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Six Feet Under    
Six Feet Under

Like it or not, Chris Barnes is a death metal legend. One of the first true progenitors of the crushingly brutal post-thrash metallic arts, Barnes is destined for enshrinement in the still metaphorical heavy metal hall of fame. But, like a baseball player struggling to decide whether to go in wearing the cap of the team he came up with or the team he won a championship with late in his career, the career of Chris Barnes is severable into two distinctly important chapters: his time with his current outfit, Six Feet Under, and his time as a founding member of those legends of American death, Cannibal Corpse. Which one of these bands did Barnes think was his greatest accomplishment? As SFU prepared to unleash a new record 'True Carnage' (August 7) onto the metal masses, the Metal Update took the opportunity to get inside the head of this important metal figure to find out how he himself prioritized his accomplishments, as well as to understand his expectations for Six Feet Under in 2001 and beyond.

METAL UPDATE: If you were elected into a Heavy Metal Hall of Fame, would you go in as a member of Six Feet Under or Cannibal Corpse?

CHRIS BARNES: Cannibal Corpse.

MU: Tell us why

CB: 'Cause that's what made me where I am right now. I'm aware of that, and I'm proud of everything I've done with that. And I feel that Cannibal was my first real stepping stone to get over, to accomplish. It brought me to where I'm at. I gotta respect that, man, 'cause I know that was important.

MU: What's the biggest difference between your days in Cannibal Corpse and your days in Six Feet Under?

CB: People know who I am now. So it's not that difficult to get into people's faces, you know what I mean? (laughs) With Cannibal, I had to overcome the whole "hey we're here," thing. Now I'm still here, and I'm still pissed off, know what I mean? (laughs)

MU: What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

CB: Number one, getting signed to Metal Blade.

MU: At the time were you in Buffalo or Tampa?

CB: At the time, we were living in Buffalo.

MU: What were the clubs in Buffalo that you were playing back then?

CB: We played this one Buffalo club a lot called the Sky Room. That was the big club there for a long time. Another place called the River Rock. That was the first club we played at, we opened for Dark Angel. We videotaped that show, and we sent that along with our demo to Metal Blade. That's what got us signed.

Six Feet Under

MU: What are some other big moments for you so far? What about being in that Jim Carrey movie?

CB: I always forget about that. That was huge, always a big thing. But I think even before that, 'Butchered at Birth', that record and the controversy it caused. People getting so scared as to ban my lyrics and stuff to this day.

MU: Was there a particular politician who was leading the anti-Cannibal Corpse crusade back then?

CB: Bob Dole kept bringing up a lot of shit and went on nightly news with Tom Brokaw one night and shit.

MU: Doesn't that fuck with your head? Doesn't Bob Dole have better things to do than spend all day worrying about Cannibal Corpse lyrics?

CB: It was just that point in time that they went after the whole music thing again, like they're doing right now. And that happened in Germany too, there was this schoolteacher there that had us basically banned - all the lyrics and shit from that period.

MU: Ever talk to Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P.?

CB: No. (laughs)

MU: He also went through that kind of media attention with Tipper Gore and the PMRC in the 1980's. He definitely had to deal with some shit.

CB: Yeah, definitely.

MU: America's always had some musician who was designated as the evil Pied Piper of the time who was leading America's children straight to hell. Elvis. W.A.S.P. Marilyn Manson. Eminem. Someone's always got to be on the hook for that shit.

CB: Fuck yeah, man. Why do they take it out on music? People enjoy music. It doesn't hurt anybody. Fuck all that.

MU: But the controversy sure does help sell records, doesn't it?

CB: I guess. So you know, I guess they can keep doing it. (laughs) It's free publicity. But it's going nowhere and they know it. They just use it as a tactic for political gain.

MU: Ice-T was the target of some of that shit with "Cop Killer" and he's on your new record. Tell us about that.

CB: (laughs) I've been talking about shit that's gotten me in trouble, but that man's gotten himself in a load of shit for talking about something he believes in. And I respected and felt close to it years ago. We met up and he said stuff to me about liking 'Butchered at Birth', and that he'd listened to it a lot and liked my vocals and understood where I was going with it. It was fucking just awesome, and I'd always remembered that and wanted to work with him for years. Finally I got up enough gumption to go after it and say "hey, maybe Ice will want to do it." The record company asked his manager and Ice agreed to it. He was fucking psyched, man. He put all of his energy into it.

MU: Do you think people are going to give you shit for having rap on your new album?

CB: Yeah, probably some people. But those are people who probably never give anything a chance. And that's sad, dude, 'cause if something makes you want to fucking go and move real hard, you don't want to fuckin' double-think yourself. What kind of bullshit is that? That's being a poseur.

