This band first came to my attention with their excellent "Genocide Machine" release on Necropolis/Deathvomit records, and I found their sound attractive enough to follow their career later at a distance, watching as they progressed in what is, admittedly, a very isolated and heavily criticized part of the metal scene: the axis where grindcore, noise, and hardcore meet. There are other bands who have similar ideas when it comes to relevant/contemporary forms of music and "modern" methods of expression, but I don't think there is another band among all of those that can match this group's sincerity, energy, passion, and outright destructiveness. Circle of Dead Children are a force to be reckoned with. This interview is with Joe Horvath, the band's talented vocalist.
Okay, let's start this off with some easy questions. First of all, you were on Willowtip for your first two records. Was that the result of a specific contract for two albums or just two separate one album contracts - meaning, did you look elsewhere after the first record? Did you leave Willowtip for any specific reasons? Were you just ready to try someone else, some other company? What exactly led you to sign with Necropolis for the release of your third record? What promises were made, what was offered? Would you consider returning to Willowtip at this point?
There were no contracts of any type with Willowtip. It was all informal and all verbal. I had been a friend with Jason, the guy who runs Willowtip, for a few years before Willowtip was even launched. We were one of the first bands that he released, and at that time he was primarily putting out material from Pittsburgh area bands that he felt deserved the push. There was Creation is Crucifixion, Fate of Icarus and CODC. He heard our demo and offered to put out whatever we wanted after that. He was the first person to step up and give us that level of support, and for that we'll always have complete respect and appreciation for him. 'Starving the Vultures' was our demo material remastered with seven additional songs. Those tracks were recorded in the dead of winter in a warehouse/DIY showspace/makeshift studio with no heat. I remember it being something like 6 degrees Fahrenheit inside. The material that ended up comprising 'Exotic Sense Decay' was initially intended to be used as our side of a 10" split that never was. Those tracks were recorded in the same warehouse spot as 'STV' in the near dark with a few tea lights as the only source of illumination. After a small lineup change we went back to the same spot (+/- Recording Studio) to record the material that would become 'the Genocide Machine'. During the mixing period, we began to get interest from a lot of labels promising one thing or another. In those days, Willowtip didn't really have much distribution and basically no promotion. We were five guys making noise that we figured no one ever would want to release. To be honest, some of the labels we turned down at that point were actually offering us more that we wanted. We were metal kids at heart with a punk rock mindset and a lot of the hype and promises were a bit further out there than we were comfortable with. Necropolis was one of the labels we were talking with. At that time they were just starting their side label, Deathvomit Records, which was being run by Matt from Exhumed and Jason from Deadbodieseverywhere. While I had my concerns with some of the sketchy history of Necropolis' past, I had hope and confidence in what they were trying to accomplish with Deathvomit. I still respect Jason and Matt deeply to this day as well as pretty much every employee that has worked for Necropolis. It's the bastard in charge that we have our problems with. I was a fan of a lot of the earlier Necropolis releases, which also was an influential factor… bands like Vondor, Nifilheim, Mysticum, Dawn, Arckanum and Niden Div.187. We were five ambitious fools who were kind of shocked by people taking to our noise and going with Necropolis seemed like the right thing to do at that time. We wanted the promotion that we weren't getting from Willowtip as well as the chance for new doors to open as a result of the improvement in distribution that Necropolis could provide. At that time Willowtip had most of its tentacles in the hardcore scene, which was cool with us, but we wanted more exposure in metal. As far as Necropolis, it didn't take long to learn that no matter how sincere and honest the ideals of the workers are, when the boss is human grime, things still spoil. Since then Willowtip has been able to really pick up and I'm very proud of the work Tipton has done. We've always had plans to keep releasing various materials with Willowtip and have discussed a few different ideas. Willowtip will be reissuing 'the Genocide Machine' with added extras, possibly an extra disc altogether. We plan to include covers of some punk, hardcore and metal songs on there as well as some live radio shows and other live material. It's possibly we may add a couple of new songs as well.
