Interview with Cannibal Corpse drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz

- Aug 05, 2006 at 01:38PM
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Gore, gore, gore! What fan of gore can’t help but think about Cannibal Corpse? They are the top band of the death metal elite for almost 20 years running now. To those that have never read an interview with the band before, you would think that meeting these guys would be intimidating to say the least. Maybe you could be the next subject matter for three minutes on the next album. But in actuality, these guys are some of the most genuine, down to earth, and even nicest people I’ve met. And on the rare occasion of not headlining a tour for the first time in 10 years, I had a chance to catch up with drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz on the tour bus for a long chat. Branching from topics such as the newest release Kill, to touring, to Star Wars, we talked about whatever came up.

Alright let’s get to it man. On the new album Kill, the cover art is a lot more toned down than your previous work. So what was the reasoning for doing that this time around?
Paul: Well we just felt that we really wanted the music to stand on its own. I mean when you actually look at a cover like The Bleeding, it’s really nothing as well. That was our fourth CD after putting out covers like Butchered at Birth and Tomb of the Mutilate. Then we put out The Bleeding, and it really doesn’t have any cover to speak of either in a sense. You know where it’s just a weird... you don’t know what it is. And that right there is our biggest selling CD. So we’ve been through it, we still are of course fans of the gore and that’s what Cannibal Corpse is about. But we did have problems with The Wretched Spawn getting it into certain markets and certain stores and everything. We really felt like, what is the most important thing? That of course is getting our music out to the masses. And this time around we just said well keep it simple, we know we aren’t going to have a problem getting it into Best Buy, getting it into a lot of record chains. There’s not going to be a censorship issue with that you know. We’ve always been about the music. Like I said, the visuals, the songs, the song titles, the lyrics, bottom line what it comes down to is the music. So we felt let the music speak for itself you know. Let’s see what happens, maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. And it seems to be working because we’re selling more than we ever have. Especially Kill doing so well, it’s our best release in years. So that was really kind of the reason we went with it you know?

On the album, you switched from your normal producer to Eric Ruttan. What was it that drew you into Eric over all the other producers and what was it like working with him?
Paul: Well you know we did Bloodthirst with Collin, the last two with Neil, and Eric has just been doing some really good work you know. The last couple before he did ours, Soilent Green, and some other bands he’s been working with for MetalBlade, they’ve been really freaking on his work. So we heard him and we thought that Eric is really coming into his own. He’s been working in it for a long time and it just took him time to really build up to maybe tackle a band like Cannibal Corpse. Because I believe up to this point we are the biggest band he’s ever done. So we just thought why not make a change. Not that we were unhappy with any recordings that say Neil did or Collin, but you know, maybe it’s time for a change. We went to El Paso to do those three, let’s stay closer to home in our Florida Tampa area where Eric’s studio is. We know the guy; he is a friend of ours. He’s a death metal guitar player as well, so not like it’s a no brainer, but a lot of positives. It was exactly like the album cover, let’s give it a try, see if it’s gonna do good. Basically we were totally pleased with it, Eric did a great job, he worked his ass off. He did the best he could for us, he wants to do good, he likes us, and he’s a friend. And him being a death metal guitarist is pretty vital I think. I mean all these other producers out there; they might be great at what they do, but really what kind of a background are they coming in from? Probably more of just a rock maybe metal background. But there are really no producers out there who are in death metal bands. So Eric would probably know a little more than the average producer about what needs to be done to make death metal sound good. He did a great job, I mean I’m not detracting to any producer we had before or anything, we’ve always felt we’ve had some great productions. Eric did a really great job we were really pleased.

Awesome dude! So me and my buddies were looking around www.youtube.com, and found the "Make Them Suffer" video, thought it was pretty gnar. And we didn’t realize till afterwards that we were watching the edited version. The original was much more graphic and shocking, yet still ass kicking. Was this a video you guys had for a long time, or was it spur of the moment type shit?
Paul: Well not really, I mean it’s like... we make an album, we got songs, and we know we need a video. One or two videos, it’s a huge thing now with Headbangers Ball back, you know. So we felt "Make Them Suffer" was a good video to make one for. The lyrical content wasn’t as in your face brutal where they might not allow it, people like MTV. So we took "Make Them Suffer," and we just worked with the director basically. We went out to L.A. to film and met the director, he had some ideas for concepts and stuff, and we were just like "yeah that’s cool, let’s go with it." It was dark, pretty eerie, right along our vibe. So when he did it, he really wanted to do a brutal version of it, more brutal than the other one you saw. See we were like "that’s killer let’s do that." But obviously that’s not going to be the one that’s played on MTV, there’s no way. They aren’t going to allow that. And that really is the point of doing the video, getting out to the masses. If you make a video and ten people are going to see it, and it’s something you really want to do, what good is that? So yeah, you’re going to get your internet version where you do a little searching and you find the brutal version. And then of course the tamer version, which is still good! The actor did a great job, the scenes are dark, it’s definitely a cool video. But of course that’s the tame version to be played on MTV and mainstream type TV shows and stuff like that. But yeah, it was a lot of his idea, a lot of the concept stuff. But it still really fit the vibe of the song.