MU: Do you think there's a substantial number of the old school Cannibal Corpse warriors who aren't down with Six Feet Under?

CB: Yeah. 'Cause there's people that fall for rumours and stuff and don't really . . . it's kind of frustrating but I don't even . . . I don't question people. They have their own opinion. It's frustrating to me, 'cause people don't want to even listen to what I am saying. If people were listening, and they're into death metal . . . this is it.

MU: What death metal bands do you think are doing the same type of thing as Six Feet Under is today?

CB: I think our style pretty much stands alone right now. When it comes to death metal, we're probably one of the only bands that works as much off of rythym in this style of music as any other thing.

MU: Have you ever heard the term "death and roll"?

CB: No.

MU: You know, like rock-n-roll, only it's death metal, so it's "death-n-roll".

CB: (laughs).

MU: That's what your shit is. Death and roll.

Six Feet Under

CB: (laughs) Yeah, dude. Dude, we focus more on what gets people movin'. And rock and roll made people fucking rock and roll, that's why it was named that. And that's what we are trying to do too. You're right, dude. People need some kind of outlet, dude, and they don't get that outlet from fucking ultra-technical musicianship. They get it from the beat. They get it from the beat downs, and what makes their heart move a certain way. And you can't fucking deny that, man. You gotta go with it. I can't see any other way. 'Cause my favorite parts of old Cannibal songs are some of the ones that just have slam parts.

MU: So how psyched are you for this new Six Feet Under record?

CB: I'm fucking way psyched. I've worked harder on this record than any other I've ever done, and that's fuckin' straight fuckin' truth. I fucking sat in my fucking room by myself two hours a day, every day, for four fucking months and rearranged my head and practiced my vocals by myself in seclusion, man. And put myself in a frame of mind that I haven't been in for years.

MU: "Impulse to Disembowel" is fucking sick. The way it starts out is fucking awesome.

CB: (laughs) Right on, dude.

MU: What other bands out there now do you respect?

CB: My bros in Macabre. My bros down in Malevolent Creation that have been there throughout the years for me. Good friends since back in the Buffalo days. Those boys are still true and they know what the fuck's going on. Phil's fucking been doing it for the scene, he's got a record label going on, Arctic Music. So, you know, he's promotin' the fuckin' scene. The Cannibal guys too - they've been doing a good job of continuing what we came up with, man. They're doing good, keeping it going. They fucking rage. Same with the Morbid guys.

MU: What doing you think of the big tours Morbid have been doing lately?

CB: It's killer, man. It just goes to show you that death metal and the founders of the death metal scene are finally getting the respect from the booking agents. They're getting recognized as a force to reckon with. And so are we. 'Cause we're all packing clubs. Fuckers are afraid to take us out on tour, but it's starting to come around.

MU: Six Feet Under has to do something big to promote this record.

CB: Definitely, man. We will, we will. We're going to be doing something.

MU: You got any ideas?

CB: We're talking about a few different things. Underground and headlining things, and also like opening slots. We're gonna do it in September, we're just not sure what we're going to do yet. But it's gonna be big.

MU: What do you think of Nile?

CB: We toured with Nile over in Europe. They're great guys.

MU: What about other, newer bands like Skinless.

CB: I've never heard Skinless, but there are a couple bands like that we're thinking of taking out. Actually, we're thinking of taking Exhumed out.

MU: Nice. You're in an important position with the ability to broaden the death metal audience while staying true. It's nice to see you want to help out the newer or more underground bands.

CB: I got no other choice now. Blood's fucking blood, bro. It's where I'm at. This my life and shit. That's the only fucking way I know how to do this shit. If anyone's going to come into this shit, that's the only way it's going to get more popular. I'm not fucking compromising fucking jack shit. That's why I didn't change my shit when I was in Cannibal Corpse. That's why I'm out of that band 'cause I refused to change my fucking opinions.

MU: What do you mean? What happened between you and Cannibal Corpse?

CB: That's basically why I was out of the band. They wanted to change some things I had to say on that record, and the way I had to say those things.

MU: Like what?

CB: Just certain lyrics they weren't too into. They just felt like they could say those things better than I could. And if I don't feel what I'm fucking singing, man, I'm not gonna sing it. I don't think it's better than what I've said. That's where it all came from. That's why I don't compromise on that shit. This is a serious fucking thing. I've gotten to where I am by talking about things that are close to my own heart.

MU: What are you singing about on the new album?

CB: Just fucking with people's point of view on things. Talking about the sick fucking grotesque fucking realities of man, you know. That whole thing.

MU: Do you think that people who don't ordinarily like death metal have a chance of liking Six Feet Under?

CB: Yeah, I think so. Like we were just talking about, you come to one of our shows and you hear that fucking slammin' drum beat, and you have no other choice than to throw yourself around into convulsions.

