Cannibal Corpse – Bloodthirst – Interview

Cannibal Corpse

Bloodthirst (Metal Blade)
An interview with bassist Alex Webster
by Tim Den

How was spending Thanksgiving in Europe?
It was fine. I don’t think they celebrate it though. I didn’t see any decorations up or anything. It would’ve been nice to be back home with the family, but it was impossible with our schedule. We only had, like, two days off in 36 shows or something. But we used those days off pretty well, so it was worth it.

What did you do?
We were in Rome, so we visited all the historical sites of the city. Like tourists. We knew we’d never be able to afford to come back to do all the traveling otherwise, and we were there anyway, so why not?

That must’ve been great. Being on a nice European tour and getting to see all the achievements of a glorious past.
If you’re in Rome, how can you not go and see the Coliseum or the Vatican?

Did you go to the Vatican?
Yeah, we had a little tour of it. Did you know that they have their own currency and army?

They’re supposed to be a totally functional country.
It’s really interesting how it’s all organized. Especially being a religious state with an army.

Man this is too good to be true: “Cannibal Corpse visits Vatican City.”
Why not, you know? George (“Corpsegrinder” Fisher, vocals) was the only one who wouldn’t go. He was like “I’m not going there, man!! No way!” We were all like, “How can you not! You’re missing out on the best stuff!” Being on tour, half the fun is getting to see things you don’t usually get to see. And Rome is just so incredible.

I’m going to make sure every person who has a stereotypical view of death metal bands reads this… People tend to think death metal is played by sickos, but little do they know…
We’re just regular people who happen to like intense, extreme music. Yeah, it’s annoying sometimes. But you can only do what you do and hope some will notice that truth.

I guess, in defense of the general population, the lyrics and themes dealt with by death metal bands such as yourselves don’t really scream “love, peace, happiness.”
We deal with it.

But have you ever thought, “Alright, people are getting the wrong idea about us. We need to change the lyrics and image so we don’t give off the wrong impression”? You can still be a death metal band without the gore lyrics, like Napalm Death.
No, we’ve never thought about changing the way the lyrics are. It’s us. It’s Cannibal Corpse. It wouldn’t be fair to the fans. If I were involved with another project – and I’m not saying I will be, because Cannibal Corpse is my thing – then maybe. If something new was to happen and it was decided that the lyrics weren’t going to be gore-oriented, then sure. But Cannibal is something that we’d like to think of as a consistent band. We have an identity and we stick to it. We’re responsible to our fans. We try to get better at it with every record and progress in our own way, but we’d like the fans to think of us as reliable. You know what you’ll get when you get the new Cannibal Corpse record.

That’s one of the attributes that fans like about Cannibal: reliability. When Cannibal Corpse releases a new record, you get it because it’ll be reliable and good.
Well, I’d like to think that’s how people feel. We try to be consistent, without doing the same thing over and over again. I know it’s kind of a contradiction, but I think it’s possible to be good at death metal – pure death metal – and still progress into different areas to make it interesting. We’ve all become better players with time, and the songwriting is more interesting, and we hope it’s better each time we get into the studio. I was a big fan of a lot of bands that “let me down,” in a way. I was always frustrated that some of the bands that were the best at what they did kept dropping it for other stuff. If they really wanted to change, then more power to them. I always wanted my band to be one of the bands that doesn’t disappoint their loyal fans. We just try to write better songs.

It’s interesting how the theme of the band doesn’t reflect your personalities at all. I mean, you’re all such mild-mannered guys… Why did you chose to make this band such a gruesome entity in the first place?
Well, we all grew up listening to really heavy music, and those bands were already dealing with gruesome subject matter. Bands like Slayer and Death. It just fit the heaviness of the music. We were also into some of the horror/gore flicks, and it just made sense to pair up brutal music with brutal lyrics. It doesn’t mean we condone violence, just as horror directors don’t necessarily condone it; it just felt like it fit. We’re totally a bunch of jokers and regular people, we just happen to like extreme metal.

Speaking of bands that you grew up listening to… I remember you guys got to tour with Kreator a while back. How was that?
It was amazing. It was incredible for us because Kreator was one of our favorite bands starting out and growing up. Getting to be on tour with them was really a dream come true. It felt weird and awkward to have them open for us, like “This is Kreator!!”

