Pig Destroyer – Grind and BeyondMonday, 17th September 2018
Gaining a larger fanbase through explosive grindcore with the acclaimed Prowler in the Yard and successive efforts, Pig Destroyer is probably one of the first extreme bands many will give a shoutout to within the genre. Buzzworthy, and not the types to repeat themselves, leads to some potentially polarizing situations though, as the band discovered through the release of their first single, “Army of Cops,” over the summer. Pig Destroyer circa 2018 can still grind with the best of them, but new album Head Cage is more of a diverse beatdown.
With a knack for catchiness and groove that had been absent in previous offerings, Head Cage offers some well-rounded thrills for extreme listeners. While some naysayers may object to some outside influences, there’s no doubt it gives the band some more evolutionary steps in which to follow while giving listeners some delicious hooks to latch into. We grabbed the band’s synthesizer/sample extraordinaire Blake Harrison to chat about Pig Destroyer’s latest, his role within the music and where he finds inspiration, as well as a quick Hatebeak update.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been a while since any new material was released. What’s the band been up to, outside of touring?
Blake Harrison: When we were writing Book Burner, we parted ways with our old drummer. We got Adam [Jarvis] and that worked out. He stepped in and did a great job. But part of the reason it took so long was that we were integrating him and wanted to write a record with him as opposed to him just being the drummer. We also added a bass player [John Jarvis], so that was a new thing as well. Doing that, we wanted to write with that instrument in mind. Other than that, we did a lot of shows, for us, for Book Burner, than we would normally do. In our world, that six years flew by. To everyone else, maybe not [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: With those new elements added in, do you think that affected the way that things were written?
Harrison: Yes, most definitely. 100%. Scott [Hull] wanted to make an effort to not make the bass act as a second guitar. We wanted to actually use the bass, and use it as a new tool.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think Pig Destroyer brings to the table this time with Head Cage?
Harrison: I think that this record is a bit more nuanced than some of our other stuff. There’s definitely more of a focus on hooks than in the past. It’s not just four on the floor grindcore. A previous interview I did earlier, they were asking me about the last song on the record, which is “House of Snakes,” a seven minute track. But I don’t think the riffs ever really repeat. They appear more than once, but they don’t show up in the same exact fashion. So we try to keep it fresh for us and write what we want, and hopefully other people like it. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with your record as a musician. At least in our eyes anyway.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s been some polarizing reactions among some fans on social media in regards to the singles released. Where you expecting that to happen?
Harrison: Not necessarily, but in hindsight we probably should have. It’s the Internet climate nowadays. If you don’t like something, you hate on it. But to me, it’s not a big deal. Our band isn’t for everybody, and that’s fine. Definitely “Army of Cops” had more backlash than “The Torture Fields,” and we just released a new video today.
Dead Rhetoric: I actually wanted to talk you about that “Mount Skull” video. I watched it and its definitely unique [laughs]. Did you help in creating the video or was it mostly the director’s vision?
Harrison: Yeah, that guy’s a good director. He gave us the idea. As a band, we typically don’t like doing the videos and things like that. As a musician, you want to create and play music. The other parts are sort of ancillary. I was just thrilled that we didn’t have to be in it [laughs]. But it’s cool – Joe [Stakum] is a crazy director. He has done some stuff for Pissed Jeans that I absolutely love. So he gave us the treatment, we took a look at it and we loved it. I don’t think we changed it or edited it in any way.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you view your role in Pig Destroyer to be with the sampling and synth?
Harrison: Mainly, I guess I try to go for a mood or a vibe. It’s not always easily attainable, or I will have an idea and every single other person in the band will have a different idea. That’s the short version of that. It’s a very open-ended instrument, what I do. A bass player or drummer kind of knows where they stand. I kind of have almost everything at my disposal. It can be challenging at times.
Dead Rhetoric: How much wiggle room is there for you to alter that role as needed?
Harrison: Well, we approached this one a bit differently. I got together with J.R. [Hayes] quite a bit while we were working on stuff. There’s actually a lot of stuff we didn’t use. Once Scott got a hold of it, he had some different ideas. Let me back up. I got together with J.R. because I don’t want to make a harsh, grinding noise over his vocals so you can’t hear them. J.R. is a really creative guy. So we’d get together and try to place some stuff. Sometimes we did multiple versions of the same song, just to get a different atmosphere going.
Scott has some other ideas, and a lot of the stuff we worked on wasn’t quite ready to be used, so we kind of ran out of time because otherwise we’d still be working on it [laughs] and god knows when the record would actually come out. At some point, you have to put a pin in the project and say that it’s done, or it would come out in 2021 or something like that.
Dead Rhetoric: So where do you draw your inspiration in finding/creating samples?
