Heady with anticipation for their recent show with the legendary Dying Fetus, Getintothis’ Laura Coppin caught up with Goatwhore’s Ben Falgoust to discuss their new album, touring pressures and some difficult choices.
Friday 21 November was as miserable an evening as one could possibly wish for; blanketed with freezing drizzle, heavy clouds, and a biting wind. On top of this, Goatwhore had the misfortune to arrive several hours later than planned – yet despite the resultant scramble to get everything ready singer Ben remained remarkably serene. Coolly finding an impromptu interview spot on their tour bus, the charismatic singer soon had us settled and ready to go.
So, how is the tour going so far?
The tour is going really fucking good, really good. I can’t over emphasise how really good it’s going. Dying Fetus has a really great fan base out here, and I think in general that kind of helps.
I mean nothing against everyone else, like us, like Malevolence and Fallujah, ‘cause we’re certainly pulling in certain amounts – but Dying Fetus have been over here so many times and they’ve kind of built their ground, which is good for the rest of us, because it puts us all in front of a lot of new ears, new eyes.
It’s definitely a good thing, but things have been going really good and it’s still really early in the tour – we have until December 19, so…
How has it been playing with them?
It’s been good, everybody gets along really well, and everything runs really smooth. I really have no complaints. I mean, I don’t really have any complaints about touring anyway, touring is what it is. You have your bad days and you have your good days, but overall everybody’s attitudes are really great. Everybody works together as a unit, and it works out really well.
Is it a very different experience touring Europe as opposed to the States?
Oh yeah, I mean it’s very different. This is different [the tour bus], because in the States we tour in a van with a trailer. Sometimes we’ve come over here in the past and we’ve been in sprinter vans, but they do this thing where they stick three bands or whatever in one of these.
So there’s bunks all up top and a little bottom lounge and everything, that helps out too because basically you get to the end of the night after you finish packing stuff, putting things away, you can come down here and have a drink or you can go to your bunk and go to bed. You don’t have to worry about driving to the next place and stuff like that, so that’s really cool.
Other than that, yeah there’s a lot of differences in that a lot of venues in the US don’t have showers, the catering is really kind of [blows raspberry]… out here it seems like they care a little but more.
It seems like the scene is a little different in terms of how it takes in metal, because the US is so big. Some of the major cities do really well, but when you get all in between that’s when it gets really hard because underground metal is just a big stretch in the mid-US.
Does the distance make it much more gruelling touring there?
Sometimes. I guess we’ve done it so many times that we’re used to it, it doesn’t really hit us that bad any more. I remember in the early days, it was like wow… when you get out West you get a lot of long drives, 8-10 hours driving the next day to the next town.
That really starts to take its toll on you all sleep-wise, getting rest you know, moving on to the next thing. But overall we all know what we got ourselves into, so we can’t really complain about it.
What would you say everyone can expect from tonight’s show?
Very high intensity, very in your face, you know? We’re definitely more of a live band than anything. A lot of times we try to capture what we are on a live recording but I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to do that, because in a live setting it’s so much more different.
You feed off the crowd and how everything works as a unit kind of, in that association, we’ll never be able to capture that in the studio. So definitely, if you know the music and you’ve heard us before to see it live is a whole different aspect. I mean, that’s all I can really say.
You’ve still managed to get quite a raw sound on Constricting the Rage of the Merciless though..
Oh yeah, I know, I’m not saying anything bad about the recordings. There’s just something about the live setting. We definitely should be tight because we’ve been playing on tour for a while now, but overall there’s just something about that live setting – when you have all the people there, and everybody’s into it, you’re into it, and it’s just going back and forth… the intensity from that, well.
How are your new songs going down with the audiences?
They’re going really good! Even with people who aren’t really familiar with us at this point it’s been going really good, and we brought CDs with us which we’re currently out of right now, those were moving really well; a lot of people just turning on to us like “oh wow, this is really great, have you got a CD?”. We’re definitely doing our end of the work of turning over new people and stuff like that, so it’s good.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
I usually just call it heavy metal, but the terms are so broad now and they explain so much – you have death metal, you have thrash metal, you have black metal, hardcore, metalcore… I just say heavy metal because we have so many different influences that are involved in our stuff.
We go back to a lot of classic stuff like Judas Priest, Celtic Frost, Venom, Black Sabbath. All of these older elements, from the conception of the band ‘til now, we always went back to them. We listen to modern things, but when we’re working on stuff we always go back to the more classical format. If anything we’re kind of reinventing, but offering it out in our perception, in a way we are now. We take more of a traditional approach to things, so that’s why I say heavy metal in general.
When I was younger you didn’t have the internet to check things out on, whereas nowadays you can – you don’t need to go and purchase something in order to check out a few songs. You can just go online somewhere and pick things up. So if someone’s sat there like “What do they sound like? What are they like?” why don’t you just take the time and go dig it up and find it?
It’s as easy as a Google search and BAM the songs are there to get the idea of. So if anything, take the time to check us out and if you’re interested them come to a show and see if that takes it even further; to another level.
Have you found that the internet age has helped you to get your music out there?
It has its good and its bad, I’m not one of these people to speak against the whole streaming thing, like Spotify, or downloading… there’s so many records that come out every week, and people only have so much money to spend. You can’t expect everyone to be dropping four hundred pounds, or dollars, or euros, on records every month when they have so much other stuff to pay for.
Even kids. Kids don’t have money like that to drop. So I understand that people need to download something or to listen to it through Spotify because you don’t have the money. But I do think that we’re at the point where if there’s a band that interests you then you should go to a show and support them, or go and buy the CD and support them in some sort of way.
