Interview: Cattle Decapitation

Cattle Decapitation interview

After a brutal and mesmerizing performance at the Chain Reaction, I had a chance to talk to the death/grind band from San Diego, Cattle Decapitation. Amid the closing band’s set, and the subsequent stream of leaving people, we sat on the tailgate of their truck and shot the shit about San Diego’s scene, the future of the band and music, and some other crap that you’ll only be able to find out by reading on…

So, you guys are in the process of getting signed to Metal Blade Records. How is that going?
Travis: Slow, but it could be a lot longer.

What kinds of prospects are on the horizon for that?
T: Do shitloads of albums.

You’re going to be recording a new album in Florida, in like April you said? What’s the title?
Josh: “To Serve Man”

Why record in Florida?
T: With this kind of label, we have access to broader spectrum, I guess.  So we decided we want Erik Rutan, who did Morbid Angel, to do it. He’s open, and Metal Blade is really cool about hooking shit up.
J: That was just kind of a name we threw out there as an ideal. And to see one’s actual ideal, that’s really cool.

Does signing with a label like Metal Blade mean you’ll be touring in a larger scale now?
T: Yeah.
J: Oh, yeah.

What excites you most about the signing?
T: Bigger tours, and being able to jump on with other bands.

Is there anyone you guys would like to tour with, ideally?
T: You know, the bigger the better, I mean there are a lot of cool underground bands, but really we’d like to hop on the some of bigger tours. And then go ahead and do our own latter. I’d really like to bring Disgorged from Mexico. That would be the best, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.

What do you think about the San Diego scene? Is there an extreme scene brewing?
T: Stupid, pointless.
J: There isn’t. There isn’t one. I mean the one that there is, is just a bunch of shitty bar bands, and nobody cares.
T: There’s Disgorged, and Deprecated, who I don’t think are doing anything. Gutrot, finally.
J: Mortuus Terror.
T: Mortuus Terror and Gutrot, and that’s pretty much it. And us.
J: Disgorged. Don’t they just put out albums and maybe tour? They don’t really play around, maybe occasionally.
T: That’s what I’d like to do. I mean, playing around is fun, I’m glad we get the crowds we do down there.

Is it hard being a San Diego Metal band? Not many places to play?
T: No, it’s kind of always been that way. It’s been like that since like ‘95, ‘94. In ‘95, when it kind of went away for a while, and fucking now, we fit in with the grindcore and the hardcore and shit, so people come, and they like it, and that’s cool. As far as a metal scene, there isn’t one really.

Do you guys like playing at the Ché Cafe, or is it more of just a place to play?
T: It was fun at the beginning, but now it’s getting kind of boring.
J: The crowd kind of sucks. They just stand there.
Troy: Same old thing over and over. I’d rather travel more. It’s become draining.
J: I mean, the environment there…like Troy said, it’s really draining. I’m just a baby, or getting old or something, but I’d rather play at 7 o’clock instead of waiting till 4:30 at night.
T: We always get stuck playing at the end.
J: It’s always like, I worked, got home, and then went to the show. And then basically, hurry up and wait, sit around for four and a half hours. I don’t know if there is any blame to be placed, if it’s the people who work there, the dynamic of things. So many bands, people trying to move their equipment and stuff.

Last time you guys played there you went on really late, and I heard you complaining.
J: Mightiness – one o’clock usually.
Troy: Oh, god…
J: Only ‘cause of that, ‘cause me and him (points to Travis) work. It’s just, fuck, and then it becomes kind of competitive, and that’s just stupid.
T: Everyone says this dumb shit: “Everyone just wants to see you guys.” Yeah right! Half the people are gone by the end of the night, by the time we go on.
J: I don’t blame them, there’s like 4 or 5 bands and they get to like the first quarter of the 4th band, and they think “I just want to go home.” I don’t blame them – I wouldn’t want to be standing around through all that. You know, it just drains you, and it’s just unfortunate. ‘Cause there’s a lot of good bands that play there.
T: You know, with the bars and shit, like Brick By Brick – that’s pretty much the only one – when the big tours come through, we never get on ‘cause we hear about it way too late, or they don’t pay attention. So hopefully with Metal Blade we’ll be able to combat that.

