Now who would pass up a chance to speak to a man who – it would be fair to say – is one of the fathers of death metal? Founder member of Cannibal Corpse and now frontman of Six Feet Under, Chris Barnes has been churning out disgusting lyrics since the 1980’s and we love him for it!
With the band’s eleventh studio album out today, Chris talked us through the creative process, the lyrical themes, his favourite track and even gave us some hair-care tips…
I’ve had a good listen to Crypt of the Devil. It’s a very strong album.
Thank you. I’m real proud of it. I think the fans will like it for sure.
When you started Six Feet Under back in the 90’s as a side project was it simply that, or did you consider the longevity of it?
I really did. I wasn’t really happy where I was at. I saw it as my future – it wasn’t really a side-project to me. It was kind of like how Metal Blade was presenting it as they didn’t know I didn’t want to be in Cannibal Corpse any more! It was really my way out and I wanted to put all my energy into the band and I’m happy where we are now, that’s for sure.
Were there contractual reasons for staying with Metal Blade?
No, nothing contractual. I was happy where I was at and still am. They’re the best label out there for metal and they’re really great people. They take personal care in doing things.
What, in your opinion, makes Six Feet Under stand out from other death metal bands in a crowded genre?
That’s not something I’ve ever worried about, even from day one. I never worried about what other people were doing. I was just – I still am – enthralled in creating something that I feel is exciting to me, and that I like personally. So that was my formula. I never bothered with what was going on around me other than focussing on doing things the best I could.
You are pretty much the creative force behind Six Feet Under. Do you play any instruments yourself?
No. I mean, I can finger around a little on the guitar but I don’t consider myself a musician of any type on that level.
So just the lyrical side of things?
Yeah, I just stick to what I’ve been doing and stick to doing that the best I can.
Crypt of the Devil follows the same kind of… perspective lyrically as Undead and Unborn. Is this just a flow on from those albums?
No, the person who was interviewing me for the bio just wanted me to narrow down to something… to a theme. I hate talking about my lyrics. I like people to hear them and try to figure them out and understand them on their own. I don’t really agree with that assessment too much.
They do often say for authors and musicians that you should “write what you know about”. Does that mean we should worry about where your head’s at at times?
[laughs] I think you’re the first person who’s asked that in that way! Probably, yeah, I would think so!
So where do the ideas come from? And how have they not caught you yet?
I take each song one at a time. I listen to the music and that takes me into… among other things and help from Cannabis […Corpse, the band not the drug. Well. Maybe! Mosh] and my own concentration and imagination, I think the music just inspires me to go a certain direction as far as storyline, as far as vocal and lyrical approach. I just follow the music. I always have. Just let it speak to me and take it from there.
So when you’re working on new material it’s generally the music that’s written first and then your lyrics go on top?
Yeah. Probably about 99% of the time.
How do you feel Crypt of the Devil compares musically to the previous albums? Are there any obvious changes in style or so on?
I leave that up to the listener because being in the middle of it from my perspective… I don’t really look at change. Everything’s always changing to me. It’s a different album, it’s a different group of people who recorded it, played on it, wrote it. So everything’s different. I like it when things are a little bit different each time. I don’t like using the same anything – I think some of the beauty in things is not to be the same all the time.
This might be a tricky one, but do you have a favourite track off the album?
Well, everything I write is real special to me, but I’d have to say that I really like “Open Coffin Orgy”. It has a certain feel to it – a darkness that’s translated throughout the record, but which shows up the most prevalent in that song. [You can listen to it below… Mosh]
What are your plans in support of the release. Any touring in Europe and the UK?
We’re going to release a video soon for “Open Coffin Orgy”, that’s the first next thing. Touring is going to start this summer and heading over to Europe… man, we need to see you guys in Scotland! We haven’t been up there in ages! Everywhere in the UK is long overdue for a visit. Hopefully the booking agents are talking about that now and we can visit everyone before the end of the year for sure.
As well as your original material, you’ve released the three Graveyard Classics cover albums. Any plans for another one of those?
You know what’s weird? Everyone seems to be asking about that! We haven’t had any plans to. I mean, I don’t think there were ever really any plans to do a third one! I didn’t see it going past three. I don’t know. I don’t think we’re going to do another one, but if something interesting happened then I wouldn’t be opposed to it.
I’d assume from the lyrics of the songs that you’re into horror films?
I’m a fan of all sorts of films, really. I don’t stick with just one thing. I might stick with one genre and delve into that, or one time period. I like a well written story, mostly.
So what was keeping you entertained on the last tour?
On the last tour… we had a great tour bus! It had a hard drive with about 450 movies on it. For me it was the Apocalypse Now tour because that was playing most often in my back lounge. I revisited that movie and got into the history of that era of film-making. The late 70’s to me is like another golden era of Hollywood.
We’re heading for a big reminder of that period with the new Star Wars film – the original was 1977.
I’d probably say that from 1973 to 1983 was a really interesting time for movies for me. That’s when I was really growing up.
The advent of the summer blockbuster with Jaws coming out.
That’s just what was on my TV before we started the interview!
I think we’re going to need a bigger interview…
[laughs] Yes, sir!
One last question, from one of my colleagues [James] – how long did it take you to grow those dreads?
It’s been since ’98 so seventeen years. At first it was pretty labour intensive. The first three to five years was a lot of rolling and turning and twisting and pomade and all sorts of product. Now it’s just let ’em rot and let ’em grow!
Hair care tips there from Chris Barnes! Thanks so much indeed for your time and hope to see you before the end of the year!