Cannibal Corpse - Interview


Although you don't usually expect too many surprises when it comes to a band like Cannibal Corpse, they came up with a really big one last year. I'd say that releasing a killer album like "Chaos Horrific" (review can be read here) so shortly after having released "Violence Unimagined" was a pretty unusual step. I just had to catch up with their drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz via Skype to talk a little bit more in detail about the reasons for making it happen and some other things far beyond this. Enjoy reading!

Michael

Hey Paul, how are you doing? How was the US tour?

Great! It was an amazing tour, one of our biggest ones ever.

I was really surprised that you released another album after "Violence Unimagined" in such a short period. Were there so many ideas and songs left or were you so busy writing new stuff?

Well, I mean what ended up happening is the pandemic threw everything into a tailspin and there was no right or wrong, no set plans and everything was thrown out the window. So you really gotta go back to the beginning of the recording of Violence Unimagined" because when we went into record Violence Unimagined the pandemic literally hit at that time. Everything went well with Violence Unimagined, everything went normal so to say because the album was already written and we were just concerned if we were able to get into the studio because the pandemic just hit, will we be able to travel, all those kinds of things. So luckily we were able to record but then reality sets in when we've done recording Violence Unimagined the pandemic is in full swing at this point and now things have to be altered in the sense of the recording's done but when we release this, are we able to tour? All those questions were still surrounding the band and world and everything. What's gonna happen, thing's gonna be different than they are. So what ended up happening when you look back, it was supposed to come out at the end of 2020 when the pandemic was at full swing when we were supposed to hit the road. When we realized what we've done with the record and you gotta plan that far in advance and nobody is touring we asked if we were able to tour on November '20 at that point. So we felt that this wasn't gonna happen so everything had to be pushed back. The release of the record wasn't gonna happen on time. Well, when you're touring you sort of control your release of your record. Vinyl was the problem with all the printing issues and everything. So what do we do? How long will we wait? What happened is that we released the album in spring '21 and there was no tour attached to that because touring wasn't still really there. Before we even released the record we knew that we weren't touring for a while. So what do you do? I guess you start writing a new record. So there was nothing else to do, so why not maximize our time? So we got hold of Metal Blade and said "hey, we're thinking of writing a new record then although it is kind of crazy because Violence Unimagined isn't even out for a year" and they all were for it and we started writing then because we were uncertain of the touring. That's how we got Chaos Horrific done then. Looking back now it was very weird to think to think that we had to sit on this album for a couple of years. Nobody knew that we recorded, only the people close to us and we just wanted to keep it as a secret more or less. So we held it in our pockets for a while and then we put it out a little bit sooner than normally release a record but we felt it was probably the right thing to do. So that's what really happened and it's all pandemic-related. If the pandemic never happens then you go on scheduled like normal. You release your record, "Violence" comes out, we're touring, three years go by before the next record is released, all the normal scheduling so it all worked out at the end, I believe.

So there is at least one good aspect of the pandemic, haha. With Erik Rutan you have a relatively new guitarist on board – when I listen to the new album I have the impression that the songs are much more technical and sophisticated than before. How much was this also his contribution?

Well, I mean the way we write these days, if you don't know anything about the band or most people and read the liner notes you see how we write. It's kind of an individual thing these days. Alex writes his songs, Rob writes his songs and Erik is writing his songs. It all comes together and it's Cannibal Corpse but when Erik joined the band, it was gonna be no different. When he came in for Violence Unimagined we wanted him to contribute of course. He is a great songwriter and he altered his style a little bit for Cannibal. He wrote three songs for Violence Unimagined and then he ended up writing three for Chaos Horrific. So yes, you can notice the vibes, maybe even without knowing who wrote the songs. You hear a song like 'Bloodblind' and go "wow, that's gonna be kind of Erik's vibe" and there you go – Erik wrote the song.

Well, actually I didn't look into the liner notes of who wrote which songs…

But you make that assumption by hearing certain songs and at this point in our career, especially the other guys, people might listening "oh, that's a Rob song, that's got the way he writes" or "that's Alex's song" and we got "that's Eriks song because he's gonna write of course a little bit different than the other guys and he's gonna have some more vibes that turn into Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal in a sense. In that regard it just gives us another flavor for the writing, another aspect, another great writer that's gonna fit Cannibal and to be himself as well. That's what Erik brings to the table there. So it's good to have this diversity.

