Interview with Vocalist Chris Barnes
Interview by Lord of The Wasteland (with help from Arto Lehtinen)
(**Thanks to Adam & Jodi for the transcription)
Besides being the lyricist and frontman for one of the most influential death metal bands of all time (Cannibal Corpse), Six Feet Under?s Chris Barnes remains one of the most outspoken, interesting and most prolific artists in music. While his detractors are many, Barnes has developed a cult following over his fifteen years on stage and with 2005 being the tenth anniversary of Six Feet Under?s existence, his presence is only escalating with a new studio CD, a note-for-note tribute to AC/DC?s BACK IN BLACK album, as well as a Six Feet Under box set on the way.
I spoke with Barnes three weeks before the March 22nd release of Six Feet Under?s sixth studio album, 13, and his chemically-enhanced demeanor never once kept him from being a forthright and lucid interview subject on topics as diverse as movies, politics, religion, crazy fans, his admiration for rapper Ice-T and Canada, his REIGN IN BLOOD remark, and of course, metal. Funny, laid-back and cool: just what I expected from a chat with Chris Barnes.
I think this is the first time you’ve ever talked with Metal-Rules?!
Metal-Rules! Yeah, I know I’ve heard of you guys (laughs).
You’ve probably met a couple of our writers from our Finnish team over at the festivals in Europe.
Oh okay, yeah. Well, it’s all good man, it’s all good. Thanks for doing the interview with us.
No problem, man. My pleasure. Good to finally talk to you from up in Canada?I?m in Vancouver, B.C..
You are, are you? I believe I’m smoking some of your finest right about now (laughs).
I would imagine you probably have sampled some of our ?stuff,? yeah (laughs).
Oh, I’m sure of it, man. I’m sure I have some of it right now (laughs). It all makes its way across our fine country, and I gotta thank you guys for that. Hopefully I’ll be up there to visit the source of it all.
I certainly hope so. I don’t think you guys have ever played here before?
You know, every time we get something booked up there it’s either we can’t get across the border or it gets cancelled right before we get there. We have bad luck when it comes to Canadian shows for some reason.
Well, there seems to be a bit of an upswing with bands finally coming around these parts, so that’s good.
Yeah, well you guys are the “Bahamas of Canada” supposedly.
Yeah, it’s a great city.
You know, put it this way. If I was gonna move out of the country anywhere, I’d be heading up your way, man.
(Laughs) You’d love it here.
I would! There’s a little island just north of Victoria…called Denman Island. Oh God, I’d love to visit.
Well, you know what to do (laughs).
I know it. Pack up the Volkswagen bus and head north (laughs).
There you go (laughs). Alright, man, well if you’re ready to go…
I’m ready man, whenever you are.
Alright. 2005 is a big year for Six Feet Under. Ten years as a band and ten years with Metal Blade Records. How are things going with them?
Things are going really well, man. They’ve always connected really well with what I’ve been trying to accomplish, you know. They’ve always listened, which is something rare for a record company, I think. But after ten, fifteen years with doing business with each other, we have a mutual respect, so that’s a positive environment.
So the new record’s out March 22nd and it’s called 13. Maybe you can explain a few things about it…
Yeah, let’s start with the title.
(Laughs) I can’t explain it, you know. I’ve probably been asked…well, for twenty-four hours straight I’ve been asked “Why 13? Why 13?” It’s cryptic to me, too. It just jumped out at me. Before I had any of the material written…that’s the number that was written on this piece of paper that I found. And ever since I named the album that, man, it’s like that number has been showing up everywhere I look. So hopefully that’s a good luck thing.
I hope so, man.
I understand from the promo sheet that there is a theme surrounding the Grim Reaper on this one, as well.
Yeah, it’s a loosely based theme or concept. Everything I’ve written is kind of wrapped up in the darker psyche of the human mind, in life and death and the soul or energy force of life. That’s pretty deep, but this is kind of revolving a little bit thicker within those subject realms. And this album kind of just tightens up on those thoughts and the idea of what I guess most people call “the man with the sickle.”
(Laughs) So what inspired you to take on “the man with the sickle?”
(Laughs) I find it pretty fascinating, the idea of that moment of death and the end of life, or whatever comes next. It’s just a fascination of mine, and I kind of think of it whenever I see that image. I think most people do because it’s such a supernatural type of thought. The image of the Grim Reaper, maybe that’s just a little too concrete to say that’s what it is, but that visual image just speaks to everyone, I think.
It’s a universal image, for sure.
You know, that number does too.
People fear the reaper, and people fear the number thirteen. Hopefully that’s a link there.
So would you call 13 a concept album in the same way you’d call Pink Floyd?s THE WALL or something like that…?
It’s not like OPERATION: MINDCRIME or something like that, you know. No, I don’t think it’s like a concept album like that at all. It’s more like, just an intertwining, subtle story of different feelings about death and the history of the thoughts behind it. You know, the capturing of the human soul in one way or another.
