Cannibal Corpse's Alex Webster: "A Good Attack And A Good Tone Are Important"
Over two decades, Buffalo's Cannibal Corpse has become one of the best-selling death metal bands in the United States. Unflinchingly confrontational, bassist Alex Webster and crew have created a catalog of extreme metal that is as consistent as it is intense.
The band's most recent effort, Torture, has received some of the best reviews of the band's lengthy career. In anticipation of tonight's show at the House of Blues, Webster spoke about the reception of the new album and some interesting points in his band's history.
The band has been going for nearly a quarter century. Do you find yourself wanting the shows to start earlier and earlier?
Yes, I prefer to play a little bit earlier. I don't mind staying up late, but I don't want to have to play the show super late. That is kind of a pain in the neck. I'd rather play anytime between eight and ten. That's a great time for us. That's what we prefer. Throughout our career, we've played at every hour of the day. Last year at a metal festival, we were going on at one in the afternoon. We play when they tell us to.
There seems to be a theme with many of the bands on tour with you.
Summer Slaughter is an extreme metal tour where you have a variety of types of bands from various genres of extreme metal. The term extreme metal covers a lot of subgenres. We have some really progressive acts on this year's tour like The Periphery and Between the Buried and Me. We have deathcore/death metal kind of stuff like Job for a Cowboy. Goatwhore and us, we play the old-school variety of death metal. Goatwhore have a sound that hearkens back to the mid-'80s when that style of metal was being invented. This tour has a big variety. There's a little something for everyone.
Do you personally enjoy listening to all of those styles of music?
Most of them. My favorite band on the tour is Goatwhore. They play exactly the kind of music that I like to listen to. But even though I am not as familiar with the progressive stuff, I still enjoy it. I try to keep an open mind. If music is played well and with conviction by good musicians, I generally find something to appreciate.
Does that include emo? Doesn't it seem like bands in that subgenre care more about the fashion than the music?
I don't listen to any of that stuff really. We have played with some bands that might fit into that category, but that is just a different look. I am 42, so I am not going to even pretend to understand what teenagers these days are interested in. Back in the '80s, I don't think some 42-year-old man understood what I was trying to do. The whole emo way of dressing, I can't say I find it negative or positive. I am from a different generation. If people like doing that, there is nothing wrong with it. If that's the way they want to dress, then more power to them.
Your most recent effort, Torture, has gotten some of the best reviews of the band's career. Do you read reviews and are you surprised that the new album has been received so positively?
We are always happy to see a good review. If it's a bad review, it kind of sucks and we ignore it. We put a lot of work into the record. Any CD we make, we are putting a ton of work into it. It's an accumulation of an entire year's worth of work. We wouldn't put it out if we didn't think it was good. When we see a positive review, we think that is cool and that our hard work has paid off. We are proud of what we do even if no one else liked it. We're not really surprised about getting good reviews this time around. I think the reviews for our albums have gotten steadily better over the years. The tastes of people in general have gone in a heavier direction.
Many of your other albums have been controversial due to the cover art. Torture is designed with a flip cover so people cannot see the album until after they buy it. Has the band finally conquered the album cover controversy?
Yes, that seems to be the best solution. We have always tried to balance having exactly what we want on the cover, which is usually pretty gory, with having a way to get the album out to the a lot of places. The slip cover idea is perfect. That is the way we are going to go the rest of the way out. We are going to keep doing that until it doesn't work.
Back in 1995, then Senator Bob Dole included your band in a list of offensive musical acts. Did the accompanying publicity actually help the band?
At the time that happened, I didn't watch much TV. I never saw the thing. I didn't end up actually seeing it for a long time. It was weird. We assumed that if someone as big as Bob Dole was mentioning us, he had not done the research. Surely, one of his aides did the research or some Christian conservative group brought us to the attention of one of his aides. Some group probably gave him a list in exchange for some backing for his campaign. We were mentioned along with many other bands, mostly rap bands. We were the only metal band they threw in there. We are happy to represent metal. It was an honor of sorts. I am sure that is not what Dole intended it to be. We are happy we managed to get their attention.
I have a young son who wants to form a metal band. Do you have any advice for young musicians interested in playing metal?
Just do it because you love it and have fun. When we formed Cannibal Corpse, we had all been in bands before. We had the goal of playing our favorite kind of music. When you are proud to do what you love, rather than try to succeed, you actually have a better chance at success. That might sound a little backwards to some people. I know people who have formed bands with the explicit goal of succeeding. We made a goal of making killer music that we wanted to listen to. We hoped for some success, but we really didn't plan on it. That was something that happened accidentally as a side effect of us making music that we love. It turns out a lot of other people liked it, too. Music that is made with sincerity it what people are going to like.
Is it necessary for a person in a band to be perfectly adept at his/her instrument? A lot of punk bands have members who don't play that well, but the music is certainly sincere.
I think some of those guys are really good. A lot of people don't give them the credit they deserve. I probably didn't when I first started. I looked up to the technical players, but it is just as important to play with consistency and power for an hour and a half. A good attack and a good tone are important. There might be a guy in a punk band that has great stamina. Maybe his bass parts are relatively simple, but that may be difficult for some jazz fusion guy. He might be tired after a few songs. His tone might be weak and thin. There's something to all kinds of music that takes a little bit of work. It's not easy to walk in and just play a type of music that someone else has mastered. Punk rock may appear to be simple, but it's not.
Cannibal Corpse plays as part of the Summer Slaughter tour with Between the Buried and Me, The Faceless, Periphery, Veil of Maya, Job for a Cowboy, Goatwhore, Exhumed, Cerebral Bore and Rings of Saturn tonight, July 25, at the House of Blues.