With their last two records – 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity and last year’s The Anthropocene Extinction – Cattle Decapitation raised the bar, attracting critical acclaim and gaining a large new fanbase. So it was no surprise that the San Diegan death/grind outfit hit the road this summer for an extensive European tour. At the band’s Newcastle show, RUSHONROCK’s Richard Holmes caught up with vocalist Travis Ryan to talk about Cattle Decapitation’s evolution, their recent success… and why old school death metal still rules.
RUSHONROCK: The Anthropocene Extinction was a huge success for the band. What do you feel most proud of about that record?
TRAVIS RYAN: I am most proud of the songwriting on behalf of these dudes (pointing to his bandmates). It’s funny because I have always said, ‘how can you be proud of something you have no control over, such as race?,’. I don’t understand that. But I can say that I am proud of the way we have stepped up. They write all the songs, I write all the lyrics and for my portion I am proud I haven’t lost it! With every record, you take two years to tour it and a year to write it, that’s a three or so year gap. Every record we do I am like, ‘shit, can I really still do this?’ – with the vocals and the lyrics mainly. As time goes on it gets harder and harder to be more original, to do something you haven’t done yourself, or that other people haven’t done. I find myself realising, ‘oh shit, I used that lyric five albums ago!’.
RUSHONROCK: Looking back, with its more melodic vocals and more refined songwriting, does Monolith of Inhumanity now seem like an evolutionary leap for the band?
TR: It ended up being that way. We didn’t go in saying ‘let’s reinvent ourselves’, we just do what feels right. I had been toying with certain vocal things for a while, being kind of reserved and holding back a little, so the reason it was kind of different – at least at my end – was that I wanted to exacerbate that stuff more, which set the tone for the next record. I was getting older, I’ll be 42 in a couple of months – I’m not getting bored of doing this kind of stuff but I’m bored of everyone else doing. Every band has that ‘urrgh’ and ‘aargh’ and I wanted to do something different.
RUSHONROCK: But if you step outside certain boundaries, is there a risk that it isn’t grind or death metal anymore?
TR: We don’t want to alienate our fans, but, if there is any kind of beauty going on it’s because we are doing what we want and someone likes it. This whole genre is based on making certain people happy, especially in the United States. If to be a grindcore band we have to be nothing but d-beat, and have zero tonality, I’m not interested, I’d rather do country! Another thing I am proud of is that I would like to think we are genre-less, I just call it extreme music. On the internet I am referred to as an elitist because I know what death metal is – no one seems to know anymore! For me death metal was more of a time period and a sound, 1994 and maybe 95 was the best shit, MOSH 1 through to 80 or something. Of all the bands, the first three or four albums were the best, across the board. Cannibal Corpse, Carcass… all of them.
RUSHONROCK RATED: Is there any band that you’d want Cattle Decapitation to be seen in the same light as?
TR: No, I want to be our own thing, at the beginning the band was founded by literally wanting to pick up the early Carcass sound. Carcass were playing Swansong and we were like ‘let’s go back and do brutal stuff like the beginning , like Reek of Putrefaction’… but we failed very hard. Then we ended up with more of our own sound and then got Josh (Elmore, guitarist) in the band, and steered our minds to more of a death/death grind vibe. His love of black metal ended up seeping into it – at least the sound, obviously we are not going to go up there in corpsepaint!
RUSHONROCK: You focus on environmental themes in The Anthropocene Extinction, especially the harm being done to the Pacific Ocean. Do you feel that in the current political climate, it’s more important than ever to raise awareness of these issues?
TR: It is going to be an issue until something is done about it. People are trying to make some strides in that direction, but until the people in power take note of it – and they are all denying it, climate change etc – nothing is going to change. I’m not offering any solutions, I’m just pointing at the problems. We do a lot of turning tables on humanity, putting people in the same situations as something that is being oppressed. There are plenty of humans being oppressed, but talking about human interaction with the environment and the planet at large, that’s what the ‘Anthropocene’ term refers to, when we (as humans) started making an impact.
RUSHONROCK: Do you feel like you are preaching to the converted at times?
TR: I’m just glad that we are talking about something of relevance. A lot of people have got into the band via that and then ended up liking the music and that’s cool, there are all sorts of ways to get into the band. I get a lot of people saying to me that out lyrics have changes their lifestyle, their behaviour or thought processes on certain things. We are talking about it, but changing the world? I don’t know if anyone really has the power to do that.
The Anthropocene Extinction is out now on Metal Blade.