Prior to a rousing show at The Bread Shed in Manchester and anticipating forthcoming album Death Atlas via Metal Blade Records, George Caley sat down to chew the cud with Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation.
AN: Evening so I noticed that the dates for this tour were booked around the Masters Of Grind Festival?
Travis Ryan: We had an entire month booked and then bands started falling through and stuff, the usual bullshit that happens, so it kind of fell apart and then at the last minute we were like wait a minute our album is coming out on the 29th we’re usually doing something like in Europe or somewhere whether it’s North America or whatever. We’ve just done a North American tour, Europe was already in the process of being booked and almost got cancelled completely, when we said hold on. We can at least do fucking UK and a few other select dates to make it make sense so since it was all booked around the Belgium thing and UK is like for us somewhere we can do really well, similar to North America and Canada and even Australia, like there’s something about the commonwealth, I don’t know what it is.
AN: That’s one thing I wanted to ask actually was you’re probably aware of Brexit, do you think that’s going to affect touring bands like yourself?
Travis Ryan: I have no fucking idea because I’m already busy enough trying to keep up with our own politics, or denying our own or more like it. I try to keep up with what’s going on in the world but it’s been more on an environmental scale than a social scale.
AN: Sure it gets a bit depressing.
Travis Ryan: Well, shit dude. Everyone is losing their fucking minds.
AN: But on a lighter note, Death Atlas. Do you see any difference from this album and your last two?
Travis Ryan: Well, For one thing we really took it down a lot which personally I’m a fan of dirgy depressing stuff and it really freaks me out in a good way that we can mix that stuff in with frantic, spastic Metal, Extreme Metal or whatever. Coz this record really does have peaks and valleys, it takes you on a journey, on an emotional journey really. Not so much like an actual journey, these albums are conceptual but they’re not following a story like King Diamond or some shit.
AN: You’ve played with dirges and the story aspect of your albums on the last two records with slower more melodic passages. Which I think as a fan works really well.
Travis Ryan: Good, thank God. Coz that’s one of the things man, we all just want to do what we want. But we’re on a label that is kind of demanding in a way, which I understand, I mean that’s why we signed. They have their own set of demands and I’m glad that we’re able to fill that obligation but also the obligation to our artistic selves which is to do what we want and hope that people like it. Coz there’s so many bands that I don’t really know what the fuck they’re doing, I think that there’s so many bands that are doing stuff just because they’re there, maybe they just want to be up on a stage and be fucking loved, I don’t know. The absolute orgasm would be the best of both worlds where you’re doing what you want and people give a shit, how many of those bands are there?
AN: Totally, you yourself are a huge music fan, outside of Metal. So do you ever feel like you want to bring those influences into your own music?
Travis Ryan: I have a respect for extremity, I definitely have a respect for Death Metal. I think it’s a time and a place and an atmosphere and offshoots of that. So I don’t really call ourselves that, definitely not Grind. The same thing can be applied to that, I don’t know what we’re doing, I think as time goes on things are going to splinter off and that seems like a natural progression. You’re a Metal journalist you’re paying attention to all this crazy shit that’s going on. Who saw Igorrr coming or even on the other side of the spectrum that I may not be into like Jinjer or shit like that? Shit’s getting weird and I fucking love that. I personally like that things are opening up, but it also could be the death knell for certain types of Metal. You know, you saw what happened when Grunge came in, Death Metal started flourishing and then it died for a few seconds from what I can see. Then all of a sudden there’s Metalcore and fucking Deathcore. I’m not saying people stopped giving a shit about Death Metal, I’m one of those old school dudes. All this stuff came back and kind of kicked things up again.
AN: That’s one thing I find interesting actually with Cattle Decapitation is that it’s different and clearly you’re headlining a lot of things like Masters Of Grind and Deathfeast next year. Nobody is doing that same stuff as you guys and it’s strange because you’d think you’d get like copycats or people trying to imitate your vocals for example.
Travis Ryan: I know of a few but I’m not going to name names or whatever. The only reason I don’t talk about that is that I might paint a picture that I’m dissatisfied or turned off by it. I just want things to move forward. I’d like to be our own thing, for nobody to try to copycat us, or copycat anybody.
AN: Speaking of unique sounds I know that you’re a fan of Cynic for example, so are you into the new wave of Technical Death Metal bands that are coming around?
