Chris Barnes Discusses Six Feet Under's "Torment"
“Torment” is the ultimate culmination of death metal legend Chris Barnes’ career. It encompasses some of the best elements of the cookie-monster-voiced singer’s storied career from not only Six Feet Under, but also Cannibal Corpse. It has the technical prowess of Cannibal Corpse, the sharp, lancing bass lines and battering drums of CC, but also SFU’s infamous groove. Much of this has to do with Barnes collaborating with Jeff Hughell (bass/guitar) and Marco Pitruzella from Brain Drill, a band I always felt was helping carrying the all-consuming torch “burned” by CC.
Finding great players from the DM underground has never been a problem for Barnes. Starting with the classic Florida-death-metal stylings of “Haunted” (1995), Barnes joined forces with such vaunted artists as Obituary alums Terry Butler and Allen West. Butler certainly had a foot hold in the Florida scene, having played in Massacre and Death as well as Obituary. These two definitely brought the Obituary sound to life, but with CC’s former singer at the helm. Other great artists that have played with the graveyard cowboy include Kevin Talley—a drummer’s whose resume is too long to even touch upon on this article, and Swedish DM royalty in Ola Englund and Victor Brandt who has played with Entombed and Firespawn.
SFU hasn’t always been every death metal fan’s dream band, in that so much of their music has been, at least in the past, mid-paced and even doomy and Barnes’ didn’t execute his vocal pukings to the extent of the first three Cannibal records, but, trust me, “Torment,” which comes out today (February 24, 2107) will have naysayers saying yes! Read further to learn more about how these audio ghouls dug in and created what will be, arguably, a top five DM album of the year! Also, play the audio to hear Barnes’ voice. I edited the language to allow for a greater flow.
Rex_84: How are you doing, brother?
Chris Barnes: Not too bad. How you doing?
Rex_84: Do you live in Seattle?
Chris Barnes: Yeah, I do.
Rex_84: Let me guess? Why did you move out there?
Barnes: Pretty much for the weather, I guess. I was tired of the heat in Florida, I had enough of that, and it’s just a beautiful part of the country. I’ve always enjoyed it when I come up here to play. My mom, I have a relative, a couple of relatives that have lived her there whole lives, so—my mom lived up here in the ‘70s, so it was an interesting place, for me, growing up.
Rex_84: Is your mom a flower child?
Barnes: No, not really.
Rex_84: Did you move up there for the weed laws?
Barnes: No, a lot of people think that. If I wanted to move to a legal-weed state, I could have moved to California fifteen years ago. No, it was more about my loving this part of the country.
Rex_84: My brother lives in Vancouver, Washington.
Barnes: Portland and the Vancouver area, that’s great down there, too, man. It’s just a real chill place. Nice people. It’s just peaceful for me.
Rex_84: So let’s get into the interview: “Torment,” what your thoughts?
Barnes: I’m pretty proud of this album. Me and Jeff put together something tasty for people to sink their teeth into. It’s an interesting record for us. It has a lot of cool ins and outs.
Rex_84: I feel like you’ve found a balance between Cannibal Corpse and Six Feet Under.
Barnes: (Laughs) I guess you could say that. Sure. I kind of bridged my two careers as a vocalist and writer.
Rex_84: For instance, the first song, “Sacrificial Kill,” the first riff sounds like a Cannibal Corpse riff.
Barnes: Right, well Jeff is very in-tune with the things that make me tick. I think he had a vision about how he was going to get some things out of me that, I guess, people have wanted to hear for a while. I’ve always said it: I’m only as interesting as the music I get to sing to and the people I’m writing with. However they put something out for me to interpret is how it’s going to happen. Sometimes things click with certain people you work with. They are on a certain level and work towards ideas they have. Sometimes, magic just happens. I think this is a pretty magical album, though.
Rex_84: I agree. I think just having those dudes from Brain Drill just makes sense. I’ve covered Brain Drill. I believe I covered their first record (“Apocalyptic Feasting,”) and I thought it was the second coming of Cannibal Corpse.
Barnes: When I heard that Brain Drill album, I was very impressed with it. I was pretty blown away. They’ve got it together!
Barnes: Yeah, the way it flowed was correct. Having Jeff and Marco in the band is awesome. They know their instruments and are very careful at what they do. It’s like controlled chaos. The level at which they perform is intense. It is something I like because it forces me to strive to keep up.