Harrison: In preparing for this record, I bought a ton of B-movies and some that wouldn’t even qualify as B-movies. C or D-movies. I’m an engineer, so when I was at work, I would sort of play them in the background, and when something stuck out to me I would notate it and go home and capture it. I have an ever-growing library and I still do it. It can be anything from a fan motor that burned out that I hear and I grab it real quick with my phone, or recently, and I haven’t found that much, but The Fireside Chats and trying to get some stuff from there. It’s all over the board.
With movies and TV, it’s difficult sometimes. You can hear something that you like, but it doesn’t work out of context or there’s some piece of music behind it that ruins it. Or someone is doing an interview in a field, and you think it’s really interesting and then you hear a crow make a sound and it takes you out of it entirely. Once those things are separated and they stand out on their own, it’s completely different. There’s a sample from the movie Susperia that I’ve been trying to wedge in a song for the past 12 years and can’t make it work.
Dead Rhetoric: So at this point, you have some samples that have been sitting around for over a decade that you are just waiting for the right moment to use?
Harrison: Yeah, and I’m constantly expanding it. It’s an on-going process. I’ll be watching TV and something will pop up. It also might spark an inspiration for something else. I probably have 500 notes on my phone of stuff I haven’t even gotten to go through. I don’t think I’ll ever finish it. I have a little of everything at my disposal.
Dead Rhetoric: What role do you see of samples in heavy music?
Harrison: Especially since you brought the Internet up, I tend to be the instrument that receives the most hate from that. But it’s always been around, from Throbbing Gristle, Swans, Godflesh, and Napalm Death used tape loops. It’s always kind of been there. I see my role as expanding it. A band like Full of Hell, they use that sort of thing a lot, maybe even more than we do. It’s an on-going, growing pattern – maybe that’s not the right word but it’s popping up more and more.
With current technology – I hear horror stories of how Ministry would use samples in their music and how long it took for them to get them, then editing them on tape and then putting it on something to do it live. It sounds like a fucking nightmare [laughs]! I don’t know that I have that sort of dedication. With modern technology, it’s way easier to do that and incorporate it. It’s probably going to get even easier. With technology in general, you have bands that have never left their garage and played a show that can record an album that sounds like they spent months on it. Once that sort of technology is at your disposal, people will find more inventive uses for it.
Dead Rhetoric: Going along with Pig Destroyer being classified as a grindcore act, what makes something extreme in heavy metal?
Harrison: For me, if you are playing loud and you mean what you are doing, and typically I prefer screamed vocals, but if it has passion or heart to it. There are perfectly functional metal bands that might be ‘heavy’ but I don’t feel they are extreme, because to me as an observer/listener, it feels like they are going through the motions. It may be different for someone else.
I come from a more punk edge of things. I like brass, loud guitars, shouted vocals, and aggressive drums. That what I consider extreme music. Inventiveness too. I can’t say that the band The Body is aggressive, but they are an extreme form of music. They are doing stuff I’ve never heard. Gnaw Their Tongues has a lot of ambient stuff, but it’s still aggressive music and extreme to me. It’s just something that’s never been done that way.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s going on with Hatebeak?
Harrison: We have a record coming out at some point. It’s a split 7” with Richard Christy, who was in Death and is currently on The Howard Stern Show. He’s using his guinea pigs. Funny thing that you mention that – the guy who is designing the new Pig Destroyer website is also the guy putting out that record. He just sent me an email for proofing the new Pig Destroyer site, so once I approve that, it will be like, “And by the way, when is this record coming out?” It was supposed to come out in February I think. The short version of that is it’s a project with me and my buddy. It’s not intended to be a full-time project, but just to have fun. We do it whenever we feel like doing it. He lives four hours away and has a wife and two kids, so he has no time. But the record should be coming out this year, hopefully.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you like about having the Hatebeak outlet alongside Pig Destroyer?
Harrison: I got found recently on Facebook by a friend of mine from college, and I hadn’t talked to her in probably twenty years. She found me because her 7 year old daughter found Hatebeak online. So I had to make this distinction to her: Pig Destroyer is like my gig, and Hatebeak is just fun. Not to say that Pig Destroyer isn’t fun, but there’s a lot more that goes into it. With Hatebeak, I can be as goofy and as stupid as I want, and frequently am. Pig Destroyer, if I tried to pull some of that shit, the guys would laugh me out of the room. It’s not that Pig Destroyer takes it self super-seriously, we definitely have a fun side, but it’s a different kind of animal.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans are there for Pig Destroyer for the next few months?
Harrison: Usually I have nothing to say at this point, but there’s a band from Canada called Metz, we are doing a split 7” with them. We are doing a song for Decibel for their flexi series for subscribers, and we are finally making good on that promise. I think that’s about a 4-year old promise that we haven’t gotten to. We are doing a song for Adult Swim for the singles series. There are a few shows coming up too – the record release is September 22. We are in Salt Lake City for CrucialFest after that. There are couple things in Belgium and Ireland, and then a few days on the West Coast in December. That’s what we have now, but we are working on it. We are pretty busy for us.