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CANNIBAL CORPSE – Skewered From Ear To Eye
Anthony Morgan
March 2011

Cannibal Corpse (l-r): Alex Webster, Paul Mazurkiewicz, George Fisher,
Rob Barrett and Patrick O’Brien

In July 2008, New York death metal merchants Cannibal Corpse issued three-disc DVD retrospective Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years; including a definitive three-hour history of Cannibal Corpse chronicled through first-hand accounts from members past and present as well as live, rare and bonus footage, helming the documentary behind the director’s and producer’s chair was Denise Korycki of Wild Wind Productions. Almost three years later, Global Evisceration marks the continuation of that relationship. “The Global Evisceration DVD is something that we put together last year, and it features a lot of live footage from two shows that we did in the United States where we recorded multi-camera footage with professional sound quality,” reveals bassist and co-founder Alex Webster. “Those shows were recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Denver, Colorado, and then we also had the filmmaker Denise Korycki – she’s the filmmaker who we had worked with on Centuries Of Torment – come along with us to film a lot of behind the scenes footage on our American tour and also on one leg of the festival touring that we did last year throughout Europe. It ends up covering I believe ten countries, and it’s pretty interesting I think. It’s something different for our fans to see us doing, but that’s generally it. It’s a live DVD, but it also features a lot of behind the scenes footage and shows all the travelling and that sort of thing which goes into doing a tour.”

To be precise, the concerts in question were recorded at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood, Colorado and the Sunshine Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the 3rd and 8th of May 2010 respectively. “For the two shows where we did the multi-camera recording, the multi-track audio recording and everything – which were properly filmed live gigs for a live DVD – we picked Denver and Albuquerque for a few reasons,” the mainman explains. “First, it was important that both shows had to be in cities where we have a really good following and always have really good shows where the crowd is always really wild. You want to see a crowd that’s active in a live DVD; you want to see them being loud and going crazy in the pit and everything else, and that always happens in Albuquerque and Denver – that was the goal there.

“The crowds there are great and on top of that, both of those places were just about the right size for filming. They were both theatres, the Gothic Theatre in Denver and the Sunshine Theater in Albuquerque. Both are theatres, and they’re pretty good size places for filming – not too big so that we were far away from the audience. It’s a little bit harder anyway to interact with the audience if you’re really far away from them, like at really big festivals. It’s still fun, but for our style of band it’s way better to be close to the audience. Those places were about as big as we could go without being too big, and it also just worked out well that the camera crew that Denise found to do the multi-camera shots I believe were based in Colorado. It was easy for them to go to both shows, so she was able to work with the same camera crew. To cut a long story shot, we filmed in Denver and Albuquerque for reasons of logistics and for the fact that both of those places have great audiences.”

Are there major differences in the setlists between those two filmed shows Alex? “We did make sure to have a little bit of difference between the two, but once you get to see the DVD you’ll see that the main focus of this DVD is the behind the scenes footage actually – it’s not like ‘Bam, here’s the whole Albuquerque show’ and then ‘Bam, here’s the whole Denver show.’ The songs themselves are interwoven into the storyline of us travelling, so there might be one song from Denver and then after five minutes of watching us do our thing – going to the airport or whatever we’re doing, travelling – that’s it for that particular segment. Then you’ll see a song from the other city, so it’s kind of mixed in there. The fact that the setlists were different isn’t something you’re really gonna notice, because we wouldn’t put for example the same song on the DVD twice.

“For the setlists for the two shows, we had all the standard songs that everyone expects us to play like ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ or ‘Stripped, Raped And Strangled’, songs like that. For each night we added a couple of different ones though, so we had lots to choose from. We had a pool of probably around 23 to 24 songs to choose from, and I believe that got pared down to about 15 songs or something like that that we wound up choosing between the two cities. It ends up mixing in really well with the behind the scenes footage, as you’ll see. It’s a credit to Denise that it all flows so well together, but yeah, that’s what it is; it’s a mixture of live and behind the scenes footage.”

