Interview with Max Cavalera of Soulfly

Earlier this week I had the chance to talk to another one of the legends of metal, Max Cavalera. He was very laid back and down to Earth and he is the first person I’ve interviewed that has brought up some of our local bands without me asking first! Max talks about Soulfly’s new album and tour as well as his time in Sepultura, the future of Killer Be Killed and he even gave some cool background stories as well. The entire interview lasts a bit under 15 minutes and you can stream it below by pressing the orange play button, download it as a 20mb mp3 here or read the transcription below where my words are the ones in bold. I hope you enjoy this interview as much I did!

Photo of Max Cavalera by Hannah Verbeuren

Photo of Max Cavalera by Hannah Verbeuren

Hello everyone. This is Metal Chris and today I’ve got the honor of interviewing Max Cavalera who is the main man behind Soulfly [and] who is also a current or former member of many other bands including Cavalera Conspiracy, Killer Be Killed, Sepultura and Nailbomb. Soulfly is currently on tour right now and they will be playing at the Ottobar in Baltimore on Wednesday, October 21st. So to start things off here Max, let’s talk about the newest Soulfly album, Archangel, which came out this past August. Can you tell me about the concepts behind it? It seems to have sort of a Biblical feel to it.

It’s a different record for sure you know it’s our tenth album and we are trying to do something a bit different from everything we have done and I decided to call the album Archangel and having a couple of biblical references in some of the songs like “Sodomites,” “Bethlehem’s Blood” and some old Babylonian themes like “Ishtar Rising” and “Shamash.” It was cool. It was a fun record to make. We had a really good procuder, Matt Hyde, he has done Slayer‘s God Hates Us All, and Monster Magnet and Deftones. So he’s a very good guy, very good producer. And we had a good team you know. The artwork was done by Eliran Kantor. He’s a guy from Jerusalem that lives in Germany and does some amazing album covers and the inner sleeve was done by Marcelo Vasco who is a friend of mine from Brazil. [He] does a lot of death metal album covers. He actually did also the new Slayer album cover. So I like the album too. I think the album is extreme. It’s got a lot of influence from the stuff I listen to and I think it is very energetic. It shows a very energetic side of Soulfly that things are not slowing down at all. We’re just getting started you know, even on our tenth album. So it’s pretty exciting.

Cover of Archangel by Soulfly

Cover of Archangel by Soulfly

To my understanding Mike Leon from the band Havok is playing bass on your current tour. So how did he end up joining Soulfly?

Yeah we found out that Mike was not with Havok any more and we thought it would be a great fit for Soulfly because he’s such a good bass player and he’s a good friend too you know. So we knew him, Soulfly did a tour with Havok, we all became friends and he kept in contact with us. When he played near my house with Arsis he came to see me and so we flew him in and did some practice and he’s amazing. And he brought a whole lot of new blood to Soulfly man. A lot of people are saying this line up is the most lethal they’ve seen in a long time man. It’s pretty kick ass. I got somebody I can headbang with now ’cause [Soulfly guitiarist] Marc [Rizzo] doesn’t have any hair. So you know I still got all my dreadlocks and you know Mike has a lot of hair so we can headbang together, haha.

Now I know the guys in Decapitated were having visa problems getting into the country for this tour. Have you heard any update on if they’re going to be on the tour at all or are they still just awaiting to hear anything?

They’re going to be on [the] tour but I just don’t know when. They’re supposed to be getting that cleared out any day now. In fact I heard rumors they were supposed to be here tomorrow or the next day. They’re going to be here. So we just keep our fingers crossed because I love Decapitated and I love to have them. It’s such a good bill with them on it you know it’s a strong four bill tour and it’s a shame that it had to happen to them. I hate those visa things and government things like that so you know it’s like it sucks when that happens. But we are hoping that they will be here soon so we can at least finish the tour with them.

As I mentioned before, you’re in a bunch of bands and after this Soulfly tour ends, which band are you going to be focusing on?

Well right now I’m focused on Soulfly for a long time ’cause the album just came out and I’m really excited for Archangel. I think it’s an album that we can do a lot with you know we can really tour a lot for it and we are going to try to tour a lot. We have two tours right now. This one with Soilwork and Shattered Sun and then we have another one in November with Crowbar and Incite and Shattered Sun and then we have some shows already in Australia early next year and Europe and some invitations to do some other stuff that we are looking at right now and hopefully we can go [to] South America, Australia, China and Japan, Middle East I hope you know and another US run because we didn’t do a lot of the big markets like Detroit, Philadelphia. We didn’t do that on this tour yet so there’s still places to play in the US so for another tour so we are hoping that we can get another one of those tours next year.

That’s really cool you’re going to be playing on this for a while too but I guess that means no new Cavalera Conspiracy or Killer Be Killed any time soon?

No, not for a while. Cavalera [Conspiracy] is on a big break. I will not probably touch Cavalera [Conspiracy] for a long, long time and Killer Be Killed maybe. We [will] see where we [are] at next year. We maybe do some riffing and get some song ideas started for the next record and see where we are at. Where every band member is at the time. Troy [Sanders] had a little bit of family problems early with his wife having cancer and had to cancel a bunch of Mastodon dates so we’re hoping that things get better on his camp and then he can come back and do some more stuff with Killer Be Killed. I’m in contact with Greg [Puciato] all the time. He’s super excited for another record. We’re going to do it, it’s just, we don’t know when or where, but it is going to happen at some point. I think we are going to work a little bit on it next year and then eventually get it out there some time in the future.

Have you ever thought of doing a solo Max Cavalera album or do you sort of see Soulfly as your solo project?

Soulfly is kind of my thing like, ’cause I have all the guests on every album. You know we had Todd [Jones] from Nails and Matt [Young] from King Parrot on Archangel and I had David Vincent from Morbid Angel and Tom Araya from Slayer and Chino [Moreno] from Deftones and Corey [Taylor] from Slipknot and the list of people that I work with is real long but I would like to tour more with other bands. Especially I’ve got a lot of bands that I like. I like a lot of new bands you know like Homewrecker and Genocide Pact and…

Oh yeah, Genocide Pact is from here.

Yeah. Xibalba, Young And In The Way, you know I like a lot of this new stuff man. You know it’s great. The new Genocide Pact album [titled Forged Through Domination] is insane. I’ve been listening to that a lot and I love it and hopefully [Soulfly will] get one of those bands to tour with us next year. Would be great.

So are there any other DC area bands you might be into? We’ve got a bunch from here. Like you said Genocide Pact but also you know Pig Destroyer, Dying Fetus, Pentagram, Deceased.

All of those are great, haha. Me and my son Igor we really like them a lot. You know Igor is a guitar player [in] Lody Kong and they’re really good friends with the Noisem guys and the Full Of Hell guys so they’ve been to our houses a bunch of times and I never actually met Dom [Romeo] from A389 Records but my son Igor has met him. Hopefully he can come to the Ottobar show. I’m really dying to meet him and finally get to know him in person. I’m a big Pulling Teeth fan. I love Pulling Teeth man you know. I mean they were just an amazing, amazing hardcore band, grindcore band you know so I’m very excited to be out to the Baltimore show. I think it’s going to be a great show.

You’re kind of talking about some of like the hardcore bands, you know I remember back in the day when you were back in Sepultura, Jello Biafra helped you guys write the “Biotech Is Godzilla” song and I was always kind of curious, how did that happen?

I’m not sure if I remember exactly how but I think we kind of hand picked him out of our idols that we had growing up in Brazil. Dead Kennedys was a huge, huge band that me and [Max’s brother and former Sepultura band mate] Igor [Cavalera] listened to a lot. I especially loved the lyrics. I love Jello’s black humor on stuff like “Holiday In Cambodia” and “California Über Alles,” “Kill The Poor,” “Drug Me.” So we had the idea to let him to write the lyrics for the song and he did it and sent it on a cassette tape and I ended up using the growl that he did on the cassette tape. I put that on the record. And he was pretty surprised when he heard that. He wasn’t expecting it. He told me like, if I would have told him he would have made a better growl and I told him, “No, no but that’s what’s cool that you’re not thinking that was going to go on the record. That’s why I like it ’cause you weren’t really prepared for it.” You know so, I gave him that excuse and he was cool with that and you know I’ve always been into the whole punk scene. A lot of European punk stuff, Discharge, GBH, Exploited and on the American side of course Black Flag and Minor Threat and Bad Brains of course, one of my favorites. Amazing, amazing. I think they’re pioneers of so much of the stuff. Even some of the ideas that I’ve brought into Soulfly some of the stuff like doing kind of like the metal reggae versions of songs like “Bring It” and “I And I” are heavily, heavily based on the actual original idea of Bad Brains which was mixing hardcore and reggae and I love that mix. I think it’s a great mix. I still think more can be done with it and I think it’s something to dwell with in the future, to do more stuff with that.

You worked with another guy from the DC area in a project. That was when you worked with David Grohl in the Probot project. How did he contact you about that or were you already friends with him? How did you get involved in that project with him?

Yeah Dave used to come see all the Sepultura shows all the time. He was a big fan. When he was living in Seattle he came a lot to the Sepul shows and we struck a friendship and we got contacted from him out of the blue about this Probot project and he sent me five songs actually and he told me to pick one and I love “Red War.” It reminds me of [the Sepultura song] “Territory” the beginning and I even told him that. “Like that’s cool man. Sounds kind of like ‘Territory.'” I love the beginning of the song and so I went in the studio and put the vocals on it but I love the idea [of] an album with his favorite metal singers and I love the record I think that the King Diamond song is excellent, the Cronos song, the Lemmy [Kilmister] song. It is a very, very cool record. A very cool idea and I think he pulled it off man. He’s such a good drummer and the music on it is really good. The Probot music is actually really, really powerful and we actually played “Red War” live with Soulfly a couple times on a European tour and it was really fun. I did a book last year [titled My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond] and we actually asked Dave to do the introduction of the book and he was very, very honored and he did it for me and gave me the coolest introduction ever about his speakers that cost twenty thousand dollars getting blown up by the Roots album [by Sepultura]. I thought that was such a great story and it was really cool you know so I was really glad that he got to do the introduction of the book and he’s such a huge fan and loves Roots so much so it was great having him do that for the book and I was very excited.

I’ve always thought you’ve had a really cool story too. You guys came out of Brazil almost out of nowhere out of this underground metal scene that was pretty much unheard of until you guys took the world by storm. It must have been really hard finding an underground metal scene at all in those days. You know this was way before the internet. How exactly did you get into metal in those days back then?

It was very different. Like you said it was before internet. We used to do tape trading and sending tapes out and painting our own t-shirts and sending them out and we were in contact with a lot of underground bands. I remember being in contact with Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary and Kreator and Destruction, Dark Angel, Possessed and all those bands wrote back to me and in fact my first time I saw the name Sepultura was on the first Death album Scream Bloody Gore that he thanked Max and Sepultura. That was really cool for me to see that for the first time. So yeah it was a different time, different era but I look [at] it both ways. It was exciting at the time but I think it’s cool now too because I think you can find a lot of cool stuff on the internet. You can look for bands from different parts of the world. You find Psycroptic from Tasmania and Nervecell from Dubai and Melechesh from Israel. I use Spotify a lot and find a lot of cool bands on it myself so I think it’s cool.

So you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area now right? So do you ever think of going back to Brazil to like live back in Brazil do you ever visit there or anything?

Nah I go there to play and my mom lives there. I get to see her and I do a lot of shows there. I did a big, big Cavalera [Conspiracy] tour. We played everywhere. We had a tour bus even for the first time ever and we went from city to city and went to some really obscure cities of Brazil and it was a great tour and I have been going to Brazil more often than ever the last three, four years. I’ve been there quite a lot, quite massively. It’s great you know. So I don’t really plan to move there. I love Phoenix. I love Arizona. For writing it’s really good where I am. I write my music in peace and it’s really good you know so I love going to Brazil to play but that’s about it.

Now I think I already know the answer to this but I feel like I have to ask. Do you think there’s any kind of way that there will ever be any kind of Sepultura reunion with you. Even just a one-off live show or anything?

Probably not you know. I mean I don’t see it happening and I don’t really care much about it. I think the time has gone when it was exciting to do it was like ten years ago it would have been cool but not now. And we all moved on from everything. You know I got a lot of projects. I got Cavalera [Conspiracy], Killer Be Killed, Soulfly is doing great so I don’t really need it you know it’s like, kind of let it become a, kind of a cult thing as it was. You know when I was with them we did great stuff. The records were amazing and live shows were killer and a lot of that is captured on video and people can see it. We can not live it up to, um, not to ruin it because a lot of those reunions they’re not really good you know so it’s like why ruin something that was good? So I think it’s kind of better to leave it like that you know.

You know I feel lucky I actually got to see you guys on the Roots tour with Ozzy and Danzig out here in like ’96 or something. Well thanks so much for your time today Max. If you’ve got anything else you’d like to tell the fans out here in the Washington DC, Baltimore, Virginia area now’s your chance.

I’m really excited for the show. It’s going to be a great show. You know keep supporting metal and we’ll see everybody at the show. It’s going to be an amazing night. You know I can’t wait. Can’t wait at the Ottobar. It’s going to be a great, great night for metal and we’re going to try to play as hard as we can play. Try to give them the best show possible they can get.

Alright well thanks so much again for your time man. I’ll be seeing you on October 21st at the Ottobar with Soulfly. Thanks again Max.

Alright, thank you man.

Soulfly At The Ottobar on 21 October 2015

Interview with Brian Posehn

There aren’t a lot of metal heads that have broken into the mainstream without being in a huge band, but comedian, actor, writer and heavy metal fan Brian Posehn has done just that. He has appeared in too many movies and TV shows for me to list them all here but you can see him live at the Black Cat doing his stand up routine this Thursday, November 20th, 2014 (details here). You don’t have to be a metal head to enjoy his style of comedy but there’s usually some inside jokes for us in there too. I got the chance to talk to him on the phone recently and what started as an interview quickly turned into a conversation between two metal heads asking each other what bands they like and what they’re listening to lately. You can stream the 19 minute interview by clicking the orange play button below, download it as an mp3 here, or read the following transcription which is full of useful links. Bonus points for reading along as you listen! If you’ve ever wondered exactly what kind of a metal head Brian Posehn is then you’re going to love this interview.

