MR Exclusive Interview: Cannibal Corpse’s Alex Webster talks “Torture”, democratic approach to song writing, 12 gory albums and more.

Posted by Morgan Ywain Evans on Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:32 PM (PST)

Cannibal Corpse are simply THE archetype for death metal. When it comes to the band that most people think of first when the genre comes to mind or who other death metal bands most often get accused of being clones of, it is Cannibal Corpse. The pioneers of bloodthirsty savagery have conquered (and eviscerated) the globe, proving that refined musicianship and murderous raw metal rampaging need not be segregated.

Cannibal Corpse are back with their 12th album “Torture”, a record so intense it just has to be heard to be believed. Produced again by Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal), it further cements the bands legacy as titans of death. I was on Amazon.com refreshing my brain on the “Centuries Of Torment” cover art and seeing all the Corpse records pop up in the “People Who Bought This Also Bought” section of the site kind of gave me chills thinking about what an institution for the genre this gore obsessed group has become.

There is something wonderful about the irony of a band who’ve made a career talking about murder who cannot be stopped or killed.

Alex Webster spoke at length about what makes “Torture” so enjoyable and much more. Read the interview HERE.

MORGAN Y. EVANS: Hi Alex. How are you today?

ALEX WEBSTER: Good. Good. Sorry I called you late. Running a bit behind.

MYE: Dude, no worries. I was actually just emailing a song to your sound guy Pete Robertson.

AW: Oh yeah? How do you know Pete?

MYE: Oh God. From years and years back playing in punk bands up in Woodstock, NY. Long time ago. I saw him the other day and he said he’s been having a great time on the road with you guys.

AW: Oh yeah, man. It’s great to have somebody on the road who has such a broad knowledge of how to produce and do good sound. He’s a great studio guy and an awesome live sound guy. You can really ask him just about anything and he knows about it.

MYE: So, you’re 12 albums into a 24-year career. You have reached a milestone where you can kill to a different Cannibal LP every month of the year!

AW: (laughing) Yeah. True.

MYE: How does it feel to reach this point and you have the 25th Anniversary coming up. Any plans?

AW: We have some plans but I’m probably not supposed to talk about it. Since the 15th Anniversary we’ve put out something every 5 years. We did the “15 Year Killing Spree” box set. When we hit twenty years we had the “Centuries Of Torment” DVD. So we know we have to do something but we want it to be different. We don’t want it to be a DVD. So, we’ve got an idea and we should keep it secret for now but we have something pretty cool lined up.

MYE: A lot of people have been talking about “Torture” and feel like you’ve combined the raw side of the early stuff with the technical side of later material. Do you feel like you have made the “ideal” Cannibal sound or does saying something like that not leave you room to grow as an artist?

AW: I think we made a really good album this time. We’re really proud of “Torture” but there’s always room to grow. As soon as we got done with “Evisceration Plague” we were already thinking of ways to better that. This one it’s a little harder. There’s more variety and sense of individuality from song to song. That’s something we’ve been striving for. I think it is better than “Evisceration Plague”. It makes me happy to be able to say that. I think we can do better but we’ll have to work that much harder because we’re that much happier with this record.

MYE: It must have felt great to get the “Global Evisceration” DVD out as well. It was very acclaimed. Such a killer release for the fans. It was monumental.

AW: Yeah! This was the first time we had done a European festival tour where it was more than a couple of shows. Normally when we’d do things like that it was a couple shows here or there so this was the most extensive thing we’ve done. It was a great idea to bring Denise Korychi along. She’s our videographer. Bringing her with us on that trip was a good idea. We covered a lot of interesting ground. The live footage we also shot, that was from a show in Denver and a show in Albuquerque. Fans like to see behind the scenes footage and see a band going different places. Being able to see the band go to Israel, Turkey, Malta, Finland, Sweden…that’s pretty interesting, I think. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken and I’m glad we were able to document it.

MYE: It shows the world wide death metal brotherhood.

AW: Yeah. Yeah! It’s something that we, y’know, really think is awesome. Everybody in the band, as the years go by we learn about fans we have in places we never would’ve expected to have them. I mean, we have fans in Botswana. We have fans in Iran. Saudi Arabia. We either meet these people online or in person. At the last show we played there was a guy from Iran and a guy from Saudi Arabia. They said we have a lot of fans there. They have to keep things low key as far as the strict religious rules. They aren’t keen on people wearing evil metal shirts (laughing). But there’s plenty of fans all over the world. It’s something we’re really honored to be a part of. All metal bands should realize they are party of something very special.

MYE: Some monk on top of the Himalayas is supposed to be chanting but is sneaking off to listen to “Nothing Left To Mutilate”.

