What do you call a streetwalking Animalia Chordata Mammalia Artiodactyla Bovidae Caprinae Capra aegagrus hircus?
Now that I’ve taken the crown for “Worst Joke in Metal Media Coverage History,” the long-running New Orleans 4-piece continue to unleash an onslaught of crippling tracks with their new album, Constricting Rage Of The Merciless. Dropping on July 8th via Metal Blade Records, Goatwhore’s latest is a blitz of visceral growls and breakneck speeds, staying true to the sound they’ve crafted for the past 17+ years.
To support the release, the group will be one of the many acts on 2014’s Summer Slaughter Tour with Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus (why not?), The Faceless, and many more brutal bands of today.
I spoke with vocalist Ben Falgoust before the tour and album drop to discuss Constricting Rage Of The Merciless, the behemoth that is 2014’s Summer Slaughter Tour, the now legendary CMJ boat show in 2009 and, for all you fans of interspecies erotica, the going rate of a hummer.
G- Hi Ben and thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! What’s up?
B- Everything is going good, man. That was actually a lot of stuff you had to say!
G- Yeah just wanted to get it all out there because it’s boring up here in Syracuse, so a little research never hurts. I think the joke was the worst ever.
B- (laughing) It was pretty good! A bit technical and it might fly over peoples’ heads actually, but I do want to correct something about the boat show.
B- It was actually SXSW and not CMJ.
G- Well, I saw it in NYC. The Rocks Off boat show?
B- Ooh ok. We did 2 different boat shows in the history of the band, so I was a bit confused. You got that right, because we did another boat show in Austin at SXSW that was pretty unique as well.
G- Was it as wild as the one in 2009? Because with EYEHATEGOD, Pig Destroyer, Strong Intention, and you guys, that place was… I was afraid it was going to sink. So, we might as well get into it right now, because that show was one of the best Metal shows I’ve ever seen in my life, for more reasons than one. It was wild.
What did you think of it, and tell us about the SXSW boat show, too. I caught you at SXSW, but not on a boat.
B- That show, in NYC, was phenomenal. As far as it sinking, I took swimming lessons when I was younger, so I’m sure I could’ve worked myself out from there. (laughing) I’d probably get out somehow. I can’t speak for everyone, though. We might have had some casualties.
But overall, that show was immense, definitely. It was on point and a very unique opportunity to be able to do something like that, especially with all those bands. And yes, it was a lot of people and it was way loud. I would say yes, it was probably louder than the one in Austin at SXSW only because the one at SXSW was a smaller boat and on the top deck of the boat. Open air, which was really unique as well. I think it only held 50 people or so, something like that. But it still got the point across and it was pretty exciting. So, we have 2 boat journeys under our belt in that fashion. Someone might say something about 70 Tons of Metal or something, but it was very different, man. These were way smaller boats that held much smaller capacities and they were a very intense kind of situation.
G- For sure, and it was again one of my favorite ever. And since it was on the middle floor there in NYC, it was hot and the sound had no place to go but into the crowd and in our ears. It was a ripper, and I remember that it was raining so hard outside that just getting on the boat I was already soaked. It was just something else, that’s for certain.
B- Oh yeah I remember it raining, too. It was pretty crazy. I think we got all the gear on before it started to downpour, so that was a plus on our end. I also remember that there wasn’t a stage either. There was just a little PA and the amps were cranked up, and the crowd couldn’t come into the band while they were playing, so they took these tables and they stacked them on their side in the front as a pseudo-barricade or something, but that didn’t do shit because when everyone started moving, that shit just pummeled into the band as well!
G- Yep, it was fairly… It was a bit disorganized, but that’s the crowds fault for going off to the bands. (laughing) Nothing wrong with that!
B- I don’t blame anybody for it, man. People are gonna have a good time, man.
So, we’ve got that outta the way, and now we have to talk about this new album. July 8th, Metal Blade Records, one of the best in the biz, and I’ve been listening. It’s a ripper, man. How do you feel about the release? Tell us about it.
B- I’m really happy with the whole outcome of the release and with everyone’s performance. Everything we did as a whole band. Everybody worked really hard and put their efforts and ideas together, and I really appreciate Erik Rutan (producer.) This is the 4th record with him jumping into the pot for us to do this with 2” analog, which is unique in these days and times, too. It’s very unique.
