No matter who you are or where you’re from, in this industry you won’t get anywhere as a band without doing a few travels down the way. Though often I wonder to myself, do musicians often get the time to check out where they’re headed and will they remember it fondly (or otherwise)?
That’s where Cannibal Corpse come into the picture. Enter Alex Webster, co-founding member and bassist for the band.
Having made a DVD to commemorate their experiences of the past two years, Cannibal Corpse show they’ve never lost the desire and excitement to trek all over the world and play in so many different places – just like the rest of us.
You guys are currently promoting your new DVD, ‘Global Evisceration‘, though I understand that the main shows featured are in Englewood and Alberqurque in the US.
Talk to me more about the global aspect of the DVD!
Well, we did this for the Evisceration Plague Tour which lasted through 2009 and 2010 – taking us to about forty different countries. In the DVD itself, you get to see the band traveling throughout ten of these places. The budget wasn’t big enough for the filmmaker Denise (Korycki) to come everywhere on the tour, but she got a lot of good stuff. Especially considering that she was only able to travel with us for about two weeks!
The two live shows that you’ve mentioned were in the Englewood suburb of Denver, Colorado and then Alberqurque, New Mexico. This was because they are two places where we’ve got really good followings in the US, and are also pretty close to each other, meaning that [the director] could use the same camera crew for both dates. Not to mention that these were good venues – not too big or small, just right for filming!
Then Denise went with us on some of the other American tour dates as well as Europe, for a leg of a festival run that we did last summer. We went to really different places like Malta, Israel and Turkey and then some countries we had already traveled to in the past but were still relatively exotic – like Finland, Russia and Sweden.
It’s the first time that Cannibal Corpse has done a travelogue DVD, and I really think people will like it!
I’m curious about your experiences in Israel and Finland. I imagine that the former might be trickier to get into, because of overly religious restrictions?
You know, you’d think that that would be the case with Israel, but it wasn’t that bad! There’s definitely a lot of security going on over there because of the conflict in the history of their country; censorship-wise, it was actually no problem at all! Even the local bands we played with, Viscera Trail and Whorecore, are reeeally extreme (especially the first one, who put on a very over-the-top live show).
I believe that in Israel, they’re actually very liberal socially, as they didn’t seem to care about us censorship-wise and what we were singing about. Other bands like Behemoth with their satanic and anti-religious imagery have played in that country several times without any problems. So while it’s a very religious area, I think that when it comes to music they just let it go and are more laid-back on that issue.
As for Finland, well it has some of the best musicians too. When you play a show over there, you know you’re in front of a bunch of people where probably half of the audience can play as well as – or better than the band on stage! (laughs) I’m keenly aware of that whenever we’re there that we have to put on a great show, since it’s a very metal place. The day that we played there, we were next to some really cool bands too like Megadeth and Nile during the Tuska Festival last summer.
I started out that day being exhausted, because we’d been traveling for five days straight without a break; going from show to show, crossing borders and flying everyday. I was tired, but when we hit the stage and saw how awesome the crowd was in Finland, it really does wake you up for that forty-five to one hour slot that you’ve got to do; it really does snap you out of whatever fatigue that you have when you see hundreds of people going nuts. You’ll see it on the DVD! The pit for when we played ‘Hammer Smashed Face‘ in Finland was one of the biggest I’ve ever seen in my time!
So what was the most memorable show for you personally, for better or worse reasons?
At this point in our career no one’s going to see us unless they already like us. In festivals you do end up performing in front of a lot of people that might not have seen the band, but when you’re headlining shows it’s pretty safe to say that people are going to react well – and they did!
One of the most memorable shows though was – again – in Israel. We had to play on the local musicians’ gear, because when we flew out after Metal Camp in Slovenia the airline had left all our baggage behind; we had no equipment, no luggage and no clothes except what was on our backs – nothing! So we had to get everything we could from the local bands in Israel, which was really nice as they helped us out. I won’t forget that show!
All of the gigs are memorable when you’re doing them, because the crowds are always so excited. For us, we play about six out of seven nights or sometimes more while touring – sometimes the whole week without a day off! There’s a certain amount of it being the same routine with the same set list, but each day there’s a different crowd who’ve waited to see us for possibly months.
They’re very excited, and that energy just comes at you every day! you might’ve been in Detroit the night before and the next night you’re in Toledo, but the people in Toledo don’t know about the show after that – all they know is that they’ve been waiting weeks to see you, and they’ll just go bananas which makes the whole thing fun! For us, every day of the tour is exciting because of the enthusiasm that the audience brings each time.
What’s not exciting is the traveling part – standing around in the airport, waiting in line to get checked in, carrying bags and all these guitars from one end to the other, getting up really early to catch later flights in the morning – it wears you down and is just dull! I could live without the grind of traveling; I love to meet new people and see new places, but the actual physical part of getting there is what we don’t like!
You’ve also put two versions out of “Global Evisceration” out – one which is a standard DVD, and also another which includes a comic book from long-time friend and cover artist Vincent Locke!
That’s right! The comic book is actually one that he did for the album “Evisceration Plague“, based on its lyrics; we had a lot of extra copies around and it seemed like a good idea to pair them with the DVD.
