Dying Fetus – Keeping the Spirit of Death Metal AliveFriday, 16th June 2017
When you ask people about death metal, one of the names sure to come up (among others, of course) is that of Dying Fetus. They’ve had a patented sound that combines the brutality of death metal with groove and slam. They’ve also become quite known for their lyrical content and ability to intelligently put across political and social themes into the music. Needless to say, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Their seventh album, Wrong One to Fuck With, continues to perpetuate that notion. The band is still firing on all cylinders, over 25 years into their career as a band. It’s been 5 years since Reign Supreme, so it seemed a talk with mainman/vocalist/guitarist John Gallagher was in order. See below to see his honest thoughts about the new record, the band’s longevity, and more!
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been a long time since the old logo was on a cover – why this time?
John Gallagher: Well, it’s my preference. A lot of people/fans have complained and asked why we don’t use the logo anymore. The reason was because of retail sales, and the record stores. The scenario where a dude walks into a record store and picks up a cd – the idea is to have the logo so they can read it right? For the last few albums, we have used the bold logo, and it’s due to that – it’s more legible in the record stores. Now, since there’s no record stores [laughs], there’s no hypothetical situation like that. That’s how it came to be in my eyes, but I certainly asked for the old school logo to be used for this record.
Dead Rhetoric: It makes sense – there’s less and less stores so you may as well do what you want…
Gallagher: Yeah, that’s kind of the general idea. Hence the title – cds aren’t in Walmart anymore. There’s no getting banned from Walmart because of an offensive title. The game has changed a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: So that was the idea with the cover art and title as well then? Just go all in?
Gallagher: Exactly! That’s the way I view death metal; that’s the way I want my death metal. I want it to be extreme. Sometimes through the years – death metal has been watered down if you think about it. Sure, there’s a lot of underground death metal bands that have the really extreme covers and stuff, but like Cannibal Corpse…their covers aren’t as crazy as they once were.
That’s what I was trying to push for with this record. Something really brutal; actually I was censored by the record label and I wasn’t able to do it. I wanted to have more like a Butchered at Birth feel…kind of like that. Not that cover, but something over the top. I really wanted to push it over the top, so I was kind of censored and it was like, “no, we can’t do that because of the social media and this and that. It’ll get pulled down from Facebook and we won’t be able to use it. So the label kind of toned it down from what I wanted it to be. I’m just trying to keep the spirit of death metal alive in a sense.
Dead Rhetoric: You make an interesting point – Dying Fetus is pretty well established at this point. You have your name, to begin with, that messes with some people. Do you feel that there has been a lot of older bands, that after you establish yourself, begin to fear a risk in sales by continuing to be so far over-the-top?
Gallagher: I guess so – you are kind of shooting yourself in the foot. If people want to be really extreme, of course it’s going to be offensive to some people. Others are really going to gravitate towards it and really take it all in – the younger crowd. I don’t know – you can’t do the same thing every album. We would not want to have every album being gore. Through the years we’ve switched it up. The idea is that you never want to continue with the same idea, carbon-copy, every record. Maybe that’s why some gore bands tone it down. They say, “We can’t just do the same girl getting hacked up every cover – we’ve got to change it up to something else. Maybe a more psychological killer or something.” For us, we are just doing what feels natural. The next cover, maybe it won’t be like this – maybe it’ll be something different. This is how we feel now.
Dead Rhetoric: Reign Supreme came out in 2012 – any reason it took so long for new material? Any speedbumps along the way or was it just losing track of time?
Gallagher: I guess it sort of got lost…I don’t view life as “our album’s out, we’ve got two years to get another album out.” We are kind of past that stage in our lives. I mean, we are still hungry for this, but the reality is that we are getting older. You have to have fun in your life too. I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard to be constantly focused on death metal and the band after so long. Just to do this – doing interviews and doing the same old stuff, it’s difficult as you keep going. We just keep on doing it, as long as we want to. I’m not even looking at things right now and thinking we need a new one in another two years. It’ll come out when it comes out.
I’m at the point in my life where I’m going to live it the way I want to and not just be told that we have to do an album and tour for two years straight. We are basically calling the shots for ourselves. When albums come out they come out. In the meantime, we’ve been busy touring – it’s not an excuse, but we’re traveling the world and that’s a distraction. I mean, we write riffs and ideas that come up all the time and keep things going. But yeah, like you said, time just kind of goes by. Before you know it, a year goes by or a couple of years go by. Next thing you know, people are kind of complaining and asking why we don’t have an album out. I’m just like, “man, I’m just trying to live my life.” I didn’t know I had to live my life for someone else, and half the people are just going to bitch about whatever you produce. You know, “aww, this shit sucks!”
I think that makes it difficult for musicians too – for every nice thing someone says, there’s always someone who says, “That sucks. That’s not as good as this, or not as good as your old album.” I’m like okay, I’m just going to live my life the way I want to…whenever the album comes out, there you go. I’m not here to worry about what other people think and do; it’s what I want to do.
