One thing the USA does very well is export high quality heavy metal to all corners of the globe. Louisiana’s masters of extreme metal, Goatwhore, just released their sixth studio album, entitled Constricting Rage of the Merciless. The band then went on tour in the USA with the Summer Slaughter travelling day-festival, which also featured Dying Fetus, Origin, and other great (and extreme) metal acts. With a European tour supporting Dying Fetus planned, Goatwhore drummer Zack took a brief break to answer a few questions from PlanetMosh’s Iris North.
One thing that’s great about Goatwhore is your consistently high-quality output. You haven’t settled for mediocrity. Your sound doesn’t drastically change from year to year. You’ve got this monolithic, thrashy sound catalog that you’ve really developed since those fateful first days when Sammy got on the old Relapse Records message board and declared that he was ‘going to start a new band and call it Goatwhore.’
It’s been a very natural progression from album to album. We’ve definitely always gone with our gut and while you can easily pick up on our main influences, we’ve developed our own sound out of that. There’s no hiding the fact that we love bands like Celtic Frost, Motorhead, and Venom but I think we’ve definitely developed our own variation. I think it’s good because maybe it will turn a new generation onto those bands.
How is Summer Slaughter going? Besides… hot. They should do a Winter Slaughter. That would be actually bearable to attend.
So damn hot! Thank Satan for canopies and ice chests… It’s been great so far. Definitely one of the heavier lineups of the past few years. The crowds have been great and the new material has been getting a positive response so no complaints here. I’d take the heat over the cold any day so I’d have to say no to Winter Slaughter. Hanging out in an icy parking lot all day? Nah!
Jordan Barlow did the album art (again). How did you locate him in the first place, how did you and he conceptualize the album in a visual format, and what are his specialties?
Jordan is our good friend in New Orleans who has done a lot of our tattoo work. He sings in Sammy and James’ other band, Ritual Killer. Ben came to Jordan with the concept and they fleshed it out from there. Jordan is really good at the sort of woodcut, detailed art and is really on the same page with the ideology of the band. I think his art fits our music very well.
The Euro tour with Dying Fetus sounds awesome. Looking forward to that trek?
Very excited about this. We are actually on tour in the US with Dying Fetus and Fallujah right now. We’ve toured with them in the past as well so everyone knows each other and gets along. It’s about seven weeks long, and we are hitting some cities we’ve never played before, so I’m definitely looking forward to this run.
Has a clear “fan favorite” song from the new disc come to light yet?
We are playing five songs off the new record live on this tour and the response has been killer. I’d say “FBS” is one that really gets crowds moving. It’s a pretty rowdy tune and one of my favorites to play.
What do you feel is the most under-utilized item in making modern metal music? (say that 3 times fast, LOL). To me, it seems to be production. Very few bands invest the time needed to ‘output’ a superior product. The bands who do go those extra miles stand out immediately.
I think it’s become almost too easy to have a polished, shiny sounding record these days. Anyone with a laptop and some recording software can come up with a decent sounding demo or album. Somewhere along the line I think people lost the drive to put some soul into their recordings. It’s pretty absurd the ways you can abuse technology in the studio these days. It makes me miss the sound of crappy lo-fi black metal demos. At least those have a vibe.
Erik Rutan is your ‘secret bandmember’ in the studio… the Fifth Beatle, as it were. He’s done well with this disc – the production’s not overdone, nor are spots left lacking.
I’m very happy with how this record turned out. Erik really knows how to get the best out of each one of us. His approach is very much from the old school way of recording. He’ll bust your balls until you get it right and you’ll be much happier with the outcome. We are always very prepared when we go into record an album. There are always a few minor things that give you trouble but for the most part the whole tracking process was very smooth.
When you say you recorded to 2″ tape, did you record straight analog, as in, no digitizing at all “just like in the 60s”? I’m curious, because one of the interviews said something like all of the leads, overdubs, post-production, etc. were done in ProTools, and then to tape. I’m also curious because on my system, the disc sounds very modern and crisp – not deep/echoic, warm, and hissy like analog can get.
All the drums, rhythm guitars, and bass were tracked to tape, as there were only 24 channels available on the machine. Vocals and leads were the only things we tracked in ProTools. There wasn’t really a whole lot of editing that needed to be done. Everyone was pretty on top of their game. The goal was to have a gritty, ballsy, warm sounding record that really felt like a punch to the stomach. There is also a vibe that analog captures. It’s an actual performance, rather than a pieced together punch-in fest.
What’s nice about the analog comeback is that it’s being embraced by fans, bands, and labels alike. It’s not a one-sided “tastemaker” label driven thing ~ “let’s start a trend”. You guys have it coming from the right place – you want to deliver a product that will sell. So, what are the downsides of analog vs. digital?
I just think it depends on what you’re going for and what kind of sound you want to attain. Every band is different, and what works for some, may not work for others. I don’t think there are downsides to either, as they are both obviously great methods. I just don’t like to see technology abused to the point to where the music loses it’s integrity and vibe. I guess there’s really no right or wrong way to do it, but I definitely feel better knowing I actually played on a track instead of programming or copy-and-pasting sections. To each their own.
What do you think about ‘upsells’ on tour like VIP packages, customized tour posters made specifically for that night’s show, and so on?
I think it can be a cool thing for the fans. The VIP things and special items are definitely selling. There’s definitely a demand for that kind of thing. I just think it’s sad when you have to pay a thousand bucks to look at Vince Neil for five seconds. On the other hand, it’s another revenue stream for bands who are struggling in this day and age. It is the music “business” after all.
You mentioned treading carefully within the ‘industry’. Do you feel constrained, or painted in a corner, with your pursuit of one type of extreme metal? Or is it more of an ‘if I want to experiment, I’ll form a side project’ type ethos?
We are pretty realistic with ourselves, knowing (that) the type of music we play, and the band’s name aren’t going to land us on ‘Top of the Pops’ or anything like that. We are definitely an extreme metal band, but beyond that, it’s kind of hard to pigeonhole or micro-genrefy the band. It’s all just heavy metal to us. We genuinely enjoy what we do, and definitely aren’t doing this to get rich or anything. I don’t pay a whole lot or attention to the industry side of things. It’s important, but I’d much rather concentrate on the playing aspect of being in a band.
Do you have any parting words for your fans or readers?
Wherever you are, we hope to invade your town soon for an evening of metal! Cheers!