Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse) interviewed

You stepped up with more songs on Torture than on previous albums. Why is that?Rob Barrett: The original plan was that each of us to write four or five songs, but we decided to stop writing several weeks before going into the studio to concentrate on the 12 songs that were already written. I was starting up on a 4th song, but it seemed best not to rush anything since we already had enough material for the album. I’m writing more now because it provides more variety and diversity on the overall sound of the album if the three of us are writing more evenly.

Which of the songs that you wrote is your favorite and why?
Rob Barrett: I’d say “Caged…Contorted” because Paul and I spent a lot of time working on the opening riff and the arrangement of the song is quite memorable in my opinion. I also think the lyrics are pretty graphic to the point where you can envision exactly what’s going on in the story.

How do you separate songs from Evisceration Plague and Torture?
Rob Barrett: I think overall, Paul’s drumming is much more busy on Torture than Evisceration Plague. A lot more drum rolls and busy sounding stuff going on with the drums. I’m convinced that it’s his best recording performance to date. He spent a lot of time practicing by himself this time around tightening up all the little parts that were giving him problems at first, so he was very prepared for the studio and even nailed a song or two in one take. Plus, I think there are more memorable songs this time around as well.

Who do you think Cannibal Corpse are identity-wise at this point?
Rob Barrett: I think we’re a non-compromising death metal band that has been able to stay vital in a scene where trends come and go every few years or so. Our fanbase has an age range that is unmatched by anyone in this genre proving that we’re able to keep up with the times without losing our own identity.

When I spoke with Alex [Webster; bass], he made it a point to discuss diversity and variety. Do you think Torture is your most diverse album to date? Why is that?
Rob Barrett: I think it definitely is because the songwriting has been split up more evenly this time around which automatically provides more variety. Plus it seems like we’re all on the same page more than ever before when it comes to writing at this point. Knowing each others’ strengths and weaknesses to be able to write material that we can execute live as well.

Why do you think Cannibal Corpse has lasted this long where others have not?
Rob Barrett: I think we’ve lasted this long because we’ve stuck to the original plan without drastically changing our style too much. A lot of bands move on and try to do different things musically and that will almost always alienate a good percentage of your fanbase. It seems that we’ve gained a lot of respect by sticking with our style instead of putting something out that isn’t in the ‘pure death metal’ realm.

Do you think death metal has room to grow? Given it’s around 26 years old? Give or take a few years, of course.
Rob Barrett: Absolutely! I’m sure you’ve noticed that a lot of ‘radio’ bands have deep, gutteral vocals in their songs nowadays and the main gripe that a lot of people have had with death metal is the vocals. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Man, I think the music is killer but I just can’t get past those vocals!” It seems like the vocals are slowly but surely becoming more acceptable.

Describe your time at Sonic Ranch? Alex said it was a bit tense due to guitars not staying in tune.
Rob Barrett: I was very excited to go there after hearing about it from the guys and seeing footage there from The Wretched Spawn album. It’s out in the middle of nowhere with no distractions, so all of your focus is on the recording. Yes, we did have some stressful days in there when we weren’t getting anything tracked at all for several days due to a string of events. I think it started with one of Erik Rutan’s Tannoy monitors getting a speaker blown. Then when the replacement speaker showed up, it didn’t work so we lost a few days there. Then when we started getting to tracking the guitars were acting up and not staying in tune. Pat was in there taking a drill to his guitars to fix the problem. Then by the time we were ready to track with one of my guitars, we go into the studio the next day ready to track and the neck on my new guitar snapped all by itself! So yeah, after all these things happening one after another it seemed like we would never be able to get the record done in time, but we fought through all the bad shit and found a way to get it done. Overall, it was still a great experience aside from the delays that we had and I’d love to go back again.

Controversy has always followed Cannibal Corpse. Why you think that is?
Rob Barrett: I think it’s mostly because of the imagery that we have. The artwork and the lyrical content are the culprits for all the controversy. For us we’re more concerned about the music first though. The imagery and lyrics are secondary to me but we are very adamant about having all of that fit the music which is dark and aggressive. I’ve always found it strange how movies showing excessive violence are more acceptable than certain forms of music that contain violent lyrics.

Zombies are big part of Cannibal Corpse. Why do you think zombies have endured and, more recently, entered mainstream culture?
Rob Barrett: I think that a large portion of society has a morbid fascination with this lawless, mayhemic sort of ‘walking dead’ world where you have to scavenge to survive and most of the population are zombies. People watch horror flicks, go in haunted houses, jump outta planes, go on roller coasters all that kinda stuff because they like the rush of getting a little scared sometimes.

** Decibel #90, our “zombie apocalypse” issue, is available HERE. The full Cannibal Corpse story, replete with our boys of gore in full-on zombie kill mode, is neater than Romero’s love of the film, The Brothers Karamazov.