Which version do you think is going to end up on the Sounds of the Underground DVD?
Paul: I have no idea. We’re not sure. We don’t know that but of course it would be cool to have the uncensored version on that. But yeah, I don’t know that right now.

Alright cool. So you guys have been around since the year I was born in 1988. [laughs] So what’s it like at the end of the day to realize that your music is still reaching out to all these new fans, and you’re consistently growing still?
Paul: Right right, it’s a great feeling! I mean we never would have thought that we would have been around this long. When we started up back then we were just fans of the music, we wanted to start our own band; we want to play our own music. And of course you just hope other people might like it too you know. And be it if it’s 5-10 people, whatever. It’s like wow! Somebody liked our music! And of course our main dream was "wouldn’t it be great one day to release a CD and maybe go on a tour after that." Because after that, you’ve done it, you’ve made your mark in a sense. Um yeah, like I said, 18 years later CDs, DVDs, tours all over the world. Everything and to be one of the bigger death metal bands like this. And to be liked by so many bands, and fans and all that really, it’s such a great feeling. It makes us feel that yeah, we’ve accomplished something. And we stuck true to what we did, we did it our own way. We didn’t compromise; we weren’t doing it for the money. If it we were, we wouldn’t have started playing death metal. It’s just the music that we love to play and that’s key of course. When we get fans, especially like you said, new fans because we’ve been around so long, it’s good to see that there’s always new fans getting into it. And obviously the music like metalcore is much bigger than death metal. It maybe always will be because death metal is so brutal. I don’t know if it will ever be able to be accepted in a mainstream fashion. It’s great to be on a tour like this, and to know that there are new fans out there to keep it going.

Yeah man. So on this tour you dudes aren’t headlining, which you usually are. Is it cool, a breath of fresh air even to be able to like kick back, take a shower, and enjoy some bands after you’re finished playing a set?
Paul: Oh exactly man. This is really the first time we’ve ever had to do this. Other than the Misfits and Anthrax tour we did in ‘96, we had an opening slot. Every other tour we’ve done since the beginning has been just that, headlining tours. I mean we’ve played bigger festivals in Europe with bigger bands, but it’s just a day thing, not a tour. But for us to just go "wow, we’re only playing half an hour" that’s just crazy to us. Our live set now is 19 songs; we’re playing almost an hour and 15 minutes. Whatever, we have to do that. Playing only a half an hour, playing earlier during the day, and you get to eat, take a shower, and you get to hang out a little bit. You don’t just wait around all day, shows over, then it’s time to leave, and yeah you know, whatever. It is really just a breath of fresh air. We’re happy to just get this opportunity to of course gain some new fans and all that. Obviously we’ll be back to doing our thing, come the end of the year we’ll be doing a headline tour. And I’m sure there’ll be plenty more headlining tours to come. But yeah, it’s cool to do an opening slot like this.

So with all the extra time, you’ve been able to check out other bands. Whether it be on Sounds of the Underground, or just back here in the tour van, what have you guys been listening to in your spare time? Any gnar bands that are catching your attention?
Paul: There’ a lot of sick stuff out there. But really, I’ll tell you the band we’ve all been really freaking on. We did a tour with them in Europe is that band Aeon. They’re on Unique Leader, death metal band from Sweden. And yeah, they’re not very known, but there’s a big buzz going on with them now, getting some press and all that, but like I said they’re on a small label; this is only their first album on Unique Leader. They put out another CD on another smaller label a couple years ago. But yeah, incredible band. We are just freaking on them. If you’re into death metal, and you’re into old school classic kind of death metal, it reminds me of maybe Deicide mixed with Cannibal. They’re just a killer, killer death metal band. But yeah, basically we’re just freaking on them, we’re telling everybody check out this band Aeon. You don’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t heard Aeon yet. So there you go, Aeon, Bleeding the False.

Sick, I’ll definitely check them shits out! So later in the year, you’re scheduled to hit up Australia for the first time since ‘95. Any memories from the last time you played there?
Paul: A little bit, it’s a long time ago of course. We’ve only been there once though, so all I remember, it’s kind of hard to actually remember the shows. I know they were good, but like anything else, we’ve done so much. A lot of things just start to melt together. Like what tour was that? Was it last year? Four tours ago? I don’t know. But it’s a beautiful place; it’s a nice place to go. Obviously we live in Florida, and never been to Hawaii, but a lot of people said it’s like England. Because of the talk, driving on the wrong side of the road. And in that sense, it’s like England mixed with Hawaii, mixed with Florida. It’s very tropical, beautiful; it’s a nice place to be. So we’re looking forward to going back because it’s been so long. It should be pretty good.

