Blow The Scene recently caught up with Pig Destroyer’s electronics guru, Blake Harrison, for an exclusive interview as the band prepares to release its highly anticipated fifth full-length album, Book Burner, on Relapse Records on October 22nd. With five years having passed since these renowned grinders released the critically acclaimed album, Phantom Limb, Blake gets Blow The Scene readers up to speed with insight into the making of Book Burner, his personal electronics approaches to music, building a new studio, touring, band and art picks, and much more in this exclusive interview.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Blake..
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. Let’s get this interview rolling by having you introduce yourself and declare your musical weapon of choice with renowned grindcore innovators, Pig Destroyer.
Blake: I’m Blake, and I run the noise and samples in the band, I do the occasional vocal as well.
Joshua BTS: Pig Destroyer is gearing up to drop your first full-length release in five years, Book Burner, which is slated for an Oct 22nd release via Relapse Records. I know the band has been very busy building up and recording at a new studio and working in new drummer Adam Jarvis. Before we get into all that- What is your take on the current music climate compared to when Phantom Limb was released in 2007? Do you find it’s easier to connect with fans and get the buzz going via various Web presences with the band, record label, and press outlets? What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced given the current music climate and download culture?
Blake: Absolutely, I feel that this time around it IS a lot easier to get the buzz going through the various social media sites. I’m not sure what’ll happen as far as illegal downloading goes what will happen since a lot of the websites have been taken down. It’s a little much to consider, I mean you can’t stop people from downloading, our goal is just to make the best music we can so that people will want to buy it.
Joshua BTS: Any lessons learned or mistakes made from prior releases that were in the forefront of your mind when it came to time to ready the release of Book Burner?
Blake: I wouldn’t say that, there’s always things that you’d do different in hindsight, but our older records represent a time and a place for us both as people and as a band.
Joshua BTS: Pig Destroyer actually built a new studio where you recorded your forthcoming release Book Burner. Please share a little history with us. How did this studio come into fruition? Was the entire band active in the studio creation process and how much time do you spend recording and working with other artists? Have you named the studio yet?
Blake: The studio is Visceral Sound. We all had a hand in building it and trust me, we’re not contractors. We got kicked out of our practice space a couple of years ago and decided to build one and then we just moved it forward more to make it a full studio so we could record and produce our records ourselves. We’re the first band to record there, so no time with other artists and to be quite honest, I’m not sure if we’re going to record other artists.
Joshua BTS: I understand Scott Hull orchestrates the main riffs and arrangements for the songs before you and the rest of the band step in and fill everything out. Electronics can be a four letter word to many fans of grind, metal, and powerviolence. But with Pig Destroyer, the electronics don’t feel over-the-top or cheesy. Apart from the oblivious samples, most of the atmospheric layering sits nicely around the guitar distortions and the general vibe of the music. Was it a conscious decision to blend the electronics into the music more organically than some of your metal contemporaries who have the electronics and synth sounds sitting far on top of the music?
Blake: Yes, I mean I don’t want to step all over the music with obvious things. The music needs to swing, it needs to breathe.
Joshua BTS: Apart from the obvious samples in the music- How many varying approaches under the electronics umbrella do you work into any given track?
What does your rig look-like?
Blake: I had a synth pedal that was made for me, and I’m working on making a gristleizer. It really depends, I try to take the song into consideration and go from there, like really get a feel for what’s going on.
Joshua BTS: Any particular songs or moments on Book Burner where the electronic contributions turned out particularly well or better than your expectations? Any areas that challenged you more or saw you step out of your comfort zone on during the writing and recording of Book Burner?
Blake: Hmm that’s a tough one, I thought the whole thing was a challenge for me really. There’s an aspect that makes me not want to ruin the music.
Joshua BTS: Is it difficult to recreate the electronic elements of the Pig Destroyer albums in a live setting?
Blake: Yes, but that’s a symptom of what I do, I mean, sometimes it’s the rig, sometimes it’s the alcohol.
Joshua BTS: I’d like to focus on the aesthetics of the LP for a moment. Who crafted the cover art? How does this theme correlate to album title Book Burner? Was the artist given lyrics or music? Or did you simply brief him on a general theme and let him or her run with it?
Blake: Chris Taylor did the artwork, I think it came about that JR saw the cover and thought it worked and we used it, I wouldn’t say that it fits in thematically with the record, as there’s really no theme.
Joshua BTS: With a name like Pig Destroyer, I feel almost obligated to ask- Any political commentary in the lyrics of Book Burner? How actively political, if at all, are the members in their daily lives?
Blake: No, not really, I mean JR writes what he writes I would say that the band isn’t political at all. JR and I are pretty into conspiracy theories though and that sometimes ties in politically.
Joshua BTS: Any bands out there, whether here in the US or abroad, that are really exciting you right now? It seems apparent that your musical tastes run a wide gambit, so please take us through a few different genres and bands that have your ear at the moment.
Blake: Blacklisters from the UK, Magrudergrind, looking forward to hearing some new Misery Index stuff. The new EyeHateGod is great. The punk band OFF! has been rocking me. I mean as far as genres go, I like a lot of punk and grind.
Joshua BTS: You guys ever catch any flak on the road in the US or abroad passing through customs or getting pulled over with trunks full of Pig Destroyer merch?
Blake: No, not yet (crosses fingers) when we DO get pulled over we make up fake band names, my favorite so far is Fairy Tale Ending.
Joshua BTS: I’d like to switch gears into some lighter Q & A for a few moments. With so many interesting musical works under your belt, I am interested to know what other arts you follow. Any great books or art exhibits make their way into your mind’s eye recently?
Blake: We’re all huge fans of music, and literature. Nothing too much recently actually, Hobo With A Shotgun, I’d like to see the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMa, but am not too sure if I can make it.
Joshua BTS: What other creative outputs do you engage in that we may not suspect?
Blake: I write, but am not convinced that I’m that good. Adam will go Morel hunting and bird watching.
Blake: Barbeque for me, I love it. I’m not sure, we don’t really tour all that much, but have eaten at some great places. Flash Taco in Chicago stands out.
Joshua BTS: Who amongst you has the oddest touring habits? We’ve heard it all- From ice-t bottle collections or urine to guerilla hotel hopping. Looking at your Japanese Tour Diary videos, it would appear Pig Destroyer find plenty of time for laughs on the road..
Blake: We do have a lot of fun, it’s important to us, I mean we don’t do this for money. I doubt we have too many odd habits, Scott likes to fall asleep while watching tv, but that’s not that odd.
Joshua BTS: What does Pig Destroyer have in store for the rest of 2012 and into 2013?
Blake: We plan on playing out more, hitting some places that we haven’t been, I mean we’re not going on tour really. There’s going to be a flexi and maybe a
special release for record store day.
Joshua BTS: We really appreciate you taking this time with Blow The Scene and our readers around the world. Any final thoughts?
Blake: Thanks so much for the support, it’s greatly appreciated, it’s still flattering that people care so much about this grind band.
Pig Destroyer – “Burning Palm”