AW: (laughing) Yeah, right? You never know. It’s funny you say that. We were just hanging out with the Napalm Death guys and they are playing a show in Nepal. I didn’t know they did shows in Nepal! You can count on Napalm Death. Any of the far-flung places we play it seems they were there first. They really like to go and play anywhere they possibly can. Hopefully if the show goes well for them we can play there too. We wanna play everywhere we can.

MYE: I always associate Nepal with “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”.

AW: Totally.

MYE: “Intestinal Crank”, your bass tone and playing really supports the architecture of the song but you know when it cuts loose as well. That’s a trademark of your playing over the years. “Caged…Contorted” has a sick bass run!

AW: Oh, thanks! Yeah. It’s just different from part to part. If there’s a guitar part where there’s not a lot going on harmonically, where there is one note they are hanging on for a long time, then I have some space. If there’s a ton of notes going on in a part I am sort of tied to having to do that. I take it on a riff by riff basis. “Caged…Contorted” I felt like something should be there. Rob (Barrett) was hearing something there as well. I wrote the line and ended up playing it both times that riff appears. It worked out really well. It wouldn’t work well to play something really busy over a part that was really busy.

MYE: I love that you guys have such a teamwork vibe where you can each be showcased without stepping on each other but you can also drop into something more unison like “Scourge Of Iron”. It’s honestly one of the heaviest songs I’ve ever heard in my life. Up there with The Melvins song “AMAZON”.

AW: Thanks, dude. That was the intention of that song. To have it be like an enormous sledgehammer hitting a gigantic evil bell or something. DJUN-DJUN-DJUN!

MYE: What’s the challenge of tracking something that low? Rutan can go from tracking Agnostic Front to you guys. Not everyone can do that. How do you face the challenge of not only getting the studio performance but also getting such dark, fucked up tones?

AW: It’s cool that you ask that ‘cuz it’s not that easy. We’re tuned super low on some of these songs. “Scourge Of Iron”, the low note we’re crunching on is a low G sharp.

MYE: (whistle)

AW: The strings are all detuned a minor third. It’s definitely low down in the mud! Three half steps. It takes a really good producer to keep it from sounding like mush. You have to get a good performance from the musicians but also have the sound dialed in so that you can still get a good separation of the musicians. It’s an easy song to play but getting the bass tone was not easy for that song cuz it was so low. Erik’s good at working with band’s that are extreme on any end of the spectrum, be it really low or fast. We’re really impressed with how the sounds turned out on this record.

MYE: On “Evisceration Plague” Paul (Mazurkiewicz) did “Skewered From Ear To Eye” in one take on the drums! Anything like that happen on this record as far as crazy studio takes? Also can you talk about the benefit of using two different studios?

AW: Sure. We had another great performance from Paul. I think it was “As Deep As The Knife Will Go.” He nailed it in one take. It might even have been the first take. As for me, I had something like that to. “Intestinal Crank”…We had just finished recording “The Strangulation Chair” and I wrote that song. I thought it was going to be easy but it wound up being a bit harder than I thought it would be. We’d really been messing around with that for a couple of hours making sure it was perfect. We took a food break and said,” OK. Let’s eat and then see if we can get anything done on ‘Intestinal’”. That one is so damn hard but I just slammed through it. It went really fast. It’s strange. Sometimes things can fall together quickly and other times they have to be looked at for hours. Getting to the part of the question about studios, honestly it was about budget. We couldn’t stay at Sonic Studios for two months, so it made sense for us to go out there for a month and then to finish up at Erik’s studio Mana Studios in October. We recorded rhythm guitar, bass and drums at Sonic Ranch and it’s a great place to record. Very isolated. Not distracted by your daily life. Just thinking about the album the whole time. Then back to Mana. It worked out well. Back here in Florida Erik could take the tracks and mix on them comfortably on his own console he is used to looking at. We did the solos and vocals there. It wound up being a good process for this album.

MYE: This is less of a question than a ridiculous statement. You know how in “The Wizard Of Oz” people try and synch it up with Pink Floyd music?

AW: Mmhmmm.

MYE: If you do bong rips and watch “Night On Bald Mountain” from “Fantasia” it is really insane how well it synchs up with “From Skin To Liquid”. I mean, you might as well really be summoning demons at that point.

AW: That’s cool. Shit. I’d like to see that. I don’t have a lot of Disney in my DVD collection, surprise, surprise. I know the song “Night On Bald Mountain” is an amazing and dark song in its’ own right.

MYE: I was pretty freaked out.

AW: I love it when things like that happen. Definitely.

MYE: How do you feel George has grown as a vocalist since “Vile”? He almost seems one with the band like a percussive instrument on “Encased In Concrete”.

