Wednesday, 11 April 2018

INTERVIEW: The Sludgelord get in deep with Pig Destroyer @ Crossroads Live, Garwood, New Jersey (23/2/2018)

By: Mark Ambrose

For over twenty years, Pig Destroyer have been one of the most recognizable, venerated acts in grindcore and the larger metal community.  Whether weaving complex, conceptual albums like “Terrifyer”, stripped down hardcore-influenced ragers on “Book Burner”, or long form experimental pieces like “Natasha” and “Mass & Volume”, Pig Destroyer make waves with every split, collaboration, and full-length release.  En route to the Obnoxious Noise Fest in Long Island, NY, the legendary act played the rare non-festival show at Crossroads Live in Garwood, New Jersey.  JR Hayes (vocals),  Blake Harrison (electronics), and, briefly, Scott Hull (guitar) sat down for an in-depth chat with THE SLUDGELORD before their February 23 gig with Sunrot and Chained to the Dead to talk about their upcoming sixth full-length record, the appeal of playing offbeat venues, and the creative balance they’ve maintained while still working full-time jobs.

SLUDGELORD: What’s the status for the next release right now?

JR: I’m pretty sure everything has been recorded, so we’re in the mixing/mastering stage now.

Blake: Very close.  Actually, Scott’s at the hotel KIND OF working on some of it now.  I’d say, conservatively, the next week or two we’ll be done.

SLUDGELORD: Whether the deluxe version of “Book Burner” or the “Terrifyer” DVD, you’ve had some extra bells and whistles in the past.  Do you plan that out early on?  Are there any “special bonus” plans for this next album?

JR: I’ve found that stuff that Pig Destroyer plans early on doesn’t ever come to pass.

Blake: I would agree with that.

JR: We got into this record, we did the record, and there wasn’t any time to do any extra material.  It would have been nice to do extra stuff but we didn’t really have a chance.

Blake: There’s never “extra” material.  This one will be more stripped down.

JR: It does gonna be 11 songs, somewhere between 30 to 35 minutes with all the noise pieces.

Blake: Even with the “Mass and Volume” EP, we just had extra studio time. So while [JR] was doing his vocals we kinda put that together.  It was never like a “planned” thing.

JR: It just kinda happens.  Not that we don’t make plans, but with everybody’s schedules and the way things work, we just go with our guts.

SLUDGELORD: With John Jarvis on bass now, has the writing process changed at all?  Is there more “jamming out” songs or collaboration?  Or is Scott laying out everything?

JR: Scott pretty much lays out the foundation of the songs.  Since he programs drums we have to translate the drums for human arms.  Obviously people are allowed to put in their own personal flourishes.  For the most part the music comes from Scott.

Blake: Same thing with my noise – JR and I have demos we’ve been working on forever but Scott may have other ideas.

JR: Ultimately everything runs through Scott –

Blake: But it’s collaborative!

SLUDGELORD: Speaking of the noise and samples, how do you gather that kind of archive?  Is it just constant accumulation?  Blake, do you go in search of something once you have JR’s lyrics?

Blake: I actually didn’t have the lyrics when I was doing my stuff.  I’ll know where the lyrics are falling so I don’t have a burst of static over vocals.  But yeah I’m just always watching movies, at work or wherever, and keep notes and timestamp everything.  I will maybe have 3 pages of notes running on my phone at any given time, which is a lot!

JR: We’ll have a lot of time between records but it’s not like we’re partying for 4 years between albums.  Some of these lyrics I was working on during “Book Burner”.  Because I’ve been in a band with Scott for such a long time, I never know when he’s going to be inspired.  And when he’s inspired he cranks out things really fast, so I want a bunch of shit ready.  With this record I had three full notebooks of lyrics ready.

Blake: The same thing happened with “Phantom Limb” – he’d bring us to a practice with one song ready.  Another month would go by and there’d be another song.  And then the next time there were six!

SLUDGELORD: JR, was there any art or literature you were absorbing in anticipation of writing this record?

JR: I think – I hate to use the term “artist” because it sounds pretentious – but if you’re going to be an artist, being an artist is all about the moment, and it’s about emotion.  Making an album is a document of where the band is.  “Book Burner” was a document of where the band was in 2012, and at that time I was really into religious arguments, I was studying religion, I was absorbing all kinds of philosophical thought so that’s where those lyrics came from.  On the new record it’s kind of the same thing but there’s none of THAT particular stuff.  I feel like the next record is a reaction to where the previous record came from.  I wanted the songs to be about all different things – variety and that sort of thing.

Blake: I’ll also show JR my writing because he’s one of the best lyricists.  There was an idea we were tossing around of using my lyrics at some point.

JR: Which we’re gonna do.

SLUDGELORD: Any music in heavy rotation?

JR: The best record I’ve heard in the last five years is the new Cobalt.  I’ve been obsessed with that.

