Cattle Decapitation Guitarist Josh Elmore Talks ‘The Anthropocene Exctinction,’ Tour Expectations + Activism
Cattle Decapitation guitarist Josh Elmore was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The axeman has been with the group since 2001, performing on every record following the Homovore debut. He talked about diversifying the band's sound on The Anthropocene Exctinction, expectations from the road in the early days, being on the receiving end of the Radio Disney song makeovers and more. Check out the chat below.
Cattle Decapitation are out on tour in support of their seventh full length album, The Anthropocene Extinction, and the record is extremely heavy. Josh, what will be the biggest challenge when you guys are trying to make the next album even heavier?
Well, I know we've kind of barely discussed here and there what we want to do for the next one because we're still in full on tour cycle mode for this record. But, heaviness comes in many different forms I guess you could say. I think we really want to, at least it was talked about trying to concentrate on continuing with a lot of atmospheric type of sounds I guess you could say.
I mean there will still be the super, I don't want to say chug-chug heavy, some people say heavy, at least me personally, it goes to sort of the lower end registers just really kind of just punishing and pummeling on the low end. There's obviously going to be some of that, absolutely. But the thing that really sticks out that we did discuss was to have a lot more of an atmospheric approach to things and just get that mood and just get that sort of somber, 'I'm going to cry, but first I'm going to kill everyone' kinda thing going on.
But yeah that's really all I can say as far as us being able to outdo it. We always want to try to outdo whatever we've done previously and I'm sure most bands feel the same way about what they do. Heavy comes in many different forms and we hope to still bring you heavy, but kind of maybe widen the palette of how we define it within our band and hopefully people will be interested in that and come along with us.
What aspects of your life on the road live up to the expectations you had before you ever went on tour?
Growing up ... I started with like Van Halen and all that. And so it was the big stadium kind of thing when you look at just the show itself. Your information on tour comes from reading Rip magazine and seeing the backstage photos and all that and all the kind of — everyone's sweaty and seemingly perpetually waiting for a shower or something but just kind of the hijinks sort of aspect of it.
But I mean, later on, a few years later, I started getting into bands and when I say touring it was more like, regional kind of stuff first. And it was always in the van playing in basements, playing in kitchens or back porches or whatever so that was my first introduction to actual touring beyond just kind of reading about it or seeing it in magazines and stuff. And, over the course of time I think we've kind of been fortunate enough to be on some kind of higher profile tours or tours that have just kind of everything just come together, so my expectations when I was younger was, just kind of the synergistic, between the members of the band everyone's just kind of firing on all cylinders and just gettin' it.
And those things, you could ask any musician kind of vary, and aren't every night, but when you do have that, it's wonderful it's really cool. So I think my vision of that as a younger person who hadn't toured or anything, those are the things that I remember that these things are clicking. I remember back when I was that age and it was kind of like, "Oh, okay, cool! That does exist, that does exist!'
It's not just something you see and just projects upon these people playing either seeing it in magazines or on TV or whatever so, that does exist. All the other stuff like, party stuff and everything, that's what you make of it, you know? I've seen tons of that crazy kind of action usually as an observation kind of thing as an observer. It's not really my thing personally. But yeah that all exists and you can either partake or not, so take that as you will.
How much are sound check riffs the starting point of ideas that eventually develop into songs? I always wonder, when bands are just playing around at sound check, does that ever end up turning into something?
Yeah definitely there's times where I think one person will have something they've been working on off to the side by themselves and they'll kind of do that they're doing sound check and they'll be like, 'Okay, stage left guitar.' You start kind of just, 'Let's test the water here' and you play something that you've been working on. Seven out of ten times everyone is sort of lost in their own world or not paying attention, but there are these couple times when someone is like, 'Hey, what was that thing you played earlier at sound check? That was really cool!'
Each one of us kind of do that, you know there will be a cool bass thing or Dave will have some drum beat he busts out that one of us will go back and be like, 'Hey man, you did this thing in sound check that sounded amazing, cool use of the basis for something.' And just yeah that's definitely, it's not, you know, this kind of, like, 'Whoa what was that!" and then we'll work on it or at least not in my experience with our band, but there are riffs that definitely kind of get sort of, I don't want to say tried out, but lkind of auditioned, even if it's not an official thing in sound check and then later when you're in the jam room it's kind of like, 'Oh can you do that one thing that one time you played?'