The tact in the title track is pretty unusual and slightly chaotic. Was it difficult to do the drum patterns because of this structure?

Yeah, definitely. It's another thing in that job happening in let's say the last 10 or 15 years of writing songs when it's an individual effort how Alex or Erik writes his songs. Especially them. When they're writing they're so involved in the writing aspect and the use of technology so they send us over MP3s and it's to the drum machine and the patterns of the drums they give me a good idea what they'd like to do. 95% of the time I'm keeping what they came up with in the drums because it's their vision on the song and it really fits the riffs. So that's Alex's song and he just comes up with some twisted timing and twisted signatures and patterns. When I first heard it I thought "oh my god, this is gonna be a very challenging song to learn" (laughs). Speedwise, BPM and all that it's not very fast but like you mentioned, it's very different and mental. A lot of things happen that I normally don't do in a natural way that I would come up with. Song regarded it is definitely cool because it's gonna give the drumming more of a push and hey, if those guys are writing some cool stuff on the drums then of course, why not! But yeah, it was challenging, it was super challenging (laughs). It took a while for me just to wrap my head around to absorb that and learn how to playing it. It took a long time to get that together but in the end it's a great song and very chaotic, intense and worked out great calling it 'Chaos Horrific'.

You are responsible for a lot of the lyrics, for example 'Summoned For Sacrifice' which is one of the most malevolent and sick abominations you did. Aren't you afraid of yourself sometimes when you write them?

I'm not really afraid of myself but you look back and say "wow, I wrote that? That came out of my mind? What's wrong with me?" (laughs). I mean, we've been doing this for so long and we've been loving what we do and the gore aspect and the horror that we've been living for so long now and we've been big fans of that…it's been absorbed over the years and when we have to come up with these stories, I think all of us, that we just sit down and make them happen because obviously you're not thinking of these things maybe on a daily basis and that's not how you're living your life and how any of us are. But we're all creative in that regard and like I said, we've been doing it for so long now and better rounded that I just sit and come up with some cool stories, some horror stories like that  and I did do something a little different, tried out to do myself and it's all gonna be gore horror oriented and of course Cannibal's not gonna be too much difference in that regard but I still wanted to try to make it a little bit different. I think 'Summoned' is a good example, I mean I think like the way I had an idea of going, let me just countdown like that, having thirteen people committing the act and then just kind of describing it as a ghost…I found it was a pretty cool idea. Who knows how, why, where but crazy (laughs).

What would you say if a person told you that your lyrics helped him / her through the darkest times or inspired the person? Would you say that this person is insane or would tend to say, wow that's great?

Of course that's great. Amidst all the negativity seeming most people might look at all the death metal – listen to it, it's all negative and bad for society and all this – there is obviously the fans of it that love and live it and like we were growing up, I mean we know how important it is to serve to people. And if we're gonna help anybody in any way, through the music or the lyrics or whatever, it gives you a sense of accomplishment that you can help somebody in a positive light. If they're gonna get them through hard times or change their lives or whatever the case may be how do you not feel good about that? You made your mark, you helped somebody in a positive way seemingly through kind of somewhat negative sounding or seeming music, it's pretty powerful for sure and it's makes you feel good.

But there also is the other side of the story when I remember about Judas Priest back in the late 80s / early 90s when they were accused of having caused a suicide of a kid because of a song by them….

Of course those things do occur, yes. You don't feel good about that, I mean that's unfortunate that this gonna happen in the world and society. Almost all the time something's wrong with those people. They got something going on and it's not because of the lyrics or because of the music. Some more mental things happening in them that we maybe just don't understand but it's unfortunate when you have to hear about these stories. 

We met this year in Coesfeld where you played with Dark Funeral. Did you have any problems with censorship in Germany? I remember back in the 90s where you had these massive issues with playing some songs and somebody of you said in an interview that you played instead of 'Hammer Smashed Face' 'Fucked With A Knife' and nobody noticed, haha!

