I N T E R V I E W S
Interview with Cattle Decapitation by Weasel 10.19.07
It was a blistering set, played some new tracks from Karma.Bloody.Karma, spanned Humanure and even did what they called the "book ends" playing the opening and closing tracks from Human Jerky "Cloned for Carrion" which lead straight into "Colon-Blo". Battered and deafened I shoved through the crowds back to the bar, the sweaty shouldering and jostling of those around me, brain ringing in my head, shirts fresh from the merchandise tables all around, anyone reading this knows the swim I'm talkin about, always feels a bit like home... Anyhow, it was two beers waiting for Troy, making good on his word, came to fetch me and lead me out to the parking lot. After finding their van, sitting in the shade of the setting sun, Travis (Ryan) and Josh were there as promised. Troy didn't stay, leaving me, near speechless and a little awkward, Josh, holding his guitar strumming and picking all the while, though the set was long over and Travis, shoes off and kicking back, to sit, and there on the asphalt I met with Cattle Decapitation.
I bought a digital voice recorder specifically for this, had questions all planned out, also to break the ice had a pinch of Oregon's finest greenery, Travis made it clear during his set that he was about it, and that Troy usually fell asleep after smoking. Josh declined and sitting cross legged in the parking lot, Travis and I passed my peace pipe, the ice melted nicely and what I had intended to be journalistic interview turned out to be one of the chillest most inspiring moments of all my days. Mythology and rumor melted away, my questions became more like guidelines as my digital recorder soaked it all in. I started asking some questions about the tour as it had gone so far, we talked about their first night out, the stress of "Fest" style concerts and even Travis' panic attack one stop prior in Sacremento,
"The doctors told me that's what it was, a panic attack and it happens to alot of people." Travis said, Josh went on later to say there was a lot of mercy and support to come from the fans in Sacremento. "Everyone was real cool and really supportive, I went out on stage and said you know 'We're really sorry, we won't be able to play, for anyone who was here to see us, we WILL be back' and people actually applauded it was really cool."
It was evident Travis had recovered nicely as I assured them the set was stellar from where I was at, but wanting to get away from the less pleasent memories, I asked what there best stops had been.
Travis answered first, "San Diego, was really good, San Antonio was really good too."
"Atlanta was really good too." Josh added, "Tucson was surprisingly good, like there wasn't a huge amount of people as far as volume but the response was really good."
"It's always about the crowd." Travis finished, "To me anyway the other guys are more concerned with how we sounded, shit like that."
Things were going really smoothly, we talked about what they rock out to while on the road, evidently Troy is a music nazi, being the main navigator he picks the music, Josh and Travis often retreating to their Ipods, though they did express their fondness for the free XM radio they were given in exchange for recording tracks for the "Liquid Metal" station on XM radio. Aside from that, they confessed to actually not listening to that much metal while on the road. When people create music as a job there is always talk of the bottom line, the guys from Cattle themselves hold day jobs, Travis, for instance works at a record shop in San Diego, but when asked how the Summer Slaughter came about, Travis had this to say:
"Honestly you know what it is? It's a certain group of people, I don't even know who or want to even calculate on who it is, but its kind of a marketing tool to see how big extreme music is right now in this day age. Like Job For a Cowboy and a lot of these newer bands that come in and just raise the bar, as far as what kind of crowds you bring in, what size of crowd you bring in, because to labels and promoters, that's all that fuckin matters. I'm not saying that's all that matters period, but to these mother fuckers it is, the bottom line is the bottom line. People doin business."
Josh summed it up as this, "Basically let's take a bunch of the bands on Myspace, and throw them out there see what comes of it. Like say, Sounds from the Underground, I mean that's only a couple years old, but there is already bands on there that a lot of people are going to think are over and done... which is really short sighted and I don't agree with that at all, but then there is a lot of young bands, like guys that are just fresh to touring or are literally really young, or bands new to the states. A lot of Americans, especially a lot of the kids, unless they see..." His guitar still in his lap, as it was throughout the interview, he threw down an insanely fast Dragonforce style finger pick solo, then stopped. "... they don't care. Unless it's the fastest most technical thing out there, they don't care. Or unless they have you on their page." He added with a pinch of disdain.
