"There's a lot of variety on this tour so it's going to be very cool in that sense because as much as I love full-on death metal tours, it'll be nice to get out there and try something different."
At this point in their careers, an introduction for Cannibal Corpse is somewhat...well, useless. Known the world over as one of the pioneering acts of death metal, Cannibal Corpse has been on an audio killing spree for 15 years and with no signs of slowing down, they've just unleashed their most violent and brutal album to date, Kill. Having been a fan of Cannibal Corpse for years upon years, I was honored to have the chance to speak with bassist Alex Webster about everything from Kill to...No Doubt. Seriously.
Josh: Alex, how are you bro?
Alex: Hey, I'm good man. How about yourself?
Josh: Just fine, thanks. You guys just back from Europe not too long ago, after touring with Prostitute Disfigurement and my brothers in Aeon, correct?
Josh: How was that tour for you?
Alex: Oh, everything went very well. I mean, we were really psyched to play with those bands and especially Aeon because we've been listening to them for quite a while now. Erik from Deeds of Flesh [also the owner of Unique Leader Records – Josh] sent us their CD back in September and asked us if we'd be interested in taking them on tour. And after listening to the CD...yeah man, we were DEFINITELY interested in bringing those guys on tour! So we took them and another killer band called Prostitute Disfigurement.
The thing is, we've got larger crowds than both of those bands and I just knew that if we brought them on tour, every single one of our fans was going to dig both of those bands!
Josh: Oh, for sure!
Alex: So, if the fans came to the show and didn't really know what to expect from the other bands we were playing with, we knew that with these bands they'd all be walking away knowing that the show was money well spent. And also, it's really cool just to be able to watch bands that we actually dig. I mean, how else were we going to see Aeon if we didn't bring them on tour?
Josh: Exactly! Perhaps now you'll bring that tour over here!
Alex: (Laughing) Oh, we'll definitely work on it, man. I mean, right now our touring plans are really revolving around Sounds of The Underground but yeah, at some point, I'd love to bring both of those bands over here.
Josh: Speaking of Sounds of The Underground, how did you guys end up on the bill for that this year? After last year's lineup of mostly metalcore bands, it was actually refreshing to see that you guys and Behemoth were going to be on this tour.
Alex: Well, you know, they approached us in January but we'd been talking about it before then. Once they accepted us, we just asked them who else was going to be on the tour. The reason for that is because we didn't want our fans to have to come out to a show just to see us and not enjoy the rest of the bands on the bill. But like you said, once we heard Behemoth, The Black Dahlia Murder and some of those other bands were going to be on it, it was an easy decision to make. I mean, there's a lot of variety on this tour so it's going to be very cool in that sense because as much as I love full-on death metal tours, it'll be nice to get out there and try something different.
Josh: What kind of setlist have you got planned for the shows?
Alex: Well, we're only going to be able to play 30-35 minutes so we're going to play as much as we can and do it in a way where we won't have to take breaks between songs. On our regular shows, we'll do a song then take a small break and drink some water because the headbanging can really take a lot out of you after a while. On a summer tour, it's going to be even worse because we'll be playing in the sun and we're gonna be sweating all over the place. But we're going to make sure that if we get 30 minutes, we're going to play for 30 minutes and not 25 minutes and 5 minutes of us drinking water. We're used to playing 75 minutes with breaks, but this is going to be continuous.
Josh: Now, about the new record...Alex, I've been listening to you guys for a long time and I've got to say this is by far the most brutal thing you've done yet.
Alex: Thanks man! That was the goal!
Josh: It actually seems like a much more matter-of-fact album, even down to the title "Kill".
Alex: Oh yeah, definitely. For this album, we really went for the less-is-more approach with the title and the cover. We figured that the music definitely spoke for itself and even though the songs are technical and sometimes hard to play, the basic feeling of the record is very primitive and filled with rage and violence. So, we wanted the thing to be very serious and very ominous, so that's what we went with for the cover and the title.
Josh: How did you go about choosing Erik Rutan for the production duties?
Alex: Well, there's a few different reasons and all of them are good reasons. He's a good friend of ours and a great death metal guitarist. He's really become an incredible producer over the years and does a lot of great work, which is definitely the main reason we chose him. Besides, his studio is located in St. Petersburg where lives, and that's pretty close to where we live as well. So, it was nice to be able to record the album here at a really good studio at home instead of having to travel all the way to Texas too. We're really pleased with the results, to say the least. It's been a long time since people have talked about how our record sounds as far as the production goes and everyone really loves it. So yes, we're very happy with the work Erik did.
Josh: Oh, I agree totally. It's very raw and as you stated earlier, quite primitive, but it's also very clean. That seems to be the sound that really suits you guys the best.
Alex: Yeah, I think he hit the nail on the head for how we should sound. I mean, we've worked with some different producers and they all did great work, but Erik got the raw vibe we were looking for, probably even more so than Neal Kernon. I mean, he's done some bands that are really clean and pristine like Nevermore and Queensr˙che and though he gave us the clean production, maybe it shouldn't have been that way. But the production we got from Erik was very tight and clean, but it still has that raw feeling behind it. I'll tell you, I'm really impressed with the drum sound on this record.