A lot of people called BRINGER OF BLOOD a departure because it had a lot of political and socially-driven…
It was really only one song though, man, and I think that that’s what really sort of led the press astray. With Metal Blade releasing “Amerika the Brutal” as the first single off that record, I don’t think it was representative to the rest of the tone of the album lyrically. I don’t think those lyrics on that album ever strayed very far off of what I’d done before.
True. I mean “Murder in the Basement” and “Skin Turns Blue,” that’s pretty obvious stuff.
Standard horror stuff. I think if you want to look at an album that is more varied and more political, WARPATH is the album that people should have been quoting as being a political album. If you look at BRINGER OF BLOOD, there’s really only “Amerika the Brutal” and maybe that song “Ugly,” that might have more of a social type of…
Or even “My Hatred.”
Yeah, but I’ve always kind of said stuff about religion, though. Even going back to “Vomit The Soul” on [Cannibal Corpse?s] BUTCHERED AT BIRTH. I don’t count talking about blasphemous things (laughs). You know, separation of church and state (laughs).
Let’s talk about the cover art for 13. It’s a little bit different because you didn’t go with Paul Booth this time like you did on other releases.
I haven?t worked with Paul for a few albums now.
TRUE CARNAGE was the last one, I believe?
Yeah…TRUE CARANGE was the last thing I think he worked on…maybe DOUBLE DEAD, the DVD thing. We kind of had a little bit of a falling out so we haven’t worked together for a while. I’m exploring different areas and not getting too boxed in by one guy’s idea. I really discovered our new artist, he came to me – he’s been a fan of my music, which was something different. I didn’t really think too much about it at first until he sent me the designs he had for some t-shirts and it blew me away. It was a really good feeling when I got in touch with Meriden. He did some really good work. He’s gonna do the box set for us this year and he’s actually re-designing our website for us, too.
Is he the better guy to ask what the cover represents, with the three skulls?
He told me that the three skulls equal the three religions on the planet – Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist. Basically, the absence of true religion equals death. That was his representation of the cover.
How does that tie in with the concept of the record?
I think that there’s an overall theme of the soul and the human spirit in this, and I think that there’s a shallowness of people to just follow a book or a religion instead of following their heart and their gut.
You mean blind faith?
I just think that religion has caused a lot of problems over the centuries. It still is and we’re in the middle of it right now. We can’t get away from that, and what it is is not ?true? faith. There’s a difference between inner faith and belief and manipulative business guised as religion helping people. That’s the thing that’s causing death.
Religion’s big business, that’s for sure.
One of the biggest.
I read somewhere that the Vatican is one of the wealthiest organizations in the world.
It’s a country. It’s a country within a country.
Is there going to be anything special you guys are doing with the release of 13? I have BRINGER OF BLOOD in the digipak, so are you going to do anything like that again?
(Groans) Oh, I don?t know what they?re?they’ve got some promo bobble head of me or something (laughs).
(Laughs) How many of those are there?
(Laughs) Hopefully not too many (laughs). I don’t know what the deal is with that. I think what they’re doing with this in the States is putting it out at a really reduced price. It’s not gonna be a digi. I think it’s just a regular CD case, but it has a pretty substantial booklet and the packaging looks really cool. I’m real proud of it. It’s a thing this time where it’s gonna be thirty-six minutes of music, you get it, you put it in, and the fans will be like “I want more,” and they just will keep listening to it. That’s the vibe I got, I’ve really been listening to this CD a lot and it’s got a good tone to it.
I’ve only heard three of the tracks on the promo thing that they sent me. The first song, “Shadow of the Reaper,” sounds like one of the heavier songs that you guys have done in a while.
Yeah, that’s a pretty good representation of the rest of the CD. I know they put “The Poison Hand” and “The Art of Headhunting.” It pretty much covers the spectrum. “The Poison Hand” – there’s only really two slow songs on there, and that’s one of them. The rest of it’s pretty up-tempo, everybody’s been like “Man, this album’s pretty fast.” It’s kind of cool, everyone’s got a vibe like it’s more of an aggressive CD for us, and I tend to think it is.
How many tracks did you guys actually write for the album?
There were two different versions of a couple of the songs written, and there were two other songs, so I think we wrote fifteen songs total.
And there’s eleven on the final CD, right?
You’ve got the mp3 posted up on the SFU website and Metal Blade’s got it, as well. How important is the Internet to a veteran band like yourselves? Does the name Six Feet Under sell the product on its own, or do you still find the Internet to be a useful tool for getting the music out there?
