Interview: Cannibal Corpse Talk 25th Anniversary Box Set and Career
Over the past 25 years, Cannibal Corpse have become one of the most notorious bands in death metal. Their career has seen them releasing 12 albums, dealing with banned artwork controversies, and making a cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. But when it comes down to it, it’s Cannibal Corpse’s distinctive sound and brutal live performances that have made them so popular. Pending the release of the limited-edition box set, Dead Human Collection: 25 Years of Death Metal, Revolver caught up with bassist Alex Webster (pictured above, far left) to talk about the collection, the past, and the future.
REVOLVER The box collection is a four-panel and 12-album case. What made you decide now was the time to do a box set?
ALEX WEBSTER Well, we got together in late 1988 so that makes 2013 our 25th Anniversary. Seems like a career landmark that’s worth celebrating.
What part do you think fans will like the most about the collection?
You can hear our progression as a band from the beginning to the present. The box set is the complete collection of our full-length studio releases. I think they’ll also love looking at Vince Locke’s artwork through the years. His work has been a huge part of the visual image of our band throughout our entire career.
That imagery is iconic to Cannibal Corpse–and has been banned at points. With that kind of history, why did you decide to do new artwork?
Well, we always want to have interesting and horrifying artwork for each release, and this box set is no different. We try not to let censorship dictate the imagery of the band. Sometimes we’ve had to make censored versions of certain releases, but uncensored versions are also made available.
What made you want to include the live recording of Tampa 2010 and Milwaukee 2012?
It seemed like it would be cool to have something completely new and unreleased in the box set, in addition to the 12 previously released studio albums. Our live sound man, Pete Robertson, recorded a number of shows during our 2010 and 2012 tours, so we had plenty of material on hand to choose from. The two concerts we chose featured particularly good performances, so that’s why we used them for this.
Going back to the early days, let’s go back to Tampa in the ’90s and Morrisound Studios. What was it like?
Well, we lived in Buffalo NY until 1994, but we did record in Tampa at Morrisound during that time. So I only talk about Tampa’s scene in the early 1990s as a visitor, not a resident. Tampa had a lot of great bands with talented musicians like Deicide, Morbid Angel, Obituary, and also a studio, Morrisound, that understood what to do with this kind of music. The local musicians and that studio really jelled to make the Tampa scene highly influential.
Since this box collection has us looking back at all of the Cannibal Corpse releases, can we talk about each album’s progression?
Eaten Back to Life–our first album. We were just learning. Pretty solid release considering that.
Butchered at Birth–we were starting to develop our sound and gaining experience as musicians. The lyrical imagery of the band was coming into focus.
Tomb of the Mutilated–we became more technical musically. This forced a change in lineup shortly afterward as guitarist Bob Rusay was dismissed. Some of our most disgusting lyrics are also on this album.
The Bleeding–A difficult album to record. Scott Burns [producer] really pushed us hard in an effort to make us sound as professional as other top death-metal bands, like Death. It was our first album with [guitarist] Rob Barrett.
Vile–First album with Corpsegrinder [a.k.a. George Fisher]. Had to rewrite lyrics after dismissing original vocalist Chris Barnes during the recording session. Also, was our first album to feature lower tunings and last album with Scott Burns.
Gallery of Suicide–A long, dark sounding album. Lots of dark melody that also feature some of our slowest songs. Pat O’Brien’s first album with us as he replaced Rob, who left after Vile.
Bloodthirst–First album we did at a different studio. We went to Village Productions in Texas, which was later renamed Sonic Ranch. Colin Richardson produced the album.
Gore Obsessed–Produced by Neil Kernon, and also recorded at Sonic Ranch. On this album you could start to hear how Jack’s [Owen] writing style and guitar sound were diverging from Pat’s.
The Wretched Spawn–Our second Sonic Ranch/Neil Kernon combo. The difference in style between Pat and Jack became even more clear. Jack’s songs were very straightforward, Pat’s and my songs were faster and more technical.
Kill–Rob Barrett returns, replacing Jack. Our first album with Erik Rutan at Mana Studios. Rob’s style matched better with Pat’s and mine, and the result was a more focused, vicious album.
Evisceration Plague–Our second album with Erik at Mana Studios. This album was more precise than Kill but somewhat less raw. Features some very interesting leads by Pat and a guest lead by Erik.
Torture–Our third album with Erik. This time the recording was split between Sonic Ranch and Mana Studios. The result was a precise album that was also raw and vicious, sort of the middle ground between the two previous releases.
You have toured a lot over the years. What’s the weirdest thing that ever happened to you?
I never have a good answer for this question. Too much has happened over the years. I guess when we were trapped at the border of Belarus and Ukraine for two days that was pretty weird.
If you could go back in time, what tips or advice would you give to your younger self?
Be patient and practice hard. And don’t give up.
There are still younger people discovering Cannibal Corpse for the first time. This band is seen as such an important part of death-metal history. What’s in store for the future of death metal?
I think that there are a lot of great young musicians that are interested in death metal and other forms of extreme metal, so the future is bright. I can’t predict what’s coming, other than to say that death metal is here to stay. I suspect it’ll still be around in another 25 years, and beyond.