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SIX FEET UNDER


Six Feet Under - The Politics of Blood

by Dr. Abner Mality
When I'm in the lab cutting up cadavers, I like to listen to something that puts me in a mellow kind of mood. Something gruesome but smooth...not taxing to contemplate as I stitch that new head on or extract that coronary muscle. For this kind of "queasy listening", I often find myself drawn towards Six Feet Under, the malevolent Florida outfit led by ex-Cannibal Corpse goremonger Chris Barnes.

SFU seems like they are really on the verge of busting out, a feeling which Chris wholeheartedly (or should I say, holeheartedly) confirms. Despite a reputation as a guy who can be abrasive and highly opinionated, I found him quite easy to talk to and not a raging firebrand, though his convictions are indeed strong. This will be the most politically motivated interview to ever appear at Wormwood Chronicles.

With their new CD "Bringer of Blood" upon us, the time is ripe for the Good Doctor to grab his spade and dig Six Feet Under...

Wormwood Chronicles: Let me see if I can jog your memory a bit. I'm calling from Rockford, Illinois and I'm wondering if you remember a show you played here years ago in an abandoned factory with Immolation and Internal Bleeding.

Chris Barnes: Yeah! I do have memories of that night, actually! It was a wild experience and I hooked up with some good buds that night down there. We had some friends bring us some good herb there. I always wondered why we never played that town again.

WC: The thing I remember strongly was that it was about 25 below zero that night.

CB: It was a great time, it's a walk down memory lane.

WC: I understand you are going to be touring soon with The Heavils...

CB: I'm not so sure about that now. They were preliminarily scheduled to tour with us and I'm not sure what happened, I think there's been a change. I like that band a lot and wanted to go out with them. I'd like to take them out. I'm interested in those weird instruments they play...

WC: The "Meanies"?

CB: The what? What do they call 'em?

WC: Meanies!

CB: (laughter) That's cool!

WC: Let's move on to your new record "Bringer of Blood", which you produced yourself and got a really killer sound.

CB: Well, thanks a lot, I'm glad you like the sound of it. You know, I've always been involved in the production end of things even going back to the Cannibal Corpse days. I've always had a lot of say so in how our records sound and I'm honored that Metal Blade finally gave me the opportunity to produce.

WC: Since it turned out so well, do you look back and say "I should have been doing this all along"?

CB: (laughter) No, not really, because I believe in the school of hard knocks. Learning, paying your dues before you get behind the boards. The time has to be right. You have to be mature enough to take advantage of things. I definitely believe now is the right time for me to be doing this. I've got the seasoning to do it, I've seen how others do it. I've usually had about 70% say in how any Six Feet Under record sounds and now I can go all the way.

WC: Now that you've reached this stage, will you be producing records in the future?

CB: That remains to be seen. I know I'll be doing it again at some point, I just don't know if I'll be doing it on the next one. I don't know if I even want to do the next one. When it comes to this band, we don't expect to have the same sound on every album. I kind of like that whole idea of change, of not ever standing still. This is not something where I'm gonna produce every record from now on.

WC: One day at a time...

CB: One day at a time, one song at a time, one record at a time. I think that's the secret of keeping it real.

WC: You've never been one to shy away from controversy. (He laughs) When it comes to "Bringer of Blood", I understand you even had some disputes with your own band members when it came to the song "Amerika the Brutal". Would you care to elaborate on that?


CB: Hmmm, I'm not sure if it was a real dispute. It wasn't an onslaught of anything physical, you know. "Amerika the Brutal" speaks my own straight and outright opinion about world events and over-homogenization and what's wrong with us as a people. I don't expect everyone to agree with me and I wouldn't like it if everybody did. I wouldn't even like it even if somebody liked everything I've ever done. I expect people not to like it, especially those in the death metal underground, who are kind of close-minded to certain views I have. I expect it and I embrace it, because it kind of proves my point. It provokes some sort of response and some sort of thought, even if it amount to "this guy is an asshole".

As far as the band goes, I don't expect them to agree with me all the time either. I like having them speak up because I maintain that people these days are too afraid to speak up. That's a common theme in all my music. I'm against censorship and people being told what to say by the government.

WC: It's funny because even though we are living in tumultuous times, you hear very little "protest" music.

CB: It's obvious that the government is controlling most people through mass media and propaganda. When somebody that's patriotic like the Dixie Chicks speaks up, they get bombarded and punished. To me, true patriots are those who question those in power that are too omnipotent and who are carelessly unjust to other people that are minorities in the world and in this country. This country was built upon going against a monarchy, the government of England that was ruling us from a distant shore and taking our natural resources. Now we have a president who was the son of another president. It seems like royalty to me. And now the president goes against world views and world opinion into another country and colonializes that country and steals its natural resources. The idea of popular patriotism now is to "support the team" and "wear the logo" and sport the team colors and blindly follow, rah, rah,rah. To me, that kind of patriotism is treasonous.

WC: The kind of outspoken protestor that you represent is kind of a dying breed.

CB: And that's the way the government wants it. It starts early, with kids in school having no outlets like art and music classes to express their ideas. There are certain things that are being taken out of the curriculum and it's a mass brainwashing.

WC: When they cut corners at school, the first things to go are art and music classes.

CB: Yeah, because those are things that the government can't really put their stamp on, man. Those are the only classes where they can't teach you what they want you to know.

WC: That's the first thing the Nazis and Communists got rid of, too.

