Goatwhore: Answer to the Master
18-Jun-2012 Words: Paul Southwell
Latest release: Blood For The Master (Metal Blade/Riot!)
Goatwhore hails from New Orleans, Louisiana and given they’ve been functioning for about fifteen years after Acid Bath disbanded and have several decent death metal releases under their grim bullet belts, they are not planning on stopping yet. For their latest album titled Blood For The Master, which was recorded in Florida, they have again enlisted Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal fame for production duties. Returning to Australia in July for a headlining tour, Loud caught up with Goatwhore guitarist and founder, Sammy Duet to discuss what the menagerie can expect from the impending trek.
For the latest album, which has ten tracks and clocks in at thirty eight minutes duration, you’ve again used Erik Rutan as a producer. Did he let you do whatever you liked or was he a bit of a task master?
It is pretty much that we work together. We go in there with the ideas for the songs. We don’t really get into a situation like with bigger bands where the producer helps them write the songs. We just go in there with the songs pretty much ninety nine percent written. There might be a few things that we’ll change here and there. As far as the song structures and all of the music, he doesn’t really bother us that much. He gives ideas to go with a vocal pattern, guitar solos, guitar overdubs or maybe changing the picking on a riff. It is not really a big, humungous change that he makes with us when we go into the studio. He lets us do what we want but he makes us work really hard to get a really good final product.
Do you continue to write songs thinking more about a playing live approach?
Absolutely, that’s the way we’ve always been and it is probably the way it is always going to be. If we can’t pull the song off live then there is no point in actually playing it. That means being able to pull it off in the practice room without having to go through these extreme measures of having to have synthesisers or samplers and crap like that. If it is something we cannot pull off live and raw or in the practice room then it is not going to be used.
The previous album, Carving Out the Eyes of God, was well received. Did you find that with the latest album, Blood for the Master, you had to better yourself?
A little bit but we almost wanted to keep the same vibe as the last album but maybe going angrier. Carving… was a great album. It is still one of my favourites that we’ve ever done and that is why we wanted to keep that vibe so much. There were some things on that album that we felt were a little mellow in some spots so we kind of wanted to go in a harder and angrier direction but still with that same kind of feeling that [prior] album had, you know what I’m saying.
There’s plenty of guitar solos on it. The introduction to ‘Embodiment of This Bitter Chaos’ reminds me of early Marty Friedman or that sort of guitar style.
Really? I know there’s a song with an acoustic intro with a solo over it. Actually, Erik played that solo. I was going to do it but I was so swamped with things that he helped with solos in the studio. I had to write like three of them whilst we were recording the album. So instead of having to write four I was like, ‘well, why don’t you just do the solo on this damned part and we’ll call it a day’. So that is why. It has a classic kind of Erik Rutan soloing style to it but it almost reminds me of Dimebag, in a sense.
Some of the other solos such as the one on ‘An End to Nothing’ has a Slayer feel to it with some mad whammy bar abuse in there.
Oh yeah, absolutely, when in doubt, hit the whammy bar. We’re using ESP guitars now and it is an ESP flying V that I used on the whole record. We tune to C standard tuning, So everything is basically playing normal guitar but it is two steps lower.
For metal genres like black and death metal, bass can be very overpowering in the mix. Is it difficult to separate it from the guitars in the final mix?
Not really because the way that I set my guitar amplifier is different to the way that a lot of the guys that play in black metal and death metal bands. They tend to scoop out the mids [of the equalisation range] and play mainly with the front and back highs [boosting bass and treble]. I tend to do the opposite where my mids are cranked up pretty high and I do not play with a lot of high end. So I guess that makes it a little bit roomier since the bass is in there. The way that we have our bass sound is that it is really deep and distorted so that is almost like a reinforcement of the rhythm guitar. It is no something that is going to stick it out really hard but it is going to add some more thickness to the sound.
There is also a lot of blast beats happening. It is difficult to keep in time?
No, not really because our drummer [Zack Simmons] was trained in school. He was in marching drum lines so he has been drumming since he was about twelve years old.
He has been working at that for pretty much all of his life so he has a really good sense of timing. There a lot of bands that I know that have to play to a click track to keep their timing live. We don’t do that, we just go for it and I guess his timing is embedded in his DNA now. Since he has been playing drums for so long, he has a natural click inside him.
Some gallop grooves are in amongst the onslaught. Is there some Maiden influence in there by any chance? Say on the song ‘Death to the Architects of Heaven’?
