Extreme metal in general is kind of a minority within metal. When I say extreme I mean death metal, thrash metal, black metal. Even though people know of it, it’s still lower on the scale. Within it, you’re always trying to fight to maintain and get things going. At some point you feel like an animal locked in a cage or in a corner, and you’re either gonna curl up in a ball or come out clawing and tear through everything. – Ben Falgoust
I have been looking at summer festivals and noticing the sad trend continuing of EDM that has been co-opted by the Lowest Common Denominator of Bro step/jock dub/rape raves combined with bad jam band shit plus a few indie bands and some so so hip hop tacked on to please the Pitchfork crowd. I’d rather go, ironically, to heavy metal or black metal shows where people are actually courteous and smart (hahaha)! How crazy is that? But you hear from most people in the music business about how metal bands are often the most down to earth motherfuckers. That is definitely the case with New Orleans’ mighty Goatwhore, one of the hardest working and heaviest bands in metal since their inception in ’97.
The band’s latest is Constricting Rage Of The Merciless, which we gave a full 5 star review. The band have potentially never sounded more focused or filthier on this thrash-tastic death trip into a black hole of Hades. It was great to pick the brain of Mr. Ben Falgoust (vocals) as the band gear up to start Summer Slaughter this year. Special thanks on some extra questions from Mucus Barfbag of Dead Witch Walks and Aabeg from Dying Out Flame .
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Hey, man. First question is about Summer Slaughter. You’re doing some shows leading up to that tour, but are you looking forward to playing with Morbid Angel every night?
Ben Falgoust: Yeah. I’m looking forward to the whole thing. They’ve got a lot of great bands lined up. Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus, Within The Ruins, Decrepit Birth. Last year was a bit more tech death and prog type stuff and this year has more brutality to it. Every year has a little variation and this year seems to be the blunt of the brutality. It’ll be good times, man. We know some of the guys in Origin and a couple dudes in Decrepit Birth. We know some of the guys in Morbid Angel a bit, just throughout the years, y’know. Some of the members were in other bands prior to Morbid Angel and we know them from then as well. Not really tight but on the road you remember ’em. We don’t go play golf together and shit like that (laughing) but we see each other when we all go hit the road together.
Like work buddies.
Kind of like work buddies, if you want to look at it like that.
Except there’s beer.
Your work buddy usually goes with you somewhere else to drink beer. Our work allows us to drink beer once you’re there! You can drink on the job site when you do this (laughing).
Where are you tonight?
Ahh, tonight we’re in St. Louis.
Watch your gear, man. A lot of bands have been gettin’ their stuff stolen there lately.
Trust me, on the way in I had the speech with everyone. Don’t leave anything on the dashboard. You got anything important bring it in the venue with you. Go check ont he trailer and van and keep an eye out. Good friends, our buddies in Eyehategod, they got broken into right here. We definitely know. We’ve been through many venues in the U.S. and Canada. Some are sketchy areas and we know the kind of routine we have to do. Keep an eye out. Make sure your shit’s not in clear sight. I mean, even if you’re doing it a long time you can still make a mistake. Whatever, things start to get a little excited in the evening and something slips your mind, so it’s always good to have everyone on the same page.
I don’t give a lot of 5 star reviews, but you guys earned it with this album, man. How did it feel making this record?
It was awesome, man. It was a really good experience. I appreciate that, too. The thing with Goatwhore, we don’t delve too much into a lot of change. If anything it’s more maturity that comes into play with what we do. We get more mature or immature in certain ways, over time. All those things play a role. We have growth for each record. Each record has it’s own sound and is a little different, but it still sounds like Goatwhore. It’s a natural thing. From one point you listen to new stuff that comes out and you go ,”Well, I’m kinda tired of the stuff comin’ out now. So you go back toolder stuff. You go back to Judas Priest, Accept, Motorhead. Those influences kind of come back and rear their head. You’ve got four different entities. We come together and all those influences are mixed up and jumbled. So there’s a lot of variation going on.
Constricting Rage of the Merciless as a name could mean eternal torture, but it also made me think how Goatwhore is on a merciless metal mission.