It was then I touched on a big issue with fans and artists alike, the internet. In a digital age that we live in, it's almost a thing of the past to buy an album anymore, in a world of file sharing and high speed internet, songs and albums can be plucked from the cyber trees of the WWW. Though the Napster/Metallica feud is long over, I wondered if there still was an impact on the bands who played on a much smaller scale. Travis was first to answer.
"It's definitely something to pay attention to. You can't just ignore it. It's a whole new platform, it's something that sites like MP3.com, which I feel is one of the reasons we got signed, a quick platform to go a just see what we're about. But Myspace is that times like a million... I mean they (MP3.com) had a good thing going but then they had to go and charge... Myspace has this appeal... while I'm not a very big advocate of it... we need to look at it as more of a tool, connecting bands and artists with the fans...its gonna spawn into this whole different thing its somethin to keep an eye on."
"Myspace and the internet is the great equalizer." Josh began. "Back when we were growing up you know ther'd be that attitude like 'They're a band from Backwater so-and-so they don't know shit, let us big city boys teach them a thing or two...' Not anymore, everyones on the same exact level, if you have an internet connection you could be from Bumfuck Northern Canada, but if you have electricity and a guitar and practice, you could be the next big thing. No band mates no anything. Just you and a drum machine and you could become some metal god incarnate on-line."
"The only thing about being able to get music so freely, like getting an album two weeks, two months, before it comes out, the whole novelty of the record release and bringing it home, is gone, its really becoming something nostalgic. We're at a crossraods... it's almost like in a ten or twenty years span of digital media... labels are gonna be obsolete, touring and live shows are gonna be what sets you apart. I can't think of any bands that really made it and don't tour except for ones on the fucking internet."
True as it was, bands like Xathur and Leviathen, good bands and they do well, with people trading MP3s and file sharing, though a lot of bands like them take the stance of being "anti-internet" while their music flies freely from fans to fan via the WWW.
"Its a nice mystique to have." Josh commented.
I asked them with that being that case, what was the point of record sales anymore, they obviously don't produce enough revenue to keep the bands afloat.
"At our level, record sales determine what tours you're gonna get, what slot on that tour, if you get a fucking video or not. You don't get shit from record sales." Travis told me. "What will determine how far we can go with this is record sales. I don't mean how much we make from record sales I could give a shit how much the label makes, I mean number of records sold. That's what it comes down to."
As interested as I am in the "behind the scenes" of what it takes to make a living as a band and the interworking process from conception to album, Josh mentioned artwork, and if there is one thing that sets Cattle Decapitation so far apart from contemporary metal bands is their artwork.
"The cover for Humanure, I think, and not just because we play on the album, but I think is one of the best extreme records covers ever. By far, it's so ridiculous... it's just stupid sick..." Josh said.
Travis agreed adding "We had a completely different design for it that we all actually worked on designing and we sent it to the artist, Wes Bonscoter and he just completely changed it but when we got it back we were just...blown away, it was too perfect for the album title. We asked each other what other picture could possibly sum up that album over all? And it just rubbed so many people... we never thought it would be as "controversial" as it was. I mean it's a cow taking a shit, we thought it was harmless. I mean you can see that on any rural road in America, but that wasn't the case with the distributors."
"All the big chains, like Best Buy, Sam Goody, wouldn't carry it, so I don't think it got really as circulated as much as it should of... but that's back to that whole record sales thing."
Josh explained "That's one reason we said it's fine to change the cover and it got re-released. We gave up and said 'fuck it' change it however you want, after that, the album was a wash in our eyes. That's why we did Karma just so completely... hateful. Yeah the cover wasn't completely safe, but it wasn't censored and neither was anything therein. As long as the lyrics are cool and the music is brutal, it doesn't matter." Travis was adamant about this, as was Josh.
"I mean we already have like the two best album covers ever, Human Jerky and Humanure... we could have an album with two...kittens on it. It doesn't fucking matter, artwork is...we don't even need to bother with album covers anymore."
