Cannibal Corpse are a band that have been around for quite some time. In this timespan that is fast approaching thirty years, they have just released their fourteenth album Red Before Black through Metal Blade Records. All this hard work has resulted in Cannibal Corpse having sold over two million albums combined, before the release of Red Before Black!
Even though there have been quite a few changes to the band line-up, Alex Webster (Bass) and Paul Mazurkiewicz (Drums), have been there since the beginning and endured the rollercoaster ride since day one. OVERDRIVE was fortunate enough to get to speak to Mazurkiewicz about the recently released Red Before Black.
The first topic of discussion was about not only what keeps Cannibal Corpse inspired to create music, but the fact that they are inspired in such a dark way. Mazurkiewicz explained how “I think we just love playing and we love creating, it’s what we do; 30 years and 14 albums in, it’s an average of just over 2 years per album and we feel like we’re constantly getting better! It’s just our love for this style of music and living our dream; you start playing music for the love of it. Obviously in the back of your head, everyone wants to make a living and be in a successful band; when that finally happened for us, you feel like you get lucky in a sense. Life’s too short and you only live once; we’ve maintained that attitude that we’ve always had, which is ‘why did we start doing this? for the love of this kind of music’ and us wanting to create. That’s just been going on and on; we’re fortunate to still be here but our drive is what keeps us going. We’re doing well, we’re happy and we’re about to release what is arguably our best album; it’s just crazy!”
Talking about the title track ‘Red Before Black’, this interviewer wanted to know whether it was always intended to be the title track for the album, or if the decision came about towards the end of production; Mazurkiewicz commented how “that’s a good question”, before giving OVERDRIVE a great insight into the mindset of Cannibal Corpse when they are working on an album:
“When you’re compiling songs and titles, we always don’t have a title track which is weird; almost every other album we’ve had a title track, Not that it was a formula, but it just ended up being that way; if that was going to stick for this album, we wouldn’t wouldn’t have a title track as we had one for A Skeletal Domain. I came up with the title ‘Red Before Black’ and I wanted to call it that; when I came up with it and brought it up to everyone, they thought it was cool but there was still time so let’s see what people came up with. As time drew near, I was still going “hey I really want to call it this” and I was feeling really adamant about it; the title actually woke me up in the middle of the night, which was crazy! When I’m brainstorming that never happens, so that’s how strong I was feeling about this title; at that point I was thinking ‘I would love to use this for the album; if we don’t have a title track, I want to call the album that’. Alex mentioned that we had some unnamed songs at that point and his suggestion was that we should have a title track; I responded with how I knew the perfect track. The first song that Pat wrote was ‘Red Before Black’; that’s the first song that we worked on and we didn’t have a title for it and we were bouncing off ideas. When Alex mentioned it, I thought about it and I’m going ‘perfect, I know this will fit’; I already had the ideas flowing, plus throw in that I wrote the lyrics to the song, I just knew it was going to work! It came about towards the end there; basically time was getting tight and we had to start calling these songs something.”
Mazurkiewicz has previously come out and stated that this album is musically the rawest they’ve ever had, yet at the same time it’s the most focused, tightest and catchiest. OVERDRIVE was curious as to how Cannibal Corpse were able to achieve the balance in characteristics they have, considering they are normally contradictory elements in death metal. Mazurkiewicz casually stated how “I mean, I think we’ve always been pretty catchy for the most part” before elaborating further:
“We’ve always tried to write a catchy song; it’s gotta be catchy in the terms of death metal! There’s a lot of hooks and it comes down to a riff; if you’ve got a riff that’s catchy, as long as it sounds dark and evil sounding, you know Cannibal. There’s always a couple of songs per album that end up being the hit songs, which is what you go for. It doesn’t really like it should go together, but that’s always been our mentality; we want to write a memorable and catchy song, but we want it to be heavy, brutal and eerie/evil sounding! I think we’ve been able to maintain that and pretty much done that throughout our career; you’re not going to listen to a Cannibal Corpse song and think that it sounds pretty or that it sounds nice! We’ve just known what we need to do; we’ve always some groove going on, where some people are always talking about how we might have had a bit more groove than most other death metal bands. That’s one of those hard questions to answer, as this is just we do; we do our thing and that’s what we’ve been doing for thirty years!”
During Cannibal Corpse’s touring for their previous album A Skeletal Domain, they performed over 200 shows worldwide; could fans (including Australian fans) expect the same kind of massive scale world-wide tour for Red Before Black? Mazurkiewicz most definitely should be getting your hopes up, as he’s stated that “It looks that way; we’ve got some things lined up, plus we don’t want to neglect any markets where we know we will have people coming to see us” before talking further about Cannibal Corpse’s opinion on touring and performing live:
”This has always been our mentality throughout our career; to try and play everywhere, whilst bringing the death metal to the masses! We’ll be touring pretty extensively once things pan out, as they’re still panning out whilst we speak because we’re not at that stage yet. We’re going to be all over the place; of course we’re going to be coming back to Australia; we’re fortunate to be able to go there and play for the fans. We will be there; it’s just a matter of when! The way we feel is that when you put out a record, you can’t limit it to certain markets; you’ve got to hit up everywhere you can. We never thought we’d play places like India and China, but hey; if the fans are there and they want us to come there, we should be playing these places! We are very fortunate to have gone to the places we have, plus there’s a couple of places that we haven’t been to yet; hopefully we can get to cross them off as we want to bring it to everybody if possible.”