Because we have already gone over your switch from Necropolis to Martyr in our emails and because the entire thing seems rather personal, I won't ask you about that again specifically, but tell me: have your experiences with your last two labels soured you in any way towards the entire process of bands seeking out labels to release your music?
We've worked with Willowtip, Robotic Empire, S.O.A., Necropolis, Martyr Music Group and Displeased so far. All of it has either been void of contract or done as contractual one-off releases and that is how we've liked it up until this point. We've turned down a few decent offers from labels throughout the years because things just weren't right at those particular times. Keep in mind; we've never sought out these things. They've presented themselves to us and we've made decisions from there. Necropolis was mostly a disaster and it makes me crazy how much we wish Martyr handled distribution differently. Fuck it. Learn from it and move on. Every label has its positives and negatives and that's just the way it is, at least from what I've experienced. In the end I am a bit jaded or whatnot, but at the same time I'm happy that we've been able to at least have people interested in working with us.
Why do you think metal labels can exist for such a long time in the underground while constantly fighting and feuding with their bands? Is it because metal bands are desperate, or because they don't feel they have any options when it comes to releasing their music? Is this changing now? Do you think it can get better with modern production techniques and the reduction in cost of recording equipment, in itself a sort of "democratization" of the recording process?
The labels can withstand because the labels have the cash. Tons of great bands break up because of the financial stressor that all but the rich kid bands go through, and that's where it becomes a game of mind over matter and only the strong will survive. Bands will always want to have their music heard by other people. I'm not sure if I'd tag that as desperation though. I can't really speak for other people and the reasons they do what they do, just for us. For me, and I know I speak for Andrews as well, when you have this band playing harsh underground shit and someone wants to spread it around for you, you get excited… at least in the beginning. A lot of bands jump into contracts without thinking twice and that's just dumb. We talked with lawyers, with bands on the labels and bands that used to be involved with the labels and we still got some raw deals. The power is in the paper and the paper is most always heavily slanted away from the band. I do see a lot of bands doing their own thing now and that's awesome. The downside of that could be a saturation of mediocre to below mediocre bands pushed into the mix with everyone trying to get their band heard. Whatever though. I think the more a person or band can handle themselves and the more they can learn how to correctly push themselves, the better equipped they can be if ever faced with label and contractual type decisions.
What exactly do you look for in a label? What do you need from the label and what do you expect the label to do for you? How much should they help bands with the expenses of touring, recording, etc.? Have you found that metal labels are better or worse when it comes to these obligations than labels in other forms of music?
At this point in the game I look for sincerity and honesty above all else. I want distribution and effective promotion. I hate getting email from people saying that they can't find our releases. So far, we've never been in a situation where this hasn't happened. Displeased has been doing excellent in Europe but the methods of distribution that Martyr uses upsets us greatly. Right now with Martyr, they don't really do any trading. In my opinion, that totally screws us on distribution and moving the CD. Most people who listen to us or music like ours don't order direct from the label or only from the large label/distros. I know that I don't. I buy most of my stuff from small distros at shows and through mailorder. Here we have 'Human Harvest', but almost no distributors have it here in the States! That drives us nuts. I'll give Necropolis credit for making 'the Genocide Machine' available fairly well at first. Everything else Paul did he can go fuck himself for. As far as expenses are concerned, I think it's all relative to the band and where they are at in the scene. You certainly can't expect to have the same amount of support if you don't play out often as a band who tours twice a year. I really don't have much experience with labels outside of metal, but from what I've seen, metal seems to be lacking behind as far as the way contracts are designed and whatnot, at least from a band's perspective. I try not to overly concern myself with that and mostly focus on our music.
Do you think the internet and the power it gives bands to inexpensively market their music to a wide audience can counter the power labels have? Do you think bands are taking advantage of this now, or is there more to be done?
Sure, to an extent. If you use the internet to your advantage and in the right ways, it can be a massive help. The internet really shows you how many bands are banging away all over the world and can open up a listener to so much more than they may normally hear otherwise. The net is a big place with a lot of options, so I think it comes down to how effectively you can use the right options.
Why do you think some groups seem to avoid the internet, as if it carries some kind of taint of "illegitimacy" or "amateurism"?
