Cannibal Corpse and the power of violence
It is difficult to think about a better way to celebrate Halloween than a Cannibal Corpse gig, especially in a gloomy and dark night in London town. I met up with Cannibal Corpse guitarist Rob Barrett to discuss their new creations, the brand new brutal album out ‘A Skeletal Domain’ and the new book ‘Bible of Butchery’, a biography of the band written by the talented Joel McIver. And remaining on the path of horror and Halloween we found ourselves talking about the power of violence and the time when Rob was 14 and with a friend found on the railroad tracks a corpse of a girl that was brutally murdered in his hometown.
HMA: You have a new record out, ‘Skeletal Domain’ how has the response been so far?
Rob Barrett: We recorded it with Mark Lewis in Sanford, Florida near Orlando. We just decided to go with a different producer because we did the 3 albums before that with Eric Rutan and we just wanted to try something different. It worked out well. It’s been getting really good reviews, so everybody’s happy.
HMA: How did you come up with your title?
CANNIBAL CORPSE: I think that was Paul, our drummer’s idea. I think he came up with that one. Whenever we complete a song music-wise, then we think “All right, let’s think of a name for the song.” Pretty sure Paul came up with that one.
HMA: You have a book out called ‘Bible of Butchery’ what is it about?
RB: It’s basically a biography. Joel McIver, who is from here, has written like 25 books on other bands already, including Metallica, and a bunch of other bigger bands. What he did is he rode along with us while touring. We did some U.K. dates with Triptykon, Job for a Cowboy and Enslaved about 3 years ago. He just rode along with us on the bus and then just interviewed each of us individually asking each of us about stories on tour and how we grew up, you know, even childhood stories, a little bit of everything in there.
HMA: What happened in Russia? Why was the concert stopped? Was it still because of the lyrics? People still give you crap about your lyrics? It’s 2014!
RB: That’s just this one guy over there, I don’t know what he’s trying to do but he just doesn’t agree with what our music stands for. He states that it’s blasphemy under Russian law. We basically were able to do 4 complete shows and then halfway through one of the show we got stopped and some riot police came in with the suits and masks on. They basically said if we kept playing, we would be arrested and deported. So then Moscow, the biggest show of the whole tour, got cancelled. They said if we played, we would get arrested and deported and we didn’t want to get deported because then they probably would have sent us back to the States and we had to continue the tour from Finland. So we just decided not to play but we ended up doing a long signing with all the fans that came to the show, instead of just leaving and saying “Whatever”, we stayed for 2 or 3 hours signing everybody’s stuff and taking photos.
HMA: You have amazing artwork on all your albums. Are you guys involved in the artwork or do you just leave everything to Vince Locke?
RB: Vince Locke has done every album cover since ‘Eaten Back to Life’, the first album. We basically give him song titles and lyrics for new songs, and if we know what the album title is going to be we’ll have him work on artwork that has to do with what the album title is. He’ll send us sketches, like just a quick sketch with a pencil or whatever and then he’ll send it to us like “What do you think? Should I go in this direction or that direction?” We go back and forth more than a hand full of times on sketches until it gets to the right direction that we want to go.
HMA: Do you believe the artwork is very important for Cannibal Corpse, for your audience to experiment with your music?
RB: I think that’s one of the main things that a lot of our fans appreciate is that we have the same artist, It’s kind of like Iron Maiden, that’s what I really loved about Iron Maiden is that there was always going to be the Eddie on there. You can always tell it’s a Maiden album and I think we’ve established that with Vincent Locke doing the artwork, you know that it’s Cannibal Corpse.
HMA: Why do you think there’s so much attention on the ‘dark topics’ like Satanism, death and violence? Do you believe it’s kind of a cathartic experience for the listeners?
RB: I think it’s that morbid fascination that everybody has inside of them and a lot of people just don’t like to let it out as much as others. For us, it’s a catharsis, we want the music to be as extreme as possible and we want the lyrics to fit the sound of the music so we can’t be talking about happy stuff. We’re always going towards the dark side of things just to keep it in context with the darkness of the music we’re creating. It’s the same effect as watching a horror movie and to get that feeling when you get scared real quick. I don’t really think our music has that effect on people to the point where it’s shocking like they’re getting scared; it’s more like the aggression of it, the adrenaline kind of vibe.
HMA: Like the energy, you get in a mosh pit.
RB: That’s exactly what it is, the energy of feeling the music and being able to let out some aggression in a positive way. We don’t promote violence, that’s why we talk about it in the music, it’s fictional.
HMA: If you could choose one of your songs to make into a full-length horror movie, which sing would you choose and why?
RB: We just did a video for a new song, ‘Kill or Become’, which has zombies in it. I think we would be the appropriate band for a zombie soundtrack if used in a proper way. We’re Cannibal Corpse and that’s what we’re talking about! To have zombies to fit into that would be perfect.
HMA: Today is Halloween, what’s the creepiest or scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
RB: Probably walking on the railroad tracks, I was skipping school with a friend. We saw a dead body, a girl that had been murdered. We started seeing these pieces of hair, and I’m like “Is that a piece of a skull on it?” It was really chillingly horrifying. Then we found her purse. Then all of a sudden, we smelled it. It was really seriously horrifying.
HMA: What did you do?
RB: We called the police and detectives interviewed us. That was reality slapping me right in the face at a young age, the smell of death and seeing the body with maggots and flies.
HMA: Were you teenagers?
RB: We were probably 14, 13, somewhere around there. It was just like “Wow. OK. So that’s what a dead body looks like.” It was strange to just walk up upon that. Pretty scary stuff.
HMA: What is the craziest thing to ever happen to you on tour?
RB: Well something that sticks out, we did a show in Bogotá once, in Columbia on a South American tour. The promoter didn’t have the proper permits to put on the show. It was in this venue that looked like a skate park because it had these ramps where it looks like kids would skateboard in there. We ended up starting the show, and I guess there were hundreds of kids outside that couldn’t get into the venue because it was sold out. They started getting angry and started breaking down the door to get in. It turned into a riot. They stormed the stage and we had to stop playing. The police showed up and said “You have to stop.” After the police left, then everybody just stormed the stage and stole our banner off of the wall and some of our pedals. They were surrounding us, and I’m like “Hey, I don’t have a problem here.” I was just trying to be cool with them. It was scary being surrounded by a bunch of angry fans. I didn’t know enough Spanish to explain like “Hey, it’s not our fault!” I guess one of the guys that worked in the venue, he ended up going on the microphone and saying it was our fault that we didn’t continue playing. He threw us under the bus pretty much. It was a weird situation, where you’re concerned for your safety.
HMA: What do you think about the project that Phil Anselmo is doing now, the Housecore Horror festival in Texas, would you like to be part of it?
RB: We haven’t heard anything and we haven’t been offered to do it yet, but I’m sure we will eventually. We seem to fit into that kind of theme, so I’m sure we probably will end up doing it in the future if he keeps doing it.
HMA: Looking forward to it. Thank you so much for your time and see you guys again soon
Interview by Manuela Mattera – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.