What other classic stuff are you into?
I think Autopsy was one of the best there was, and (one that) never got any credit. I just think they were it. Some of the guys formed Abscess later on with guys who used to be in Hexx, but they were more hardcore punk/grind with a twist, not like Autopsy. I love that band. I think Morbid Angel, as far as writing and playing, is the best there is. Everything they do is phenomenal. As far as death metal goes, they’re just the most original and the best at it. Immolation is awesome too; we toured with them before and they are great. Other old stuff I like are Sadus and a band called Bloodfeast. Jack (Owen, guitar) still has that record on vinyl. We used to – and still do – play it all the time.

I don’t know about you, but I think death metal today has really lost the inventiveness and raw edge that the early bands (such as yourselves) had that made the genre special. Do you like any of the newer bands?
There are a couple bands that I like. Yeah, I’ll always be partial to the older stuff because of sentimental value and memories, but there are new bands that I like: Hate Eternal, Diabolic, Deflesh, Krisiun, Angel Corpse… and Nile is interesting, too. We’re trying to bring one of our favorite bands with us to the States next time we tour – they’re called Marduk – and I think they’re great. They’re more black metal than death metal though.

After all these years playing and listening to death metal, you don’t get tired of it?
No, I don’t. If I got bored with it, I’d probably quit. This music moves me. It’s the music I feel most comfortable playing. The only other music I’d play would probably be fusion or prog jazz, just for the technical aspect of it, but death metal is my favorite type of music.

You’re into fusion and prog jazz?
I’m listening to more and more of it. More for the playing than anything else. It’s just mind-blowing. I listen to the bass players a lot, of course, to learn new things. I really like Michael Manning and Gary Willis, among others.

Is there anything you listen to that would give your fans a heart attack?
Uh… sure. (laugh) I’d hope that nobody gets surprised by anything anyone listens to, just because people should know that music is music… There are a lot of different types of music, and it doesn’t mean anything not death metal is no good. I like all kinds of music. Some for the technical aspects, some for the good songwriting. I’ve been getting into Dave Matthews Band recently. They were one of those bands that I was always like, “Yeah, whatever” until I saw them on Letterman one night. Then I was like, “Holy shit, these guys can play their asses off!!” They’re great musicians and they have decent songs.

Anything really embarrassing?
Hmmm… I like No Doubt.

Say it ain’t so, Alex!!!!
I don’t love them or anything, but I wouldn’t turn it off if it was on the radio. They’re good musicians, and the songs are pretty catchy.

Okay. This is a good time to change the subject. What’s this I hear about a live video?
We felt it was time to do a “live” thing. We had the Monolith of Death video in ’95 from the Vile tour, but that wasn’t the best quality. This video will include all of our stuff from the first record to the latest material, all recorded professionally from a board. We’re thinking about making it into a live record, too. It’ll hopefully come out around Feb. 2000.

On Monolith of Death and on recent tours, you guys have dropped a lot of older material that I know people want to hear. Any chances of them coming back?
We haven’t been doing some of the old stuff mainly because George didn’t have the time to learn it. That and the fact that songs like “Rotting Head” haven’t even been practiced since ’93 or something. I think we’re going to bring some of that back though. Stuff like “Shredded Humans,” which we did up until last year’s Gallery of Suicide tour. I think I’d like to bring back “The Undead Will Feast” too, and we’ve been getting a lot of requests for “Under the Rotted Flesh.” It’ll be nice to play some of the older, simpler stuff now that we’re better musicians, and see how interesting we can make it.

What about “Edible Autopsy” or “Put Them to Death”? Or “Buried in the Backyard” with the whole instrumental beginning that allows the singer to make a late appearance (which former vocalist Chris Barnes used to always do when the song opened the set)?
“Edible Autopsy” is great. I’d like to try for that one. “Put Them to Death” hasn’t been done since Barnes, and I don’t think it’ll be resurrected. Not that it’s bad, but we already have too many to chose from. The whole minute of instrumental section in the beginning of “Buried in the Backyard” is cool. We’d like to try that with George if we opened with it. It used to be Barnes’ “big moment” when we did it.

When will you be back in the States to support Bloodthirst?
We have a week off after the European tour, and we should be back in the States by the beginning of 2000. We should be up by the Northeast by February, so come out and say hi. You never know if we’ll be taping you for the live record!
(2828 Cochran St. #302 Simi Valley, CA 93065)