the point where I can say I almost don’t drink at all but I can’t say that because like last night I had a couple of glasses of wine ya know just after the gig. Our merchandise girl just opened a bottle of wine and was like ‘here ya go have some’ I don’t really party at all and this has been the case on the last few tours. I mean I might get drunk every year or two years. The other guys might drink a little bit more, a couple of beers to relax but we’re not into the hard partying. That’s done mostly when you’re in your twenties and I definitely used to like get drunk after the shows but we never drink before a show. You wanna make sure you’re hitting the stage in a completely as sharp as possible a state.

What’s your drink of choice?

A: Honestly, water as you can see there’s loads around (points out piles of water next to a single bottle of wine). If you wanna know my alcoholic drink of choice I don’t really have one that how little I actually drink. When I drink I don’t really have a preference when the other guys are talking about their favourite beer I’m kinda left out of the conversation.

PM: For me it’s probably Guinness, I’ve had it in Dublin of course with the little shamrock on it! Although they said it was originally and American thing that’s just been transferred back! When we’re here in England we get pretty close to source!

Any tales of alcohol related disaster?

PM: Not really I mean a couple of times some guys might get drunk. I mean on this tour we’re sharing a bus with Diablo and they’re Finnish and they drink like of lot of Finnish and Scandinavian people. I mean on the boat on the way here coming over to England their bassist was really drunk and he fell into a plant and made a huge mess and the staff had to clear it up.

A: Of course he’s got blonde hair and so do I. He was wasted and I had hadn’t had a thing to drink and I came out and all this shits knocked over and these guys are cleaning it up and they’re looking over at me and laughing at me like ‘are you ok now?’ and I’m there like what’s going on! What do you mean! I could tell that they were like ‘oh ok sorry’ I was there all grouchy and sober and they soon figured out that it wasn’t me who’d knocked the plant over!

PM: I mean it’s a story at somebody else’s expense but yeah it was a good one it was very funny!

You’re new album was recently released, are you happy with it?

A: Yeah we’re really happy with it! We’re really happy how it turned out it’s had a really positive response!

Anyone come up to you and said anything about it?

A: Yeah I mean yesterday a guy, an older guy who I talked to after the show in Nottingham, I could see he was older someone closer to our age and he said ‘yes I been with you since the very beginning and I have to be honest I don’t really like the new album’ you know we’re really used to hearing a lot of great things about it. I mean it’s not a bad thing nessacerily he’s coming upon to us and telling it like it is. I mean it was funny ya know cause I said oh well if you listen to it a couple of times maybe you’ll grow to like but he said ‘I really do like the song ‘Evisceration Plague’’ and that’s a real plus because that’s like the most different song on the album but he said again that he just really did not like the rest of the record! I mean it’s been a very positive reaction so far but everybody is different everyone likes different types of music for different reasons and if someone likes it they like it but if they don’t then that’s ok as well!

PM: A good thing about our band is you’ll ask five or ten fans in a row they’ll all give you different albums that are they’re favourite so it’s like ‘oh yeah ‘Kill’ of course is the best album ever’ but you talk to another fan and they’ll be like ‘oh I don’t think so I like ‘Tomb Of The Mutilated’ best’. They’ll always be something in our catalogue that people like so that’s great!

This month with Headbang we’re looking at the issue of censorship, it’s been inspired by the Wikipedia incident involving The Scorpions cover and there was some reaction on internet forums concerning your covers also, what are your thoughts?

A: I heard about that, I guess the difference is that ours are cartoons, they’re painted. I guess the problem with the [‘Virgin Killer’] cover is that in some countries that might be considered to be child pornography. So it really depends on the social morays of each individual country. I mean all of our album covers are definitely really gross but they all have a very surreal quality to them and I think that makes it a little different from an actual photograph.

In terms of censorship within death metal, what’s your view?

