DATE OF INTERVIEW:
28th March 2012
Recently releasing their new album 'Torture', a more diverse outing for Cannibal Corpse and what some critics have proclaimed as a career best, the hard working, legendary and seminal American deathsters have been experiencing something of a Renaissance over the last few years. And with their highest ever chart position in the US Billboard 200 at number 38 for the new release, a whopping 28 places higher than previous studio effort 'Evisceration Plague', Cannibal's perseverance and no-compromise approach through their death metal tenacity has seen their popularity rise to an all-time high. Metal Discovery spent half an hour chatting to one of the band's founding members, Paul Mazurkiewicz, about the new album, drums, and his recent encounter with a Hollywood star...
METAL DISCOVERY: How you doing?
PAUL: Not too bad, how you doing?
(Paul Mazurkiewicz on recent top 40 chart success on the US Billboard 200)
"...it’s totally satisfying that we can do it on our own terms and to be selling the amount of records that we’re selling. It’s an amazing feeling."
Cannibal Corpse - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2009 Alex Morgan
MD: Yeah, great ta. I have to say, it was a great show in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to do this interview then actually but your tour manager told me you were all quite exhausted.
PAUL: Oh right, right, yeah. It was just a crazy day that day. I can’t remember exactly what happened. We always try to accommodate everybody but, sometimes, things just happen and, you know…
MD: Oh yeah, that was no problem at all. It was a bit crazy outside the venue with a whole load of drunk people.
PAUL: It was a crazy day with the St Patrick’s Day celebration happening so it was a good festive end to the tour, that’s for sure!
MD: Albeit St Patrick’s Day was actually the week after!
PAUL: Yeah, I heard about that. I was like, man, get an early start…why not!
MD: Exactly, a week-long celebration! So that recent run of shows in the UK was billed as ‘Destroyers of the Faith’ – do you see yourselves as destroyers of any particular faith?!
PAUL: Not in particular, I guess. I don’t know who came up with that…management or something, but it was the title for the tour and we thought, why not. I don’t think we’re destroyers of too much faith. We’re defending the metal faith if anything!
MD: Well, I think it was a Metal Hammer sponsored thing and they’ve already had three 'Defenders of the Faith' tours but this one was obviously the more extreme side of metal so I presume they thought 'Destroyers' would sound more apt, I guess.
PAUL: Ah, that makes sense.
MD: So, an amazing new album with ‘Torture’ and it’s the third time you’ve use Erik Rutan as producer and, for me, it’s definitely the best sounding record out of the three. Would you say you’ve built on and progressed from previous experiences of working with Erik and you’ve learnt from each other?
PAUL: Yeah, I think so. That’s what you hope to do, is get better in every aspect, especially if you’re gonna use the same producer. You wanna do a better job and, like you said, I totally agree too, he did the best job out of the three with this one. It’s just building on what you did the last time. I think you always try to do the best you can do and, unfortunately, you’ve got time constraints and you have to settle on certain things. I think ‘Kill’ and ‘Evisceration…’ are great but then there’s probably always those “what ifs” that come into mind after of going, “oh, we could’ve done this” or “I wanna do this, we’ll try it on the next record”…you know, those little things that, hopefully, you make a better sounding record. And, yeah, just working together for the two records made this one a little more smooth for that reason. So, yeah, it turned out great.
MD: Definitely, yeah. And it hit number 38 in the Billboard Top 200 as well which is better than ‘Evisceration Plague’ which was number 66 I seem to remember?
PAUL: Right, yeah, yeah, and I think it sold about the same amount of records too so to hit higher on the charts is just a remarkable feat. It’s something we can be proud of and it’s very exciting to achieve that.
MD: How satisfying is that considering you’ve never compromised what you do and your popularity seems to be at an all-time high?
PAUL: Yeah, well, that’s the thing. I think what makes it more satisfying is the fact we’re doing it exactly on our own terms. There’s no way you’re listening to ‘Torture’ going, “oh well, yeah, I can see why we’re at number 38 because listen to what we’re doing now”, that’s not the case. If anything, it’s getting more extreme! So, yeah, for us to chart that high…to sell that many records, it just goes to show there are more people getting into death metal and supporting it. And society is changing. So it’s totally satisfying that we can do it on our own terms and to be selling the amount of records that we’re selling. It’s an amazing feeling.
MD: I’ve read that it’s the second album you’ve wrote and recorded to a click. Why did you spend so many years not using a click track and would you say it’s given Cannibal’s sound a greater precision?
PAUL: Yeah, I think it’s definitely helped and it’s made us a better band, of course. I think that’s apparent, especially on these last two records and more so on ‘Torture’. I don’t know why we didn’t for years, it’s just one of those things. My mentality especially, and I know the band’s mentality, when growing up and starting out, it’s more primal. It’s more raw and punk rock in a sense where it’s just we’re growing up and playing this new style of music where there’s no right or wrong and you can barely play your instruments and all this kinda stuff. It made it kinda cool in the early days, you know, the bands that just couldn’t even play but it’s just raw aggression and passion that they’re going on. We did, a lot, for years and I’ve never taken formal lessons on the drums or anything like that so it’s not like I ever started out the way most musicians are gonna start out where a drummer would be playing on the practice pad and knowing all the rudiments, and playing to a click track and all that kinda thing.
