“People think nobody can change the world but it’s do what you can really. A person can only do so much but every little bit helps.”
In an age where there is a fine line between world news and cinematic-engineered bloodshed, it’s difficult to promote concepts humanity will view as something more than entertainment. Especially in a niche as obscure as death metal which makes the flourishing success of Cattle Decapitation something that cannot be ignored.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Josh Elmore, famed guitarist of the world renowned death metal act, Cattle Decapitation. We discussed The Summer Slaughter tour, upcoming video releases, age restrictions on metal and the importance of cover art. Please enjoy some excerpts of our 10/30/15 interview.
David Halbe: You played Summer Slaughter for the third time over the summer, the festival featured a more diverse line-up than years past. How important is diversity to metal?
Josh Elmore: I think line-up diversity is really important to metal. But in regards to Summer Slaughter, people on whatever side of the equation, whether it be Veil of Maya, our style or Beyond Creation, people are going to give their two cents, ‘it’s ok to be diverse as long as it’s stuff I like’. You know, that kind of argument?
Dave: I do.
Josh: I think if it’s going to be true diversity, I understand having bands that offer something different stylistically but I think it should be even more mixed up. I think you should feature the key representatives, the jewels, of each micro-genre.
Dave: All offering a different contrast?
Josh: Yes! Exactly, I’m trying to think, it would be hard not to make it ‘herky-jerky’, I mean the brunt of the crowd is still blank and then you sprinkle those other bands in, I understand in a business sense, you’ve got to have some consistency but I’m thinking add some black metal bands like Marduk, Mayhem and Dark Funeral.
Dave: I understand what you mean, offer more musical diversity as far as genre.
Josh: Right, have somebody like Dimmu (Dimmu Borgir) as your headliner, somebody with a commonality. You’re not going to alienate much of a crowd with a group so well known, and maybe follow that up with a band like Suffo (Suffocation)
Dave: Now, that would be a good line-up!
Josh: Right, just pepper in those kinds of bands to cross over. Appeal to those who aren’t pure death metal or pure black metal.
Dave: I get just what you mean.
Josh: I know they’ve (Summer Slaughter) done that more in the past, the whole black metal representation, there should be more in my opinion.
Dave: Cattle Decapitation offers a ‘meaningful real world’ message in a genre where vocals are often decipherable and lyrics disregard. Do you ever feel like you are fighting an ‘uphill battle’ offering these concepts in a niche so extreme? Is there anything else the band does publicly to support its views?
Josh: It’s hard to get people to read lyrics and get into that part of a band. If somebody isn’t prone to listening to this style of music, they’re like ‘I think it’s neat what they are saying but all that screeching and blasting’.
Josh: I wouldn’t say its counter-productive but for people outside the realm it can be kind of hard to take.
Dave: What do you guys do outside the band to support your views?
Josh: Well, I’ll just mention this and I know it could be considered a small thing but Travis (Travis Ryan – Cattle Decapitation vocalist) and his wife, they live really close to a beach and they will just go out there on a Saturday and pick up garbage and stuff.
Dave: That’s very admirable. Would you say the responsibility of environmental change, lies in the hands of the individual as much as it does corporations?
Josh: Yes, I think everyone can do something but obviously large corporations create massive amounts of waste relative to the individual but there’s the cliché ‘everything starts with the individual’. People think nobody can change the world but it’s do what you can really. A person can only do so much but every little bit helps. Collectively, I don’t want to say the band together, but doing what you can individually might take the pressure off a bit.
Dave: Fans at the Toronto show were unable to attend due to age restrictions, should there be age restrictions at metal shows?
Josh: Unfortunately, there are some places that are only 21 and up, there are no sectioned off areas.
Dave: Let’s take the establishment out of the equation, do you think metal should be age restricted?
Josh: In either age or youth? No, not at all.
Dave: Hell yeah!
Josh: I’m thinking of one person in particular, when we play venues in LA there’s always this guy in his mid to late 40s who comes with his mom and their attendance was her request to him and she rocks out at the show and it’s really cool to see.
Dave: That’s kick ass!
Josh: In Europe you see a lot of older fans, it’s not like here where there is such a stereotype about it. You know that whole ‘ if you’re a certain age, you’re not supposed to be doing it’ but over there it’s still part of your lifestyle and that’s really cool to see, all ages represented so strongly.
Dave: A lot of people have told me they got into the band because they saw your amazing album cover art. How important is cover art in metal?
Josh: Not as important as it should be or it used to be, I think. Not everyone is going to have a real painting on their album cover because they don’t play a style to support that. I don’t know, I really miss that aspect of it, maybe because it’s just easier to whip something up on a computer and I’m not saying you have to use a painter or a drawing or something like that.
Dave: But visual impact is important when it comes to metal, right?
Josh: I think so. I mean, I know people don’t buy anything anymore but that’s an essential element to the release. Back in the day you’d pull it all out and go ‘Oh God!’ You’d look at all the goodies and stuff in there, read the liner notes. I remember back in grade school I knew the name of a band’s bus driver [from the liner notes].
Dave: (Laughs) Sometimes we’d hear about other bands reading those liner notes.
Josh: Yes! Exactly, you’d be like ‘I haven’t heard of them’ and you’d go down to the record store and find them or those little perforated inserts advertising new albums.
Dave: Those were the glory days of metal. There’s an advertisement video out for the song “Manufactured Extinct” and I saw the Facebook post saying you were shooting some live footage at a show in TN – when can we expect another video, what song will be featured?
Josh: That should be “Krokdil” (“Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)”) There’s a picture on our Facebook page of what appears to be an iron or metal gate with bars and that figures within the theme later.
Dave: So, this is going to be a part live and part concept video?
Josh: Yes, we don’t know the extent of how the live part and how the concept part will play into it but we’ve got this iron gate and the director shot us, mock performing the song from behind it with all this really wicked lighting and that should be interspersed with actual live footage shot later that same night so it’s going to be those two things mixed up.
Dave: Sounds interesting. When can we expect a release date?
Josh: I don’t know, it would be great if it was out when we were actually on the road but we’ve got maybe seventeen days left of this tour so it’s not really feasible. There were other factors that kind of caused things to be scheduled this way but I would guess probably by December 1st and that’s just me pulling a date out of the air, I don’t honestly know. There could be some contingency planning I’m not aware of.
Dave: Halloween is tomorrow. I was wondering if anybody in the band has ever seen a horror movie called Black Sheep made in 2006, where genetic experiments turn docile sheep into rabid carnivores. The concept reminded me of some early Cattle Decapitation album covers….
Josh: I’ve heard of it. Someone online did a mash up of that movie and one of our songs so that’s really my only exposure to it. There’s a couple of guys in the band that are huge horror fans so they’ve probably seen it or at least know what it is. I don’t watch movies, it’s not that I don’t like them, I just never have time. When we do Netflix or something as a group we typically watch a documentary.
Dave: That’s cool though.
Josh: If I do see a movie it’s a situation where we are staying with someone on tour and they’re like ‘Have you guys seen?’ and then they’ll put it on and I’ll see it. When we were recording in Denver this last time before the record came out, downtime was always movie time, that’s how I see movies, if I’m left to myself I’ll never do it. I’ll just find an alternative source of entertainment.
Dave: Thanks for your time tonight! Happy Halloween!
Josh: Thanks, you too!
Cattle Decapitation are:
- Josh Elmore – Guitars
- David McGraw – Drums
- Travis Ryan – Vocals
- Derek Engemann – Bass