New Orleans anti-God types, Goatwhore, have been touring Europe for the last month – Amit Sharma caught up with frontman Louis Ben Falgoust II, and guitarist Sammy Duet when they arrived in London.
So how’s the tour with Skeletonwitch and Toxic Holocaust going?
Sammy: “It’s killer cos we were all pretty much friends before we came on this tour. We’ve toured the US with Skeletonwitch before and we’ve known them for a very long time; and we’ve known Joel from Toxic Holocaust for a while now so it’s like basically a bunch of friends hangin out in Europe. Drinkin a bunch of beer and rockin out!”
This tour has a revolving headliner, you’re playing in a different slot every night – have you treated it any differently to other tours?
Ben: “No we play the same just every night no matter what slot we’re in. All the bands have been bustin ass no matter slot – they’re fuckin playin the same show whether they are playing first, second or last – they all put full effort into it. I mean, when people come down, some might be here for Toxic, some might be for Skeleton and some might be for us – it doesn’t matter you know – it seems at the end result everyone who comes to these shows are happy with all of the bands. Maybe you have one or two that are like [adopting a whiney accent] ‘I just came for this band’ but overall even if you’re new to some people, they leave like a fan and totally believe in it. They’re like ‘Wow this is amazing, these three bands together on a package tour’ so it’s been really good with all the shows. “
It’s not the only ‘big’ tour for you guys – you’re hitting the road with Devildriver and Suffocation next year.
Ben: “Yeah in the States – Devildriver, Suffocation and us should be insane. The last tour we did in the States was with Obituary, Krisuin, Warbringer and The Berzerker and that was pretty good!“
Watch the video to ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’ by Goatwhore
Do you feel that you’re slowly moving out of the underground and into the glare of a more mainstream metal audience?
Ben: “It doesn’t feel any different to be honest. It seems when we come back and do tours like this, there’s something fun about this – I’m not saying bigger tours aren’t fun, but there’s a little bit more policing per se, and you’re restricted slightly on certain things. On a tour like this everybody’s equivalent, everybody does all the same stuff and there’s no ‘Oh this is my area, this is my spot, this has to be like this, you’re not allowed here’. I always wanna be able to go back to this situation no matter what, even if we do bigger tours.
“There’s something about it, it’s closer to you especially when you are playing and the crowd is right there, there’s not a barricade or anything between you to push them back so far. It’s hard to keep that contact going on – here it’s all right there. They are getting on stage with you and then jumpin off the stage, touch your hand instead off being so far away that you have to reach out far just to even shake hands. It’s a much more personal thing.”
Carving Out The Eyes Of God has been nudging its way into quite a few critic’s top lists, it broke into the Billboard 200 – are you pleased with the reaction has had?
Ben: “It’s pretty good. When we did the record we didn’t have this expectation, we don’t try to do that and be one of those bands that’s like ‘Oh this is gonna be the best record yet’ and all that other shit. We go in and we do what we like to do, and pretty much for ourselves. We put it out and then we tour, we don’t try to think about what will happen with the record – how is it going to expand us… We just go after it and do what we have to do and when things come they come. We take it with a grain of salt, if it’s something really positive we won’t turn it into negativity – we’ll be like ‘That’s awesome, but we still have more to do’. We tour so much in the US and we kept saying we need to get to Europe, Japan and outside of the states to do the same work we’ve done in the states. That’s why we’re here now and we’re hoping that this opens up another tour 3 or 4 months down the line out here, or maybe some festival offers. We have a lot of work to do over here, cos we always tour in the US and never get out!”
The last two albums were created with some fairly bleak shit going on behind the scenes – Hurricane Katrina, a bus crash that nearly crippled Falgoust – has this negativity been something that provided fuel for your music in the past? How did writing the new record feel without some nasty disaster lurking in the background?
Ben: “With A Haunting Curse, half the record was written and then the Hurricane happened so we went to Phoenix where our drummer’s from and finished the other half of the record. Now I don’t think consciously it has something that affects you but Im sure subconsciously there’s something there that might work against you or might help you. With the new record we didn’t have any kind of issues and everything was more focused. I think it was more focused because we didn’t have any of this other crap in the back of our minds. Even though we did go to Phoenix during A Haunting Curse, and we did get away from the situation, it was still there in the back of our minds so in some sort of subconscious way it was still playing a role within. In a negative way, in a positive way you never know!
