GOATWHORE "Scream of the Lustful Goat"

By Dr. Abner Mality

I've been on the trail of Goatwhore for many a moon now and have finally caught up with these devilish minstrels. It wasn't easy. I almost caught up with them at Central Illinois Metalfest a few years back only to have them elude me. Just about did the same in Chicago. But always they escaped me...until I finally cornered Ben Falgoust somewhere between Hell and Houma, Louisiana and forced him to reveal the secrets of Goatwhore to me!

It's no secret that the Louisiana band has not tread an easy path with their cloven hooves. Catastrophe, death and delays have dogged their trail. Yet in 16 years, they've managed to put out some of the best evil blackened thrash ever to see the light of day and they've become one of the most reliable faces in the extreme metal scene. With their latest effort "Constricting Rage of the Merciless", they've opted for an even filthier sound than usual, a choice which we discuss in depth below.

Despite unleashing some of the most bestial antichrist roars ever heard, Ben is a friendly and well-spoken guy who uses a DJ's melodious tones in "real life". He's got plenty to say, so the interview is a lively one. Join me as we dive into the swampy world of Goatwhore...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I understand your latest album "Constricting Rage of the Merciless" was done completely on analog tape. How demanding was that to do?

BEN FALGOUST: Actually, it wasn't too demanding! Everything worked out pretty well. I think the biggest issue we had is that hopefully the studio had a tape machine. Luckily enough, producer Erik Rutan has a tape machine and has for quite some time. He's done past releases on tape, but the only thing is that it's probably been six to eight years since he's done it.  He just kind of needed to refresh before we entered the studio. There's two kind of big is the tape itself. Tape is hard to come by nowadays, of course, and I think there's just one company that makes it but it's questionable, because they haven't fully gotten the chemistry down. The other option is to find old tape that was unused or slightly used and then just cross your fingers and hope they work out.

WC: The end result is terrific. It really does have a very natural sound to it.

BF: That's exactly what we were shooting for. The digital thing...don't get me wrong, it does the trick, but it does lack in certain aspects. And because recording budgets are what they are nowadays, because there's not a lot of money, the whole idea of doing things digitally is quicker and less expensive.  You can crunch a lot of recording in a shorter span of time. But there are bands that would take the same amount of time we would use on tape and do it digitally. I'm sure if you had the right engineer in place, you could still do it. They are putting so many things on vinyl now, though, why not do the whole thing on tape? Tape and vinyl go hand in hand.

WC: Is this kind of production kind of a reaction to the previous record "Blood For the Master"? Did you think that was a bit too slick sounding?

BF: It was a combination of a lot of things. I think Sammy felt his guitar tone could be better if we recorded to would make it warmer, fuller. Sammy likes his guitars really gritty sounding, really nasty but also thick sounding. You can get that a lot better on tape. But in general, we just really wanted to do it. Sammy was like, if we can't do it to tape, then I don't want to do it at all! There were a lot of feet being put down. (chuckles)

WC: It has a real Venom-ish sound. "Baring Teeth For Revolt" and "FBS" had a real strong Venom influence.

BF: Oh definitely! The basis of this band from the conception of it was Celtic Frost, Venom, Bathory, Motorhead. Those bands are definitely deeply rooted in our influences, even from the very first record until now. I think what happens, though, is we take those influences and mold them into the way we perceive it. But you still hear that exposure, you still hear where it's coming from. You can pick out the Venom type parts, the Celtic Frost parts, things like that. And of course we were all into traditional earlier metal like Judas Priest and Accept, Dio, Black Sabbath. That plays a big role as well.

WC: Would you say the same sort of things motivate you know in Goatwhore as when you started 16 years ago? Or has the motivation mutated over the years?

BF: I think over the years, it's been different, depending. Sixteen years ago, I was a lot younger and your motivations are a lot different when you are younger. But I don't feel older in the sense of "oh damn, I'm moving slow, I don't know if I can deal with this anymore". I still feel when I do the music, I still feel young. I'm more mature, more knowledgeable about the things I approach. I still appreciate our first demo, everything we've done until now because I love to see the evolution, the maturity and the whole process of the band evolving...from the way Sammy writes riffs and puts together songs, the way he and Zack work together and create songs. Everybody's role in the band and how things got to the point where we're at now with the band is very unique to me. I never look back at our old stuff and go "ohh, that's old, I was so young and immature". Of course! That's where you started! That's where things start and where they evolve from. I still think there was a lot of stuff on the first and second records that can compete with what we do now!