Overall, Goatwhore doesn’t do anything drastically different throughout its career. It stays pretty close to the Goatwhore line, you know? I mean, the best thing I can say is that we evolve and mature, sometimes immature, as a band. But everything sounds like Goatwhore. And as we progress and go along, all of the influences and things that we’ve been about evolve into our own sound.
I mean, it’s really hard to be original these days, so you just approach everything the best you can, and all your influences come into places and they’re there whether it’s a conscious or a subconscious thing. We grew up with them, so they’re instilled in you. All those things play a part when you’re working on stuff. And through time, there is shift and change all the time; This is our 6th record, so things are going to change and happen. Some people are going to think our 1st record is better than this one, or some people might like the middle records better than the 1st or last records. So you can’t please everybody, but we’re not trying to; We’re trying to please ourselves first and foremost.
So, there’s Metal and stuff that we really appreciate, and that’s how we write and how we approach things. We don’t just let things go by when we’re not happy with them. So I’m just really happy with everyone’s efforts on the whole record.
G- Excellent. And to get a little more technical on the record, you said you recorded this on 2” analog… Where did you record it and how long did the release take to record and get ready, because that it quite a different method from how things are usually done these days?
B- We recorded with Erik Rutan down in St. Petersburg, Florida at his studio, Mana Recording Studios, and this is the 4th record that we’ve done with him. We did A Haunting Curse with him, Carving Out The Eyes Of God, Blood Of The Master, and now this record. He’s always had a 2” machine, but because budgets are being cut, and because the time isn’t there anymore, they want to get bands in and out as fast as possible. But he’s always had the machine. Me and Sammy, in the past with the bands we’ve been involved with, we’ve recorded to 2”. James and Zach never recorded to 2” because they’re a little younger we are.
But this 2” machine is unique, too, because he bought it from Morrisound Studios, which is well known for all the classic Death Metal releases like Morbid Angel, Suffocation, all these bands record out of that place. So, you know, it has this nostalgia behind it, too. Nowadays, I think there is one company that makes tape, but it’s questionable. They don’t have the chemistry fully right yet. So, we bought some older tapes, whether they were used or unused, and you’re taking a risk with that rolling the dice. But luckily, everything worked out really good and fell into place. Erik, before we went into the studio, got with one of the guys from Morrisound and went over things to refresh his memory with things on the tape and everything, and then we did it. It goes from that point, going to tape to when you’re done, drop it into Pro-Tools, but the sound the tape catches. Once you catch that, you can’t drop it into something else and work on it from there.
But I think it took, to record everything, a little under a month, and maybe a week and a half to mix. We’re good friends with Erik, so he goes out of his way a lot of times because he wants the product to be just right and everybody to be happy. He’s an amazing individual. He goes out of his way so much. But the only thing we wants is when the band comes in, they’re prepared and ready to do everything. But, you know, he’s definitely a great person.
It’s funny because he’s kind of a 5th, secret member. He doesn’t write for us or anything like that. He played a solo on the last record, and him and Sammy have a good relationship because they’re both guitar players, and they work together in that fashion when we’re recording and everything. So it’s a great experience to do this and do it on 2”. And James and Zach handled it like pros and they fell into place with it.
G- For sure for sure. Like I said, it sounds really good and for 2”, that’s crispy sounding record you guys have going on. It really shreds through the headphones or speakers. I’ve listened through both and it cuts like a knife, and that’s how we like it.
Now, the artwork for this is out of control, and obviously, Metal Blade doesn’t spare much expense when getting their fans and patrons packages and bundles and stuff, so I want to talk about that. Artwork first, kind of a 2-part question, who did that, and are their any fun packages/bundles you can share with us prior to the release? Anything super special for the fans out here?
B- Yeah. So, the artwork was done by the same guy who did Blood For The Master. His name is Jordan Barlow. He’s actually a tattoo artist here in the city (NOLA), and he works at Hell Or Highwater Tattoos. The way he draws things, you can just give him all these ideas, and then he basically shows you a piece of paper or a sketch penciled out, and you’re just… Perfect direction. Just spot on. There’s no going back like ‘Erase that, erase that.’ He’s always transferring ideas.
