Cephalic Carnage have been building and streamlining their unique blend of grind, death-metal, and progressive jazz since the early 90’s. They are nothing short of an authority in the extreme metal world. Cephalic Carnage continue to create music for musicians that challenges as much as it excites. The band members have been some persistent grinders this past year, working in a new guitarist, while at the same time, writing and composing a monstrous new album, Misled by Certainty, which hits streets August 31 via Relapse Records. Blow The Scene Editor, Joshua Cohen caught up with band just days before their new record drops Worldwide. Enjoy this full-feature interview where the band discusses the new album, tour life, current social issues, inspirations, unbirthdays, and lots more!
Joshua Cohen BTS: Gentlemen. Or rather, black-hearted musical marauders known as Cephalic Carnage! Please introduce yourselves to Blow The Scene readers around the world by stating your name and musical weapon of choice.
Brian: I’m Legolas, and I play the bow and arrow. And I sweep.
Len: Ich bin Lenzig Von Stroginoff
Nick: Aeyeucgh! I’m Nick, and I choose the Bass gweetar and vocals.
John: I’m John and I play drums.
Steve: (Yells from in the bathroom) “heeeeeelllllp!, ow, ow, ow!!!”
Joshua BTS: Cephalic Carnage is one of the most steadily touring bands in the extreme music world. Your perspective on tour life is far more profound than many of your contemporaries. You are just wrapping up Summer Slaughter Tour 2010 and heading over to Europe in early September. What were some highlights of Summer Slaughter and what are you looking forward to most about heading back to Europe? Anything you wish you could change about the SST? What should your European fans expect from the upcoming tour?
Nick: Touring is my favorite thing ever. I love the balance it creates with home life. You are in constant renewing cycles of appreciation- Appreciating home life/girlfriend/family/friends/hometown when you’re on tour cause you miss them, and appreciating/missing touring when you’re at home. Summer’s Laughter 2010 was my best tour so far. All around just sick…killer bands, no egos, 77 friends traveling over the states and Canada, 600-1200 people a night, amazing. Only thing I would change is the routing to make a little more sense and not such long drives. The load in’s have to be early, so when you have an average of an 8 hour drive you don’t get to party or hang with friends as much.
Super excited about all the sandwiches we’ll get to eat in Europe. Psycroptic is such a killer band really looking forward to hangin and sharing a bus with them again. Ion too! Euro fans should expect a barrage of garage influenced hydro-punk samples in between songs that are very short as far as 5 minutes goes. Dutch people: expect us to cry while you stare at us waiting for us to make you laugh. We’ll mix it up for sure though. You’ll get fast and slow and kooky and cold. We’ll butter you up and nibble your earlobe and before you know it you’ll be making sounds like a goose coughing up squishy toy. All the way down, kids.
Joshua BTS: We recently reviewed your forthcoming record Misled By Certainty at BTS and it received unabashed praise all across the board. Full-review can be read HERE. Can you share with us what the creative process for this record looked like? Were there any major differences in approach compared to the writing for your last record Xenosapien? Does one member come up with an idea or riff and then you all add your own flavor? Or is there a writing captain at the helm who dictates the direction of the songs?
Nick: First off thank you guys a shit-load! It’s really fulfilling to work your ass off on something and pour 110% of your creative energy into it (taking some risks as well) and have it responded to well. The main creative process this time was something like this. One member would have a riff, collection of riffs, or an actual structured song- then we’d bring it down, show it to John, and jam it out. We collectively would play through the songs and make changes or suggestions to try to keep a circular flow to the energy. We wanted the songs to feel more cohesive even with their quirkiness. So it ended up working out really cool, because after all the pre-production was done, we were able to go into the studio with Dave at Flatline, and then basically whoever’s song it was got to director/producer. It was a very fluid process and very open. We all really gave each persons opinions credit, which takes a high level of humility and simultaneously shows each other a great deal of respect. We’re very satisfied with the results, and we didn’t even need to waste all that money on home pregnancy tests!
Joshua BTS: One of the many appealing aspects of the band is your sense of humor. You guys have never been afraid to take stabs at the uber-serious black and death metal scenes you are often lumped in with. Is this comic relief a necessity in order to stay sane amongst a plethora of artists who take themselves way too seriously?
Nick: Totally. We tour and play music because it is FUN. If you’re doing this for any other reason than that I can’t imagine it being worth the hassle.
Joshua BTS: Cephalic Carnage is among a shrinking minority of bands that actually push the boundaries of genre and predictability. You guys are a breath of fresh air in a niche of music that often falls in the trap of repeating what came before. Is the uniqueness of sound something that is thought about during the creative process or do you guys just sit down and jam as the songs take on a life of their own?
