TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with guitarist Josh Elmore of Cattle Decapitation was done face to face by Sam Warren on February 18th, 2005.
The San Diego based death metal band Cattle Decapitation released their sophomore album "Humanure" late 2004 for Metal Blade Records. This February evening the band played at the Palladium in Worcester, MA, together with fellow deathsters Misery Index, Suffocation and Behemoth. Josh took some time after the show in the merch area to answer some of my profound and piercing questions... no seriously...
This is not going to be serious…
Haha that’s allright.
I mean, as long as that’s ok with you.
Hey man, it’s definitely better to be relaxed than uptight anyway!
OK, because I wasn’t sure if you were looking for (using a monotone) “I am a guitarist, from one of the bands. I have a cat…”
Haha, not quite. I mean, if you want to talk about your cat, by all means take the interview in your own direction, haha.
So, first off, how’s the tour been up until this point? What’s it like to be touring with legends like Suffocation and Behemoth?
Hmm… (looks at the tape recorder) Oh oh! It’s on?
Hahaha yeah man!
Ok right… mmm Suffocation, as cheesy as it sounds… I won’t use the dream come true words, because that’s cheesy like I said, but hey I just said it anyway. I mean, they’re awesome and it’s everything we could want, as far as being on tour with them. They’re awesome guys and incredible musicians, obviously, and they’ve really treated us well. It’s really a pleasure to be able to watch them everynight. It’s really cool to be on tour with Behemoth too because they truly are sweatpants, sweat suit, wearing American asses with their very proper spiky attire. And incredibly fast footwork courtesy of… Infernal (not entirely audible), because our taco-bell fed candy asses can’t comprehend what’s going on. It’s sort of like if Marduk and Vader got in a fist fight, which is definitely a good thing!
I can definitely imagine!
Woodwork homoerotic… depending on how you’re looking at it.
Haha oh man, so how would you compare Humanure to your other albums? Better, worse? Anything you would change?
Oh, well, the first two, Human Jerky and Homovore were a lot different because those two were pretty much grindcore records. Which is not to detract from them, Human Jerky is truly awesome, which I can say since I wasn’t on it. It was a great album and I really enjoyed it. As far as the latter two, Humanure and To Serve Man, well, Humanure just kinda shits all over To Serve Man, as it should… it would be pretty easy for most records to do that! I think it’s a pretty good progression, a little more technical, the recording perks are better, the drummer… well… it’s a new drummer. Cannot speak, different drummer. Haha I was told I shouldn’t go beyond that point. We’re a lot more happy with it, the songs in general, the playing, but we’re still trying to take it to the next level and when we get home from the Cryptopsy tour we’re going to really buckle down and write a whole new record. Go back to our real jobs… well not our real jobs… but the part that makes money. We’re paid in the pleasure of… infrequent bathing… do I…? (checks armpit). I smell better than some of those people (points at the pit) and they’ve probably had showers.
No definitely haha, let’s not even go there. I think I’m so used to the pit-stench that my senses are strangely immune to it.
Ahhh the pit-stink. Smoking and body odor… great
Oh yeah, and beer spilled all over people.
Yeah exactly, haha.
Oh god, so where did the idea to put your vegetarian ideals into your music first come from?
Um… The original line-up all happened to be vegetarians… but that wasn’t realized until our current… or I should say our lead-singer Travis joined up and kinda added that element into our lyrics. He’s also pretty much in charge of… well maybe not in charge of, but responsible for almost all of the lyrical content and imagery that go on the album. He kinda brought that and nurtured that and that’s how people recognize us, I think. Which a lot of times, people are like “oh, those vegans,” but it’s like “we’re not vegans, we’re just vegetarians.” People kinda say things like “Those veggie fags” and things like that.
Yeah man! Have you been on the message boards?
Well, that’s probably a very healthy thing.
Yeah, if it’s like you say it is, I think I’ll just stay away from it!
Yeah but, it’s usually a lot of friendly taunting, like “uhhh… I just ate a hamburger!”
Or that guy in the back during your set yelling for you to eat one.
Oh god dude. You know it’s like “… Ok I quit.” Like I’m just gonna throw down my instrument and go cry somewhere haha. Our lyrics and our images and stuff are there for you to take however you want to. We have certain beliefs that we stand behind, and you can either choose to listen to them, or just rock out to the riffs and shit. I think metal is not very frequently about something.
Sadly the truth.
Yeah, and I think people are… I don’t wanna say confronted with… but when they come upon an element like our message in metal than the initial reaction is often like “oh you uptight preachy bastards.” It’s not like we have pictures of dissected animals on our covers or a picture of a sad faced cow. It’s not that blatant, it’s a little more clever. I don’t think we get credit for not shoving it down people’s throats! I think it’s known that in this genre, the whole veggie thing is not something you come across very often, but I think it’s kinda put upon us that we are a lot more extreme about it than we really are. We more just hate people, it’s more that than anything else.