Alex Webster

Despite being their eleventh studio full-length, February 2009’s Evisceration Plague was warmly received in many quarters. “When you play a new song that’s slower and a little bit easier to follow everybody gets into it right away, like the title track ‘Evisceration Plague’,” the bassist reflects. “That’s pretty easy for everybody to follow, so they get into it right away. A song like ‘Shatter Their Bones’ or ‘Evidence In The Furnace’ though, those songs are pretty fast, so if a person’s not familiar with them it’s gonna be a little harder for them to jump right into the pit and get into them. Something like ‘Evisceration Plague’, just because it’s fairly simple and straightforward everybody just jumps right in and gets into it, and they were doing that from the get go. When we first started the Evisceration Plague tour back in 2009 people reacted to that song right away, and I think that was because of the simplicity of the style – it’s just such a straightforward tune. The more tech songs it takes a little bit longer for people to get into.”

Having had the benefit of playing its tracks live, the members of Cannibal Corpse are “happy with” Evisceration Plague. “We’re really happy with the record, but we’re sure we can improve upon it the next time around,” Alex muses. “We can make a better record this fall when we go into the studio. We’re really happy with Evisceration Plague, but we saw a few areas that we needed to improve upon with the songwriting and that sort of thing just to make things better. For us, when we say we’re trying to make things better we’re really trying to make the songs heavier and more powerful or whatever, and not better in a way that’s polished and boring (laughs). When we wanna improve, we wanna improve in a heavier direction, so that’s what we’re setting out to do and we’re pretty sure we can. There were some things on Evisceration Plague that we were really psyched about, and then a few other things where we feel like we could’ve done a little better. We’ll try to do better the next time around.”

A clip spanning 86 seconds was uploaded to Metal Blade’s official YouTube account on January 25th; filmed at Brussels airport, the clip captures an unlikely meeting between Cannibal Corpse and civil rights activist / Reverend Jesse Jackson. “I believe that’s not on the DVD, because at the time the deadline was for the DVD Jesse had not signed off to be on the DVD itself,” the group’s co-founder notes. “You have to get a person’s permission for them to be on your DVD and so forth, but I think it’s ok to put it online because you’re not being paid or whatever. No-one’s making money by it being released for free online, but if we were selling it I believe we would’ve had to get written permission from him to use that. It was such an unusual thing for us to bump into him – it was just completely a random meeting. If you go to enough airports, eventually you’re going to bump into a few other people that do a lot of travelling (laughs). Politicians, actors, musicians and so forth, the kind of people that end up travelling a lot.

“Yeah, we were standing around on the curb. We had just unloaded our gear and were getting ready to get in line to check in at the airport. Jesse just came walking over and started talking to us, and he was a really nice guy. It was one of those things. We were just barely awake. I’m sure he was in the same position too. It was maybe 5:30am, maybe 6:00am when we met him, and we’d only slept a couple of hours so it was a really quick meeting. He was very nice though, and when he left we were all thinking ‘Wow, did that really happen? Did we really just meet Jesse Jackson?’ I don’t know how famous he is over there, but in the United States he’s extremely famous. On the political scene it’s almost like being the President, a very famous Senator or something like that. It was cool, something interesting. Denise was there with the camera, and she has the instinct to film when something like that’s going on so she caught the whole thing. It was cool. I guess they put it online just because it was interesting for people to look at, but it’s not actually in the DVD itself.”

Was Jesse Jackson aware of Cannibal Corpse? “No, we didn’t tell him the name of our band,” Alex chuckles. “He just came up real quick. It was cool to him that we were a band, and we just said ‘Oh yeah, we’re flying to Italy today – we just played in Belgium yesterday.’ We met him at the Brussels airport; he was in Brussels to meet people about a few different things, but the one thing I believe that was happening was a celebration for Congo’s independence from Belgium. I believe it was some anniversary of that, and then he was also meeting with people talking about the situation in Haiti which is obviously an ongoing thing. It’s very dire, so I think he was trying to see how he could help out with that. He was over there for political reasons and he told us a lot about that, but we didn’t mention that we were in Cannibal Corpse (laughs). It didn’t come up actually. We were all so stunned that he’d spoken to us in the first place, so it didn’t really occur to us to start talking about what we were up to a whole lot. I imagine if he found out we were in Cannibal Corpse he might’ve thought ‘Oh jeez, what kind of band is this?’ (laughs), because I’m sure that there’s a good chance that we aren’t normally what he would listen to. Anyway though, he was extremely kind to us and very polite and it was fun to meet him.”