MU: What was the idea behind the 'Graveyard Classics' cover album?

CB: Just to hold people over while we got this new thing together and really concentrated. We had a long tour for 'Maximum', so it was going to take time. I kinda wanted to do something a little bit different just to throw people a little curve when the new album comes out.

MU: No covers this time around, right?

CB: Not one. (laughs)

MU: Who are your primary vocal influences?

CB: It was a combination of - I really liked bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden -

MU: Tell me the truth. When you were cutting your teeth in your first early bands, doing covers, were you trying to belt out Judas Priest tunes?

CB: That's where it all began, dude. I learned early on that I had no chance ever of singing like that. So I had to think about what I could contribute, what I could do to make things interesting. I couldn't sing like that. I don't sing. More of my shit is based like rap. I'm not really singing that shit. I'm fucking saying it with conviction. So it just progressed, like how can I make this interesting sounding? You know?

MU: Is there some middle ground? Ever think about trying to progress to incorporate more melody into your vocals or any shit like that?

CB: I can't, dude. (laughs) I don't know any other way, dude. I just think about self-expression, you know.

MU: It's not about the notes, right? It's about the heart.

CB: It's about what you're fucking feeling. It's like blues, dude. Blues singers don't care, they're sayin' something that tears them up inside. It's comin' out in the way they say it. It's the same way. It's the same thing. It's not how much you say, it's what you say.

MU: Who do you think started death metal?

CB: Possessed, dude. They were the first band to coin the term death metal on 'Seven Churches', on the song "Death Metal". That was the first reference to the music style.

MU: That's killer, you pinned it right down. How does that relate to those European bands that call themselves "death metal" yet incorporate melody and experimental elements like operatic or female vocals and strings, keyboards and other expansive instrumentation?

CB: To each their own, but I don't find that European death metal equals or comes close to American death metal. The only band that's ever been any good from Europe, death metal wise, was Carcass. That's just my opinion, now.

MU: What about Napalm Death.

CB: Well, Napalm too. I like Napalm.

MU: You dig the grind shit, basically.

CB: Yeah. The grind shit works.

MU: Ever listen to In Flames?

CB: No, I never really got into them that much.

MU: It's different, but it's still called death metal.

CB: I've toured with a lot of those bands, and I like their music. But I find death metal to be American made, and it's best done by Americans.

MU: What are the three best death metal bands ever?

CB: Autopsy, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel.

MU: Ever hear Slipknot?

CB: Yeah.

MU: What do you think of them?

CB: I don't mind them, too much. I don't like the melodic vocals too much at all. I do like some of the stuttered, tribal vocal a little bit. Some of it's pretty good. I haven't listened to too much of it, so I can't really form a huge opinion on it.

MU: And what about those Ozzfest and nu-metal bands which are all the rage right now? Not for you?

CB: Category-wise, I try not to listen to bands and just say, "oh yeah, I'm gonna listen to this band 'cause they are in this category." I just try to find out about good music. There are some good bands - I'm just not into too many of them! (laughs)

MU: You're just doing your own thing, right?

Six Feet Under

CB: Yeah, I can't really worry about too many of them. Sometimes I'll hear something that I really dig, like Fu Manchu. I like them a lot.

MU: That's a totally different vibe. What do you think of Black Sabbath still being together?

CB: I think it's cool.

MU: Would you go out to see that show if you were hanging out on a Friday night with nothing to do?

CB: Yeah, definitely. I would definitely go to it. 'Cause how many more times are you going to get to see them before someone fucking keels?

MU: Back to your new record. The first press release came out, and it seemed strange. You had an engineer who had worked with System of a Down, and some other band like that. And you had Ice-T rapping on it. I'm sure that some hardcore death metal followers are gonna be nervous.

CB: You're right dude. I can sense that there's some tension among the hardcore death metal heads. Like, "oh fuck." But, you know, I've played the stuff over the phone for some friends that are hardcore death metal heads. The other stuff that isn't on the sampler. People have flatlined when they heard the new material. So I'm not really too worried about it. If people aren't gonna give it a chance because they think it's gonna suck 'cause Ice-T is on it, well then . . .

MU: Last question. Do you ever think you'll reunite with Cannibal Corpse?

CB: Oh, I would hope so. I would do it.

MU: Do you think that time will come sometime soon? Do you expect it to happen?

CB: No. I don't think those guys would ever agree to it. I think that it's pretty much a dead subject to them. But to me, that stuff is very important. To me and to a lot of fans out there.

MU: You never know what's going to happen, right?

CB: You never know what I might do. I might do maybe a reunion with a former member for a few shows. That's something I'm thinking about.








Interview: Eric German [ ]
Live Photography: Cynthia Pelzner [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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