Yeah, that doesn't make any sense, right? Most of our censorship has been back in the 90s. We had these problems that everybody knows about but now it was over basically. We came back to Germany we're able to play these songs again and all that. But then it just depends on where we are. I think on the last tour when I think back, there's always a little pockets like when we play in let's say Bavaria we're all: "hey, we're having an issue, today we can't play song from this record" or "we can't play this song", so come on! There is no persistence at least before this was in place, it was all in Germany and now it depends on where we are in Germany and we still don't know what the problem is or what we can do or not do (laughs). So it was a couple of times on that tour with Dark Funeral that we had to not play a couple of songs. It is ridiculous that it's still kinda happening in this day and age but it was not as bad as it was at the height of it where we couldn't play any of those songs and couldn't sell some of our music. It's unfortunate that it still exists for us but hey, here we are fighting through it and the fans unfortunately, especially the ones in Germany, are the ones that lose out if we can't play certain songs but well, what do you gonna do?

A propos censorship – is this the reason you're using some more harmless covers for some years now?

Yes, that's why we ended up doing that. I mean if you're a band of Cannibal Corpses' nature you just want one cover. Just pick Butchered At Birth, there's the cover. Any of our albums, look here's the cover. And that's why we have to have alternative covers - because of censorship, because you might not get it into the record store or because you might be abandoned in this or that country. It's unfortunate that that's gotta still occur but that's the reason why they have these alternative covers. In Germany the original cover on Violence Unimagined got banned, that one with the zombie woman with the baby…

Yeah, there is only the head to see…

Yeah, that's the censored version with the side view of the head. For Chaos Horrific we again were doing two covers. I think for the German version it's the same thing. It's just the main cover; we were good with that seemingly world wired and then on the back there is the darker version with the zombies coming out of the grave. So then it was almost like that if we needed an alternative cover we could use that as being the alternative cover. Buck luckily it looks like that they were able to just use the main cover pretty much everywhere which was pretty cool.

Yeah, I think it is pretty harmless and when I look at the news, there are more shocking pictures on TV these days.

Yeah, of course! It's music and it's fictional artwork here that we're talking about. Come on! When you think about it, it just doesn't make any sense.

With Ron DeSantis you have a very conservative governor in Florida under whom a lot of things get permitted which seemed to be normal in the past. Do you have doubts that he might be a threat to the Floridian metal scene, too?

No, I don't follow politics much at all, really. I never have. Of course I know DeSantis is our governor and running for president and all that. I never had a problem he's been the governor for so long, I mean in Florida everything just seems to be going. We do our thing and I don't want to have any sole opinions because I just don't know enough about it (laughs). I don't think about it so I don't talk about it but I'm not worried about anything for sure.

This year you have the 35th anniversary. Will there follow a special release for this or do you just continue?

No, nothing! Obviously it is a great milestone; I guess we'll be 35 years this month. We can obviously think about it and go "wow, 35 years, this is crazy!" So we kinda all take these milestones and we don't do much for most of them. Of course we'll be touring  and that's coming up in the next year and the year after that and we'll just keep doing our thing. We acknowledge these milestones of course but we're not a band that does too much in any way to celebrate it like that. But you'll never know, we will see! If we get the 50th, that's a big deal but then again, that's 15 years from now – who knows.

But do you plan to come over to Europe or Germany in '24 again?

We should be doing a European tour. Everything has been worked out. As I said, plenty of touring has to be done a little bit for Chaos Horrific – we haven't really done this one on tour so far. We will definitely come back, it's just a matter of when and all those logistics I'm sure everyone eventually will know about.

Are there some cool memories you would like to share with us you experienced with the band?

Hm, just all of them. I mean, who thought that we would be here 35 years later, right? Doing what we've done with the band. I have been playing all throughout the world, countless albums, people that we met – it is all an amazing run and a kind of pinch me-thing. That we do this – is this happening? This is amazing! There's a couple of big things, when we were doing the last Slayer tour it was pretty cool, the final run here in the States or the Mayhem Festival ten years ago when Jeff (Hannemann; M.) was still alive. Being on a tour with Slayer- they've always been a huge influence on us – and to be able to see them every night or sharing the stage with them at a festival, being together with the original guys, that was something special. But everything we've done. I always go back to the firsts of course, right 35 years ago when you're starting this band. We didn't have many expectations, of course everyone has dreams and all those things but you're not expecting anything. So when you put out your first record, do your very first tour, coming to Europe for the very first time all that was amazing. All those firsts stand out more than anything because those were the firsts and like I said we weren't expecting this to happen.