Yeah, it kind of was that. It is us. The relentless pushing of what we’ve ben doing for all these years. Extreme metal in general is kind of a minority within metal. When I say extreme I mean death metal, thrash metal, black metal. Even though people know of it, it’s still lower on the scale. Within it, you’re always trying to fight to maintain and get things going. At some point you feel like an animal locked in a cage or in a corner, and you’re either gonna curl up in a ball or come out clawing and tear through everything. so it represents that idea.
I think Morbid Angel have the top selling Death Metal album ever with Covenant, or maybe it was Domination, and it still is maybe close to 150,000 sales. I forget the figure. But people do death metal out of passion.
Yeah, pretty much. You do watch bands where out of nowehere a big label steps in and are interested. These labels have artists that are selling a million copies. Then they step into a terrain that doesn’t reach that and they don’t want to be involved anymore. The band get shunned because they stepped into a territory of trying to boost their sales. Some of the fans brush ’em off. It’s an industry. It’s really brutal and you have to watch what you do, especially if you’re playing an extreme style of music. You can alienate people really quick over a small step of trying to move forward in some kind of way.
Well, Goatwhore has kept in touch with the fan base but also still have made sure you’re doing what you want to do also.
Well, when we write…it’s no offense to the fans, but we don’t think of the fans. We think of ourselves. Stuff that we enjoy playing in a live setting. We don’t wanna put together a song cuz Joe Schmoe or cindy Lou wants to hear it. It’s stuff we really like. We’re having a good time playing it live, so the fans come out and are enjoying the things that we did right. It adds to it so much more. For us, the live performance is in your face and represents us so much more. I don’t know if we’ll ever catch that on CD. If anything the CD is like the appetizer and you come to the show and it’s like the meal. It’s right there. That’s what it is. This is how it’s goin’.
I think you came pretty close on “Externalize This Hidden Savagery”. It’s such a fast song, even for you guys. Were you guys Cryptic Slaughter fans, by any chance?
(laughing) I’m actually a really big Cryptic Slaughter fan. I love Money Talks and Convicted. I got both of those on tape. When I got Money Talks I remember I had a Walkman with headphones. There was a football game going on and my friend who was into this stuff was at the game. I got it and I was so excited. I walked to the stadium. It was a few miles or whatever. That was a distance! I sat next to him on the bleachers and said ,”You got to hear this record. It’s amazing.” SO yeah, me and him were trippin’ out on them big time. I was a fan. I was always into the element of speed within metal. Speed metal. Grindcore. I remember first picking up Napalm Death’s From Enslavement to Obliteration and I saw it on vinyl in this record store in Texas. Sealed in the plastic. Written on it in marker it said “Fastest band in the world”? I was like ,”Wow. Interesting.” So I needed to check the shit out. Brought it home, boom! It just extended it even more. Cryptic Slaughter. Dark Angel was considered pretty fast back then too. Things like that. As time went on the speed level increased, increased, increased more and more. In Goatwhore we do it in spots. We put it where we think it’s effective. Cuz we do have a more traditional metal and rock n roll element. Then we incorporate everything else into it from there. So we kind of try and stage things strategically as they make sense.
There’s a band from Nepal called Dying Out Flame. Aabeg Guatam is the vocalist. They play Vedic based Death Metal and are from Kathmandu. Aabeg and I have become friends and he wanted me to tell you they are huge supporters of you guys over there. Aabeg wanted to know if you would ever come play Nepal? They have had bands like Vader, Decapitated and Napalm Death.
We’re down to do anything. It’s all about getting it sorted. We’ve done Australia. New Zealand. Tasmania. We played in Europe and all that stuff. Mexico City and Canada. We’re always open to go anywhere new where the extreme metal scene is willing to have us. So for sure, we’d definitely be interested in it.
Was there anywhere you played where there was a culture clash with what you do? Or did they know what they were getting into?
They know what they’re getting ahead of time. I dont think someone books you out of nowhere and says ,”Oh look, there’s this band Goatwhore”.
I mean, with the internet…if somebody did that, they’d have to be pretty special, man. (laughing)
Attila from Mayhem, I recently read an interview where he said metal is kind of like a big family. Even Slipknot kids are learning more about Mayhem, for example. You read interviews with Watain and they say things like “We’re on our own”, but then if you alk to them they are still pretty nice guys. Do you think there is that sense of community in metal?