It’s definitely a useful tool, for sure. Our website’s got over a million hits, and I think Metal Blade has well over that. It’s definitely a good tool to utilize in promoting and stuff. When you want to reach or get a reaction immediately, that’s the best way to do it?throw a message up there, and people will start ripping you apart right away. It’s like a free billboard, you know what I’m saying? You drive by a billboard on the street and it catches your attention if it’s something interesting. It’s like people are just motoring along through the Internet and they see something and they just gotta stop and look and kind of reflect. It’s cool. It works for advancing, getting music out on a mass level like this. It’s like, one promo…you couldn’t do it in the old days. You had a collection of people, fanbase-wise, in the underground for tape trading back in the early days. You’d try to utilize that but there’s no way to really get a mass promo out like that. This is something that?s never been done before and it seems to be working pretty well. It can work to your advantage or your disadvantage. The album can get on there and get out beforehand and we all know the issues about that.
You mentioned the negative aspects and people kind of jumped all over you when you said that 13 was going to be your REIGN IN BLOOD.
I said that it was our REIGN IN BLOOD possibly, but I didn’t mean that it sounded like it or anything like that. People misinterpret things because there are a lot of people who only look at the one-dimensional side of statements. The same people that really, really truly loved the movie INDEPENDENCE DAY (laughs).
We try to clarify things and make people understand that it’s not such an outrageous statement. It’s just the feeling behind the album is really good. I think we put all the elements that work well for us together, and I think that’s what Slayer did back in the day with that record. That’s just a good feeling, man.
You self-produced the new CD again. Why did [Metal Blade President] Brian Slagel finally decide to cut you loose in the studio after TRUE CARNAGE and sort of hand the reins over to you?
(Laughs) That’s a good question. I’m gonna have to ask him that. I think he probably got sick of me fuckin’ fighting with him in the studio about bass (laughs). “Low-end, Bri. Why you doing it to me, man? You need to let me get some more bass in there, dude (laughs).” He’s really trusted me a lot, and I think I’ve learned a lot of my stuff from him. It’s stupid, man, people don’t understand it. When I was a kid growing up and listening to metal, and I really started getting into the underground in ’82-’83, that’s all I would buy. If it said Metal Blade on it, and I’d never heard of the band, I’d take a chance and buy it. It said Brian Slagel on it, and I’d be like, “That guy knows metal.” That’s all I used to say. I’d be like, “Man, this guy knows his shit.” Ever since then, how weird is that? I’m a kid listening to Metal Blade stuff…
And then you’re in the studio with him!
Yeah, and the label that signs me in ’89 is my favorite label. The guy recognized that I put together something good and sent it to him. Someone I was looking up to recognized me, and took a chance, and he’s been taking a chance for the last fifteen years or more. It’s a good feeling. I’ve utilized all that time over the past fifteen years that I’ve known him and he’s come into the studio and worked with me. I’ve just watched and kept my eyes and ears open, and asked questions and argued (laughs), and learned. I think he finally said “That kid just won’t give up (laughs). He’s fuckin’ too old to be listening to me now, so he might as well do it.” But you’d have to ask him exactly why. I think he’s just sick of it (laughs).
(Laughs) Do you miss having an objective voice there to kind of bounce the ideas off of, and say “This sucks” or “This kicks ass?”
That is kind of daunting. He’ll make an appearance and straighten me out if I’m being weird or something. Or [engineer/mixer] Chris Carroll will be like, “You’re fuckin’ out of your mind.” My worst problem is that I have “demo-itis,” is what they call it (laughs). In the studio, it’s kind of a dangerous thing, but the rough mixes to me always sound the best. It’s hard for me to get past that, and I’ve come close to just saying, “Fuck these mixes, I want roughs.” Sometimes I need to be reined in (laughs). That’s my biggest problem, is that I like another outside opinion that I respect and having Chris Carroll next to me, he calms me down a lot and gives me some perspective on things when I get a little bit weird. Brian is always there, coming to the table and listening to things on the final mix. He still is definitely involved.
You guys did a video for “Shadow of the Reaper” already, so what’s going on in the video? Is it just a performance video, or is there a concept behind it as well?
There’s both. It’s an intertwining thing. We’re looking pretty frightening, though. They’ve got us in some wild makeup and crazy-ass camera effects. It just looks very Italian-esque, very old.
Very Argento, man, very Argento. It looks like a nightmare. The whole storyline impressed me to the point where I was like, Jesus, man, this kid should be really working in the film industry as fast as possible, because it looks like a movie. It really does, I couldn’t believe it.
Is that going to be packaged with the CD at all, or is that just going to be on the video channels?
That will just be on the video channels, but I think it will be included on the box set.
Speaking of your videos, “Amerika the Brutal” probably got the most play because it had sort of the animation and it was ?safe,? I guess you could say, to play on the music channels, where as something like “The Day The Dead Walked” wasn’t (laughs). When you shoot videos, or when you get the idea for a video, do you sort of plan that they’re not going to get shown and you just sort of do them for fun, or do you hope that they might slip past the censors and make it on the air?
