Published on July 31st, 2016 | by Gareth Allen0
Cattle Decapitation Interview
Interview by Gareth Allen & Lewis Allen
Sonic Bandwagon were privileged to speak with Travis Ryan, vocalist and writer of metal band, Cattle Decapitation, from San Diego in California, before their gig at Glasgow’s Ivory Blacks. Cattle Decapitation represents extreme metal at its best, with their dynamic and intense songs, killer musicianship and social awareness. Their creative blending of Death Metal, Grindcore and Black Metal, create both on record and live, a music that truly connects emotionally with its audience, with the most ferocious and infectious rhythms.
Sonic Bandwagon: On the last album, ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’, which is just excellent; there appears to be a very edgy Black Metal musical theme, alongside the Deathgrind, and some very ambitious work on the vocals and instrumental playing. What were your ambitions for that album?
Travis: Well we did feel we had our work cut out for us, as the ‘Monolith of Inhumanity’ album was pretty well received. I don’t think we have ever thought to ourselves with an album, let’s do this or let’s do that. We still develop our writing organically. The guys get together and jam. We are all individuals, people with drastically different styles and interests that kind of clash together. It’s all about feeling and what comes naturally. Then moving onto honing things down and working things out, and now with a lot more attention paid to songwriting and album flow, which we realised for the first time was important, with the ‘Monolith’ album. This album has a real flow, with peaks and valleys, and a beginning and an end, that thematically or conceptually work. It felt more like a real album than just a bunch of songs pieced together. One of the inputs I had was to make sure we have real songs for the opening and final tracks, and that they have a particular feeling. We are paying attention to that when we don’t see many bands doing that in extreme music.
Sonic Bandwagon: We read a wonderful live review in the LA Weekly by Andy Hermann, entitled ‘Seeing Cattle Decapitation at Los Globos, Just Made Me a Deathgrind Fan’. Can you tell us about the emotional connection you feel with your audience when you are on stage?
Travis: It totally depends; it’s going to drastically differ from venue to venue and with the size of the show. With Hellfest, probably the only reason why I personally went off so hard and had such a good time, was that it was the first show of the tour. It was also our first time playing Hellfest, so we felt we had something to prove. When it’s a smaller venue… like the other night we played in Cardiff, it was a closet. It was sick. I love that intensity. That really gets me going in packed smaller venues, as long as there is a good PA! The coolest thing I have ever seen is people crying during our stuff and getting very emotional, and coming up to us after the show crying. It started with ‘Monolith’, I think there’s just more pretty parts in there that have emotion. These two ladies were at the front at the Brutal Assault festival really crying. It is just the coolest thing I have ever seen. Maybe that has something to say about my emotional instability. They came up later to talk, and I said I saw you guys and I thought it was really cool. It’s not something you associate with extreme metal. I am happy to bring that, so somebody can make that emotional connection. It’s pretty special. It’s a genuine reaction.
Sonic Bandwagon: We think the musicianship in death metal is unfortunately not always recognised. Take a track like ‘Gristle Licker’ off the ‘Monolith of Inhumanity’ album. The drumming on that is phenomenally complex and full of polyrhythms, while at the same time imbued with immense emotional power. What’s your take on the calibre of players in death metal?
Travis: When I was first heavily deep into death metal, I tried to explain it to my parents. My parents are big classical/opera fans. So I have always had a healthy appreciation of that, opera not so much…. that took time. Once I became a vocalist, I would try to explain that the level of expertise that it takes to play this music is top notch. To them it was just noise. Anyone that is a real musician will look at it, and appreciate the qualities of the musicianship. There is also a big athletic quality to it, the amount of stamina you have to have to play it.
Sonic Bandwagon: Have you a sense of where you would like to go musically and lyrically with the next album?
Travis: No fucking idea (all laugh). For the last three albums I have gone shit, what am I going to do? I used to have the album title, concepts, cover art, and the ideas, one or two albums before the next one. I know however we do it though, it works out. It’s usually an epiphany or slow building. I have had this obsession with condemning plastics. ‘Monolith’ took place on the land, so it was let’s take it to the sea with the new album. There is a lot of shit going on there, which people don’t know about.
Sonic Bandwagon: Your lyrical and artwork themes speak eloquently of your concerns about what humanity is doing to the environment, both the physical environment and the creatures that inhabit it. What do you think might help us change direction and change the world for the better?
Travis: People obviously need to stop being so concerned with themselves and with convenience. There is room for everyone on the planet. But too much is concentrated in particular areas, and with the accompanying infrastructure and resources, we are going to drive this planet into the earth.
Sonic Bandwagon: In the ‘Forced Gender Reassignment’ music video, you target homophobic views. What prompted you to do this?
Travis: I am anti-homophobic; I am anti anybody that tells you what to do… let people do what they want to do. I don’t understand any religion. When people are killing for religion it puts things into perspective. I have been saying about Christianity for years, what is your problem? Just let people be. People need to start minding their own fucking business, that’s the basis of that whole song.
Sonic Bandwagon: We get the feeling that Cattle Decapitation believe in the healing and unifying power of music and particularly metal. Would that be right?
Travis: For me, we don’t understand how that works ….I don’t know that a piece of music has got me through something. Music is part of me, it’s my life. It’s made me cry, it’s made me depressed, but it’s also done the exact opposite. I am extremely emotionally attached to music, for my entire life. Some people like sports, and mention some sports guy and what he did last week. Time stops for this person, and they will spend the rest of the night talking about it. That’s how I am with music. I will talk shit blatantly about whole genres.
Sonic Bandwagon: This European tour is massive. To keep everyone sane, what will you be listening to music wise as you travel Europe on the European Extinction Tour?
Travis: You know what’s weird. I bring my iPod every time on tour, and never hit it once. Every tour I bring it, but I don’t listen to it. I sleep a lot of the time. Josh brings his iPod and listens to a lot of low-fi Black Metal and Bluegrass, and Dave is really into a lot of modern metal. A lot of which I can’t stand, but a lot of stuff I can agree with. I tend to go back in time, when things were a lot harder. I like 70s Progressive music. Magma is my favourite band of all time. In fact talking of being emotionally attached to something, I wept profusely when I last saw them in LA. It was like my body was being squeezed. I missed them earlier on this year because we were on this European tour. They played San Diego, and I was crushed to have missed them. I am more about the pioneers; the same goes for Black Metal and Death Metal. I also think people do need to take this music elsewhere to new places.
Sonic Bandwagon: Thank you for such thoughtful answers, and particularly for how you described the emotional connection you and your audience have with your music.
Photo by Lewis Allen