Who knows? I guess it could be because some people have too much inflated pride and ego to accept change. Why do some guys love having girls shit on their faces? No clue man. The type of media one uses shouldn't be the issue; it's the quality of how material is handled on that particular media. Illegitimacy and amateurism can be stuck to every form of media.
Do you think, overall, that the internet has helped or hindered the underground? Has it "exploded" outward the small, precious sense of collectivism and the "us against them" mentality of the hardcore and metal underground to the point where UG people no longer feel like their lifestyle is a rebellion against or alternative to the mainstream? Will this hurt the underground in the long run?
To an extent, I guess it's helped and hindered both. Certain bands and styles will get more exposure and open up to a more popular crowd, ala bands having their shirts in stores like Hot Topic. That makes me sick, seriously. At the same time, I don't think we'll be seeing any Beherit or Last Days of Humanity shirts there anytime soon. I'm not sure the internet is fully to blame for that though. I don't enjoy the commercialism of underground music too much. At the same time I feel that bands shouldn't have to starve and play for nearly free all the time and see nothing from their labels. I don't think this is the type of music that people should be getting into if they want popularity or scene points. For me, you do this music when you feel like it's all you know how to do. No matter what, there will always be an underground. The internet may assist in making it less obscure, but whatever, adjust or get left in the cold wind. There will always be bands, labels and music that commercialism cannot touch.
I wonder about the competition between bands in this music genre, and the way they watch other groups sign terrible contracts with record labels they just escaped from…why? Why isn't there a strong, official, powerful collective in the underground that stops things like this from happening? A union that protects bands from predatory labels? There are unions in so many other industries - especially ones that are supposedly a lot less politically aware than musicians are rumored to be. It makes you wonder…the rock and metal world has such a terrible history of bands being ripped off and fucked over by their agents, their lawyers, their managers, promoters, labels, etc. Why hasn't this been stopped by an official organization, some kind of informing/legal power that works for the musician's best interests?
We definitely don't care about band competition stuff at all. That crud annoys me and I just try to not take any part. I don't have enough spare time to be mad or pissy with this band or that band. That shit is pointless. I just try to get along with whomever or just be left alone if it's some bonehead shit. I mean, come on, at least try to get along with the people who are musically on a similar frame as you are, you know? Egos can maim. We talked to a few people about label things before we've made decisions. Some people feel as though they have something to lose if they say something negative about a particular label or band or whatever, even though it's just one person's opinion. But at any rate, people do get hyper-sensitive about opinions. Any person with any sense isn't going to base their choice solely on one person or bands' opinion. A little defamation of character, no matter how honest it may be, can cause some serious wankers to even make threats that they'll sue for libel! That scares some people, obviously. Bands already on a label most often won't want to say anything negative either for fear of word getting back to the label. Yeah, it would be awesome if there could be some resource of sorts available, but I just don't see that happening. It's all about money or the communal lack-there-of. Maybe nobody has taken the initiative or risk or put forth the legal know-how… I don't know. We don't hate labels or anything like that, and in all honesty there are a lot of people out there working at record labels and trying their hardest to make things work out as best they can. It would be nice to be able to easily identify the enemy from the friend in any facet of life, that's for sure.
Why do musicians put up with a situation where everyone BUT them has power over things they create? Is it caused, in part, by the competition between bands and the fact they are all trying to carve a piece out of an increasingly small economic return? The metal scene is bigger than ever before, and yet I have never heard so many stories about musicians being left penniless by their encounters with the industry.
I think often, yeah. If you work out the first contracts decently and hold for the duration, I'd think you'd be in a better situation to negotiate. I mean that's what negotiating is for all along. It comes down to a band's backbone versus a label's level of desire for that band I guess when you negotiate. I wish I had the answers but I'm far from an expert on labels.
Is it just in the "nature" of creative people to habitually flee from business matters, thinking that this world of practical decisions will somehow corrupt the "otherworldliness" they feel they need to remain creatively viable?