Me and Sammy will sit down with him. I’m not that good of an artists, drawing all stick figures and stuff, or maybe a little sketch out like ‘I think this, and I think this,’ and then he’ll come back with a pencil sketch of it and ask ‘How is this direction working?’ We’re like ‘Perfect! Ink it. Done!’
And I appreciate the fact that Metal Blade sees the work we did and is willing to offer bundles. The vinyl is a gatefold and the cover goes over to the back of it. And when we work with it we think ‘Can we make this into panels’ or ‘Can we make this into this?’ If it’s a CD and it folds out, can we have the image fold out like this? Or if it’s a vinyl, can the image fold around it and be a centerpiece or something like that. So, there’s a lot of thought that goes into that whole direction as well.
So, they’re doing vinyl and CD, and there is a back patch they’re doing, and there is a bundle that’s the entire front panel that folds over to the other side. It’s really large and I can’t remember how big it is. And then, there is a shirt and a patch and some other items. And the vinyl even comes with a download card, which is pretty unique, too. Vinyl is a big thing, but people buy the vinyl and they want to transfer it to throw on a device like an iPod, and the go ‘I have to buy the vinyl, and I have to buy the cd.’ Well this way, if you get the vinyl, you get a download card, put in the code, and download the digital version of it. So, that’s beneficial as well. And because of the artwork, you can utilize it so many different way with all these formats.
G- Rock! And are you guys gonna have any tour-specific copies on the road, because we’re gonna talk about Summer Slaughter next and that’s coming right after the release. So, any band-only issues we should save our money for to cop at the shows?
B- Not necessarily. We aren’t sure. The last thing we did, at Metal Alliance, we did a pre-order thing that was unique for that tour. It was a shirt with artwork not on the record, and it came with a laminate to pre-order the record and stuff like that. So, we did that, but with this one we might do a shirt/cd package deal or something. But overall, we change our designs a lot, so it’s unique all the time when we go out on the road.
So I don’t know. Maybe we’ll put some idea together or something like that. We have some time.
G- We’ll be ready for it, and we’re also ready for the performances at the tour. The lineup is NUTS! You guys, Morbid Angel, Origin, The Faceless, Dying Fetus, the list goes one… You guys are a hard touring band and this is a mighty lineup, a whole lot of Metal, so how are your feelings on the billing and what should the fans, old and new, expect of the performances, man? And who are you most excited to see everyday on that tour, because you’re a fan of metal as much as a performer?
B- Yeah. That whole tour. I’m really excited to see Morbid Angel. I haven’t seen them in quite some time. I saw them a lot when I was growing up, and now that Dave is back into the fold, it brings back a lot of old material that I’m a fan of. I mean, a lot of us are huge fans of that stuff, so I need to see them. And, you know, Dying Fetus, Origin, all those bands bring some serious brutality to their sets, you know. It’s not like you listen to the CD and then go to the live show and it’s lacking. They put 150% into their live show as much as it sounds on the CD. I mean, that whole tour is gonna be pretty brutal with all the bands playing on it.
You know, overall, we’re gonna incorporate probably 4 new songs into our set. We have 25 minutes, which is the only thing disappointing about these fest tours is the bands have a limited amount of time and things like that. But we’re gonna try to put 3-4 new songs from the record in the set, and mix it up with some other songs. I’m expecting a lot of good things from it, and it’s definitely beneficial for us because our record drops a week or so before the tour starts. So, it’ll be a great experience to get that stuff out, get it into people’s faces, and maybe they’ll be a little bit familiar to it, or brand new to it and really interested in purchasing it.
G- For sure.
Now, the new album is 10 tracks, and all of them are rippers. This is another 2-part question, so do you have a favorite song you have ever written or one that is most fun to perform, and if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, off the new record or an older one, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
B- (laughing) Oh that’s a hard one, man.
G- (laughing) Sorry.
B- Yeah that’s a hard one. I think every song that we have is unique in its own way. To me, they all sound like Goatwhore, but they vary as well, because I think we cover the terrain within Metal. We have our Death Metal elements, we have our traditional Metal elements, our Black Metal elements. You could pull out a song like “Carving Out The Eyes Of God” and show it to someone and it’ll represent us as a whole, or even something like “When Steel and Bone Meet” from Blood For The Master. Both of those songs are very different in ways, but they still resemble us as a whole.
