Interview with Cattle Decapitation lead singer Travis Ryan

- Jan 24, 2009 at 03:25PM
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The masters of gore-infused death metal are back and better than ever. Cattle Decapitation will be releasing their fifth full-length release The Harvest Floor on January 20th. Technically savvy, this is the band's best release to date. By combining an unparalled technicality with a blistering attack, Cattle Decapitation has created a masterpiece of the macabre. All the trademark bits fans have come to expect from the band are here but everything has been kicked up a notch. This record seems faster, harder and more brutal; if that is even possible. I recently caught up with lead singer Travis Ryan to discuss The Harvest Floor and the band in general.

Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a completely new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?
Travis: It is really neat! I am REALLY excited to see how that goes over on this first tour. We are doing some new things like live sample manipulation and other samples and stuff. We have actually never had a set list. We have but we never stick to it. We will be definitely sticking to it this time around. We will be doing a full Canadian tour in April and we will be doing the same set for that! It will definitely be interesting, but the most interesting thing I find about it is that we can still be intense and brutal while maintaining melody in these experimental circumstances. We will be playing a lot of new ones and some old ones that we had the fans pick out on our website, stuff people have been yelling out and we have not done in years!

Your brand new CD titled, The Harvest Floor is set for release on January 20th. Now that it is complete, how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Travis: VERY happy with it. It was finished almost half a year ago so I had to stop listening to it and give it some time. I did not want to get sick of it. I must say that the final silver-bottomed product is MUCH more than the master I have had on my iPOD for the last 5 months. I am actually surprised with it. I am a very pessimistic person because I hate getting let down, really. If I assume everything is going to suck, I will not be let down when it really does, so it is almost unbelievable to me that we finally have a record we are honestly proud of. There is still some work to be done, but nothing is ever perfect and there are always things that can be done better. This album just has less of those.

What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Travis: They write the music and I take the tape of the session, convert it over to my iTUNES and use my iPOD when writing the lyrics. Works very well because you can get to anywhere in the song at the touch of a button. It is awesome. So, it took us about 6 months to write it and then a month to record. Dave moved down from Seattle, got a girlfriend so he is here to stay. Moved in with me and that made everything easier. We did this album really quick because we thought we were under a quick deadline but it did not turn out to be so bad. Plus we work well under pressure. I think that is the only way we work actually.

Give us some insight into the record, The Harvest Floor and the meaning behind its title?
Travis: It is all over the place. Kind of an extension of Karma but has an incredible sense of finality. A "harvest floor" is actually the final stage, the area where animals are put to death in a slaughterhouse. Look at the cover and you will see that there is a bunch of people in line for that slaughterhouse, penned in like animals. Same shit, turning the tables. We have been doing it for years!

When you compare the early days of Death metal to the scene today what do you feel has changed for the better? What do you feel has become worse?
Travis: Death metal was much better back then. Those were real songs. There are so many variations of it that "death metal" is actually a form of music that can be dated. We come from more of the old school DM scene, but embraced "brutal death metal" in the mid-late 90s. We were a little late in the game as far as being out there, getting known and doing things. We came in during that whole "Carcass-clone" wave in the late 90s', early 00's. So weird to actually talk about it like that now! But, what people call "death metal" now I kind of cannot fucking stand. "Deathcore" is total bullshit and I refuse to embrace it. I do not mind being associated with it because we can just do our best to steal their fans, but you will not see us throwing in breakdowns. I would rather quit music all together than succumb to that just to be "relevant.”

Your lyrics are infused with heavy detail and raw emotion. What is it that normally gives you inspiration when writing lyrics and is there a theme or themes behind the writing of this record?
Travis: Everyday life. Driving on the road and dealing with the idiots on it has probably led to more songs being written out of fits of anger upon arriving home than anything! Hearing about dumb things people do, seeing them for myself and watching the way people change and turn into something else. It all sort of piles on top of each other and eventually pisses me off. There is never a set theme behind the record; it is usually loosely tied in there. The cover will reveal elements within the lyrics, but not about one set song really. Hell, the title track is pretty much an instrumental!

What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of The Harvest Floor?
Travis: There will be a lot of raised eyebrows. People WILL BE surprised. We did not really do it on purpose, this is how it naturally came out. The production is very good too, not too robotic and fake. More organic than most modern recordings yet still up to date and more precise than usual.

All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour?
Travis: Hell no. We do not exercise, we don't do anything really. We go right into it. We are civs of raw emotion and performance. Sometimes I go apeshit, sometimes I kind of am embarrassed and turn towards the side. Sometimes I just like to survey the surroundings and quietly analyze everything.

Playing such visceral music in a recording studio must be vastly different from at one of your chaotic live shows. How do you feel your recordings differ from your live performances?
Travis: That is what we tried to do with this record was achieve that live sound/feel. We have gotten pretty tired of everyone talking about we are a better live band than in the studio and all that. It is just different; I do not think it is necessarily "bad.” So, if we did anything to do what fans want, it was that - which is also something we have wanted to do in one degree or another. It is hard to get that feeling in the studio. It is going to be interesting to see what they say now.

What have been the best countries to play so far?
Travis: Mexico and Canada! Seriously! Europe was pretty miserable I thought. But, Mexico City and Toronto have been amazing. I cannot wait to go back! We will be doing a whole Canadian run soon and that will be cool because we have gotten emails from fans all over Canada for years and we have never been to western Canada and I hear that is the part we are biggest in.

When you are on the road for a while, I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
Travis: I think Salt Lake City is one of the weirdest places I have ever been. Fucking freaks there. Period. Sorry, if you are reading this and living in Salt Lake but what the fuck is with that place? It’s like that movie "Village of the Damned.” Just fucking weird. Eerie vibe, the shows are shit, the local straight edge crews show up to shows and beat everyone up. Other than that, Munich was kind of weird. We would ask if anyone had any weed and they looked like we were peasants.
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