Me, I wasn’t from that background…we played death metal and this is what it was about; a lot of aggression and raw power. But, you know, you’re mentality changes a little bit; when you get older you’re starting to hone your craft. You want to try different things and you want to become a better musician and that just fell into place with the click track. I know Alex was really adamant at wanting to incorporate it in there. I know on ‘Kill’ he was writing to the click at that point and we didn’t incorporate it but it was almost like I needed to be ready, I guess, as a musician, as a drummer, as a person and to go, “okay, I accept this click track and let’s do it” as opposed to just fighting it and not wanting to work with it. I always felt it was like that taboo, that it was just gonna make it more mechanical and lose some feel, and that’s the completely wrong attitude to have looking back now. Now that we’ve got used to it and we’ve been using it, it’s the ultimate tool. That’s why people use it; that’s why it’s every musician’s friend or it should be. So I’m glad we’ve incorporated it…it’s arguably made us better than we’ve ever been. It’s helped me tremendously, anyway.
MD: So did you find it quite restrictive initially then when you were playing to a click for ‘Evisceration Plague’?
PAUL: Of course, man. But, really, when you listen to both albums, listen to ‘Evisceration…’ which is a great album and listen to ‘Torture’, the drumming’s night and day. And I definitely attribute that to when we started using the click we were thrown into it where we’re writing songs for ‘Evisceration…’, “here are the songs”; “okay”; “let’s start writing to this click”; “okay, I give into that, I wanna do this”. But man, it’s like teaching that old dog a new trick! It’s not like I just fell into it going “oh yeah, no problem, I got this”. It was tough to adjust and it took a lot of time. Even up to that point of going in to record for ‘Evisceration…’ I don’t think I was at a hundred per cent with it. That’s why I think I look back and I go, “man, the drumming is real sterile on ‘Evisceration…’”. Like I said, a great album, great songs, but in the drumming department, if you’re going to critique anything, I’m not doing a whole heck of a lot. And I attribute that fact exactly to I was not comfortable playing to that click track. I was just trying to do the basics, you know, to be able to play to the click track. This time around, man, we started writing for ‘Torture’ knowing that we’re gonna use the click. It was like night and day. Man, I just felt so much more comfortable and more confident playing with the click and around the click. I was able to flourish and do a lot more things that I wanted to do so I guess ‘Evisceration…’ had to be that stepping stone to incorporate the writing with the click track for me to be able to do what I did on ‘Torture’.
MD: There’s some very good drumming on ‘Evisceration…’ but it sounds a lot more natural on ‘Torture’ I think.
PAUL: The drumming on ‘Evisceration…’, there’s nothing wrong with it, I just look at it and it’s just doing not a lot; it’s all beats, which is fine, but it’s definitely a lot more stripped down in that way. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with that but I like to be a little busier and all that, and ‘Torture’ is that album.
MD: Yeah, so ‘Evisceration…’ is more about the technical stuff and ‘Torture’ is about the flair around that as well.
MD: I did an interview with the great Dave Lombardo a couple of years ago and he was talking about scaling down his kit when he recorded the last Slayer album to increase his creativity. Is that something you’ve ever done or considered for a Cannibal record, maybe to force you to approach fills in a different way by taking away a tom or something?
PAUL: Well, yeah, I know Dave did that but he uses a bigger kit than I do though. It’s so hard for me because I don’t use a lot; I use a very minimal kit. I’m only using a seven-piece drum setup…
MD: You can’t afford to take any away!
PAUL: If I took one away it’d be that third rack tom; that’s the only thing I could really take away. Then I’d be two rack, and a floor and double kick, and that’s that. But man, the way I play and my style, taking away that third rack, I’d feel like I’d be lost! That’s the one he took away but he’s still left with four toms there with the use of the two over the hi-hat but I don’t have that. I’ve always kind of felt that I’ve been a little bit downsized and then trying to be as creative as possible with minimal I guess.
MD: So you’re there already then having a much smaller kit which is going to make you more creative from that start.
PAUL: Yeah, definitely. And I was never that kind of a drummer like Lombardo with major fills. You know, he’s just all over the kit. I was kinda never like that. I did a lot of fills and all that but not to the extent of what he was doing and some of these drummers in the eighties. They had predominantly big kits back then; I mean, that’s just the way it was. Everybody was playing on a huge kit regardless of what kind of metal you were playing. I kinda grew up in that era but when death metal was coming around, and when I started playing, it was more kinda toning it down, like trimming the fat. It didn’t need to be flashy; it wasn’t about being flashy and about having the biggest drum kit…it was about this kind of music. And I think that’s pretty much why the kit started off pretty simplistic for the most part and pretty much downsized because it was that kind of music. It’s not about the show, it’s about what you’re doing with the music.
MD: Exactly, you’re not Dream Theater, you don’t need Portnoy’s kit!
PAUL: If you can utilise it that’s fine, but that’s not what this kind of music is about.