Dying Fetus formed in Maryland in 1991 and since then they have released seven great studio albums including the last one in 2012 “Reign Supreme”. There have been many line-up changes in the band but this didn’t influence or ruined the dynamic of the music. The band formation right now is pretty solid with Sean Beasley on bass and drummer Trey Williams, both been with the band respectively for the past 13 and 8 years. I met up with band lead singer and founder, John Gallagher during their tour with Goatwhore and Fallujah to discuss new music projects, life on the road and music.
HMA: Do you have new material, any new album in the making?
Dying Fetus: Yeah, we’re writing. We’ve been writing. I’ve been writing in between tours and stuff. We’ve been, of course, touring a lot for “Reign Supreme” the last couple of years. I’m always writing riffs here and there, accumulating a bunch of that stuff on my cell phone. The idea is, when we get back from this tour, we just recently bought a bunch of studio recording equipment, so we can be self-sufficient. We were going to other people’s facilities, doing our preproduction demoing for albums at other places. Now those people aren’t really available, so we were like, fuck it, let’s buy this stuff, do it on our own. When we get back after Christmas, we’re going to hit it hard, and take all the ideas I’ve already come with and explore them, and start creating the songs. We’ve got some European festivals being booked right now, but besides that, we’re not doing any other real touring until the new album.
HMA: Do you like playing festivals?
Dying Fetus: Festivals are cool. How could you not like them? The only thing that can make it not an enjoyable experience is if you’re sick, which happens. One time a few years ago, I got salmonella and we had to cancel Hell Fest. I did do a Summer Blast festival while being sick and that was terrible. Generally speaking, festivals are cool, are fun and a great way to get your band out there; what more could you want, really?
HMA: With all the line-up change you still managed to retain your sound, how did you manage not to let that change the dynamics of your music?
Dying Fetus: The last line-up change was eight years ago. You got to realize what’s going on here. There’s a death metal band that’s lasted what, 25 years. Most people know that it’s not a very lucrative profession. How are people supposed to support families? Not everyone has the desire to keep going, and struggle, and deal with all the bullshit that goes with it. Yes, there have been a lot of changes. Yes, there’s been many different reasons for leaving, and A, it’s tough; it’s a rough gig. Not everybody’s a lifer in this. I’ve been here for 25 years. Sean, now, has been here for 13, 14 years. Trey has now been here, 8 years. To me, it sounds pretty solid.
HMA: How do you approach writing? Do you write all the lyrics? Are the lyrics important for you?
Dying Fetus: That’s the thing; you can’t really understand death metal lyrics most of the time. Honestly, both are important, but in my opinion, the music is a bit more important, because of this. You need lyrics, of course. Treat them with care and respect. As of now, Sean does most of the lyrics. I’ve written a few songs, but that’s not really my forte. I write the majority of the music. How it’s worked in the past is, I’ve written most of the tunes, and instructed them with demos and stuff like this. Sean will work with it and create some lyrics. It’s not always this way, but generally, this is the most typical way we’ve written.
HMA: How involved are you with the creative process of your album’s artwork?
Dying Fetus: The last one, we spent a little time… The last few covers have been done by Orion from Relapse Records. The last one, we weren’t really pleased with the first draft. We’re like, “I don’t like that; try something else.” The second one was the one we went with, for “Reign Supreme” and that’s just killer. Usually, the first one he comes up with is pretty sick. We’re like, “That’s sick; cool. With album artwork, it usually comes last.
HMA: Do you give the artist your music to help them create the artwork?
Dying Fetus: Yeah, that’s the way it’s been. “Here’s the music, here’s the lyrics, and here are the song titles.” I did give them a couple ideas. First I was thinking about doing the album, calling it “Invert the Idols,” and have that as being the artwork. It didn’t really work out that way. Then I came up with the “Reign Supreme” title and handled it a little differently with the direction of the art. The final product came out well.
HMA: You think your music is well translated into the artwork?
Dying Fetus: It can be, it depends on the artist too, on his interpretation.
HMA: When you played in India, how was the reaction of the people how is the death metal scene there?
Dying Fetus: It’s pretty surreal. We’ve been to third-world places, so it was like, OK. South America has a lot of that kind of stuff. Honestly, I didn’t go all through India and explore. It was kind of rough logistically because we flew from D.C. to Detroit, Detroit to London, London to Austria and finally Austria to India. Then we had a four-hour drive through the mountains to get to the place where we played. It’s so hot there, the only way they can have a show is at a high altitude. We had to go through this treacherous drive through the mountains. There was not really any real roads, lanes, lines on the road. They’re literally blowing it up, excavating this slate and rock. I had to throw up. I vomited. I was like, “Pull this thing up.” I get motion sickness sometimes. After so many hours in transit, and that ride, I was like, “Pull over, I got to puke.” I felt terrible. By the time we got to this hotel out in India, I’m like, oh; I could barely eat some stuff. For India, it was a pretty nice hotel. Of course, it wasn’t the Hilton or something, but it was all right. Those people did the best they could. They did more than I expected. They had a big, huge screen behind us. They had an investor or somebody, put some money into it. We received fair pay, so it was cool. Also, it’s a very poor country, so people actually make their own shirts, write Death on it, make their own hats. They looked pretty sick. It’s cool. Just pretty much go anywhere. It’s always risky with the food and stuff. Sean got some food poisoning in India. It was at the airport. We were right when we were leaving; we went from India to Russia. When we got to Russia, St. Petersburg, Sean was all sick. Our tour manager, I think he ate there, as well. He was kind of sick, but I didn’t eat there, so I escaped that. Generally speaking, I try to keep healthy anywhere. I’ve already been sick two times on this tour, and it’s only been … People think it’s so easy, but it’s rough. Somebody got a stomach virus. I think it was Sean, then it went to me, and then it went to the guys in Goatwhore. Now it’s spread around.
