Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse)
For as long as I can remember, Cannibal Corpse has been one of my favourite death metal bands. To be able to interview Alex Webster, the band’s bass player and founding member was like a dream come true. In this email interview, Alex answered my questions about the new Global Evisceration DVD that was just released as well as the upcoming Blotted Science album and much more. Read on…
HB: Hey Alex! It’s great to have you here on Headbangers India. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!
AW: Thanks for interviewing me!
HB: The ‘Global Evisceration’ DVD was released a few days back. Tell us more about this release.
AW: It is a concert/behind the scenes DVD featuring multi-camera professionally recorded performance footage from 2 shows we did in the USA as well as single camera footage from several other countries we visited on the Evisceration Plague world tour.
HB: Talk us through the composing process of an average Cannibal Corpse song. Right from the composing of the riffs to writing the lyrics.
AW: Usually whoever is writing the song will work on it at home before showing it to the other band members. Once the whole band knows how to play the song we’ll record it in our practice room. Then lyrics will be written by one of us (Rob and I write the lyrics for our own songs, Pat lets Paul write lyrics for his songs). We try to have the lyrics match the music somehow. For example, if the song is slow and heavy, we’ll have lyrics that we feel are appropriate for that vibe. If the song is fast and frantic, it will have lyrics that are quite different from a slower song. We really try to give each song its own individual character.
HB: ‘Eaten Back To Life’ was released way back in 1990 on Metal Blade Records and every subsequent Cannibal Corpse release (including the upcoming Global Evisceration) has been with the same label. It’s evident that there is a very good understanding between band and label. Talk us through this relationship.
AW: We’ve had a good relationship with Metal Blade since the beginning, and it’s definitely gotten better and better over time. We consider the people at the label our friends. I think the foundation for this strong relationship is the Metal Blade staff’s commitment to metal music. Everybody at the label from the interns all the way to the CEO are metal fans. This is important to us. A major label might have more resources than an independent metal label like Metal Blade, but if they don’t care about metal what’s the point?
HB: Being one of the biggest selling death metal bands of all time probably also makes you one of the most pirated death metal bands of all time. Do illegal internet downloads affect the band, or is it just the label that takes the hit?
AW: I think the label probably suffers the most from illegal downloading. They sell CDs as their main source of revenue, whereas we play concerts and sell merchandise in addition to selling CDs. As far as I know those two parts of the business are not hurt by illegal downloading.
I am not an expert on the subject, but there is an argument to be made that a band like us that has received very little airplay on commercial radio and TV could have actually benefitted from illegal downloading. Before illegal downloading, people couldn’t hear us very easily without having to spend money on a CD first. I think many people would not risk $15 on something they hadn’t heard. Now, everybody can hear our music for free within moments of searching for our name on the internet. So while our sales may decrease from illegal downloading, overall awareness of the band can increase. I think this may have happened over the past ten years, and now it has come back to benefit us in the long run- our last two albums have shown great sales, the best for us since file sharing became popular. Like I said, I’m no expert on this stuff, but we’re doing better than ever right now, and who knows- maybe in part it’s because of downloading, not despite it.
HB: That’s probably true. Most of your fans in India have heard your music only through illegal downloads. I think a lot of bands wouldn’t have been half as big in this country if it weren’t for the internet. Okay, over the span of 20 years, Cannibal Corpse has released 11 studio albums and 3 live albums (the 4th coming soon). The band is widely accepted as one of the biggest death metal bands in the world of all time. After having done so much over all these years, what is it that motivates the band to go on and continue playing music? And at what point will you decide to call it quits?
AW: Well, needing to make a living is a motivating factor, just to be frank. But we also still love death metal music, and we really enjoy making new albums and touring. It’s the best job in the world for a metal head! So, it’s pretty easy to stay motivated. We love what we do and have no plans to call it quits.
