Cattle Decaptitation - Karma's A Bitch

By Joe Who?

"The World Is A Shithole, Full Of Shitty Little Scumbags, Who Are Scared Shitless"... This public service announcement has been brought to you by Captin Clarence O'Connell, from the classic eighties comedy "Armed And Dangerous". Within seconds of this statement being announced, the question is asked - "Do you think he's a little anal?" The immediate response back was - "I think he's right". Apparently San Diego California's vegan-gore-grinders Cattle Decapitation share the same sentiments... As a matter of fact, they've been condemning humanity for a decade now!

While it's true that the band hasn't exactly been known to respond in kind over the flagrant disregard of issues they deem as unacceptable, the harsh reality is we're far from a perfect world. Taking this into account, they've been notorious for exploiting our faults by making us aware of problems through their points of view, though not necessarily capitalizing on them for their own personal gain. Rather, they try to challenge us all to turn things around by looking at the big picture.

Continuing on along these lines comes their latest release entitled - "Karma Bloody Karma". As usual the band maintains their militant vegan views, but they also bring up the interesting topic of taking life for granted, illustrated through their dark perspective. The album's relentless attack on humans, and its depressing outlook of the world in general, makes you wonder... Will this be our downfall? Time will tell.

I recently spoke with vocalist Travis Ryan in Chicago, right before I saw Cattle Decap's brutal performance opening up for Daughters and The Locust. Here's our conversation, where he shared his observations, obstacles, objectives and a lot more...

Wormwood Chronicles: I understand Cattle Decapitation has been on the scene for ten years now. Did you ever think you'd still be going strong to this day?

Travis Ryan: Ten years... I don't know, man. There was a brief period in the very begining where we didn't think there would even be any years. At first we thought it was just going to be a fuck around band. Then around 2002 we knew we were in it for good, like, when we signed with Metal Blade.

WC: What was it about death metal that made you gravitate towards it?

TR: Well, I always wanted to hear the next most extreme thing. When I first heard "Master Of Puppets", I was like, Fuck! Then I wanted to hear something even more brutal, you know?... there was Slayer and Death, and shit like that. So that's pretty much how I got into it.

WC: So where does all this hatred for mankind derive from on "Karma Bloody Karma"? I mean, it's been in your music before, but, it really comes through loud and clear on this one.

TR: (Laughs) Well, I just wanted to get that out of the way, you know, get it out in the air. I kind of blew my load as far as that shit is concerned on this record. I can't really get any more explictly hateful towards humans period, than on this record. I'm thinking about maybe going back to the gore shit, I don't know, (Laughs) We'll see. "Karma Bloody Karma" was the record I've been wanting to write for a long time. I don't know, I guess it goes along with the whole theme of the band, you know? It was like a be all, end all kind of record, at least lyrically I thought. So I don't know what the fuck I'm gonna do from here on out. (Laughs)

WC: I hear black metal in your sound on this album. Was this element brought into sound as just simply an influence? Or was it something that you thought would make Cattle Decapitation more unique?

TR: We never really thought about it. It's not like - Oh, let's do a black metal part. To tell you the truth, I'm not really there for a lot of the song writing. They bring me tapes or I'll come in later after they've been working shit out and we talk about stuff. We've all been into black metal for a long time. I kind of stopped listening to metal almost all together, except for a lot of black metal. There's not much death metal I give a shit about anymore except for the old stuff. I definitely don't like the new wave of bands, (Laughs) But, I know we didn't make a conscious effort to do that. We just wanted to spice things up.

WC: Do you ever feel that the brutal aspect of your sound draws more interest which in turn overshadows what you're trying to get across with your lyrics?

TR: Um, no. I think they work totally hand and hand being together or else the lyrics wouldn't really be that brutal. They're just like two peas in a pod, you know...

WC: They're cohesive...

TR: Yeah, yeah, they work together really well. It started out we just wanted to do the most brutal thing possible. We were trying to do brutal death metal back in the day with the first two records, but it just came across as grind, I don't know, it's weird. So the last few records have been more of what we were trying to do all along.

WC: You guys have very disturbing imagery and lyrics. Is your goal to point out the negatives in order for us all to think about how we can find the positives?

TR: Pretty much. The whole politics behind the band stems from the stuff that we were brought up on like: Napalm Death, Anthrax, Megadeth, all that kind of shit, you know? Lyrically I always liked those kind of bands more than like say the satanic ones...

WC: Yeah, I know what your saying. It gets kind of old sometimes...

TR: Yeah. I mean, death metal has always been stark, really dark lyrics and everything. I don't wanna say I'm doing it perfectly, but, I think it's a good mix of politics, gore, and the death metal persona, or whatever.

WC: Now on the flip side of the coin on that last question... Is that easy to pull off? Or do people think you're being too preachy?

TR: Well, people think that automatically just because we're vegetarians. A lot of people think we're hardcore - vegan - nazi - straight edge dudes, but we're not at all. It's just our lyrical stand point and I don't really see anyone else doing it. It's just something to do... it's our thing ,I guess.

