CANNIBAL CORPSE: Killing for a Living

Killing sprees, severed limbs, maggots, and zombies aren’t what eighteen year careers are typically made of. But death metal’s biggest and bloodiest band, CANNIBAL CORPSE, has done just that. They’ve stabbed, hacked, slashed, and killed their way to the brutal tune of hundreds of thousands of albums sold, while winning over legions of fans and upsetting a few parents and politicians along the way. The band’s latest album, Kill, ranks as arguably their best albums in years and sees them at the top of their game. APESHIT met up with talkative frontman, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, during the last date of the Sounds of the Underground Tour in Los Angeles this past summer. Holding nothing back, he revealed his thoughts on the current state of the CANNIBAL CORPSE camp, censorship, and the driving force behind the band.

APESHIT: Your new album is simply titled Kill, and is your best album in recent years. What’s your assessment of the album especially considering the line-up changes?

George: We’re all happy with it. Everyone seems to be happy with it. Of course that makes us happy that fans and everyone pretty much touting it as what you said, the best thing we’ve done in years.

We don’t think the other albums were bad but this one has a different attitude. You know, we got Rob [Barrett] back in the band. He wrote a song. [Drummer] Paul [Mazurkiewicz] actually wrote a song on the record. So subconsciously it was just like a breath of fresh air in a sense, having those guys or having Rob back in the band.

I don’t want to say that that’s the only reason why it’s good but these guys work hard and stuff. I’m sure that has something to do with it.

I think [former guitarist] Jack [Owen] was kind of holding us back. I mean he wrote some OK songs…definitely some really good ones through out the years. But I just think his heart wasn’t in it. And once we got Rob back in the band, it kind of re-energized us. We didn’t have to think about what was coming or written on Jack’s part.

We knew that it was going to be a total attack, that everyone is the band is totally dedicated to playing brutal death metal and not just doing it for the ride. That’s no offense to Jack. It probably sounds like I’m ragging him out, but I’m not. I’m just saying that his heart wasn’t in it and I think in some case you could tell live. And now it’s not like that. There was a new energy when Rob re-entered the band.

APESHIT: With the Sounds of the Underground tour, CANNIBAL CORPSE has been a part of a large and relatively diverse line-up. Bands like you guys, TRIVIUM, BEHEMOTH, and AS I LAY DYING, you don’t typically see on the same bill. What’s it like to be on this tour? It’s kind of weird to not see you guys as the headliners of a tour.

George: For me personally, this has been the best tour I ever did…the most fun tour, and that’s because of the crew, production, everybody, and the bands of course. Everyone is great. It’s like a big family, it really is. It’s been a long tour but with everyone being as cool as they are, it made it go quicker than it should.

And usually I’m happy the tour’s over but in this case, I’m a little sad because we had a lot of good times on this tour, hanging out in the parking lot with the guys from THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER and TERROR slamming [beers]. We were slamming in the parking lot a couple days ago.

It’s like I’m 18 again! (Laughs.) It seriously is.

We were drinking, raising hell in the parking lot, slamming around the CRO-MAGS and SLAYER and stuff…and just hanging out with the IN FLAMES guys, having some little card games kicking. GWAR had the little Jagermeister thing on their bus. [It’s] just always a party.

When you go somewhere, some place, there’s five guys here, five guys here. Everyone’s just hanging out having a great time.

You know, we’re done early. We’re only playing a half an hour, which is awesome because we’ve really done headliners so many times, pretty much every tour we’ve done with the exception of a few since I’ve been in the band…we’ve headlined. It’s been a breath of fresh air.

I mean I know the fans want to see us do a full set, and we’ll be back and doing one. But not doing a headliner is just great [for a change].

A lot of reasons why this tour was the best, it’s a different tour for us, especially crowd-wise. I mean our fans are coming out, and I thank them for that because they know we’re not going to play a full set. And they’re still coming out. Hopefully, we can turn them on to some of the other bands on here.

But just overall, this tour has been incredible. Like I said, it’s the best tour that I ever did for me personally. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had.

APESHIT: So you would do it again?

George: Yeah, I hope we can do it again sometime. I hope that the next time we do it the line-up is equally as cool as far as the bands. MACHINE HEAD came out for a few shows–four or five shows–and they were awesome guys, good band. They just sort of just came right in. It’s weird because we were out [on tour already] for so long that we’re all like a family, like I said. MACHINE HEAD came right in and bam, it was just like, “Why weren’t they on this thing the whole way through?” Because we would love to have them here.

It’s been great. Best I ever did. Most fun, happiest time.

APESHIT: Have you guys been offered to play Ozzfest?