Brian Posehn head shot

Hello this is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and I’ve got comedian Brian Posehn here on the phone with me right now. Brian will be doing stand up at the Black Cat in Washington, DC on Thursday, November 20th. He’s put out three albums of stand up comedy including The Fartist in 2013, has appeared in several movies and TV shows including Just Shoot Me! and [as] the heavy metal loving neighbor Brian Spukowski on The Sarah Silverman Program and he’s even been the full time writer for the Deadpool ongoing comic book series. He’s known as a metal head and often references metal bands in his stand up routine. To get things started here Brian, can you tell me what fans can expect from your stand up show on Thursday?

*Iron Man’s helmet*

Yeah my son is saying that Iron Man is a metal head because he has a metal helmet. Sorry you have a five year old chiming in helping me answer. What was the question? Sorry.

What can fans expect from your show this Thursday?

More of the same is a terrible answer but it’s me and the act right now is pretty self deprecating, but it has been. I’m transitioning out of The Fartist. I’ve retired most of those jokes. There might be one or two of those jokes left but I’m already working on the next album and it’s almost there. I have 45 minutes of new material I just need to kind of cap the hour off with some new stuff and then it’ll be ready to go. Metal Chris is his name, Rhoads.

*OK*

Rhoads is named after a guitar player.

*Yeah.*

Rhoads you love Ozzy don’t you?

*Yeah I like Ozzy*

Yeah.

Is there an opener for your set this Thursday, and do you know who it is?

Yeah it’s a buddy of mine, Jeremy Essig. He’s kind of my regular– not kind of, he’s been my regular feature for the last couple of years. [I] met him in Saint Louis and he flies everywhere and he drives everywhere and is just a really funny dude and loves being on the road so, it’s nice.

So is there any reason you decided to perform at the Black Cat instead of a more traditional comedy venue? I think the last time I saw you here you were at the Arlington Cinema And Drafthouse which does a lot more stand up.

Yeah I love that spot and will probably go back there but I’ve done the Black Cat before with Comedians Of Comedy [a 2005 comedy tour featuring Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn and Maria Bamford] and it’s a good rock club space for comedy. I had a couple of good experiences there. I’m looking forward to it. Mostly what I’m doing lately is rock clubs. I still have a handful of comedy clubs that I will forever do pretty much but I’m trying to do more of the one show or two shows in and out at a rock club and then go to the next city.

I heard that you’ve got a comedy album in the works that’s going to be all music, with Scott Ian of Anthrax, that you guys are putting together. Do you have a name for this band or this project?

Yeah we’re just calling it Posehn. That’s what we did for the songs that were on my two Relapse records that I did. It’s just kind of simple, just the last name. And then [I] don’t know what the record is called yet but we’re done with all the demos. We’re mostly done with the basic tracks and Scott’s got to come in and redo some guitars and then we’re filling up solos. Guys like Gary Holt [of Exodus and Slayer] just sent me a solo the other day. Alex Skolnick [of Testament] did one. Kim Thayil is going to do one, from Soundgarden, it’s crazy. It’s shaping up to be really funny and with actual amazing musicianship. Not me of course but all my friends.

Do you plan to tour to support this once it comes out?

Scott and I have talked about doing something. He and I want to do a spoken word tour and then maybe. It would be really hard to get a touring band behind one record too and I don’t know. I’d love to think about it at some point but what we might wind up doing is just doing acoustic versions of stuff, he and I. That [would] probably be easier to schedule.

You could always try to set up getting another band to open for you and then steal some of their members for your set later that night.

That’s a great idea too. Yeah, I’ve never really thought out the logistics because honestly it’s not really a dream. Touring as a stand up is so much easier, from what I’m told, than touring as a band guy.

You don’t have to tear down all the drum kits every night either.

Haha, right.

Who would you tour with, do you think, if you could? I could see you with Tenacious D or Gwar or something like that.

Yeah those guys are funny but I’m talking about going out with bands that I’m friends with that I actually like that wouldn’t be funny. Somebody like Red Fang might be a good fit. Go out with them and just do the straight metal and then I do the goofy metal and then maybe do a stand up routine. I think if you went out with Steel Panther or something like that it would just be… I don’t know… almost too much, you know, too much comedy. I like breaking it up with a regular metal band because I have no problem performing in front of, or after, really heavy bands.

Do you have any favorite metal bands from the DC area?

Not metal but probably one of the best shows all time still for me is seeing Bad Brains [on their] Quickness tour which is their crossover record. Well yeah that is a metal record.

Yeah, definitely.

Yeah I saw them [on] that tour with the band Leeway in San Francisco and it’s still one of the craziest shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Kids were hitting the ceiling from stage diving and crowd surfing and then, because it’s Bad Brains, they would transition from like a really heavy, fast, crazy song to a reggae song and then people were still going off and going nuts and hitting the ceiling. It was insane. Twenty-five years ago [and it still] holds up as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Maybe almost thirty, ugh, god I’m old.

Have you ever seen the Heavy Metal Parking Lot documentary movie?

Yes! Love it. And that takes place out there right? Yeah.

Yeah it’s from DC. So have you ever thought about coming out to Baltimore for the Maryland Deathfest we have out here every year?

Yeah I’ve been wanting to it’s just never worked out. It’s kind of hard to justify and plus once you’re a dad, like, hey honey I’ve got to fly across the country just to go to a metal show. And if I was performing or bringing people up that might work, that would be awesome. I just did Phil Anselmo’s festival. The Housecore [Horror Festival] thing. Yeah if it was something like that situation that would be perfect because there I got to perform and then I got to hang out for two days and watch a bunch of bands. It was awesome.

So what would you say your favorite metal band to see live is?

Still… I mean the best show ever is still [Iron] Maiden. You can’t beat that. [You] can’t beat that band and those songs and their live performances are insane. Newer bands… not that Lamb Of God is new but I love Lamb Of God shows, I love Mastodon shows, I love Down.

So are there any metal bands you’ve always wanted to see but you haven’t had the chance to yet?

Not really. No there’s not a lot of bands out there that I haven’t seen yet.

So you go out to a lot of shows, that’s good.

I do man. I try to. Like I said it gets tough with me being on the road and then sometimes you know I’ll be in a place like Maryland and then I’ll see that Lamb Of God was just there and then of course I don’t get to see Lamb Of God when I’m in LA cause I’ve got something else or I’m on the road but that said, I make as much of an effort as I can to see bands.

Well on DC Heavy Metal here, next time you’re coming through this area, which will be on November 20th, you know we do have a calendar on here that shows all the metal shows from Maryland, DC and Virginia with links to where to buy tickets, all the venues, all that stuff on there so.

Nice.

Yeah. So, what are exactly your favorite genres of metal? I know you like some different bands from kind of across the spectrum but what are your favorite genres?

Well traditional and I love a lot of new wave of British heavy metal stuff. I was into that before thrash came. And then thrash. But I also love death [metal]. I love a lot of Florida death [metal] bands. I’m probably more versed in Florida death [metal] than any of the other versions just because I was working at a record store when those first couple Obituary and Cannibal Corpse records came out and bands like Exhorder and stuff like that. I really like that stuff.

You grew up like in Sacramento right? Like in the 80s I think.

Sacramento and Sonoma. Sonoma is where I went to high school and then I went to college in Sacramento.

So that’s around when the early thrash scene was starting there too right? So you were probably into some of that weren’t you?

Oh absolutely, yeah. I was reading fanzines and going to San Francisco to see shows, when I could. I was a little young and then 45 minutes away so it was hard to get my mom to let me go to as many as I wanted to but I got to go to some key ones. I saw Death Angel quite a bit when they were really young and I was young and I saw Vio-lence and all those bands. Saw Metallica a couple of times before they were massive and then even after they were massive they came back and did shows in Petaluma when the black album came out so I’ve seen a million great shows being up in that area.

What bands have you been listening to lately?

A bunch of the old stuff. I love the new Carcass record. I love the new Overkill record and then I’m trying to think of newer bands. I love some of the Swedish kind of melodic throwback stuff where it’s more traditional stuff like Graveyard and some of those bands. God who else? Who should I be listening to?

Well let’s see I’m a big fan of Pallbearer. Their new album I’ve really liked a lot.

Yeah I picked it up but I haven’t played it much but I should check that out. I’ve got it.

Windhand out of Richmond, I really like them a lot too.

Say that again.

Windhand.

Windhand. No I don’t know them.

If you like that doomy stuff check them out. They just put out an album on Relapse last year, their first album on Relapse. It’s really good.

Oh ok.

It’s female vocals but it’s doom. There’s not a lot of bands that sound like that I don’t think but they pull it off really well.

Cool.

Brian Posehn

I have a few just straight up metal head questions that I wanted to ask you like, do you prefer Ozzy [Osbourne] or [Ronnie James] Dio in [Black] Sabbath?

Well now the answer is Ozzy but as a kid I didn’t get into Sabbath until Dio. I wasn’t really that well versed because it was a little before my time but I was in junior high and high school when Ozzy left and did the [Randy] Rhoads records and then when Dio joined up with Sabbath so Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules were my two favorites but now I’ve done my homework and I go a little deeper. I love the early Ozzy stuff. I listen to Sabbath non stop pretty much so.

Right on.

It’s all amazing. And like you heard with my kid I’m trying to… I’m not playing crazy metal for him yet. He hasn’t heard the really brutal or nuts stuff.

Haven’t gotten him into Cryptopsy yet?

The basics. I’ve got him on Sabbath and he knows both singers and I haven’t played any Ian Gillian for him or any of the other records. I’m starting him with the basics. I think it’s super important you know?

Yeah, definitely. Are you more of the Metallica fan or the Megadeth fan?

I love a bunch of Megadeth records but no at the time it was Metallica for sure and still. Those first four records are pretty perfect. But I was also, and still am, at the time a bigger Anthrax fan than Megadeth or Slayer. It was kind of Metallica one and Anthrax two for me.

So have you seen this Baby Metal thing that everybody has been talking about? Do you have any opinions on them?

Of course. Yeah man. Am I going to go see them? Probably not unless it was easy for me. If it was at some festival thing I would walk over and check it out but I think it’s funny and I don’t know why they didn’t come out 20 years ago. It just seems like something the Japanese would have already done, combining cute school girls with metal. I can’t believe they didn’t tour with Loudness 20 years ago.

You know Marty Friedman finally comes back to metal and then this stuff blows up.

Hahahaha yeah.

Do you listen to much black metal?

Not the really brutal kvlt stuff or you know, K-V-L-T version of that word. No, and I’ll tell you why. I’ll probably lose some metal cred for this but I’ve always had a problem with… can I cuss?

Yep.

I haven’t yet.

Nah this is on the internet man you can say whatever the fuck you want.

Oh right on. Well my son was in the car earlier now he’s out or we’re at the house but anyway, yeah man shitty production always bothered the fuck out of me. I bought those Venom records as a kid. Didn’t love them. Never loved them. [I] bought them because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do and then when I put them on… You know even the early Slayer, like I love Hell Awaits but the stuff before that… not produced well and if it’s not I just can’t get into it so that’s my problem with a lot of the original black metal. You know Mayhem and that early stuff, it hurts my ears. My precious, precious ears. But then I got into the probably false version. I like some Dimmu Borgir. I like some black but I feel like that’s not my area of expertise.

Have you heard of the band Liturgy?

Only by name. Are they one of the ones worth checking out?

Haha, uhh, well they’re sort of divisive. They are a bunch of kids from Brooklyn you know they ride bicycles and that kind of thing and they’re basically Brooklyn hipsters from Williamsburg. Well they’ve started a black metal band so I always like to ask people who they think is more trve in the black metal sense, Liturgy or Cradle Of Filth?

Hahaha. I uh, I don’t know. I think that Cradle Of Filth guy would have trouble getting on a bike with all the props and his make up and it would be hard to see with those crazy contact lenses in so maybe Liturgy is more metal.

Haha. Do you have any favorite albums of 2014 because the year’s wrapping up here?

Well, the new Exodus.

The return of [the late Exodus vocalist Paul] Baloff. [Ed. note: I knew I said the wrong name as soon as it came out of my mouth but his answer was too good to edit this part out.]

Yeah or no, of [Steve] Souza.

Haha yeah I wish it was the return of Baloff but that’s not going to happen.

That would be super metal man if he came back from the grave. An undead singer is the most metal singer you can have. That record was great. Fuck, you kind of caught me off guard. I should have been thinking about what my favorite shit is from this year. But like I said that last Carcass record I was listening to a lot.

Did you hear the new At The Gates?

Yeah, well no I bought it but I haven’t checked it out yet. I just got it. I love them but I hope it’s good. Is it good?

It’s not terrible.

Haha you’re selling the shit out of that.

Well it sounds like old At The Gates. It’s not going to be as good as Slaughter Of The Soul. You’ve got to just accept that. It’s not going to be that album. But at the same time it’s not a terrible album. It’s kind of like the new Black Sabbath album with Ozzy. It’s not horrible it’s just…

Right.

It’s not going to hold up to those classics but it’s not bad.

I think a lot you know, for doing comparable work, I think Carcass’s new record is comparable to Heartwork. It’s probably not classic status yet like that but I don’t know. It’s so hard. And then I’m working on that Scott Ian record, he and I we call ourselves grandpa metal. We make fun of each other for being kind of so set in our ways and you judge these bands on the classic albums and a ton of people think that Anthrax hasn’t ever done anything past Among The Living and [it] depends on your opinion. I do.

Like I said you’ve got to understand what it is going in. When people think it’s just going to be this…

Right.

The new At The Gates isn’t Slaughter Of The Soul but it’s still a good album. It’s got some great riffs on it.