Nick: I think there’s a bit of letting the riffs birth into a song, and then sort of shaping it from there. We definitely try to avoid anything that would sound like a blatant re-hashing of old material or any other bands material. Everything has already been done in a way, so it’s kinda like you meet the past with the future and get the present. We really enjoy pleasing ourselves. As musicians, we appreciate the fact that things move in cycles but its fun to not be a slave to your “style” and get to do really whatever the hell you want.
Joshua BTS: I’d like to focus on some of the individual instrumentation of Misled by Certainty. The bass playing is simply other-worldly. I was quoted as saying “You’re getting some of the best bass licks Colorado has yet to offer. If the Rockies had horns with red skies and decided to shred at the bass..this is what those mountains might sound like. Epic.” I stand by this assessment. Nick, I’m dying to know who are some of your influences on bass? Where do you draw your inspiration from? What do you do to keep the chops up?
Nick: Dude again, thank you! You’re making me blush. For some weird reason I used to think I was from Mars. I would tell my mom that’s where I was from. I think maybe that has to do with some of it. I have a TON of killer, killer bass influences. To start I’d say Victor Wooten. He’s one of the pioneers (he got it from his brother, Reggie) of the “double thumb” technique. That’s sorta the thing I do at the beginning of “Ohrwurm”. Robert Trujillo’s work with Suicidal but more specifically Infectious Grooves was really inspiring. He combines really punchy, aggressive, fingerstyle playing with slap and pop and does it all without sounding cheesy. Ryan Martinie was a big influence too. His growly, midrange, warwick tone on their first record was so flattering to my ear. He mixed all the techniques I dig as well, with tapping, harmonics, and slap done really tastefully. If you really want to hear some crazy other world bass playing, check out Michael “Manthing” Manring’s “Soliloquy”. He plays a Zon Hyperbass, a three octave fretless neck, 4 string detuners, bridge detuner, and transducers all over the bass to pick up percussive thumps and whatnot. He uses it all and will just blow you the funk away. One thing I learned from Victor Wooten was to let not just bass players inspire your playing. Anything from other instruments like drums or trumpet or whatever, to public speakers, film scores, birds, street light ticks, anything and everything. Music is all around us all the time, and perceiving musical value in everyday life can result in some killer new phrasings and concepts. For chops I’ll just woodshed. Once you learn a technique, you add it to your arsenal, and you can combine it with anything you’ve already got to create new shiz. There’s always something you can’t play, or some kid on youtube that’s got some cool new thing he’s doing that you can learn, adapt, morph and whatnot. Then click on your metronome, and start playing it slow, and speed it up til you can barely play it right. Practice there and keep bumping the speed up. Yar.
Joshua BTS: John, I noticed at The Philly performance of Summer Slaughter that your drumming had a much more natural tone than many of the other drummers. And the fact that you play those tremendous beats in flip-flops, is well, awesome. Are you using triggers these days? Do you streamline the kit for tour?
John: Thank you man! No triggers… The kit you saw is my basic setup minus a few cymbals for recording. Werd!
Joshua BTS: Lenzig! Having seen Cephalic Carnage several times over the past two decades and I can honestly say the vocals have never sounded better. Do you have a series of vocal exercises you do to keep the chords intact? I also noticed the vocal range on Misled By Certainty seems to know no boundaries. Have you been experimenting with different ranges and pitches? I couldn’t help but notice the herbal enhancements with a little help from Silver Surfer Vaporizers. Vaporizer put less stress strain on the on the voice than traditional doobs? Can you touch on some of the vocal themes for MBC?
Lenzig von Strokingoff: Its all about the inner vibe that each song presents to me. I can not take credit for everything you hear on the album by no means! Nick had a hand in this as well. He sang about 5 cuts by himself and the rest was me and a small amount of guest vocalist from the scene: Travis from Cattle Decapitation (When I Arrive, Chtulu chant), Ross Dolan from Immolation on the chorus of “Abraxas of Filth,” etc. At the end of the day we still have to perform those song live, and we’re “certain” we could pull em off no problem. As for the live thing, you try not to talk as much in certain tones, make sure you get a decent amount of rest, and get keep up hydration with lots of water. The silver surfer vape sponsorship is a dream come true for me. It helps get you inspired without the harshness of joints and bowls…it gets me done! Some of the themes on Misled are: “The Incorrigible Flame ” – about living things that might seem kind of twilight zone-ish, weird occurrences and things that could be hard to explain. “Warbots,” is about robots battling the cordyceps humanis fungus that is killing human beings. We die off, and a super mandroid evolves named d666303 and he inspires neo-death amongst the robots and battle droids. A bit star wars-ish but fun…”Abraxas of Filth,” is about an ancient nightmare still haunting readers today, the way only H.P Lovecraft can do it. The rest of the album deals with hope,rage,despair,coitus,and all other things that make a cephalic album or cassette a listenable one…
Nick: Len and I really had a lot of creative room on this record vocally. The rest of the dudes kind of let us do our thing. We got to do a lot of pre-production stuff, where you can just try anything you want to out and you’re burning up money in some rich producers studio. Getting to do that allowed us to try out different ranges and tones of our voices, and really getting to dig around resulted in a really broad range of vocals. I’m stoked on the clean vocals Len and I did to. Some of the stuff I wrote about was horse tranquilizer, DMT, the supercontinent cycle, and earworms. Fun times!