They don't have that modern clicky sound. They've got that old school Slayer feeling behind them, and you can tell that the drums are real. I mean, nowadays, most of the kick drums are sampled. I don't like that. I don't want to hear drums that sound like a Korg Drum Module, I want to hear drums that sound like a drummer.
Josh: I was just getting ready to say that it's the best I've heard Paul sound since "The Bleeding".
Alex: Yeah, and I mean, Erik wanted things to be clean too but he also wanted this really violent and aggressive sound and in the end, that really worked well for us.
Josh: This is also the first album in several years with Rob back on guitars. Now, before I ask you about Rob, would you mind explaining what went into Jack leaving the band?
Alex: Well, he quit in May of '04 right after the No Mercy Festivals. He had been losing interest for a while, and what really forced him to take action and quit the band was when his other band Adrift had a showcase in Los Angeles that was conflicting with our tour in Mexico. We can't have our guitar player not show up in Mexico on several dates and then show up later like nothing happened. So, he left the band and joined Adrift. It left us hanging because we only had a few weeks to get ready for Mexico.
So we called Jeremy Turner from Origin, and he'd been out of Origin for a few years, so he was really excited to come down and play with us. So Jeremy helped us out for a while and then Rob called us. This really put us in a dilemma of having to choose between Rob and Jeremy. After some thought, we decided Rob would be the better choice. This wasn't a reflection on Jeremy's performance because he's a great guitarist. He's in a band called Unmerciful and I actually played bass on a song off of their new album. They're a killer band!
Josh: Oh, absolutely. It just never made sense to me that Jack said he'd grown tired of playing death metal and then months later, he's in Deicide.
Alex: Well...I know he's a fan of Deicide and has been for years. I think he wanted to help Glen out, because the Hoffman brothers quit and you know, I think it was a nice change for him. I shouldn't be speaking for him though. It's probably something you'd be better off asking him about.
Josh: So, after Sounds of The Underground, what touring plans are on the agenda?
Alex: Well, we're going to Australia in October and then we're going to Japan. After that, I think we're going to do another American tour but the details aren't really confirmed yet, so I'm not going to say much about it just yet. We'll tour Europe again in February of '07.
Josh: It sounds like a return to that classic rigorous touring schedule you guys have become known for over the years.
Alex: Yeah, pretty much, but it's not going to be as rigorous as before. Some of the guys have kids now. Paul's wife had a baby, George's wife had a baby last year and she's got another one on the way. So the guys want to be home right now for a while with their kids, which means the old days of touring six months at a time will probably be coming to an end. And besides, I'm not so sure it's good for our health at this point.
Josh and Alex: (Laughter)
Alex: I mean, banging the hell out of our necks and hands every night for six months straight wouldn't be a wise decision at this point.
Josh: I'm sure! Now, we talked earlier about you playing bass on the new Unmerciful record but you've also got another project called Blotted Science going on.
Josh: What's going on with that, right now?
Alex: Well, it's me and Rob from Watchtower. Basically, it's just going to be a really heavy instrumental band. We just found out that Derek Roddy is probably going to be playing drums for us. I guess you know him, right?
Josh: Oh yeah.
Alex: I'm sure everyone knows who he is, and he is...well, he's one of the best! There's not going to be any vocals and it's very technical with a lot of odd time signatures but there's a lot of good, heavy riffs on there. As a musician, I've always enjoyed listening to musician-type music like Steve Vai and stuff like that. I just got an album from a band called Planet X and it's pretty cool, but the stuff we're doing is heavier than that riff-wise. There's a void there that needs to be filled with instrumental music. I mean, if you're into instrumental music and hear people play their asses off but also hear heavy-as-fuck riffs, there's not a lot of options out there.
Josh: Definitely not.
Alex: Some of Steve Vai's stuff is pretty fucking heavy, but there's definitely room for more heavy, instrumental stuff.
Josh: While we're on the subject of musical technicality, a friend of mine had a bass-related question he wanted me to ask you.
Josh: He wanted to know if you are a self-taught bassist or if you took lessons.
Alex: I took some lessons from a friend of mine when I first started. He was in the school jazz band and he taught me the basics. I didn't take lessons for about a year, but I started again when I was a senior in high school. I've had about four different teachers throughout the years, but I never took lessons for more than a few months. I did, however, gain a lot from them and I've tried to learn as much on my own as I can. Anything I can learn about music or bass playing, I'll try to learn. I mean, the more you learn and the more you apply to your playing, it just makes you a better musician.
Josh: Now, speaking as one of the originators of the death metal scene of the early 90's especially with the Floridian sound that really sort of changed everything...
Alex: Well, we live in Florida now but we're from New York, originally. What it was is that we were so influenced by that sound and we spent so much time in Tampa that we finally just said "Why don't we just move down here?" In a way, we were an extension of that sound because we had the signature Morrisound production. So, I can see where the confusion would come from but yeah, we're from Buffalo. Sorry, didn't mean to cut you off!