Oh yeah, when I first started playing guitar Iron Maiden was the first band that I started really getting into; it was them, Black Sabbath and AC/DC. I guess that it is naturally going to be in there from years of just listening to those records so many times. It is more of a subconscious thing. It is not a case of saying, ‘alright, I’m going to write this riff that is going to have this Iron Maiden feel to it’, it is just going to happen from listening to the music so much and from growing up on that stuff. It is from being obsessed with it for so long that it kind of just sticks with you subconsciously.
That makes sense. You’ve covered Motorhead, Celtic Frost and Slayer. So, did Tom G Warrior hear the Celtic Frost cover you did?
I think he did actually because we toured with him. In 2006 we toured with Celtic Frost and he was constantly making fun of us because we sounded so much like old Celtic Frost. So he was picking on us the whole time and harassing us but it was all in good fun.
Imitation is the best form of flattery. On that, have you found yourself listening to say Venom or something and then it creeps into your playing on the albums?
Well, exactly, we wear our influences on our sleeves. We’re not the kind of band that is going to try and reinvent the wheel. We’re a band that is here to be metal. Of course, we indulge our influences a little bit too seriously and that is when we almost start sounding a little bit like Venom and Celtic Frost, a little bit too much. Somebody has to do it since they’re not doing it anymore.
For the tour, are you hiring out backline amps?
We’re renting amps because it is really expensive to fly amps across large bodies of water. We can’t really afford that so we just rent whatever we need out there. Last time we went to Australia I just brought a little makeshift pedal board. I just spray painted a piece of plywood black and put some Velcro on it, stuck it in my suitcase, just wrapped my pedals up in t-shirts and just flew it like that.
You were playing guitar with Crowbar for a while. How did you end up working with Kirk Weinstein [Down guitarist]?
Actually it is pretty funny because we were backstage at a Pantera show in Mississippi and Kirk was back there as he is really good friends with Philip [Anselmo] and all of them. I heard that their guitar player wasn’t really working out and this was before I had really started taking Goatwhore seriously. So I was doing nothing, sitting around with no one to play with but keeping busy musically. So I went up to him and I said, ‘hey man, if you need a new guitar player, let me know’ and he was like, ‘get me your phone number’. The next week I got a call and he said, ‘if you want to come and jam with us, learn these songs and be here on Saturday’ and that is how it happened.
When you go into that environment, are you expected to play the classic songs, such as on Time Heals Nothing, note for note or can you bring in your own style?
There is such a distinctive sound of how he writes his riffs and being that I was such a big fan of Crowbar, I didn’t really want to mess with that so much. It kind of took me a while to learn to play how he plays. I didn’t come in there to change something that they had already built that I thought was amazing. I just wanted Crowbar to sound like Crowbar when I was in it so I really sat down and focused hard on trying to pick up on Kirk’s style; how he gets his guitar sound and all that stuff. It was really tough actually, it wasn’t easy at all.
In an American metal magazine [Decibel] recently, you described the latest album as love songs to Satan.
Absolutely, I mean, there is a lot of Christ hating on there also but I think there is a lot of that [praise] missing in these so called Satanic black metal and Satanic death metal bands where they focus more on the destruction of Christianity than on the adoration for Satan. These bands claim to be Satanic when they are not actually worshipping the Devil lyrically, so to speak. I mean, that is what we are trying to bring back. It is not so much the Christ bashing, it is more the adoration for our Dark Lord.
So it is the difference between immature rebellion and spiritual beliefs?
Yeah, this is something that I have been fascinated with for a very, very long time and I am still fascinated with it. It is not so much that I actually worship the Devil or anything like that or hold any Satanic rituals. I just kind of worship the beauty of what Satanism is, like true Devil worship, you know.
Does the comical nature of the representation of the Devil in metal offend you at all?
It goes with the territory. Some people take it seriously and some people don’t, you know. As long as it’s there, that is all that really matters. Whether someone is making fun of it or someone is taking it very seriously, as long as it is there. If it is a conscious thing then you know that there’s something there.
Well, we’ll see you in Australia.
Right on man, I can’t wait. Later.
Goatwhore tours Australia in July with Impiety, Ruins and local supports:
5/7: The Beetle Bar, Brisbane QLD
6/7: Sandringham Hotel, Sydney NSW
7/7: Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
8/7: Brisbane Hotel, Hobart TAS
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