By Jason Deaville
“‘Fuck you vegan pussies - I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do’ is a popular one. ‘I didn’t crawl my way up the food chain to eat carrots’ is an excellent example as well. My response is, ‘Oh, so you crawled your way up the food chain to put God-knows-what into your body by ingesting cannibalized bovinian byproducts?’”
Many of us in the know can probably relate to the above quotes, examples of which the frontman of Californian veggie-grinders Cattle Decapitation, Travis Ryan, has heard all too often. Everywhere you turn, ignorance runs rampant when it comes to Animal Rights issues, and the world of metal is certainly not immune to this (hell, even our own Braveboard is rife with such ignorance, with countless threads dedicated to veggie-bashing!). So, when a band such as Cattle Decapitation comes along and throws a proverbial wrench into the mix, of course things become heated and words start to fly. Sadly, most are content to sail through life with blinders on, oblivious to their exploitative ways. As ambassadors (so to speak) for vegetarian/vegan metalheads worldwide, are Cattle Decapitation on the verge of breaking this destructive mindset with their fourth full-length album entitled The Harvest Floor?
“Well, we present the images and ideas, and people can either take it or leave it,” says Ryan. “We do not wish to force anything on anyone, but we really do think people need to wake the fuck up. I’m convinced most cancer is directly caused by the meat industry - the chemicals that enter our bodies via meat, soil, water, etc. In contrast, I can completely understand if you live in a remote area where your only way to survive is to kill an animal and use its parts for other means of survival - then, by all means, please do! Yet, the majority of us, especially the ones that are the recipients of the products of factory farming and mass slaughter simply do not live that way. I can’t stress that enough. I do not claim to be vegan mainly because that is my standpoint and vegans do not believe that.”
It could be argued that Cattle Decapitation’s brand of extreme musical activism may not be the most efficient way to spread their message to the denizens of bipedal, opposable-thumbed carcass consumers, as Travis would be the first to point out.
“Of course we’d be better off starting a direct action organization, but we’re musicians first and foremost,” quips the vocalist. “A lot of the people that agree with our viewpoints like us by default; the rest either talk shit or look past it and listen to the music. Like I said, we are musicians first. Honestly, I can’t really envision a world where animal rights become the norm, as we are a destructive species. It apparently is in our DNA to destroy. Everything.”
The Harvest Floor, on initial impression, comes across as a touch more serious in content, as opposed to some of the band’s earlier efforts where the themes were slightly more tongue-in-cheek.
“It’s sort of a Karma.Bloody.Karma - part 2 (the band’s 2006 effort) as far as the lyrics go, and the fact that they’re just more hateful than before,” explains Ryan.
“There’s always going to be that tongue-in-cheek approach to certain parts but it’s super-veiled. I don’t expect anyone to get it. Don’t really care for the most part. Unfortunately for the world, we do this music for us. My lyrics are sort of a portal to my ‘dark side’ I guess you can say. Sounds cheesy and it’s not completely the case. I don’t know. I’m just fucked-up, I guess. Nobody should listen to me or read the lyrics. It may be good for your health, but not a healthy outlook to have. Most death metal-influenced extremity doesn’t have a very good outlook on things. I’m no different.”
Seeing that the core songwriting team of Troy (Oftedal, bass) Josh (Elmore, guitar) and Ryan have been together from nearly the beginning, the compositional process seems to have reached a pinnacle in musicality. The Harvest Floor exudes an air of fitting melodicism within a framework of savage, unrelenting brutality. I ask Ryan if there is a clear and focused direction in mind at the beginning of a project, one based on comfort with each other’s vision.
“We usually set out to try and destroy our own previous releases but nowadays we’re hell-bent on destroying the stuff that kids find so appealing. We kept the recording process as organic as we saw fit so we don’t end up sounding like these ridiculously ProTooled new bands. Almost none of them can pull that off live and we’re very much a live band so we are too busy trying to capture that live sound on record. We just jump into writing, and are usually under a deadline so we are always working under a pressure cooker. Everything about this band is so intense that sometimes I wonder how many years it has taken off our lives individually.”
Cattle Decapitation has been known to invite multitudes of guests to lend their respective talents on each album, and The Harvest Floor indeed plays host to a diverse offering.
“Yes, definitely! This one especially. It features Jackie Perez Gratz on cello, and Dino Sommese (Dystopia, Assunder) and Ross Sewage (Impaled, Ludicra) on some vocal appearances. John Wiese handles the electronic ambience and noise, and, last but not least, Jarboe (ex-Swans). That is what we call a ‘special guest.’ No offense to the other guys, but they will agree that this is indeed special to have her on there because her band Swans made such an impact on all of us and if you told me that we’d work with her one day, I’d probably just say ‘Shut up!’”
The band recently completed filming the video for their song ‘Regret & The Grave’. If Cattle Decapitation’s previous use of “controversial” imagery is any indication, it’s almost certain we will be inundated with a narrative full of intelligent gore.
“Yeah, it’s fucked-up. It’s pretty much what you see on the cover but there is a story behind it. The performance footage was shot inside a real slaughterhouse. Don’t ask me how we got away with that. I’m still trying to figure that one out! Anyway, the story loosely goes like this: a guy is part of an organization called The Society Of Humans For Human Annihilation, or something like that. He is what we call a ‘Cattle Viper’ which is one of those guards on the cover. It’s an organization that is hell-bent on eliminating the human race, saving themselves for last - hence my razor blade serpent logo on the inside layout - and he somehow develops a ‘soft side’ and gets figured out by the rest of the guards when they see him release one of the people he was told to execute. We deal with him properly of course!”