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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Interview: Cannibal Corpse

Cannibal Corpse is set to release its
thirteenth full-length album, A Skeletal
Domain,
 on September 16th.
Cannibal Corpse is a death metal band from New York. The quintet is known worldwide for macabre imagery, controversial lyrical content, and consistently top-notch death metal. Its albums Butchered at Birth and Tomb of the Mutilated have both sold over a million copies, while its latest albums Evisceration Plague (2009) and Torture (2012) reached #66 and #38 on the Billboard 200, respectively. Fresh off a tour of the United States and about to head to Australia and Japan, guitarist Rob Barrett lent us some time for some questions about the new album and life in the world's most infamous metal band.

Alex: Where does a record like A Skeletal Domain start? It is the concepts, the lyrics, the riffs? And how do you know when it’s ready to go?

Rob: We usually just start writing new stuff individually, and then as soon as one of us has a complete song, we’ll try to demo it at home on our ProTools or practice it at home with Paul on drums at the practice room until it’s a complete song. We just keep building songs that way…as soon as we start completing songs music-wise, I mean, obviously the lyrics come last. What we do is that as soon as we get the music compete for a song, we’ll start throwing around ideas for a potential song title. Like, what do we want the song to be about? You know, usually we don’t know what we want it to be about until after the music is done. I guess different bands operate in different ways but we always just write complete songs and then try and come up with a song title, and then write the lyrics for the song. For most commercial bands, it’s the exact opposite – they’ll write the lyrics first, then come up with a song title and write the music to match it. We really have to dig and start brainstorming about writing lyrics because we don’t want to keep rehashing the same story over and over, and it does become somewhat challenging to come up with a totally fresh idea…like, nobody’s come up with this before. We’re trying to make the lyrics match the dark-sounding music that we’re writing. As musicians, we’re more focused on writing the music. Sometimes we joke about it, like, if we could just get away with being an instrumental band we probably would, you know? Haha. But having our vocals, that’s what makes it pure death metal is having the aggressive-sounding vocals to go along with it.

Alex: Evisceration Plague and Torture reached numbers 66 and 38 on the Billboard 200, and A Skeletal Domain is likely to perform at least as well. Why do you think death metal is continuing to rise in popularity?

Rob: Seeing underground acts such as us, and other death metal bands, even like deathcore bands and these newer metal bands, they’re actually charting on Billboard with their releases…it’s cool, man. Just extreme music as a whole…I don’t want to say it’s becoming more mainstream, but…I think that all the years that we’ve been an underground death metal band, we’ve been pulling the mainstream towards us, to where the general population of people that listen to metal music are gravitating towards underground styles. That’s a main part of Cannibal Corpse’s following, I think. A lot of our fans want the physical copy of the product as opposed to fans who don’t care about having the actual product. They don’t care about the whole package, like the artwork and everything that comes along with the music. We pride ourselves upon being dependable as a band, and the fans know what they’re going to get. I don’t really think we’ve becoming some huge disappointment, like…I don’t want to name names, but a good handful of other bands that end up changing their style or just doing something careless that doesn’t stay true to the original idea of the band. Getting back to the original question though, I think the general population of people who buy music are gravitating more towards the underground heavier stuff, and that’s why bands like us can chart.

Alex: What is a day in the life of Cannibal Corpse like when you’re not on stage? Do you and the guys hang out or go separate ways?

Rob: We pretty much do our own thing…it depends. If we’re on tour, we’re pretty much together on the bus, at a hotel, wherever we may be, whatever country it is. But yeah, if we do have enough time and there’s something worthwhile to go check out, we’ll ask, “Hey, is anybody into the idea of going to check out the Eiffel Tower?” or some landmark wherever we’re at, and whoever wants to go will go. Otherwise it’s…I pretty much do my own thing for the most part. When we’re on tour I’ll just try and call a friend or talk to someone who’ll be in a certain town when we play and just maybe go back to their house and hang out after sound check, try and do normal shit like laundry, haha…you know, try and get a dinner. There’s nothing wild going on anymore. We’re not really partying like maniacs like we used to when we were in our twenties.

Alex: You’re in between concert tours right now, having just finished the USA. What’s the coolest thing that happened to you on this last tour?

Rob: I’d say it was…probably having Ice-T introduce us every day. That was probably the coolest thing. Body Count was playing right before us on the stage next to us, and every day as soon as they were done with their set, he’d be like, ‘Alright everybody, make your way to the center stage for the world-infamous Cannibal Corpse!’ and he would do the like, metal voice…it was kind of funny, but it was cool, you know? He was giving us respect every day, so that was really cool.

Alex: Cannibal Corpse is the biggest death metal band in the world, so a lot of people are looking up to you. What advice would you have for musicians who idolize you and are working hard to reach the next level?

Rob: You gotta practice a lot, man. We’re not just sitting around and not playing our instruments when we’re not on tour. When we’re not on the road, we are practicing three or four days a week on average, and we treat it very serious. We don’t take too many long breaks from actually doing band stuff. You just gotta take it really seriously, and don’t get caught up in all the partying and doing reckless shit that will get you in trouble. A lot of musicians end up falling really quick making mistakes like that. You just gotta have a good perspective on what you have, and what you could lose. It could just be a whole domino effect that results from one careless mistake. We’re actually going on 26 coming up, so yeah. We are just so fortunate and lucky. There’s a lot of luck involved in us being able to have this longevity. We look at bands that we grew up listening to and some of those bands didn’t last ten years, so it’s an amazing feat for an underground death metal band. We didn’t even really expect to go as far as we have, and we still have farther to go. We still have some gas in the tank. We were a little apprehensive as to, like ‘Alright, well when is it going to be our year…when everyone says we’re old now?’ I mean, we already are old, but we’re challenging ourselves to keep up with all these bands that are coming up now. I’ve never felt a competitive edge, like ‘we can’t let these bands get bigger than we are,’ but we still have the motivation to stay where we’re at.

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