Pig Destroyer – Pretty Girls Make Great CorpsesSunday, 31st March 2013
(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)
Phoning Blistering while on the road after getting off from work, Pig Destroyer electronics man Blake Harrison warns “I might have to put you down if I see a police car…they enforce that in Maryland now.” The eventual country-wide ban on using cell phones while operating a motor vehicle is a novel one, sure to inconvenience those who like to gab and drive, but will probably save some lives and speed up the flow of traffic in the process. Harrison said it’s a $500 fine every time a driver is caught driving while talking on the phone, with additional penalties for the dolts who text while driving. Portable phone devices are the worst thing to happen to driving since dashboard dice. (Disclaimer: Yours truly has a flip phone and can text without looking. That doesn’t excuse me from dolt category, though.)
Aside from being on the lookout for the men in blue, Harrison was understandably stoked to be back on the press trail for the release of the band’s first album in five years, Book Burner. For a variety of reasons (all of which Harrison was more than happy to relay below), Pig Destroyer was in sidetrack city since the release of 2007’s critically-acclaimed Phantom Limb. Once the band (rounded out by singer JR Hayes and guitarist Scott Hull) hooked up with Misery Index drummer Adam Jarvis, the wheels were set in motion for Book Burner, an album that is as furious as anything PD has done, coupled with Hull’s warped riffing and like usual, Hayes’ lurid, twisted lyrics, sure to make anyone with a regularly functioning stomach squirm. It’s another visceral display of power-grind, accomplished in a brief, but fulfilling 32 minutes.
The new album and more were on the docket with Harrison, who thankfully, wasn’t pulled over while talking to Blistering…
Blistering.com: The obvious place to start is that it has to feel good to have a new record out, especially after five years.
Blake Harrison: We’re thrilled. There’s been a lot of mitigating factors in getting this shit out. We got kicked out of our practice space a few years ago, we built a studio to record and practice, then we started having problems with Brian [Harvey, drums]. Then we got Dave Witte [Municipal Waste] and we started the record with him, but he had some issues that prevented him from doing Pig Destroyer full-time. But then we got Adam Jarvis. I know to a lot of people it seems that for the past five years we haven’t been doing anything, but that’s not entirely true. It’s been a long journey and a relief.
Blistering.com: You’ve always stayed out of any direct categorization, as in you’re not a straight grind or power-violence band. So when it comes to putting a new album out, your name is in the clear because you’re not associated with one particular trend. Do you get that feeling too?
Harrison: That could be true. I think the fact we never play or rarely play [laughs]. So for a lot of people, we’re different. It’s like, “They don’t play and they’re not coming to my hometown anytime soon.” But I know the label is really behind it and they’re pushing the record.
Blistering.com: You’re a rare breed in the sense bands have to tour to make money since no one sells albums any more. You almost have to make your albums that much better.
Harrison: [laughs] I don’t know how to respond to that. We do what we do. This record, we made more of a concerted effort to make it angry and stripped-down. Get rid of some of the pretension on some of the other records. But Scott writes what he writes and it wouldn’t have come out any other way. I don’t know if we would have put this kind of record out two years ago…it wouldn’t have been the same record.
Blistering.com: Let’s talk about Adam Jarvis. He’s familiar to most because of his work in Misery Index, but what’s he like in terms of how he fits within the Pig Destroyer framework?
Harrison: He’s amazing. He’s a phenomenal talent and a great dude. He brings so much energy. We played Calgary a few weeks ago and he’s like “These songs are a workout!” And I’m like, “Dude, you’re fucking flying!” It’s great…it sounds like a new band.
Blistering.com: Do you think things started to stagnate with Brian in the band?
Harrison: No, but I think Scott wrote more to Adam’s strengths. We had a couple of songs when we still had Brian in the band, but when Scott realized what Adam could do, the songs took off. There were a lot of factors to letting Brian go. We didn’t say he was kicked out, but we didn’t say he left. I wouldn’t say it got to a point where things were sterile, but it was a decision we made, but I don’t know if things would be the same. I know Adam is a beast of a drummer and it’s incredible working with him.
Blistering.com: From the sounds of things, some of the material on Book Burner is your fastest to date, or at least up there. Was there anything Scott threw at Adam that he couldn’t play?
Harrison: [laughs] There actually is. There’s a song we scrapped, we may revisit it, or Scott will use it for Agoraphobic [Nosebleed]. Neither Scott or Dave could play it [laughs]. It was in some crazy time-signature. It was really fast. When Adam got through trying it, he said he wasn’t sure if he could do that one. Not saying that he can’t, but when it was time to do it, no. I think it was one of things that was in 9/16 and was crazy.