Cool. Yeah I want to check it out. You know what I like is that new Slipknot record and again I’m probably losing cred for not loving Venom and liking Slipknot but whatever. It’s good man. If you like that band there’s some good stuff on there.

So do you really have anything on your iPod besides “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors?

I actually don’t have “Two Princes” on my iPod.

So now in addition to being a metal head you’re also a big video game fan and I was kind of curious what you’re thinking about this whole #GamerGate thing that’s been going on.

I don’t even know what it is.

This whole reaction to feminism that’s going on in the video gaming world right now.

Oh man… I don’t know. Oh man no I’m not even going to get into it. The whole internet… haha “the whole internet,” I’m a grandpa for sure… Eh I don’t have time for any of that shit. I don’t know what #GamerGate is. Feminism in video games… I don’t know.

It’s a bunch of guys at like 4chan and Reddit [that] have been attacking a bunch of people that have been commenting about sexist things going on in video games and stuff and they’ve been publishing these women’s addresses on the internet and things like that to scare them.

Oh that’s not good.

But then they say they’re doing it all to try to make it so there’s more honesty in journalism or something. I don’t know it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me either but I’m not the biggest gamer but it’s been all over Twitter.

Yeah I just try not to spend too much time on Twitter or getting into online fights. [There is] not enough hours in the day to care about that shit.

Yeah it’s gotten to the point where Intel I think was pulling ads off of sites. It’s snowballed out of control. At this point I’m not even sure what it’s really about any more.

Huh.

Anyways, so moving on… hahaha So you’ve stopped smoking pot and I was wondering do you still drink beer because there’s a whole craft beer revolution going on right now and there’s a lot of breweries in DC that have ties to metal as well like DC Brau, Port City, Adroit Theory, and in Baltimore their Oliver Ales makes a beer for The Sword and Brewer’s Art makes an Ozzy beer so I’m just curious, are you into craft beer at all?

Yeah but it’s like asking me about new black metal. I’ll drink it but really I really am not that knowledgeable about it. It’s not something I follow or care about but I enjoy beer and will try ones that are recommended to me and that kind of thing. Boring answer but it’s the truth I just kind of don’t give a fuck haha.

I mean it’s just like music, sometimes you have to start somewhere and have someone push you in the right direction ya know?

Right, right, right.

Anyway thanks so much for your time Brian. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see you…

Yeah man sorry. Sorry my son was on the phone in the beginning it’s just timing wise he was in the car.

Nah it’s all good man. [It] sounds like you’re raising him to be a hell raiser already so that’s pretty cool.

Haha yeah, [I’m] working on it man.

Alright man well I can’t wait to see you this Thursday, November 20th at the Black Cat.

Yep, thanks man.

Alright take it easy. Stay metal man.

You too.

Interview with Bill Ward of Black Sabbath

On Tuesday, April 8th I was given the opportunity to interview one of the founding fathers of heavy metal, Bill Ward, the original drummer for Black Sabbath. He played with the band through the Ozzy years and on the first album with Dio as well as on Born Again then came back into the fold in the late 90s when the band reformed for their reunion tours. In November of 2011 the four original members of Black Sabbath reunited again and announced they’d be creating their first album together since the late 70s. However issues arose and Bill Ward ended up not being a part of the new album. He hasn’t slowed down at all though and one of the things he’s done is work on a new visual art project called Absence Of Corners. We’re really lucky because they’ve decided that the public viewing of this collection will be in Annapolis, Maryland, and on May 9th and 10th Bill Ward will be on hand to speak about the pieces himself! Even better, if you purchase (here) one of the very limited prints you’ll be invited to a special reception on May 10th where you can meet Bill Ward yourself, have him sign your piece, get your photo with him and even ask him any questions you think I might have left out of this interview (more details here). This isn’t a traveling art display, this is the only exhibit so don’t miss it!

This interview is 32 minutes long and we covered a wide range of topics from the art exhibition to his time with Black Sabbath, his time after and even what new metal bands he’s into (spoiler: there’s a lot of them). I suggest reading along while listening to the stream of the interview as I’ve packed this post with photos and links related to what we’re talking about. You can also download an mp3 of the audio here. I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did! My words are in bold below and you can click the orange play button to start the stream.

Bill Ward

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got a very special guest with me, Bill Ward, the original drummer of Black Sabbath. Mr. Ward will be in Annapolis, Maryland on Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th at the Annapolis Collection Gallery showcasing his new Rhythm On Canvas visual artwork series known as Absence Of Corners. The viewing is open to the public for free and limited prints will be available for purchase by fans. Anyone who does purchase a piece will be invited to an exclusive VIP reception with Bill Ward where he’ll be available to sign your piece and answer a few questions and just talk to fans as well. So to start off Bill, why don’t you tell me about how this Absence Of Corners project came to be.

Thank you. It started back in the spring, I think it was the spring of 2013, and we were approached by [the] two main guys in Scene Four, that would be Cory [Danziger] and Ravi [Dosaj]. They’re the technicians and the producers and they had already established this new way of producing art in terms of drummers just playing their drums completely in the dark and having lighted sticks or lighted brushes and just playing whatever they wanted to play, for the most part, and taking all kinds of pictures. And the all kinds of pictures really was all kinds of pictures but at times I think we probably had between two and three photographers right in and out of the kit. There were so many different lights that were going on. And that’s how all this started. We were just approached, we liked the idea, Liese Rugo was heading it, and Liese said let’s think about this and go ahead and do it. It might be a nice change for you right now so I thought OK. So that’s how we went ahead you know, it’s quite simple. That’s how it started.

Did you use your own drum kit for this?

Oh yes sir, yes I did. Yeah in fact I used the master kit. When I say a master kit that would be a kit that I would normally use with Black Sabbath. It was set up in its drum rehearsal mode and we went in and I just slammed. I slammed for probably an hour and 45 minutes. We just jammed, jammed, jammed everything out, yeah.

Wow. Now so they took a lot of photos here. Did you have any input as far as to which ones they used of which angles they used or anything like that?

No, not at all. I stayed out of all that. I followed direction. I let them tell me what they wanted. As far as the playing I went wherever I wanted but as far as any kind of cameras or anything to do with their end of it, I stayed well out of all that [and] let them do their thing. I only started to collaborate at the point when I began to view the pictures. And when I viewed them you know it’s like… it took me a while to digest everything but the collaboration began when they said, “Well Bill can you suggest some titles,” and I love writing. I love coming up with words and things like this so I said OK. That’s when I started to realize what each picture meant to me personally and it’s when I came up with the titles and then we just started to gain some depth as to where it was all going so it was a nice collaboration. That was very enjoyable actually.

I saw you made some videos that describe the naming process of these pieces and I found the one for “Soundshock” particularly interesting. Can you describe to me what sound shock is exactly and is it something you deal with on a daily basis?

My idea of sound shock is pretty tricky stuff because it’s something that, through all the years and years and years of playing on stage, and playing very loud, I think that there are some prices to pay. One is in the way that I perceive the sound of right now, the sound of your voice, Chris. The sound of the room around me, the sound of the fan that we have on right now. And I can hear, I guess, well enough but sound shock becomes more apparent if I went into a super market or a grocery store or into a restaurant where there’s multiple voices and multiple sounds. Train station, airport, anything like that and I have a very difficult time listening to things that are right next to me. If someone’s talking to me I can barely hear them but I can actually hear things that are going on two aisles over so my hearing has become unique I guess. Not unique to me. I think other people have this phenomena also. It’s very strange. When I first started getting this it was a bit scary you know. I was just wondering what was going on. It’s been going on now for a number of years. It’s something that I’ve definitely gotten used to. It can also be called mixer’s ears. Just recently I’ve spent an awful lot of time in the studios finishing up a piece of work I’ve been trying to get done there for quite some time and only the other day I was in the studio and I can only listen for about three hours now and I went, you know what? My ears have completely gone. And I was hearing things that weren’t there and you know that happens to a lot of musicians when there at the final stages mixing and things like that. But what happens with mixer’s ears is when we break, take five, sit outside or whatever, the sound of being outside is a little bit different than what it was three hours before going into the studio. So I have that too. There’s imbalance and incorrect perceiving of sound. I think that’s the best way I can describe it. I did see a documentary a few months back now. It was about a soldier that had been in Iraq and they were focused on this soldier and what he went through when he walked into supermarkets having been around bombs and explosions and I was intrigued by what he was sharing because I thought oh my god. I said I feel the same way. I feel just like this guy, the things that he was going through. I went to see a couple of doctors to talk about it, neurologists. So we’re still researching it ya know, we’re still going through it and I’m sure there’s other musicians, I’m sure I’m not unique in this at all, other musicians that are either on their way and got a better understanding of it. It’s not like something that I’m desiring to fix. It’s something about learning exactly like, oh this is what I live with now and I have an explanation for why things can sometimes sound really strange. Especially in a restaurant. I can hear the other people talking three tables over [louder] than I can my own wife whose in front of me. She doesn’t think of– my wife doesn’t mind ya know? She’s used to me being kind of crazy you know so, hahaha, so it can be taken as quite rude I think. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Annapolis when I start talking with everyone.

“Soundshock”

Are you interested in doing more visual art projects in the future?

I think I would have to really take a look and see what it might be. There are some other things that I would like to get to and it’s trying to have the time to get to it. So I did have something else on the back burner but it would not be working the same way that I did with Ravi and Cory in terms of playing drums to create art. But however it depends. I like to keep an open mind. One never knows. It could be something that’s completely different so if it appeals and I can feel the nature of it and it has some substance and it can be meaningful to other people then you know I’d look at it, yeah. I think I’d say yes to that, to that question. Yeah.

Are there any specific pieces about Black Sabbath or your time with the band or your time after?

I think that there are actually and I didn’t realize that until after. It was during the time I mentioned earlier, Chris. There was a period that happened where we started to collaborate, you know myself and Liese and Ravi and Cory, in terms of going into each piece and what it meant. That’s when I– it started to hit me. It really came quite strong actually. There were some things that were primarily related to the turbulent emotional stuff that I was going through after the contractual agreement [with Black Sabbath] couldn’t be sorted out. You know it just couldn’t be sorted out. And I just felt so horrible about everything about that not being able to be sorted out as I believe they did but I’m not going to quote them or anything else. I read something from Tony [Iommi, Black Sabbath guitar player] that he was not particularly happy either so, well neither was I. But that turbulence and that emotional upheaval, I think some part of it may have reflected through my playing. There’s that one piece, I’ll just use the most poignant piece if you like, it’s called “Grief.” And somebody had put the picture, a huge picture of “Grief,” and it was leaning against some cases, we were in the warehouse, I was up at the warehouse just signing off a bunch of paintings and what have you. And I hadn’t seen “Grief” prior to going to the warehouse, and I turned around, it’s almost like I felt something in my back and I turned around and I looked down and I saw this– I made out a face immediately. I was about maybe fifteen feet from the painting, Chris. I just peered into it and I went, “Oh my god.” And I said, “What’s this?” And they were smiling and they said, “That’s one of your paintings, Bill.” You know and I said, “Oh my god you’ve got to be kidding.” And I came up with the title immediately. It’s so sad. It was so, so, so, so, so sad. And that’s exactly how I felt about it you know. Even as we speak I’m still recovering from all of this you know. And “Grief” would have been my number one choice in attaching something to the emotional well being, or the unemotional well being, of that period. 2012, 2013, very, very, very tough years. Would you like me to give you a couple more examples?

“Grief”

Sure, yeah.

“Grief,” it’s really quite morbid looking. Kind of right up my street, haha. It’s very gray. It’s gray looking and I think to really feel “Grief” you have to stand about ten feet away from the picture. And you see it and it’s just this tormented soul. It’s just really… not OK at all. Of course, technically, Ravi and Cory showed me in the picture where my arms were and what I was doing at that particular point from a drumming point of view, not what I was actually playing in terms of notes. But because I couldn’t see, I couldn’t make it out. You know was I playing with brushes, what was going on there you know?

Yeah.

It scares me to be honest with you. It really scares me. It really bothered me, bothered me a lot. But at the same time it brought a semblance of relief because I thought, you know what? I’m in a lot of pain man. And all of this stuff that we’re talking about, Absence Of Corners, became more of a therapy session for me. A long therapy session which is still continuing. And it turned into that. I didn’t expect that. Nobody planned that. But that’s what it became then you know. And I’ve discussed Absence Of Corners with people from all over the world and they give me their– how it touched them you know. What it means to them and we sit down and we rap for two or three hours you know talking about emotions and what have you so it’s been very fulfilling. Very, very fulfilling spiritually.

That’s good.

Yeah, it’s great. One of the things also that’s connected with the turbulence that I felt, emotional turbulence [is] this one that I have it’s called “We Focus. We Persevere.” And that one as well I can see myself. I think I was actually playing jazz because it looks like I’m using the brushes in the picture. That one was particularly nice. It was about drummers and that comes back from the way that I was brought up as a drummer not only as a child but into my teenage years and then of course into my later teenage years when I was 18 of course I’d been playing with Tony for two years. When I was 18 and we were already in some pretty good bands you know and Black Sabbath was just around the corner. I didn’t know that but it’s just the influences. I look at the picture and I can actually see my study. I can actually see that I’m focused and I’m really enjoying playing. And that came from a lot of discipline and a lot of listening to blues and jazz which were all incredibly influential inside Black Sabbath. In fact I think more people now are recognizing just how much blues and jazz was inside Black Sabbath and how we utilized that. How we would have our grooves if you like and how that structured itself inside everything that became metal. But that’s a particular favorite of mine, that one, Chris. We overcome. We persevere. No matter what. We come through. We have to ascend our difficulties and we have to come through and that’s part of the action of my life. It’s a very strong, living statement for other drummers primarily and of course for other people or interested parties that might be interested in them. If they can receive something from those things in terms of heightened senses then more power to them. It’s beautiful you know. I didn’t invent it. It’s just something that is part of my life as well and part of a lot of people’s lives and I’ve seen this happen with a lot of other drummers who are friends of mine, some of the people who have passed away, that I dearly love. So yeah, that’s a little bit about that one.