Cannibal Corpse (l-r): Alex Webster, George Fisher, Paul Mazurkiewicz,
Rob Barrett and Patrick O’Brien

“I think it’s all kind of cool because we went to a lot of different places on that tour,” the mainman continues. “Like I said, we met Jesse Jackson in Belgium. Each tour that we do we all consider a part of the greater Evisceration Plague tour, which took place throughout 2009 and 2010. This little leg of the tour though where we flew over to Europe, did a bunch of shows and then flew back, this was a particularly interesting portion. We went to three different countries that we had never played before, and those three were Malta, Israel and Turkey. We played shows there, met people there and checked things out. Then also the other countries we went to we had been to before, but it was still kind of interesting I think, like going to Russia, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and Finland.

“I think it’s all kind of cool because we went to a lot of different places on that tour,” the mainman continues. “Like I said, we met Jesse Jackson in Belgium. Each tour that we do we all consider a part of the greater Evisceration Plague tour, which took place throughout 2009 and 2010. This little leg of the tour though where we flew over to Europe, did a bunch of shows and then flew back, this was a particularly interesting portion. We went to three different countries that we had never played before, and those three were Malta, Israel and Turkey. We played shows there, met people there and checked things out. Then also the other countries we went to we had been to before, but it was still kind of interesting I think, like going to Russia, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and Finland.

“Those are the countries that were covered, and of course the United States because we filmed some other footage there and Denise road along with us for about a week. Between the Denver show and the Albuquerque show there was about a weeks worth of shows there, so she came along with us for those as well. The bulk of it was from that one European run, but then she was also with us on the run that we did with Skeletonwitch and 1349 and we got some good footage from that one too. I think it’s mostly the kind of footage where you see what it’s like to travel – you get to see what it really is. I’m not sure everybody understands exactly how it works out there, like whether we have people taking care of our stuff or are we actually just carrying everything ourselves, and that’s what it is. We carry everything ourselves at the airport and load everything up (laughs), and we end up spending hours and hours, waiting in lines at airports and not getting hardly any sleep on these tours. That ends up being something you see a lot of, and how we deal with it in humorous ways (laughs). Like falling asleep wherever we can; there’s one scene of me sleeping in a really unusual position (laughs). I was sleeping and looked like I was dead or something, but when you’ve only gotten a couple of hours sleep here and there you’re gonna fall asleep wherever you sit.

“There’s some funny things like that in there that we deal with. Just the day in and day out stuff of doing a tour where you’re flying every day, and all the things that go along with that. Another thing about the DVD is because there were a lot of festivals on that particular run – we played Graspop and With Full Force and a few others – we ended up running into a lot of bands we were friends with. There’s a lot of footage of us hanging out with our friends and other bands and that sort of thing, so I think the fans will find that pretty interesting. I know that I would find it more interesting than a standard live DVD where there’s basically just live performances. This DVD has both; it’s got plenty of live performances, but it also has a whole lot of behind the scenes footage.”

In my opinion, Cannibal Corpse are one of the hardest touring bands in the underground metal scene. It seems as though the group is touring all the time, unless a new album is being written and recorded. So with being said, how do you view life on the road Alex? Do you enjoy it? Does it get hard sometimes? “I think it’s most difficult when you’re doing the kind of touring that you’re gonna see on this DVD. I do really enjoy it; I love to travel and I’ve always enjoyed travelling, but when you have to fly every day that’s when it becomes difficult. Especially when you’re flying between countries because that means you’re pretty much gonna have to deal with customs and immigration everywhere you go, and that can get sticky in some of these places that are a little more strict with things and really double-check everything security-wise and that sort of thing so the lines are long and slow.

“I mean, it’s a great deal of fun but I would love to be able to do it in such a way that I could sleep between six to eight hours a night. That’s not how it is though; it’s more like maybe two to four hours a night if you’re lucky, and some nights just none because you finish your show and sometimes you’re not able to get back to your hotel until 2am and then you have to be down in the lobby to go to the airport at 4:30am – so we’re deprived of sleep. That’s the only real complaint any of us have, because of course being able to travel the world and play your favourite kind of music and see other bands play and meet all these great fans and have such a great time is just about the perfect job. Dealing with not being able to sleep a few weeks out of the year (laughs) in order to do something that cool is worth that minor inconvenience really. Yeah though, if there was a way we could do it where we could zonk out for a full night’s sleep every night that would be spectacular, but we’ll take what we can get. We’re still having a great time.”