WC: You and Sammy and Zack have been working together for so long, I would almost imagine you have like a telepathic sense of how to put things together.

BF: Zack Simmons is actually the second drummer we've had named Zack. There was something about him when he came in and tried out for the band after "A Haunting Curse". Sammy could feel how the drummers were when they came in and how they flowed with the riffs he wrote. He would say, "I like that drummer but he seems a little too polished about what he likes to play". Or he seems too constricted, like he won't let himself flow a little more or maybe this guy is too primitive with his approach. But with Zack, he was like, I like how he plays, I like how everything comes together. He just felt comfortable with him. So right there, you have that part. And when we finally sit down and start putting things together, that part is beneficial. Because they are both on the same wavelength with what they're going to do musically, how they are going to approach and attack the music.  We've been together so long, we know where we want things to go. We know how things are going to be with this. So the progression of the band becomes a natural kind of thing.

WC: It has to be exciting for you, because you've been in the extreme metal underground for a long time, even going back to the days of Paralysis. What's it been like to see things develop over such a length of time? Do you have some nostalgia for the way things were done before the Internet?

BF: There is a lot of nostalgia to it because, yeah, they didn't have the Internet. I used to tape trade using regular mail. You'd send a tape off to a guy in Europe and it would have a mixture of bands on it. A month and a half later, you'd get a tape back from him with bands you'd never heard of. You'd write people and send letter back and more.

WC: I used to get Metal Forces magazine from England. It was like a bible to me.

BF: Yeah! There's be all kinds of handmade zines you could get in the mail. It's funny, you'd get these zines and then they'd be full of ads to get other stuff. That's another used to have to send cash in the mail to get all this stuff! (laughs) Sometimes you'd never get might get lost in the mail or some mailman figured out there was cash in the envelope and tore it open and kept the money. That was a risk you took.

WC: I always plowed through the import section at the local record store to look for bands. I went from being inspired to buy something because I heard a song on the radio to just taking a plunge and buying a record because, man, the cover looks cool!

BF: Right now it's unique for kids because they have the opportunity to listen to things on the Internet before purchasing. When I was a kid, I'd go all week in school and save my lunch money  and not each lunch so I could buy a CD or record at a store. That was even when I didn't know what it sounded like! I saw it, I liked the cover. There's a picture of the guys in the band on the back and one of them is wearing a Death shirt and another guy's wearing a Pestilence shirt. So they gotta be good. You get home with the record and it was risky. It could be something amazing and magical. Another time, it would be pure shit. Oh, I just went hungry for a whole week so I could purchase this!  My Mom would kill me if she heard me saying this shit right now! (laughs) She was giving me lunch money every day for school and I'm saving it and not eating so I can get a record.

WC: Where I was, you had one shot to get a record. I remember the record that turned me on to underground metal was Exciter's "Heavy Metal Maniac". I saw it and looked at it and wondered how good it might be. But I didn't get it that week. I came back next week and somebody got it. So I ordered it from a place out in San Francisco called the Record Vault. It was the first thing I got through the mail and when I got it, I played it 10 times in a row!

BF: Yeah, dude! I remember when there was a record store in Houston that I'd get vinyl from and they sent it C.O.D. That was back when everything was a little safer. You get it from the mailman and pay him the cash and they'd send the money back. That was before you had the computer to track everything. Then one day the mailman would roll up and you'd get it and you'd be as excited as hell. You'd throw it on the record, check out the artwork, go through the lyrics, play side A, then flip it over and play side B and start all over again. Sometimes you'd get 2 records, 3 records in a package and you'd do it for all of them.

WC: I remember very well the first 3 records I got through the mail. It was the Exciter one, Slayer's first record and Warlock's "Burning the Witches". I felt I did pretty good with those!

BF: Yeah, that's awesome!

