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Saturday, July 31, 2010

ESCAPE THE TORMENT

This time we have something a little different from our regular blog material. This blog installment consists of an interview we did with Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster.

Alex is one of the gentlemen of the scene, and has supported our efforts with Glorious Times since before we even went public with our plans to produce the book, and when he pledged his support and desire to participate, he kept his promise. That sits really well with us, and is in keeping with how it used to be a hundred years ago too. The rock-star virus has proven impossible to latch onto this man.


Beyond Death 1988 outside the River Rock Cafe
(photo - courtesy of the Buffalo 1980's Underground Metal page on Facebook)

GT: Back in 1989 I was starting up Chainsaw Abortions and you were among my first interviews. Could you have imagine that 21 years later Cannibal Corpse would still be going strong and that you would have had the career that you did? In your wildest dreams when you, Jack and Darrin were forming Beyond Death in 1986 could you have imagined that you'd go on this long in death metal and be so influential?



ALEX: We definitely had no idea that all of this would happen. At that time death metal was less than 5 years old and even heavy metal had been around for less than 20 years so the thought that we could have a band together for over 20 years (let alone a decent career) was something that never crossed our minds. If somebody would have told me then what was going to happen with our band I would have laughed at them. We were hoping at most to release an album and maybe do some touring. Everything else that's happened is beyond anything we could have imagined at that time.


Alex in his Beyond Death days, 1988
(photo - courtesy of the Buffalo 1980's Underground Metal page on Facebook)

GT: Do you ever get the urge, particularly when you play Buffalo, to get Darrin to come down from Toronto and just burst into an old Beyond Death song like "Waiting to Die", "I'm Sick" or "Mr. Yuk" for the old timers in the crowd?

ALEX: I'd love to jam those songs with Frank, Jack, and Darrin again. I don't know about doing any shows since Beyond Death is still active with a different lineup, but getting together in a practice room sometime and jamming just for fun would be awesome. I loved playing those songs. Not sure how well my singing voice has held up though....I guess we'd have to see!


Flyer for Cannibal Corpse's first gig

GT: I was there at your first gig at the River Rock Cafe opening for Dark Angel. Could you describe what that show was like for you? Did you feel the pressure of opening for them on your first gig as Cannibal Corpse?


ALEX:  It was an incredible rush to play in front of so many people. In our old bands we'd never had the chance to open for a major national band like Dark Angel, so the 450+ people in the River Rock for that show was probably the biggest audience any of us had played to at that time. There was some pressure for sure, but when you're young you just throw caution to the wind and go for it. If I was in the same situation now I'd probably be more aware of just how important the gig was and feel a lot more pressure.

One other cool thing I remember about that show was that for some reason I was unable to use my own bass (I can't remember the exact reason, maybe it was broken) so Gary from Baphomet (who were also on the bill that night) let me use his white BC Rich Warlock bass, which was really cool of him. That's one of maybe 4 or 5 times in my whole career I've used someone else's bass for a show.


Flyer for the final show at the Skyroom in Buffalo, NY

GT: How special were those years in Buffalo to you, from your first gig in 1989, to playing in front of 600+ at A Day of Death in 1990 to playing the final show at the Skyroom in front of 700+?


ALEX:  Buffalo had such a great scene during the late 80's and early 90's. We were proud to be a part of it and we remember those shows well. The Day of Death was truly amazing, I've gone into detail in Glorious Times about how special that show was to us, and the final Skyroom show was awesome as well. Although Buffalo maintained a strong scene for a few years after that final show, I think it might be the show that marked the peak of the scene there. It's the biggest all-local band show I can remember from Buffalo (I was told there were over a 1000 people there, but I never heard an official head count).



I think everyone in the Buffalo scene at that time had the feeling we were part of something pretty special, something new. Death metal was a fairly new form of music at that time and there were a few really strong scenes internationally that helped it grow like Tampa, Stockholm, New York City/tri-state area, Montreal/Quebec...I feel like Buffalo was one of those strong scenes as well.


Paul in his Tirant Sin days
(photo - courtesy of Dennis John Glinski)

GT: Cannibal Corpse has gone through a few members, with only you and Paul remaining from the original lineup. Which other original member was it hardest for you to part ways with - Jack, Chris or Rob?


ALEX:  All of those guys had a lot of creative input in the band while they were members so it wasn't really easy to replace any of them. We worked hard to try to make sure each lineup change resulted in what we felt was an improvement in the band (that's subjective of course). Kicking out Bob was hard because it was something we did because we felt we had to, not because we wanted to. It was strictly done to improve the band musically. With Chris, we had had a few personal problems so that made it a little easier to ask him to leave the band when the time came, although by then the reason was also musical, not personal. Replacing him was the probably the hardest because singers are generally the face of the band, and that was certainly the case with Chris. He did most interviews and wrote most of the lyrics, so many people thought we were taking a big risk by replacing him. We had confidence in George though, so we really weren't that worried about it. That's probably another case of us being too young to be cautious!

GT: I remember back when cannibal corpse first started you were a real big fan of steve Digiorgio of Sadus, what other bassists impress you these days?


ALEX: Yes, Steve is still one of my favorites to this day as a matter of fact. He's one of the main influences that helped me develop my style of playing.



These days there are a lot of killer bassists in the death/extreme metal scene, like Mike Flores from Origin, Jeroen Thesseling of Obscura, Novy (ex-Vader, ex-Behemoth), Patrick Boleij of Severe Torture,  Jeff Hughell of Reciprocal (ex-Brain Drill), Mike Poggione from Monstrosity, Derek Boyer from Suffocation, Erlend Caspersen from Blood Red Throne....there are really a lot more bassists making themselves heard these days in death metal, and naturally I'm very happy to see that. In the old days, with the exception of a few legends like Steve and Roger Patterson (Atheist) bass players were almost an invisible member of the band for most death metal bands. I'm glad to see that's changed.