Yeah, I think there is. There is divisions. There are genres and sub-genres. I mean, it’s a given. People are gonna like what they like. But the other thing is people are different in what they think something is. One person can listen to us and think we’re black metal, the next thinks we’re black death thrash. There’s a lot of opinions of how people want to explain us. I don’t want to get pigeonholed into one thing. People stick to one genre sometimes and don’t want to listen to anything outside that. If you tell them, “Yeah, Goatwhore. They’re black metal.” And they don’t like black metal so wont listen to us but then do it on a whim someday and we weren’t what they thought we were. Even in black metal you have variation.
Yeah, Immortal doesn’t sound like Aura Noir.
Even in death metal you have variations. We mix elements together.
I’m gonna start telling kids you’re emo so they listen to you and get their little fuckin’ haircuts ripped off.
There you go! Trickery.
I was chatting with you recently about a Woodstock, NY show where I met you guys years and years back. You played with my friend’s band Cirrhosis. Around the time of the first Goatwhore record. Well, Mucus Barfbag of the band’s Cirrhosis and Dead Witch Walks gave me some questions to ask you also. First, any vocal remedies you are fond of? You’re a guy like Travis from Cattle Decapitation where you can do a lot of stuff with your voice within an extreme style.
Vocals aren’t like a guitar or bass and drum where you can tune it. It’s a natural thing, so you have to work through it. I’ve blown my voice out in the past and it’s taught me how to be when you play venues with no monitors. Some VFW hall. You push yourself hard and blow yourself out more. You need to know that even if you can’t hear yourself, it’s probably coming out fine off stage. It’s coming across. You have to teach yourself things. I recently was hanging out with Rob Dukes (Exodus, Generation Kill) recently and we were talking about the importance of singing from the gut. You don’t use your throat except to control the tones coming out. Use your abs. when you use your throat to do it, you tear it up a bunch. There is an approach to it. People think we’re just screaming our heads off. I read in a magazine for “real” (laughing) vocals that if you drink hot tap water, the hottest you can drink before you play, about thirty minutes…that’s good. The worst thing you can do is drink ice water. So get a bottle of room temperature water.And I chew gum before I play, too. It’s a superstition thing I do. I don’t know if it helps. Sometimes I have a cold beer. It’s hot up there. But I stick to my guns with a lot of things.
Mucus also wanted to know if, before you were evil, you used to be scared of ghosts as a kid or have a Casper night light? (laughing)
I’m not neccesarily evil. I’m just really interested in the dark arts. I grew up as a Protestant. I know a lot of Biblical things. I like history and deviant things that happened you are never taught in school. The world is very unique. Those things all are intertwined and play a role in all the lyrics. When I was a kid I was scared of things. I have to say, when I saw John Carpenter’s The Thing, that scared the shit out of me. My parents had a long, long hallway that led back to their bedroom. And it would be dark. Partially down would be the bathroom. I’d always run to the bathroom and shut the door. The first Alien creeped me out, too. I was younger and it was a really intense movie then. Those movies are still intense and really stand up today to other things that come out. Overall, I got over and grew out of it. The supernatural intrigues me, of course. I believe it, but I can’t explain it. I don’t want to sit here and argue with someone who thinks it doesn’t exist. It’s there. I wont shoot it down. I wouldn’t shoot down alien races. You’d have to be selfish to think that in all the galaxies there isn’t some other race out there. It’s probably more intelligent than we are. As I got over my fears of things went away. Even being involved in an accident where I was injured really bad, I came to a point where I wasn’t even fearful of death anymore. I understand more and more that human life can go in no time. It doesn’t have anything to do with your age. You could be on a bike and then be gone. I think I started researching cults that were into death. I was intrigued by it. Cults in South America. Other cults outside of that. You start to see that within all these groups that believe in death as the higher being, there’s leftist ones. Rightist ones. Variations. A lot of that came out as far as lyrics on Blood For The Master. The embracing of death. I confronted it and it’s an acceptance. Some people think it’s natural and gonna happen but a majority of people fear it. It is inevitable and is gonna happen. That should inspire you to make more of an effort to do what you need to do now and not have it taken away before they do what they want to achieve.