The thing is, some people just worry about how practical things are in a more direct-to-life way, not in a worldly way. I can't say that's really wrong at all. I think nonconformist people habitually flee much more than your common traditionalist. Maybe there's a link or some overlapping between nonconformists and people generally viewed as creative or innovative. I don't know, but it's very possible. I think that business can actually flee from creative people just as easily as well. A creative person with an itch for doing whatever it takes to financially elevate them quicker will take a different approach than an equally creative person whose passion lies more on an individualistic level. Some people just want to be left alone with their creations and others want for nothing more than to feed it to the entire face of the world.
Can one be a creative individual, a true artist, and a good businessman at the same time? If not, why?
Sure, but I would imagine it would all be relative to how far they are looking to take the business side of their art. I'd say the further you want to go, the more time you better have to invest in it. A person with the appropriate mindset and aptitude could definitely do it. H.R. Giger comes to mind almost immediately.
Where does this idea come from that artists have to remain aloof from practical matters like their own income, finances, business contracts, etc.? Some would say it reflects a certain "aristocratic" temperament in the artist, a holdover from laymen artists of the past who were amateurs in the arts, but I don't think the attitude of idle, rich, gentlemen can be applied to musicians who are generally drawn from the working class. What are your thoughts?
I think again that it's all relative to what is going on. If I look at your typical Hollywood entertainer for example, I see ego dripping with largely media created and utterly unworthy aristocratic disposition. In that instance it could be somewhat a thing of power. Again, some people would often rather use the time they have to do as they will and let others handle those tasks than to spend the amount of time it would take to stay completely on top of it all. The more you have the more difficult it can be to handle personally. Not all artists are intelligent in their decisions as well.
What does CODC really stand for, at this point? What do you take a stand against? What do you usually find yourself fighting against in this world? What still makes you angry, after all this time?
People like to tell us what we stand for most of time, which gets to be pretty funny. I read comments about what my ideals are and what our stances are and just think to myself, "oh, really… shit, aren't I lucky to be finding this out about myself." We stand for being two guys with a long-standing passion for underground music and living against the grain. We stand for extreme music as medicine. We aren't about pushing our ideas on anyone about anything. People most often seem to reason that due to the nature of my lyrics, we must have a direct message or whatever, but that's not always the case. My lyrics are the by-product of my pen and brain merging at a particular point in time. At times the statement I'm making is absolute, but not always. I'd say that each release so far has a different common, or almost common theme, while still keeping the natural variety that flows from year to year, experience to experience, loss to loss. 'the Genocide Machine' was probably the most absolute as far as that goes and it mostly expressed my thoughts on mans' unconscious and innate voyage toward complete Earthly destruction from feeding the have-more, take-more, be-more mentality that seems to be ingrained in us all. Basically though, I really don't sit down to write with any particular target in mind. If things come off as nihilistic or dark, then that's what's going on in my head when I'm writing. I'm not the most positive person in attitude by any means and I guess it shows at times in what I write. At times I wish no unfit harm to lie upon any person or animal and for the grounds of our Earth to be treasured and healed. Other times I realize how futile that thinking is and want for nothing more than to see the skies choked out with the smoke of a smoldering human species. Western society makes me ill almost always. Humanity or the lack thereof, makes me ill at times. Most times. I stand against political, social, economic and mental oppression, and therefore organized religion and modern governing methods. I stand against ignorance in general, be it outright apathy or the lack of respect shown to that which has come before us all and which sustains us all, Nature. I appreciate free-thought and the chance to have some of my expressions read by people and the hope that they can also embrace a free-thinking life. Waking up every day angers me. The excessive length of the human life span and the drive to stretch it even further angers me. CODC generally stands against, not for.
If CODC is a weapon, what is it aimed at? Do you consider CODC to be mainly a positive or negative force? Neither?
CODC is probably more of a life-support to me than a weapon. I see most things in life as being more of the weapons and the noise that I help create as a way to keep from losing my mind in life's disarray. I wish I had the power to make this band a true weapon… a tool for bringing people disgusted with the world together… be it a motivator to flood Capital Hill with the blood of its political criminals or be it to instigate complete global human eradication. As I mentioned earlier, I personally never stand on either side, be it positive or negative. I'd love to live in a world of positivism if it were entwined in reality, but the only thing that typically connects with reality is often negative, bleak and nauseating.