Rex_84: Do you feel, with this lineup, there is a reinvigoration for you?
Barnes: There is always a re invigoration. I try to make it interesting for myself on every album that I set out to work on. I’m always excited about what I’m working on. Whether other people are, that’s the other side of scale (laughs). I try to keep it all inside. I know what it’s all about. I’m proud of things. I like it even other people don’t react that way, but I’m glad people are digging this from what I’ve heard.
Rex_84: How did you hook up with those dudes. Marco and Jeff?
Barnes: With Jeff, someone at the record label (Metal Blade) mentioned his name, and I know Brain Drill, as a I said, and I was like, “oh wow, that’s a great idea!” Obviously, when we got rid of Talley, me and Jeff were like, “Marco?” I was like, “yeah, do you think? Let’s try that out.” Marco came in and settled in. He’s just a great drummer, man. He’s a nice person. That’s the first thing: I enjoy playing with people who are mellow and interesting and respectful.
Rex_84: You guys are a three-piece. How is that going to translate live?
Barnes: We have a guitarist we’ve been working with for about a year now, Ray Suhy (Cannabis Corpse). He’s a great guitarist. He did some lead stuff on “Open Coffin Orgy” on “Crypt of the Devil.” He came into the band last year after Steve Swanson quit. He’s been awesome. He’s an amazing guitarist, very accomplished, a guitar teacher himself. He teaches his students. He’s very multi-talented as far as the all the styles that he’s proficient in. Very, very talented guys that I’m working with. Top-of-the-line musicians. It’s going to make for an exciting next year or two touring and supporting this record and writing the next one.
Rex_84: You say “top of the line musicians,” but every album you have top of the line musicians starting with the first record. How do you see how the band has changed since the first record? The first record “Haunted,” wasn’t what I expected. I had just gotten into “The Bleeding.” I love that record and then SFU came out and I was a little disappointed because it was like hearing Obituary with Cannibal Corpse’s singer.
Barnes: (Laughs) You know what, a lot of people thought that. A lot of people, at the time, that was the review, what you just said—word-for-word. It was found to be interesting. We had a great response off the record from the fan base. We went out and toured for the first record right away and we had packed shows in Europe and in the States. The fans themselves reacted well to it. It kind of grew in its appreciation over the years. Now it’s probably looked at as our best release by a lot of people, by the majority of people. I enjoyed writing those songs. In fact, I started writing the lyrics for “Haunted,” the day I finished the lyrics for “The Bleeding.” That was interesting. I wrote those first three songs that day, pretty much. The first song I wrote was “Still Alive.” Then I wrote “Lycanthropy” and “Human Target.”
Rex_84: Those last three songs are three of my favorite death metal songs. What influenced you to write “Lycanthropy?”
Barnes: Old ideas on horror and the macabre, early productions in film.
Rex_84: “ The Wolfman?”
Barnes: Yeah, and the idea in history about being folklore and trying to write my own story about that.
Rex_84: Now let me ask you this: Have you read “The Werewolf” by Montague Summers?
Barnes: I have not. That’s one I haven’t read yet. I know about that one. It’s an incredible book, from what I hear.
Rex_84: I discovered it through the Danzig I video and then I walked into my high school library when I was in high school and I saw it, so I picked it up. It just blew me away. You know how they say, “truth is stranger than fiction.”
Barnes: Yes, we are living that right now.
Rex_84: I don’t even want to get into that, bro, there are other things I want to talk about. What are some of the lyrical themes you approach on this album? You have some interesting song titles like “Funeral Mask” and “Bloody Underwear.”
Barnes: It’s hard for me to answer that in a general way. It’s fairly self-explanatory for those that like to experience things at face value for sheer shock value. I like to lace things about existence, our own self and humanity. I try to pose those questions by shocking you and forcing you to look at yourself as us as a human-animal. There is the duality of existence and the idea and the idea of a singularity. That is represented 100% on the cover and how the album is set up with the first side of the record being very intricate, more like you were saying of my earlier stuff and having more of a technical, blast-beat side. The other side of the album is more about the other side of the coin that is SFU and that is the more rhythmic, heavy-pounding stuff.
Barnes: The groove stuff, I guess you could call it. Sure. That and outlining the duality of the band. The idea of the 6 bringing together both halves of our existence—life and death, good and evil. I’ve always written like that. Sometimes I’ll be very blatant about my musical approach such as the songs on “Warpath” are about certain things.
