Skype, it’s a wonderful tool but sometimes it can betray you on whim. Thankfully it fixed itself so we could interview one of the genuine legends of death metal, Chris Barnes. Vocalist for Six Feet Under and former vocalist for Cannibal Corpse, Barnes has risen to the top tiers of the death metal world and took the time to speak to us on a rainy Tuesday evening (or for an American, a probably quite pleasant afternoon. Bloody time differences). This was quite a cool interview for me personally as it was the original Corpse albums plus the Graveyard Classics album from Six Feet Under that really got me into death metal in the first place.
Side note before we begin, if you’ve been here before you’ll know we usually turn our interviews into articles/features rather than straight up Q&As, but it didn’t seem right to chop up the long answers Barnes gave us. Keep an eye out for our review of the new Six Feet Under album which will be up shortly (we’ll edit in a link). Also, credit to Chris for understanding the West coast of Scotland accent, it’s one that trips up people just down the road in England never mind someone overseas.
Bold – Sound the Charge
Regular – Chris Barnes
How are you doing?
Doing good man, doing good
I suppose the obvious jumping off point would be the new album, we’ll be sticking a review up about that shortly..
..personally though, how do you feel about the finished work?
I’m just real happy with it man, I think it’s an interesting album. It’s a group of songs, I think they’re really strong songs, and they fit into our catalogue really well, man. I think our fans are gonna dig this stuff.
I know you had the guys from Cannabis Corpse involved, how did that come out?
Well, myself and Phil, we just become good friends. I mean, I knew about Cannabis Corpse for a long time, you know, just thought it was a really cool concept, it put two of my favourite things together, weed and death metal..they do it very well *laughs.* So yeah, had a great time working with Phil on one of the Cannabis Corpse songs we did, it came out last year and it just feels like continuation of that. He had a bunch of songs that he thought would be really good for the next Six Feet Under album, and he passed them along to me and I was blown away from it. Really, it set my creative juices flowing and here we are now
With Phil collaborating this time, are there any hidden 420 references I’ve missed, or is it all from the “killers” perspective?
*laughs* Yeah, pretty much, we didn’t really mix either of our two kinda things that we do *laughs.*
Do you think it’s this collaboration with other musicians that leads to Six Feet Under sounding fresh after all these years?
It is right now, it is right now I think, it’s definitely been a lifeline to our survival in terms of continuing to put out exciting new material and to kind of keep me inspired and to keep my lyrics flowing.
Do you ever suffer from writers block when you’re writing the albums?
No, I’ve never had a problem with that. If a song is giving me a hard time I’ve learned over the years just to put the pen down. I don’t really look at it as like I have the writers block, it’s the song that is giving me a hard time, which is weird, *laughs.* I don’t know if anyone else looks at it like that, it’s like this songs really being an asshole right now, I’m just going to hang out. I think that, I don’t really know, I think that happens because maybe the moment in time that it’s supposed to be written is a little bit too soon, or a fraction or a hair off your time line, so you just wait, so it comes to you when it’s ready.
Official video for Seed of Filth
Is there going to be a music video for the new album?
Yeah, there’s gonna be one. We just got finished with that ten days ago, we just filmed my part of it. I’m not sure where the directors at at this point, but yeah, we’re doing a music video for Open Coffin Orgy. It’s going to be, from what I’ve read of the treatment.. my parts of the thing are pretty interesting, so it should be something different.
Is it going to be a story then, or do you not want to give things away?
Yeah, I don’t want to give it away, but it kind of loosely follow the theme of the, and maybe the visual sense that you might get from the song title itself *laughs.*
One bit of feedback we often get is that people want more advice from the musicians we interview, with that in mind, what kind of advice can you give to new death metal singers so they don’t murder their vocal chords?
Well, that’s pretty easy. Don’t try to do something that’s unnatural for you to do. I think that takes time to learn, you know, and just to really practise a lot, rehearse a lot. You’re going to have to put in, you need to know you’re going to have to put in at least three hours a day, six days a week, and you’re going to have to do that for three years to learn your craft properly. Like in everything, there are no short cuts.
Do you find there’s a difference in your vocal abilities from Corpse until now?
Nah.. well there is because it’s voluntarily that way. Even on the Cannibal Corpse records I did, on each record I sang differently, I don’t think people look at it like that. When you look at Eaten Back To Life, my vocals sound as different on that record as they did on Butchered At Birth, and from Butchered At Birth to Tomb Of The Mutilated, my vocals are different. And from Tomb Of The Mutilated to Bleeding my vocals are different. And you can go through the whole Six Feet Under catalogue like from Haunted to Warpath, Warpath to Maximum Violence, into True Carnage. I accommodate the music with the vocal tone of my own realm of where I can comfortably sing from and kind of, pattern the music atmospherically with whatever I feel fit to write.
A lot of people may have questions and criticisms about that because they think, “oh yeah he can’t sing the same” and I’m like, “man, that became no challenge to me at one point,” and that point was on the Hammer Smashed Face EP when I sang Zero to Hero. After that I was like okay, I sang the deepest and blah blah blah I can do that, and I can do that forever, and that’s not, that’s not what music is. Okay I can sing like it I did on Butchered at Birth, but why.. I don’t think it would sound that good to sing that way all the time. Especially, how could you sing like that to a song like America the Brutal for instance, or 420. For me it would sound kind of silly, and I just don’t look at music, or my vocal approach, the way people think I do. So it’s kind of strange I think, a lot of that is in peoples heads, and they really need to wake up and check out my catalogue of work and how I truly approach things, and its from where I think the music is and how I can accommodate the music.