AW: We’ve learned how to play together really well and write to his style. The longer you work with someone the better you are gonna get at working together. At least, that’s the way it should go. We’ve learned how to work better as a band in general. He’s the main thing that a lot of people pay attention to, so it’s important. He’s able to work well with the material we give him and to make it sound so killer the way he does.

MYE: You have a clear vision for the band. But when you have a popular release like “Kill” or Evisceration Plague” I mean, it is gonna sound like Cannibal Corpse but that doesn’t mean the albums all sound the same. It’s a cop out when people say that. How do you decide the artwork or direction?

AW: Yeah. It’s a decision we all make together and the five of us are all into the most brutal death metal we can make. The artistic direction is pretty safe as long as it gets past all five of us. The bands that end up making mistakes creatively are usually the ones where one guy makes all the decisions and no one questions him no matter how bad the decisions are. (laughing) I’ve seen it happen. There’s some bands out there that have made some real bad calls. Usually because there is a main dude that no one is able to keep in check because he is just reigning over the rest of the band.

MYE: (laughing) It’s probably best if…I just won’t comment on that.

AW: Yeah, we’ve all seen it happen. Not just in metal. Democracy keeps you in check. Of course Paul and I do a little bit more as far as songwriting because we’ve been in the band since the beginning, but when it comes to big decisions about album names, song titles and all these things…we work on it together. Everyone is given a voice. We all know something lame isn’t gonna get past all five of us. Nothing really crappy is gonna get that far. If you have talented people in the band let them contribute.

MYE: So “Torture” definitely wasn’t a metaphor for the creative process? Joking.

AW: No. Thankfully. (laughing) It’s not that. I guess it could be. (laughing) I’m kidding. You have to be adult enough to realize you’re not always right. You have to be willing to listen to other people. That’s what makes a good team.

MYE: My friend Lionel wanted me to ask if you look at scenes like New York or Florida or Europe as better for death metal or is each unique on its’ own?

AW: Umm…I think it’s one of those things where everywhere is a little different but there are a lot more similarities than differences. Metal heads are kind of the same all over the world. That’s why you can have a big festival like Wacken and have representatives from every country that likes metal there raging. Rage together and have a great time. There are differences but I think similarities are greater. That said, many places are special and have brought the world great bands. Sweden obviously has produced a ton of great bands. Unleashed. Entombed. Vomitory. Aeon. Dismember. Spawn Of Possession. Sweden has to have per capita the greatest number of death metal bands in the world. They HAVE to! ‘Cuz it’s not even a very populated country but has dozens of really great bands. Finland has a similar situation but more progressive and shred oriented neo-classical. Each scene has a sound to it. Poland has Hate. Lost Souls. Obviously Behemoth. Vader. Decapitated.
Each scene has a similar sound in that you wouldn’t likely find a band like Vader coming from Stockholm. Quebec has Cryptopsy, Gorguts. Florida has its sound. New York City. Immolation. Suffocation. Brazil has Krisiun. Sarcophaga. The original Sepultura.

MYE: What is it about where you grew up that most shaped your sound?

AW: Well, it was cold in Buffalo. I mean, environment always plays a role. It was not a good economic situation. It was hard to find jobs. A lot of people were angry and fighting. I was amazed when I lived in the city how many people would fight each other for no reason. A lot of that background. Factories closed down. An industrial cold Rust Belt kind of city. I don’t know if that had a lot to do with our sound. We were inspired by bands from Florida like Death and Morbid Angel and bands from Germany like Sodom and Kreator. Bands from California like Dark Angel and Slayer. It wasn’t like we were drawing from a Buffalo sound, really. Music is everywhere and so we were drawing from sounds from all over the place.

MYE: The eleven inches of snow you’d get up there sometimes doesn’t hurt when it comes to making you pissed off though, right?

AW: Definitely. There is a vibe up there. Down here in Florida everything is really new. The house I grew up in was a hundred years old where the house I live in now is ten. There were lots of old cemeteries up north and I had to walk past them on the way to school. Some gravestones were so old they had German on them from the original settlers. Y’know. It’s just a vibe. Old buildings, grey skies…(laughing) cold weather. Graveyards. It creates a vibe to lending itself to writing dark music.


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One Comment

  1. Aditya3/20/2012 1:07 AM | Permalink

    You guys are legends. Have always enjoyed listening to your awesome music. New album kicks ass, especially ‘ Scourge of Iron ‘. I wish the song titles were more brutal though. Admitting my take on the album, I still feel KILL and VILE were the best albums in death metal and the best you guys have done till date. VILE was and is the most evil death metal album! Keep it up guys and I hope you guys entertain me with your music till I’m in a fuckin’ coffin.

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