I really hope they don't scrap the quality of artwork, as their albums have progress each album has been summed up by its cover, the raw gore obsession of Human Jerky, the medical precision of To Serve Man, the lips and asshole concoction that is humanity on Humanure, the spiritual and violent symbolism of Karma, all seemed to have evolved with them as they evolved not just in artwork, but as a band. Again Travis was first to comment:
"Well I mean the first two albums, I mean, I think they're kinda amateur still, they're cool grind(core) or whatever. What we were trying to do though, was not goregrind or grindcore at all...we were trying to do death metal with both those albums, but it just wasn't coming across. What we wanted to write, was To Serve Man. Which... ended up sounding like a pile of shit, in all our eyes. We don't like that album at all, mainly because of the recording... the songs are really catchy and pretty damn good, but just not..." Travis thought how best he wanted to finish that, Josh offered his thoughts: "It would be fun to go back and re-record it, but that would be pointless. I think all of us have improved greatly from that time. It's just sorta primitive compared to what we are doing now."
I was a bit shocked, Humaure being my favorite of their albums, and that was a wash due to sales politics, and To Serve Man was like their caveman days... Granted in comparison to the new album, I could see what they meant, though my opinions of the records do not change, I asked what changed internally with Cattle to bring about this cohesiveness on their end.
"What is was we got rid of the drummer from the two first albums, he was very 'Let's do it by the books death metal'. That why we feel To Serve Man came out the way it did." Travis said. "We wrote two or three songs for Humanure with him, and we tried a couple new things, branching out a bit. That's why Karma is so different, I'm sure the next album is gonna be something even further whacked out." Josh said, all the while his fingers picking up and down the neck of his unplugged electric guitar. "I think beyond that comparing Humanure to Karma, we wanted to be a little more concise, but still wanted to continue branching and trying new stuff. I know we say it with every one, but the next album.... all bets are off."
I was elated to hear there is in fact going to be another Cattle Decapitation album and that it was in the works, but never having been a band to write an album on the road, we've still got a wait ahead of us for that. Speaking of touring, they had not hit Canada yet when they were in Portland, but they were excited. They had nothing but great things to say about the crowd in Mexico City. It was then Travis was pulled away, and Josh and I took the interview in another direction. After talking about the passion for all things metal in Mexico City, we got to talking about the state of Metal in general here State-side.
"Not that A is better then B (referring to fans in Mexico as opposed to the U.S.), but there is this trend with the kids here in the states... where its almost cool to be bored. I hate to go back to the 'In my day' mentality, I'm thirty-one, not that I'm ancient, but we used to get excited for new bands and new records, and I know that still exists today there are so many people that live sleep and breathe music, but the yardstick for 'coolness' is now pointing to a 'the more I act like I've been everywhere and done everything the cooler I am'. It's turned into this coffee shop record snob sort of coolness."
All the while he kept his guitar close he was stoked about the Summer Slaughter tour and sure it was going to be nothing but good for all the bands involved."It put us in front of a lot of people we wouldn't be in front of before, it's crazy, all these crowds mingling together. Like the guitar virtuoso's out for Arsis, the serious metal heads for Decapitated...I don't really know what our crowd is to be honest, but so many people go to great lengths to come out and see us and for that we are so grateful. We are one of those bands you either really love us or you hate us, and for those that aren't into that's fine, all I can say is maybe give our new album a shot, maybe come out and see a show, just have a good time, that's really what it's all about."
Talking about the different crowds we touched a bit on the different genres and sub genres and pseudo genres of metal, all the divisions and the different "scenes" I was curious about what he thought of the state of metal now. "It seems like now there's hardly any classic metal anymore. Its all either death metal, power metal or black metal, everything is so divorced from everything else. I think when thrash metal first started, since then, we don't get the cohesion like we did. Not saying its tearing apart, far from in fact I think metal is bigger and more widely accepted now then ever."
During a brief talk about metal Icons, Josh even admitted that he liked Black Sabbath better with Ronnie James Dio than with Ozzy....and I thought I was the only one. He also admitted to really liking jazz musician Tony Martin and Ian Gillan formerly of Deep Purple, but who doesn't? He was even so bold as to admit what he had on his Ipod, which included The Crown, which is his favorite Swedish metal band, Leviathen, 16 Horsepower, and turned me on to a new Canadian band band called the New Pornographers... he also admitted he has a gulty pleasure for a few Euro-pop bands, but to know which ones, you'll have to ask him yourself.