George: I think a few years ago there was an offer. I don’t remember why we didn’t do it. That’s a tour that on an even bigger scale than this.

This tour is big to us, to me, because we’re used to doing four or five bands and we’re the headliner. It’s not even on a big scale at all. It’s just one club, you see ten other guys in the other bands, and three or four other guys for the crew and that’s it. Here, there’s hundreds of people.

And Ozzfest is probably in the two, three hundreds of people just everywhere. Ozzfest…the possibility was there but it just didn’t happen. If we were going to wait for a festival, I’m glad we waited for this one ‘cause like I said, this has been awesome.

APESHIT: Now the band CANNIBAL CORPSE is such an institution in metal. You guys can go anywhere around the world and play shows, and a lot of people in your position could say, “You know what? Let’s live off the name. Fuck the music. Let’s just put out whatever and keep touring and making money.” What has kept you guys motivated for so long to continue to give it your all?

George: We love the music, you know? We listen to the bands, death metal bands. We listen to metal in general. This band, AEON, from Sweden (points to his shirt) is one example of an awesome that we’re all listening to right now. So we’re not sitting around reveling in our own glory. We’re actually fans of this music. We love this music.

Yeah, we could write a bunch of garbage and put it out. But eventually, that could not sustain us. There’s no way.

We may have some kids that are just going to be here for five years. Pick them up and have drop them off. But we’ve had a fanbase for almost 20 years. Yeah, I’m sure some people have dropped in and out of it. But for the most part, it’s been consistent. And we do pick up newer people, probably kid’s brothers, friends, etc. My brother is younger than me but I was listening to stuff and he was listening to it because of me. I think that’s what kind of happening.

But I think we’ve had a consistent fanbase because I don’t think we put out albums [that suck]…even if people aren’t enthusiastic about a certain album, I think they realize that the effort is there and the heart is still there. Maybe they don’t like the songs as much as on album like Tomb of the Mutilated or Kill, let’s say. That’s always going to happen with any band.

We have ten albums out so there’s a lot of different music. I think every album stands on its own. Some are liked more than others. Some are revered almost, you know? Tomb of the Mutilated is seen as a big time classic. The Bleeding even, you know? So people are going to come in and out. But we’ve had a consistent fanbase so we’re not going to turn our back on them.

We’re death metal fans. We are just metal fans in general and that’s what inspires us to keep playing. We love the music. It’s the best music in the world. Our fans have been so great to us that we would never put out an album thats just slopped [together] so we can make a few extra dollars.

I think metalheads are lot smarter than the world gives them credit for. I think they can smell out a rat in a second if we put out some junk.

I’m sure there’s kids that think that all of our albums are junk but I’m hoping that they have at least the brain to know that, “Hey man, they still care about writing it. I just don’t like the songs as much.” That happens.

APESHIT: Now some of those longtime fans or followers must have scratched their heads a little with the new album cover. For Kill, you decided not to use Vincent Locke’s artwork and just go for a more direct approach. What made you guys make that decision?

George: We had Vince draw the [gory] guy, and we liked it. It’s Vince’s art. And we were going to use it for the cover but we were like, “You know what? Let’s mix it up man.” Rob’s back in the band. It’s kind of a new era in the band because Jack was an original member. And let’s just try something different. We’ve always had gory covers and it’s not like we won’t ever have them again. It’s just something different, a new start. No other reason really to do it.

I think we’ve been in every record store. I’ve seen us in different record stores regardless of the cover or anything. I don’t think the covers matter as far as being brutal. Yeah, I’m sure it hurts us a little in the bigger chains. It was just like, “Let’s just try something different.” We’ve made nine, ten brutal looking album covers so let’s just try this.

Not that I don’t like the [gory] man…I think they call him “Broccoli Man” just cause he’s got the greens coming out of him. Some kids are like, “Sign my Broccoli Man poster.” It looks cool. He’s sinister looking. We just wanted to use something else. We weren’t going to have a super gory cover. Let’s just strip it down.

I like the cover. I think it says it all, “Kill.” [It’s] as sick as it can be. The logo’s there. It’s just right to the point.

APESHIT: It’s always fun to pull out the CANNIBAL albums in the record store shelves and put them right out in the front.

George: Yeah, I do that too. (Laughs.) Usually, Mariah Carey is in front of us. I put us in front of her! (Laughs.)

APESHIT: Throughout your history, you guys have received a lot of criticism from people like Bob Dole to just conservative Christian groups. You’re always faced with this pressure to censor yourselves. How you feel about receiving this pressure from outsiders?

George: Fuck them. We don’t care. (Laughs.) Really, we don’t. We’re metalheads.