HB: There’s a new Blotted Science EP coming out in 2011, if I’m not wrong. ‘The Machinations of Dementia’ was pretty intense. What can we expect from the new EP ‘The Animation Of Entomology’?
AW: This new EP has clips that are inspired by and written to be synchronized with various movie clips that feature bugs and other creatures. The music is still very much in the vein of what we did on “Machinations”.
HB: Hannes Grossman (ex Necrophagist/Obscura) replaces Charlie Zeleny on this EP. Why did that happen?
AW: I think Ron wanted to work with a drummer who was focused on technical death metal, which Hannes is. Charlie is an amazing, versatile drummer who can play just about anything, but he was not specializing on the kind of drumming Ron wants for Blotted Science. Hannes is, and I think that has made the writing and recording of this EP a little easier for Ron.
HB: That’s great. I’m really looking forward to the EP! Now, the face of extreme metal has changed over the last 20 years. Today, there are loads of bands playing music heavier and more intense that you probably may not have been able to imagine when you started out. Sometimes, big bands get upstaged by the smaller opening bands. Do you ever fear something of the sort happening to you?
AW: Well, it’s probably already happened hundreds of times, haha! But seriously, I don’t think an established band like us has anything to worry about. We’re happy to see younger bands take extreme metal to new heights. We’re not in competition with any of them- although we still push ourselves hard to improve our skills as players and musicians, we do it to make better music, not out of fear of being surpassed in terms of extremity- that has already happened!
HB: Right. Now, who are your influences, as a musician and a bass player?
AW: For songwriting still I’m influenced by the bands I liked a lot as a teenager, like Slayer and Kreator. I also try to draw influences from things I’ve learned from other musicians. For example, I have a metal/fusion drummer friend I jam with here in Tampa sometimes, I’ve picked up a lot of ideas about different rhythms from him and it’s possible that stuff makes its way into my song writing. I think jamming with other great musicians has been the biggest influence on me as a musician and writer. As a bassist, I listen to a lot of the great metal bassists like Steve Harris, Cliff Burton, and Steve DiGiorgio. I also like some non-metal players like Michael Manring and Gary Willis.
HB: Over the years, you’ve used loads of different bass guitars on different albums; Fender Precision, Ibanez SB and SR, Spector NS and more recently, the Modulus Quantum. Looking back, which one would you call your most ‘preferred’ set up?
AW: I like all of those basses for different reasons. I’d say my current basses (my Euro Spectors) are my favorites of the bunch. They’re very playable and they sound the best.
HB: Apart from the most recent American tour, Cannibal Corpse’s recent shows have included traveling to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Germany (among others). What about a show in India?
AW: We would love to play in India! Somebody needs to arrange this for our next album cycle’s tour.
HB: Well, I hope all the Indian event organisers read this article and make it happen! So, what’s next on the horizon after Global Evisceration? A new album, maybe?
AW: Yes, we are working on new songs right now. We have 4 completed, and the beginnings of several more. We plan to record in September so the album should be released sometime in 2012. A tour will follow.
HB: From all your years of playing and touring with some of the best bands and musicians around, I’m sure you have loads of advice and tips for all the upcoming bands and musicians around. Would you like to share some of them for our readers?
AW: I suppose my answers will be similar to what other musicians say: do this because you love it, not because you want to make money. It’s so hard to make money playing music that you’ll never stick with it if that’s your primary motivation. Beyond that, to be successful try to make yourself easy to work with. I’ve seen great players lose gig after gig because they are difficult to work with. Nobody will care how well you can play if they can’t stand to work with you. A good attitude will take you far in music, a bad attitude will do nothing but hold you back.
HB: Thank you, Alex for taking the time for doing this interview with us. We hope to get to meet you in person soon if/when you come down to India! Cheers and best of luck!
AW: Thank you for the interview! I also hope to see you and all of our Indian fans in person very soon!
The promo pic as well as the live shot of Alex Webster are the property of Alison Webster. We thank her for letting us use them for this interview.