Interview with Rob Barrett of Cannibal Corpse

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Interview by Jason Guest

Hi Rob. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Can you tell us what the responses to Torture by critics and fans have been like?

Rob Barrett: The response has been amazing from both our fans and the critics for the Torture album. For the 1st week of release we charted #38 on U.S. top 200 Billboard which is the best we’ve ever done so things are good. Even though that was only for one week it’s an impressive feat for an underground death metal band that doesn’t rely on commercial radio airplay to achieve.

Jason: When did writing begin for the album? Have you had songs around for a while or is it all new material?

Rob Barrett: We began writing for Torture in January 2011 and had the 12 songs complete and ready to go for the studio on September 1st of 2011 so we wrote for a solid 7 months. None of the songs were written before that. It’s all new material.

Jason: Torture has songs contributed by four of the five members of the band. Though not uncommon for Cannibal Corpse, this time there are more songs from you and Pat O’Brien. Did you have more songs this time around? Or was it that you wanted to show off more of the band’s capabilities?

Rob Barrett: Before we began the writing process for Torture it was agreed on that we all contribute to the writing more evenly. All of us were encouraged to write more so I wanted to contribute more than I was able to in the past. I think we’re at a good place when it comes to song-writing at this point with Alex, Pat and me writing the music more evenly. It gives the songs more variety when you spread the writing out a bit. Then Alex and Paul wrote the bulk of the lyrics and I wrote lyrics for 2 of my songs. It’s always cool to get feedback from the fans and they could already tell which one of us wrote a certain song. I think it makes a big difference when everyone is contributing to the writing. Then nobody feels left out and nobody has to feel like they’re carrying the weight of most of the writing.

Jason: With four of the five of you contributing to the writing, how did you choose which tracks would appear on the record?

Rob Barrett: We wrote 12 songs within those 7 months that we spent so we didn’t have any other material to choose from. Everything we wrote is on the album. I was actually starting up on a 4th song to put on it as well but we were getting near mid-August and our studio date was September 1st so we decided that we were better off to stop the writing process at that point and just concentrate on the 12 songs we had to prepare for recording them.

Jason: How do you think it’s affected the band’s overall sound on Torture?

Rob Barrett: I think everything on Torture is definitive Corpse material with a wider range of song-writing approaches than in the earlier days. I think we’ve learned a lot about finding the balance between playing some brutal fast stuff and combining it with more mid-paced and slower stuff over the years to make songs that have their own identity and are memorable. When all of your material sounds very similar it’s hard to tell what song it is sometimes. With Torture if you know the songs you should be able to hear 5 seconds of each song and know which one it is.

Jason: Any favourite’s on Torture?

Rob Barrett: My favourite on Torture at the moment is Caged…Contorted. Paul and I spent a lot of time arranging that song and I think it came out killer. I wrote some graphic lyrics for that one from one of the victim’s point of view.

Jason: You worked with Erik Rutan again. Studio time must be like a bunch of friends getting together to talk about and make music. What did he bring to the album this time around?

Rob Barrett: Erik did what he always does, a kick-ass job. When you work with Erik you know that he’s gonna spend every waking moment concentrating on the recording at hand because he wants the whole package to be as good as possible, from the mic placement, tones, performance to the final mix. He’s living and breathing whatever project he’s producing at the time so its killer working with him. He’s a workhorse who’s a dedicated pro. Plus it makes things more laid back and fun when you’re working with a long-time friend. We may tend to lose track of time sometimes when we’re all in a good mood and jokin’ about shit but when we get down to business it’s a strong teamwork kinda vibe goin’ on with Rutan.

Jason: You’ve also recently released the video for ‘Encased in Concrete’ and the director was David Brodsky of MyGoodEye. Why did you choose to work with him?

Rob Barrett: Brian Slagel was the one who suggested that we check out some of his previous work and we thought he had some cool shit so we went with it. I think the video came out killer. Especially the ending when his face gets covered in concrete.

Jason: Cannibal Corpse has always been able to integrate other elements of metal into their sound without compromising their death metal identity. Were there any elements that you wanted to bring in this time that you hadn’t played with before?

Rob Barrett: One of the newer elements in the Cannibal sound are the odd time signature parts. Paul’s doing a lot of beats nowadays that he never played before so there’s more variety goin’ on.

Jason: What do you think of bands that experiment with their sound? Are there limits?

Rob Barrett: Bands that experiment with their sound are confident enough to take that chance and in most cases it works but sometimes it could be a death wish. Both fans and critics can be merciless sometimes when a band they like changes they’re sound.

Jason: You’ve recently completed the UK ‘Destroyers of the Faith’ tour with Job For A Cowboy, Enslaved, and Triptykon. How was it for you guys touring with Tom G Warrior?

Rob Barrett: The “Destroyers Of The Faith” shows were great. We split a bus with Tryptikon and it was an honour to be able to hang out and talk with Tom G. Warrior. The Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost was influential to me. I wish we would’ve been able to do more shows with that package. I think it was only 5 dates.

Jason: You included ‘Demented Aggression’ in your set. How did it go down with your audiences?

Rob Barrett: We’ve been opening the set with Demented Aggression and its getting good reactions as a fast paced opener. Usually we’ll start the set with a slower, mid-paced song but we’re coming outta the gate with speed this time around.

Jason: Have you played any other tracks from Torture? If so, how’ve they gone down?

Rob Barrett: For the Full Of Hate festival dates and Destroyers dates we did Demented Aggression and Scourge Of Iron from the Torture album. The album wasn’t released over there until we were almost done with the tour so we didn’t wanna play too many new songs until after everyone had a chance to listen to them some. We’re presently on a headlining U.S. tour with Akaik, Abysmal Dawn and Exhumed where we’re doing 6 new songs in the set and the reactions have been great for the new stuff.

Jason: Cannibal Corpse formed in 1988. Do you have any plans for your 25th anniversary in 2013? And if you tour, will you be back in the UK? (You’re always welcome in Birmingham!)

Rob Barrett: Yes we do have some ideas that we’re still working out for our 25th anniversary. Maybe a special release or a special tour, not sure yet. We just recently did U.K. shows in March so we probably won’t be back for a while, stay tuned.

Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?

Rob Barrett: Thanks a lot for the interview Jason. Hopefully we’ll hit the U.K. again before the end of this touring cycle and hope to see everyone at the show next time!

Midlands Rocks thanks Andy Turner for arranging the interview.

More Cannibal Corpse?

  • MR’s review of Torture is here
  • MR’s review of Cannibal Corpse’s March 2012 gig at the HMV Institute, Birmingham is here