It’s not that we like stuff just to piss people off. The music is brutal. The name is brutal, CANNIBAL CORPSE. The lyrics follow suit.

I think some of these guys think that every song that we write is disgusting and that’s not the case obviously. I think that some of our songs while still to those guys are overtop aren’t as harsh as other bands.

We have songs like “Skull Full of Maggots,” “Dismember Molested,” “Hammer Smashed Face,” and “Decency Defied.” I think these guys go by just the titles. They don’t even listen to us. Strip the titles away, take the lyrics away and just listen to the voice like an instrument. Forget about what I’m saying and just listen to the music. It’d still go over their heads. They would swear that we are singing about Satan if they didn’t know the lyrics. If they didn’t have those song titles to go by, they would find something else or they try to in our music.

Yeah, we sing about people dying and people killing people in a fictional setting. Some of those could actually happen. But some are about zombies and other unworldly creatures fucking people up. It’s not all about some serial killers and whatnot. Most of that was The Bleeding and [former vocalist] Chris [Barnes]’ lyrics, not that that’s bad. I mean there are serial killers out there and there is war out there and people are really dying.

We’re just a band. I think if these guys realize that we’re just not writing the songs to sell records. I don’t think that’s why we sell records. I think people come to see us live and they see the heart and the passion that we put in to what we do.

Some people think our lyrics are silly and ridiculous. We take them seriously to the point of how they’re written. “Ok yeah, cut her fuckin head off.” We don’t think of it that way. We’re not sitting around a table jerking off to stuff like this. We come up with song titles and come up with lyrics that fit those titles. The music is the real power behind it all if you ask me. The voice is just almost like another instrument.

We have no message and these guys think we do. They think we try to invent ways to make us sell. Well if that’s what you think we’re doing, then stop talking about us and then you won’t have us in the news.

And know you what? We’re still going to sell records cause kids still like the band because we’re dedicated to them and we’re dedicated to the music. That’s what these fools can’t understand. It’s just a love of music.

Maybe there are some kids crazy enough to do things inspired by our band’s lyrics or another band’s lyrics but I think there are other problems under that. I don’t think listening to us incites all those feelings. I think they’re already there. But maybe listening to us adds to the fire. I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist. I don’t get into whackos’ minds. But we don’t condone anything that’s happened. They’re just songs and if these guys would realize that, they’d be better off.

Bob Dole was campaigning (for President) so of course we were the token white band in his racist agenda. The whole thing he was talking about was all rap bands. I think we were the only band with white people in it that he put on his list of bands that are bad. We were the token band so he doesn’t look like a total racist. Well you are! If he really thinks we’re bad then obviously he really has no clue. As far as I remember he had admitted that he never even heard us as most of the bands [on his list]. He’s got people looking out for this stuff. They’re not smart enough to go out looking for this music. Cause if he would’ve known it, there are other bands singing about stuff that’s just as “bad” as ours. He would’ve found the whole genre of death metal and said, “Wait.” People on the outside would say, “There’s something fucked up with these people.” If you would’ve looked at the whole genre, he would’ve found a bunch of bands, you know. Instead, he just put us in because we’re the biggest band, or the most recognizable one.

So we don’t worry about what those guys think. We do what we do. If they have a problem with us, put us out on the news again. You’re not hurting us by not doing that. You’re hurting us through a bunch of housewives without a clue. With the internet nowadays man, any mother that sees an article about “CANNIBAL CORPSE – Kill” can research it. She can find a bunch of interviews like this one or others and realize that we’re not really whacko. We’re just guys in a band. And we figure with our lyrics not being political or religious are just a horror movie.

I’d just like to say one more thing about that. If we have sang all these horrible lyrics and written all of these songs that have inspired all these killers, where are they at? Where are all the interviews with saying that CANNIBAL CORPSE made them kill? There are things happening in this world because of religious reasons and money reasons more than musical reasons so they’re just against us so they can get some votes or get back in the limelight for whatever reason. They got their own agenda. It has nothing to do with protecting kids. Talk to the kids that they want to protect. Talk to them and see what they think. Get in their minds. Talk to them. And talk to them like they’re not stupid because when talk down to kids, they just view you as someone coming down on them. Just talk to them. Get 500-600 kids and do your little speeches then. But don’t preach to them. Ask them questions, almost like a survey. Talk to the people that listen to this music, not just us, all the bands in this. And you’ll find out that yeah, there some kids that are wild and parties too much but who hasn’t at that age?

That kind of stuff really gets to me because I just think the politicians really think they’re doing what’s best for everyone but you can’t do what’s best for everyone if you’re not listening to them. The kids are the future so you should be talking to them.