Josh: Oh, no no, I'm glad you cleared it up! What I was going to say was that, as one of the originators of death metal, what do you think of the bands in the scene today?
Alex: Well, you've got bands like Aeon and Prostitute Disfigurement who are fucking killer. Then, you've got Spawn of Possession from Sweden and several other bands who are finally becoming established like Nile, Krisiun, Behemoth, and those guys. I think really think death metal's still going strong and you know, people can say it went down in the 90's but I don't think it did. I mean, if anything, it's just gotten better. Also, bands like Severed Savior, Decapitated, Visceral Bleeding and bands like that are just pushing it to even further limits than it's already gone.
I would say that death metal's the kind of music that attracts musicians who want to push themselves. If you've got all these very talented musicians who want to continue pushing themselves, it's just going to keep getting better. You know, twenty years from now, it's still going to be there. The best is still to come, and all these young bands are proving every day that it wasn't just some passing fad from the 90's. I mean, the kids playing this music now are so good. It just blows my mind, man.
Josh: And now, it has come time for the Speed Round!
Alex: Speed Round? Oh, do I just answer as fast as possible?
Josh: Just say whatever comes to mind!
Alex: Oh, ok then! Cool.
Josh: Evolution or Creation?
Josh: First thing you do when you get home from a tour?
Alex: Um...take a shower. Definitely take a shower.
Josh: If not music, then what?
Josh: What would your bandmates do if not for Cannibal Corpse?
Josh: That seems to be a recurring theme without death metal!
Alex: Exactly! I know all the guys feel that way too!
Josh: Favorite song lyric?
Alex: Wow...um, it's hard to think of something right off but um...I'm going to say Slayer. Anything by Slayer.
Josh: Favorite guilty pleasure?
Alex: Wow...let's see...what's some of the crap I listen to? Well, ok, here's one. I wouldn't consider it a guilty pleasure, but I like Devo.
Alex: Devo's pretty fucking cool. Actually, there's some good songs from the first No Doubt album! Is that good enough?
Josh: Oh yeah...that's perfect.
Alex: (Laughter) I think their guitarist has some metal in his blood!
Josh: It's weird, because they actually did recruit him from a metal band!
Alex: Ok, I can tell! There's some pretty solid leads on that album!
Josh: If you could have any one band cover a Cannibal Corpse song, who would it be and why?
Alex: First of all, they wouldn't want do it and secondly, they'd probably like our music more after being forced to learn it.
Josh: Now role reversal...do you have any questions for me?
Alex: Actually, I do! This is a webzine right?
Alex: So how's that going for you? There seem to be a lot of those popping up these days. How do you get traffic to the site?
Josh: Actually...I have no idea.
Josh: I just started writing here this year, so I honestly have no idea. I'm just here to bring the death metal...that's all.
Alex: (Laughter) Very cool. It's really cool though because there's so many of them. It's a cool way for promotion, because we didn't have this ten years ago. Do you make money off of it or is it mostly a hobby?
Josh: If there's money, I haven't seen it! But there are people like Metal Sludge who do make a living off of it.
Alex: Oh yeah, I forgot about them. The good thing is, there are no pictures of me with poofy hair and makeup.
Josh: (Hysterical Laughter)
Alex: I can read that site without fear, because those photos don't exist...period.
Josh: For my final question, you guys have been doing this for close to twenty years. When you first started out, did you ever expect to take it to this level?
Alex: No, not at all. I mean, we were hoping to make an album and tour a little bit. That was it. You know, to be making a living off of something I love to do is just a realization of a dream. Back when we started, I never would have expected a career in this music. In a city like Buffalo, you were basically regulated to working the shittiest jobs imaginable and I didn't want that. When I'd be at work, all I could think of was doing something with music. That's all I ever wanted to do with my life. And to be doing that now, it's just...it's amazing man.
Josh: So what does the future hold for you guys, after this?
Alex: Probably just more touring and more albums. We definitely feel re-energized with Rob back in the band because Jack had lost a lot of motivation in what we were doing. I mean, Jack's a cool guy but when someone doesn't want to be there and they let you know they don't want to be there, you begin to lose interest yourself. We wish him well, but having Rob back is just like a totally new jolt of energy and it's going to keep us going for many more years. For people who don't like us, they're not going to start now. But for those who do like us, you're not going to be let down.
Josh: Any last words?
Alex: Just thank you very much for the support. I thank everyone who supports death metal as a whole and I hope to see you all on tour this summer. Thank you.
I'd like to thank Alex for one of the most pleasant conversations I've ever had, as far as interviews go. I advise you all to pick up "Kill" and catch these guys on Sounds of The Underground soon! Cheers again to Alex and to Cannibal Corpse. Don't forget to visit the band's official website (www.cannibalcorpse.net)
Click here for review / photos of 2006 Sounds of the Underground Milwaukee show
Here for photos / review of 2005 SOTU show in Chicago