When you take a look at your band now, with four albums bleeding out in the trenches, is it mainly pride that keeps you going or is it some kind of principle, an ethic? Are the basic reasons you started this band still there inside you? Are they still valid?
I believe it's probably a combination of all of that stuff that keeps us still going. Andrews and I have been though nonstop shit with CODC. Things have never been smooth or ideal, but maybe that's where we thrive, I don't know. I think that if our ethics weren't so rooted in punk mentality, we possibly would have broken up long ago. It takes more than sleeping on roadsides and in vans, people flaking out all around you, labels letting you down, money problems and whatever else to make us stop. It's going to take a total assassination of spirit for this noise to bring it to a halt. We started this band not believing we would ever draw a single fan and had our doubts if any label would ever want to release anything by us. We've been extremely fortunate that things have turned out much better than we predicted. Above all other reasons though; we still do this because we love it, the same reason that we started doing it. Now we are lucky enough to meet people who can relate or at least appreciate what we are doing… we meet people like you, and I can't explain how much that helps at times of struggle or emotional dejection. We've had people from Israel, Ecuador and other parts of the world fly in to see us play and hang out. That blows my mind and really reassures me at times that all the bullshit is completely worth it. Hell man, I have a professional job, my own house and shit like that. Neither of us are spring-chickens anymore! We're "those old guys" at shows now! But that's all insignificant when the love for what you are doing is there. We've both sacrificed and given up on a lot of things since the time Andrews and I have been playing together, but abandoning CODC just has not made sense yet.
Listening back to your older material, which I spent a great deal of time doing this week, it seems to me that "The Genocide Machine" is the point at which CODC tried to break free from the stylistic restrictions that may have limited it before. You mix various subgenres of hardcore and metal very well here, for example, the dissonant asides of post-hardcore with more mainstream grindcore ideas, and then common metal riffing [death or not] or traditional progressions with completely subversive sections that do nothing but collapse any overt "meaning" the songs may have had in a conventional sense. The entire time the album is eating itself from the inside, ripping off its own skin to show its inner workings, as if too embarrassed to try to create some kind of official illusion of "meaning" which the listeners may reject wholesale. How important is it for you to keep CODC free from genre boundaries, the silly definitions of style that limit creativity? And what part does…referencing other bands play in this? Do you think it's important for bands, at this point, to openly admit their influences in a song through overt references instead of coyly "hiding" them away under strong assertions of originality? Is an original sound even possible anymore? Do you think a band, in order to be completely viable and relevant, has to constantly try to escape classification, limitations, and definitions?
Like everyone, we have influences, and ours come from all over the place. Andrews has been able to develop a style of song writing that picks from all the years of underground music that has gone into his head. When we first got together to begin CODC, we agreed that this band was not to follow any certain style in particular and that a certain level of creative freedom would always remain in tact. Genres are not very significant. We like to play for whoever finds some sort of merit within the noise and could care less what scene or whatever they are affiliated with. We're fans of several genres and try to keep our doors open to anyone. Andrews works pretty hard on keeping the flow of the songs running correctly so that the variability becomes unforced and natural and allows the music to be Circle music, not cookie-cutter or by-the-numbers genre-specific music. At least that's the goal… it's debatable if we ever achieve that or not! I don't think our approach is one that all bands should use and there is no way that our way is the right way or that sounding genre-specific is inherently a bad thing… it's definitely not, but for us it just wasn't what we wanted to do for this project. I don't think there is any way around the fact that we are a grind band, it's just that our formula isn't always the most conventional.
Also…the "modernism" in your sound seems to come from just this…this ability of yours to constantly escape [or at least try to avoid] easy definitions and obvious interpretations - does this quality in your music reflect your view of the modern world, the way that you see life today?
That's pretty amazing that you think that, thank you. We just try to make music that first off, we enjoy playing, and secondly that hopefully doesn't get stagnant or predictable to other people. We're just trying to add our piss to the community toilet of metal.