You’re not going to be here forever, Bob Dole. You’re an old man. If you don’t know what they’re about, how can you judge them? We’re guys in a band. We’re just people. You’re talking about us like we’re the fictional characters that we sing about, that we’re demons sent from hell. We’re dudes. We all go to the bathroom, take a shower, eat, we have families and things. If you really want to know what’s going on inside kid’s minds or the bands’ minds, talk to them. Don’t just sit there and talk to the grown ups about how bad we are because it just shows people what you are. You’re just trying to get votes. It’s not about helping anybody.

APESHIT: CANNIBAL CORPSE is such a legendary band…you could say the “face” of death metal. There are people in the industry that know you and say, “George is such a cool guy. He’s so down to earth.” How do you guys keep your egos down to earth, because it must be easy to get a little off the tracks?

George: I guess it could be [hard] for some bands. I’ve heard stories about bands that used to be cool and when the get big they begin to forget people who used to be their friends. But it’s a two-way street as well. If we were really successful to the point of making millions of dollars, I know a lot of people that would come out of the woodwork that I used to know [or that] I used to talk to a lot on a regular basis. “Hey! How’s it going?” Every one of them would want something.

I have friends that are still my friends that I talk to all the time. [They] are my friends through thick and thin and whatnot. They won’t be the ones wanting money or anything. It’s almost like someone winning the lottery. When you win the lottery, you’ll have more friends than you ever did, not real friends. So it’s a two-way street. As far as the bands could say, “Well, I have to be more reserved now because I have so many people wanting my attention. And I have to be careful because they want something out of me because I’m successful.

Still, the fans of this music, which we are all, are not there for any other reason than but they want an autograph; they want to talk to you. They look up to you because they love your music because it’s a big deal to them.

I remember meeting guys in bands and still like we did those shows with MACHINE HEAD. It was like, “Wow.” I remember seeing VIO-LENCE, Rob (Flynn) and Phil (Dummel), in ’87-88. I’m from Maryland and I saw them in Maryland and they were like, “Yeah, we remember that show!” It was like, “Wow, that was a big deal for me.” So that’s a big deal to me, me being a fan because that’s what we are. When I first wanted to be in a band, I just wanted to be in a band just to play music. And I’m still a fan. If you look, I have tons of CDs.

I think that the people have egos for whatever reason, I don’t know. We haven’t met very many of them. I know that are bands that are cool as far as people within the industry and are not so nice to the fans or aren’t as outgoing.

I don’t want to say it’s prevalent but it does happen with egos and whatnot. We’ve been very fortunate. We haven’t experienced that really. The death metal, black metal, extreme metal community is very close. We know all the bands. They know us. And everyone realizes why they’re here…because they love to play music so they don’t think they’re above anyone. There are guys in death metal like that (egotistical). I could name names but I won’t. They know who they are and it’s wrong.

We’re not here if it’s not for the fans. Yeah, we’re here because we love to be here but we can’t be doing tours if no one shows up. Who’s going to want to bring us? They could bring us for peanuts and then we’d have to end up making more money doing a normal job. We won’t be able to tour because we can’t afford our houses or whatnot. I have a daughter and another kid on the way so I have bills as far as all that. We wouldn’t be able to afford anything if we weren’t touring all the time. And we wouldn’t be touring all the time if we were dicks to the fans.

People are respectful but sometimes it’s crazy. I remember when we played in Poland, it was the first time that I’ve been to Poland. And I just got bum rushed by all these people. I had to get the security guards because they had me up against the wall and they were crushing me.

People just don’t understand that when you’re talking about arrogance in music, I think that some of the bands that are arrogant just walk away from a kid who wants an autograph. I hate walking away. If we have to leave and the bus calls at a certain time and there’s still more kids, I’m signing my name as crappily as I can just to get it on there because I don’t want leave kids behind without getting something signed. But sometimes there are guys who sign five things and “Bye. I’m not signing anymore.” And that’s bullshit. Every one of the autographs that you didn’t sign are the ones that are there for you. They’re the ones putting money in your pocket. You can be a fan all you want but you’re still making money in this business. You should be there for the people who put you there. That’s the fans, period. Everyone wants to know why CANNIBAL is what they are and it’s because of the fans. Yeah, we work hard, especially the other guys in the band more than me because they bust their ass writing all the music and stuff. We bust our ass live and we’re always fan friendly. Still, as much as we know that we work hard, the kids still got to come there. It’s a two-way street. We hopefully kick their ass live and they come to the shows and buy our albums so it’s a mutual thing. They’re the reason we’re here. They’re the reason why we’re successful. We appreciate that.

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