A: I think what it should be at the very most they could have like a sticker on the plastic of the album saying like this is not recommended for people under the age of twelve or something ya know like those kind of things but actual censorship no. I mean we’ve had problems in various countries but recently that’s been improved.

Would you agree that the song lyrics aren’t necessarily serious?

A: I think with the older albums there might be of kind of intentional black humour. What we’re trying to do is make these serious horror stories like when a director makes a serious horror movie he’s not saying that he thinks that the main character is someone you should try to emulate. It’s the same thing for us I don’t think that you have to espouse the type of behaviour in a song in order to be able to sing it. Why can’t you have a song about a serial killer and not be a serial killer? I mean when Stephen King wrote ‘The Shining’ does that make him an axe murderer? Of course not he wrote a book about someone who did that! I. It’s the same for us I mean have a song about it but it’s not like we’re saying ‘go out and do this’. We don’t admire the depraved and disgusting characters we’re writing about they’re just really interesting characters. They’re disgusting people for sure!

Have you got a favourite horror movie?

A: Yeah sure I’d have to say ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Exorcist’ I mean I like the really gory movies as well a film like ‘Gates of Hell’. In terms of films that actually scared me it would be ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Exorcist’ they did the job!

PM: For me it would be the original ‘Halloween’ Michael Myers is a really scary character. For us it’s going to be the movies we grew up with of course in the early 80’s.

A: Some much of horror has to do with getting the right atmosphere I mean some people use buckets upon buckets of blood. I mean I’m all for a movie like ‘Evil Dead’ where there’s loads of wild stuff going on but the movies that really scare you are the ones which mess with your mind.

For me I’d have to say a film like ‘The Birds’ is still really scary!

A: Yeah man I mean that’s old real old! For us a lot of the 70’s horror is also great. It’s not at all gory but it’s very frightening!

Do you read much horror fiction?

A: I used to read a lot of them in the mid-90’s or thereabouts but recently it’s been a lot of non-fiction for sorta the last couple of years. I mean I read stuff like H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker and a few Stephen King novels as well. I read back and read some of the old ones like I read ‘Carrie’ which I think might be one of his first ones.

PM: Same thing as Alex really I’ve read Stephen King and various other authors but strictly non-fiction these days.

In some cases of extreme metal there is a strong religious or anti-religious element to the music, is that something that affects Cannibal Corpse?

A: It’s not that big of a deal to us. With our band we try not to have any religious or political messages of any sort of course everyone in this band has their own sort of views of all things religious and political but we never wanted to talk about that stuff in the lyrics or portray any kind of message because as we previously discussed the lyrics are kind of horror stories, fictional horror stories pure and simple we’re not trying to get a message across with any of them so to try and mix in and kind of big religious or political elements wouldn’t really work well for us I don’t think. Also we’re not in 100% agreement with each other about those topics so we figured it best just to keep that s**t off the table entirely.

As it’s your only headline show do you have anything special planned?

A: Well we’re playing nineteen songs tonight whereas with the opening set with Bodom we’ve been doing twelve trying to cover every album. Getting at least one song off every album and some albums we play two songs off of it.

What would be your three desert island discs?

PM: That’s a tough one I mean obviously I’d have to say ‘Reign In Blood’ to be in there, after that it’s really hard cause there’s too many good ones ya know! That’s too hard I hate these questions! (laughs) Alex you go!

A: Slayer, ‘Reign In Blood’, Morbid Angel ‘Alters Of Madness’ and because I’m a bass player I’d need something really bass orientated in there so Johnas Helborg ‘e’. If I had those three on a desert island I’d do pretty well.

PM: I think I’ve got my other two now! I’d have to say Sir Lord Balitmore ‘Kingdom Come’ and Iron Funk the first album.

You’re both original members, in fact the only two remaining in the band now, what are your memories of the early days?

