For almost a decade and a half, Cattle Decapitation have been blowing minds and shattering skulls all across the globe. Their lyrical themes, ranging from animal rights to gore and death, have been shocking many and setting others into massive headbanging sessions. I had the opportunity to ask vocalist Travis Ryan a few questions. Read on to see how he answered questions about Cattle Decap’s beginning, Murder Construct, veggie burgers and how “more than a few handfuls of people that would slap” me for a statement I made.
How did Cattle Decapitation begin?
It pretty much began as a side project of the Locust. Gabe Serbian and Dave Astor started it in late 1996 and our friend Ben Katz quickly had them put together a 7″ for him to release. I joined the band right before they even got the records, playing guitar and vocals because their guy they had doing it up and bailed and I guess it wasn’t a pretty situation. They seemed to really not like the 7″ as it wasn’t the sound they were going for. They wanted a much more death metal approach so I came on board and they basically put the whole imagery/lyrics/ideas in my lap and I ran with it. Human Jerky and Homovore were actually our failed attempts at playing death metal but at the same time made for 2 pretty cool deathgrind records. Still, it was a little more on the grind side that we wanted and I honestly don’t think we hit our stride until Karma.Bloody.Karma.
In the early days of Cattle Decapitation, the band had more of a goregrind feel to the music. Nowadays the band’s sound is more straight up death metal. What brought on the change?
I think I actually answered that in the last question! Haha.. I know more than a few handfuls of people that would slap you for saying that, though. Haha… The only records that seem along the realms of straight up death metal was possibly To Serve Man. We wanted to take death metal in a different sort of direction, or at least to expand upon it, try something new. A different look into that side of extreme music. Death metal purists hate us, grind purists don’t care either and we’re more than fine with that, we’re doing what we want to do and its cool that people are finally starting to pick up on that. I would not call us a death metal band. Its a very easy, quick, pedestrian explanation of our music but death metal is a very unique sound done between the late 80s to the mid 90s and everything else is just a subgenre of that.
I heard there was a lot of drama unfolding due to the “news” at the beginning of the “Body Farm” video. Can you tell me a little about the reactions you got from that.
It was a last minute addition we made to the video. Tyson (the director) and I hatched up this plan that we’d do a fake news segment and then release it as if it was real. The video would be attached to the end of the news segment and then hopefully people would get that it was a hoax, which it wasn’t really, it was just an elaborate intro to our video. The hoax lied in we announced the info via a metal news site and then released the video footage a few hrs later. By that time people all over the world were stewing about it, sending us sympathy emails, arguing whether or not it was real, etc. The weird part, and what made us eventually spill the beans that it was fake (we actually planned to let this go for a few days, but…), was friends of ours that were really worried about our well-being and even family members were contacting us in panic mode. Even Troy’s grandfather called him almost in tears saying “please say its not true what they’re saying about your band”. In hindsight, it was pretty funny, but at the time it was just kind of freaky. To me it was painfully obvious the people were acting, the way it was filmed and the effects we used to make it look like a broken TV set. Hell, even my sister did the newscaster which to me sounded fake but that’s because she’s my sister. She actually was a newscaster at one time, I came up with the dialogue and we collaborated on the delivery.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I read somewhere that there is a vegetarian or vegan burger named after the band. What are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, its nothing big really… our buddy took over as manager at this restaurant/bar and called asking if it was ok if they used our name to name their veggie burger. We thought it was cool so we went with it. Ironically enough, Troy got a job there right around the same time and so it was funny to hear about fans coming in there to order the burger and here comes Troy around the back to take the order, hahaha.. He’s not there anymore but we got some funny stories out of it. Its a great burger honestly. VERY messy but its still good and the sauces they use on it are outstanding.
You finished up the California Blood tour in November. How was the tour? Did anything weird or interesting happen?