“We Focus. We Persevere.”

OK now in November you did an interview with Rock Cellar Magazine and in that interview [read it here] you said that you hadn’t listened to any of the new Black Sabbath album, 13, except for maybe about 40 seconds of [the promotional track] “God Is Dead?” Have you listened to that album since then?

No and I probably won’t.

You don’t think you ever will?

I, I– Maybe if I reach a point of serenity where I’m able to give it a listen but no there’s nothing of value in there for me to listen to. I love the guys. I really hope that they receive blessings and wonderful things in their life. [I’m] communicating with Terry [“Geezer” Butler, Black Sabbath bass player], I’m communicating with Tony, privately. We always send our very, very best wishes to each other and our love to each other. But no I’m not interested in the album. It was something that I wanted to play on. I was completely able to play on it. There’s no question in my heart at all. [This refers to comments Ozzy Osbourne made (here) about Bill Ward not being on the new Black Sabbath album because he was out of shape.] So you know it’s still something that I don’t care, I don’t care to listen to it. Even if it was the most brilliant album in the world I don’t care to listen to it.

That leads me to the question, do you ever see yourself as a part of Black Sabbath again?

Well a lot of things have happened to me. Starting in September, 2013, I had a horrible illness which I’m still recovering from and it created some other things that I am still recovering from. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t come to [my previously scheduled appearance in] Annapolis you know. So aside from me now having to do a lot of work to gain my health and my strength back, you know and I’d be the first to admit it if I can’t cut it physically as a drummer then my answer would be no. I would not be prepared to play with Sabbath you know. I would never, ever, ever elude to being able to play with Sabbath if my health wasn’t absolutely smack on. And my health right now is not bad but it’s not good enough to certainly play in any band never mind Black Sabbath. I have to get a lot stronger than where I am. I lost a lot of weight. I’ve got to gain all my muscle back. I lost all my muscle. And I’m doing some stick practice but if I was in a good position where I felt strong enough I can overcome the hits that I took, the verbal hits, I can overcome all that stuff. I can overcome you know just the shut down and the way that I felt and everything else. I can overcome all of those things. All of the things that were like at the time just like– what the hell? I can certainly recover from all that stuff actually. I can do it pretty good. You know in fact I’ve recovered from most of it as I’m speaking to you this morning. I’ll always have an open mind to playing with Black Sabbath. I love the band. I miss them terribly. And so my answer would be leaning towards if something could be worked out. Something that I could live with and I’m talking politically now, contractually. And not the kind of things that I’ve done in the past. I’m talking about the very core of what I talked about in my big statement of February 2012 [read it here]. If we can come to some terms and we’re all OK with each other and the most important thing for me is being able to know that I can play drums the way that I want to be otherwise I wouldn’t even enter into any kind of conversation with them if I knew that I wasn’t back on the mark. Then I would be moving forward. I think that a lot of fans have suffered horribly through these undertakings of the last couple years and I fully, fully blame the inconsiderateness of just a few people who created, and I won’t talk about who, but a few people who created such a huge wasteland of real, real pain when everyone was just so excited to see the original band with an original record. And I’d already stated my boundaries quite early in all this. It didn’t come overnight. It wasn’t a shock. You know it wasn’t something that suddenly happened. We’d been negotiating for over 15 months. Things like that so. But I have to be careful in overstating because there’s still a political agenda attached to this. So I’ve definitely got an open mind. I miss playing with Terry, Geezer, just horribly. I absolutely miss him to death. And I miss playing with Tony just… every day. I mean every single day I– it just blows me away man. And obviously I miss Oz [Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath vocalist]. I’ve had to– with Ozzy I– I’ve lost a friend as far as I’m concerned. A man that I dearly loved, and I still dearly love but I’ve had to really now readjust just how much I’m going to trust and love him. He fired back on some pretty mean stuff in the press so. And I’ve gone OK. Like with any of us when we get hurt we’re going to pull back our love and our considerations for another human being when they kick out at you and you know. So that’s been a big loss.

In the last couple years in the world of metal there have been several high profile drummers that have either been kicked out of their bands or just kind of you know similar situations to you I think where there’s contract issues and things where I think the drummers feel like they’re not getting at least a respectable compensation for what they’re doing. I’m talking about like big bands here like Dave Lombardo of Slayer, Mike Portnoy leaving Dream Theater, and I’m sure there’s others as well. But do you think drummers right now, in the world of modern metal, do you think they’re just being under valued?

Yeah there’s something going on. Just for the record I know Mike and Dave Lombardo is a very good friend of mine. Me and Dave have had many Indian food– much Indian food and we’ve discussed these things in the last two years, that’s for sure. Yeah, I think what’s going on is we find the key players and the other players have less value and its become some kind of new modern thing, modern thinking. It’s like the other guys don’t count as much or they can be replaced. Let’s just focus on who we think are the stars in the band and you’ll see it all the time. It’s been going on for a long, long time. A lot of other bands have adopted this similar idea. It’s been around for a while. I think it comes out of a managerial idea, for the most part. Not a very good managerial idea at all. But it’s just something that’s going on and I’ve had private discussions with a lot of people about this and I think it’s not only necessarily aimed at drummers I think it’s aimed at other people as well. And it’s not just because the guys are being [night] owls or whatever you know. It’s nothing to do with that. Back in the day that was like it’s about him, it’s about him and let’s blame him and that and that and that you know. And it’s not about me. I absolutely refuse to take any responsibility of blame that’s been thrown at me. I will be accountable to the fans and I will be responsible to the fans because they are extremely important to me. I think what we’re seeing is something that’s been going on for a while that’s starting to take seed and we’re now seeing the results of defocusing other people and we’re seeing that more focus goes on the primary players and that’s been going on since, well I’ll probably get into trouble with this, since all of the teams. [Mick] Jagger and [Keith] Richards and all the way through. And I’m not saying for one second that the [Rolling] Stones‘ set up is like that OK. I’m not saying that. It’s a very interesting subject and as more is being revealed I can probably be a little more revealing but it’s so bloody political that I have to watch what I’m saying. Because otherwise– I know that there are some people that would probably love to sue my ass and I would think they would get a great deal of pleasure from that.

Well I’m not trying to get you in any trouble here either so…

No, no I know. I know. No, I’m enjoying the interview but I just have to be careful you know. And a lot of the times I wear a lot of my stuff on my sleeve. I’m so bloody transparent and I hate having to play hopscotch but I feel like I’ve been as honest as I can be with you right now.

“Solidarity”

You are also the host of a radio show called Rock 50. You play a lot of metal, both older and current and I was really surprised that you are a fan of a band that was a favorite of mine growing up. You are a big fan of Cryptopsy it turns out.

Oh definitely, yeah.

Phenomenal drummer Flo [Mounier] in that band. Are there any other bands that people might not really expect the drummer from Black Sabbath to be into? Any other modern metal bands like that?

Oh God I go right across the board. When I play my radio show I only play bands that I sincerely really like, really, really like. That I’m a fan of. These are some of my long standing bands. The first one has got to be Slipknot you know. I got a couple of guys in Slipknot that are real good friends of mine.

They’re another band that’s recently had drummer issues as well with Joey Jordison leaving.

Yeah. It’s hard for me to say anything about that but Slipknot’s one of my favorite bands. An example Sunday night, I’d just gone Sunday night I was watching– Vinny Appice used to be in the band… Kill Devil Hill. Anyway the reason why I went to see them play was because there is a couple of guys in the band that I know and love. Especially I went this time because it just so happened that Johnny Kelly, who is a friend of mine he played drums with Type O Negative, Johnny has replaced Vinny. When Johnny told me that I was like, “Oh my god.” And they were playing only a mile from where I’m speaking. The band came down. I went to see Johnny and Rex [Brown] was playing bass from Pantera and they’re fucking outstanding man. Outstanding bass player. Johnny did a great job. The other guy, Dewey [Bragg] the singer, I’ve known Dewey for years man, years and years and years. And they absolutely kicked ass man. They were great. We were in this little club. Nice club, at least they’re doing a shout out for metal. It’s called the Gas Lamp down off Pacific Coast Highway here in Longbeach. There’s another band that was supporting them called Seeds Of War and I really liked Seeds Of War as well. I like anything Mastodon. I’m a huge Mastodon fan. Slayer all the way down the line man. All the way down the line. Megadeth and Skeletonwitch. We met them when they were first new and I’ve always supported them. Always played their records on our radio show. Their production is getting better and better and better. Their songs are tight man [their] playing has become better. They’re really good you know. So I’m right in the mix. I’m right in the middle of it all and I feel completely at home. I sit there with my metal brothers and my metal sisters and drink my tea and I just like to be by myself. I like to sit nice and quiet and watch the bands and everyone’s nice enough to come up and say hello. I just look at them all and it’s just a wonderful part of my life. It’s a very sacred part of my life. I love metal.

DC has quite a few metal bands from this area and I was kind of curious are there any from the DC area or Maryland that you’re a fan of?

Oh I’m sure if you name me the bands I can tell you instantly.

Some of our bigger ones are Clutch, Pig Destroyer, Darkest Hour, Deceased

OK can you stop? Haha. We play Deceased, Darkest Hour, Clutch and what was the first?

Pig Destroyer.

Pig Destroyer. I think that they elude me, I’m not sure about Pig Destroyer. All the other bands have been regularly played on Rock 50 for years.

Pentagram and The Obsessed, they’re both from here too.

OK, yeah. I know Pentagram.

The Obsessed was Wino’s old band before he started [with] Saint Vitus.

Oh yeah Wino OK yeah.

But he’s from DC originally and his band out here was called The Obsessed.

OK, yeah. I don’t think I’ve heard The Obsessed but I’ve heard of Wino before.

Yeah well, they’re not as big as Saint Vitus but to DC people you know we love ’em.

Yeah of course. You’ve got your home grown metal man. It’s like that’s where it’s at you know for sure. It’s got to keep rolling. The doors are open and the sky’s the limit. And I’m just glad to be a part of the journey. I’m glad I’m on the bus and just riding with everybody. It’s a real honor. It’s a real privilege. I was sitting at the side of the stage. I’m like ten feet away from Dewey when he was singing the other night. You know sitting on the side of the stage and some of the audience were looking saying, “Who’s that gray bearded old man sitting there?” I don’t give a fuck you know. I’m on stage rocking out man.

That’s the way to do it.

Yeah, I’m a fan. That’s just where I’m at you know.

So how often do you go to see live shows these days?

Well, since I got sick not that often because if I go into population, in other words I’m not coming in back stage, if I’m in population I have to take a bunch of security guys with me. And it’s not because I’m scared in case somebody’s going to beat me up. I’m scared in case somebody’s going to run up and give me a big hug and it’s so painful right now cause they cut my stomach open three or four times so it’s still pretty sore even though it’s been– January the 7th was the last operation, January 7th, 2014. So I’m afraid that, haha, somebody’s going to give me a big hug. They’ve already done it OK. They’ve gone oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Whenever we go out anywhere when I know I’m going to be in public we have to have a little security shield say, “Don’t touch him. Don’t hug him so hard,” you know. Haha. It’s pretty crazy man but it’s what it is right now and I laugh about it. I like getting hugs from people. I love people. To answer your question I like to get out a little bit to be honest with you. Obviously if we’re touring with Black Sabbath then I’d see all the bands. Any band that was playing I’d watch them all the time or I’d go out afterwards, maybe see a little jazz in a club.

You also have another solo project in the works, Accountable Beasts I think I heard the name thrown around.

Accountable Beasts and right now it’s 9:15 here in Pacific time and in about an hour and a half I’ll be on a mixing board. We had to stop the final, final, final mix of “Accountable Beasts” the song on Sunday because my ears went. We were talking earlier about sound shock. My ears went and I went, “Oh my God I just don’t know if it’s there or not.” So this morning we’re going in with fresh ears and we’re just signing off on just a couple of little things. It’s like OK we got that, it’s there, oh that does exist you know. You weren’t dreaming it it’s still there. And once we’ve got that that’s another song done. I’ve got two more songs that are ready for final mix. They’ve already been mixed but they have now to do a final, finite mix, which is making sure the balances are OK. Does it feel good? Have we got everything there? Are we happy? Can we live with it? We gotta kind of go through that kind of measuring stick and that’s it and that album goes to mastering.

When do you think we’ll expect to see that, either download or physical form that we could actually buy?

I think we might be able to make an announcement because Liese Rugo, she’s my publicist and she watches very carefully about the things that I might say, haha, and say “Don’t say it’s coming out in six months. Wait until we know it’s coming out in six months,” but I think that we’ll probably be making some kind of an announcement pretty soon. On our timetable right now, this morning, we’re hoping to be finished with the two songs but I know I’ve been whistling that tune for a while but I can’t see anything in front of me that could can stop me. And I thought “Don’t say that either,” you know because I was doing this back in September and I got a perforated diverticulitis so I better not say anything at all. Haha. So I’m just going to keep it nice and quiet and say we’re on our way to really, really coming to the end of this album and more will be revealed and we’re going to let everybody know when we’re in a better position to get more information out. I think that’s the most polite way of putting it right now.

Well I’m coming to the end of my questions here. One thing I wanted to know though is what is your favorite Black Sabbath album?

The first one. I like the naiveté. I like the camaraderie then. It was a band. It was a real band. It was everything that I thought a real band– or while I was learning what a real band ought to be. Camaraderie, it was the four musketeers. It was everything. And hard, tight. Just playing a lot of gigs. It was a live band and then they went and put us in a studio for 24 hours, 36 hours, whatever it was. And they managed to get us on a piece of tape, Tom Allom and Rodger Bain, they just got us on a piece of tape and it was just absolutely incredible so it’s because of that. It’s because of the naiveté and the spontaneity and it’s all that and I listen to it very, very fondly.

