Interview with Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse
Some people exist as unsung pillars of the established death metal that got out of the underground and became a global extreme phenomenon. Cannibal Corpse made it.The man behind those death metal killers, Alex Webster takes us on a mental journey through the land of the disturbed and his new band Conquering Dystopia…
AW: I’m at home in Florida, all’s well here, just preparing to leave for the Conquering Dystopia U.S. tour with Animals As Leaders.
CONQUERING DYSTOPIA CAMP
Metal-Rules.com: To start off, let’s take a look at the new upcoming debut, album by your new band, Conquering Dystopia. I think it is released today! How did this come up?
AW: Well, my involvement with the band began at the January 2013 NAMM show. I met Keith there and he asked me if I’d be interested in playing bass on an album he was doing with Jeff Loomis. I was already a big fan of Jeff’s playing, and although I knew less about Keith at that time, he seemed like a really cool guy and a very serious musician. So I said “yes” immediately, I didn’t even ask to hear the stuff first. I was confident they’d write material I’d enjoy working on.
Metal-Rules.com: Is Conquering Dystopia a side-project or a full time band?
AW: That’s really a question for Keith and Jeff. I’m not sure what they have planned for the future.
Conquering Dystopia is a whole different venture, focused on instrumental music, with elements of prog and an amalgam of different influences. So, Conquering Dystopia is not in the veins of 10,000MPH death blasting of Cannibal Corpse. What are the purposes of your new band?
AW: Well, the first thing people should know is that Keith and Jeff put the band together and are responsible for the songwriting and creative direction. So, I can really only answer this question from a bassist’s point of view, since that’s my role in the group. For me, the band is an amazing opportunity to play bass in a different scenario. Keith, Jeff, and Alex are such awesome musicians, it’s just so great to play with them. Also, the music they wrote for the band inspired me to do some things on the bass I probably wouldn’t do in Cannibal. So I guess for me the purpose of being in the band is to jam with killer musicians and have fun doing something a bit different from what I normally do.
Metal-Rules.com: What does the band name mean for you? Who is responsible for the name?
AW: I think Keith came up with the name, or Jeff. Two of my favorite books are Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, those both deal with dystopias so I immediately liked the name. I’m not sure exactly what those guys intended it to mean, but for me it conjures up thoughts of breaking out of a depressing, oppressive world or society.
Metal-Rules.com: Why Conquering Dystopia did choose to have no vocals? It was a matter that you had in mind from the beginning or no one wanted to join you? (hehe)
AW: Again, this is a question for Jeff and Keith. I have to say that personally I love to play instrumental music. If a vocalist isn’t a good fit for their band they can ruin an otherwise killer album. No worries about that here, haha!
Metal-Rules.com: What are the main influences on your title debut album?
AW: Another one for Keith and Jeff as they are the song writers. Bass-wise, I was trying to write parts that worked well with the music they’d written. Sometimes this meant playing in unison with the guitar, which is pretty normal for extreme metal, but there were other times, mainly in the more melodic sections, where I was able to work more closely with Alex Rudinger’s drum parts. This is a more traditional rhythm section approach that I don’t get to do too much in Cannibal. So it was cool to be able to play in both familiar and different ways on this album. My influences bass-wise for the heavier stuff would be guys like Roger Patterson and Steve Harris, and for the more melodic stuff guys like Sean Malone and Geddy Lee.
Metal-Rules.com: What does future holds for Conquering Dystopia?
AW: In the immediate future we’ll be touring with Animals As Leaders and Chon in the USA starting on May 17th. After that we don’t have any shows booked, but I’m hopeful more will get set up as the year progresses.
CANNIBAL CORPSE CAMP
Metal-Rules.com: I really really liked TORTURE album! It blew me up! I have to say that I enjoy the most the slow-tempo ‘Cannibal’ songs like ‘Decency Defied’ or ‘Scourge of Iron’. Are you shooting for a 2014 release for your next album? Is it in works?
AW: Yes, we’re currently working with Mark Lewis at Audiohammer Studios in Sanford Florida on our follow up to Torture. The album should be released sometime in the fall.
Metal-Rules.com: Did you enjoy NAMM 2014? What did you like the most?
AW: I had a great time! I definitely enjoyed performing with Conquering the most, no question. But it was a good time all around. Lots of friends to hang out with and great musicians to watch.
Metal-Rules.com: Cannibal Corpse’s music has a very specific sound. After twenty-five years, do you find it challenging to innovate within that rather strict definition of what your music is? Are you ever going to run out of riffs?
AW: I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble coming up with fresh material mainly because we have several songwriters in the band. We each write a little differently, and we each try to innovate in every song we write, at least a little. I think we’d be in a much more difficult spot if we only had one songwriter. The fact that this band is a team of creative individuals is one of our main strengths, in my opinion.
Metal-Rules.com: Cannibal Corpse have covered a Black Sabbath song, ‘Zero The Hero’. Are you a Black Sabbath fan like me? Why did you choose that song and not a classic BS one?
AW: Chris liked that song and we thought the riff would work well for our style, so we did it. And Born Again is a killer album anyway. I think it’s a classic, but I guess most people disagree. And yes, we all love Black Sabbath in this band, especially Pat. But what metal head doesn’t?