WC: What's the concept with the latest cover? Any meaning behind it? Why does the cow have a different knife in each hand?

TR: That didn't really have any significance... there's no religious significance in it, either. You could totally draw religious significance from it, but that was not the purpose at all. It's just using that kind of imagery against people, kind of like the same way that guy does the Borat character, you know what I mean? Just like using our ignorance, or what we don't know about eastern european countries, (Chuckles) and using Americans ignorance against its self and making a whole new medium out of it. It's just an album about revenge... in essence, that's all it is.

WC: Speaking of album covers, I read your last album "Humanure" was banned because of the artwork and wasn't available in a lot of stores. In hindsight, do you think you should've had a different cover before it was censored?

TR: Well, the thing was, when we were fuckin' around with that cover, with the idea and everything, I actually had a whole different idea in mind, but it wasn't Benscoter's style. Wes Benscoter and us have a really good relationship because I keep his personal opinion in just as much of regard as he does ours. So it's almost like he could tell us what to do, just as much as we can tell him what to do... and if he dosen't like the idea, he'll fuckin' abandon it. I mean, he'll do it, but he really dosen't want to and you're not gonna get a good album cover out of him if he dosen't want to do it, you know what I mean? So I respect his opinion immensely and he's fuckin' right everytime.

With the cover we had going, he was like - "Yeah, that's not gonna make a good t-shirt." It's not like, Oh, we're just out to make albums to sell product, it's not like that at all. It's just a good way to decide on if it's gonna be a good album cover... Would it look good on a t-shirt? He always looks at it from that point of view and it's a good way to get kick ass album covers.

That one ("Humanure"...) was classic. What else can you really do with a name like that? It was perfect, and when you hit something that's perfect, you really shouldn't fuck with it, but they had problems getting it into all sorts of stores. So they changed the cover, and we didn't really give a shit at that point. As long as it existed in one form or another. I mean, there's almost ten thousand copies of them out there anyway, that's a shit load. It's still pretty easy to find. We have the last few copies actually.

WC: I've noticed that since you guys signed with Metal Blade, you've worked with a different producer on each one of your releases. Why is that? Do you guys consider yourselves perfectionists in the studio? Because you're always credited as being the "co-producers".

TR: Yeah, that's the thing, we've never been able to get our sound, and I think even up until the last record, we were searching for what our sound was, you know what I mean? Let alone a producer that can fuckin' bring that out. Billy Anderson ("Karma Bloody Karma producer...) is known everywhere for being able to bring out a band's sound, their true essence... their live persona, and that kind of shit.

We definitely couldn't go back to Bill Metoyer, ("Humanure" producer...) because I think he's a very "classic" sounding guy, and we hated the first one (on Metal Blade...) "To Serve Man" was just shit! "Homovore" and "Human Jerky", those were glorified demos, you know what I mean? So we're not gonna do that. Billy Anderson was always on our list and he'll probably be the one that we go to next time, because we got what we wanted with "Karma Bloody Karma". There's a couple of things that we could change for sure, but that's always gonna happen, you know?

WC: "Karma Bloody Karma" is the title of your latest album. I wanted to get a little more insight from you on the general theme of the album. You mentioned revenge earlier... What I also got out of it was - man is killing man, and karma will haunt us until we mend our ways. Is that a correct assessment? Or am I way off?

TR: Yeah, that's pretty much it. It's about revenge from either earth or ourselves by digging our own graves. There's a song about landfills... we're taking up too much space on the earth and destroying everything. Life can't sustain this for long. It may be a catastrophe brought on by mother earth or it'll probably be more than likely our own nuclear war. I think that will be the eventual death of us, but we'll see what happens, I guess.

WC: Which songs on this album have good energy in the "live" environment, rather than in the studio do you think?

TR: "Karma Bloody Karma" is a good one and the first two we play live - "Unintelligent Design", and "Success Is... (Hanging By The Neck)". I think they came across really well on the album, but live it's more of a force, you know? Plus we link 'em together just like we do on the album. So it's like the first eight minutes of the set, we don't talk and there's no break, which is kinda cool. It was set up nicely for a good live scenario.

WC: How do you see the band envolving in the future?

TR: I don't know about lyrics... lyrically, I have no idea. Musically it's gonna get just weirder probably. I mean, we know we have to maintain a certain level of brutality for it even to remain the same band, but the new album has all sorts of different flavors in it. We'll probably explore more shit like that. I mean, we'd love to do a fuckin' ambient album,or a doom album, or a fuckin' country album. We'd love to just explore everything...

WC: Wow, a country / death metal album, now that would be interesting!

TR: (Laughs) Yeah, who knows how far we'll go?

WC: Looking back on this album years from now, How do you think it will be remembered?

TR: Um, it'll probably be our "Master Of Puppets". (Laughs) Definetely our best one. That's the way I would put it. I just hope that we never have a "Black Album". (Laughs)

WC: It's been well documented that you guys protest the meat industry. I was wondering, have you converted a lot of your fans over to being vegetarians?