So yeah I guess in a certain way they are loosely auditioned during sound check but rarely do you get a chance for everyone to get together and kind of run through a riff. It's more that people just kind of like seeing if it meets their standards shall we say.
There are important ethical issues addressed in your music. How has extreme imagery help publicize the activism of your songs?
When people look at a record or flipping through when they're in the store, if they're actually buying a physical recorded product, or online, that's the grabber. The initial thing. I think we've been able to fuse this sort of, I don’t want to say gory, but just kind of visually striking images within a little bit of commentary. So people look at that and go, 'Whoa! That's crazy.' With our cover art, we've been really fortunate for the past 14 years to have Wes Benscoter doing our cover art. So, he's obviously just fantastic at what he does.
His images are just really striking to begin with. It brings the person in and then they can go, ok - and look at all these little subtle aspects in the artwork that have little meanings to them. Hopefully they'll buy the record and hopefully they'll read the lyrics and kind of — draw and see how the lyrics reflect in the cover art, visa versa. It's quite good. Travis [Ryan] is really good about having the cover really have a tie in with the lyrics. It's just gory cover No. 5 and we'll have gore lyrics too. There are aspects of each song, you can see, reflected in the cover art.
He and Wes work together, especially this most recent record. They've worked together really closely on just getting those things dialed in. The results have been really good. Yeah, it's really important to have a good cover. It just gets people interested. Maybe cover art is a thing of the past, but at least it's importance is a little more heavy in past times, but to me, being a not teenager it's really still important to me. I love that aspect of metal and the artwork is just fantastic. It can have a tie-in or just sort of a supportive role with the lyrics and such, that's all the better.
Josh, Andy Rehfeldt’s remixes are pretty popular on YouTube. What was your first reaction to his version of "Forced Gender Reassignment?"
It was one of those, 'Okay, we've arrived.' This makes me happy, [laughs]. I think all of us had that impression of it. We were always like, I'd love to see what he'd do with one of our songs. It was just an honor to be included, [laughs] amongst the people he'd done. There's one point in the song, halfway through Travis does this — the visual is him doing the tongue thing he does, which actually does have a purpose in his vocal style. But of course the face he makes in order to do it is pretty ridiculous.
In the actual, original performance Travis is doing a super guttural, almost choking sound. The solution to, I don’t know, the Radio Disney version or the kids radio version he does this 'La la la la la' over the top of it, so the visual is Travis doing this choking sort of look, this face and then there's that 'La la' over the top of it. It just dies when you see that, it's ridiculous. I'm glad someone is doing that sort of thing and I'm glad we can be a part of it. [laughs] Very flattering.
The band is out on the road now and can you tell us if there's any kind of timeline for a new record, new music? What do you guys have going on into 2017?
After this tour that we're on, it ends I think in Fresno on the 21st of October. After that the next thing, and how it is with touring, you get this thing, 'Okay I think we got some plans, I think we're gonna do this. Okay maybe I can plan to do something personal here, no. No.' Things change all the time, but as far as we know right now, after the tour the next thing we have and stuff could pop up in between now and then but this isn't confirmed, it's in the works but we're trying to do a Mexico / South America tour in the late winter / early spring which would be their late summer. Perfect time to go down there.
That's what we have, after that, I'm sure we'll do another U.S. headliner at some point. I believe we have a couple of festivals we've confirmed to do in Europe summer 2017. Besides that, who knows? We're going to try and make it back to Australia and New Zealand. Then maybe, as far as writing goes, I'm guessing next fall we'll probably start. We have a bunch more touring for this cycle to do, so we'll be well into 2017 doing lots of touring.
So, kick the can down the road a bit as far as writing, but we're all gathering ideas by ourselves. All of us I mean hopefully me too, will have the means to record and send riffs back and forth to one another. I think we'll be compiling those personally and then once it gets closer to the time, we'll start exchanging ideas and get the ball rolling on that. One of the guys has already expressed like, this record has been out a year, but I'm ready to start writing again and jump onto something new. The thirst is definitely there to progress and keep going, so we'll just try to accumulate all the good ideas we can and then unleash them when we actually start writing in earnest.
Good luck with everything, thanks for taking the time.
Thank you very much.
Thanks to Josh Elmore for the interview. Pick up Cattle Decapitation's 'The Anthropocene Extinction' at Amazon or digitally through iTunes and keep up with the band on tour at their Facebook page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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