Do you think more traditional bands, that follow easy, defined, common laws of songwriting, are just limiting themselves at this point? Do you think that such methods of writing music are no longer relevant?
No, not at all! They are making their noise and that's all that matters. Do what you do and do it as well as you can! Good sound is good sound, be it an old formula, a tweaked out one or a completely new sound. It's all in the methods.
Should a modern, forward-looking, progressive musician be willing to incorporate a certain level of chaos [or the illusion of it] in his music, in order to seem like he is of THIS time, and not dwelling in the past? Does the future just mean more dissonance?
I would think that kind of person should be willing to do whatever works, be it chaos or anything else. I don't think people should worry or care about seeming in the now or then or there or here or never or anything like that. Just do your thing and go with your gut. Make yourself happy and satisfy yourself as much as you can with your creations. There's not much that irks me more than when bands craft their songs almost solely to what they feel people want to hear or what will make them popular or whatever. I think that's why so many break up so soon… they don't feel the response they were hoping for and become discouraged. Fuck that. Make yourself happy and if others feel it and hold on to it, then great. We'll worry about the future when we get back there.
What happened with your drummer, again?
The first guy, Miciolek, lived nearly five hours away. We basically created "Starving the Vultures", "Exotic Sense Decay" and "the Genocide Machine" by practicing once every three or four months. He'd come back here for a weekend, we'd get together play a show or two and practice and write as much material as we could. We passed on a lot of awesome opportunities because of this. As time went on, he wore out of this type of music more and more and he left the band. We then started playing with Rosswog, the guy on "Human Harvest". He had only been playing drums for thirteen months when we recorded that disc. He's a well of talent and I loved his drumming. The problem was that the longer he was in the band, the more his attitude worsened… or maybe it was just we started to really see him in a true light. As time went on, he constantly had a problem with something and constantly made things a struggle. His way of problem solving was to just turn the initial problem into a giant one. It just wore Andrews and I both out. It was pointless argument after pointless argument. He was quickly stripping the fun from what we had created. He had to be let go or things were going to get violent. I don't care how good anyone is and what their potential is, if you're going to make this thing as difficult as he did and kill the spirit, then you have to go, period. It's one thing if you're in Kiss or something, because you're all making millions of dollars and living all over the country and you can afford shit like that. Well not here. We don't have time for that shit. You're either in and cooperative and doing this for the right reasons, or you're out.
Now "Human Harvest", your newest record, just takes all the elements of your sound that were explored piece by piece on the album before and pushes them even farther, to a greater level of extremity. If "Human Harvest" is more "extreme" than "The Genocide Machine" it is also simpler, in that a certain refining and series of resolutions has definitely taken place. It is certainly less experimental than the last album when it comes to song structure and the range of the guitars, but the vocals on it are pushed to a ridiculous level of exploration. Were stylistic decisions made? What changes in your position in relation to the rest of the underground scene does the new record reflect?
I think that's a very accurate assessment. I know Andrews wanted "Human Harvest" to be more grindy, more fast and explosive. He wasn't happy with "the Genocide Machine", although I definitely was. The fact of the matter is, we each had gone through an almost nonstop barrage of emotional hardships between recording those two releases. It changed us both and those changes can be heard on "Human Harvest". Initially, I planned on making my vocals a bit more clear and easy to decipher. Somewhere along the way that all went out the window! I've never been much of a person to practice. I've gone for periods over a year without practicing and every release of ours has several tracks that I did for the first time with the reels spinning on record. "Human Harvest" was the first time that I actually practiced a decent amount for. I think this record has turned some heads in brutal death and grind scene, more so than ever in the past. I think this record has helped solidify us into the scene even further. At least I hope so.
Where does the new record take CODC, in terms of avenues of experimentation left open to you? Is it part of a process of CODC defining a sound once and for all, and trying to stay within those boundaries? How do you view your own evolution over the last two records?
