Interview With Pat O’Brien Of Cannibal Corpse
1 April 2012
This interview was actually done at the end of January, but due to some technical issues with the recording there’s been a bit of a delay. So apologies that a couple of the questions are now out of date but we hope that you enjoy it regardless.
MetalTalk.net: Hey Pat, thanks for taking the time to speak to MetalTalk. How is the new album coming along?
Pat O’Brien: Well, it’s all finished and now we’re starting to get it out there and so far that hasn’t been anything too negative about it, which is pretty good
MT: You released ‘Demented Aggression’ on Soundcloud yesterday. What kind of feedback are you getting from the fans?
Pat: So far it’s all been pretty positive, yeah. I mean, there’s always these people who go on and criticize but I would say it’s been 90% positive
MT: ‘Torture’ is going to be the twelfth Cannibal Corpse album, what can we expect from it? Will there be any surprises for long running fans?
Pat: It’s a little more diverse, I think. We did some different things on there that we haven’t normally done. It’s still Cannibal Corpse, it’s still very much a Cannibal Corpse album. I think this album is more focussed on songwriting than anything. It might be a little less technical than some of the other stuff we’ve done. I’m not saying it’s a simple album by any means, but it’s definitely got a lot of good songs on it. All the songs sound different from each other, it’s a good album.
MT: You recorded ‘Torture’ in a studio in the middle of nowhere, outside El Paso. Did that have any effect on the album?
Pat: Yeah it did, I mean, they have different gear out there [like] microphones and stuff at their disposal as far as equipment goes. What we wanted to do was, we wanted to be out there to get the bulk of work done, to get the bass, the rhythm guitars and drums done, we didn’t want to have to drive an hour to the studio then drive an hour back again, we wanted to wake up and be right there at the studio. So it definitely had an effect, we were able to get some different sounds that we’d never been able to get [before].
MT: This is the third album with the same band line up, the longest stable line-up since ‘Tomb Of The Mutilated’ back in 1992. How are the band getting along?
Pat: There’s always gonna be times were you don’t get along with somebody here and there but for the most part we get along. I mean, we’ve been together this long so… [laughs] Nobody’s perfect and we all have our arguments here and there but we definitely get along, for the most part [laughs]. You gotta remember, it’s a business its like anything else, you’re gonna argue about certain things. I didn’t even think about how long the line-up’s been, we’ve been with this line up for a while now, I didn’t even think about that. Interesting.
MT: Yeah, this line-up started all the way back with ‘Kill’.
Pat: Yeah, me and Rob [Barrett – rhythm guitar] contributed more songs to this album so I think it makes it a little more different to ‘Evisceration Plague’.
MT: Cannibal Corpse have dealt with a fair bit of controversy and bans over the years. Do you still encounter problems about the content and artwork?
Pat: We haven’t really had any [problems] lately, it seems like a thing of the past. There was a certain section of Germany they called The Barrier, where there were a couple of minor little issues. The lady that started all that bullshit over in Germany, well, she’s back. There was something that came up where we weren’t allowed to play certain songs in certain parts of Germany but I think for the most part it’s gone away.
MT: Cannibal Corpse has endured for 23 years now, against all the odds and maintains quite a large fanbase for a Death Metal band. What do you think keeps people listening to you?
Pat: I think its probably consistency. We never quit, even though we go away for long periods of time and I think it’s songwriting really. I think we write songs that people can get into more easily.
MT: How does a Cannibal Corpse song come into being?
Pat: Usually, we get the music together. Whoever writes the song, whether its me, Alex [Webster – bass], Paul [Mazurkiewicz – drums] or Rob, we write a song and once we have the music, we have a long list of names for potential song titles. Pretty ridiculous really, if you’ve seen some of the titles. So we have this list of titles that we’ve thought of over a period of time, and then we have an old drum head with like, the arrangements of 1, 2, 3 written on the drum head. Then whoever wrote the song will figure out what they think the song should be called and when we eventually hit the title, then it finally makes it on the drum head. That’s how we get the title of the song then we just go from that.
MT: That was something I was wondering, where do the song titles come from? Looking through the tracklist for the new album, you guys aren’t pulling any punches this time.
Pat: We got some good ones on this [album]. A lot of it actually comes from stuff like the news, stuff like that. Reading all that fucked up shit in the news, y’know.
MT: I did actually laugh when I got to titles like ‘As Deep As The Knife Will Go’ and ‘Followed Home Then Killed’.