Blake: Set.

JR: Set is awesome.  I’ve been listening to a lot of old death metal.

Blake: Newer stuff for me has been Full of Hell, Genocide Pact, I’ve been getting into a lot of Alice Cooper lately, who was never a big influence on me growing up.  I feel disconnected talking to people who never listened before or they’ve been listening forever.

JR: I just discovered the band Nomeansno!  I went down a YouTube rabbit hole one day.

Blake: I’ve known JR for 22 years and I never would have thought you’d like that.  I love that band!  METZ from Canada – I don’t know if we can say it but we MAY be doing a split with them.

JR: Let’s not get too crazy *laughs*

Blake: Sunrot, who we’re playing with tonight.  I’m not really a big doom fan but I really like that band. It’s NOT doom, it’s different.

SLUDGELORD: Would you say there’s a unifying concept this time around?

JR: I like the IDEA of concept records, but with this record I tried to make each song its own song.  I told myself if I had a story I’d write a story.  But I don’t like to force things.  I like to go with what I’m feeling.  Luckily the things I had lined up with the songs Scott had written.

Blake: I’d say this is less conceptual than any other record we’ve ever made.

JR: It’s kind of the same feeling I had with “Phantom Limb”.  With “Terrifyer” I was like “God I wrote too much shit.”  I think it works for that record but with the next one I just focused on each song.  I didn’t feel the need for a concept this time.

SLUDGELORD: Do you think there will be a short story this time around, like “The Atheist” in “Book Burner”?

JR: Maybe with the next record.  I’ve been working on my novel, too, so I didn’t have story stuff to put into this one.  I’ve been working on it at least seven years.  This is my third draft.

Blake: I finally started reading it.

JR: Now that I have an editor I changed it around.  And I think for the better.  You lose perspective on something when you make it for too long.

SLUDGELORD: At this point we were joined by guitarist Scott Hull.

Blake: And we actually got someone else to mix this record.  We still tracked it and Scott tracked it.  He mixed “Phantom Limb” and “Book Burner” and did a great job, but sometimes you can get too close to a project.  This time Scott wanted to have someone else mix it, we need a different sound.

Scott: I just wanted to take myself out of that process a little bit more.  The process of writing the music took so long.  Not that it’s any sort of super complicated grouping of songs, but I think these songs are way more mature than any group of songs going into a record.  And I’m happy with everything we’ve committed to… hard disk.  Not tape anymore.

JR: Somebody out there is still using tape!  Steve Albini is still using tape.

Blake: “Phantom Limb” and “Book Burner”, when Scott was mixing after, he would call me and I’d hear his hair falling out.

Scott: It’s just torturous and I wanted to take myself out of the loop on that and focus on the music.  Being a guitar player in a band.

JR: But it’s hard to trust someone else.  I mean I’m nervous about it honestly because we’ve never handed one of our records over to someone else.

Blake: There were four or five names we talked about mixing the record.  The three of us just stopped nonstop about it.  We’ll get there!

SLUDGELORD: And how are you all still balancing full-time jobs at the same time?

JR: Scott has a family too! I don’t know how you balance it.

Blake: [Drummer] Adam [Jarvis] is going into the studio with Misery Index too!  He didn’t have to just learn our stuff, he’s learning that stuff too.

JR: That’s just life nowadays.  Everybody’s doing a million things.

Blake: I have to explain, “I’m not in a band where I get to sleep in and do nothing.”

Scott: I don’t think those exist anymore.

SLUDGELORD: What made you schedule a show in New Jersey when the most obvious spots are often Philadelphia or somewhere like Saint Vitus in Brooklyn?

Blake: I’ve known [Crossroads promoter] Andy Diamond for years.  We had an offer for this big show out on Long Island, so it made sense physically, geographically, and money wise to do this with Andy.

JR: And any time we’ve played Jersey the response has been great.  We’ve always had great shows in New York.

Blake: These are great shows we’re juiced about. I mean out on Long Island we’re with Chepang and Outer Heaven and Internal Bleeding

JR:  The big thing with us is: “Who are we playing with?” We can just go out and play a show but we’d rather play with Iron Lung or some band we really like! 

Blake: Because we don’t do it a lot.  These bands tonight – Sunrot and Chained to the dead – I picked.

SLUDGELORD: That’s really great to hear because the people in these bands were pretty essential in making a modern vital scene in this area.

JR: People don’t realize sometimes all you need to create a great music scene is just one person who is willing to book shows and finds a good venue.  It doesn’t take much, but something really cool can happen.  I wouldn’t even be in bands if someone hadn’t done that in my hometown.

Blake: Playing with bands we like is way more important to us because we get to experience it.  Some band came up to us and said, “I can’t believe you watched us.”  I said, “I LOVE you guys.”

JR: You gotta support the scene.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook