I don’t know about you, but I jumped for joy when I heard that Pig Destroyer’s latest effort, Book Burner, charted on Billboard’s Top 200. I can’t say whether it was seeing such an extreme form of music garnering this type of attention, or thinking about the absolute horror a typical Pop music fan (Billboard’s bread and butter) probably displayed by their inclusion, but either way, it was a great day for grind!
It didn’t surprise me one bit that the group’s latest release was a sure-fire hit and on virtually everyone’s Top 10 list for metal in 2012. Every bit as crushing and abrasive as their previous releases, Book Burner, and Pig Destroyer’s catalogue in aggregate, plays like an auditory strength test. That, or a very heady soundtrack to a mass murder.
Headlining the first night of Basilica Sound Scape in Hudson, NY, Pig Destroyer (who recently added a bassist) is guaranteed to leave an indelible mark on the psyche of anyone who gives them a chance, or, as was my experience at CMJ 2012, a footprint on your chest. I caught up with J.R. Hayes and Blake Harrison to talk about the album’s reception, how it felt to be included at Basilica Sound Scape, and their (incredibly sparse) upcoming show dates, Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Horror Film Fest this weekend being the next. Get there if you can, and wear a helmet.
G- How’s it going and thank you again for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. How’s everything going today?
JR- It’s good. It was a really nice day earlier and it only got chilly here in the last hour or so.
G- Little cold, Blake?
B- Yeah a little but, but I’ll warm up once I start drinking.
JR- Great hoodie weather.
G- And you’ve got a couple of good ones for sale here today. I’ve already patronized the merch booth, but you might even get more of my money. It all depends on how much I drink tonight.
B- Let’s get this guy drunk!
G- So to start it off, Book Burner was on Billboard’s Top 200 the week of its release. What was it like getting that news?!
B- I honestly was floored. You know, we’re label mates with Dying Fetus and they cracked the Top 200. I just never expected to see my name up there. And honestly, the rumor was that we would’ve cracked the Top 100, but all the labels had released their Christmas albums that week. Our record came out in mid-October, so everyone was releasing their Christmas records to try and pump them. If we were to crack the Top 100, that would’ve been incredible.
I mean, it doesn’t really mean anything or translate to anything more than bragging rights, but it’s definitely a cool thing to have such an extreme album be noticed by the mainstream press.
G- Right on. How about you, J.R.?
JR- I don’t put a lot of stock in that sort of stuff, but you know… It’s interesting to see your name mixed with a bunch of people that you’re probably never gonna…
B- Michael Buble?
JR- You know, us dancing with Bruno Mars and shit… It’s a little weird for us. But we’ve been around long enough where we’re used to seeing our name pop up in weird places.
G- Right on. Well, congratulations on that. I was very happy when I saw that, and half of it was just the reaction some people probably had when they saw the name up there. Like ‘WHAT THE FUCK?!’
As a favorite on everyone’s 2012 Top 10 Metal List, Pig Destroyer undoubtedly garnered many new fans and listeners with your latest effort. Are you at all surprised at the attention extreme metal has received in recent years, and where do you see Pig Destroyer in the midst of all the hub bub?
JR- I’m not really surprised by it, because the public has been moving through other genres for the past few years, and everything goes in cycles and people progress through thing. Like Black Metal and that sort of thing.
B- Indie and Dance and whatever.
JR- Yeah. I think it’s inevitable. Like I said, if you stick around long enough, people will find out who you are. You look at a band like Nun Slaughter. You know, they’re doing all the re-issues of all their stuff…
B- They’ve been around for 30 years.
JR- But up until a couple of years ago, you never heard their name mentioned. Now, you stick it out like a solider, and things will start to go your way.
B- I think with the internet, there are more and more blogs, and more and more radio stations, internet radio stations, and sites like Metal Sucks. It’s easier to find this stuff, and find out about it. You don’ thave to go to your buddy’s house, drink 10 beers, and smoke a bowl for him to play a record for you and be like ‘Wow… I really like that!’ It’s easier to find shit on your own, and discover stuff on your own.
JR- That can work against you, too.
JR- When everything is so convenient, it also becomes disposable. I think some of my favorite records and records that required a lot of time and effort to get into, and I really hope that people nowadays are still willing to give things a chance and not just dismiss them out of hand, like ‘This is bullshit and I never want to hear it again.’ Some of the best music you can listen to is not an easy listen.
G- Right on.
Now, a slightly more serious question. As I mentioned earlier, at CMJ this year, though very happy, I walked out of Public Assembly in Brooklyn, NY with a footprint on my chest that took 4 days to go away. No worries here, battle scars are rad, but has Pig Destroyer ever had to deal with any hyper violent fans or nasty injuries at your performances? What do you do if/when a fight breaks out at your shows?
(Blake cracks up)
JR- I don’t really know if we’ve ever had a fight fight.
B- Like a fist fight.
JR- Usually when people bleed at our show, they’re really excited about it.
And proud of it. And that ‘s cool…. It’s always nice to have a little blood drawn, because you know you’re getting that visceral quality. You’re not going to get bloodshed at a Toni Braxton concert.
B- Well, you would if I was there.
Mine, hers, who cares?
G- That’s funny! Well, we know that Pig Destroyer doesn’t tour too often. You’re going to be doing the Housecore Records festival, which is Phil Anselmo’s thing, down in Austin. You guys were in Europe and such… What can we expect to see tour-wise from Pig Destroyer for the rest of 2013? I realize you have families and jobs, but are their any additional plans to perform this year?
JR- (laughs) I think you pretty much just went over it.
We’re doing the Housecore thing.
B- And we’ve got a show in October. We have a show in Brooklyn at St. Vitus in early January…
JR- We were toying with a December show, but that’s not gonna happen at this point.
B- Yeah. I think we’re gonna get back into the lab and start writing. Hopefully.
G- Start writing again?!
B- Well, we don’t want to have another 5-6 year gap between records.
JR- We don’t try to take a lot of time between records. It just kinda ends up that way.
G- Well, I’d like to see you guys play once a week or so if you could make that happen.
B- Hey, so would I.
G- So, Pig Destroyer is Pig Destroyer… It’s a pretty distinct and solid sound you’ve got going on here, but do you have a favorite song Pig Destroyer has ever written, or one that is particularly fun to play live? If you were to give someone who’d never heard Pig Destroyer one song, for better or worse, what song would you offer and why?
JR- Because I’ve always thought of us as a grindcore band, the signature of grindcore is short songs. So, I always kind of relate to the shorter songs.
JR- “Scarlet Hourglass” on Terrifyer is probably my favorite grind song that we’ve written, so I guess I’d suggest that one.
G- Right on. How about you, Blake?
B- Well, not to jump on the bandwagon, the JR bandwagon, but “Terrifyer” is probably one of my favorite songs to play live. I don’t know if that’s really indicative of our sound entirely, but that’s a really fun song for us to play. I really have fun, so that’ll just answer the other question that he didn’t answer.
G- (laughing) Solid.
Now, you’re already at the stage of headlining shows for your fans, and you’ve played a bunch of cool festivals and stuff, but is there a dream lineup that you’d like to see Pig Destroyer a part of?
B- That we haven’t played with?
G- That you haven’t played with… Just 3 bands that you’d like to…
B- Abraham Lincoln, ummm
You know, I’d really like to do some shows with Hemdale. They just got back together to do Maryland Deathfest this year. Damn, I don’t know, man?
JR- Well, we’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of bands that we’re fans of, and I think a lot of bands that we’re really into aren’t around anymore. So, we probably won’t have the opportunity.
I know Excruciating Terror was at MDF and that was always one of my favorite bands.
B- Hanoi Rocks?
JR- I’m trying to think of bands we’d fit with. I mean, when we first started out, one of my goals was to play with Slayer and, you know, maybe that’ll still happen in some capacity. But you know.
B- Half of Slayer.
G- Half of Slayer. Yeah. Ok so Slayer, Hemdale, and Toni Braxton was it?
B- Actually, my mom used to work with Toni Braxton’s dad, if that’s a 6 degrees of separation type-thing.
G- Look at that! You could maybe make that happen!
JR- Cool story, bro.
B- Fucking awesome!
G- Well, there’s usually a lot of grinding going on at R&B shows…
G- It could work… Just say they messed up the description, that’s all.
So, it’s a very small market for Grindcore, but it’s gaining in popularity and Pig Destroyer is pretty much at the top of the helm right now, and there are kids that want to play Grind.
What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands that want to try to do what you guys are doing in the Grindcore circuit?
JR- I mean, I would say the best advice I could give anybody is just play what you enjoy. Don’t make it a habit to just try to please other people, especially at the beginning of the band. You don’t have fans and you haven’t established yourself, essentially you are playing for yourself, and I think it’s really important that you do what you want, even if it’s not…
If you look back through some of the most exciting bands… Look at The Velvet Underground, for example. When they first came out, nobody knew what to make of them, but they were doing what they wanted to do. If you try to make it a point to just please people, then you’re not gonna, I guess, make a dent artistically. You’ve gotta do what you want to do.
G- Good answer and good interview! We just finished up with J.R. and Blake from Pig Destroyer and they are going to crush Basilica Sound Scape later tonight. I want to see some chaos and carnage tonight, and hopefully they’ll provide the perfect soundtrack for that.
Thank you guys very much for speaking with Live High Five today. Travel safe when you head home, play well tonight, and we look forward to another round in the future!
JR- Awesome man. Thank you!
B- Thanks a lot, man. And STOP SAYING TWERK.