Where else do you play around? I’ve noticed you play here (Chain Reaction) several times.
T: We almost play in rotation. We play here, Koo’s, which just closed down, and the Ché.
Troy: Scolari’s Office.
T: Fuckin’ Scolari’s Office is crazy.
Troy: Awesome place.
T: As far as San Diego, we don’t play bars. But when we do, they suck usually. But this place goes off. It’s this little dive bar out in the middle of San Diego.
J: Tons of people come out too. It’s rad.

Where’s it at?
T: North Park.
J: 30th and University.
T: That’s in North Park.

How do you find out about shows, when they’re going on?
T: My old guitarist, Gabe [Serbian, of the Locust] has brought us there, and they hook it up.
Troy: It’s a different bar. It’s not like Brick By Brick, where it’s stamp the hand and wait around to be frowned at.
T: Basically, that place and Ché, they show that San Diego is hit or miss. A lot of tours don’t come through here for a reason.
J: It’s so close to LA, [so] they figure why bother. If these people want to see us that bad, they will drive up to LA.
T: And with bands like this, you really want to play more all ages shows instead of bars. I think a lot of bookers go for that.

Seems like there is a lot of conflict within the metal scene, because there is this pressure about the “underground” and knowing the most minute, unheard of bands. And as soon a band gets a fan base, people stop listening because it’s “sold out.”
J: Look at the Relapse message board [Relapse Records, www.relapse.com]. Any time any band gets remotely successful, they suddenly suck. I may really like all the really underground bands that they’re talking about, but whatever.
T: Which really defeats the purpose.
J: Yeah, if you notice, people in certain bands – and they’re not “celebrities” – they can put up their names, and people recognize them, and it’s all “Great, we all love your band.” Until the second you start to get noticed. “Oh so-and-so’s paying attention to you.” You don’t even have to go on there and say we’re getting noticed, if it’s known through some other channel, and then people say your totally sold out. “When’s your tour bus going to arrive? Where are the hookers, when’s the cocaine going to come in?”

So has your band gotten that backlash at all? Have your fans started to respond that way?
T: No, I’ve seen some of that stuff that [John] talked about. For some reason the Relapse message board is the universal shit talking…
J: Which doesn’t mean I’m not going to visit it every day.
T: Find out anything you want on anything, man. But not so much, and if so, then they are just trying to score indie points by being so independent or whatever – fuck that. That’s stupid. What’s the point of being in a band if you’re not going to try and do it full force.
J: Otherwise, just sit in your house and play by yourself.

How long has this lineup been together?
Troy: August 16, or something like that.
T: Yeah! We had to power train him [John] for a month because Gabe was on tour with the Locust in Europe. So we had to train him for this tour we did, and he ruled. I think he learned it all in one month.
J: I learned it all in one month.
T: And we’ve just been writing songs ever since.

What’s the new album going to sound like?
T: Exactly like what we played tonight I guess.
J: …minus the old songs.
T: …’cause that’s all we played tonight. I don’t want to label it, but I guess you could say it’s going to be more death metal than our other stuff. The other stuff was more harsh, but this is what we like doing.

Are you guys listening to different bands while writing this album?
T: Sorta. Dave’s fairly into Cryptopsy, Krisiun, Malevolent Creation, Suffocation…He’s more into the bands with really good, fast drummers.
J: I like the Cult, a lot.
T: I’m really into Indian film music and American song poems right now.
Troy: And I love power metal.

What kind of Power Metal?
Troy: Avantasia, Simbix, Iron Maiden. It’s all about the old school.

What do you think the most important band is for Cattle Decapitation?
T: Oh, Carcass.
J: Yeah.
T: But now we’re going to be Carcass clones, which is absurd.