A: I think that I just remember being really young and we were just a bunch of kids trying to do what we enjoy doing really. It was fun, the usual stuff ya know you’re drinking and partying and playing metal. You kinda grill and you mature at a much slower rate most people have to mature much earlier on but when you’re in a band you have more years to mature and still party for longer. I mean now we don’t party as much but we’re still in a band and having a great time. Other than being slightly more mature we’re still very similar to how we were!

When did it hit you that this was going to be a career?

PM: I mean when we got signed really, I mean we were just looking to make music for ourselves to of course play some shows and hopefully people we like it. There was never any sort of looking farther than that we never planned to get signed and go out and tour the world ya know but it was just at that moment we just played shows and made a demo tape. I mean we always thought it would be nice to have an album out so when we actually got the contract and got signed it was such a quick and shocking thing at that point we were like ‘we haven’t even been a band for a year’ we didn’t have enough songs to get on ‘Eaten Back To Life’ we didn’t have enough songs! Everything kinda just hit pretty quick in that way. Before we know it we did ‘Butchered At Birth’ and we’re on tour and selling merchandise it’s just crazy!

A: It’s almost hard to believe we kept waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under us. Like ‘oh you’re not really getting this deal and going to Europe’ we thought ‘this can’t possibly be happening to us! We’re no different from all the hundreds of other bands trying to get things going. So I think that’s part of why we work so hard and we don’t take it for granted and we make the effort to talk to fans after shows and always play our best when on stage. We feel so lucky that it all happened it’s miraculous for any band playing exactly the kinda music they wanna play we can’t believe it!

In terms of Death Metal you guys are up there alongside bands like Possessed as being kind of the pioneers of the genre.

A: For us we kind of see Possessed as being kind of the earlier era, five years might not seem like much now but when we were starting a band in 1988. These were the bands we were looking upto as veterans. I mean a lesser extent Death because they’d been around for a while but weren’t putting out albums till about 86’ 87’ but still they already had two albums by the time we did ours. They were definitely bands we looked up to and the kind of death thrash bands like the old Sodom and the old Kreator ya know death/black/thrash cause it was that proto 80s stuff where it was all sort of blended together and then obviously Slayer. I mean I don’t feel like we started death metal in any way whatsoever we feel like it was already there but we definitely joined it. One way of looking at it is maybe that we kind of brought it to a wider audience because before us the only chances to see a death metal band were like Kreator on the ‘Pleasure to Kill’ tour. There hadn’t been any other shows like that in our home town of Buffalo and we started getting lots of bands into Buffalo and then it kicked off in Florida and Sweden and also bands Autopsy started to kick up around the late eighties. Whilst it was definitely around in the early eighties I think that we can be seen as one of the bands that definitely helped publicise it a bit more. We never had any ingenious plan it was just kind of a lucky chance!

What was maybe the best band that you ever toured with?

PM: It’s a tough one to answer and I’m sure Alex would agree with on this one is definitely Immolation. They’re from New York I mean not Buffalo but the similar kind of area and we felt a real connection with them I mean we did a bunch of tours with them a few years ago and they just seemed like brothers you know. There’s a bunch of other bands there’s just so many great people.

A: I agree fully! I mean you become such good friends with everybody you tour with ya know and now we’re sharing a bus with Diablo and we’d never met those guys before but we’re having tons of fun with them as guys! I mean for us every band we tour with we end up becoming friends with because we always have stuff in common. I can’t really remember any tour were we got off and been like ‘o thank god we’re not gonna have to be with those guys anymore’. Every single band we’ve toured with we’re friends with. You know to either one degree or another some we’re just friends and some we’re really close there’s a whole bunch of great bands to tour with. A lot of the Swedish bands we’ve toured with have been great people.

The recent ‘dethcore’ movement has brought extreme metal to a wider audience, what’s your view on it?