WC: I've never thrown away a vinyl record. I still have all the ones I got. Most were from the 80's. There will never be a time like that again.

BF: No, there won't.  But in the same sense, so we don't sound like these old people who say "oh, we used to walk a hundred miles in the snow to get to school"...(laughter) there's a whole new generation out there who is undergoing just a different variation of that. I definitely see younger kids who are into it and I remember being like that, but it was a different time. It's just a new way that kids approach things these days. I respect it because it's their thing, you know.

WC: I just attended a 2 day doom metal fest in Milwaukee with Trouble as the headliner. There were a lot of young kids there, which was real encouraging.

BF: What's unique today is that a lot of these young kids can use the Internet to go back and discover the roots of metal. That's why you see the resurgence of kids into old thrash metal and bands reinventing thrash metal, death metal, black metal. and all the variations of metal. They are able to go back and investigate it and keep the history of metal alive.

WC: Now that heavy metal has some years behind it, it's become like jazz, which has so many different genres of its own. There's Dixieland, bebop, torch songs. Metal has done that, which some bitch about, but to me, that's the sign of a healthy form of music.

BF: It's definitely part of the evolution that keeps it alive. If it never expands a bit., it winds up stagnating and then it dies off. Trust me, there are variations I'm not a fan of, but it's healthy. People will get into the scene only for the newer stuff and then they'll go back and get interested in the older metal. At one point, they might say, I don't really like the newer stuff as much, I prefer the older stuff, and they build off of that to create their own version. That's what's really cool about it. All of us have different opinions about every different genre and sub-genre and everything like that. It's good that we have different tastes because if we all listened to the same thing, that would be pretty boring. I think each style of music a person listens to helps make that person an individual. When you're younger, yes, you do follow a group sometimes, it's a natural thing. It's like "me and 10 of my friends are just gonna listen to death metal". But as you get older, you become more of an individual. You might say, I kind of like this. I would never say that before because I didn't want to get shunned by my other friends. But now I can.

WC: What are some of the less obvious influences on Goatwhore, ones not as obvious as Venom and Celtic Frost?

BF: I'd definitely say yes, we have those influences. No matter what you listen to, even if there was something that wasn't a big priority, it was still an influence in some kind of way. Whatever you come across is an influence, whether you realize or not. We were kind of influenced by a band called Blasphemy. Also Beherit, Darkthrone...really gritty, low-fi sounding bands from back in the day. Also different death metal bands like Death's "Scream Bloody Gore" and Bolt Thrower's "War Master"  all the way to new stuff like Hail of Bullets. Also, a lot of bands people wouldn't think of, like The Ruins of Beverast...there's so many different ones. You asked a really good questions because most of the time when you do an interview, you point out the major ones you always use. But there are smaller ones that are still some kind of valid influence.

WC: You mentioned Ruins of Beverast. I thought I was the only person who knew about them, they have some great stuff!

BF: Yeah, they have some remarkable stuff. That's what I'm saying. Sometimes we're not influenced by the music but more the approaches within the music. A prime example is, outside of metal, I was always a big Queen fan. I thought Freddy Mercury was an amazing vocalist, I really liked his eclectic style. I also loved Brian May's guitar tone. I will never be able to sing like Freddy Mercury, he was so unique with his tones. But I can take the influences from him being so eclectic within the style. I can take variations in extreme metal styles and utilize them in my vocal approach. That's where my influence from Queen comes from. There's different ways people can influence. Rob Halford to me is the Metal God. I'll never be able to sing like Rob Halford, but I can be influenced by the structuring of his vocals and the way he used them in songs. I can take them and use my own approach.

WC: There's no shame in saying you're not with Rob Halford and Freddy Mercury. If you asked me who the best two frontmen of all time are, they would be #1 and #2.

BF: You know what? I'm not Freddy Mercury and I can't sing like him but I do my own thing and I'm my own individual. I can respect them for what made them their own unique individuals and huge icons.

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

BF: Dead or alive?

WC: Dead or alive, either way.

