Latest release: Book Burner (Relapse/Riot!)
Richmond, Virginia’s Pig Destroyer have a well-deserved reputation as perhaps the most intense and extreme grindcore band in the world. After an enforced break of several years, the four-piece returned in 2012 with the incredible Book Burner set that probably set the bar even higher for everyone else. Over a busy Christmas/New Year period Loud caught up to vocalist and founding member JR Hayes about what took them so long to come destroying once again.
The first thing I want to say is, welcome back. It’s been a while between drinks, so to speak, for Pig Destroyer
That’s certainly true.
What happened in the interum between albums?
It was very complicated. In my own personal life as well, but in the band… for a couple of years after the Phantom Limb album we just played shows and tried to support that. Then we took about a year off in Scott (Hull – guitar)’s studio in his basement which we pretty much built ourselves with our own hands – so it took us a while. And then Scott got into doing the Agorapocalypse album for ANb and I did some behind-the-scenes work with him on that. So when it came time to do the new Pig Destroyer album, our relationship with Brian (Harvey) came to an end so we were forced to find another person.
It must be an interesting process trying to find a drummer for a band like yours.
It is, because there’s not a lot of drummers who can play the material. And then you’ve gotta find someone who’s pretty much local and fits in with the personality… We didn’t necessarily know that we would ever find someone, so we’re really pretty lucky than Adam (Jarvis) was ready to go. He wanted the job as soon as it became available.
Was there ever an option of just going with a drum machine like ANb?
It’s intersting because we never really had that conversation. I think for me, playing live, I’d have to have a real drummer. I don’t necessarily have an aversion to drum machines, but it’s just not the same. It doesn’t have that feel. You’ve gotta have that chemistry, and you can’t have chemistry with a drum machine.
Well the chemistry seems to have clicked, because it doesn’t actually sound like you’ve been away for that long.
When Adam came into the band, we were at our lowest point ever as a band. We were just miserable for at least a year, year and a half of this frustration. Once we got Adam in the band, his enthusiasm kinda pushed us to get back on it and make the most vicious grindcore record that we could make.
Do you believe you’ve achieved that?
Well what really happened was that it was difficult, but it was worthwhile. I feel like the production came together really well, and even the artwork and the packaging came together really well.
The artwork and packaging seems to follow the theme of previous albums.
When I saw the photo that my friend had taken, that really jumped out as the cover for me. There wasn’t really any debate in my head. It was just a matter of being able to dress it up a little bit and presenting it to the rest of the band.
Did you need to work to convince them, or was it easy?
It took a little bit. I was 100% convinced, so me just staying on everybody – I don’t want to say nagging… I would say aggressively lobbying for it. That’s the nicest way that I can say it.
Did those problems that you had going in to record the album inspire the songwriting, or did that come from outside the band?
When everything went down with Brian, it didn’t go down well and obviously it stung a lot. I consciously tried to keep that out of the subject matter because I just felt that was in poor taste. Just because he’s not in the band doesn’t mean I don’t still respect him. So, I wasn’t gonna air that dirty laundry in public. I think that when something like that goes down, you have to close ranks.
After all that, did playing this insane grindcore give you some form of release from that frustration?
That’s what grindcore is all about. It’s not about hit singles. It’s not about all the other bullshit. It’s about anger and relentless energy. When you’re pissed off, you wanna play this sort of music!
How does The Atheist fit in with the album?
That was just a short story that I wrote late last year (2011) and when we started talking about doing deluxe versions of the record I kinda thought… when I originally wrote it, it was too long to fit in with the record. But when we started talking to Relapse about deluxe versions of the album, that’s when it seemed like a good idea. Because then it was just a matter of getting some additional artwork for it. There’s a couple of little tie-ins that I did on the album but I didn’t want to match them so much that if you got a copy of the record without the story in it, then I didn’t want you to feel like you were missing out on anything too much.
So the album doesn’t rely on the story being a part of it.
It’s complementary but not indispensible.
What went into choosing the tracks on the covers EP that some people may have also gotten?
Usually when you do an album, there’s always talk about doing bonus material. Whether it’s for the Japanese version or this or that… you always wanna have a couple extra songs. And we just thought this time that it would be interesting to stick with a theme. So we decided to just do American hardcore bands from the 1980s and have that be the theme and kinda work with that.
Being American hardcore bands from the 80s, they were influences on you?
Adam is a little bit younger than us so I don’t think he’s into that sort of thing, or at least not as much. But for me and Scott and Blake (Harrison – samples), the Circle Jerks… Black Flag… you wouldn’t have extreme music without those bands. They all played their part.
Before I let you go JR, it would be remiss of me not to ask what it would take to get Pig Destroyer out to Australia again.
Well, there’s been a lot of offers. We had a great time hanging out with the fans last time. All the shows were killer and it’s just a matter of time. We’re not a band that tours a lot, and there’s still a lot of places that we’ve never been. So we’re trying to gig mainland Europe a little bit and I wanna try and get to Russia. We just wanna try to dabble in places we’ve never been a little bit and then we’ll be ready for round two with the Aussies!