Travis Ryan: I’m very picky and choosy and I always was. Like I was a huge Thrash guy, but I never listened to Atrophy or Sodom, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Sodom song. I also came from this little reject area in San Deigo California which is a reject area as far as Metal goes, or at least it used to be. I didn’t know anybody else, I met a couple of people in high school that listened to Metal. I grew up in fucking Catholic school dude, so I was pretty god damn sheltered. Here I am 45 and I’m still reacting to that.
AN: That’s a good thing! Did you maybe feel like coming from a Catholic school background that, that’s why you branched out into genres that weren’t just Metal?
Travis Ryan: I think that combined with my inner chemistry is why things are so extreme, why I take things to such extremes. Whether I’m joking around or being dead serious. That’s the thing we are being dead serious. The lyrical stuff and the concepts are dead serious, there’s still this weird tongue in cheek. We’re all trying to get through this life, we’re all walking each other home.
AN: With the sort of extremity thing, there’s been a lot of talk of misogyny in Death Metal lyrically. How do you feel about that? Do you still look at bands like that and think it’s just extreme or are you trying to fight the misogyny thing?
Travis Ryan: Well I already did in 2002’s To Serve Man. There’s a song called Testicular Manslaughter which addresses that whole thing, but at the same time what that song was doing more so was just reminding people that there should be a difference. Like you go to a movie, you go to a Clive Barker movie or whatever you’re not going to come home and try to summon Beelzebub or whatever the fuck it is. Just be real, be honest and be real. If you ask me it’s tired, and it would’ve been cool if Tomb Of The Mutilated was the only record to touch on that and then nobody else gave a shit again, but at the same time The Mentors had been doing that shit for a while, but whatever. The whole misogyny thing should just be exposed for what it is and that’s shock, if you can do that then I think that takes the fear out of it or it should and nobody should ever be afraid of being sexually attacked or assaulted in that manner. I mean it’s called extreme music, everything under that umbrella is going to cover all sorts of topics. I did want to on To Serve Man I did want to show the other side of the coin. I just remember thinking Jesus, whys it always got to be she, why not he. Whys it always got to be ‘she’s laying in a pool of vaginal fluid and guts’ or whatever, why? In the early days it was tongue in cheek, I knew those guys Alex Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz wrote all those disgusting lyrics. Two of the nicest most down to earth dudes in the scene and they’re on the top of it. You’re going to tell me they’re misogynists, nope sorry it’s a big weird world.
AN: Similarly with the extremity thing it’s like people will pick up on the misogyny but then your lyrics are horrendously dark or brutal towards humanity and that in itself is extreme. You’re talking about real things, is that how you feel with it?
Travis Ryan: It’s weird, I was thinking about this last night while we were on stage. Seriously when we’re up there half the time we’re thinking about like what we’re going to eat afterwards, shit like that, cause you end up building up muscle memory. We’ve done album covers and we’ve had lyrics that are to me, regardless of whatever political spectrum you’re on or whatever part of the social justice spectrum that you’re on. I feel like I’m on the right side, not right as in politically right! I feel like I’m on sorry the correct side of it as everybody does about their own opinions. Some of the lyrics I’ve done could be misconstrued as some of the worst thoughts someone could ever have. I’m not saying I’m the most brutal, no I just mean some of the worst thoughts somebody could have. If you haven’t realised by now that our shit is heavily steeped in irony and metaphor then I don’t know what to tell you, you know what I mean? It’s misanthropic but I can’t say I’m like the same dude as like Euronymous, or maybe they were just a bunch of fucking posers that thought they were fucking misanthropic I don’t know, maybe I am too. This is just my contribution to this kind of stuff, I figure if you have to write about something you might as well make it kind of worth it.
AN: So you don’t view yourselves as politically driven, it’s just a snapshot of humanity. Is that where you get most of your inspiration from, just looking at humanity?
Travis Ryan: I’ve written songs and I hate to say it coz it make me sound like a fucking absolute lamer but I’ve written songs after just getting so mad at scrolling through my feed. I’m self-employed so when I’m at home I have a lot of time where I just go, fuck I’ve spent four hours sitting here on Facebook. I know it’s not just me but it’s easier when you’re like at home and don’t have to sit at work or something. I’ve written reactionary songs, which I try not to do. The perfect world for me is songs that kind of write themselves because of what they are, not so much my reaction to it.
AN: That’s pretty interesting, you’ve done stuff with Anal Trump as well, so is that more politically driven or just a parody?
