If you have been to many heavy metal concerts in Washington DC or Baltimore in the past five years then you’ve probably seen the infamous Chicken Man crowd surfing or slamming in the mosh pit. At concerts where wearing black shirts with illegible band names is the status quo a guy in a bright yellow, full body chicken suit is certainly one of our metal scene’s most colorful characters. He’s sort of our metal scene’s brutal version of the San Diego Chicken and definitely one of the people who makes our metal scene unique. So who is this Chicken Man? Why did he start moshing in a chicken costume? Which bands does he think get the most brutal mosh pits? These questions and more are answered in the 12 minute phone interview I conducted with him on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012. You can read the full transcription of the interview below (my words are in bold) or download an mp3 of the audio (here) for free or click the orange play button below to stream it from Soundcloud or if you’re really feeling crazy you can read along as you listen. I’ve tried to add as many links as possible in the transcription below so you can tell what bands, venues, concerts or other things we’re talking about if you don’t know them already. This is the second interview on DCHeavyMetal.com, my allergies had me a bit stopped up but I hope you all enjoy it regardless.
All right this is Metal Chris here and I’m here talking to one of the more recognizable figures in the heavy metal scene in the DC and Baltimore area. Most people know him as the Chicken Man. His real name is Chris Penrod. I’ve got him here to ask him some questions. First I’d like to know, how did you get into the whole chicken suit thing and why did it start?
Ah well it all started as a giant, giant stoner moment about five years ago on the Eastern Shore. Me and a couple buddies of mine were all getting ready to go see Lamb Of God and my friend got a chicken suit and a gorilla suit so it kinda went from there.
Haha. So did your friend wear the gorilla suit?
Yeah he wore the gorilla suit but he only wore it for that night. It got way too hot. Full body suit.
Well that’s pretty funny. And what was that in like 2007ish?
Yeah it was the summer of 2007.
Is that the only chicken suit you have? Is that the same one that you’ve been using all this time?
No, no. I’ve gone through about four of them now.
Oh wow, huh. Is there one that’s been like really resilient or anything like that or they just kinda get worn out?
Oh yeah, yeah that was a pretty wild time for them man.
Yeah it was awesome.
Yes I did, haha.
Yeah I saw you made a few cameo appearances in that thing.
Did you know that they were going to include you in that?
Actually, believe it or not, after their set at Deathfest I was talking to John Gallagher and he said “Yeah we’ve got a bunch of shots of you. We’ll see if we can put that all throughout the video.”
That’s pretty hilarious.
I’m pretty stoked about that.
Yeah that’s pretty cool. It’s a cool video too. It’s all shot at Sonar at the Deathfest.
Yeah all the first day. Ah it was amazing.
So that thing gets pretty fucking hot doesn’t it man?
Yeah. Oh my god you have no idea but like I’m used to it by now in all honesty. I’m going to school for welding so that’s pretty much nothing.
There ya go. This summer’s been pretty hot as it is anyways though. Man those outdoor shows, oof.
Yeah, yeah. Have you ever thought about switching to another kind of costume, like a different animal or a different anything?
You know, actually the same friend who I got the original idea with; I work at a seafood market and he visited me at work one time to drop off the chicken suit and I showed him the lobster I was pegging and his girlfriend flipped out and then they called me lobster for a while now.
So they wanted me to wear a lobster suit once and I was like no dude I can’t.
Hahaha. Well you are kind of “The Chicken Man” now.
Yeah, yeah. So you guys are going to basically beat each other up in the mosh pit?
We’re going to straight beat the hell out of each other. None of this fake fight, we’re like broken nose, black eye, and even when the cops get there and ask if we want to press charges we’re just going to be like “eh nah we’re good.”
That sounds pretty entertaining. What do you dress up as on Halloween?
Funny thing, usually I’m working. I did go see Dethklok on Halloween at the Patriot Center a couple years back and I wore the chicken suit. I feel like if I wear the chicken suit for Halloween though it’s taking the easy way out.
Hahaha. So where exactly are you from around the area? Are you in DC? Are you in Baltimore? Are you in Northern Virginia? Where are you at?
I actually live in Annapolis. There’s not too much around here, just water and a lot of expenses.
I see you around DC and Baltimore a lot you know.
That’s the one thing I like about Annapolis is that it’s just smack dab like 30 minutes away from both of them.
I’ve been to lots of shows and I’ve seen sometimes the guys in the bands on stage, they’ll give you a shout out or something like that. What’s the coolest thing you’ve had a band say to you from being on stage?