Pat: Yeah, actually Paul came up both of those. I wrote both the songs, the music but Paul actually came up with titles and the lyrics. I think we’ve got some good titles on this one, some classic Cannibal Corpse style titles.
MT: What are you playing these days?
Pat: B.C Rich, Flying V’s. Yeah, I got endorsed with B.C Rich and I’m getting them to make me some more pretty soon. But yeah, just the same ones I’ve been using for years, B.C Rich Flying V’s with EMG pickups. We’ve been using the same gear for a long time, I just haven’t found anything that I really wanted to change to or go to. I see a lot of guys who go through amps or are always changing guitars and getting new amps, trying this and that. I dunno, I think we’ve found what works for us.
MT: What is your favourite CC song to play live?
Pat: Oh, thats a tough one [laughs]. I don’t even know, I couldn’t really answer that. There’s so many of them I like playing, it really depends on my mood.
MT: I’ve watched a lot of videos of you playing live and my favourite one that I always go back to is the studio video of you playing ‘Frantic Disembowelment’.
Pat: Yeah, we’ve tried doing that one live, but it never seems to work out. We’ve played that one live only once. It’s a bit of a long story. A lot of what I write tends to be more technical. At the time we had Jack Owen [former lead guitarist] in the band and I could tell he wasn’t a damn bit interested in learning how to play it, so I didn’t bother showing it to him. When he quit the band we had another guitar player Jeremy come in and I showed it to him but he wasn’t becoming a permanent member and then Rob came in the band and things got busy after that and we focussed on other things. So it kind of just got away from that song.
MT: Being the intense band Cannibal Corpse are, how do you chill out when you are on tour or recording?
Pat: Ah, well, I use alcohol [laughs], which is not really a good thing to do. I probably use it more than I should, drinking I mean. Nah, but, we’re all really chilled out people. When you get done playing a show it can get kinda hard to settle down and mellow out or even get to sleep. It’s not really that much of a problem, the intensity doesn’t stay around us all the time, it’s just when we’re playing a show.
MT: What are you listening to at the minute?
Pat: There’s not really anything I’m particularly listening to at the minute, I could tell you what CD I’ve got in my car at the minute but it might be a bit controversial…
MT: Go on then, tell us…
Pat: I’ve been listening to a band called The Meat Shits [laughs]. And the title of the CD is ‘Sniper At The Fag Parade’ [laughs again]. Its pretty grind core shit [laughs].
MT: In terms of touring, so far you’re booked for the Full Of Hate tour with Behemoth. How is the live show shaping up this time round?
Pat: We were able to play some shows down in South America, we were down there with Suicide Silence and The Black Dahlia Murder, so we were able to get back into the groove of it before we went back out on tour. It’s not like its going to be our first show going out on these tours, we got to break the ice a little bit. The first shows felt a bit weird ‘cos we haven’t played out in over a year but it was pretty cool. We’re pretty much ready though.
MT: Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road?
Pat: Yes. Yes, I very much am. It keeps me out of trouble, keeps me doing the right thing.
MT: What was it like playing with Slayer last year when Jeff Hanneman was taken ill?
Pat: It was fucking intense. It was very hard. It was a very hard task, I had a week and a half to learn all the songs before going to play them live. I didn’t get very much notice when I got the final word to say OK, they want me to do it. Y’know, like “holy shit, OK”. It was basically non-stop learning and playing guitar, working through the parts with Gary Holt, came in, they had a week of shows. I was staying on the side of the stage watching them play. All the guys in the band were really really cool. It was a great experience, it’s all I can say, it was awesome. They’re one of my favourite bands and what an awesome band to say you played for, I’m very proud to say I’ve done that. Being given the opportunity, it was amazing.
MT: For someone who may not have heard CC before, which song or album would you recommend that they listen to first?
Pat: Oh boy, um, I would say if I had to give anyone a CD and just say “here, check this out”, I would probably give them ‘Kill’. That album seemed to be a good turning point for us as a band. Yeah, out of all our CDs, if I had to give someone who knew jack-shit about Cannibal Corpse an album, I would give them ‘Kill’. And probably the new one. Or just give them all of them. They’ve all got their good points and they all got their low points. There’s always something that I love about one and there might be certain things I don’t like about other ones. And it all depends on my mood and what side of the bed I wake up on. But if I had to give one answer it would be ‘Kill’.
Torture is out now on Metal Blade Records. Click here for Michael Downie’s album review.