BF: Damn, that's a hard question. (laughs) I think it would be unique to ask a Roman emperor. I'm not sure which one. Maybe Caligula would be unique because he was so fuckin' twisted. Or maybe Diocletian, who was the last Roman emperor who ran the persecution of the Christians. Then we'd need some kind of musical icon, because we need some variety. We'll make it somebody who's dead, somebody who can give us historical perspective. I'll throw Freddy Mercury in there. I don't know if him and the Roman emperor would get along because of sexual orientation.

WC: Well...

BF: No, you're right! I think Caligula and Freddy might get along really fuckin' well! We'd have that mixture and that would be unique. We'll go with those two? Who else? I don't want anybody like Hitlet, there'd be no fun with that? Let's get someone way older in history. Maybe somebody from the Egyptian period, like a pharaoh. Maybe King Tut or something like that. We'dd have two serious icons of history and then one musical icon. That would be a cool way to mingle ideas and find out different things, get a different perspective on things. We could find out from the Egyptian if aliens helped to build the pyramids. (laughs) From the Roman, we could find out about their attempts to kill off Christianity. You could find out the truth behind Jesus.

WC: You might found out some things that aren't generally accepted.

BF: Exactly! You'd actually be able to get to the truth a little more because these people had first hand knowledge of the time period.

WC: In the history of Goatwhore...or any band you've been involved with...has there ever been a Spinal Tap moment you've been involved with you could share with us?

BF: I'm sure we have, every band has a Spinal Tap moment. Whenever they do happen, a band just goes, alright, let's move on with the rest of the day, this totally didn't happen. Oh! Okay, I got one. This is a good one. I'm not trying to point out any individuals in the band, now. It was a show we did in Baton Rouge and it was way back,  somewhere around the "Eclipse of Ages Into Black/ Funeral Dirge" kind of era. Sammy got a little too drunk before he played. (chuckles). He likes to have his drinks before he plays but he never goes over the limit. He gets himself into a mood, he plays and then he's fine afterward. This specific night, he went a little way too behind. We were on stage setting things up and getting ready to play. He was really fucking drunk. He was trying to plug a cable into his pedals. And when I looked closer, it was an XLR cable like a mike cable and not the regular cable you're supposed to use from guitar to pedal to head. He was going, dude, it won't fucking go in! And I tapped him on the shoulder and told him, it's an XLR cable, man! It's not going to fucking work! From that point on, I knew the rest of the night was going to be a tough fucking set! (laughs) Afterwards, I was telling Zack Nolan, our drummer at the time what was going on. And Zack told the monitor guy, don't put his guitar in my monitor! Basically, Zack was our metronome for the rest of the night because of that. I told him, you kept it in sync the whole time. It was awesome, because Sammy had too much to drink and things got real fuckin' crazy. That's pretty much like a Spinal Tap...going beyond that limit.  Sometimes you're having fun and you just go beyond that limit.

WC: It could have been a lot worse.

BF: Oh, it could have! It could have been three guys that drunk and it would have been lethal! (laughs) The next day, he was like, I'm sorry, it was really bad. But we had a lot of fun about it. I was watching him trying to plug that cable that will never ever be able to fit into that plug. Not only that, not knowing where that cable really leads to, because it's an XLR cable that goes to a mike. Actually, I'm now reminded of another incident when James, our current bass player, got really drunk one night and we had a border crossing. We were coming out of Canada back into the U.S. and we had to get all out passports out. We were coming from Winnipeg across the border. We usually stop at a gas station just before we do the crossing. You never know how long it will take to get across. I go to wake James up and he's still really drunk. That's no big deal, it's fine, because there's no law against being intoxicated as long as you're not driving. But I get him up to get his passport and he kind of looks at me and then lays back down. No, no, no, James! We gotta cross the border and we need your passport to cross. The border cop's gonna make you do it anyway. So he sits up, pulls out his wallet and he hands me a dollar bill. (laughter) No, dude, I need your passport! He looks at me again and tries to hand me the dollar again. Dude! I take my passport, grab his wallet and try to stick it in to show him that the passport doesn't fit in the wallet. He looks at me...and then he goes and lays down again. But eventually I did get the passport and we went through and we did everything all proper. Yeah, that was a real Spinal Tap moment.