It was a tough time to be on the road. Every show we’d show up to we’d see a new tour poster for another 5 band metal package hitting the road all at about the same time. Everything was completely saturated and in the shittiest economy in years. We still turned out alright though and had some great times with the bands. Literally NOBODY, and this is kind of rare, but NOBODY had beef with anyone. Everyone on the tour got along perfectly. That was pretty weird as there’s always something with someone not getting along with someone else on the tour. That was really cool and we got some pretty funny ass viral videos out of it too.
What was the best tour experience you’ve had?
Oh man, there’s been a couple. I’m gonna have to say the best was playing a show in NYC where Bjork and her boyfriend/artist Matthew Barney showed up. I’m a HUGE fan of both of them and since Bjork came off as kind of a jerk, I spent the rest of the night chitchatting with Matthew and that was just mind-blowing. Mainly because of the circumstances – we’re at a death metal show, Cryptopsy is headlining, and here’s one of my favorite female artists with one of the most acclaimed modern artists around hanging out. It was just fucked. I don’t think I even slept that night!
I saw a segment of you on Cannibal Corpse’s DVD where you stated that you got into doing death metal vocals to try and out-do Chris Barnes. Is that true?
At the time I was a big fan of Cannibal Corpse’s first album and then when Butchered came out I probably exclaimed “whoah! What happened to his voice?!?” It was sooooo much more gutteral than what I had heard before. I had Bill Steer’s lows down pretty well but that just sounded like Claw from Inspector Gadget or Orson Welles as Unicron on the Transformers movie. That was easy to do. But those deep ass low gutterals that sound like 2 glaciers scraping against each other, that really got me. That album and the first couple Broken Hopes were big influences on my early vocals. But yeah, I noticed right off the bat that when I cupped the mic, I could sound just like Butchered at Birth but at 16 years old, if I could do that, then anyone should be able to. So I practiced doing it without cupping and that’s how I developed strong lows at an early age. “Out-doing Chris Barnes” is a simple way of saying I just tried going deeper, more extreme. Since that album was one of the lowest pitched vocals I had ever heard, I figured it was a good yardstick.
Tell me a little about Murder Construct and the self-titled EP that the band released last month.
Leon Del Muerte started the band idea back in 2000. He asked me to do vocals for it if he ever got it off the ground. 10 years later, he finally did. And with a few of my friends too so it was a no-brainer. Everyone in the band has a good rapport with Relapse so that was kind of a no-brainer to go with them for the release too. Basically this band has no brains, as you can tell since Leon is the leader. That guy’s a total butthole.
A while back, you were a guest on the Metal Injection Livecast. How was it being on that and playing “Death or No Death?”
I was in shock at how many band names were really legit and that I’d never heard of. The coolest part was listening back to the previous episode before the one I did and hearing them reference my old band Anal Flatulence which was a band not many people have heard at all. That was really special to me since it was just a couple of my friends and I in high school and here it was being referenced on a metal show. That was really neat.
Are there any newer bands that you are currently into?
Yeah a few, probably none that are metal though. I’ve been hooked on this band Blessure Grave which recently turned into Soft Kill. I was playing drums for BG for a minute but the leader of the band moved to LA and started it up with a few other people which was fine with me since I wasn’t going to be able to do much with them anyways and definitely didn’t want to tour with em. Very much looking forward to the release. Nadja is great.
What or who serves as influence on you and the music you write?
That’s a tough question for me. My whole life I’ve been into so many different genres and styles of music and have been introduced to all sorts of shit. I really can’t answer that question and I don’t write our music anyways and can’t really speak for the other guys. But as far as the lyrics go, pretty much every day dealings with people. That’s where I draw a lot of inspiration. Sometimes when I’m in one of those “oh, dude you need to die” situations, I get filled with this rage that almost on contact rushes all sorts of lyrical ideas into my head. The song “Pedeadstrians” for instance came from having to wait for these slow idiots with their fucking 10 kids that they probably can’t even afford to take care of to cross the street, or mainly just people in my way. Get out of the way, mind your own fucking business and everything will be alright. If only more people lived by that philosophy I’d have a lot less to write about.