To expand on that, I know Ice T guested on a track a few years ago now, well more than a few years ago, but would you ever consider returning the favour or doing something outside of metal?
Oh, well.. I don’t know man, I just don’t think I have.. I’m the sort of guy that tries to stick to one thing, and do what I do best and try to keep moving forward. Not many people have asked me to do things on the side, if it was interesting enough I would
Barnes live with Six Feet Under
A few musicians have been talking recently about how being in a band is essentially just a job, do you take it this way, or do you consider it something more?
I take it as really who I am, I guess, my life itself this time around, this is it. So yeah, I just take it as my, I don’t think of it as a job, cause it’s fun. Maybe a lot of people have jobs that are fun I guess, but it’s fun for me, I’ve been fortunate to have a great dedicated amount of fans out there who really appreciate what I do.
So how do you keep it fun when you’re on tour, when you’re stuck on the bus?
Oh when I’m on tour. You know, we just try to keep it as light hearted as possible, we’re really mellow guys man, everyone in the band now, we’re just all of the same personality, we just have a good time and make it as much like home as we can when we’re out there.
In terms of keeping it mellow and light hearted, is there any sort of misconceptions about death metal musicians or even yourself that bothers you?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, people think I’m a monster! *laughs.* That’s like the ongoing joke this time around, y’know, “what would you like to tell people,” and I’ve always ended it in these past interviews on “I am not a monster!” *laughs*
Speaking of tours, what are the real horror stories behind them, are there any that stick out for you?
Man, you know, every time a bus breaks down on the side of the highway, that’s really the worst time you can be a musician. When you’re trying to get to the next show, and your form of transportation fails you. So any time that’s happened, that’s always seemed like it’s the worst time, but we’ve always made the best of it, even now, from the first tour into two tours ago, you always hope it doesn’t happen but it always ends up screwing you eventually.
And to take the opposite approach, what are the good memories?
Oh man, best tour memories, huh, that’s really really tough, um. Those are personal memories I think that I don’t want to share with people just yet, *laughs*, if I had to completely honest about it, that’s really how I feel about those ones, because those are tour memories that I shared with certain people, that I shared with people who aren’t here anymore in a physical capacity.
Again, back when you were in Corpse it was almost controversy after controversy, but does the acceptance of death metal these days ruin the fun a bit when it comes to writing the horror lyrics?
*laughs,* nah, it was never about making people angry or trying to get people riled up. I’m just writing the same way as I did back then, it’s just interesting to me to write horror stories. My whole goal was “okay, you go see a horror movie,” and this is how I explain it to people who don’t really understand what death metal is; you go and see a movie, you wait through the whole hour and a half to see these brutal clips of violence and that’s why people go and see a scary movie, to initiate some sort emotional response that you can’t get anywhere else. Those scenes that you wait through a bunch of bullshit to see, and usually those scenes aren’t that good, so I set out to take the scenes that are the coolest ones, and be descriptive about them, fictional occurrences most of them, and put them to music.
That’s how I started, and that’s how I’ve kept doing things, I’ve never really wanted anyone to get upset about it and ban our music and all that, because they’re just stories. Then I figured, I think that this is just like any other type of literature, or some sort of art maybe. Maybe the people who were disgusted by those things that I said early on in those stories, maybe they’re not too, y’know, they’re not too worried about it any more, they sort of have more of a grasp on it, they’ve talked on it. So no, it doesn’t discourage me, it sort of makes me feel good that those sort of things have cleared the air that we can all go on with life, that those horrible dangerous songs aren’t going to kill us anymore, everyone’s safe, so I feel that that’s sort of a good thing *laughs*
I read in an interview a good while back, maybe 2010, that you like to ride ATVs, do you still ride in your down time between tours and albums?
Man, I had a couple real bad wrecks and the place we were riding, when I was living back in Florida, we got into some trouble out there with one of the property owners. It just took the fun out of it all, and I had to kind of take a break from that. I do love riding off road motorcycles, on the road to, but that’s something else I gave up, because the last motorbike I had I sold it because I had too many people pull out in front of me and almost run me over, close calls, too many people who I didn’t know personally were getting hurt. I felt like I tempted fate enough, *laughs,* in the years I was riding so I thought it was time to put down the riding gloves.
So to round it up, what can the fans expect from 2015 from the band for the rest of the year?
Yeah, so the rest of the year we’ll hopefully get back out on the road here, we just got done with a small festival tour of Germany, Switzerland, where else, Austria too. That went real good, that ended two weeks ago, and yeah, we’re going to hopefully get out there on the road in a couple of months and continue on until the end of the year.
Final question, and it’s not so much of a final question, but is there anything we haven’t covered here that you want to plug, a final message?
Well no, I think we’ve had a good talk man, you’ve asked me a lot of really interesting things and I appreciate that. I hope all the fans of the band really like what we’ve come up with here and as usual, we’ve worked real hard on it, yeah, we’ll see everybody soon hopefully.
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