What I want to most is for people to hear what we’re doing, to understand what we’re doing and to be into it, to come to the show and know what’s going on. From there they can say “I’m gonna buy some merch, I’m gonna buy a CD”.
There’s that balance that the internet has offered, as with anything though. Back when we used to have tapes people would dub tapes, record tape to tape. With vinyl there was no means to do that, but then you were able to drop vinyl into tape… and then CDs! There’s always some kind of double edged sword to every medium that comes out.
2014 for you has been a particularly successful year, particularly when you consider how famed you are for being dogged by misfortune…
It’s been really good! Everything has been really good, sales wise, response wise. When we go in and we write we don’t think of some kid in the middle of Nebraska and wonder “what’s he gonna think?”, we write because we write what we enjoy.
We want to make sure we come into a live setting and we’re really into what’s going on, that’s the way it’s gonna come off to everyone. If we just go up there and we’re playing something that we just tried to rig people would think “this band is just writing for whoever…” you know?That we were just getting in there to make a buck.
But we’re writing in the aspect of things we grew up on, that we were really into, and when we’re playing live we’re really into and we’re not just going through the motions.
And what can fans expect from Goatwhore in 2015?
Well we’re scheduled to come back out here actually in April, and then at the end of May we’re doing Temples Festival out here, and from there it’s just kind of open. Everything kind of falls into place at odd times, sometimes you’ll find out about a tour a couple of months ahead and you’ll do it, but we definitely had a goal to come out here more since we do tour so much in the States.
Not too much, but just enough to get into people’s faces and get that kind of buzz going so people know what’s going on with the band in general. We have that coming in April, and then in March we’re going to go to Australia for a little bit, it’ll be our third time out there so that’ll be really good as well.
[It is at this point that I offer the lovely Ben a choice of ‘would you rather’ questions]
Give me the worst one; I want to go with the most horrible situation [laughs].
Would you rather have sex with your girlfriend in your mother’s body, or your mother in your girlfriend’s body?
Jesus Christ…maybe I should have just gone for something easy! Would I rather have sex with my girlfriend in my mom’s body, or…
[Sammy] I’m gonna get off here…
Your mum in your girlfriend’s body.
Oh God…neither! I don’t wanna do either one… I just…
Right, OK, but if it was my girlfriend in my mom’s body… could I put a blindfold on and she sounds like my girlfriend? But she doesn’t feel like my girlfriend…
You could just ask her not to talk I suppose.
But if it was my mo- like, it is still going to have the voice of that person?
Yeah it’s just you in their body. You know that that person is in there, but otherwise…
So it would be my mom in my girlfriend’s body… I could just say “don’t say anything” and do that one…
But then both of you would share that forever. There’s so much to this!
Yeah… you’re pretty much fucked either way; you have to just do something. Unless you drink or something before you have sex with your girlfriend and she’s in your mom’s bo- [laughs]EITHER WAY YOU’RE DOING BOTH OF THEM! That’s the end result, so you’re screwed right?
So there’s no win situation!
At least if it’s your girlfriend in your mum’s body your mum will never know. That’s the route I tend to go down with that one.
Yeah… I guess. Well I thought because it was the body she still kind of knew in a sense, so… alright. I guess it would have to be that one, in some kind of fucking awkward way…yes.
There’d be drinking involved before it, plenty of drinking, and some other stuff. Maybe a blindfold… just because you don’t want to know if it’s your mom! It’s like…that’s a steep question.
That’s the worst one. You can thank my sister for that.
Your sister has got a fucked up brain.
So, on to the show itself!
The audience at Manchester’s Sound Control were heady with anticipation as American death metallers Fallujah took to the stage. Despite this, it took them a while to show their enthusiasm; much to the chagrin of singer Alex Hoffman whose shouts of “don’t be weak!” weren’t too well received. Despite this the band played an impressive set, showing a great deal of technical capability by seamlessly weaving together chugging guitars and melodic passages.
Fallujah needn’t worry about the crowd’s response though, as second act Malevolence found themselves far less well received. Whilst their music is by no means bad, their performance was difficult to take seriously due to the adolescents frantically windmilling their arms and legs before them. The hardcore elements of their sound seemed rather incongruous considering the acts yet to follow, and it was hard not to feel like they were simply at the wrong gig.
We’ve loved Goatwhore for years yet had never before managed to see them live, and with Ben’s insistence that they’re a truly live band ringing in out ears we found ourselves fidgeting with excitement as Goatwhore’s set drew near.
As soon as the first notes of Poisonous Existence in Reawakening rang out, the crowd knew we were in for a remarkable performance. Ben prowled the stage like a caged animal, his presence so powerful that it was almost impossible to look away, whilst guitarist Sammy Duet let loose their brutal riffs with a vicious intensity.
Watching Goatwhore’s performance was like being thrown straight into the heart of old school heavy metal, their influences apparent in every squealing note and screeching growl. There’s little to be said that doesn’t fall into the trap of hyperbole – put simply it’s a show that every heavy metal fan should see. Even consulting the few scrawled notes we managed to take gives little aid, unless there’s much to be gleaned from ‘AAAAAAAAHHGGGHHH JUST YES. YES. YES. YES’.
Upon reflection, it covers it quite well.
Next came the turn of titanic headliners Dying Fetus, who certainly didn’t disappoint. Driving the crowd into a complete frenzy almost immediately, the band played a brutal set which showcased their inimitable sound.
Perhaps we were still reeling from Goatwhore’s earlier performance, but we felt that Dying Fetus didn’t quite manage to be the best band that evening. The rest of the crowd seemed to think otherwise though, screaming and head banging along to the music until the last notes of their set rang out.