When we did TRUE CARNAGE, The Headbanger’s Ball hadn’t returned yet, and I don’t think Uranium was really in full swing at that point, either. So there really was no video outlet. We had been doing some videos here and there and they really weren’t getting played and luckily we weren’t spending a ton of money on them. We were just using them for our own benefit and whatnot. With “The Day The Dead Walked,” I came to the record company and I was like, ?Look man, we can do this video real cheap. Let’s use that and just put it on the CD as a CD-ROM? because we knew there was nowhere that was even playing more mainstream type of videos. So I was like, let’s try to just do something a little bit over the top just for a freebie type of thing. They were cool about that, but I never had any intention of trying to get that on. Now it’s a little bit different, we?ve got to work around the censors and stuff. I think we got around it on this because the quality’s so good. It still has that old school, sort of subliminal type of macabre to it.
Do you know when it’s going to be out?
I think he’s finishing editing right now. I think he’s about a month behind schedule, but it will probably come out maybe around the week of the release or soon after that.
Getting onto touring, you guys have two weeks in Europe on the No Mercy festivals. Do you have a setlist picked out already?
Yeah, we have a setlist. It’s about an hour long.
And how many of the new tracks are on there?
For this one coming up, we’ve only got a couple songs on there because the CD’s not going to be out. It won’t be out until that last week of the tour. I’m sure when we get into the full swing of touring this summer we’ll be adding a few more new ones.
So do you have any plans that are laid down yet for after the No Mercy festivals are over?
They’re trying to put together a U.S. tour in June and July. Things are probably going to come into play in August, September, and go back to Europe in October or November.
When you guys hit the road, you usually have pretty killer support bands. Do you handpick them yourself, or is that something that the label sets up?
I sometimes have some ideas on bands, but mostly they come to me and say, “What do you think about this band?? I’ll give them a heads up, or whatever. But yeah, I have kind of the final say in who I tour with. I definitely won’t tour with anyone I dislike.
When you’re playing in Europe, and you’re doing the big festivals like Wacken, Full Force, and No Mercy, how do you look at those compared with, say, touring in the U.S.?
It’s really different. We just accumulate fans over there, where it seems like their attention span over in the States is a lot shorter. They stick with us over there. It’s kind of surreal playing in front of 50,000 people, knowing where you’re coming from. It makes it definitely worthwhile, it definitely does. It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy just being in front of people. If they’re enjoying what we’re doing, it really helps.
Any chance of seeing you guys on Ozzfest this year?
No, I doubt it. They don’t want any death metal bands on that thing.
It’s gotten a little bit better, last year wasn’t too bad. It was heading in the right direction, anyway.
Yeah, just they’re not coming to us for any participation in that.
Like I said, 2005 is a big year?the tenth anniversary of the band. Are you guys planning on doing anything special to sort of commemorate the anniversary?
We have a box set that we’re putting together that’s going to be coming out towards the end of the year. A couple compilation CDs, some special unreleased stuff, and a two DVD set, so it’s going to be filled with a bunch of goodies. That will be coming out toward the end of the year.
You did another album that’s still kind of fresh out there, and that was GRAVEYARD CLASSICS 2–a re-recording of AC/DC’s BACK IN BLACK album. Were you happy with how the tracks came out?
Yeah, one hundred percent. I think that’s really one of our best productions and still, it’s got a real great sound to it. I love what we did with that, and I definitely think it’s something that’s a little bit ahead of its time.
The music was pretty much note for note, just down-tuned, but the one obvious thing was the vocals that were different. Did you ever think about trying to imitate Brian Johnson at all with the vocals and try something a little bit different, or did you want to stick with the voice that you know?
That’s who I am when I sing. I could never sing like anyone else, I was never an imitator. I was just always someone that did the things within my own voice and stuff. I think that’s what really kind of made it sound different. Like you said, it’s note for note and beat for beat, really, because you can sync it up to the original and on top, there’s no difference in tempo or anything. That was something we were real conscious of, to keep the music pretty much straight and just use the vocal sound as the defining point of the difference between the two.
Is there a chance there is going to be a GRAVEYARD CLASSICS 3?
Oh yeah, there’ll be a part three.
Do you have any ideas?
Yeah, it’s all set up, really. It’s just a matter of putting it together.
Can you give me a hint of what the…
No can do, man (laughs)!
It’s a little early?got to spread it out and give us something to talk about later (laughs).
Alright, fair enough (laughs). Besides the two GRAVEYARD CLASSICS CDs, you’ve covered KISS and Judas Priest on the Six Feet Under CDs as well. Are there any other bands that you’d like to give the Six Feet Under treatment to?
Oh, I guess you’ll see that happen (laughs). You know you’re not going to get it out of me that way…kinda tricky, you Canadians. I grew up close to Canada, close to Toronto there, on the other coast (laughs).
Yeah, there’s some, but I am not going to divulge those yet.