Metal-Rules.com: So, I would like to ask you a question that will make you travel many years ago. When you started Cannibal Corpse, could you have possibly imagined that 25 years later you’d still be together? I know that many line-up changes Vader have been put through and you and Paul are the only constant members of Cannibal Corpse. Do you feel the defenders of the (death) faith?
AW: We never could have imagined this kind of success. A career of 25 years didn’t exist for any metal band in 1988, let alone a death metal band. So, no, we never could have imagined this. We have been playing death metal consistently since we began, constantly touring and making albums. So I suppose we could be considered one of death metal’s “defenders of the faith”; it’s a title that we would be proud of if people want to give it to us.
Metal-Rules.com: I think that a death metal show demands for a good warm-up. What’s your own warm-up process.
AW: If I don’t have much time I just play scales and the most difficult riffs in the set for a few minutes. If I have more time, I’ll play along with songs backstage with headphones on, usually Iron Maiden tunes. Those are a serious bass workout, for sure!
Metal-Rules.com: If you have Christa Jenal in front of you, what would you tell her?
AW: I don’t know. Maybe “hello”. I don’t have any hard feelings towards her, or any other censors. I just disagree with them.
Metal-Rules.com: I imagine a very special Cannibal Corpse show: Cannibal Corpse in front of 100.000 true die-hard fans and probably a guest by Jim Carrey! What do you think?
AW: I think you have a good imagination, haha!
Metal-Rules.com: What do you think of today’s music industry in general?
AW: It’s constantly changing due to technology. I think it’s important for musicians to pay attention and keep up. Take a look at Keith from Conquering for example- not only is he an amazing guitarist and songwriter, but he’s managed to find a way to succeed that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago, through his awesome videos on his youtube channel. I hear a lot of people complaining about the negative effects of technology on the music scene, but I think it’s more productive to look for the positive things. There are new opportunities created by technology too, and that’s what a smart musician will focus on.
Metal-Rules.com: Is technology part of your life or are you still a “romantic”?
AW: Well, I’ve never been very romantic so technology isn’t going to change that much, haha. But I understand what you’re trying to say. I think that having an open mind on this subject is a good idea. I’m not going to hold onto an obsolete way of doing something if there is a new, better way. But the new way has to be genuinely better before I’ll change. It’s not easy to let go of old ideas if you have become attached to them, but when something new comes along that’s truly better I think it’s best to accept that.
Metal-Rules.com: One of the last trends in music business is iTunes. More and more metal bands sell albums through this way. What’s your opinion on that?
AW: I think pretty much everybody has their music on iTunes at this point. I think it’s a good, convenient way to buy music.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you know any Greek heavy metal acts? Are there any Greek metal bands that you really like or want to share the stage with? Suicidal Angels, Rotting Christ, Septicflesh, Firewind and Gus G. to name a few.
AW: Those are all great bands you mentioned. I really like Inveracity, it would be fun to play with them sometime.
Metal-Rules.com: Oh, man! You know Inveracity? They’d be proud when they read this. This band along with Mass Infection are the best death metal bands in my country. What do you think of today’s music industry in general? Do you believe that illegal downloading harms album sales or you accept the fact that the real fans will go anyway to get the new CD or vinyl regardless of the ‘free’ illegal way?
AW: I can’t really say. I think the only way to tell would be to look at facts and figures regarding sales to determine the effects of illegal downloading on the music industry. I have heard it’s been bad and only getting worse for record labels, but I don’t know any exact numbers. What I have noticed is that metal fans generally still buy music. We still have lots of people asking us to sign CD covers after shows, so that means they probably bought the CD. Metal fans are true music fans, and seem to be more supportive of the bands they like than fans in most other genres. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Metal-Rules.com: Heavy metal changes throughout the decades. Heavy and Thrash metal dominated the 80’s, there was Death, Black and Power metal in 90’s, and Metalcore and Nu Metal in the 00’s. 2010 was the beginning of the new decade. What do you see for the future?
AW: I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m excited to hear it! There are hundreds, maybe thousands of talented young musicians in metal that will come up with literally unpredictable variations on this music. I’m really looking forward to hearing what they do. I don’t know what it is, but it’s coming.
Metal-Rules.com:Which big metal loss affected you the most?
AW: Probably Cliff Burton’s passing, he was a huge influence on me. I still listen to the Metallica albums he played on all the time.
Metal-Rules.com: If you could pick only one musician to work with that you did not collaborate with in the past, who would that be and why?
AW: I can’t really pick just one. I haven’t really worked in a band with a singer who sings pitches (as opposed to death metal growling) so it would be fun to work with a singer like Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson.
Metal-Rules.com: What elements make a good death metal song and album as well?
AW: Death metal should be dark and aggressive. Beyond that it’s kind of open to each musician. For example, for me, pure death metal should have tremolo picking rather than the tight gallops of thrash. The tempos are usually even faster than thrash, and obviously the vocals are guttural. But yeah, darkness and aggression are the two things I’d say are most important for death metal in general.
Metal-Rules.com: Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:
Thrash metal: is fast
Greece: awesome food
Favorite TV series: The Walking Dead (e.n.: I was so sure about it!)
Black Sabbath: rules
Strip show: scam
Metal-Rules.com: Alex, thank you for this interview. I wish you and the rest guys of Cannibal Corpse and Conquering Dystopia all the best!!!
AW: Thanks for the interview, all the best to you too!!!