One time I went and saw 3 Inches Of Blood with Gwar at the 9:30 Club and that was a long time ago but the dude from 3 Inches Of Blood couldn’t get enough of me. He was just like “Yeah I want to see that head on the floor with the chicken dude still running around!” I’m like oh my god these people are going to kill me.
Haha, that’s kind of hilarious. So have you ever had like a band get really pissed off or anything at you?
Huh yeah. At Deathfest Black Witchery got really pissed off at me.
Oh yeah, what did they do?
The singer thought that I threw a stuffed baby doll on stage.
I’m assuming you didn’t actually throw a doll on stage?
No it was some stupid bitch next to me. And he got all mad and then I went crowd surfing up and then I got to the front like past the barricade and he fucking kicked me.
What the fuck?
Yeah people were like “oh he kicked him in the head!” I’m like “no he just kicked me in the arm dude.” And apparently everyone else that saw that just got really angry at him. Like I heard people coming up to me after the show they’re like “Dude fuck them! They’re god damn coke heads!” I’m like oh my god dude. It’s a death metal festival, get over it. I got over it.
So what bands do you think get the best mosh pits?
Oooh, oh man that’s a hard one. Like at Deathfest or just in general in the area?
Anywhere ya know cause I’ll generally say Slayer pits are kinda the craziest but what’s your idea?
Aw I want to go see Slayer so bad. That’s like the one band I haven’t seen yet.
Oh man, gotta get out to Mayhem Fest.
It’s like them and Anthrax at the same show and I’m like oh my god and I’m missing it. Actually, in all honesty, out of all the pits that I’ve been in it’s a really close draw between Lamb Of God and Suffocation. I’ve seen Suffocation’s pits get way out of control. Actually nope, I’ve got one that tops it. It was at the Ottobar [in] 2010, 2009? I know it was Whitechapel and Job For A Cowboy that headlined but the pit during Whitechapel was out of control cause they had Cattle Decapitation opening and it’s just two really different crowds mixing in one tiny, tiny place. I love the Ottobar it’s so tiny. Like the smaller the better with me. It’s more up close and personal but I know a lot of fights broke out that night.
Yeah, yeah I’ve definitely seen that happen at a few shows too. But I figure you’re probably all up in that most of the time. Usually I’m just trying to keep everybody from smacking my camera ya know?
Right, hahaha. Oh I saw a lot of that going on during Deathfest.
Ah it’s what happens though man, just comes with the territory though.
Morbid Angel was pretty wild.
Yeah I had some chick land on me when I was shooting video [during Morbid Angel’s set]. She just dove off of like one of the speaker piles or whatever and just landed directly– I didn’t even see her coming. The next thing I know someone’s like landing on my head, like blindsided me. Ya know that’s Deathfest for ya you know?
Yeah and then there’s the crusties and I’m just not even going to get into that.
Well, it depends on the band I’ll tell you. Deathfest is a little weird too in some of that like, you know…
Like The Devil’s Blood? Like ehhh what?
Well it’s not even that it’s just like the way people react to bands there is different than they would any other time, I mean.
Than any other place yeah.
Yeah, yeah it’s like people there are circle pitting to Agalloch and stuff.
I know right? There was a lot of circle pits at Deathfest, I was surprised about that. It was like circle pit central.
Yeah I remember a couple of years ago Entombed was playing one of the big outdoor stages and they stopped their show and they were like “We don’t do circle pits! We only do mosh pits!” heh.
I didn’t know you cared that much.
If it was me on stage I’d be like they’re moshing dude, I don’t care. You wouldn’t happen to know any grindcore projects that are looking for a vocalist do you?
I have no idea. I mean you can always just start one.
Oh no I’ve got everyone we just need a drummer. That’s the problem.
I don’t know off hand. I don’t know. My best bet would be to go out and check out some of the local grind shows and stuff. You know Chris Moore, the drummer for Magrudergrind, he puts on a lot of shows and helps people promote local DIY shows and a lot of it is local hardcore and grind stuff. Check out some of his shows and stuff. [Facebook group here]
I definitely think that if I started performing though I’d be able to use the chicken suit as a gimmick.
There ya go. I’m sure you could man.
People would be like “What this dude’s in a band? They must be brutal.”
Hahaha. That would be kinda cool actually.
Oh yeah have a band with me in it opening up for just some ridiculous grindcore band, Suffocation or Aborted or something.
There ya go man. So do you have any feelings on Chick-fil-A?
Delicious. I’m all for cannibalistic chickens.