Alright, fair enough (laughs). I had to try.
You might get it out of me when I’m up there after a couple of joints and a few beers.
Alright (laughs). Judas Priest is getting back together and like I said, you guys have covered them in the past. What are your thoughts on them getting back together again, are you pretty excited?
Not really. I’m not excited as I was about when KISS got back together. Basically, I’m just happy I got to see all those bands back in the day. It’s for other people that didn’t really get to witness that when it was really happening. They’re musicians, and they love what they’re doing, so hats off to them for bringing it back together. But I’m glad I got to see the SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE tour.
Vintage, vintage stuff. I saw them on Ozzfest last year but PAINKILLER, that was my last time.
Oh yeah, cool, that’s a great album.
Oh yeah. Have you heard the new record?
I heard one song.
Yeah, I haven’t heard the whole thing, and I’ve just heard the one song, too.
I didn’t like it.
No, I wasn’t crazy about it either.
(Laughs) I’m glad I’m not the only one, man.
All I’m reading about it is, “The Return of Judas Priest,” and everybody just seems to be pumping this thing up like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. In a way, I think that’s kind of bad, because everybody’s going to expect so much out of it that anything less than perfect is just going To be a failure. I think they’re kind of taking the wrong approach to it. They’re making everybody think it’s going To be so great.
Yeah, and that song didn’t do it for them. I mean, the ending of it sounded like Axl Rose or something. I was like, “What the hell is that?” The cover kind of looked like the logo from that movie, A.I.. Did you see that movie?
(Laughs) I saw that one, yeah, with the robot kid and the blue fairy?
Yeah! That’s pretty much where he was born, and the thing, his vision, is that winged woman or whatever. Either that or it’s the new hood emblem for the next generation Bentley or something (laughs). I don’t know, it just disappointed me. I don’t know, man, I was always the biggest Priest fan.
Oh well. I’m sure they’ll make a gazillion dollars and retire living better than you or I ever will (laughs). More power to them, I guess.
(Laughs) I guess so, man. But that’s cool. I don’t like to bring anyone down because there’s a whole album. Maybe there are a couple of really rippin’ tracks.
As far as the Six Feet Under lineup goes, you guys have been pretty stable. I mean, besides Alan West leaving, you guys have had the same lineup for ten years. How have you kept the chemistry going and avoided the pitfalls?the inner conflicts, in fighting, people leaving, and people coming, people going…?
We’re just all real mellow and stuff (laughs). It’s hard to really get us mad at each other. We’ve had our times, but we’re all friends and stuff. It’s just a good feeling. We’ve got our things straight and we’re all older and stuff. I think a lot of the fighting within bands comes early on when you’re still young and full of testosterone. We’ve all been put out to pasture (laughs).
We’re just doing it, man. We know all the drama and stuff can fuck off. We’re just doing this and having a good time, man, you know? We’re all real respectful of each other, and we’ve never stepped on each other’s toes, so it’s always been easy. None of us are really annoying to the point of you can’t live with that person. I think I’m the worst, and I lock myself in the back room of the bus so no one has to deal with me.
(Laughs) Yeah, it’s been pretty effortless in the way we’ve shared our time together.
How do you remain so prolific in your writing? You guys just crank out the albums, like, a couple a year. Even this past year, we’ve had the live album, and we’ve had the GRAVEYARD CLASSICS 2 release, and the new record, and now you’re saying the box set and everything else. How do you keep that pace up?
People have been asking me that. Dude, that’s weird…
(Laughs) Well, with most bands, there are two or three years between albums. That’s unheard of with you guys.
Yeah, I know, and it’s like people have definitely been picking up on that, that we’ve been working hard and that’s good. I hope the record company recognizes that when it’s time to give me my bonus (laughs).
It’s just really exciting to be able to make something out of nothing. I got to tell you, I’m a little bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to that. I need to have that thing…I need to have something to do. If I sit around too long, I start pacing the walls, and it drives me out of my mind. I break down and I get emotional, you know? I like to keep busy, man. And I think that’s what I’m here to do, is to make and create music. Hopefully it’s appreciated for some time by all these cool people who have linked into my brain waves (laughs).
Do you guys actually write together, or does somebody submit a riff and then you’re working on the lyrics around that?
Yeah, I don’t start really writing until after the music or that song is completed. I’ll get a CD of music and just write to it. How this album came together was just really, we wrote everything in the studio during the sessions within a ten-day time period. We tracked everything and wrote everything in ten days, so it was a wild thing and different. And you know, Steve was 95% of the writing force musically on this. He’d be there with the other guys and they’d arrange things and kind of add linking parts and stuff like that. Every night I’d get one or two songs and write the lyrics to those two songs that night, and the next two the next day. I think one day I wrote four songs in twelve hours or something (laughs).
Have you ever presented any lyrics or any ideas to the rest of the guys and they said, “This is just too gruesome, too much?”