Black Sabbath cover art

It’s been a real honor for me to get a chance to talk to you today. I’m a big fan of metal and all its genres but the thing that got me into it all was when I first got a copy of We Sold Our Souls For Rock And Roll and nothing was the same for me in my life since then. The chance to speak to you today has been a real honor and something I won’t ever forget.

Thanks, Chris. Thank you I really appreciate that. I’ve really enjoyed myself. Thank you and I look forward to seeing you when I get into Annapolis.

Yeah I can’t wait. I’ll be very excited there and I’m excited to see your work as well. It should be a fun day and this winter seems to be finally ending so hopefully it will be very nice around here too.

Very good.

Alright well thanks so much for your time this has been an awesome interview.

You’re very welcome.

Well take it easy, have a good afternoon.

And you.

Interview With Evan Harting After Maryland Deathfest XI

Maryland Deathfest XI ran from Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 through Sunday, May 26th in Baltimore and uncharacteristically there were some issues with the fest which left many people unhappy with the way things were run. I contacted Evan Harting, one of the two co-organizers of Maryland Deathfest, and he agreed to do an interview with me to address many of these issues. The following 30 minute interview was recorded in the evening of Tuesday, May 28th, 2013. My words are the ones in bold. You can listen to the interview by clicking the orange play button on the player below or you can download the 28mb mp3 of the interview by clicking here.

UPDATE: Ryan Taylor, the other MDF co-organizer, made a few clarifying comments about this interview on the MDF message board, which you can read here.

Hi, this is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and it’s just a couple days after Maryland Deathfest XI. The four day festival in Baltimore, Maryland every Memorial Day weekend is the biggest underground metal festival in the United States and heavy metal fans come from all over the world to see dozens of metal bands play. For the most part I had a great time though there were a few bumps in the road. Maryland Deathfest has a reputation for being organized and run very well though this year there were some issues that came up. Attendees took to social media sites and there was a lot of anger and negativity towards the fest sometimes for things well beyond their control. I’ve seen rumors and misinformation along with some issues that I myself witnessed all being talked about on sites like Facebook at Twitter. I love Maryland Deathfest. It is one of the highlights of my year every year and so I reached out to Evan Harting, one of the two co-founders of the festival, to help clear up some of the issues and complaints about this year’s festival in his own words. So hello Evan, thanks for taking the time to do this interview.

No problem.

Now before we get into some of the heavier stuff I’d like to first thank you for bringing together such great bands year after year. Because of Maryland Deathfest I’ve gotten to see some bands perform live that I never thought I would see in my life and I’ve gotten the chance to check out some great up and coming bands as well. So my first question for you is: what were your favorite performances at Maryland Deathfest XI?

I didn’t get to watch any of them.

Alright, you were that busy.

Yeah. By far the busiest year for me.

Now ever since Sonar’s co-owner Daniel McIntosh was arrested and convicted on drug trafficking charges last year [details here] there’s been a lot of questions about where Maryland Deathfest XI would take place. It seemed like you and Ryan Taylor [the other co-organizer of Maryland Deathfest] kind of settled for Sonar this year, which is now rebranded as Paparazzi by their new owners, and the tent set up, which I don’t think many people were that happy about, seemed like you guys were just kind of trying to do the best you could with a bad situation. When exactly did you find out that Paparazzi did not have a suitable stage for Maryland Deathfest bands to play on?

We found out pretty late in the game. We were looking for new venue options and our head of security works with Paparazzi now and he came to us [and] said that the new owners would really like for us to have it there again and it seemed like some of the other options were kind of like falling apart and such. So we decided that we’d at least hear them out. Give them the chance to at least see what they had in mind. It seemed like it was going to work out fine [and we] might as well have it there another year. The biggest thing for us was just [that] we wanted to have an inside component and the proximity to the hotels is ideal for us. You know we want to have people near their hotels so they can just stumble home at the end of the night and not have to worry about it. Those are the biggest things for us so it worked out that way. And the new owners had lots of ideas of how we can expand and make it better and all this stuff so that’s what we decided to do. And they told us we can use the building the way we have in the past. Still have our inside stage and everything like that. So that’s what we were planning on and they did say that they were making renovations to the place and making it different but that was the extent of it. So we booked the entire festival and then we came down to the venue to check it out after the renovations had been made. And we walked into that room and were like, wow. We cannot use this at all. We are screwed.

Yeah. So how did the tent come up as a solution?

That was pretty much the only other option at that point. We couldn’t use the inside. We’d already sold a lot of tickets for Thursday’s [indoor only] show and the portion that was going to be inside and we didn’t want to have a completely outside thing. Certain bands count on having an inside show. That’s what they want. That’s a part of the agreement with them. Originally our first backup plan was [that] we were going to use part of the parking lot right there and kind of wall it in. So that would be kind of like a tented stage for us. But that did not come together and we didn’t know about that happening until kind of the last minute as well. So we, kind of at the last minute, decided we would have to put up an entire tent on the street.

Now was there any difference in regards to the fire code and noise curfew from the tent stage and the other outdoor stages?

No. It’s the same.

Are you considering holding the fest at the same location next year?

Absolutely not.

Many bands were cut off while still performing at the fest this year. Sometimes these were even the headliners. I saw Bolt Thrower, Kommandant, Pentagram, Venom, they all got cut off this year. What was the reason for this?

We have a very strict noise curfew. We have to abide by that. If we don’t then we get fined a lot of money. Venom knew about it and they continued to play so we literally had to pull the plug on them and it looked bad on our part but there’s nothing we could do about it. They knew they had to stop at that time but they decided to keep going. So when we pulled the plug, we’re the bad guys. So that sucked.

The one band I saw that didn’t get cut off was Sleep. They ran about ten minutes over so why weren’t they cut off?

I don’t really know to be honest. At that time I was in the middle of a million other things and I didn’t even know about that to be honest. But Venom also took their time setting up and I don’t remember exactly what the deal was but they should have gone on earlier.

I think everyone’s in agreement that the fest has really outgrown the streets outside of the Sonar/Paparazzi building. So what kind of options are you considering next year? Like maybe [the] Powerplant Live! area or a camp ground kind of set up or– I’m really hoping it’s not on a fucking cruise ship, that’s all.

Yeah it will be on a cruise ship actually… no. We don’t really know yet. You know we just wanted to get through this one before getting started on the next one. But we don’t give ourselves more than a week of rest before planning for the next one. Yeah we don’t really know yet. Powerplant area is unlikely just because there’s so many bars that have their own thing going on. It would be hard to work out a deal with that and also I know the people that are involved, the owners. I’m sure that they would want tons of money from us just to even have it there. I mean anything’s possible but I just don’t see that happening. And also it would be a lot smaller. Sometimes they do free shows in the outside area. It still doesn’t hold as many people as we would need. We could pretty much put it anywhere. A parking lot or park or something like that.

Maybe the parking lot between the two stadiums right there in downtown?

That’s one of the options we were looking at before deciding to have it at Paparazzi. So that’s also an option. We just have to weigh the options and decide which one will work out the best for us. Then we’ll have to deal with, are we getting shuttles to take people to and from the hotels because they won’t be able to walk to them any more? We really want to avoid that but I don’t really see any other way around it at this point.

Now I noticed that most of the security working the main festival grounds were some of the same team of guys who have been there, you know, the past several years. Many of them were wearing Sonar shirts which I thought was odd since Sonar doesn’t really exist any more. How exactly was the security team put in place for this year’s fest?

It’s the same security crew for the most part that we’ve worked with that worked for Sonar. The head of security, he’s awesome and he knows what he’s doing and his core group of guys, we’ve never had any problems with them. They know what they’re doing and they are, for the most part, very friendly to the people and everything. We enjoy having them. When he has to hire people from different venues and people that are not familiar with this at all, they are the ones we’ve had some issues with over the weekend.

OK so what happened with the no studded jackets or belts policy that suddenly arose early on Saturday? I had heard rumors that somehow Phil Anselmo of Down was involved in that or something. Is that true and if not how did that policy even get [put] in place?

It was basically a misunderstanding. It does have something to do with Down because they had a security rider that does enforce those things but I think that’s more for different types of concerts they’ve done. I have talked to their agent about it a while back and he said, “Don’t worry about it. We’re not going to enforce that at the fest it’ll be fine.” And then they get there and their security guy said that we need to enforce all of that and he didn’t know anything that I’ve worked out with the agent previously. So that’s why that was going on and we had to really talk to him about it and he eventually was like “It’s fine, at your discretion just do what you want” so we lifted that. But Phil himself didn’t seem to care about enforcing that at all so I’m not really sure exactly where that started.

Alright. Now one of the problems that affected almost everyone attending the fest at some point this weekend was the long lines, especially on Sunday. There seemed to be a lot of confusion about whether wrist bands got you into the venue without a wait, as they had previous years, or whether that did not happen. And this confusion wasn’t just among the attendees, it was also among the staff that were working the door. The security at the door seemed very under manned at many points throughout the weekend. I went to the SoundStage on Sunday to see Ilsa play and when I came back to the main grounds I walked over and there was this huge line wrapping beyond the parking lot down the street, and when I first walked up there were literally two people checking bags at the door, which I thought was probably the big bottle neck right there. Were there supposed to be more people searching bags and if so where were they?

Yeah there definitely should have been more people at the front handling that. There should have been people there earlier setting up a system and that did not happen. We seem to have an issue with that every year. As many times as we meet and reiterate how important it is that we get the line moving something always seems to go wrong and it just doesn’t happen when it’s supposed to. That’s just one of the issues that we know how we’re going to deal with it for the next year and that’s all we can really do with it at this point. Just learn from the mistakes and move on and know how to improve for the next [Deathfest].

Cause one of the things about these lines too is it made it very impractical to go back and forth between venues if you had the passes that let you. And it resulted in a lot of people missing a lot of bands because some of those bands were stacked very close to each other on that schedule. So you know you walk ten minutes and then you stand in line an hour and you’re missing stuff. I know you guys really trust, again, the security team but is it possible [that] like how Deathfest has outgrown Sonar that they’ve possibly outgrown the security team as well and is it time to bring in a new group of people that are used to bigger events like this?

Well one thing that we’ve briefly discussed even over the weekend and since the weekend is that we have to have a security company. We can’t just hire a bunch of our buddies to do it, there has to be a company. So we’re fine with having just a core group of guys that we’re used to. Just like, you know, even if it’s a very small number of them. We’re fine with that. But other than that, it’s likely that we actually are going to just hire our own people. People who actually know what’s going on and we know there won’t be any issues with.

OK have you considered maybe opening the doors earlier before the bands start? This year I think it was really underestimated how many people were going to be interested in seeing Speedwolf and they played very early on Sunday. They got that full page of worship, basically, written about them in the official MDF program and that probably got a lot more interest in them as well and it seemed like the door people were just not ready for that and with the door time being 1:15 and I think they went on about 35 minutes after that, there was just no way to get that many people into the venue that quickly so maybe earlier door times next year like before the first band?

Yeah, for sure.

OK cool. That’s sounds really good. One thing this year too, there seemed to be problems even just getting out of the venue, the main grounds at least, after the final bands played each night, especially after Venom played on Sunday. You heard people chanting, let em go, because they were just trying to leave. The way they had it set up was you could really only have two people standing next to each other, like a two person line, and people were trying to get out of there. This of course increased tensions and then this led to a lot of violence happening right outside the main gates as everyone was trying to leave. You’ve probably seen that video of the security guard choke slamming one guy out in the parking lot [see it here], it’s been going around. I’ve seen some other ones. You know it reminded me a lot of the pepper spray incident after Ghost closed the fest in 2011. So I’m wondering why didn’t security open up the gates and let as many people out as possible. Obviously nobody else was coming in at that point?

I’m not really sure what happened there to be honest. I heard that there was some kind of an incident and they had to wait to clear that up before letting people out. I’m not really sure. Normally either myself or Ryan are able to come and address issues like that as they come up throughout the weekend but we were just completely overwhelmed with everything over the weekend. We had zero down time. We were multitasking the entire weekend and it was just extremely stressful for us so we were not able to address all of these issues as they happened. Which was really unfortunate because [when] people are upset, it upsets us and we obviously don’t want any issues to arise at all.

I spoke with an actual off duty police officer who was attending the festival just as a fan and he was trying to video tape some of this and the security they told him that they were going to beat him down if he did not stop recording. That’s really weird to me. I can’t imagine that’s something the festival would actually endorse, telling everyone to turn off their cameras. Is that really the policy, that people should not be allowed to video tape anything like that?

No it’s not.

OK, good. I think a lot of people would probably argue that the biggest problem this year with Deathfest was the security however I would actually say that the biggest problem was the lack of communication with attendees. There was no official map or directions on how to travel between the venues, not even in the official program. There was no address given for the pre-paid parking lot entrance. There was no list of items that were banned from the festival. Nobody knew the signing schedule, or the location of the signing area, for Sunday until it was posted that morning on your Facebook page. I don’t think Broken Hope‘s signing session was even mentioned anywhere. On Thursday evening Carpathian Forest announced [here] that they would not be playing Deathfest but there was no official statement from you guys until Saturday. And then I think even that Facebook post was deleted at some point. There were other Facebook posts that were removed as well such as the photo of Down performing. Why were those posts taken down?

Just because of all the backlash that people were posting as comments. We were just completely overwhelmed. I know some things definitely should have been handled differently and we were just completely overwhelmed. You know it’s just us two dealing with this festival and it can be very overwhelming and we just were not prepared for all of this. Security, that kind of stuff, at least now we know exactly what we need to do and what we need to change. And I know some people left with a bad taste in their mouth after some of these issues and that upsets us just as much as them. All we can do is try to convince people, and assure them, that the next fest will be nothing like this. We know what has to change and we will definitely make sure that happens.