Travis Ryan: For one thing Anal Trump is all Rob Crow who is god damn San Deigo royalty as far as musical geniuses go. He’s a musical genius, he’s a comedic genius. Which is a side I’m not sure people get to see of him, he’s got a massive fanbase to himself. This band is very exemplary of his comedic mindset that he has. I literally just go and sing, this shit to me is hilarious but I’m one of those people that you’d call classical liberal where I have to take the so called ‘enemies’ feelings into play. My dad was a judge, a superior court judge very well respected. I learned from him, who’s rather left leaning. To me he was Johnny conservative but he’s actually very left, but very center. I think that at the center is where true life exists. This gnarly taking of sides is only being exacerbated through this magnifying glass of fucking social media and we’re all reacting to it. Nobody can fucking win, as long as you’re a bipedal human organism on this fucking earth, you’re not going to win man. We’re too smart! We’re smart enough to have this fucking conversation, but we’re not smart enough, as long as the dollar exists to make something happen worldwide as a species.
AN: Equally taking the politics out of it and talking about the parody side, I notice that there’s a band called Coffee Decaffeination and I really wanted to ask you about that, does it feel a bit surreal?
Travis Ryan: I love it! I’ve been in shit like that, Anal Trump I guess you could say. Those are those things you send home to mom and say look mom I made it, someone gives a shit. Speaking of which she actually just looked us up, it never clicked in her mind that this is actually a thing, or a business or a life-style. Because she’s been going forever ‘when are you going to be a mailman’ or ‘do this’ or whatever. Finally they stopped doing that a long time ago, but she’s been looking us up on YouTube and shit. The other day she was like, ‘I had no idea you were famous!’. I was like mom it’s relative the internet is a big fucking place. Maybe a household name now in a microcosm of a scene, I’m just happy to be there.
AN: Same sort of thing with your mum asking if you’re going to be a mailman, I was going to ask is touring something you love, or is that just part of the job?
Travis Ryan: Well, unfortunately it feels kind of poserish to say but when I was 13 and I went with my brother to a Psychotic Waltz show of all things, local band that didn’t really do anything in the States but got huge in Europe for whatever reason. I went to a show with my brother and from then on I was hooked, all I know is that I’m looking around watching roadies fix stands and mics, I’ve always been very technical minded. I watch movies more for the technical aspect as opposed to the plot and I just absorbed that shit. Of course my dad was a lawyer at the time so he wants me to be a doctor a lawyer or some shit, but in the end all they cared about was that I was happy. You know what, that fucking movie Rockstar, my mom comes home, ‘Travis, I just saw that movie Rockstar and I feel very bad for always giving you shit for doing what you’re doing’. I explained the whole Judas Priest thing and ever since then they kind of shut up about my future. I’m married we’re not going to have kids we’ll be there for each other and we’ll see what happens.
AN: One of the things that made you so notorious was the whole vegan, vegetarian thing. I myself connect with that a lot. Have you noticed anything with the boom in veganism in say Europe or America?
Travis Ryan: The only boom that’s happened recently, I call them Netflix vegans. Everyone’s like oh fuck and slowly they taper off. I’m actually vegetarian because of this, the road kind of broke me. I’m naturally a picky eater, which I got from my mom. I only learnt this last year, I was like ‘why aren’t you eating this guacamole?’ and she’s like ‘I hate avocados!’. I just spent 40 fucking years watching you make guacamole and you done even eat this shit? What! She had to tell me that she was really picky and they kept it from me because they didn’t want me to be the same, but I just was. I never even really liked much meat, it was very easy to switch and turn that off. The one thing that gets challenging on the road is being able to figure out if something has egg in it. Any vegan will tell you it’s easy, I live primarily vegan I just don’t claim veganism because I will eat cheese, egg or dairy if I have to. I don’t understand the concept of having to go without, I’m not going to eat meat, life is not black or white and that’s all I have to fucking say.
AN: Last question, with Death Atlas coming out what’re you plans once it’s released?
Travis Ryan: We’re doing a lot of touring. UK, honestly I’m not just saying this just because this is a UK interview but honestly this is like one of our homes away from home I don’t know what it is. UK has always been kind to us, this is one of the first territories that were clamouring for us. I mean California is like the size of the UK, I might be wrong. We can do a week in California and maybe we can do something like that with UK and Scandinavia.
Interview: George Caley
Photos: Andy Pountney