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Interview: Cattle Decapitation Chew The Fat On Fake Meat, Censorship And Creativity

Interview: Cattle Decapitation Chew The Fat On Fake Meat, Censorship And Creativity

Fluffy / Thursday 8th February, 2018 12:21PM

US-based deathgrind band Cattle Decapitation are visiting our green pastures for the first time this weekend, bringing their particularly punishing brand of eardrum battering cacophony to Auckland,  Wellington and Christchurch. The group has been testing the boundaries of human hearing since forming in 1996, from their 1999 debut EP Human Jerky, to a flagilating, fauna-themed split with pitbull-fronted grindcore outfit Caninus. In preparation for the impending feast of feral musicality, food-enthused fanboy Fluffy spun some yarns with vocalist Travis Ryan about stepping outside of Auckland airport, the great creative drought of 2000s metal and meat substitutes...

UTR: Hey hows it going?

Ahh, Im alright, Im just watching something burn off in the distance and I'm trying to figure out what it is.

Whoa, that's pretty hard out man.

Yeah, it’s unusual shit, I don't know whats going on.

So, you guys are visiting New Zealand in February and I understand it’ll be your first time here?

Hell yeah! It’s one of the bucket list kinda things as far as bands go. [horn bleeps abruptly in background] Go you fucking idiot! Haha! Sorry, were driving and this is the worst. Outside the east coast, this is the worst driving. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh! New Zealand! We’ve never been, we’ve been in the airport.

The rest of the country is way more interesting than the airport, that’s for sure.

Yeah! While we were (waiting) there was some loop of some weird ambient music or whatever. It was really cool, it just kept going and going the entire fucking time we were there. It sounded like a native chant or something, I honestly don’t know… We did Australia a few years ago but didn't get to do New Zealand or even Perth, but it was still one of my favourite tours of all time.

The poster art for the tour is pretty awesome. Who came up with the idea behind that?

Haha, I hate to say it but pretty much me. I dunno, stupid ideas come to mind sometimes. We had this cow-headed grim reaper dude for the whole tour cycle of this album and I thought it would be funny to do a Crocodile Dundee version. I ran it by my friends in King Parrot first to make sure nobody would be offended, we're not trying to piss anyone off. They assured me, no, people will love it. Cattle, I don't know if anybody’s noticed, we’ve always had sort of a self-deprecating humour.

So are you quite good friends with the boys in King Parrot then?

Oh yeah!

Have you played with them a few times?

Frequently. When it was announced that we were doing an Australia tour, we found out these guys are coming to and I saw that first video they had and I was blown away... ‘Shit On The Liver’, is that it? The one where they're getting a ticket on the car. I saw that and thought “oh, I think we’re gonna get along with these guys.” They're fun as hell. We’ve done a couple of tours with them, Australia, the US, we did some dates up these west coast of California once.

Speaking of art, I understand you had some difficulty back in the early 2000s, with the visual side of your albums To Serve Man and Hummanure being censored and generally being made more difficult to find. That sounds like a bit of a bummer…

Well, yeah, the bummer is, it wasn’t censors at all. The big bummer is you can drive down any rural road in the world and see a cow taking a shit. It was fine in the states, its fuckin' Europe, the German distributor over there was very anal... We don't really do gory stuff for the sake of gore, it always has some sort for a meaning. I think our gorier stuff was in our earlier days and it finds its way into our lyrics but were not like a gory death metal band necessarily.

It surprises me that it was in Germany that you had the issue seeing as they have heaps of gory bands coming from those ways.

Well, sure, but they're not being distributed as widely as we are. Well maybe they are through underground trading and distros but when you're on a major independent label... It was a weird thing for us, because back in the day, 2004, they couldn't justify the cost for a band like us who didn't sell as many copies as say Cannibal Corpse, to put out a horribly disgusting album cover to put out some sort of sheet of paper blocking it saying “gory artwork inside.” They couldn't justify the cost of doing that with us because we only sold 10,000 copies, tops. We had a really rough start but were in a much better position now with the label.