That’s really good to hear. Now the Maryland Deathfest Twitter account was reactivated shortly before the fest this year and I really hoped there would be a lot of up to the minute information coming from that and the Facebook page. These are really powerful tools that could have answered a lot of the questions I’m asking now, and they could have been answered in real time. That didn’t really happen and so I was wondering have you considered hiring a social media expert to handle this next year? Like someone that could just run your accounts for you and get information out and answer people’s questions.

Yes. That will have to be the case. Normally we have a lot more down time during the fest so we can do stuff like that but that was not the case at all this year. I had zero downtime. And I had no time to log on to Twitter and send updates. So yeah we’ll definitely have to get someone to do that kind of stuff for us.

Alright now why exactly didn’t Carpathian Forest end up playing Sunday night?

Well their singer was denied visa and one of the other guys was going to do it. The guitar player was going to do vocals but he also was not allowed over so three of the guys were there just hanging out but unable to play.

OK so why was Evoken moved from Thursday to Friday?

Because of work related stuff. It was something relating to work like they thought that they’d be playing later than that so they didn’t prepare for that and so they either would have to cancel or be switched to a different day.

OK so why did Vinterland end up playing at 10pm on Saturday instead of 5pm?

Because a couple of the guys had their flights canceled and had to fly in the next day and they didn’t even arrive until 8pm.

Oh wow. So they basically came directly from BWI [airport] and got on stage.

Yeah. Actually, quite a few bands had their flights canceled or delayed by a lot. So that was like a whole nother thing that we were dealing with all weekend. Just as an example, because of that stuff the shuttles were no longer there picking them up from the airport because their times changed. The hotels canceled their rooms because they didn’t show up when they were supposed to. It was just a whole lot of crap that resulted from that.

Is that why Tinner did not play at the SoundStage on Sunday as well?

No. Their tour fell apart or something so they didn’t end up coming. We hadn’t even heard from them in a while. We assumed everything was fine but then they wrote and said that they couldn’t play at the last minute pretty much.

Although it wasn’t really announced anywhere I thought it was really cool that you gave Speedwolf another set cause the lines had been so long Sunday and a lot of people had wanted to see them and by the time they got in they’d already played. Although their second set was during Sleep’s set. Is there any reason you put them on during that time slot instead of any other time in the festival?

That’s just when it worked out. We figured the least we could do was have them play again since a lot of people were in line before when they were playing but that just happened to be when we had that kind of time that we could slide them in during. And it’s unfortunate that it was during Sleep but it was all we could really do given the situation.

Also what happened with Golden West not being at the festival after they had been listed as a food vendor? I really like the food there a lot and I was looking for them and I never found them.

Yeah actually the girl that we have helping us, I don’t even know what to call her title exactly but, she’s like just under us, like she’s the only one helping us during the festival. She’s a manager over there and she got that together but I guess at the last minute they ended up not being able to do it. People were looking forward to having them there so that was unfortunate but they weren’t prepared for it and didn’t make it. A couple of them came for a few hours and set up in the VIP lounge and just made some tacos and stuff for some of the VIP bands that were in there but that’s it.

One other thing that I noticed about pretty much all three of the stages at the main grounds was there was a poor mix for a lot of the bands. The bass was often very high in the mix, particularly the kick drums for many of the bands playing. I actually left in the middle of Glorior Belli‘s set, a band that I was actually really excited to see, because it was pretty much unlistenable. I know some bands had their own sound guys like Pelican, who sounded great. Some of the bands due to their own sound could deal with the extra bass alright kind of like [how] Anhedonist did but you know when I’m watching a black metal band and all I hear is the bass there’s something wrong with the mix. Is there a reason so many bands were getting a mix that you’d expect of somebody like Obituary? Were there simply not enough high range speakers to counter the large amounts of bass coming out or was this something that was the sound engineer’s preference?

I don’t really know what happened there. They’re some of the same guys that have done it in past years. I don’t know what was wrong with the mix. I’ve heard conflicting stories regarding the sound as well, you know some people said that all of the bands sounded amazing and other people say that it was horrible so it goes back and forth but even any of the negative feedback, you know, we want to work to change it for the next one. So we definitely are taking all of that feedback under consideration. I mean we definitely want to make sure that bands get the best sound that they can. So even if some people thought that it wasn’t good that’s enough.

I think the main problem was it seemed like a lot of the bands were all getting the same mix regardless of what kind of band they were and that’s why [for] some of these bassier doom bands it wasn’t as much of a problem and then you see this black metal band and it should sound like a beehive or something not all kick drums and bass you know?

Right.

But these are people that have worked with you before and stuff, alright. Now this is something that actually kind of bothers me every year although this year I really noticed it a lot. Shots of the audience from the stage while major bands are playing at Deathfest. During many of the bands’ sets this year I saw photographer Aaron Pepelis of Return To The Pit shooting while standing on the stage itself with a professional camera flash repeatedly going off while the bands were playing. As a photographer myself I found this very distracting and also very unprofessional. Now I understand if you guys want a couple shots of the crowd like that during some of the bigger bands, whatever not a big deal. But I saw this going on throughout the fest at both venues. It was really frustrating and I’m wondering is it really worth the detriment to the show to be able to post a picture of Matt Pike’s coin slot on Facebook? Is this something we’re going to see more of in the future?

I’ve never heard anything about that so if it’s an issue it can definitely be addressed. That’s the first time I’ve heard someone express an issue with that to be honest.

Alright. Like I said there have been a lot of changes this year and we know that some people will bitch and moan about any change but some of them were actually very good. Which changes did you think worked the best this year at the fest?

It was great to have food there for one. I think a lot of people were happy just having more food options then there were in the past. Having a few less bands at the Sonar part made it easier for scheduling and stuff like that. Every little thing is planned you know, every little detail, so the things that come together and work out great and it’s awesome. But things that don’t are really hard for us to take.

One of the changes that I really liked was that you included the Baltimore SoundStage. I thought the venue had the best sound of all the stages at Deathfest this year and I don’t think I really heard any complaints about their security. Are there any plans to possibly work with them again or are you going to try to keep everything at one location next year so that people don’t have to go back in lines?

I think the line stuff and going back and forth could have been arranged a little better and that’s something that we definitely will work on but the whole concept behind it seemed to work out well and I did hear awesome things about the venue. The sound and everything. I wasn’t able to make it over there myself for anything but I’d be totally down to include them next year.

The biggest problem I actually had with the Baltimore SoundStage this year was the schedule. There were often several multiple hour long gaps between bands playing at the venue. And for people who had only purchased a ticket to one or multiple of the days at the SoundStage but not the main grounds, that must have been pretty frustrating. And it also would kill any momentum that say an opener band had started to build up with an audience because then you’re sitting around for two hours waiting for the next band. Why were there such large gaps in the schedule at the Baltimore SoundStage?

We just didn’t want to have certain bands playing during certain other bands’ sets at Sonar. There are some people that had tickets to only the SoundStage but not that many. Most people had both so we just were trying to avoid as much clash as possible especially with bands that are more likely for people to be into both that would hypothetically be playing at the same time.

Alright, while some of the food vendors this year were not that high quality there definitely were some great food options this year. The Zombie Barbeque was great. There was a half smoke sausage cart that was really good. Are you planning on getting more food vendors like this in the future?

Yeah, for sure.

Cool.

Yeah this was like the first time that we’ve really expanded to that whole thing. In the past couple years we’ve only had one because it was the owner of Sonar that owns a restaurant and we just kind of worked it out, a deal with him, that he would be the only food vendor to set up. They were there as well this year but obviously not the only one and I think it worked out much better that way.

OK now fans of DC Heavy Metal will know that I’m also a big fan of craft beer and instead of drinking these corporate Millers and Budweisers and whatever. I saw Flying Dog IPAs were available this year, but they were two dollars more than the corporate brands, and for a fan of dark beer like myself, I like stouts and porters, there was nothing available inside the venue, anything like that. Now Maryland actually has some great craft breweries like Heavy Seas, DuClaw, Union and even Baltimore’s own Brewer’s Art makes an actual Ozzy Osbourne beer which I’m sure would have sold well at Deathfest. Are there any plans to get some more local craft beers into the fest next year and possibly at a more competitive price point?

The reason why only those options were available is because the alcohol is completely up to the venue. We gave them suggestions many times, we should have this and this and this, but they don’t listen, they’re just going to do their own thing. We’ve had huge issues with these venue owners all weekend and that is really the icing on the cake that determines that we are definitely not doing it there again. Therefor, we’ll be pretty much doing all of this ourselves from now on. So we will have complete control over what kind of drinks will be served. So yes.

That’s great to hear. At a festival with so many of these just small, underground and independent bands it just kind of sucks to see all this corporate stuff going around when you’re looking at the beer you know when there’s so many small, underground and independent beers also in this area that could also be served there. So that’s good to hear. There were several bands that played Deathfest this year that also played shows in Baltimore during the festival such as Glorior Belli and Tragedy. Are you OK with bands doing this or are you considering having bands in the future maybe sign a contract prohibiting this or something?

We definitely do try to avoid that. The Tragedy thing was a last minute thing at the end. They asked me if it was OK and I was like “go ahead, it’s fine.” But the Glorior Belli thing was kind of a surprise. We knew about it before the fest happened but we were not very happy about it because we paid for their flights to play the fest exclusively. And then I saw they were not only doing a tour but also playing right around the corner from the fest on the same day as the fest. So yeah, we were not too stoked about that. We don’t care if bands do other shows and stuff but we just have to arrange that in the beginning. With bands playing the fest and then playing another venue in Baltimore that weekend is definitely is definitely something that we try to avoid.

The one thing from this interview that I’ve kind of heard over and over is that you and Ryan were both very overwhelmed all weekend. Do you have any ideas yet of what you’re going to do so maybe it’s a more manageable process next year so you guys aren’t just constantly overwhelmed?

Yes. A lot of it had to do with, we put too much faith in the new guys being able to help us out. They told us all along that they’d be able to like get us this and help us get this and etcetera. And they didn’t. All of that fell through so we were just not prepared for that. We put too much trust in them being able to make that stuff happen. So now we know that we cannot do that at all. We just have to take all the matters in our own hands and do things our way and not rely on anyone else to get things done. The specifics are yet to be determined because we’re still in full recovery mode right now but very soon we will start getting the gears in motion to plan for a better fest next year.

That’s great. Well thanks for answering all my questions here Evan. I really do appreciate you and Ryan Taylor bringing so many great bands to the area every Memorial Day weekend. So my last question for you is: when will you start announcing bands and a new location for next year’s fest?

Pretty much as soon as we have it confirmed. We don’t know. We’re going to start working on it pretty much immediately but we won’t announce anything until something is set in stone and we’re completely sure about it, and happy with it, so I don’t know when that will be. Regarding the bands, as many people know, we start booking pretty much immediately after this year’s fest so we definitely will start booking bands very shortly here and probably make our first group of announcements within a few months or so.

Alright cool, sounds good. Well thanks a lot for answering these questions. I know a lot of them weren’t the easiest and you’ve been really honest here and that’s awesome. I hope that you and Ryan do have a good little bit of time off. Actually relax and maybe get off your feet and have a couple beers or something you know?

Yes. That would be nice.

Alright well thanks a lot and I’ll be at the fest next year. Can’t wait for MDF XII.

Cool. We’re just stoked to basically now completely separate ourselves from a venue and everything and just doing… SoundStage thing is one thing but for the main festival grounds we’re just going to do it our own way and this will give us the freedom to do things exactly the way that we want. Every little thing can be premeditated and we can follow up on it and make sure that that’s the way it goes. I’m stoked to start a new chapter and I think it’ll be much better.

That’s great. Alright well thanks a lot and I’ll talk to you sometime soon.

Bye.

Take it easy.

Interview with Neil Fallon of Clutch

Neil Fallon, frontman for the band Clutch, was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time to do an interview over the phone. We covered a wide range of topics such as the band’s new album, Earth Rocker, how being in the DC area has influenced Clutch, beer and even the Newtown massacre. You can read the 13 minute interview below or you can download it as an 12mb MP3 file here or stream it from Soundcloud by clicking the orange play button below. My words are in bold. Enjoy!

Hi, this is Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com and I’m speaking with Neil Fallon the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for the Maryland based band Clutch. The band’s tenth studio album, Earth Rocker, is set to come out in March 2013. So my first question for you, Neil, is what can fans expect from the new album?

Well I think as a whole this record is probably faster than most of our recent albums. Maybe compared to some other bands it’s not the fastest thing on planet Earth. For us it was definitely a step up in the tempo. And I think the other thing that kind of stands out about this one is the blues influences that we’ve been flirting with over the past couple records is more or less absent in this record which didn’t really happen intentionally until we looked back at it. As a whole it’s just much more of a straight up rock and roll record.

Now do you have a specific date for the album release yet? I know it’s coming out in March. Do you know what day exactly?

Right now it is planned to come out March 19th.

Awesome. This will be the second studio release for Clutch on your own label, the Weathermaker Music label. Why exactly did you guys decide to ditch say a traditional label and instead create your own and put your own music out this way?

Well we’ve tried it many many times with many different iterations with labels and just to be frank about it the major labels are in the business of selling platinum records and even a gold record probably in their eyes is considered somewhat of a failure. Clutch is a band that, we’re happy to be a touring band and continue to do what we do but I don’t think we’re that band and we never were. But in the 90’s it did give us an opportunity to do a lot of touring, tour support and kick down a lot of doors that way to eventually put us in this position that we have now. And because of the internet and how easy it is to connect with people it’s very easy to cut out a lot of middle men and sell directly to the people that want to buy our records. It’s more work and you can make mistakes but if something goes wrong you know who to blame and it’s a lot easier to fix. And I think if any artist is in a position to do this, you know whether they be a writer or comedian or it doesn’t matter, you’d be foolish not to. Because it just makes more sense. I don’t see why you would subscribe to the kind of antiquated model of a major label. I think some people look at that as some kind of patron or home but we never certainly thought that way.

So has it changed the way you put your albums out, like the way you record it or anything like that as well?