(Laughs) They don’t have any fear of that happening, where it’s too much, I don’t think.
Or even the label, for that matter. Has the label ever said, “Tone it down a little bit?”
They tried to pull a joke on me years ago when I was in the studio for [Cannibal Corpse?s] TOMB OF THE MUTILATED, and…(laughs) I did get sucked into it, but I’ve never gotten sucked into those little things again (laughs). No, man, they have always given me 100% free range to just say whatever the fuck is on my mind. We’ve discussed things now where people aren’t really that surprised at what I have to say anymore (laughs). It takes a little energy for me to get people to turn their heads. I’ve pretty much talked about most of the violent things that would make people cringe already.
(Laughs) Where do you get your inspiration for the lyrics from? Is it from books, or from movies, or just your own twisted mind (laughs)?
(Laughs) Yeah, I think so. I think it’s just my own twisted mind, actually (laughs). I really have a good daydreaming sense when it’s time to fall into a song. I don’t know really how it happens, but I think it’s really a type of medication and stuff that I’ve developed, because I have no mechanical schooling behind structuring lyrics to music. I’m not a musician in any way. I can play a little guitar, but I would never stand on stage with one around me. It’s different, man. I think I have a different way of looking at music and what I do.
Do you keep your ear to the ground to find out what the newer metal bands are doing at all, or do you kind of do your own thing?
It’s hard to avoid sometimes. I think I see it and I don’t follow it too much, but I know what the bands out there are doing, and it’s cool. It’s interesting. Some of it’s just nonsense, but that’s how it’s always been. There’s killer bands and filler bands.
Is there anybody that you’ve sort of taken a liking to?
We’re really good friends with the Hatebreed guys, and Jamey’s a good friend of mine. I think that those guys are doing some killer work and doing a great job and everything like that. There are premiere bands and there are all sorts of bands out there that are just doing good stuff. I like it all, man.
On TRUE CARNAGE, you had Ice-T and Karyn Crisis singing with you on tracks. Pretty divergent people, I guess you could say.
Yeah, both ends of the spectrum (laughs).
Yeah, for sure. Is there anybody else that you’d really like to collaborate with on a Six Feet Under album?
Yeah, probably Rick Rubin. I mean, he’s my favorite producer of all time. As a producer to collaborate with, that’s the guy I would really want to do our next album. I don’t think it will ever happen, but I think you’re talking about collaboration with another musician, and…anybody, dude. If someone wanted to come on the record and jam a song with us, that’d be cool as hell. I’ve always been into that, since the first Cannibal record with the guys from Deicide.
How did you hook up with Karyn Crisis and Ice-T anyway?
Karyn…we’d been running into each other here and there and I was really a fan of the early Crisis stuff – you know, the first album, and the second album. I like her approach to things, especially her female vocal style. It was just at that point in time, the record company asked me if I wanted to. I’d spoke about collaborating before that, and they brought it back up to me, and I was like yeah, why not? They were like, “Who do you want to work with?” And I was like, “Ice-T” (laughs). Yeah, like they’re ever going to get him. They were like, OK, we’ll check into it, and they called his manager. His manager, George, wrote an e-mail back to Metal Blade and all it said was “Ice is in.” I got that and I was like, oh shit! He was the coolest dude, one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met.
Cool. Talented guy, too.
Yeah. One of my idols, for sure.
So are you into his Body Count stuff, or the rap stuff, or kind of everything?
All of it, man, all of it. I’ve always listened to what T had to say. He’s really had a lot of knowledge about things. I mean, you’re talking about a guy that predicted history in his music. Professed something historical happening in a city that was unjust. He opened a lot of people’s eyes. All he had to say was “Cop Killer,” and fuckin’ the world changed for a year when he said that.
That’s a brilliant album, too.
The first Body Count album, it’s amazing.
And the album which came out right before that, O.G., changed rap, man. He’s the true innovator, he invented gangsta rap.
Yeah, for sure.
He did invent it and a lot of people don’t credit him with that. He went in to?I think it was San Quentin?and did a live concert on FOX in 1989 or 1990, I believe. He’s an innovator, man. The things that he says are the things that he lived, you know? No imagination needed, because he lived it. It’s all true life experience. That’s a wise man, you know?
Yeah, you know it’s the real deal. It’s not an image or anything.
No. And I was a follower of his for many years. When working with him, I learned more from him in those two or three hours than I had learned in ten years prior to that experience because he sat down and explained some things. Not to me, but to people that were asking him questions while we were all being interviewed during the session. I listened to him personally and knowing his lyrics and the truth behind his words and hearing him say some things about his philosophy behind things, it taught me a great deal. I’m definitely a different person because of that, for sure musically, since meeting him and knowing some of his teachings, man.
