DATE OF INTERVIEW:
28th July 2010
Death/grind merchants Cattle Decapitation have been spreading the brutality for almost fifteen years now, enoying a vast array of exposure, controversy and the straight-forward unusual. Frequently enjoying the status of a love-them-or-hate-them band, the Californian quartet has received support from animal rights activists and are frequently cited as a primary influence to many deathcore bands. From working with experimental musician, Jarboe, on their latest full-length feast 'The Harvest Floor' to doing a split with dog-fronted grindcore band Caninus and dispelling the popular misconception about the all-vegetarian line-up, guitarist Josh Elmore fills Metal Discovery in everything Cattle Decapitated on their first trek through Europe on the tour for their sixth album.
METAL DISCOVERY: How are you at the moment?
JOSH ELMORE: I am perfectly well and happy here in lovely London.
(Josh Elmore on Cattle Decapitation's musical progression)
"I think everyone has this ideal in our heads as to what we want to do and we keep trying to chip away to get closer to it. I don't think we're there yet but we're getting closer."
Cattle Decapitation - uncredited promo shot
Interview by Elena Francis
Cattle Decapitation Official Website:
Cattle Decapitation Official MySpace:
CATTLE DECAPITATION DISCOGRAPHY
Human Jerky (1999)
To Serve Man (2002)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
The Harvest Floor (2009)
MD: How has the tour so far been?
JE: Very interesting. We had a bit of a breakdown in Portugal. They kept us on the side of the road for seven or eight hours so we had to do some manouvering. After we played in Porto, Portugal, we were supposed to go to Madrid. We found out in the evening of the Portugal show that the promoter in Madrid, his parents were killed in a car accident so of course we're not going to question that and we continued on with the [tour]. We went to Nantes in France and our van made it about an hour outside of Porto and going up a mountain range, it conked out. Numerous issues - it was a Mercedes so we had to do it through the rental company so of course they had service contracts with Mercedes and they had to get a Mercedes mechanic to do it but one wasn't available so blah blah. Got in a cab to Braga, which is about 30k away from there, and decided we're going to tow the van to the dealership and see what happens. Wake up the next morning and it's about ten days before we can fix it. So we had to hop on a plane here, get on our next vehicle, go to Wrexham, Manchester last night and now we're here. Beside from that, we had shows in Bilbao, Spain which was good, Bologna, Civitanova Marche in Italy, Obscene Extreme. That fest was put together extremely well; the people who put it on were great and we would come back any time. It runs like clockwork, they're very professional about it. You don't feel like this high pressure thing. It was a very good experience.
MD: Awesome. This is actually your first visit to England for your latest album 'The Harvest Floor', which came out last year. How was the album received by fans and critics?
JE: By far better than anything we've had thus far. We were very happy with it. Regardless of what you feel about it, you know people are just going to take what they want from it. Overall, it's been positive. People that we thought were going to be consistently not into us at all were like "You know what? I really like this record." We just hope we can continue to do what we do and that we can enjoy it.
MD: How did you approach this album differently to 'Karma.Bloody.Karma'?
JE: We had some line up changes. We had a new drummer from the last record so he was a lot more involved in writing than the last guy. I think the combination of his contributions and we all had a desire to redefine the band and within our expectations...I don't want to say we succeeded but we did what we wanted to do with that record and we didn't want to rewrite the same record.
MD: How do you seek to change your sound so you don't make the same record? It has a more proggy edge, I'd say.
JE: Yeah, I think everyone's abilities get better on this record. I think our musical palette, what we listen to, expands with each record so I'd say, not consciously appropriate that sort of thing but this constant exposure to other things just seeps into what we're writing. I think everyone has this ideal in our heads as to what we want to do and we keep trying to chip away to get closer to it. I don't think we're there yet but we're getting closer.
MD: It's good to know you haven't reached your peak yet.
JE: That's the thing. I always hate to have this thing like "This is the best record we'll ever do. I don't know how we're gonna follow it up." I'm very happy that I think we can do better and I don't mean that in a way that's like aw, we're gonna do better. I mean it in a way like I'm optimistic for our musical future. I know we can take things a step beyond, always progress.
MD: You have interesting guest musicians on this. You didn't choose people from the extreme metal scene particularly. Why did you choose the musicians you did? Jarboe from Swans etc.?
JE: Me and Travis [Ryan] are Swans fans so we kind of happened upon her - Billy Anderson the fellow who produced and engineered our record, he did part of the 'Soundtracks to the Blind' Swans record from the mid-nineties and we'd kind of thrown her name out there: "It would be cool to get Jarboe to do a vocal track," and he was like "Oh, I've got her number. Let me call her!" Okay. So he calls her and she says "Oh you're involved, Billy. I'll do it!" Minds are blown. That was someone we had admired outside of metal and stuff and she has lent her voice. I know she's worked with Neurosis and stuff like that. It was really cool to have her on the record. Plus, Ross from Impaled did a vocal track. Billy Anderson did some backing vocals. It's good to have powerful people there.