Joshua BTS: Steve and Brian! Last but certainly not least. So you two have been some busy grinders working Brian in over the last year while also writing and recording Misled By Certainty. Steve did you feel added pressures having to work with Brian on older material for tour while writing the new LP? Any nervous breakdowns along the way? It can’t be an easy task to have to learn your older works. Anything that really challenged you of the older material Brian? If you had said to me in 2007 that you would outdo the guitar work on Xenosapien, I would have had to laugh. But yet you both pulled it off. The guitar work is insane. You combine elements of the most extreme metal, grind, and powerviolence it what sounds almost effortless. Throw in the progressive jazz chords and structure, and well, you boys are in a league of your own. Please share your creative process and what the last year has been like for you both.
Brian: The thing that really challenged me with the old jams was remembering what was going on. The songs are so crazy and jump from one riff to the other that it was hard to grasp where i was in the song some times. Technicality wise it was fine, but the song structures were hard to get at first. Marijuana is one hell of a drug! We have our pre-jam ritual were we usually go smoke a bunch of bud and then jam on the new tunes that each of us would write. For me personally, i would be at home and just play guitar and record riffs and ideas into protools. Then i would put ones i thought would fit well together and try and get somewhat of a song structure out of it. We would all bring our ideas to practice, get super high, and hopefully come up with some good songs.
Joshua BTS: Are you guys focusing on any social issues at the moment? I mean with so much going on in the world from oil-spills to corporate greed hitting all time highs (or lows depending on how you look at it) and major musical protest against laws like SB 1070 in AZ..how does music play a role in your social actions? Do you view music as playing a major role in social-political issues? Are there any causes or organizations you would like your fans to check out?
Nick: We like to keep some time-relevant stuff in the record, without overdoing it cause then you’re shit is dated. But we mention the oil-spill in “Repangaea,” which is a big epic about the super-continent cycle which is happening right now. We definitely have a voice with our band to get our thoughts and energy focused about a particular topic. We never want to come off too preachy. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but if you read through the lyrics of all of our records, this new one included, we deal with a lot of the issues that have plagued our world for a long time. “Repangaea” specifically covers a lot of that ground. I wanted to write something that sort of summed up everything as it is. Our overall human status with the planet is not quite homeostatic yet. We’re doing a lot of things wrong and we need to seriously and exponentially increase the rate at which we evolve our processes. We have a symbiotic relationship with our planet and ignoring that from a mass standpoint is going to be a very poor use of magnificent potential. Music is huge in social-political issues. Everyone listens to and is influenced by music. When you insert your agenda in there, it is going to get through and affect the listener, especially if they are big into your band. I would recommend people check out alternative sources of news, fuel, and food. I believe we vote everyday with our dollar. You vote for big greedy heartless corporations if you purchase items from those types of companies. There are a lot of actually good companies and corporations out there, and if we want to make the attributes of those companies a common thing, we have to show that by purchasing from them instead.
Joshua BTS: What should Cephalic Carnage fans expect from the band as we approach 2011?
Nick: I would say expect humor and humiliation, happiness, honor, intuitiveness, interventions, hostility, hubris, Steve Winwood-esque keyboard solos, trampolines, rental tuxes, unbirthdays, haircuts, no haircuts, merkins, eyebrow waxes, vision correction, light sabers, tire irons, tiger woods tattoos, fishing poles, television set smashing, collectors items, registration renewals, doner kebabs, a south park appearance, a whole bunch of riffery, debauchery, defilement, friendship bracelets, waterpark rides, distractions, delineation, divinity, and definitely, definitely, lots of certainty. Cheers and thanks dudes!
Relapse Records has several awesome package deals for the Misled By Certainty release.
For Misled By Certainty CD Pre-Order – CLICK HERE
For Misled By Certainty Double Vinyl Edition – CLICK HERE
For Misled By Certainty + Abraxas T-Shirt Package – CLICK HERE
For Misled By Certainty (2LP Vinyl Edition) + Abraxas T-Shirt Package [USA ONLY] – CLICK HERE
To stream Misled By Certainty and current list of Tour Dates go to – Official Cephalic Carnage Myspace Profile
Additional photo credits to www.returntothepit.com and www.schoolofrock.com