HMA: You are in a small environment, easy for germs to spread around, are you all together in this bus?
Dying Fetus: Yeah, we’re sharing it with Goatwhore and Fallujah. The singer from Fallujah got sick, as well, it was a rough sickness, for two days it was incapacitating and I had to sit down for the first time and play. We played in Germany, and I tried to sing the first two songs, and … I sang them, but then I got so weak and light-headed that I was like, “I’m going to puke. I’m going to pass out. Or I can at least try to sit down and play.” That’s what I did. Got through a few songs and after the show, I went and puked. The next day sucked, but then it went by. It was a two-day virus. Then a few days into this tour, I lost my voice. Now I feel healthy, but it’s always something. It’s always adversity or something. We’re not having any days off on this tour, except for travel days. We are going from Finland on the ferry. We’ll have a day off, but we’ll be travelling, which won’t be so bad. We’ll be on a ferry. Everything’s cool right now. Everyone’s pretty healthy right now, but it’s going to happen. You’re out here, exposed to germs and different elements.
HMA: What did you think about the Download Festival campaign that happened to ask the promoters to add Dying Fetus to the bill? (#whynotdyingfetus)
Dying Fetus: It was pretty amazing; it was flattering and special, all that kind of stuff and we didn’t expect it, it was a pleasant surprise. Any time our fans are sticking up for us or supporting us it’s definitely cool and definitely appreciated. It just gives more inspiration to keep going, when you have people behind you. You’re like, OK. With this next album, we’re going to crush … We’re going to put our best foot forward and do the best we can, because we have so many people that want to hear it. We take that very seriously.
HMA: Is it like any festival that you prefer? Download used to be real metal, and then now it’s become a weak festival with maybe only a few good bands playing.
Dying Fetus: That’s what seems to be the complaint. Dying Fetus got lumped in there, in this whole thing, complaining about the not true metal, or this weak stuff. Unfortunately, things change, trends change, kids change. Kids don’t want to keep listening to the same things that the old guys listened to. They always want to have a different identity. You’ve got to expect that. You got to expect a change in this world. It’s not always going to be Ozzie, Iron Maiden. I love these bands, but things are going to shift in this world. People have to expect that. That said, there are some sick festivals that definitely cater to more of the metal scene, I guess, from what I’m seeing with this in comparison. Hey, I sum it up like, go with the flow. It is what it is, and you can’t change the world. Just go with it.
HMA: What’s your biggest musical influences then, since you mentioned Ozzy and Maiden?
Dying Fetus: Back in the day, of course, it was all the Ozzies, the Judas Priest, this kind of stuff. The 80’s metal scene and late 70s stuff, like Ted Nugent, AC/DC and stuff like this, got me going. That’s what inspired my desire for music. Then, of course, went into all the Slayers and progress to Death Metal. I’ve just got a typical story.
HMA: Actually, you’re the first one that didn’t mention Motorhead as the main influence.
Dying Fetus: Motorhead’s cool but they weren’t musical enough for me. Back in the beginning, I was really enjoying Judas Priest’s “Defenders of the Faith”. I’m a guitarist so I gravitated more to the guitars that were a little more technical, like Randy Roads and Eddie Van Halen, he was a huge inspiration. Eddie Van Halen wrote some of the best stuff ever. To me, he is the most well-rounded guitarist, because he did it all, different styles, he covered all the bases. That was my thing. When I was 18 and early 20s, I was like, Death Metal or fuck off, kind of attitude. I still, of course, love Death Metal, but you get older, you chill out a little bit, you still listen to it, but you’re not 24/7 eating, breathing, shitting Metal.
HMA: You need to relax sometimes.
Dying Fetus: Yeah, you get older; you’ll burn yourself out. You can’t just do one thing in life, and not experience other things. Music is like that. Last night, it was a chill night on the bus. The Fallujah guys, younger dudes, they were playing more modern stuff, it didn’t bother me. It was kind of nice to not hear yelling and screaming. Metal has its time and place.
HMA: Is there any new bands that you listen to and like?
Dying Fetus: I’m not really in tune with something that’s really new and cutting edge, no; unfortunately I get caught in my own little world, and Dying Fetus consumes a lot of it. Then it’s like, listen to whatever; listen to the hits, listen to the classics, bands we’re touring with. Listen to whatever they’re listening to.
HMA: If you could choose one band to play with, which would it be?
Dying Fetus: Priest, I guess, would be an awesome band to play with. Direct Support, or of course, Metallica. I don’t like Metallica much, anymore. Still, I credit them as one of the best heavy metal bands from back in the day. It would be sick to play with them.
HMA: Would you be starstruck if you meet James Hetfield?
Dying Fetus: I think I would be, a little bit. I would be like, “Dude, you definitely were a big inspiration back in the day.” I probably wouldn’t say that much. I’ve met some bigger guys; I don’t tend to say too much, because I know they’ve heard it all. You don’t want to kiss their ass so much. It’s like, man, you were an inspiration. Just keep it short and sweet. Everyone usually appreciates that more than somebody all over them. We all started with somebody. There’s always going to be somebody that was before us. It’s good to acknowledge those people.
HMA: Which was the best moment of your music career so far?
Dying Fetus: Not to go back to talking too much about the festivals but major festivals and each small step we’ve made have all been important, as well.
Interview by Manuela Mattera – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.