There's always room for experimentation. It's just all about doing what works, or at least taking what may not work in theory and bending it to seem like it should have always been there. I have ideas for the future, and I'm sure Andrews does as well. The product will always have the Circle sound to it and will always be an extreme batch of cookies… it's the recipe that gets tweaked, that's all. The ingredients are usually all the same, but it's the proportions and the way they are used that define each end product from the others. 'the Genocide Machine' was more deathmetal oriented in riffing I think, almost too much for Andrews. The noise experimentations were used to the level they were because we felt that it fit the overall feeling of the disc.
My favorite part of "The Genocide Machine" was the guitars and the guitar parts. My favorite part of the new record is easily the vocals, they are just amazingly wide-ranging in their effects, and the result of your experimentation in this area I think has created a definite stylistic trademark for your band. It really doesn't sound like anyone else, and I can't think of any other band that could match the kind of throat gymnastics that are put on view here. Why did you decide to push the vocals so far on this new album?
Wow, thanks a lot! That's pretty crazy. To be honest, I really wish the guitar was up just a bit more in the mix and the vocals down because Andrews put down some of his best writing ever on this release. The weird thing is I had full intentions on having the vocals on "Human Harvest" be much more annunciated than on the past releases, and certainly much more so than they turned out to be. I was feeling a more crusty vibe from the riffs and the drums were just way more punishing than in the past. I kept planning in my head to have the vocals a lot different than they ended up becoming. No matter what I planned in my head, when it was time to do it, it just kept coming out sicker and sicker at practices and shows. I've never really been very active in practicing in the past, but I jumped that up a bit for this release and that extra push gave me time to find and hone in some new sounds.
I love it. I actually try to sing along with some of the parts and I end up hurting myself. For example: the grating splatter wipeouts that sound like hurricane winds at 0:28-0:32 in "Bring Her a Mushroom Cloud" and then the beautifully bizarre segment from 1:00 to the end in "Oak and Iron" where it sounds like you are possessed and something is trying to cough its way out of your esophagus. The entire album is filled with these kinds of things though. How did you practice all of these segments and how many takes in the studio did you need to get these vocals parts to the point where you were happy with them?
Wow again. Square it. Thanks. Square that too. Haha! I seriously didn't ever really realize or think anything about them until about a month after the CD was completed. I just kind of let the shit out the way it wanted to come out. I mean, for some of the songs I got a bit anal and compulsive with the notebook and lyrics, dissecting the songs and words with colors of the words indicating what type of vocal style would go where. I don't know, I'm a weirdo with that stuff sometimes, but most of the time there isn't all that much thought put into it. The entire recording process was awesome this time around and I had Cali-Orange and Knob Creek on my side throughout the session so it was a pleasant haze. That was the first time I had recorded completely rocked and I think it's worked out alright. Now when I listen back to some of the songs I'll actually think to myself, "where in the hell did that come from?" Most all of my vocal tracking is always done in one take, sometimes two. With this type of noise, at least our noise, I don't worry about my vocals being "right" or "perfect" or anything like that so I don't do several takes. It's all mental to me. Once my head is in the right place I don't want to pause or stop or listen back or anything. I want to roll and keep the pace moving along efficiently. I'm not Tom Petty and this isn't the Heartbreakers, it's metal, it's dirt, it's noise.
Do copies of these songs exist with other vocal parts - I mean…alternative versions or recordings?
We have a recording from the Hellhole radio show at NYU that we did which has a few early renditions of some of the "Human Harvest" tracks. We also recorded four of the songs once at a friend's house for what was to be used as a demo but never was. Both of those have vocals that are a little different than on the actual "Human Harvest" release.
Will you continue to push your vocals this far in the future?
I really don't know, but I would guess so. I have some plans for some new high vocals that I've been messing with a little.
Obviously lyrics are very important to you. Do you think it's necessary - vital - for a fan to read your lyrics in order to get the whole "CODC experience"? Are people who avoid the lyrics or who don't pay attention to them just missing the point?