Um, I don’t want to say it complicates it but we have to kind of wear both hats. You know on one hand we want to be the band and say well we want this amazing package. We want this to fold out. We want to do this, we want to do that. But at the same time we’re also the label and we’re looking, well that’s going to cost X amount of dollars, that’s going to cost Y. So we have to kind of find a happy compromise between those two. We certainly haven’t changed any of the writing aspect of it, or the recording. We haven’t tried to cut corners because of it. If anything it’s made our ability to do cool packages easier because it’s much more cost effective. But other than that not a lot has changed. It’s going very well.

Well you talk about the packages, you guys put out the Blast Tyrant, you re-released it with some bonus material and stuff. A whole nother disc actually. Are you planning on doing that with any of your other older albums in the future?

Well we’ve kind of exhausted that. Blast Tyrant and Robot Hive/Exodus and Beale Street were out on a label called DRT that was the last label we were signed to before we went out on our own. And to make a long story short they just stopped paying us our royalties and we had to go to court to get the money. We won the case but they still couldn’t pay us so in lieu of paying us what we were owed we were awarded those masters for those records. It was sort of a windfall to Weathermaker to get these three records back and we could re-release them. But the ones prior to that when you’re talking about Pure Rock Fury and Elephant Riders and the self titled, maybe in the distant future those records will revert back to us just because of the terms of the contract will expire. But that’s not on our to do list because trying to talk to Sony’s lawyers is like launching a spacecraft.

So no hope for an Elephant Riders vinyl any time soon?

No, sadly. That would be a great thing to do though but you never know. I mean, I think 25 years is going to come around quick for all those records. So, I’ll never say never but just not in the immediate future.

In September of 2011 you guys played a free acoustic show at the Red Palace in Washington, DC and I was there and it was pretty awesome getting to see you guys up close in a really personal setting like that. Do you ever miss playing venues that size or do you have any plans to play some smaller shows like that again any time soon?

I find at those smaller clubs the energy and intensity is much more concentrated. It seems easier to play a room like that than it would be a much larger room. Having said that, the 9:30 Club‘s pretty big but still has the character of being a small room in a lot of ways. When we go to Europe we play much smaller clubs there than we do here so they haven’t gone away. And playing acoustically is a good exercise because it’s a bit terrifying because you can hide behind distortion and you can hide behind gain but when you’re playing at a lower volume it’s a much more honest representation of what you’re doing. But it’s a good learning exercise.

Ok now that show was also a promotional tie in with the New Belgium Brewing‘s Clutch Dark Sour Ale. And it was a delicious beer but it was a very limited run. And I was wondering do you have any idea if they’re going to make any more batches of that or maybe you’re going to make another Clutch beer at some point down the road?

Well I would certainly hope they would entertain doing it again. I know somebody actually contacted them just a week ago and was trying to start up a petition to make that a regular brew over there, which we would be over the moon about if that was the case. But we don’t really have any say in it because it’s all New Belgium’s doing. We’ve got a lot of friends in breweries around the country [that] come to shows and drop off beer and if any one of their breweries wanted to do something like that I’m sure we would jump at it.

That’s awesome. I actually know a few guys at local breweries here in the DC area that are fans of yours as well.

Yeah we seem to have a lot of fans that work in the beer industry which is a good problem to have.

Yeah those are not bad friends to have.

No.

You guys played the Artscape in Baltimore this year. What did you think about the crowd there and the experience of the show there? I know that’s probably a different audience than what you’re used to. Did you feel you won some new fans there or maybe you were just playing to a bunch of soccer moms with their kids or how did you feel about that show?

I felt good about it. I mean I had that kind of trepidation beforehand cause I was looking around saying “Well this is a bit out of our element” but when it came time for us to play there was certainly a large contingent of Clutch fans there that came and helped support the band as they always do. It’s good to get out of one’s comfort zone. You can’t always preach to one’s own choir day in and day out. It was fun. It sounded good where we were at and the weather cooperated and it’s nice to do something like that, kind of a casual more stripped down family affair than let’s say your gnarly nightclub half past midnight.

Now you guys have a show coming up at the 9:30 Club on December 26th and it will be the first show of a short US tour here before you head over to Europe in 2013. You guys have played the 9:30 Club many times over the years. The last time I think was when you did the live DVD in 2009 that you shot there. Does performing there have any kind of special meaning to you guys?

Well I consider it my home club as far as when I want to go see bands play that’s where I might want to go see them. And we’ve been playing there for as long as the band’s existed and even when the 9:30 Club was at it’s former location. And I saw a lot of good shows there growing up even before I was in Clutch. It made a big impression on me. So that club’s near and dear to my heart and having been around the country to see what most night clubs are like I can safely say that we’re fortunate that we have this club because it really is one of the best in the country if not the world. To be able to call that our home club, if that’s the case, then even better. I have nothing but good things to say about the people that run that as well.

The first time I ever saw Clutch live it was at the 9:30 Club and that was in 1998 when you guys were playing with, I think Slayer headlined and the opener was an at the time unknown System Of A Down. Now those other two bands are considerably different than your sound. Do you remember anything interesting from that show or just the tour with those guys?

I remember that tour well because I got to watch Slayer every night. And we became friends with System Of A Down and I’d still consider them friends after all these years. They worked hard and you know have been enjoying the benefits of that labor. And Slayer, they were gentlemen. I’d heard stories about the Slayer crowd. I’d seen Slayer crowds before I went on tour with them but it was actually not nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. That was an excellent tour. I had a good time on that one.

All four members of Clutch have been with the band since you guys formed in 1990. So I was kind of curious, what’s the secret to keeping a band together like that for so long?

A collective fear of getting day jobs is one. A sense of humor. I mean there’s been feast and famine but I think because we never talked about what kind of band we wanted to be we couldn’t really fail because we never set up a goal. And just a love of playing live music. I mean even if we were having troubles with the label or something was amiss in our camp we could always play live and I think if a band has that in their corner as part of their identity they can go as long as they see fit.

Alright now how did you guys actually settle on the name Clutch?

We were huge Prong fans and we liked the sound of the name Prong. We also we fans of a local band in DC called Swiz and we liked that name too. The mono syllabic thing I guess was really tickling our fancy at the time. And I know we’d intended to change the name at some point because we just kind of threw it on a flyer because we needed to and then maybe it was just a mixture of laziness or people started coming to our shows and we thought well it’s kind of too late to change the name, just keep it as it is. Who actually suggested it? I couldn’t tell you at this point. I know it was probably spoken about in the basement of Tim’s [Sult, lead guitarist of Clutch] parents’ house.

Now do you think being from Maryland and the greater DC area in general has influenced the sound of Clutch and the general direction of the band over the years?

I think we’ve been pretty fortunate to grow up here. Washington DC of course has a legendary music scene. Both harDCore and punk rock and metal, we listened to all those things growing up weather it was Bad Brains or Pentagram or Fugazi and Minor Threat. I know Jean-Paul [Gaster, drummer of Clutch] is a huge gogo fan and I think that’s informed his playing. And DC, you’re close enough to other cities you can go see shows outside your town but it’s not overrun so much like you find in New York and LA where you just get completely lost in the shuffle. It’s a manageable sized city. So I think that definitely played a big part in helping us out in the beginning.

So are there any bands from the greater you know DC, Baltimore and Virginia area that you’re a fan of right now?

Well let’s see here. Well we do quite a few shows with a local band from Wheaton called Lionize. Which they’re much more of a rock band. Initially they had a big reggae influence in their music but as they progressed they’re becoming much more of just a hard rock band. I’m a big fan of theirs. They’re good guys. Um let’s see who else? There’s another band called Black Clouds which is really good. I did some work with them not too long ago [specifically on their track Santorum Sunday School]. I know they play around. Those are the first two that come to mind immediately.

I’m actually going to see Black Clouds soon. They’re playing the Rock & Roll Hotel on December 29th.

Oh no kidding.

Yeah. With Warchild.

Oh dammit when I’m out of town, of course. That’s usually the way it goes.

Now there’s one thing that’s kind of been all over the news and stuff. In Newtown, Connecticut last week there were 20 children and seven adults who were murdered and I’m not asking for any kind of political statement here or anything but I was just kind of wondering if you had any kind of comment you’d want to make on that national tragedy.

Well I guess all those politics and things go right out the window for me because I’m a new parent. I have a two and a half year old son and just trying to even begin to relate what that must be like is impossible and in this day and age with the internet everybody’s got free advice on how to do things better. I just kind of opt to keeping my mouth shut and just letting this work its way out but like other people something’s got to give. I don’t think there’s any quick fix solution to it obviously but it’s no longer acceptable that that’s just a thing that happens here.

Well I know it’s kind of on a low note, but that’s for taking the time to speak with me here Neil. I know you’re hard at work mastering the album Earth Rocker right now and it’s pretty cool that you took the time out to let me speak with you for a minute and I can’t wait to see you guys play at the 9:30 Club on the 26th.

Yeah stop by and say hi if you have a moment.

I definitely will in fact I should be photographing you guys from the photo pit I think.

Ok, well I’ll see ya right there.

Keep an eye out for the guy in the Abraham Lincoln in King Diamond corpse paint shirt on cause that’ll be me.

Haha, alright that’ll be hard to miss.

Well thanks and have a good evening here and I’ll see you guys soon.

Alright, take it easy.

Have a good one.

Bye.

Interview with JR Hayes of Pig Destroyer

I was lucky enough to get JR Hayes on the phone for a 20 minute interview where he talked about the new Pig Destroyer album, how the band almost broke up before it was even released, and even the upcoming presidential election. You can either download it as an mp3 here, listen to a stream of it by pressing the orange play button on the player, or read the full transcription of it below. The headshot photo is by local photographer Josh Sisk and is used with permission. As usual, my words are in bold. Now get to it!

Hey this is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and I’m here talking with JR Hayes, the vocalist for the DC based grindcore band Pig Destroyer. Their new album, Book Burner, is their first full length release since 2007 and will be out on Relapse Records on October 22nd. Book Burner is one of the most anticipated metal releases of 2012 and Axl Rosenberg of Metal Sucks has already dubbed it “the best metal album of the year.” So to start off JR, why don’t you tell me what the fans can expect from the new album.

Well uh, JR Hayes photo by Josh SiskI don’t know if we’re going to win any new converts cause we’re pretty much doing what we always do which is just try to make the craziest grindcore record we can make. I think that the trick with grindcore is, you know you’re trying to make it as chaotic as possible but then at the same time you’re trying to make it memorable and it’s kind of a difficult balance to achieve sometimes. I’m really happy with it.

So you’re having an album release show for Book Burner at the Ottobar in Baltimore on October 19th. Now are copies of Book Burner going to be on sale at the show?

Well you know we did a Terrifyer album release there and we thought that Relapse was bringing us copies and they didn’t know that so we actually didn’t have any copies of our record at our record release show and that was really embarrassing. So uh, I would hope that there would be copies there, yeah.

So is that why you’re doing it again in Baltimore instead of DC, because you had done one there previously?

Well we’ve probably played at the Ottobar more than any other one place. I mean we even go back to the old Ottobar when it was a little closer to the harbor. You know I’ve always kind of considered that our home stage. Two of our members live in Baltimore. I do love playing DC but I definitely have a very close relationship with Baltimore as well.

I don’t think you’ve played DC since 2008 at the Black Cat with Misery Index.

Yeah, yeah that was a sweet show. I really enjoy– used to enjoy playing the Casa House and [the] Black Cat’s always fun. The Warehouse was my favorite though. I was very crestfallen when it closed.

Yeah me too. So here’s another question about the new album: What is the Book Burner cover art supposed to represent?

I’ll be honest with you I didn’t really think it that far through. That photograph was taken by my friend Chris [Taylor] in Richmond and it was going to be a 7″ cover for a Richmond band. It never ended up coming out cause the band broke up and I always admired that picture you know when I saw it like seven or eight years ago, it might have even been longer I’m not sure. I was just hanging out with him one night and I just kind of randomly asked if he still had it and he did. As soon as I saw it again I knew that, at least in my mind, that was the cover of the album. I don’t know if I could tell you why. But just something about that image I was very passionate about and [I] felt it was very evocative and you know I had Chris dress it up a little bit in his unique style and Pat added some different colors and stuff and I think it turned out really good.

Yeah it definitely stands out, it’s very unique.

I think with the cover you know me and Scott [Hull, guitarist of Pig Destroyer] were doing the artwork for this record and we kind of more knew what we didn’t want. We didn’t want just a book burning, you know like just completely literal with it you know like cause that just wasn’t interesting to us. It wasn’t really all that important what the image was as long as it was a strong image.

Book Burner cover art by Chris Taylor

Ok so I read the story that you wrote, The Atheist, and I thought it was really good by the way. It sort of seemed like the first chapter of something maybe. Is there going to be more added to this or a continuation of any kind?

I’ve seen a couple people mention that. That was actually Adam’s [Jarvis, drummer for Pig Destroyer] comment when he first read it that he wanted there to be more. For me it all kind of wrapped up in a nice package and I don’t really see where else to go with it but I try to never say never you know? Maybe the inspiration will take me and I’ll want to do something with it. I think for me the most fascinating thing about it is that it starts out seeming like it’s not really fictional and then it kind of twists and becomes fictional all of a sudden and I think that juxtaposition was what made it interesting to me as a single piece.

I remember in the story there were these almost stormtrooper like characters that were called book burners and so it kind of got me thinking is the album Book Burner supposed to be taking place in the world of The Atheist or are there any other kind of tie ins with that other than the name?

Well there’s also a track called Book Burner on the album too and the lyrics to that are totally unrelated to the story. Because the story wasn’t going to be included with all the different versions of the record, it’s supposed to be a limited thing, I didn’t want the people who were just hearing the record to feel like they were missing something, you know what I mean? So I kind of intentionally wanted it to be a separate thing but I just put a couple of little minor tie ins like book burner obviously just to kind of string everything together but I didn’t want the two parts to be dependent on one another. You know what I mean?

Yep. Now, how has working with Adam Jarvis of Misery Index been because he’s a great drummer and it’s pretty exciting that he’s working with you guys now?