Dead Rhetoric: You reach the point when you get older – like you were saying, people don’t appreciate the amount of time that you invest into it and the fact that you are leaving your own life to go out on the road and do all that.
Gallagher: Right – I want to go out and have fun too. So I can go and sit in front of the computer and bitch about people or whatever. We are all getting older and times going by. Dying Fetus is just a part of my life. I have other things I need to do too.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve operated as a three piece for almost 10 years now. Is there anything to be said for the stability in the band? Is it that idea that you said – you are doing what you want to do nowadays?
Gallagher: To find everybody on the same page – that’s the issues with bands. No band ever stays the same – no one can name a death metal band that has stayed the same through the course of a career, right? Who has? There’s so many obstacles in this stuff; the money isn’t great. People have kids, there’s life – all the things we mentioned before. What is really here to hold someone? It’s not money really. You have to really be into it, you have to want to travel. That’s always the challenge with bands. Especially when you have bands with like 5 dudes – some bands have 6 guys. How could all these personalities and everyone remained focused on the same project?
That’s the main reason why Dying Fetus had line-up changes in the past. It’s not like this is some prized job where you are getting all this loot and financial security and health benefits. None of that stuff – fortunately we have three guys…less people and everyone is staying on the same page, continuing on and doing our thing. Finding everybody that see things the same way, that’s the hard part. We have Trey [Williams] and Sean [Beasley] and we’ve been doing our thing. Sean has been in the band for like 15 years, I’m not even sure exactly. It’s cool now that I don’t get all these line-up changes questions. That was always a thing [laughs]. Doesn’t anyone know that it’s hard to be in a band [laughs]?
Dead Rhetoric: With that in mind, what do you feel has given Dying Fetus such a lasting presence in the metal community? It seems like you have been doing this for forever at this point…
Gallagher: I know, sometimes I’m like, “damn, I’m still doing this? People still like this?” I say it all the time, but it really comes down to the music. Good music stands the test of time. That’s why we still listen to Black Sabbath and these older bands. A good song doesn’t really go away. So if you are able to make memorable music, that’s what is going to carry you. It’s not my good lucks that’s carrying me.
That’s why a song like “Hammer Smashed Face” by Cannibal Corpse – everybody loves that song. They always play it – it’s a classic. I guess some of our music – I’m not going to boast and say “oh, people love our shit” – but some people must like it because that’s what is keeping us around. At the same time, you look around and see that time is going by – “I’m still doing this shit? That’s cool!” [laughs]
Dead Rhetoric: Do you find more younger bands citing Dying Fetus as an influence?
Gallagher: Yeah, we get a lot of younger bands coming up and saying a lot of positive stuff – this and that. It’s always a cool thing and very flattering.
Dead Rhetoric: It was officially announced yesterday that you would be on Summer Slaughter this year – what are you looking forward to most about being on that particular line-up?
Gallagher: The main reason we did it is because we know The Black Dahlia Murder pretty well. They are really fun guys to tour with – we’ve done several tours with them in Europe and all that. So we wanted to get back together with them on tour. We didn’t really know the support bands so much. We just knew we were going to be co-headlining with Black Dahlia and we knew that would be pretty solid. We were kicking around the idea of going out ourselves at a headliner. There were a few issues with finding support bands, and that’s what makes it challenging too.
We hear this a lot; people bitch “why are you always playing with these shitty bands?” The reality is that it’s hard to put together a solid death metal package and keep everyone happy, like all the support bands. When bands get older, they want more money…that’s generally how it goes. So even if you have these death metal bands in the underground, and they’ve been around for like 20 years – they feel like they should be getting a crapload of money on a tour..but the reality is that you aren’t that big even though you’ve been around for a long time. It’s hard to get the budget together to where everyone is happy and content.
With the Summer Slaughter line-up, I can already tell we are going to be hearing a lot of bitching from death metal people, like “why are you touring with these bands, and etc.” And well, that’s just the way the industry is – I can’t get all these bands and make everything work together, it’s challenging. For us, the Summer Slaughter has been a good tour for us. It’s managed to bring out a younger crowd. It’s a pretty diverse crowd usually, and we are able to sell a decent amount of merch, which in turn, supports the band. That’s where we make most of our money is by going out and selling shirts nowadays. So [the Summer Slaughter] will help keep us going and moving forward. We are excited to be doing it; it should be a pretty good tour. I know Origin in on it, and they are good friends of ours – it’ll be a good time I’m sure.
Dead Rhetoric: Beyond Summer Slaughter – is there anything else in the outlook for the band?
Gallagher: We are going to be touring – the usual thing. We are going to be setting up a headline tour, probably early next year in the states. In the fall this year, we are doing a headlining European tour with Psycroptic, Beyond Creation, and Disentomb. I’m sure there will be a lot of things going on – we are just poised and ready. Please come out to shows and hang out with us…check out the new record! We also have some pretty crazy videos coming out, one for “Die with Integrity” that will be pretty extreme [ed. note: it’s out now and available HERE].