So, I’m sure you’ve had this one before, but I’ve gotta ask it. Ever miss meat?
Umm… I grew up on a farm and we had lots of cattle, although they weren’t for butchering, but my dad was a big beef supporter. I had meat constantly, and when mom would make Kentucky Fried Chicken my dad would joking be like “What’s this faggot shit?” Not towards my mom though, and it was said lovingly of course. Then he beat her later but…
Not really. Haha
Haha there was definitely a moment of silence there, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react to that because I thought you were telling the truth.
Nah haha, not to my knowledge anyway! Nah he would never do that. But anyway, I had kinda had it with meat. I’m never like (scrunches up face) OH GOD I NEED A HAMBURGER! I mean, I guess some lamb or deer would be pretty good, but you know, I’ve had wheat meat, and it tastes… well I guess it’s pretty bad, but I think it tastes pretty close at least to me. So ultimately, no.
So what were your earliest musical influences?
The first two albums I ever bought, or had bought… I was 8, and I had just gotten a boombox for my birthday…
I remember those days.
Yeah, so, it was a cassette deck, you know, treble, bass, volume, really simple. But it was beautiful you know, this was back in the days when you’d go through the JC Penny catalogue and stare at all the pictures of the boomboxes, and say “dude… they’ve got Bell and Howell!” So I got my GE and I told my mom “Oh I want this and that, I heard it on the radio,” but instead dear mom gave me a Christopher Cross tape. Not Kriss Kross, I’m not that young! Almost 30, but anyway, it was Christopher Cross, and that just wasn’t gonna do. So I went to target and purchased Van Halen “1984” and Night Rangers “Midnight Madness.” You can’t go wrong with Night Rangers. That’s kinda where it started. I got all the Van Halen records and tapes, and then slowly started getting into heavier stuff like Krokus. I got the first Metallica and Megadeth tapes, and it started snowballing into Testament and Exodus. And then I got “Scream Bloody Gore”, “Leprosy”, “Pleasure to Kill” and it all kept going and going. I started listening to some grindcore, like early Napalm and then into some of the crossover stuff like DRI and Crumbsuckers. Death metal, thrash, and all of that. But that’s really only a small portion of what I listen to.
Five favorite albums right now?
Right now… this definitely has to be a right now, cuz mine are always changing. I think anybody that’s really into music will constantly be changing what they consider to be their favorites.
So, there are a few constants that are always in there though. “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk,” Emperor… and then there’s sort of a rotating cast. Right at this very moment, I would say one album, but I think I’ll just say Suffocation period. As much as I love them, being on tour with them has really cemented them in my lineup. Hmm… what else… I listen to a lot of blue grass and old country, I would say number 2 would be the (Can’t really hear what he says) Standup Sunbolt (or something like that) from Belleville Illinois. Incredibly depressing album, suicide, etc. It’s just two guitars, a really desolate sound. The Swans “Soundtrack for the Blind” album. Really heavy ambient, but incredibly depressing as well. The Cult “Beyond Good and Evil,” that’s the last album they put out. Incredible record, one of the most, I think, underrated records ever. That record got glossed over by all the crap that was out then, but that record is amazing. Every song is good, the guitar sound is great, and they modernized their sound and got heavier without falling into that “oh we’ll do a nu metal” sound or having Ian Astbury start rapping or something (goes into a hilarious impersonation of what Ian would sound like half-rapping). That would be horrible!
Let’s just all be thankful that never happened, haha.
Yeah, that’d be horrible. But that album was incredible. Anyone who likes rock music, get that record. So anyway, let’s see… I’ve got Sunbolt, Emperor, Suffocation in general, The Cult. And right now I’ve been listening to a lot of Split Lip Rayfield (www.splitliprayfield.com). I guess you could call it new-grass… it’s got really intense chops. It’s got the chops of blue-grass but they come from a sort of metal punk band, so it’s really fast. It’s got some of the same themes of traditional blue-grass, but in a modern context. No churchy stuff, there’s not the one, obligatory gospel song. They’re just sitting there ripping it up the entire time. The banjo player’s sick, the guitar player’s sick. The bass player… The bass is made from a Ford gas tank taken from a Pinto, and the pull cord from lawn mower. He plays one string up and down.
That’s fucked up!
Yeah, it’s godly! Godly! You know, it’s not for everyone, but it’s the shit! I love those guys. So that was my five, sorry that was rather long winded.
Haha give me a break, longer answers the better! So what’s the best live performance you’ve ever seen?