You touched on DIY distribution. Do you think that's still an effective way for bands of less sculpted musical forms, getting themselves out there?

Well it's totally different now. Back then you relied on leaders, dudes that traded in and had big stocks and inventory of death metal and black metal and that's still alive and well in places like Italy and South America. What's really helped independent music is stuff like Bandcamp. Putting all the control of the band in their hands. Now they have a way of getting their stuff out there and people can listen to it and order directly from them. I’ve done that with a side-project, that I'm part of called Anal Trump and I've seen the benefits of that. It's really cool. If a band is worth a shit, they'll be able to sell their stuff on there.

I mean look at the rap scene and how Soundcloud has helped them out. There's dudes with millions of fans and millions of dollars in their pockets and they don't even have anything out. They just have a bunch of songs on Soundcloud, its fuckin' insane. I like physical media, but you can't fight the future, whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen. I think what labels have been doing for years is trying to figure out is how to embrace the future and the vinyl boom really turned that around for people and labels especially, and I guess that's keeping them afloat.

In your early years Cattle Decapitation shared members with experimental hardcore crew The Locust. What was that like?

I'll be honest, that's one of the big ways we got our start, two of the dudes were in that band. That was cool, we did a tour with them in 2007 and they're the good homies, we love 'em to death.

Have you got any hot tips for bands pushing the envelope for extremity?

Oh, just y'know, keep at it. Just do something different, stop ripping of your favourite bands, its stupid. Or, if you're gonna rip 'em off, start creating your own take on it. That whole metalcore and deathcore scene pissed me off because it was just a billion bands that all sound exactly the same, it was so incestuous. So, do something new or weird.

I totally agree, I remember in  the early 2000s watching bands that were just breakdown after breakdown, they didn't even establish something to break down from.

In 2003 to  2007, everyone's was just trying to sound like The Black Dahlia Murder. Like, this band's been around for a handful of years, there's a whole world full of music out there, there's hundred of years of music from all over the world and you're just gonna rip off this band that you like. I mean shit, I can't bitch, that's how I started. But that doesn't mean you deserve to be on the big stage. And a lot of those bands went straight from the garage to the stage and where are they now? 99 cent bins! Not even talking shit if it's the truth, that's my motto. When evidence is there, how can it be talking shit?

As a vegetarian, I was interested to get your opinion on meat substitutes. What are your thoughts on plant-based items of food that are trying to imitate patties etc?

I think its great because it can be a device that a person can use, it would help them transition. For people that like that taste, coz I think for meat eaters, it does come down to not so much how they feel, but who wants to give up something they love the taste of? I’ve had the luxury of having a life where I'm fortunate enough that I'm able to (be a vegetarian). There's places in the world where people have to kill to survive and I’ve got no problem with that.

We do have a pretty good array of non-meat based food stores here, such as Tart Bakery is a real good one for the munchie moods.

Yeah dude, some of the best Thai food I ever had was in Australia. At one of the venues we played in Sydney. I know our drummer and I are really looking forward to eating as much of that as we can.

Tell us about your most recent opus, The Anthropocene Extinction. What are some of the underlying themes at place there in?

Well, I was moved by seeing some footage and reading up on what's happening in the Pacific Ocean specifically, but all the gyres around the world, which there's five. In the middle of the oceans in the world where trash collects, due to the way the currents move and they build up these islands of trash right in the eye of the storm. These islands in the Pacific have a lot of birds and other wildlife and what happened to the birds is they're picking up the plastic in the ocean and they're finding they're falling dead on the (trash)islands and they're filled with plastic. That got some gears turning in my head, so I came up with The Anthropocene Extinction and all of our lyrics are about turning the tables on humans, treating them the way we’ve done the earth or animals. A little bit of fantasy, little bit of reality.

Cattle Decapitation are touring New Zealand this weekend, for tour info and ticketing head over HERE.


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