CB: They got rid of the artists, the musicians and the people who brought free thought into their government, because those were the "dangerous" people. And they burned their books and they burned their music and they told people not to listen or see it because it was "Jewish". Or they came up with other reasons not to see or hear it. If you love music or art, it doesn't matter what race or religion creates it. That's where it starts, man. It's been done to us very subtly. They've taken those fascist ideas and candy-coated them and force fed them down our throats. They do it so we don't even know it, we don't even question it. Like you said, I'm a dying breed and guys like Michael Moore are a dying breed because they got so much fuckin' propaganda comin' at you all the time, it's harder and harder to fight it.

WC: Like the TV show "Cops", that's about as blatant a piece of propaganda as you'll see.

CB: Absolutely! What they don't tell you is five minutes after the cameras stop, the person they nabbed is released from jail and back out on the street.

CB: It's put on the air for certain reasons that people don't question. People don't wanna think about it. You just wanna get through your day. You don't want to think about anything but your own comfort and security.

WC: Was there any one specific incident that triggered the words on this album? A lot of people wrote music in reaction to September 11. Was this album your reaction to the reaction, so to speak?

CB: (laughs) Yeah! You could say that. I've never thought of it that way! But it really is my reaction to other people's reaction to that whole thing. People are not really being open-minded. The average person on the street doesn't really question who's behind it. What do you think about this Homeland Security Act? I think it's mainly designed to take away our constitutional rights.

WC: I do hear a fair amount of people speaking out against it, though.

CB: People are aware that this is a dangerous idea.

WC: Let me switch gears here a little bit. Do you feel a change is coming in the music business, a greater acceptance of the more extreme bands such as yourself?

CB: Most definitely. Years ago, I said I could see this becoming really popular. But you know, for my part, I'm not gonna try and make it more popular, I'm gonna let the audience come to me! And that's what it's finally starting to do the last couple of years. For the last ten years, music has been coming this way, because the underground is the only way to go, man. The mainstream is shallow and repetitive. And what the underground is, is a form of organic music that is the opposite of that.

WC: It's not too tainted by commercialism.

CB: Some bands have been and those are the bands at the forefront right now. That's always gonna happen, though.

WC: I have a lot of faith in the music itself.

CB: I do,too!

WC: I think it's matured enough to be considered on a level with jazz music.

CB: I think it should be and I think a lot of jazz musicians could really get into stuff like thrash with its time changes and energy. Some of it right now is really improvisational like jazz...


WC: And as it's matured, there's a lot of subgenres of metal. Almost any kind of metal you're looking for, you can find it nowadays.

CB: And that's a good thing, man. In the 80's, I'd go see D.R.I. one night and Kreator the next night and maybe AC/DC after that. Why keep listening to exactly the same stuff? I appreciate some diversity. When bands first tried to be diverse in metal, it sounded a little mechanical, a little forced. Now there's more of a flow to it, a subtleness and that's something that does come with maturity. There are still bands,though, that are really concrete...you go to the band for one certain style and you get it!

WC: Well, I just got the double live Sodom album and they are the living, breathing embodiment of a rock solid, back to basics thrash band.

CB: That's a good example, man. Sodom's always been a fuckin' favorite of mine.

WC: What are some of the long-range touring plans for Six Feet Under?

CB: I want to stay out for a good while on this record. Almost all the material on it's good enough to put in a live situation. We're going to go out for about five weeks or so to start. I think Dying Fetus is going to be going out with us, Black Dahlia Murder, maybe a couple of other bands. Then at the end of the year we'll get out there again and do it one more time. I don't know whether we'll be the headliner or an opening act on that tour. I'd like to do four tours of the States this time before we do the next record.

WC: What was the last CD or record you got just for yourself?

CB: The last CD or record I got just for myself....you know what, I think it was actually the Run-DMC Greatest Hits record I got a couple months after Jay died. I don't make any secret that I like old school rap, I'm pretty proud to say that You can pick up a little of it in my vocal style. That gets back to the idea of crossover, because I'm influenced by old rap, hardcore punk, death metal. I don't box myself into anything. I like music in general.

WC: What was the last show you caught for yourself?

CB: I went to see Black Dahlia Murder when they came to town. I also saw Bob Dylan when he came through. Man, I've got to go see Bob Dylan!

WC: What was your Spinal Tap moment?

CB: Oh jeez, my Spinal Tap moment! I've had so many! Hmmm...well, I'm gonna go into one incident that the other guys in the band will never let me forget. This is when Allen West was still in the band and we were on tour. We had a bunch of smoke and lighting effects when we first hit the stage. Well, I got to thinking, why always have white smoke and fog? Wouldn't black smoke be cooler? So I started looking into it and I found a place where I could order black smoke canisters from overseas. We couldn't get 'em easily here. We had to go through a lot of shit to get them...sign special permits and all that. Well, the night finally comes for us to try these things out. We find out about five minutes before show time that there was a sentence I failed to read: "Do not use indoors under any circumstances!" (laughter) It was too late by that time and we were playing a club. These fuckin' canisters go off and I mean, in one minute, the place is just full of this thick black choking smoke. We could hear people hacking in the crowd, we couldn't breathe ourselves. Nobody could see shit. We got sound effects goin' off that make it sound like a fuckin' war! (laughter) Finally, they had to evacuate the club and it was a half hour before we go back in and start the set. We found out later that just one of these canisters would have cleared the club but we blew off five of them!

WC: And the band's reaction?

CB: They didn't talk to me for a week. To this day, they don't let me forget that incident.

WC: No more pyro for Chris!

CB: (laughter) That's Spinal Tap for sure!