After departing with long-time producer Erik Rutan on A Skeletal Domain, Cannibal Corpse have teamed up with him in the studio again for Red Before Black; Mazurkiewicz had nothing but positive words to say about the whole experience of working with him again:
“It was great; Erik is a great producer and a great guy. Plus we’ve known him for many years and he did a great job on the three albums that he worked on previously! It was just falling back into place; you know the routine because you’ve worked with him before. If anything, it was just better; we’re better musicians and are prepared to go into the studio better. Plus he’s hopefully a better producer now, which I’m sure he will tell you that he is! It was just a pretty smooth experience; when we go into the studio, we want to be as prepared as you can be, because time is money. If you can get in and out, and do your job it helps; that’s what my mentality was for not only this record, but the last few records. I’ve never been a studio guy; death metal is born live and I love to play live! I never liked the studio because it’s too final and too under the microscope.”
Touching further on how Cannibal Corpse decided to get back in contact with Erik Rutan and work with him again, Mazurkiewicz went on to mention how it was “it was a mixture of the timing and more than anything, the location. The older we’ve been getting and with the amount of touring we’ve been doing, I think that if we could have recorded in our own houses, we would have just so we didn’t have to go anywhere! We’re all done with going places, it’s not new anymore; we’ve recorded and been in studios, we’ve been on tour but that’s not the important thing anymore. The important thing is writing great songs and being focused; the band was wondering ‘how can we stay focused?’ and we decided to stay locally, where we’re going from the practise facility to the recording studio when we were ready. Having a family, I felt I would be a lot more focused being able to come home every night; the only change to my routine from practicing to recording was that I had to drive a little further to come every night! It was energizing to sleep in my own bed and to see my family every night.”
2017 has been a massive year for death metal fans; Suffocation, Obituary and Dying Fetus are just a few bands to have released an album this year; this interviewer wanted to hear from Mazurkiewicz himself what was going to make Red Before Black stand out from all the high end albums already out. The response was very professional but straight to the point:
“We’re Cannibal Corpse and we just do our own thing, we don’t compete with anybody! I would hope that other bands like Suffocation, Obituary and Dying Fetus do their own thing as well; I think it’s great that these bands are still going! Unfortunately I haven’t heard any of these records yet, but I’m hearing great things about them; people are talking about how these bands are releasing great albums WELL into their career, like us. We feel that we wrote a great album, we’re happy with it and now it’s up to the fans and whether they like it; at this point, they either like it or they don’t. Mind you, that’s how we’ve always done it; we do it for ourselves so we go in, write songs that we want to hear, that we want to play and hope that you like it. That’s what we’ve done since day one and this album is no different; we do feel that we have a strong Cannibal Corpse record, which may be stronger than anything we’ve done in the past! We’re just happy to contribute to the year; where everyone is talking about how great these other albums are and hopefully we can end up in the mix having our album being talked about also.”
Talking to Mazurkiewicz on a personal level, this interviewer was curious as to whether he had a favourite track on the album, as well as which track demanded the most out of Mazurkiewicz on a technical level; Mazurkiewicz opened with “That’s tough, as I love all the songs and they’re all really fun to play” before delving deeper:
“I really like ‘Only One Will Die’; when I first heard that song by Alex, I thought that it was the best song that Alex had ever written! It was just an awesome song and we all thought that it had to be put first on the record. ‘Shedding My Human Skin’ is fun; ‘Red Before Black’ is fun as they’re just great songs. I worked so hard on these songs that I tried to do the best as I could, to where I wasn’t having any difficulties. The hardest one would have been ‘Hideous Ichor’; it’s crazy timing and there’s lots of crazy stuff going on in it. It definitely took a while for me to wrap my head around it all, plus in the studio it was the one that was the most demanding and took the most time to get it all together. They’re all great songs and I’m very proud of all of them!”
Last question of the interview; after Cannibal Corpse’s work with Jim Carrey during 1993’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, would Cannibal Corpse be sending Carrey a personal invitation whilst touring in his neighbourhood? Mazurkiewicz unfortunately had to be the bearer of bad news, stating that “we don’t know where he lives anymore!” before taking OVERDRIVE on a trip down memory lane:
“The whole thing with Jim Carrey was pretty crazy. When we did the movie, it was pre-internet and pre-cellphone; anything back then was a contact meant that it was a physical address or a contact in somebody’s phone. I remember that one of his people got in touch with Metal Blade; I think it was one of his aides that were helping who we were in contact with. But after that, there has been no contact with him at all. We have no idea if he still listens, if he wonders ‘what was I doing and was I thinking’, we have no clue! He has never come to a show and there’s been no talk about meeting up or anything like that; it would be cool if that happened, as it would be interesting. We knew how much he was into it when we went and filmed, but there has been no contact whatsoever; we should get a hold of him! I think even the girl who made our Centuries of Torment DVD ten or so years ago, tried to get a hold of him; she got hold of a LOT of people and had some connections, but couldn’t get through. Obviously it would have been cool to have him on the DVD talking about the experience but it wasn’t meant to be; the mystery will remain! We’re just grateful for the experience, as it was a fun time.”
ORDER YOUR COPY OF RED BEFORE BLACK HERE!