Umm… Ok. I wanna say that it was Emperor the one time they came by in ‘97… or no ’98. The place I saw them in, when I was living in Chicago, was this massive theater with an incredibly underpowered PA. It sounded kinda like having a boombox in a men’s room. It sounded really crappy and they were pretty confused by how bad it sounded. But I put them at the top for their actual presence. But as far as actual sound goes, it more closely resembled somebody shaking up beads in a tin can. So not good. The first time I saw Suffocation was like ’98 on the Despise the Sun tour. I was kinda starting to get sour on death metal, but I decided to see Suffocation that time anyway, and it kinda veered me back onto that path. Their performance was… amazing. It’ll sound over dramatic, but it really changed my life. Seeing that power and tightness… God man, incredible. I’d say for that part of my life, it was definitely them. Recently, another band I really like is this band from Texas that’s breaking up in a couple of months, called Slobberbone (http://www.slobberbone.com/), which is a stupid name but then again so is Cattle Decapitation. It’s one of those things that like, your mom who ridicules what you’re listening to picks up and is like “what… what’s this?! Cow dead?”
Haha “bovine kill” too I imagine.
Hah definitely. So slobberbone from Texas, is really good rock and roll with some yokely country elements, but that’s allright. It’s not country like top 40 country records. It’s country like old… bucktooth townie on the porch-country. I saw them a little while ago and they played for 2 hours because people kept buying them shots. It was so much fun. So I would compare the fun of that show to the power, technical brilliance and beauty of the Suffocation show.
Worst show you’ve seen?
It’s sort of a thing… especially with the internet being what it is…
Ohhh you don’t want to trash any bands?
Well, it’s not even that, but I just don’t like to dwell on the negative. You know if I don’t like a band I don’t sit there and talk shit about them. It’s more like “ok I didn’t care for that, it’s something I didn’t like.” You know, if there’s a food I don’t like I don’t go out and eat it over and over again just so I can complain.
Hahaha that’s a good policy.
If there’s a band I don’t like and somebody asks my opinion I’ll tell them, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to trash someone.
People are pretty obsessed with flaming lately.
Yeah, like “ok, what’s the most creative way I can insult someone… hmmm.” So as far as a worst show goes… I don’t even know. I can remember bands that I didn’t like or bands that needed to practice more… But hey I’ve been in bands that needed to practice more. On that note, I hope I’m never in a band that doesn’t need to practice more because then the fun would be gone.
So how’d you feel about the cover change on Humanure?
On one hand I just wanted to tell them… that it was our cover and they could just eat our asses. But at the same time, you have to be a businessperson to a certain extent if you want your band to prosper. And when someone tells you if you change the cover you’ll make so much more money… I mean… we make like 18 cents per album that we sell. We’re not Unearth, we don’t sell shit! You know, we changed it because part of the reason we signed to Metal Blade was to have our records sold in as many stores as possible. And a lot of people don’t live where there’s, you know, metal stores or mom and pop’s stores even. The main choices would be Best Buy, Sam Goody or FYE. I mean, we would be seriously limiting ourselves, and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. I mean the cover is awesome, I love the original cover.
Yeah I got the promo, it’s amazing!
Yeah and the new one’s ok, but I think we decided that it was more valuable to have people hear it.
Yeah, I don’t it’s interpreted as a sell-out or anything.
I’m sure some pretty ass will be saying shit or something.
You’ll probably get a few flames for it but whatever man.
Yeah, I’m sure I will. You know, anything that people can find…
Seriously. So dude, how hard has it been to cope with all the member changes?
I kinda came in near the end. Originally the first 7 inchers came out in 96 or something like that. Nobody that’s in the band now, was on them. The band was around and they decided “oh well, let’s write a bunch of songs during a few months and release a record! Because we’re obviously incredibly well practiced.” All of those guys are gone now though. I came into the picture like… mid-2001. I moved from Chicago to California and they wanted a second-guitar player, so I came in and I learned three songs in one day, but apparently didn’t learn them fast enough so they said “we’ll call you back later.” But they were just a bunch of pussies fartin around at that point. Fast forward to a few months later “oh gee…” because Gabe went to Locus and couldn’t devote his time to Cattle Decapitation anymore. So I came in and it was myself, Travis, Dave and Troy. 2003 Dave had some difference of opinion as to how much time to commit to the band, along with various other issues, so he, the founding member, parted ways and had Mike move out from Pittsburgh. That’s what the line up is now anyways.
You feel pretty steady?
You know, I hate to see people that are emotionally tied to the band have to leave, and I hate to see people have that part of their life snatched away from them. If they’re ready to move on, it’s fine you know, but if it’s one of those things where they’re still into it but just aren’t performing musically, it really sucks. This hasn’t necessarily happened with Cattle Decapitation, but you know, in other bands that I’ve been in we’ve had situations where we had to kick one member out.
Yeah I can imagine. Well, that’s pretty much it man, thanks so much!
Thanks to Josh and everyone who helped organize the interview! Keep up the awesome work Cattle Decapitation!
Links of interest:
Metal Blade Records