Well getting back to Chris Barnes and Six Feet Under (laughs), your voice is probably one of the most unique and recognizable in metal and a lot of people have strong feelings about whether it?s positive or negative. Do you consider yourself a ?singer,? or do you consider yourself a ?vocalist??
Um…(sighs)…that?s something I don?t think I can really answer (laughs) because I?m not sure what I consider myself as. It?s kind of difficult to say you know I guess I?m more of a ?vocalist? than a ?singer? because I?m not really a taught…school sort of person. Its all self-taught and I just, I don?t know, I think I?m interpreting the word ?vocalist? as someone that?s more of a self-taught type of person that?s helped his way or her way through, you know, what their voice can do.
Do you consider yourself a pioneer? When people tell you stuff like that, do you think ?Well yeah, maybe??
(Laughs) Um…a little bit, I guess. I definitley appreciate when people say that because it makes me feel like I?ve done something, you know, because it stirred up some of the people, to where, like you said, they?re either totally fucking pissed off when they hear me or they love it, you know? But I suppose I?ve done my share (laughs).
(Laughs) Do you think you?ve improved as a vocalist overtime?
Oh yeah, for sure. Definitely.
Are you still sort of learning about your voice?
Yeah, I think so. I think that at this point, I?m less on a quest to push myself to the farthest reaches and more on finding that balance, and you know, utilizing the best tones and just making sure it sounds real you know?
How do you keep your voice in shape? Because as an outsider looking in, that can?t be easy (laughs).
(Laughs) Lots of the B.C. herb, man! I always say man, your vocal chords are muscles and tendons, and the more you use muscles and tendons anywhere in your body the stronger they get and the more durable that makes you. Fifteen years of working my voice like this has made my vocal chords pretty much bulletproof you know? And that?s just the way it is man, I don?t really think about it to much. I hope that I don?t swallow a piece of broken glass or something man (laughs).
(Laughs) Have you achieved everything that you?ve set out to do when you started off as a musician or is there anything that you would still like to accomplish before you decide to call it a day?
I don?t know what I?ve achieved really. It?s kind of hard to take that all in. I know that there?s a lot of product that I?ve put out and I know I?ve written close to a hundred songs lyrically but achieving the perfect song, it hasn?t happened yet man. I haven?t found that perfect combination of words and music that really… Even still, there?s still something there so I?m still looking.
How?s your knee doing?
(Laughs) It?s doing alright, its feeling a lot better in the last week.
Why did you decide to post the surgery footage online? Does that go back to the twisted mind and grossing people out (laughs)?
(Laughs) Yeah I think so. It was like, you know, that jackass has been talking about gore all these years. As if he?s going to be affected by some surgery or gore in his life. I might as well put that up there you know, and put my knee where my mouth is. It was pretty cool, because some guy I did an interview with two weeks ago asked me the same thing he was like ?Why?d you put that up there.? I was like ?I don?t know, I thought It would be kind of neat.? And he said ?You know what? That?s really awesome, because I have to go in for knee surgery in 2 weeks… I really want to ask you some things because I?m kind of nervous? and I said ?Dude, ask away because I would have loved to have someone to talk to the week before my surgery, because it kind of creeped me out.? So it we kind of talked about it and it was cool.
Do you ever get approached by you know, maniacs or crackpots telling you about their own twisted ideas, trying to give you song lyrics or anything like that?
Oh yeah, man (laughs)! Ever since the first Cannibal tour. This one guy, the most extreme case right before I went on stage this kid came up to me and he was like ?Man, I know you like to write songs about serial killers and stuff, my best friend has a collection of women?s pinky fingers nailed to a big piece of plywood.?
(Laughs) Oh man!! What do you say to that?
(Laughs) Walk away very cautiously, look over your shoulder and make sure they?re not following, go on stage and do your set (laughs). That?s exactly what you say to that. Yeah, there are definitely many people who try and tell you some weird things out there.
There?s a TV show, I?m sure you know called Six Feet Under. Did you guys ever get any shit from them about having the name?
No, we had the name before them and we were trying to actually… I think Metal Blade was a little upset about that when they saw they were coming out with that show using our name and stuff. Nothing can be done about that just because it?s different, something that?s not really a copyright-able phrase it?s just a colorful term or something. Yeah, its cool, its extra advertising for us man.
Yeah, you?re probably benefiting it more than they are (laughs)!
I think so, I think so. I?m sure they?ve gotten emails about ?Hey, when?s you?re next CD coming out?? We got one about ?When?s this next season start?? (laughs)
I read an interview with Phil Fasciana from Malevolent Creation and he was pretty stoked about covering a track back from your days in Leviathan on their new CD.
Yeah, but he didn?t get to do it.
No, what happened with that?
What happened was he didn?t let me sing the damn thing so I didn?t give him the tape (laughs), so I was like ?I?ll let you do it but I want to be the guest vocalist on it.? And uh, nothing happened. He called me today, actually, and left me a message so I got to give him a call tonight or tomorrow. He was like ?Get me out of here.? We?re going to end up doing a tour together in June. But I ended up remixing the early demos of the Leviathan stuff about two weeks ago.