Haha. What did you say your next big concert is going to be? Are you going to Iron Maiden this weekend [on June 30th]?
Aw I can’t I gotta work all weekend.
Aw that sucks.
Actually I got a VIP pass to that one.
Do they really make you wear the pass in the chicken suit?
I don’t care. I’m just going to be like, you guys know me. Security there knows me.
I mean there’s generally not a lot of other people walking around in chicken suits that need to be identified as different than you.
Well actually it’s really funny because, I’m only 20.
Oh yeah, yeah, man you’ve been doing this since you were a minor.
Yeah I’ve been doing this since I was like 15.
Yeah. But it’s funny because at Sonar this past Deathfest Thursday night I guess they were like keeping a tight rein on everything since it wasn’t outdoors cause they carded everyone. But then Friday, Saturday, Sunday when I went they were like “Hey what’s going on Chicken Man?”
Especially like Sonar of all places with everything they’ve been going through lately with the new owners and the liquor license and all that stuff.
Yeah. You ever have any problems getting into any venues in your costume or anything like that?
Nope. Only thing that I will say though is that Rams Head Live hates it when I crowd surf. They’ll kick me out on the first time.
Yep, they hate it.
I wonder why.
Well I mean you know I’m a pretty big dude.
I know but still I mean, I don’t know it’s a metal show.
Exactly, like what they hell are you expecting?
Yeah. I don’t know. But you know honestly Rams Head isn’t my favorite venue anyway, so.
Yeah I definitely feel you there.
You going to go see Lamb Of God up at Pier Six [Pavilion]?
I haven’t been hearing too many good things about Pier Six.
Yeah it’s run by the same guys as Rams Head.
Ah it’s not even really who’s running it but the set up, seats only, and then the field.
Yeah I’ve never been there. I don’t know.
That’s all I’ve been hearing is that where the pit section would be it’s all seats.
Yeah I wonder if they’re going to have to change some of that for the show. Maybe I’ll try to call someone there and ask. [I did call later and ask, no pit section, only assigned seats up front and GA lawn in back for this and all other Pier Six shows].
You should find out cause that’s what’s keeping me from going. I’d already have pit section tickets if it wasn’t for the fact that it was at Pier Six.
Yeah I just wonder if they’re actually selling seated tickets of if it’s just GA anyway.
Ah I don’t know. I’d have a feeling it’s just GA first come, first serve but then if it’s seats only then I’m just going to hang out in the field the whole time, ya know?
Yeah, yeah. Do you ever get like recognized anywhere else for being the chicken man you know when you’re not in the costume?
Ahh, no I can’t say that’s happened to me. Yeah I can’t say that’s happened to me.
Well you gotta get a chicken man license plate or something.
Well actually I’ve been thinking about painting my car, whenever I wind up getting a new one that’s not a piece of shit, and I was going to paint my old one yellow with red trim and just drive it to concerts and that’s it.
I’ve been really thinking about it.
That’d be kind of ridiculous. I like that idea.
I know right.
Haha. Have you got any favorite local bands you like checking out?
So the real brutal bands.
Haha, that’s awesome.
I’m not for the whole hardcore thing. I absolutely despise hardcore dancing. I wanna burn em all alive.
Aw man, drives me nuts. I see people doing the hopping at shows too sometimes.
Oh my god. No there was actually this one dude, this old hispanic dude during Suffocation at Deathfest and he just kept trying to do that and I remember I just got shoved into him with all my force and just left handed drilled him right in the center of his face into the side of the crowd. And security saw it all and they were just like laughing at it. I will say though that security at Sonar and clubs in DC, they love me. Like the 9:30 Club, I can get away with almost anything I feel like. Yeah and I’ve seen it happen at the 9:30 Club like ya know, guys will be hardcore dancing and there will be a random crowd bystander [who] just shoves him over and security will be like “Oh no, no, stop. We’ll take care of it” and then when I do it they just laugh.
That’s always good.
There anything, there anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?
All the metal heads that keep this shit real.
Hell yeah dude, hell yeah. Alright man well thanks for talking to me and taking a few minutes here. I hope you like checking out the site once in a while and stuff.
I’m all over the upcoming shows.
Sweet dude. I put a lot of work into it. I always feel like I’m always behind on it cause there’s always more being announced as soon as I put stuff up.
Right. Nah you’re doing a great job though keep up the good work.
Yeah thanks man, and you do too man.
Keep it real out there man.
Alright it was nice talking to you. I guess I’ll let you go then.
Yeah I’m sure I’ll see you at a show again here soon.
Alright man, take it easy.