I think that our fans would really like the comic if they haven’t seen it already – it’s all Vincent Locke and its all of our lyrics for that album, and it’s amazing; really cool if you’re into horror comics!
Vince was getting back to his roots when he drew it, because we first met him through his own comics about zombies taking over the earth. We really liked his art, and we had songs like ‘The Undead Will Feast‘ so it seemed like he would be a great fit – which he was! Vincent has really done an outstanding job of making visuals for our music, as he really hits the nail on the head.
When it came for the time to do something special for “Evisceration Plague“, Vincent had already made a comic for the song ‘Unleashing the Bloodthirsty‘ on our 15-Year Killing Spree boxset. So with our 2009 release, we figured “why not have him do one for every song on that album?” We just gave him the song titles and lyrics, then just let him go ahead with it! He didn’t need to be coached or anything, as he simply came up with this really cool comic without us having to direct him at all!
With Vince, we really let him do his own thing. If there’s something we really don’t like, we’ll ask him to change it but in general we feel that he’s the artist, he (also) likes gory stuff, and what he comes up with we like most of the time. There have been some times when we’ve had second thoughts about what he gives us – for instance, the original cover art for the “Kill” album. We liked the image of the creepy looking guy holding a knife, but we didn’t want it on the front. So we just put the word “kill” on the cover, with that piece as interior art.
He’s got a good mind for horror, which we like very much!
Original cover art, for ‘Kill’
Though what about when it comes to wanting to push him even further with the imagery?
It depends… keep in mind that there are five guys in Cannibal Corpse; some might want one thing, some might want the other, so that’s pretty much why we let the artist do his own thing! By letting Vince be in control of things, we let him ‘take it out of our hands’ so to speak. There have been a few times when I myself have wanted the artwork to turn out differently, but I don’t feel good telling an artist what to do – it’s his piece of art, and I’m just responsible for the bass-playing and a lot of the songwriting! (laughs)
As with other genres, death metal has grown and developed into various subgenres including melodic death metal and deathcore. Though I have already asked this question to Stephen Gebedi (Hail of Bullets), I’m curious as to what people in Cannibal Corpse make of this as well.
Well, I think it’s fine – I’m a musician first and foremost, and I believe in musical freedom. Death metal’s my favourite kind of music and I’m a death metal musician, but if someone wants to take a bit of this genre and move it in a different direction that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s natural that there’s going to be a lot of growth coming out of one kind of music, as you see it happening everywhere – it’s like a tree; one branch will sprout many limbs and just keep growing and growing which I feel is a very positive thing.
Having said that, it does make me happy to see some bands that fit more into the “pure” death metal genre still coming out in this day and age! There are some relatively new bands which have only been around for five to ten years that are playing in this style, like Aeon from Sweden or Hour of Penance from Italy or even Perdition Temple from Tampa, Florida. As much as I can appreciate all these various subgenres, it still pleases me to see a healthy scene for death metal today!
Of course, Cannibal Corpse have also become an influence for many people in this scene.
It’s weird for us to even think of ourselves as being influential as a band! It’s like which comes first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, you know what comes first – first you’re a fan, and then you become a musician. That’s how it is for just about everybody, and that’s how it was for us!
We were fans of Slayer, Kreator, Dark Angel, Venom and all of that stuff which was around back in the mid-eighties including Celtic Frost and Possessed. We still hold them in high regard as our inspiration, so to think that there’re a bunch of musicians out there about five years younger than us who feel the same way about us is a big honour; realising that we might be regarded as an influence to younger bands, which makes us feel very flattered and humbled.
Speaking of Slayer, it’s horrific to hear of what’s happened on tour in Australia – not only did Tom Araya have dehydration problems, but guitarist Jeff Hanneman actually contracted a flesh-eating virus!
Yeah! It’s tough when you’re out there on the road; you can get sick and even headbanging for twenty-something years can definitely do some sort of damage to your spine. As extreme metal musicians start getting into their forties like ourselves and Slayer, we’re going to have to keep a closer eye on our health I suppose… it doesn’t get easier as you get older!
In a way, “Global Evisceration” is a memoir of sorts. It’s a lot easier to remember where you’ve gone and what happened when you’ve got it on film, rather than through pictures – though on a number of tours, we don’t even take pictures! We just have our memories to go by which just fade with time, so I’m more than happy that we filmed the Evisceration Plague Tour.
We also have great memories of that experience – being able to play before Megadeth in the Tuska Festival in Finland for one, as they were another band we adored when we started out. It’s great to have that stored on video, as at some point I’m sure we won’t be doing this anymore though we don’t know when – maybe in five years time or another twenty years. Or even longer!
This (memoir) is also for our fans, because when I think about the bands I liked when I was younger I wish that they had filmed more of their travels and backstage footage for people to see how things were back then.
So what do you want to say to the fans who will buy this DVD and check out your travels?
First of all, I want to say “thank you”, for all the support you’ve shown and also coming up to see us play throughout 2009 – 2010.
This year in 2011, we’re staying home and just working on a new record which we plan to record in September. If we get it done by then, we should be able to get it released around sometime in early 2012; we’ll be back out on the road by then and we hope to see everybody again!
K. Ann Sulaiman would like to thank Cannibal Corpse and Metal Blade for this interview.