Rex_84: Smoke Weed.
Barnes: Yeah, straight up. Even going back to the Cannibal Corpse songs like the first album “Put Them to Death.” That was about the death penalty. I’ve always taken a subtle approach, lyrically, based on symbolism, metaphor and stuff. Sometimes I just put it straight out there. It depends on how the music takes me. How I feel I’m being led by that.
Rex_84: You’re talking about dualism/duality. I am a master of karate. On my gi is a patch. On that patch you have a man, a Sanchinka. He is the middle of a Yin Yang. I know what you’re talking about.
Barnes: What style of karate are you?
Rex_84: It is an Okinawan-based American style called Sanchin Ryu.
Barnes: Sanchin Ryu. Ok, I’ve heard of that. Amazing man, how long have you studied?
Rex_84: About 35 years.
Barnes: Are you a teacher as well?
Barnes: Have you competed in Japan?
Rex_84: No, because we don’t compete. Most of our movements are not made for sport. It’s for self-defense. I can send you some info if you want to study.
Barnes: It’s funny, a friend of mine who I met up here is a sensei. I’m not sure all the styles he studies in but he’s into Japan arts—swords and katana. He’s also Jeet Kune Do, so he knows Danny really well.
Rex_84: Dan Inosanto?
Barnes: Yeah, he’s a personal friend of his. I’m not sure if Aikido comes into it, but I’ve met him and we’ve become friends. I’ve studied Jeet Kune Do when I was a teenager through my cousin and I just want to get back into it. You know, it’s dedication, 100%, you have to dedicate your life to every part of it. He’s approached me a couple of months ago, saying he maybe wants to start another class again. I want to go back into it, so I said for sure, I want to go back into it. The breathing techniques is how I discovered this style of vocal (and he did discover it). It’s all diaphragm breathing. It’s all focused breathing techniques that I was taught through Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch. Anyway, we are getting off on a tangent.
Rex_84: Yes, we are but this is interesting. This is something I did not know about you. I know you are a deep fellar, you are in tune with the world.
Barnes: I try to be, but I’m still learning. I’m still a student. We never stop learning. We never stop searching for answers to questions to make things make sense. To be more in balance. I’m definitely still out of balance.
Rex_84: The key to life is finding balance, finding that middle point.
Barnes: That’s what we’re talking about talking about the singularity, duality and dualism. Being non-human entities. I even believe we tap into a higher plane, and ethereal plane of knowledge that exists in the universe that everything is drawn from. A hall of records, perhaps. Everything exists and we are an antenna. We exist and we are part of that. In our bodies. This is just a way to experience this reality, this dimension. We can access those things. Music is spiritual to me as well. Everything is connected like that for me. I can’t remember writing lyrics. I can remember being there, my pen to the paper, but I don’t remember where those thoughts are flowing from and why. It’s mostly very easy. I don’t ever have a difficulty writing things. It surprises me like that because I feel there is definitely a purpose, something we all belong to. People can make fun of that or contemplate that. Whatever they want. That’s my thought on that. You see certain people. You meet certain people. You keep your eyes and ears open and you learn. That’s good. That’s what it’s all about.
Rex_84: Thank you for sharing that. Lately, I’ve gotten into fights with people (verbal) because they don’t want me talking to them. They don’t want me questioning them. They don’t want to socialize, and I just don’t understand.
Barnes: There is a lot of dark energy, man, right now. People are very closed up. It’s very hard to find people who will discuss things outside of their realm. I’ve experienced it, not so much on the internet so much, but in my personal life. I’m lucky I live up here because people are a little more open to things. Yeah, certain times you just can’t speak to people about certain things because it’s just too much for certain people. With all the strange happenings that have been popping up like this Mandela effect and certain things in physics that have been zeroed in on. I don’t know if reality has been changed a little bit, man, but I am experiencing some things that are definitely strange to me with people and things I know of my own knowledge that are history and are fact (laughs).
Check back in tomorrow for part 2 as we discuss Cannibal Corpse lyrics for part of my column "The Golden Years of Death Metal: 1985-1995."
Please share this article if you found it interesting.
3 Comments on "Chris Barnes Discusses Six Feet Under's 'Torment'"
To minimize comment spam/abuse, you cannot post comments on articles over a month old. Please check the sidebar to the right or the related band pages for recent related news articles.