Yeah I mean it’s been great. When we parted ways with Brian [Harvey, former drummer of Pig Destroyer] that was probably the darkest period that we’ve had as a band. Everybody was really down in the dumps and we didn’t really know if the band was even going to continue at all. Cause you never know if you’re going to find– You can bring in a million drummers and never find the right one. The chemistry has to be right. We were just really lucky in that we already knew Adam as a person and he’s a really driven guy and he wanted the job from day one. I don’t want to say he like forced his way in there but he was ready when we came calling and from the first song that we played together with him I knew that it was right. I was sold from the first song that we played.

Now Phantom Limb came out in 2007 and you had the single track EP Natasha that came out in 2008 and then you guys hadn’t really put out anything until this new album. Was a lot of that because of the line up change?

After Phantom Limb we took a couple of years where we were just playing shows and kind of enjoying ourselves and just kind of supporting the record the best that we could. Then we lost our practice space so we turned Scott’s basement into like a real deal studio. You know we built it all ourselves and you know double dry wall and sound dampening stuff. You know we went the full nine yards and that took us about a year and then during that time me and Scott were both working on the last Agoraphobic [Nosebleed] record [Agorapocalypse] and that was very time consuming and then when it came time for us to record Pig Destroyer that’s when everything just kind of fell apart on a personal level and we had like a year where we just either didn’t practice or our practices sounded like shit. It was terrible. It was really awful and to be honest I would have rather not done the band at all than kept [it] going like that. When you’re killing something that you love like that it’s just a horrible experience.

So what was the big turn around then for you guys? What really got you back into it to the point where you’re now putting out an album like this?

You know even when Brian was still in the band we had like maybe five songs written from this album and I thought that they were some of the strongest songs that we had written. So I knew that the inspiration to do it was still there but we just couldn’t physically do it. So we needed someone else to come in and inject some youth and some enthusiasm into it and then once you kick it and it’s going then we’re off. You know what I mean?

Yeah yeah.

We just needed a kick in the ass basically and Adam’s a really enthusiastic guy. I’m used to Scott pushing everybody in the band but Adam’s definitely been pushing us as well. He’s also a very driven individual.

Alright now so who are some of your main influences in regards to writing the lyrics and performing with Pig Destroyer?

I think musically my influence is just all the great hardcore and grindcore singers. Jeff Walker from Carcass, Lee Dorian and Barney [Greenway] from Napalm [Death]. From a writing standpoint it’s kind of just pulled from all over. There’s a lot of people out there who write good lyrics. Leonard Cohen, [Bruce] Springsteen, Nick Cave, there’s a million people. The content of what’s being written doesn’t really matter to me as much as the style of the person who’s writing cause I think a great writer will get you into whatever it is that they’re talking about. So I’m just always looking for people with a very strong and confident style.

Ok now where exactly did the name Pig Destroyer come from and what exactly does it mean?

I remember that me and Scott were at an amusement park and we were standing in line to get on a roller coaster and we weren’t even talking about a name for our band, even though our band didn’t have a name at that point. We were just trying to come up with the most ridiculous band name we could come up with and I think he came up with Cop Destroyer and that kind of immediately morphed into Pig Destroyer and that was just the name of the band. Anybody who has ever started a band knows that coming up with band names really sucks. If you’re lucky somebody will say something that everybody just knows immediately that that’s it. It’s actually very much like how we came across the cover art. It was just a very random kind of– instinctually I just knew that it was right.

Just had the right feel.

Yeah it just felt right. It sounded right. Sometimes you’re in danger of over thinking things. I can be very picky and meticulous about working on some things but other things like album titles and band names it just has to be a moment of inspiration or creativity. It has to just feel… correct.

So what was the metal and grind scene like in 1997 when the band was just getting started?

Well anybody who was into metal in the 90s knows that the 90s weren’t really kind to metal. I wasn’t really paying a whole lot of attention to death metal stuff. I had already kind of gone through that phase. I was just fascinated by the whole Southern California grindcore scene and the Bay Area scene with like Spazz and Crossed Out. You had Assück from Florida. There was a lot of amazing grindcore bands that were out back then. A lot of American grindcore bands doing great shit so it was a lot of fun. Then of course you had the whole metalcore thing going on at that point too which is a whole nother can of worms.

So what’s the best concert you’ve ever been to in the DC area?

Oh man… Fugazi at Fort Reno was pretty amazing. I don’t know I mean it would be a list as long as my arm but probably my personal favorite show would be Nirvana and The Breeders and Half Japanese at American University [on November 13, 1993]. That was like probably when I was about 16 or 15. That show kind of set the tone for all of the shows I would see after that. That was a very important night in my life.

Do you have any favorite metal or grind bands from the area?

Well there’s Suppression from– well they started in Roanoke [Virginia] but then they moved to Richmond. I mean they’re kind of always, to me, the consummate Virginia grindcore band. You know you had Jesuit from Virginia Beach even though they were only around for a short time. Where I grew up in Sterling [Virginia] the big band was Pg. 99. I was at I would say probably at least 40 or 50 percent of their shows you know so uh, I’m very you know intimately familiar with those guys. They were very important to me personally just because they were from my home town.

How has being based in the DC area affected you as an artist or has it?

Oh yeah I mean uh, everything about this area influences me. The history– my family personally has a lot of history in the McClean [Virginia] area. I don’t necessarily like get down with all of DC’s music but it has a very interesting, one of a kind– I mean any city that can create stuff like Bad Brains and fuckin Rites Of Spring, I mean, there’s just a lot of unique bands from this area you know and very smart bands too.

Oh definitely. Being in DC here there’s always been a lot of political music here you know with Bad Brains and Minor Threat and then the Dischord [Records] bands. And you guys were a more political band when you started but you’ve sort of shifted away from that over the years lyrically. Why do you think you’ve evolved that way as a writer?

Well I was really political and then I started really getting involved in it to the point where I was going to all of these anarchist meetings and going out to protests and things like that. I just became really disenchanted with people and the attitudes. Then I think around that same point I got my heart broken really bad. That kind of set me off on a more personal direction I guess you might say. You know that’s just one of those phases that you go through in your life. I mean I still have strong political convictions but I don’t express them in the same kind of ways.

Now I wouldn’t normally ask this but since the election is coming up are you planning on voting and if you are would you like to say who you’re going to vote for for president?

Aw man I just really want it all to be over to be honest with ya.

Yeah I hear that.

I can’t get juiced about the Democrats because they always let me down but the Republicans are just so two faced and poisonous. I usually end up pulling the lever for the Democrats just because I can’t stomach the Republicans. It’s just too much for me. I feel like it’s almost a lose-lose. The only person who was– and I didn’t agree with him on a lot of issues but, I felt like Ron Paul was the only candidate who was proposing real change, even if I didn’t agree with it. You know these two candidates [Barack Obama and Mitt Romney] are kind of just like– it’s the old hot shit, cold shit argument. Take your pick.

Alright now back in April of 2009 David Rowell wrote a lengthy article about Pig Destroyer [link] in the Washington Post Magazine and I was kind of curious what effect did this have on the band?

The thing about us is we don’t play locally as much as a lot of other bands. We usually go out and play. So when I come home I’m kind of anonymous at my job and I’m just another dude which is kind of how I like it. But because that came out in such a huge publication that was local everybody I knew either heard about it or read it personally. So that was kind of unusual. You know like even my parents’ neighbors were coming over to me and being like “Oh we read about you in the paper” you know. So like you know those experiences are as cool as they can be.

Now way back in June of 2000 you were playing a show at the world famous CBGB’s in New York City and the microphone went out and you just kept on screaming at the top of your lungs. There’s a video of this that has been going around the internet for some time and has become a little bit legendary and on the video you can still be heard over all the guitars and everything. Do you remember anything about that show or was that a special experience to you? Because it’s kind of a legendary thing now and I kinda had to bring that up if I’m going to interview you!

Well at the time I was just– Cause I mean it wasn’t like the mic just shut off. The mic literally crumbled in my hand into like five different pieces. It was like it just gave up and died. It just fell apart and disintegrated. And so I was confused for a second and nobody really seemed like they were going to give me another mic so I just screamed. I didn’t really even think about it but the video is kind of funny. Any time you play at CBGB’s it a pretty awesome experience.

Ok well here’s something a little more recent that I wanted to ask you about. In 2010 there was another DC based grind act, Magrudergrind, and they had their album Crusher which was released by Scion A/V which is a branch of Toyota. Jay Randall of Agoraphobic Nosebleed wrote a blog post [link] saying that grind bands and metal bands in general shouldn’t be working with giant corporations and putting their logos on their albums and such. And I know that Pig Destroyer had played a Scion sponsored event prior to this in 2009 in Atlanta and I’m curious about what your take on all of this is. Do you think local grind acts should be working with big companies like this or that if they’re working with them it’s sort of selling out or what’s your take on all of this?

I just think that when you’re in the public eye, even if you’re just an underground band, when there’s people paying attention they’re going to get stirred up by certain things that they don’t like. And I definitely understand where people are coming from when they cry sell out or whatever. That’s just a risk that you take when you make a move. I was kind of uneasy about it. You know once we did the first gig with Scion and it was like– I felt that it was run really professionally. You know he promoted it well, like it was free for the kids to get in. I just really didn’t see any negatives and they seemed like they were really into what we were doing and I thought it was cool and we’ve done actually maybe half a dozen things with Scion. We played a show in New York at the Masonic Temple with Brutal Truth and I thought it was rad.

So is there someone at Scion that is just into underground grindcore cause it just seems really random that bands like Magrudergrind, Pig Destroyer, Brutal Truth…

The guy that we talked to, he is kind of in charge of putting these shows together, he’s just into all kinds of extreme bands. I mean I don’t know what his relationship is with Scion but he obviously has their ear as far as bringing out a bunch of money for promotion and stuff. When we played at the fest in Atlanta you know with like Boris was there Neurosis. Fuck it you know you get to play with Neurosis and there’s no negatives there for me. Plus I was upset cause I love the Magrudergrind boys cause they’re local and they’re a great band and I was really sad that they had to take shit on that. All of these other bands, including us, kind of got spared.

Yeah they definitely got the most attention for that.

Yeah you know they got singled out. I don’t think that’s really fair. Didn’t the Melvins just put out a free thing with Scion?

Yeah The Bulls & The Bees I think.

Yeah I mean if it’s good enough for the Melvins it’s good enough for me. I guess the times have changed a little bit. I remember in the early 90s it was if you put a bar code on your CD that was like a no no. Heh heh. You know so I mean, fuck it man, you know? It is what it is.

Now Pig Destroyer is going to be playing Maryland Deathfest XI in May of 2013. Do you know what day Pig Destroyer is going to be playing on?

Oh man I don’t even know if I’m going to be alive in 2013! [It’s] so far away right now. I don’t know what day. Hopefully it’s like a Friday.

Are you guys going to do anything special for Deathfest? Maybe have a special set list or a guest come out or anything like that?

I don’t know we’re really impulsive about stuff like that. It’s hard to say. If we were going to come up with something we wouldn’t do it this far in advance. I think we’re just kind of a band that we’re just kind of focused on whatever the next thing is that we’re doing. For me it’s like we’re doing these record release shows so that’s the thing that I’m kind of looking forward to and I’m not really looking past that. Luckily Scott has a little bit more of a vision as far as that goes. I tend to just get very focused on one thing at a time.

Are there any bands that you personally are excited to be seeing at next year’s Deathfest?

I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from a lot of people who is actually playing.

Well of course I’ve got them all listed on the DCHeavyMetal.com calendar of upcoming concerts.

Oh OK, sweet.

Some of the headliners are Bolt Thrower and Carcass and Venom I think.

Bolt Thrower was just absolutely crushing the last time they played. I think I’ll probably always remember that set the rest of my life. [It was] pretty brutal. I really wanted to see Godflesh last year but my pussy ass couldn’t make it up there.

Well that’s pretty much the end of the interview here I’m out of questions. Is there anything else you want to say before I let you get out of here?

I just hope people check out the new album and give it a chance and hopefully they dig it. We’re all really, really proud of it so we want as many people to hear it as possible.

Well it has been getting really good reviews in a few places and it will be reviewed here on DCHeavyMetal.com shortly as well. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview with me and I’ll see you at the Ottobar.

Oh right on. Yeah well come up and introduce yourself and we’ll have some beers.

Sure man, sounds good.

Cool man.

Take it easy.

Bye.

Interview with Chicken Man Chris Penrod

Chicken Man at Maryland Deathfest X

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.

Chicken Man at the 9:30 Club

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?

Actually one of the ones I’ve had for the longest time just lost one of the red flaps at [Maryland] Deathfest this year. It got ripped off in the pit for Brujeria.

Oh yeah, yeah that was a pretty wild time for them man.

Yeah it was awesome.

Have you seen the new Dying Fetus video [for the song From Womb To Waste (that you can see here)]?

Yes I did, haha.

Yeah I saw you made a few cameo appearances in that thing.

Yeah.

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, that’s kind of in all honesty another reason I’m not too sure about Mayhem Fest [on July 29th] just cause I know the temperatures are going to get hawt.

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.

Haha.

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.

Oh actually I won two tickets to see the System Of A Down show [on August 7th] and I got a buddy of mine who’s going to dress up like Peter Griffin, if you see where this is going.

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.

Chicken Man at the Ottobar

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.

Yeah haha.

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.

I think the next big concert I’m going to is Summer Slaughter [on August 4th] though.

Cool.

Actually I got a VIP pass to that one.

Sweet.

Yeah.

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.

Wow.

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?”

That’s weird.

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.

Oh really?

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.

Hahahaha.

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?

Oh yeah. It’s a draw between Visceral Disgorge and Loculus.

So the real brutal bands.

Oh yeah.

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.

Yeah.

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.

Haha.

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.

Oh yeah.

Alright man, take it easy.

Alright, peace.

Chicken Man and Metal Chris