GOATWHORE – We are older metal
Eternal Terror journalist Knut Gigstad met Ben Falgoust from GOATWHORE at Roskilde 2013.
"Hey man! Want a beer?" Goatwhore’s vocalist Ben Falgoust asks the question that’s got one right answer. Of course I want a beer. Post show at Roskilde and the rest of the band is busy storing away equipment and to catch the end Anaal Nathrakh’s show somewhere else on the festival grounds. It still proves the point that bands from the south are hospitable, cool and outgoing. I’m saying this with a certain amount of experience, because Scandinavia and Roskilde has been hosts for a good number of southern bands the last couple of years. Last year saw Baroness, Crowbar and Weedeater on Roskilde’s bill and the year before Kylesa and EYEHATEGOD. Goatwhore is from New Orleans and although the city is perhaps best known for sludge bands within metal circles, Goatwhore plays a blend of black and death metal and on the later releases like Carving Out The Eyes of God(2009) and Blood for The Master(2012) they have incorporated thrash elements more clearly in their sound as well.
After the other members exit the trailer they use as a dressing room, I ask Ben if they get tagged as southern metal? "Every now and then we get labelled like that. To some extent I think it’s true with bands like Down, Soilent Green and Crowbar. With Down you have some older rock influences like Skynnard and Zeppelin, making it more southern if you will. I think that if you come from an area where there’s one band that’s bigger than the rest, it cycles down and it gets this stamp on it. Then when you play and people say that you’re kinda like that, you go – No, we’re from that area, but we do things differently as far as metal goes. New Orleans has a lot of variations to it with bands like Down, Crowbar and EYEHATEGOD, but every now and then you get a stamp on it like southern metal, you can’t escape it." But why does this namedropping and genre tagging happen even with experienced music journalists who should know better? "Because people are ignorant." Ben sniggers. "But it’s true! There’s a lot of stupid people in the metal scene and I’m not trying to be rude about it. I wish the metal scene had a little more intelligence based to it, cause metal is like a force and a family too. They need to step it up. There are more intelligent metal bands out there now days. If you look back at how metal used to be, it wasn’t the brightest thing in the world, but it’s fucking awesome. It’s energetic and awesome to listen to and the way it has evolved, I mean there are so many bands now days that are intelligent with things they do. With ideas and how they move forward with it and the fans are into it. Kvelertak is a perfect example. The ideas they have and the elements they took and look at them now. Playing the arena stage at Roskilde. So I think there’s a slight bit of ignorance within the metal scene, but you got that with every scene." With a gasp of air Ben get’s his motormouth running to underscore his point. "I’m into old Black Keys, because it’s old bluesy stuff, but if you go to a Black Keys concert, real deal Black Keys fans are assholes. They’re like uppity hipsters and they think they’ve been with the Black Keys since they’ve been doing shit. They are those kind of people that make you hate that style of music. People who latch on to it like a leech."
When it comes to scene’s they are sometimes synonymous with the town it originates from and the sound or maybe the prevailing sound from that area, although that can be misleading. Just look at the early stages of punk in New York in the seventies. Some bands turned into new wave like Blondie and some are more straight rock’n roll with a punk attitude like Dead Boys, Ramones and New York Dolls, but where do you put Talking Heads and a band like Suicide? The chat is all friendly between me and Ben, but asking about scenes can cause a shitstorm or at the very least some embarrassment on the journalist’s part. Phil Anselmo has flown the flag for black metal and still does. I carefully ask how the black and death metal scene is like in New Orleans? "It’s kind of deceiving because people look at bands like Down and Phil being in Pantera and they think it’s fucking tremendous. New Orleans is not a huge city like New York, Chicago or LA. It’s a rather small city. At one point it had a population of 500.000, but after Katrina the population dropped a lot and is slowly being built up again. The scene is like a rollercoaster. You can play one show and it’s 400 people watching it. Then you play another show and there’s 150 watching it. I remember I saw Hatebreed when they played the House of Blues and it wasn’t really packed like somewhere else where I’ve seen them. Then they come back and it’s packed and they come back for another time and it’s tame. It’s like a rollercoaster." That’s not the only thing that separates the south from the other states in the union as Ben points out. "The south in general as far as the States go, stretches from the Carolinas through Georgia and Florida and all the way to Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico. Financially it’s kinda poor. So many tours go through and people don’t have the money to go see the band. So shows are kinda hit and miss." That doesn’t seem to hold Goatwhore down since they tour pretty damn regularly. "We don’t tour enough in Europe, but we tour a lot in the US and Canada cause we got our own van. We constantly do it, but we’re trying to get in with Europe and stuff like Roskilde will happen a lot more and other festivals in Europe, cause I think we’re doing something different or maybe wrong." With another snigger on our parts I ask Ben how he survives being on tour? "When I’m back home I build up money and while I’m on tour I stay afloat. In other bands you see shifts in terms of members and you see why. They go on the road and it’s not what they thought it was. They go out and they’re like – I don’t wanna fucking do this. You also have bands that only release records and don’t tour, like Darkthrone. They don’t tour, but people still follow them."