Oh yeah, so are they going to come out?
Yeah, I?m going to put those on the Six Feet Under box set.
Oh cool, is there going to be any Cannibal stuff on there, as well?
No, just the Leviathan stuff.
When Cannibal put out the box set about two years ago did you get consulted at all on that? Did you have any input on what was going on there?
Yeah, definitely. They had to get my permission and everything on all that stuff. I mean, I contributed the first live video of us that was included on it.
Is the relationship still strained with those guys? Is there a chance that we?re going to see you on stage together again?
No man. Every time we see each other, we?re all smiles and everything. Nobody is at each other?s throats anymore. It?s all water under the bridge but, as for getting together, I don?t think anyone should hold their breath.
Not even a one-off hometown thing or anything like that?
No, I don?t think so. It?s not something that they want to do. If I was proposed to do something, I?d have a great time doing it and I?d have no problems but I don?t think they want to get involved with that.
We had a pretty unfortunate thing that happened late last year when Dimebag was shot. When that happened, did it make you re-think the live setting or still contributing with music at all?
It weirded me out because I can picture it. I stood on that stage, 4 or 5 times and played at that club, so, you know, it was just kind of eerie getting that picture in my mind. I know the people that work at that club and I?m good friends with Matt and Tom and stuff so I know the people who were there and everything, so it was kind of disturbing. I got a first hand account of everything because one of my really, really good friends was one of the security guards in the club that chased that guy inside the club so he pretty much told me what happened and you know it made me kind of cringe because I had been on that stage and it just you know, I always thought that someone could do that because people come up on the stage so much during a show, to jump off or stage dive or give you a hug. I know that?s exactly what that looked like was he wanted to grab him and give him a hug or something and it wasn?t about that. It?s horrible, man, horrible. It doesn?t even seem like that was real, like that was at another dimension and it just freaks me out thinking about it. I think it?s because I?ve been on that stage, but you can?t really change your life because of it. I mean it?s a horrible thing but there?s really nothing you can do when something like that happened so quick. It?s not like the movies where someone pulls out a kung fu move, you know? It?s real life and things happen, now its over.
Yeah, I remember reading about it the night that it happened online. I saw the headline and I was like ?What? No way!? Then all the information started pouring in and I was like ?Oh my god.? It was surreal. Definitely surreal.
Yeah it is. Sad, too.
I just want to ask you a couple more questions that are sort of politically inclined.
The U.S still seems to be coming under fire for the presence in Iraq. Have you come around and become a Bush supporter?
(Laughs) Didn?t I just say I wanted to move to Canada (laughs)? Yeah, I can?t believe that the guy is still President. It?s fuckin? embarrassing.
The thing that I found really strange was that all we heard about was how bad Bush is and how good Kerry is and when it came down to Election Day, where were all those people?
I don?t know man. It seemed like it was going towards a positive direction, and I think it was a pretty damn close election. But you know, the guy?s definitely…
He?s got a horseshoe up his ass or something (laughs)?!
(Laughs) He does have a horseshoe up his ass! I mean it?s literally embarrassing to have that guy running the country. I don?t understand.
Well, it seemed like the day after the election everyone the world over was saying ?What the hell happened? How did he get in?? Nobody seemed to be happy?not even Americans.
No dude, they?re still poking fun at it. There?s more to this than meets the eye, man. I think that the first election four years before was totally stolen and it was just a crooked fuckin? election. Maybe they covered their ass more this time and it didn?t easily show up, but I don?t think these are legitimate elections.
Yeah, it did seem a little strange, if that many people were against him how the hell did he end up winning?
You know?what can you say?
When I saw the movie FAHRENHEIT 9/11, and when Britney Spears is on there and she?s saying ?I think we should all believe what the president says because he?s the president? and I was just like ?What??
(Laughs) That?s the clueless American right there, dude. It?s funny but I?m serious man, but literally for the past 7-8 years something in the back of my mind is moving up towards you guys up in B.C. and I?m serious when I say it. That?s exactly what I?m going to do when things get to fuckin? out of hand here.
It?s scary, their talking about forcing kids to be in the armed forces. It?s like what the hell?
Yeah, National ID Card is already been passed through Congress. So yeah, it?s a weird place. Really man, you?ll see me heading up there one of these days (laughs)!
(Laughs) You can flop on my couch while you look for a place!
(Laughs) I might take you up on that!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me tonight, Chris. It?s been my pleasure.
Thank you for a good interview and good talk. I might see you up there sooner than later, man (laughs)!
**Thanks to Kelli and Michelle at Metal Blade Records for setting up the interview.
**Read all of the Six Feet Under CD & DVD reviews at Metal Rules here
Visit Six Feet Under’s Official Website