“With the new record, ‘Id definitely say from my angle everything was more solid and focused when we went in. When we went in – us and Rutan – we were all on the same page on what we needed to do and how everything needed to go. It went really smoothly and really well. Everyone was always saying in the past ‘Y’all always need some sort of shitty disaster or shitty situation going on’ to do a record. But with Carving we didn’t have anything like that!”
Sammy: “Not one problem – we had enough time, everyone was relaxed so it actually came out better. I’m not saying we did a shitty job on A Haunting Curse, but there was a lot of pressure put on us and it kinda affected us cos that record is really intense. The music is very different to Carving as it was more speed orientated and extremely intense for the sake of being intense. Whilst with Carving it’s intense but in a different way which we found that works for us, instead of blastbeat after blastbeat after blastbeat. We found a way of taking the intensity that Goatwhore has but to the next level of heaviness – instead of speed orientated its more bludgeoning.”
Don’t take this the wrong way, but Carving Out The Eyes Of God seems a bit less Celtic Frost-ish than you’ve been previously – was that a conscious decision?
Ben: “It’s the growth of Goatwhore evolving out. Every band starts from a point of its influences and in the early stages you’re like this band sounds like this and that. And then you evolve – or at least I would hope you evolve – and you evolve the sounds you were influenced by. That is what I believe is happening, we are evolving into what Goatwhore is; what Goatwhore should become. We will always forever be Celtic Frost fans…”
Sammy: “There will always be some kinda Frostisms in there somewhere!”
Ben: “Now within the way we write it has formulated in there so it’s camouflaged a little better, and sinks into our writing structure so it’s not so obvious.”
Let’s talk guitars – from the moment ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’ opens up the new album, they seem so much fucking tighter and more muscular. What changed along the way?
Sammy: “A lot actually! I don’t mean any disrespect to [Erik Rutan, producer] at all, but on A Haunting Curse I had serious problems in the studio. One of my guitars literally broke, so that was strike number one. So I had to use one of Erik’s guitars which were totally opposite to what I normally use. Then my amp was having problems so I had to use one of Rutan’s amps, which again was totally different. I had no other choice but to do it cos I was on a schedule and we had to do the album – I just had to go get used to this guitar and amp immediately and record! Compared to Carving, when I actually used the stuff I use live, which is my real guitar sound, rather than using someone else’s strange equipment and being put under pressure to dial in my sound. That’s a big difference for me though it’s hard to explain…”
Ben: “It was not Rutan’s fault; it was a situation where technical things went bad. The reason we went back to Rutan is that he knows what we’re about and him and Sammy talked about the guitar situation. We went in, and that was the focus – we weren’t fucking off the drums and all that other shit – the focus was that the guitars had to sound like Sammy wanted. He went out of his way to make sure that guitars were how we wanted – he said ‘You will not leave this studio until you are satisfied’. We had an extra week in there that he didn’t even charge us for cos he wanted to make sure that everything was fucking right. From interviews, people sometimes think it’s the producer’s fault – it’s not his fault the guitar basically fell apart! If you took the guitars from Carving and put them on A Haunting Curse – that record would now be just as lethal.”
So what is your actual guitar rig??
Sammy: NEVER TELL! I’ll just say this – I use Randall Amps and currently ESP guitars – that’s all I can say. Everything in between, that’s all a secret!!
Watch the video to ‘Forever Consumed Oblivion’ by Goatwhore
It’s the end of the year… and the end of the decade. What do you think is the best record of 2009, and of the last decade?
Ben: “Jeez… decade? That’s a fuckin difficult question. You know what, I was thinking of the whole 2009 thing the other day, about which records I really liked. But you know what, I can never pinpoint just one though cos there’s always so many that are really good like…”
Sammy: “That’s one hard question to answer! I’d say my favourite record of 2009 would be the new Beherit album, Engram – definitely – but there’s a bunch of other ones too, that’s just one that I’ve been listening to a lot since it came out this year. As far as the decade? Shit dude, that’s a hard question…”
Ben: “I’d have to say Judas Priest…not Nostradamus – that was cool, but wasn’t uplifting – Angel Of Retribution was pretty uplifting because it was Halford’s comeback. It was almost like when Iron Maiden did Brave New World with Bruce Dickinson back, Priest still had that feel like Painkiller where they left off… and they stepped back in. Same thing with Brave New World, like where Bruce left, they stepped right back in – it’s like they didn’t lose a beat, they just flew right into it.”