George
(photo - Alison Webster)

GT: When you parted ways with Chris was it a conscious decision to go with a more old school death metal vocalist in Corpsegrinder rather than another gutteral singer like Chris had become?


ALEX: Pretty much. George had a voice that was more like what we had always wanted in the first place. The bands that influenced us a lot often had really fast singers, bands like Dark Angel and Slayer. Either that, or they had the more gravelly voiced type singers as opposed to the ultra-low guttural approach Chris adopted for our 2nd and 3rd albums. For example, just to give you an idea of what we were looking for, two of my favorite singers in death metal are Ross Dolan from Immolation and Martin Van Drunen from Hail of Bullets (we were all really into his singing on Pestilence's Consuming Impulse album in particular). We felt that George had a really good combination of Doty or Araya-like speed and the gravelly/guttural (but not necessarily ultra-low) character of some other death metal singers we liked. Besides, we were all big fans of George's work with Monstrosity. When it came time to make a change in the vocal department, George was our first choice.


GT: You've been touring off and on for about a year now in support of "Evisceration Plague". How have the various tours (Australia, Europe, America, South America) gone?


ALEX: Everything's been going really well. We've been traveling so much I'm going to need some time to digest it all when we're all done. It's really great to see this much interest in death metal worldwide. It really is an international form of music.


Alex and Paul with their copy of "Glorious Times"

GT: Keeping with the concept of “Glorious Times”, do you have any good stories/memories to share from your "Evisceration Plague" tours?


ALEX: We've had a lot of good experiences over the past year and half while touring for this album, but I'd say if I had to pick one as a favorite it would be doing the Mayhem festival tour which featured one of our all time favorites Slayer (and around a dozen other bands as well). Touring with a band we've been influenced by since we were teenagers like Slayer was truly incredible, and being able to hang out with them a little bit during the tour was really great. Throughout the tour some of the bands would host parties and BBQs in the parking lots of the venues after the shows. There would always be a few members from each band on the tour at these parties, so everybody had a chance to hang out. It was definitely a great time, it was like a traveling extreme metal circus or something.

GT: What's the writing process like for Cannibal Corpse these days? Do you write on the road and in rehearsals or do you write all your stuff in studio now?

ALEX: Usually the songs will be written at home by whichever band member is writing the song and then he'll show the song to the rest of us as it starts to take shape. That's how it works most of the time, although each album might have a song or two that's written more spontaneously at the practice room. We pretty much never write on the road or in the studio. On the first 2 albums most of the songs were written at the practice room, often with all three string players contributing several riffs to each song. We started writing things more individually during Tomb, and even more so on the Bleeding. By the time Gallery of Suicide came out we had pretty much settled into the songwriting system we have now.


Dennis John Glinski (Grave Descent), Paul, Jimmy Link and
Rich Ziegler (Grave Descent) at the
Cannibal Corpse show in Buffalo, December of 2009
(Dennis and Rich were in Tirant Sin with Paul)
(Photo courtesy of Dennis John Glinski)

GT: How much fun was it to come back in December and play to your hometown crowd in Buffalo?

ALEX: It was great to be back. It was particularly cool that time since Hatebreed was headlining. Once we finished our set we had plenty of time to hang out with our friends during Hatebreed's set. Normally when we play Buffalo we headline and often have to leave in a hurry to make it to the next show. So, we had a good long hang that night with a bunch of our friends, it was killer. We'll be back this November too so hopefully we'll see everyone there again.

GT: What's your favorite track on "Evisceration Plague" musically and what's your favorite track from that album to play live?


ALEX: I like "Skewered From Ear to Eye" the best, it's one of the songs I wrote so I guess I'm biased. I like it because it's a little bit different from some of our other stuff and also because Pat does some really cool leads in that song. My favorite song to play live from that album is "Priests of Sodom". It's just a really fun song to play.


GT: Once the tours for "Evisceration Plague" are done are you guys going to take a break or are you jumping right back into the studio?


ALEX: We'll start writing a new album pretty much immediately with the goal of getting into the studio by mid-2011. We try to avoid taking breaks longer than a month or so.


Beyond Death live at the River Cafe 1988
(photo - courtesy of the Buffalo 1980's Underground Metal page on Facebook)

GT: We want to again thank you for your participation in our book "Glorious Times". Several bands had told us they were "too busy" to spend 5 minutes writing down a favorite memory of theirs from those days, but you took the time while you were on tour to not only write down your story, but to get back to me a couple of days later to change some of it. We really appreciated that, it's something we will never forget and it's one of those things that we think makes our book special. Do you have any last words of wisdom to impart upon our readers?


ALEX: Well, it was our pleasure to be featured in the book, we really appreciate the opportunity. Even though we've achieved some success in the metal mainstream we are still a band that plays death metal and comes from an underground background. The zines, tape traders, and college radio stations that helped us out before the mainstream press would give us the time of day are people that we will never forget and will do our best to continue to support. So thank you very much for the interview, and thank you to all of our supporters, and all supporters of death metal. See you on tour!


Alex Webster July 23, 2010

CHECK THE CANNIBAL CORPSE PAGE FOR TOUR DATES

We wish you all continued success Alex, personally and professionally, and urge everyone who hasn't done so, to check out our GTCDR005 'A Day Of Death' - which among other bands, features 2 previously unheard Cannibal Corpse live tracks from that inspirational evening of October 20 1990. It can found on our blog, simply entitled: A DAY OF DEATH.












1 comment:

Jason said...

This is a great interview and sheds a lot of light on the early days for the Cannibal Corpse guys.