It’s not every day that I’m given the opportunity to interview someone who is considered a founder of one of my core genres. Chris Reifert played drums on Death’s debut album, and has since gone on to form Autopsy and Abscess, among others (like the lovingly titled side project Eat My Fuk). I was supposed to chat with the Bay Area legend yesterday, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to- but he quickly answered my questions via email, in red, all caps letters. I don’t know how to turn the text red, but I left it all caps nonetheless as I imagined that he screamed all the answers. What lies below can basically be summed up by one sentence: it’s all about the music.
HardRockChick: In reading some of your other interviews about the upcoming Abscess album, Dawn of Inhumanity, you talk about how it was crafted to be listened to start to finish, and that each song is like a piece of a puzzle. It almost sounds like a concept album. What was the inspiration and what are the interwoven themes you are trying to communicate?
Chris Reifert: WELL, IT’S NOT REALLY SO MUCH ABOUT LYRICAL THEMES AS MUCH AS A LISTENING EXPERIENCE FOR THE EARS AND MIND. IT’S ABOUT GETTING LOST IN A WORLD THAT DOESN’T EXIST IN THIS PLACE WHERE WE ARE USUALLY FORCED TO LIVE. DON’T WORRY ABOUT PICKING OUT A SONG OR TWO FOR YOUR IPOD, JUST DIVE IN DEEP AND COME WITH US FOR THE WHOLE SICK RIDE TO A STRANGE PLACE.
HRC: What is sickodelia, the term you coined to describe Abscess’ genre?
CR: I THINK THAT WAS ACTUALLY PEACEVILLE’S WORD. WE HAVE CALLED OUR STUFF PSYCHEDEATHIC BEFORE, BUT JUST IN PASSING. THERE’S SO MANY WEIRD TERMS AND CATEGORIES FOR MUSIC NOW, I JUST SAY LISTEN TO THE ALBUM AND SEE WHERE IT TAKES YOU. BOTTOM LINE IS WE PLAY SICK, HEAVY BRUTAL MUSIC.
HRC: What is your philosophy behind album art?
CR: WE LIKE TO HAVE ART THAT CAPTURES THE FEELING OF THE MUSIC AS BEST AS POSSIBLE. THAT’S SOMETHING THAT CAN’T BE DONE WITH PHOTO SHOP STUFF OR SOULLESS COMPUTER ART OR WHATEVER. WE’VE ALWAYS PREFERRED IT WHEN AN ARTIST TAKES THE TIME TO UTILIZE PAINT BRUSHES OR PENS AND DIG DEEP DOWN TO FIND THE IMAGES THAT COMPLIMENT OUR STRANGE SOUNDS.
HRC: What does it feel like to be referred to as a pioneer of the death metal genre? What are your thoughts on the progression of the genre as a whole, especially since it’s become more mainstream?
CR: METAL IS METAL AND THAT’S THAT. OFTEN I GET INVITED TO DISCUSS THE RELEVANCY OR PROGRESSION OF THIS MUSIC AND I JUST CAN’T DO IT. REALLY IT COMES DOWN TO BANDS YOU LIKE OR DON’T LIKE. SEEMS LIKE METAL WILL BE AROUND FOR A LONG LONG TIME AND THAT’S WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO ME. BESIDES I’D RATHER PLAY IT THAN TALK ABOUT IT. HAHA!
HRC: Your music, artwork, and shows are laced with material that tends to be deemed shocking and controversial. Is it harder to be shocking these days? What do you think draws people to music that is provoking in this way?
CR: YEAH, YOU CAN’T REALLY WORRY ABOUT OR ANTICIPATE SHOCKING PEOPLE ANY MORE. IN A WAY, IT’S ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE. AT THIS STAGE IT WOULD BE HARD TO GO FOR SHOCK VALUE WITHOUT BECOMING OVERLY RIDICULOUS OR OBVIOUS WITH YOUR INTENT. THAT SORT OF THING HAS TO HAPPEN NATURALLY IF AT ALL ANY MORE. AS FOR ABSCESS, WE JUST STAY TRUE TO OUR VISION OF WHAT THE BAND SHOULD BE. AS FOR THE DRAW OF ‘SHOCKING’ MUSIC, I WOULD GUESS THE SPIRIT OF REBELLION HAS A LOT TO DO WITH THAT, WHICH IS WHERE THE HEART OF METAL REALLY RESIDES. NOT SETTLING FOR WHAT SOCIETY DICTATES AS NORMAL OR GOOD OR ACCEPTABLE.
HRC: Are the sources of anger that fueled your music earlier in your career the same things that do now, or does it come from a different place? I’ve seen a lot of metal artists mellow out a bit as they get older, but it doesn’t seem like that has happened to you…
CR: IT’S NOT SO MUCH ABOUT CHANNELING ANGER AS IT IS RELEASING THE HORRORS OF THE HUMAN MIND, OUR INCLUDED. THERE’S ENOUGH HORROR IN THE AVERAGE PERSON’S MIND TO FUEL AN ETERNITY’S WORTH OF BRUTAL METAL ALBUMS OR HORROR FILMS OR BOOKS OR WHATEVER.
HRC: I’ve read about your legendary performances….what is the craziest thing you’ve ever done on stage, and what is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen done on stage?
CR: THERE’S BEEN SO MANY THINGS. HAHA! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THE MUSIC THOUGH. WITHOUT THAT, THE SICKEST STAGE SHOW OR ANTICS ARE NOTHING. THERE’S BEEN TONS OF BANDS WHO TALK ALL ABOUT THEIR INSANE SHOWS AND UNLESS THERE’S GOOD SONGS TO BACK IT UP THEY QUICKLY FADE AWAY.
HRC: There’s a lot of anticipation for the Autopsy set at Maryland Deathfest this year. How do you feel about it? Are there any plans for shows for either Autopsy or Abscess this year, particularly in the Bay Area?
CR: WE’RE EXCITED OF COURSE. THE PRESSURE IS ON TO DELIVER A CRUSHING SET WHICH IS WHAT WE INTEND TO DO. AS FOR OTHER SHOWS, WE’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS AFTER MDF. AS FOR BAY AREA SHOWS, I’VE LEARNED TO NEVER SAY NEVER BUT THERE ARE NO PLANS FOR THAT AS OF NOW.
Check out the upcoming Abscess album, Dawn of Inhumanity, which hits March 9th. It’s great nightmare music.