You guys have mentioned before, like when you played a Carcass cover at the Ché, that you were talking back to the audience about how they label you as sounding just like Carcass.
J: Which I don’t think is accurate at all.
T: It’s not at all – I mean, they aren’t listening. You write the gory lyrics, and put a little bit of textbook terminology in there and dual vocals, and all of a sudden you’re a Carcass clone. People don’t pay attention to the music, they just look the aesthetics or whatever. But I don’t think we’re like them at all.

For the vocals on the album, do you [Travis] record both, or does someone else help out?
T: Oh no, I do all of it.

So you don’t try to reproduce that live?
T: With teaching them, or whatever?
J: We thought about it.
T: We thought about it, but we never really tried. It would sound cool, it would definitely sound cool, but I don’t know. You know what? I wouldn’t want it to sound just like the album live, it adds for a different…
J: It adds another level of creativity.

There is a certain kind of heavy metal band that likes to think of their sound as being static, and doesn’t change. It sounds like you guys are still trying to reach creatively and expand your sound.
J: This album, every song is kind of… different.
T: Changes.
J: Yeah, progresses. Get better at what were doing, try to get it to flow more.
T: We have the perfect chemistry right now, with these guys. ‘Cause [Troy] joined like a year ago? And [John] has been with us since August, and it’s just prime line up I think.

When I first started hearing about Cattle Decapitation, there was a lot of talk about you being a Locust side project. Does that kind of comparison bother you?
T: Not really.

Because it’s not your sound?
T: No, not at all. I think that when Gabe was in the band, he would throw in a lot of Locusty sounding dissonant chords. It’s just always been – I wouldn’t say more extreme – just way more death metal. Way more metal. I just think it’s really cool that a label like Metal Blade would pay that much attention. They are paying way more attention then any other label.
J: The fact that Mike Faley (president of Metal Blade Records) comes out to our shows, it’s very supportive.
T: He doesn’t just come to all our LA shows. He even came down to our practice space in San Diego. That’s cool, coming from Simi Valley. That’s a long way to go just to check out a prospect.

Reading some of the titles, one might think that the band has a political stance.
T: Not as much as one might think. Yeah we’re all vegetarians and everything, but were not gonna enforce it or anything. You know, Carcass did that, they threw in those ideas, that things were making you sick. With us, lyrics are everyday occurrences, shit that you don’t think about that’s really disgusting. One of them is eating meat.

[At this point, Dave walks up to put away some of his gear into the truck]

Dave: Any questions for me?

Sure, how much time do you spend practicing drumming?
D: Twice a week.

How long?
D: How ever long our practices are. About 4 hours?
T: 4 hours.

How long have you been drumming?
D: Shit…7 years?
T: Really? That long dude?
D: 7 or 8.

So were you in high school?
D: When I started? Yeah, I was in 7th grade or some shit.

What inspired you to start drumming?
D: I wanted to be the fastest…I don’t know.
T: He started out doing hyper snare.
D: Yeah, that was the first thing I learned how to do. Learned Slayer’s “Seasons In The Abyss”.

Who do you think the most important metal band out there right now is? Who do you think is offering something new, or changing the scene most dramatically?
D: Oh shit, I don’t think anyone. Us? (laughter) I’ve been listening to a lot of Malevolent Creation lately. That drummer’s just fucking insane.
T: The most important metal band out there? I know there has to be one-Disgorged, from Mexico. That’s my vote.
D: Mine is Malevolent Creation, the new one. That drummer Dave Culross, is the best.

What about the blasts on the new Cryptosy album?
D: Flo Mounier is one of my favorite drummers. He’s so fucking good.

Any messages to the masses?
J: Buy the new Cult record, you definitely want to do that.
T: Eat human.

Human, the other, other white meat.
T: There you go.
J: Cannibalism for extreme vegetarianism.
T: Cannibalism for extreme vegetarianism.