Blistering.com: Katherine Katz from Agoraphobic pops up on “Eve.” Was it nice for a female to lend a voice?
Harrison: Yeah. That song was better coming from a women’s perspective with a women’s voice. Kat doesn’t sound like a “woman” per se…I don’t know [laughs]. She came in and she nailed it in two takes and that was it. Whereas my vocals, I was a lot less efficient [laughs]. She came in, her and Rich [Johnson, Agoraphobic Noseblood] and Jason Netherton [Misery Index], they just nailed it really quick.
Blistering.com: It’s not like you guys had to force their way into the songs. All three fit rather comfortably.
Harrison: That was something we were really concerned about. It’s a death knell to me when you see a band with a record and they have six guest vocalists. It’s like “That’s the last we’ll ever hear from them.” Maybe I’m traditional, but that’s how it goes.
Blistering.com: One of the important aspects of Phantom Limb was the fact you had some longer songs, at least by Pig Destroyer standards.Book Burner goes back to short songs, so is there a length you think suits the band best?
Harrison: I think the four-on-the-floor short and quick grinders are bad-ass. I think if you can say that in the time that you need to do it, then that’s fine. If it’s a longer format, then that’s fine. For me, I come from a more punk rock/power violence background, so I prefer the shorter side of things. Leave them wanting more.
Blistering.com: The album is 32 minutes, but it takes a lot to get into.
Harrison: It’s weird. When I listen to it, I get a different thing. When I get into the short blasts, I think the album is stripped-down. But there are different arrangements I’m not familiar with…I’ve heard them, they’re just different for me. I think it’s a combination of all of our records. If you want to go through all the records, I’d say Phantom Limb is a thrashier record, Terrifyer is an artier one, and Prowler in the Yard is a death metal, old-school one. This album has elements of each of those.
Blistering.com: You have one of the more interesting roles in metal. You’re considered the sampler or “noise” guy, so how do you approach the songs? Do you get to them early when Scott is writing, or do you figure out your parts when he’s done? And, do you get to do whatever you want?
Harrison: I’m involved from the get-go, but I definitely don’t get to do whatever I want. My shit probably gets nitpicked more than anyone’s [laughs]. When we’re writing and arranging, it’s a difficult position. Like, a bass player knows where he stands. I don’t want to just twiddle knobs and drop in movie samples over the entire thing. You have to let the song breathe and live on its own, and finding that line is difficult. I think my contributions on this album could have been a little bigger, but this is where we ended up. I’m not jumping up and down screaming “Look at me!” I’m very fortunate to be in the position that I’m in and grateful to be here. To answer your question, we work on it. It’s the four of us working on the songs. It’s gutted, stripped, rebuilt and sometimes it’s like “Jesus, let’s just go with it.”
Blistering.com: Your spot is tough because if you do too many samples or noise bits, you might cloud the guitars and vocals. I think you do a good job of picking your spots.
Harrison: I definitely don’t want to overshadow JR and Scott. The chemistry is there between them as a songwriting team. I was fan of the band before I joined and I definitely don’t want to ruin that. I’m not there to be in the spotlight. Scott wanted to add this thing and asked me to be part of it, and I am stoked and grateful for it.
Blistering.com: Are you always collecting noise and sample bits? Do you have a nice cadre of stuff for when the time comes?
Harrison: I do. And it never seems like it’s enough. I have gigs of stuff and when we were going through it, and somehow, it’s not enough. I’ll be watching a movie and I’ll hit pause, then I’ll have it to grab it. I don’t know if it is good or right, but if something sticks out, it sticks out.
Blistering.com: The samplist/DJ role in metal is a tough one because there’s this stigma against them because of nu metal. Did you ever encounter any “This guy is going to come in and ruin Pig Destroyer by using a turntable?”
Harrison: Yeah! I don’t get it [laughs]. It’s one reason I try not to read too much on the internet. I just want to play music with my friends. There is a lot of that, but there are people who think it adds something and they enjoy it. The more critical reviews seem to think I add something.
Blistering.com: I saw an ad for the album and it looks like Relapse is releasing a version of it in cassette format. What’s up with that?
Harrison: I guess cassettes are making a comeback. Like vinyl did in the 90’s, but I was always a collector, so it didn’t make a comeback in my eyes. I think it’s a limited run, like 300 or 500 copies. There are kids that want something like that, like that really rare, hard-to-find copy. I think if we’re going to go that far, might as well do an eight-track, reel-to-reel [laughs].