MD: Yeah, definitely. It gives a new dimension to the music.
JE: Yeah! It makes us happy that we can have some other textures and their influence, whether it be musical or vocal stuff, it diversifies the record.
MD: You made a video for 'Regret and the Grave'. Why did you choose this song to make a video for?
JE: Hm...I dunno [laughs]! We were thinking what song we should do. It's a little long. Usually you need a three and a half minute typical single length or whatever. We had an idea for a video and I think the song had the right link and the right musical parts to really convey the idea that we were going for. You have the mellow part at the beginning and then it goes all crazy and all that. It's basically all of the textures of the record in one song. Little more...I wouldn't say proggy because it's not really proggy but it's more laid back and dreamy sounding stuff and then the really insane blasty grindy kind of stuff. It had both of those elements in it and by virtue of having those elements in it, a certain link to the song and being able to incorporate these ideas for a video is one thing. Other songs were too spazzy, other songs are too short.
MD: Are you happy with the video?
JE: Yeah, yeah.
MD: It's an interesting idea.
JE: It looks good.
MD: Was it a big budget you spent on it?
JE: [laughs] I think it was a couple thousand dollars. As opposed to the other video we did for 'A Body Farm', we only paid a couple hundred bucks for that. Our friend does video editing for skateboarding and stuff so he helped us with that so it was basically done...it looks like a garage with a green screen. It's trying to be almost old school with this mid-nineties aesthetic to it. It worked but I think there were a lot of Internet people who were like "This looks like something my mum would've done."
MD: Do you think you'll make another video from this album?
JE: Probably not. I think we're a little late in the cycle to do that. We have one to two more tours for this album and then we're going to start writing again. We always say with each new album "We're gonna do it right this time!" Upcoming, hopefully we can have at least a couple videos from the next album. I was happy we got those out there.
MD: Do you have any ideas for the new records now?
JE: Concept-wise, Travis has got some lyrical stuff down and an overall visual art concept for it. Musically, I know myself, Dave the drummer and Derek, the new bass player, have ideas floating around and we were talking about this the other night. What are our expectations? What do we want to do? Musically, how do we want to change things up or what was positive about the last record? I think we got a good overall view of what we want to do. It's just a matter of getting in there and pushing one out and writing songs, which will begin probably when we're done with the next tour.
MD: Travis' lyrics are very in-your-face and aggressive. Are his beliefs shared by the whole band?
JE: I think he would never put anything out there that was violently opposed to anything we believed and I think we have our own various takes on whatever people believe in. People can go on about Jesus and stuff but really...I dunno. He's more critical on humanity and stuff and the animal rights kind of stuff. Maybe the first couple of albums were more in that vein, like 'Human Jerky' and 'Homovore' like years and years and years ago but now the past few albums have been more different takes on anti-human stuff.
MD: If he hates humanity as a whole, is he doing anything to make the place better?
JE: Not really, no [laughs]. I dunno, I think it's just his therapy to sing about this, which I think a lot of musicians do, whatever type of music they're doing or whether their instruments or vocals or write lyrics or whatever. It's just his outlet. It's not to cheapen what he's saying or that he doesn't genuinely believe that or have that sort of feeling but I think that's his way.
MD: Well, music is about expression.
JE: Yeah, exactly.
MD: You can express what you want in it. Are all of the band vegetarian?
JE: We were. Well, I am and he is. It was all vegetarian. Our drummer eats fish - pescetarian - and our new bass player is not vegetarian at all. It was never a requirement to be in the band, it just happened that way up until 2007 or 2008. It was never a requirement.
MD: I want to ask you about the Caninus split because Caninus are a very interesting band. How did it come about?
JE: I think there's this guy from Wartorn records who put out the split 7" and he kind of approached us and approached them and thought the concept of us doing a record together would be really cool so we were like "Oh, sure!" We were on a tour that ended I think in March 2005, maybe March/early April. I think April. He wanted the songs in by April 7th or something like that and, they were short songs, we had to come home and start writing immediately. It was kind of cool to be under the gun and have to do that. I'd do it again.
MD: Did you ever meet the Caninus guys?
JE: No, never met the people.
MD: Or the animals!
JE: Yeah, or the two pit bulls! I think they're from Boston? I dunno. Most Precious Blood is their regular band but...I dunno where they're from. Is it Boston or New York? Some East Coast place. That's terrible I don't know that but I'd love to meet them. Even at that time, there was talk of a tour together. As Most Precious Blood not Caninus! But that was one of those "That's a great idea!".
MD: Have you ever spoken to them?
JE: I think Travis may have spoken to them online, one of the folks behind it but other than that, the fella who put out the record was just like "We're gonna put you guys together and see what happens." It worked out well. People really liked some of the songs on there.
MD: That's the end of my questions. Do you have any final words?
JE: I dunno. I'm trying to think of something profound. There's the whole "STAY GORE," which isn't the smartest thing to say in the world. Um...Follow your dreams, young people. That's all I can come up with.
MD: That'll do! Thank you for your time and good luck.
JE: Thank you.