Well yet another time, they’re trying to ban you and kick you out of the tour for Australia that’s coming up. All because of your lyrical content, and the usual explicit ban reasons for that which is Cannibal Corpse. But like, if you check out any interview you can easily tell that everything you say relates to not promoting the actual lyrics. So what’s your response or what do you just think about the people who will say this shit, read your lyrics, yet not make an effort to so much as read an interview and see what you’re about?
Paul: Well yeah man, they should, if not it’s just judging the book by its cover. Yeah, we write about some pretty horrific subjects, but yeah, it’s just fiction. We say this every interview, it’s fiction, we’re not out there promoting, we’re not out there preaching to anybody, it’s just horror stories put to music. And I really think yeah exactly, you get to know us for five minutes and we’re all just normal guys, all just nice guys we don’t wish harm upon anybody, or anything like that. And I think if like you said, they did a little more research read some interviews, I don’t know, see some video interviews or whatever, talk to us even if they wanted to. They would just realize it, come on, it’s about fiction and entertainment. You can’t take it in the wrong light, unfortunately things have happened like this in the world. I know recently some things have happened in Perth, where as I understand some girls were raped and brutally murdered. So then of course the slap back comes to us. Oh Cannibal Corpse is coming, and they have songs that talk about this, and it’s not the greatest time. Well yeah, we’re sorry that this happens, but we shouldn’t be the ones to be punished for it. And the fans shouldn’t be punished for that. It’s just entertainment, we want people to come out, have a good time, we know the fans are going to have a good time. And just leave it at that. But yeah it’s unfortunate that people won’t do a little research and it’s just judging the book by its cover sort of thing, unfortunate.

Stemming from that, what are your views on censorship in general today?
Paul: Well it sucks. Censorship, it’s not good. It shouldn’t be there, it’s just one of those things, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it, you don’t have to buy it. If you’re brought up right it all comes down to the parents. It’s also on the other hand something we know that we can’t let bother us. We know it’s going to be there, and if we sit there and try and fight it, there’s really no point to waste time on it. Worry about what we do is obviously what we’ve been doing. We had those problems in Germany for years. The first three records are banned, we can’t play songs off the first three CDs and everything. That didn’t make us think, hmm we aren’t going to go there then, or what do we do now, we just find a way to work around it. You’re not stopping us, we won’t play songs from the first 3 CDs then, we’re still playing, making CDs, fans are coming. You know, so you just take it in stride and work around it. It’s a lot better now. Last tour we did in Europe we were allowed to play the songs. I don’t know what happened, whether it’s a statute of limitations or they just don’t care anymore or something. But now we’re allowed to go and play the songs. So we just stuck to it. Stuck to what we’ve done, don’t play some songs, and now we’re able to. So yeah, you just can’t let it bother you. It’s unfortunate that it exists. What can you do? I guess, just do your thing and work around it.

Word, I hear you. So basically, Cannibal Corpse has risen to the state that you’re in now, being the leading death metal band consistently over the years all because of your die hard fans. You usually do little to no promotion. So I thought that it would be cool to ask a question from a fan. So on your boards Rattleyourgoddamhead asks: "Did the lyrics to "Make Them Suffer" come about from Star Wars Episode 3?" The first scene where the two Jedis confront General Grievous. Grievous says 'Make Them Suffer.' Even in the song there’s a line saying this grievous revelation is a new beginning. Just wondering?
Paul: Well, it’s funny you mentioned that. Because I’ll tell you the reason the song title came about. It’s not like I stole it from it or something. But I was watching the Revenge of the Sith, it’s on HBO now. And I thought the Emperor said, I couldn’t remember who said it. But I was like, oh man; I don’t know am I dreaming this? Well now I have to watch the movie from the beginning then. It was Grievous that says it right?

Yeah.
Paul: Oh, I saw it in the movie and I thought it was the Emperor that said it. And I was like man am I losing it? Did I dream this? Because I couldn’t remember right. But now I gotta watch it again because I remember him going "Make Them Suffer." And I thought man, that’s a cool title. It’s a neat phrase. So not that I stole it, but I was like yeah, that’s cool, I like it. So when we wrote the song, I liked the title and everything went with the song and all that. When I wrote the lyrics though, it had nothing to do with Star Wars though. It just had to do with making my own story around the song title. "Make Them Suffer?" What am I going to write about "Make Them Suffer?" So if you read the lyrics, it’s just about some random people not knowing anything and just being selected to suffer. So say you’re just sitting there, and all of a sudden someone comes up and is like hey you, this is your existence. Suffering. So it’s just a big generalization that has nothing to do with Star Wars or any general happenings. It’s just this story I made up for the song title. But the title did stem from that. And it’s funny because I was waiting to see if someone would ever catch that.

Haha, that’s gnar dude. Thanks for the interview man!
Paul: Oh man no, thank you! It was awesome, I appreciate it.  [ END ]
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