It's not something we really think about. If people read them, fine, if not, fine. Lyrics are definitely important to me but I fully understand that it's pretty difficult to tell what I'm saying and your average metal fan isn't very accustomed to reading lyrics. I think that for a lot of people the lyrics have become a strong point of the band and that's really cool. I appreciate when people take the time to read them or talk to me about them. My style of writing has been the similar for not just CODC, but for every band I was in before. It's just the way I write, so I don't really think about it too much. There is not enough ego between Andrews and I to believe that there is a such thing as a "CODC experience". We certainly don't attempt to craft an experience, just our noise. If somebody feels an experience from what we do, I'm humbled deeply.
How would you view a fan that came up to you and said "I love your music, but I hate your lyrics"? Can you tell me what other lyric writers have been influential for you, or whose approach towards lyric writing you consider to be a model, or an ideal?
I'd thank them for checking us out. I'm not going to get into some debate of my lyrics, that's for sure. Most of my favorite lyric writers are from outside of the metal scene. The singer for the defunct Arizona band Groundwork wrote some amazing stuff, as did Renny from Starkweather. I was also a fan of Assuck's lyrics a great deal.
Some musicians consider themselves to be artists; some consider themselves to be entertainers. Others, who seem to be sort of rare, consider themselves to be both. Is it possible to be both an artist and an entertainer? Is it possible, in your view, to create pertinent, important, profound works of art that are also, on some level or another, items of entertainment for people? Or is there a definite split, a chasm, between these two types of productions?
I guess that depends upon what a person defines as art. I think there are rare circumstances where the talent and the creation swell to a level of total art, no doubt. That's the type of event that makes the most impact on someone.
And when you are on stage, do you think of yourselves as putting on a performance in terms of "performance art" or is it entertainment - or is it something else? Do you think people come to see you in order to have a good time, or to have fun, or is there anything deeper going on than that? Can any of these things be separated from each other?
For me, it's entertainment. I'm there to become an emotional sweaty mess, maybe offer up some blood with the sweat and hopefully crush the life out of people's ears for a few minutes. Some shows completely kill me physically and I can't wait until the last song is played… others just have a different vibe and are nothing like that. It's all dependent on the situation. It's social entertainment. I love meeting and hanging with people at shows, both of us do. The friendships we've made and continue to make doing this noise means a great deal to us. I want people to have a good time when we play. We do music because it's our source of happiness. We want people to have fun when we're playing. We prefer to play on the floor whenever possible and basements will always be my favorite place to play. I think most people go to shows because most of the time life sucks and when you have a chance to go out and see some bands and friends it's a nice break.
How long will fans have to wait for the next CODC release? Are you busy writing songs right now? If so, how do they compare to the material on the last album?
Before we got rid of Rosswog, we had eight or nine new tracks written and I can honestly tell you they were some of the best things we had ever written. Musically, everything was exciting, but unfortunately Rosswog had to go. We haven't really begun working on new stuff since then since we really haven't secured a definite drummer yet. I wish I had the answers. The next things we plan on recording will be a few tracks that will be used for the re-release of "the Genocide Machine" as extra material. Time will tell I guess.
Once you get the drummer situation cleared up, will you tour for "Human Harvest"? Or are you already past that now?
We were supposed to do a full US/Canadian tour with Today is the Day and Goatsblood, but I'm not sure where that all lies now. The drummer situation really pissed things up for us. Keeps me angry. I have a professional career so I can't just take off for long periods of time unless it's really worth it. I was at the point in my life before the drummer thing where I was ready to quit and just tour, but now that is on hold. Once again, time will tell I suppose.
Right. Let's end this! Please use the remaining space to add in whatever we missed above. Give our readers all the information they need to get in touch with you or find your music…any last words?We've recently filled the slot behind the drums with Mike Bartek, formerly of Sadis Euphoria. He's one of our best friends so we couldn't be happier with his addition. Bartek's mentally is totally in line with ours and having him in the band has truly brought back all the passion and fun again. We plan to start playing live again very soon and hope to lay waste to the worlds' ears in the time to come. People can stay up-to-date with happenings by checking out our website at http://www.circleofdeadchildren.net. Thank you for the awesome interview and support you've shown us. See you in the noise!