TR: Yes, a surprising amount actually, because of the lyrics and everything. See ,we've never preached, it's like the lyrics do that themselves, you know? Plus nobody wants to be told what to do. So the best means is just through simple suggestion.

I get pissed when I see people like stupid Blabbermouth posters, or whatever, saying shit like - I don't need these vegan asshole fags shoving this shit down my throat. We never once preached anything, you know? There's a few little things in the lyrics that are very blatant, but the blatancy is usually for pure comedic value... for me, at least. I always thought old punk lyrics were so stupid because, it was just like - "Fuck the government", you know what I mean? There's no substance there, there's no thought, or art really at all.

WC: Are you currently involved with any new organizations that you'd like to make people aware of?

TR: Not necessarily... Well, actually, we might do one or two benefit compilations. The other guys wanted to look for more animal rights oriented groups, and I suggested these organizations that help prevent horses from being put to sleep because,they broke a leg at the race tracks and shit like that. I mean, in one week at a San Diego race track alone, it's something like five horses in seven days that they put to sleep. That's fuckin' ridiculous, there is no reason for that. Just anything that deals with the human involvement of the earth, ecology, or animals... we stand behind anything that breaks those chains.

WC: This might be kind of a silly question, but, anyway... I've seen you guys live before, and I notice you have a very unorthodox vocal technique. When you sing live, you're always sticking your tongue out! Would you care to explain your unusual approach?

TR: Um, well, I think some people think that I do it just for looks, but it's totally functional. It's like this air pocket that I somehow create in my mouth that allows me to hit these really ridiculous highs. They're kind of like ghost highs that don't really exist. It's working off the amplification and actually the highs that are on the EQ and stuff, you know?

It's just this little thing I developed from playing live because, in the studio I never did that stuff until like the last album or something... about four years ago is when I started doing it. I also try to emulate that old Carcass sound of highs and lows together. It actually developed from trying to do that. (Chuckles) But it ended up being a totally different purpose and sound.

WC: Do you ever have people come up to you and ask - Hey, when you perform live, Is that a cow tongue?!

TR: Yeah, or Is that an inward technique? It's like shut up! That shit dosen't work. Doing that inward thing creates one sound, that's it. You can't do anything with it. That's stupid!

WC: Do you have any strange rituals or habits that you go through to prepare for a show?

TR: No, nothing... I just smoke weed! I probably should be doing something, but I've never gone to a vocal coach or anything like that. I think it's dumb that they even exist for this kind of music, but then again who knows, it all comes down to breathing. When I first started doing these kind of vocals, I would lose my voice because I was straining. Then I realized on my own from years of doing it, that that was the problem. Now I can go three months, and I won't lose my voice even once, because I'm not straining and I developed other techniques, you know? It's mainly just practice, practice makes perfect, that's the best way to do it.

WC: Do you have any Spinal Tap moments, or crazy road stories you could share from any tours you've done past or present?

TR: Dude, we are "Spinal Tap"! We had a fuckin' t-shirt on our last tour... it was the "Spinal Tap" logo, and it said - "This Is Cattle Decap", instead of "Spinal Tap"...

WC: (Laughing) That's awesome!

TR: I think people made way too big of a deal about it, because we were having drummer issues and had to get fill ins, you know... that kind of stuff. Which leads me to the real "Spinal Tap" moment when we had to take this eighteen year old fuckin' doofus (J.R. Daniels...) on tour with us last year. It just did not work out at all... it sucked! I have nothing but bad shit to say about that mother fucker! (Laughs)

WC: So how did your previous drummer Mike Laughlin get back into the fold?

TR: Well, the main reason he originally left the band was because he was in a lot of debt from his old band moving from Pennsylvania to San Francisco and then they moved back... he was in school, shit like that. Then he got this kick ass job and started making like,thirty five bucks an hour or something crazy... he made a lot of money. So he was able to pay a lot of that shit off. He just needed a break and that helped him out. Pretty much in the swing of things now, there's still no money to be made! (Laughs)

WC: What are your plans for the months ahead? Are you thinking about the next album? Or is it too early?

TR: We're half way through the tour cycle right now. We're going to Europe next month with Dying Fetus and Skinless. Then we're coming back and doing the States on the "Summer Slaughter Tour", so we're kinda busy. We're also planning on going back out sometime in August / September.

In the meantime, I know the guys are writing riffs. I've been trying to come up with an album concept and title... I've had a few working titles for the past couple of albums. "Karma Bloody Karma" came about as a fluke, it was an accident that was kind of a last minute decision, but it actually worked out way better than our other idea. So we're probably gonna go back to this other idea that we had for the last record, but it just didn't materialize. We'll probably start writing more songs right away once we finish touring, you know?

WC: Sounds good. Thank you so much for your time Travis. Do you have any final words for your fans out there?

TR: Come on out and see us. Wherever it is you're from, we'll probably be there really soon. (Laughs) We're going to be touring like fuckin' crazy!

Cattle Decapitation's Official Website