George Fisher

Have any problems at airports arisen, where airport staff have possibly asked Cannibal Corpse their occupation, and then the name of the group? “We don’t go anywhere where it’s illegal to be this kind of band,” the bassist states. “We don’t play in any country that’s so religiously conservative that we could actually get in trouble for being in Cannibal Corpse, not that we’re an anti-religious band – we don’t comment on religion in our songs really. If we went to Iran to try to play for example, that would probably be a bad idea (laughs). I don’t have to explain that – people understand how the government is over there. It’s a shame too because there’s a whole lot of death metal fans in that country, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be playing there anytime soon. Most of the places we go though are quite liberal when it comes to music, so we don’t have a problem with that. What they’re looking for is illegal stuff, which we don’t have. They’re gonna look through everybody’s stuff though, and the thing is when you have a ton of gear that’s just that much more to look through if they decide they wanna look through it. It’s just lugging it around really; that’s more of a pain in the neck than even immigration, just lugging the stuff from here to there and everywhere. With some of these places, you get dropped off at one spot and where you check in is a quarter of a mile away. You’ve got all this heavy stuff, and sometimes they make you pay for the carts or there’s no carts around. It’s just those little things. You don’t think about it until it’s actually happened, but it’s like ‘Wow, this is really inconvenient’ (laughs). Like I said though, these minor inconveniences are not really anything that would deter us from doing what we love. It’s still kind of interesting I think for the viewer. I think the people who see the DVD will find it interesting, but we definitely didn’t make the DVD with the idea of ‘Ok, here’s a huge bunch of stuff that we find annoying.’ No, that’s not it at all.

“It’s mostly good stuff, but there’s a few things where we’re like ‘Shit, this sucks.’ For example, the first day leaving for the tour there was a tornado that hit the city we were connecting with – we were supposed to fly from Tampa to Philadelphia and then from Philadelphia to Brussels. Well, there was a tornado in Philadelphia so they kept us in the air for a long time and then had us land in a different city in Baltimore. We then ended up finally getting to Philadelphia too late to catch our flight, so we were like ‘Wonderful, this is just great.’ Now we had to sleep overnight in Philadelphia. We had our management find us a hotel to stay in because we had missed our flight to Brussels, and the only flight that they could find us to get into Brussels in time was going through Manchester, England. We end up having to fly from Philadelphia the day of the show now, because originally we were supposed to arrive the night before the show so we could kind of adjust to the European schedule. Instead we end up flying from Philadelphia to Manchester and then from Manchester to Brussels, and have to deal with getting our bags and everything else.

“We go straight from the airport to the show, and within a couple of hours of getting off the plane – without us getting any sleep after this long 12, 13, 14-hour journey from the United States – we just went right onstage in front of 15-20,000 people at the Graspop Festival (laughs). I don’t think anybody in the crowd knew what we had gone through to get there. It was a lot of stress because we were also working with a roadie we had not worked with; normally we would have had time to explain to him ‘Here’s our guitar’, ‘Here’s the tuning’, ‘We like the amps to be set this way’ and so on, but instead we just basically showed up at the gig, got ready and played. It went well, and nobody was probably none the wiser that we were having a bit of a dilemma going on travel-wise. It was something that could’ve turned out a lot worse, but it turned out pretty good and that is all documented on the DVD. I think people will probably enjoy seeing that one because there was a little drama there. We would’ve preferred the drama not to be there, but because it’s there and it’s on film it’s interesting to look at I guess.”

Death metal is an intense experience, especially within the live setting. Cannibal Corpse still manage to maintain that intensity however, headbanging and swaying hair back and forth at every given opportunity – not a small feat for an outfit whose members are all in their early 40s. “That’s just something that you have to… You really have to pay attention to your health I suppose, like getting enough sleep, which as I said for these shows where you’re flying every day you don’t get enough of,” Alex clarifies. “When you’re travelling on a bus, you just sleep the night on the bus while the driver gets you to the next city no problem. Yeah though, when you’re flying every day for a week or two that starts to wear you down, so it’s important not to party too much. I mean, not when you’re our age. We’re all in our 40s now. The things that you can get away with when you’re in your 20s… Being drunk all night and everything else and then only sleeping a couple of hours, and you wake up the next day feeling spectacular. You don’t feel so great when you do those kinds of things to yourself 20 years down the road (laughs).