A: I mean obviously our number one kind of music is straight up death metal, but any kind of extreme music that’s out there with talented musicians making killer music its always great to see especially when people are really pushing the envelope. I mean all extreme music crosses over to a degree the various different types of extreme metal that fall under that big umbrella term of extreme metal be it black metal, dethcore, metalcore, thrash, death, extreme hardcore. There’s all these extreme genres going on and when ones doing well it generally helps the other so when I see dethcore and think about how it’s quite similar to death metal and it’s doing really well I don’t see that being a bad thing for the death metal scene.

We touched on the subject earlier of your lyrics becoming a bit more serious, in terms of the song writing was that a deliberate change?

A: It’s the same kind of thing with approaching your horror I mean you can approach it ‘The Shining’ way or you can approach it the ‘Evil Dead’ way and I mean we’ve definitely done both and as our career goes on we’re leaning more towards ‘The Shining’ sort of way. It’s quite good to use that horror movie analogy but we will definitely have our ‘Evil Dead’ moments again in our career. There will be graphic violence on all Cannibal Corpse albums it needs to be there, it’s not right to not have it its key to our music. It’s also good though to have a song that’s a little more subtle like maybe ‘Carnivorous Swarm’ isn’t obvious what it’s about.

PM: Yeah for sure I mean another song that I wrote ‘Make Them Suffer’ it’s a good song it horrific in a different way and you really have to read between the lines and I think that’s a good thing. I mean we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over so it’s really trying to find new ways of still writing a horror story which like Alex was saying earlier you can be more subtle with the content and make people think about what’s actually happening. Different writers write in different styles, I mean [Chris] Barnes wrote the lyrics for ‘Butchered’. ‘Tomb’ and ‘The Bleeding’ and then we changed writers and I know Alex and myself we all have different styles of writing. I think that’s key as well cause it means we’re getting all different styles of writing.

A: I think the thing is too is when we got Chris out of the band we did not wanna replace him with a bad replacement either in the vocal department or in the lyric department. We didn’t wanna do an imitation of Chris’s lyrics we wanted to do our own version of horror and it makes it more interesting for someone who’s a longer term fan of Cannibal Corpse but they can see the differences between the albums, I mean it’s obviously all still horror orientated death metal but you’re not getting Alex Webster or Paul Mazurkiewicz trying to imitate Chris Barnes.

What’s next for Cannibal Corpse?

A: I’ll give you a brief rundown of what’s confirmed and then the more speculative aspects! Before something’s completely confirmed I don’t wanna says its confirmed. I can confirm that we’ve got a North American tour booked for April kinda half Canada half United States with about 3 other bands. That’s definitely a straight death metal tour leaning toward the technical side of death metal. In June we’re hoping to go to Japan but that’s still in the process of being booked but we’re getting near that point. Then for the summer we definitely can announce that we’re gonna be on the Mayhem Festival Tour in the United States with Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Behemoth, Job For A Cowboy, Trivium the list goes on. Unfortunately this rules us out of the European festivals this year but hopefully we’ll do something in 2010.

You’ve toured with so many bands, but is there still one band which you haven’t toured with or maybe have toured with but would love to play just one show with?

A: Well you know we’ve played single shows with Slayer, but Mayhem is our first tour with them and although we won’t be on the same stage it’ll be awesome.

PM: Slayer to us were such a big influence both to us and other bands in terms of heavy music and it would be a lot of peoples dream to tour with Slayer and it’s kind of cliché and for me personally I’d have to say Slayer.

A: I mean obviously it would be great to tour with Heaven & Hell and Iron Maiden but of all the bands which it would make sense for us to tour with I mean I love Iron Maiden as much as I love Slayer but I really can’t wait for this Slayer tour as it just seems so perfect for us! .

PM: We’ve been wanting to do this for our whole career and we’ve played festivals but to go out and see them play every night for a month and a half will just be an amazing experience!

And with that they’re off, it’s both surprising and refreshing to meet a band who after having done so much remain so humble and still really appreciate just how lucky they are to do this and for us the fans we’re even luckier to have them!