How do you think metal is going to evolve in the next ten years? It seems to have spent a lot of the latter half of this decade recovering from the nu-metal headache by being quite inward looking and retro sounding…
Ben: “You’re having the resurgence of crossover and thrash metal right now. It’s like it’s repeating itself – Municipal Waste doing what they do, Skeletonwitch, Toxic Holocaust: all these bands are bringing the revival of that but adding something newer and younger to the whole situation – some new ideas, branching out on it. Metal has it’s ups and downs, but it never dies; that’s for sure.
“I remember back when I was younger, they were like ‘Metal’s dead’ and it wasn’t: it just went more underground and reconstructs itself and evolves into something else. It reinvents different ideas and comes out in different ways but all the bands always bring new, interesting things. There’s kids out there that are like 18-20 years old and they’re ripping on the guitar and writing some crazy shit. Anything’s possible that could happen – I just say go along for the ride and see what you have – but always remember the older stuff, where the roots came from…”
What have Goatwhore got planned for 2010 – apart from the Devildriver tour?
Ben: “Well other than that – we don’t know! That’s another thing about this industry, you never what you’re gonna be doing next until close up to it. We don’t really have anything set after that tour but come the beginning of January, we’ll have all these things falling into place, maybe have another tour, then come back to Europe or go to Japan…
“We are going to Australia in April with Behemoth and Job For A Cowboy for a week or something. And things will probably fall in to place for after that and Im sure if there’s nothing there, we’ll just start working on new material for the next record.”
Watch the video to ‘Alchemy Of The Black Sun Cult’ by Goatwhore
Taking into account the band’s anti-God lyrics – how are you spending Christmas?
Ben: “Well Christmas to me has always been family orientated – I’ve never looked at it as a religious idea. I’m on the road most of the time, so I don’t see a lot of my family and Christmas is when this Industry comes to a halt, so I usually see my parents, my sisters, people like that…
“We don’t really do a lot of gift stuff any more either. We get together, we are a family, we sit down to eat, I see family that I haven’t seen in a while it’s not a religious thing – we don’t even go to church for it. I grew up a Protestant but it was more my Mum’s side that were Protestant and that reflected through the family, but my Dad was always on this terrain of not giving a shit. I mean he gives a shit about the family but he doesn’t care about the fucking religious thing – that was never a big deal for him and he never enforced it like ‘Go to church every Sunday’.
“But he was strict, I’ll tell you now – [points to Sammy] he could tell you! My Dad was strict as hell but never about that. At one point there came a time where we did go and they asked us ‘Do you even wanna go’ and we were like ‘No’ so it was fine – they didn’t even go. So for my family, Christmas has nothing to do with some God-religious-face. And if you really want to look into the reference thing of Christmas and everything involved in it, it goes way way before Christianity/Catholicism – it goes back to the Pagans. That’s where wreaths and all that shit comes from, it’s all intermingled with different ideas. Whatever they wanna say the true meaning is, it’s probably bullshit anyway!”
Sammy: “I don’t even celebrate Christmas – don’t buy a Christmas tree, don’t do shit, just stay in my house.”
Ben: “You should buy the tree and the wreath though, cos that’s the Pagan angle of it!”
Sammy: “Dude, my cats are gonna get up there!”
Ben: “That’s the best part!! When I had a cat, it would climb in the tree, knock all the fuckin ornaments off, knock the tree over, shit would be chaos!”
Sammy: “Na, I’ll pass on that.”
Ben: “Dude, I’m buying your cat a tree this Christmas!”
Sammy: “Good, it can come to your house.”
‘Carving Out The Eyes of God’ by Goatwhore is out now on Metal Blade – we gave it a rather respectable 5 out of 6 when it came out in June. Goatwhore are still on tour in mainland Europe, and will be returning to the USA to tour at the start of next year – for more information, go check out the band’s official MySpace page.