“It’s just nature; most people need a little more time to recover from strenuous activity, be it partying or whatever. We really try to take it seriously because the most important thing for us is to perform well. When we’re on tour, it’s not important for us to party – that’s completely cut out of the equation. I really don’t party. I’m completely focused on getting enough rest and taking care of my health so that I can go out there and give a show where I can try to recreate the intensity – or at least come close to the intensity that I had – when I was 20-years-old as far as the headbanging and getting into the songs. I want it to be at that same level and in order to do that you just have to take care of yourself, and I think we all do that pretty well for the most part. George probably parties a little more than he actually should (laughs), but at the end of the day it’s one of those things where once you start and after you’ve had a few beers, it’s hard to tell yourself to go to bed (laughs). I think that’s the problem he has, but I don’t want to speak for him. Partying and whether it’s a good idea actually gets covered in the DVD as well, so I won’t give too much away.”

Cannibal Corpse (l-r): Alex Webster, Rob Barrett, George Fisher,
Patrick O’Brien and Paul Mazurkiewicz

In terms of its career Alex, where do you feel Cannibal Corpse is at? Is it in the middle its career? Is this the twilight of its career? “I definitely don’t think twilight because things are really rolling, so I’d say maybe middle or something. Middle or maybe about two thirds of the way done or something like that. If we’ve been around 20 something years, I can see it being at least another ten – a minimal of ten more years, I would say. We’ll just keep evaluating as we go along. You can think that in ten years you’ll be ready to quit, but in ten years maybe I won’t. Maybe we’ll all be sitting here still having a great time doing it and enjoying what we do and we’ll still have fans. We’ll keep going on as long as people want to see to us and as long we enjoy it. I don’t see an end in sight; we don’t know when it’s gonna end, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be anytime soon.”

Given Cannibal Corpse’s two-decade career, the age of its members and death metal’s intensity, it’s plausible to assume that the group will scale back its touring commitments as the years roll on. “That is a possibility, definitely,” the co-founder admits. “In some ways we’ve already done that, although the past two years definitely wouldn’t give anyone that impression (laughs). We did a whole lot of shows in 2009 and 2010, but if you look at a tour schedule from say 1996 when we were all in our mid-20s our tour schedule was even that much more gruelling than what we’re doing now. For example, I believe we did 63 shows in the US back then. We played 30 headlining shows in a row with no day off, and those kinds of things we just wouldn’t do now – we want to space the touring out a little bit. We may end up playing the same amount of shows, but it’ll take us longer to do it. For example, in the old days we might’ve done 250 shows in a year. Now it might take a year and a half to do those same 250 cities, so that way we’ve got a little more time to recover and a little more time to be at home with our family, that kind of thing.

“Yeah, I mean at some point… This is very physical music; we’re up there banging our heads and putting lots of pressure on our spine. Paul our drummer is working incredibly hard, more or less running a half-marathon or whatever playing all that fast double-bass (laughs). It’s physical and it’s athletic – death metal is athletic music. A lot of extreme metal is very athletic music, and as an athlete gets older, who knows? We’ll have to see where things go. Right now we feel fine, but can we do this kind of music when we’re 55? We don’t know. We’ll see when we get there, but it’s definitely physical. I can see it becoming a little bit of a problem once we get really old. It’s a shame because we never would want to stop, but at some point age will possibly catch up with us. We’ll see. We’re gonna do everything we can to fight that, but reality is reality. It’s pretty tough to fight nature I guess.”

One casualty of metal’s intensity is Slayer vocalist Tom Araya, who in early 2010 underwent surgery to remove three compressed discs in his neck which compressed his nerves, affecting the left side of his body. Such stories aren’t lost on the Cannibal Corpse bassist. “You see what Tom had to deal with with his neck,” Alex concedes. “My neck hurts frequently and George’s does as well, and Rob too. It doesn’t hurt enough to make me wanna go to the doctor, but at some point it might. We think about it, definitely. I can say for sure that it’s on our minds sometimes, the fact that this can be tough on your body. We think about it, definitely.”

Global Evisceration was released on March 15th, 2011 through Metal Blade Records.

Interview published in March 2011.

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