CANNIBAL CORPSE - ROC TALKS WITH 'HEAD BUTCHER' CHRIS BARNES
By: John Woods
Hailing from Buffalo, NY, CANNIBAL CORPSE sets forth to claim the throne as the goriest and heaviest band on Earth. "We like to think of ourselves as a well sharpened bone saw ready to rip through your skull," states vocalist Chris Barnes. The band is on target with their new album, BUTCHERED AT BIRTH on METAL BLADE.
I caught up with Chris on January 23rd at THE AGORA BALLROOM in Cleveland along with ATHEIST and GORGUTS. I had the chance to talk with Chris about the banning of the album's cover art. Here's what he had to say about that and a few more items.
ROC: So Chris, tell us a little about the saga of BUTCHERED AT BIRTH.
CB: The saga, yea! It came about last year when we started writing material for the new album. I was doing a lot of reading on serial killers (which I still am) and true crime stories. Basically we just cranked out a lot of songs, the lyrics sounded right and after I heard the music the guys were writing it pretty much enveloped just as the whole concept of BUTCHERED AT BIRTH. It just came out of the songs, it was kind of a must.
ROC: We understand the cover has been banned in a lot of places.
CB: Yea, but we're just putting out an album with an alternative cover in Europe and some places. Germany now can't carry it in the stores with the original cover showing on the outside. In the US there's an alternative cover for the chain stores. It's just a plain white cover. You can send in an enclosed coupon and for nothing get the original artwork along with the lyrics. It works out good for the kids that might not have an underground record store in their city, they can still get the album cover by sending this coupon in.
ROC: What was the problem with Canadian customs, they seized the album?
CB: I don't know, I just think they got a box or two of the stuff coming over and they just thought it was obscene or whatever they felt, pornographic or whatever, which is totally bullshit.
ROC: Is this the first time this has happened or did you have similar problems with "EATEN BACK TO LIFE?"
CB: You know just the regular chain stores like TRANSWORLD and CAMELOT, they just didn't carry it. I know that CAMELOT ordered like a few thousand and then sent them back after opening the box.
ROC: Is it just the record chains acting alone or has there been any pressure from groups like the PMRC?
CB: It's probably just the chains. I don't think the PMRC really bugs us any, like directly. They just pretty much have this thing now where the record stores are so afraid to carry stuff because if a parent complains, they'll end up calling them, maybe close their store or lose their lease or whatever. Our record company is conscious of that so they try to work around it.
ROC: "BUTCHERED AT BIRTH" I see bears the infamous warning sticker. As a musician how do you feel about that and the stickers in general?
CB: They defeat the purpose actually. I know when I was a kid if someone told me I couldn't have something I'd just try harder to get it. It doesn't stop anybody from getting anything. It's just a waste of space on the album cover actually, it takes away from the beauty of the cover art.
ROC: How do you feel about the fact that stickers are being used to restrict sales of certain albums to people based on their age?
CB: The kids can probably get a copy of the tape from their friends or someone who is a couple of years older. So any which way, they're gonna hear it and that's cool. We like getting new fans and stuff like that. There was a seven year old at our show last night, and he was into it.
ROC: Do you have any thought as to why groups like the PMRC and some religious groups are so afraid of this and other music?
CB: I don't know, I just think that they can't take the changing times maybe, or they're to used to things from their own generation and can't see things in full perspective of what they are at this time in the '90s. While things are building up both progressively and musically, they're stuck in their own culture I guess. That's how they were brought up and they just can't look at things objectively.
ROC: How do you feel about major corporations like 7 UP, COORS and a few others bankrolling the agendas of a number of these groups. Are you aware of this?
CB: Yea, yea! I've heard about COORS. That's really crooked dealings man. I think that stuff, it terrifies me that people give large sums of money to these groups that are trying to stifle our thoughts. Those people have a lot of money obviously, and that's pretty bad and I think people should start being aware of that definitely. And I would not buy COORS products, they're a bunch of Nazi's anyway.
ROC: You know all the top executives at COORS are all born-again fundamentalist Christians?
CB: Yea, which Nazism put into action in other words.
ROC: As a musician, what do you think other musicians should be doing to help combat this bullshit?
CB: It's hard to say, but the best thing that artists and musicians could do is pretty much keep aware of it and try to tell people in interviews that this stuff is dangerous and that any type of censorship is although illegal, it's also bad for society. People should try to think what they want to think and so do what they actually want to do as long as it doesn't harm anybody. That's basically it, just keep people informed that things are wrong and that censorship should be stopped definitely for sure.
ROC: Now about the record labels and the music industry in general. Do you think they could be doing a lot more than they are?
CB: I think the labels have their hands tied behind their backs because some of these groups are just overpowering to them even. MTV is another thing I'm against. That's the other thing, that's definitely censorship right there. It's hard to believe that the whole US is so enthralled with TV. It's like the biggest form of entertainment in the US. In Europe people are more into art or listening to music and they don't have to watch MTV 24 hours a day or whatever.
ROC: Is there any message you'd like to send out to the readers of THE ROC?
CB: Don't let no one hold you back, do what you wanna do. And I'd agree with Kelly (vocalist for ATHEIST) that the legalization of marijuana is definitely important. That's a definite other form of censorship.
ROC: We understand your next album cover is going to be more controversial than BUTCHERED AT BIRTH. How about it?
CB: Yea, yea we're gonna put out another sick one definitely. And Vincent Locke is going to do the new album cover also.
ROC: Can you give us a hint as to what the cover will be or anything about the new songs?
CB: There's no initial drawings yet, just a few minor sketches. As for the songs, we're finished with three new ones. As for the others, most of the ideas are already in place. But a few new ones are popping up now.
ROC: Any future tour plans?
CB: We'll be doing this one till the end of February with hopefully a Hawaiian date at the end. That's the only way to end a winter tour. Then we're going back to Europe at the end of March.
ROC: What was the censorship like in Europe?
CB: When we first went over in October they were still selling our original cover. There were only a few with the red alternative cover and I think most of them were in England. When we came back over we were talking with the distributor for our record company in Germany, and he was saying they had all these special talks in the German Council or something about our album cover specifically. They decided it couldn't be sold in stores with the original cover.
ROC: Last year when we spoke with Mille from KREATOR he told us that a lot of PMRC-type groups were beginning to pop up in Germany. Have you seen this also?
CB: Oh yea definitely. They are there. I just don't know what the problem is with our album cover. As for myself it's a cartoon. They claim it portrays necrophelia and that's bullshit. It's just someone's imagination I guess.
ROC: Maybe they're sicker than you could ever hope to be!
CB: Yea I know. You know maybe I should've had someone on there fuckin' her while she's getting her guts ripped out. They they would have thought it was worse you know.
ROC: Now you come up with the original concept and then Vincent Locke draws it right?
CB: Yea, I come up with the concept and then Vince like puts his own stuff in there, you know like the little thing with the Christ child in the background and then the little one on the inside. Yea he puts his own little things in there. He's really a wild guy. He'll be doing the next one, so watch out.
ROC: Well if it's anything like BUTCHERED AT BIRTH we can't wait to see and hear it.
CB: It's gotta be, it's gotta be even better right.
ROC: Thanks for talking with us and sharing your thoughts.
CB: No problem, just keep puttin' out the word and keep in touch with us, o.k.