Needless to say I was a bit boggled, for someone in such a brutal band..artists like Tatu I thought would be avoided like the plague. It was then Travis who joined us again, when asked what was on his Ipod he laughed. "There just too much man, I mean I work at a record store for one, I have like twenty five hundred CDs... I mean there's just waaaaay too much. And its not all metal I mean how could it be?" he chuckled. "I mean we have our consistent favorites, but there's so much music out there... I mean people ask me who my favorite band of all time is, and its like How do you pick?" Josh added. "I mean I could maybe narrow it down to five or ten."
That is also a question I have a difficult time answering, so I thought to throw a spin on it, and I asked them who would be their favorite band to cover. "That's equally as hard, I mean we all think so far outside the box...I mean we did a song on a tribute to The Birthday Party and we did a song on a tribute to Carcass and I could see us doing anything really... I mean anything from the Ramones to... anything! I mean it doesn't fucking matter there's so much cool shit." Travis answered: "Its not outrageous to see us doing a Soundgarden cover or something like that, I mean we've been asked to do a cover for a Hum compilation, so really it could come from, or go anywhere."
My mind was spinning, how cool it would be to hear Cattle doing a cover of Rusty Cage, or Jesus Christ Pose...to even think of them covering Illinois rock quartet Hum was just mind blowing. "I mean the people that would try to dog us because 'oh that shit's not brutal' I gotta wonder, do they eat the same thing for dinner every night?" Josh asked. "I mean don't get me wrong, I've devoted well over half my life to metal, but with that there is just...sooo much other shit that I couldn't consider myself a true metal head. I mean those are a lot of our fans and we love them to death, and that rocks, but that's not me." Travis explained, Josh agreeing whole heartedly.
It was almost refreshing, I mean really, feeling nostalgic is one thing, but there is new shit, good shit, different shit out there, and the minds behind my favorite metal band were all about it. I was starting to run out of questions, though I had thrown most of them out the window and the sun was long gone and there was a bar full of beer these guys were missing out on to talk to me as we neared the hour and a half mark. I decided to start rounding it up though I was curious and had to ask who JR Daniels is. Thet both laughed. "That's one of those 'next question' sort of questions." Josh was quick to say, Travis, after a moment of thought, gave his answer.
"All I can say is there's too much hate and to many bad things we could even say to even start...let's just say it's a shitty scenario and he is not and never has been a part of our band." he said and I was glad to leave it at that. After that we talked about their fans, they told me the biggest following is up and down the West Coast, with a lot of love for Texas and increasing respect for New York.
We talked about a super fan in Houston who has all the Cattle Decapitation album covers tattooed on him. "I mean he's a super nice guy, got his head on straight, he's not super crazy or anything, just a really devoted fan. Been into the band for a long time... I just wonder what he would do if we ever broke up..." Josh laughed. "I mean it rocks, but we're the type of guys that it's weird to see people going to lengths like that for something that WE do... it's surreal a lot of the time, I don't even know if it's really sunk in." Travis said shaking his head.
I had such a great time, but to be honest my ass was starting to hurt from the pavement, the sky was dark and I felt bad having kept these guys as long as I had, so I decided to wrap it up and ask if they had any final words for anyone who might be reading this interview.
"Stay Gore." Travis said simply. "The support we've gotten on this tour, especially when we couldn't play in Sacramento, has made everything we do worth while, every one of our fans, means everything to us, whether you have our band name tattooed on you or not, thank you." Josh said emphatically.
I got to hang out, snap some pictures with the guys, we smoked some more herb with a few other fans and members of some of the other bands, I stayed until security came and told me to leave. So, I bid them the fondest farewell and went in to enjoy the rest of the show. As I left Travis told me to stay gore. I grinned and told him, "I'll stay gore if you stay gore."
Decapitated was just finishing up their set when I returned and Necrophagist was amazing. The whole experience was amazing with me gaining a new found respect for the men behind Cattle Decapitation. I wish them the best in everything they do and can't wait to see them next time they are in Portland.
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