With Chris Barnes, Jack Owen and Pat O'Brian you lost some long-time members in the past. Are you still in contact with some of them?

Not really. I mean there's been contact over the years. Admit of anything it was it was maybe Jack we were more in contact with anybody – we never really had a problem with Jack. It's been known that we kicked Barnes out back then and everyone knows about the Pat situation so we had to let him go. But Jack quit the band and there was not talk about to kick him out. So when he didn't want to be in it anymore so he quit, it's okay. So it wasn't like we hadn't any problems personally or anything like that. But we haven't talked to him in years. It's been a few years now and at this point I think everybody's like the past is the past and you move forward. If you're running into people I'm sure things will be okay, you say hi and all that but that's really about it these days. We're just looking and moving forward and try not to live in the past.

I read some excerpts from "The Scott Burns Sessions" where you talked about Chris Barnes…

Right there came to light a little bit more about the details. It is still weird these days that a lot of people think Barnes quit the band. We made it known in the "Torment" DVD. We didn't get into it too much but a lot of people up to this day think that he quit Cannibal to form Six Feet Under. But that really obviously is not what happened. So when Scott Burns' book came out, he was there and he was around all this when this was happening and it was one of the stories that we wanted to talk about and clear up. This is what happened whether you like it or not or whatever the case may be.

Coming back to you as a vegetarian – do you have a classic Cannibal Corpse recipe for me?

Not too much. I make some pretty cool stuff but I'm nothing from scratch so to say. But we've been eating some pretty good stuff, I've been making some good vegan pizzas at home and these days you use a lot of these alternatives like Beyond and Impossible. They're making some cool stuff so that you can wrap up some really good meals. But me and my girlfriend have been making a lot of these vegan pizzas and I tell you they turned out very well. We're loving them. I thought we should make a cookbook or some sort of recipe book. And there's a Vietnamese restaurant that we all go to, it's right here in Tampa and it is one of my favorite places. They have some good vegetarian dishes…now I'm talking about it I get hungry!

So you're vegan or vegetarian?

I'm vegetarian but I eat a lot of vegan food. I wish I could just go full on vegan but I still like to eat normal yogurt with dairy in it but I don't eat a lot of dairy. It's like I probably eat more vegan anyways but I'm not a 100% vegan. I still consider myself vegetarian.

What are you looking for in 2024?

Like I said, we'll just be touring . We released Chaos Horrific in September so that we only did one tour in the States and Canada so we got some more touring to be done and we just keep the ball rolling and do what we do.

The last words are yours!

Thanks to all the fans out there that have been supporting us for the last 35 years or less, got into us yesterday, great (laughs)! We got the best fans in the world, thank you for the interview, Michael, and we'll see everybody in Germany hopefully soon.

Entered: 2/24/2024 8:12:09 AM

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Discography


Chaos Horrific Chaos Horrific
Full-Length (2023)
Violence Unimagined Violence Unimagined
Full-Length (2021)
Red Before Black Red Before Black
Full-Length (2017)
A Skeletal Domain A Skeletal Domain
Full-Length (2014)
Torture Torture
Full-Length (2012)
Evisceration Plague Evisceration Plague
Full-Length (2009)
Kill Kill
Full-Length (2006)
The Wretched Spawn The Wretched Spawn
Full-Length (2004)
Gore Obsessed Gore Obsessed
Full-Length (2002)
Worm Infested Worm Infested
EP (2002)
Live Cannibalism Live Cannibalism
Live (2000)
Bloodthirst Bloodthirst
Full-Length (1999)
Gallery Of Suicide Gallery Of Suicide
Full-Length (1998)
Deadly Tracks Deadly Tracks
Compilation (1997)
Vile Vile
Full-Length (1996)
The Bleeding The Bleeding
Full-Length (1994)
Tomb Of The Mutilated Tomb Of The Mutilated
Full-Length (1992)
Butchered At Birth Butchered At Birth
Full-Length (1991)
Born In A Casket Born In A Casket
EP (1991)
Eaten Back To Life Eaten Back To Life
Full-Length (1990)

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