The talk with Ben has been around subjects that deal with the mechanics of the underground scene and how to stay alive if you will. The underground has come to fore with more festivals that caters to underground bands and genres. Bands that are underground have always got some coverage, but it seems to be more focus on it now days with festivals like Killtown Deathfest(DK) and Live Evil(UK), but also with bands like Ghost, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats and death metal bands like Obliteration, Bastard Priest, Necros Christos, Morbus Chron and many more. Does Ben Falgoust see that happening also as a musician? "I don’t think the underground or metal has ever died and the underground is where ideas evolve and you can see the projection from Metallica to Pantera and Slipknot. I mean Slipknot use the blast beat, that wasn’t accepted in the mainstream before. Also I think it’s difficult to be a rockstar these days because things evolve so fast. A band can be really big one year and then they fall down. Bands that tour on buses forget that they used to tour in vans. So I think it’s difficult to get the longevity of a band like Metallica and make music for many years. If you look at the evolution of metal and look to the future, the future metal band is going to be fucking insane!" Ben mentions Slayer as another perfect example. "They were really popular among punk, hardcore and metal kids. Hanneman was into a lot of punk and hardcore bands like Verbal Abuse and older nasty stuff and when he was writing stuff, that influence came through in a lot of things. Even though they were thrash metal they made music that grasped every kind of scene. If you meet a punk kid, it’s almost given that he will also be into Slayer. Nobody knew that Slayer was gonna be big. It just happened. Reign In Blood came out and it changed everything. Bands do that. They change things and they become inventors of a style." Is there any limitations to experimentation that he will not cross? "We stay in death metal, black metal and thrash metal, in that terrain." Ben pauses for a moment before he continues. "I don’t think we do any pop stuff. If anything on this new record we have older metal on some of our songs, because we’re into Judas Priest and other bands like that, so we have brought that element into our music. Now days it’s hard to be original too, because everything has been done before. Then again you have a younger generation that don’t know about things that have been done."
The interview is almost over as Sammy Duet arrives to tell Ben that they have another interview that needs to be done with Metal Injection. Not wanting to overstay my welcome I ask if it’s okay to ask a few more questions. With the okay given I go into the newer material from the last two records and the thrash influence on it. "It’s all Gary Holts fault and you can put that in print too!" Sammy Duet screams into the conversation before he turns to Ben. "Tell him about the time you got arrested." Ben covers his face with one hand and turns a little red before he takes me down memory lane. "Oh man! I was young and I saw them at this arena in New Orleans on the Headbangers Ball tour. It was Exodus, Anthrax and Helloween. I was drunk and went on stage and jumped off, then I got trashed by the security guard and they threw me out. Then I got arrested for trespassing or some shit like that. I was underage and went to juvenile prison too. This officer told me that I didn’t look scared. I told him that I would rather stay in jail than face my dad, because he was very strict and tall. So he asked me – So you’re not scared? And I told him – No, my dad is gonna kick my ass when I get out. He will kick my ass right in front of you. Because you have to call him up in the middle of the night and he has to come down here. So we were on tour with Exodus and I walked up to them and told them the story. It was like – You guys owe me five hundred bucks." We all laugh ourselves silly before Ben goes on about the influence of Exodus and other bands. "We grew up on them, but when you do that it gets put on the backburner, but then you go on tour with them and it’s like – Oh shit! I forgot about that. Then those influences goes in the mix again." Sammy Duet follows up. "I think those influences are more prevalent on our last three records and a little crust punk with songs like Nocturnal Holocaust(The Eclipse of Ages Into Black 2000.) With songs like that you hear that up beat crazy stuff happening. It’s more Master than Marduk, if you understand what I’m saying. We are older metal."
Ben and Sammy gets into the motions of yet another interview, this time on video and that’s after Ben had a forty minute torture session with me. The workings of a underground metal band like Goatwhore is not lost on me as I exit the backstage area to join yet another crowd, bound for another crazy night with alcohol and hopefully some crazy bands.
Goatwhore from New Orleans is perhaps difficult to label as southern or a typical New Orleans Band, if there even is such a thing. Sure, there are influences in bands like Down that can be labelled, but what’s the point? With more solid coverage on the underground, whether it’s festivals or coverage on bands; It will continue to grow and prosper. The bands from the south will outlive our new found love for the southern states, that comes from series like True Blood and Treme, with the sixed season in our blood sucking friends, I’m afraid that that love will turn sour. The metal underground surely has more memory and loyalty than that. In the words of the late Paul Baloff and first vocalist for Exodus – Metal rules and if you don’t like it, DIE!