And off the new record, a song like “Baring Teeth For Revolt,” it’s got more of a tradional, classical Metal approach to it like Accept of Judas Priest. Or, off the new record, another different approach we took was “Cold Earth Consumed In Dying Flesh,” where we decided to slow things down a little bit and extend a beginning part that’s around 3 minutes plus, like a Doomish Death Metal tone and then a bulldozing midpace part after the epic 3 minutes.
So, there are a lot of different things, and it’s hard to pick, but those songs would definitely represent us in one form or another because of the variations within it. But it still has the basic Goatwhore sound overall.
G- Dig that. That’s awesome, and they are a really good representation of the entire catalogue, too. So folks, if you need a little study-up on the band before the tour, check these all out because these are a great aggregation combination of their entire catalogue.
And to finish up today, Goatwhore has been doing this for a long time, and Metal is a tough scene and business, and it’s even harder to excel because everyone is trying to do it. You guys are way up there on the podium, and there are a lot of kids out here that want to play Death Metal and Metal in general. As one of the bands leading the pack at this point, from your experience, what advice can you give some of the young, up and comers out here that want to make it in music, get signed to Metal Blade, play Summer Slaughter, and become a professional musician like yourself?
B- Prepare to be broke. (laughing)
G- Fair enough.
B- Trust me, there’s definitely not a lot of money in this. Sometimes, there is no money in this, especially when you’re first starting. You lose money, but you’ve gotten into it for a reason, because you like the music and it’s everything you want to do, so you play. When I get onstage, that’s the thing that keeps me going. I like the fact that the crowd reacts and we pull a crowd in. We feed off of each other in that sense.
So, if anything, you’ve gotta go into it and understand that there are bands that are higher tier like Lamb Of God and Slipknot that make enough money that it can be their daily job. But even right now, I have a job that I go to when I’m home from tour. I work all week during the day. Luckily enough, my job is willing to let me leave and come back to it. I go home for 2 months on tour, then I come back into it when I’m at home. And I worked a lot for them because of the fact that they allow me to do this. I mean, my situation is definitely a little bit different from other people,, but I fell into a lucky thing and I take advantage of it in full.
What I do is I work a lot at home and I build up a bunch of money, so when I do go out on tour for a month or 2 months, I have things covered and I’m not in this deep hole of debt. If anything, I’d say be smart about money. Be smart about how you do things with that.
And, you know, you have a lot of different members in the band, and everyone is different. You’ll go out on the road and you’ll end up learning things about dudes that you never knew (laughs). It’s a big relationship. There are 4 of us in this band, and 4 different people. There’s a lot to work out, a lot of compromise, and you’re gonna get into arguments and fights and things like that. You won’t always agree with things, but you’ve gotta sort things out like a little family. You live in the van together. Sometimes you sleep in the van together at night to make things happen and things like that. So, be prepared for that.
Maybe at some point, your band does do the proper thing and you get up to that level where you’re on a bus constantly and you can just do that. But overall, how people see it and their perception of it is different than the reality of it, and I just want people to be a bit more open when they go into it to understand that sometimes it isn’t what is perceived. There is so much more to it that you have to be open and willing to make changes for it. That is what being in a band is about; It’s about being willing to compromise and work things out between each other.
G- Truer words have never been spoken, Ben, and that was a great bit of advice. As a former touring musician myself, let me tell you $5 dollar a day doesn’t get you much, but the van eats first and you eat last.
B- (laughs) Indeed! I like that… ‘The van eats first and you eat last.” That’s proper! Very proper.
G- Oh yes. Well look, I know you’ve got a lot of interviews today and I just want to say again, thank you for taking your time to speak with Live High Five and I can’t wait for the album drop even though I have it already…
And we’ll see you on Summer Slaughter! Constricting Rage Of The Merciless, July 8th, Metal Blade Records. Pick it up! Ben, have a great day, travel safe, play hard, and we’ll see you on the road!
B- Definitely and thank you for this time, man. I hope to see everybody this Summer!
G- Right on, man!