Interview with Paul Mazurkiewicz of Cannibal Corpse
Band Photo: Cannibal Corpse (?)
On November 13, 2006 I had the privilege and honor to interview Paul Mazurkiewicz, the drum master of Cannibal Corpse. He was one of the nicest down to earth guys I've ever met - not at all what I expected. I was expecting a rip your face of type of guy and at first thought that as I got on the Cannibal Corpse tour bus as everyone in the band clearly hits the gym at least twice a week. After the interview I expressed how much of a dream come true the opportunity was and asked if they would sign my "Vile" and "Eaten Back to LIfe" CD booklets, and every band memeber was kind enough to sign (except for the Alex Webster, one of the axmen for Cannibal Corpse, who was missing in action at the time of the interview). After the signing I went on my merry way. What follows may shock Cannibal Corpse fans, you have been warned. The interview is as follows:
Savagebutcher: This being the fourth date in your tour, how have the shows been so far and what do you expect from shows to come?
Paul: The shows have been great so far. This is a great tour, a great package; we really haven't toured for "Kill" yet other than the Sounds of the Underground which wasn't our tour. We were only playing for a half hour a night, so of course headlining and all that has been great. Presales have been good, the turnouts so far have been great, so I guess we're expecting the same, this is going to be a great tour.
Savagebutcher: Are there any dates you're looking forward to playing in particular?
Paul: No, not really. I mean it'd be nice actually for me and maybe Alex and a couple of the other guys, Rob, who are from Buffalo originally. Myself and Alex being the only two original members and Rob being from Buffalo, it'll be good to go home to see family. Other than that, you just look forward to all of them because you know there's going to be fans there that want to see the band and if it wasn't for the fans we wouldn't be here. So, there's really no one show you're looking forward to, you're really looking forward to every day being a killer day.
Savagebutcher: Being on this tour with newer death metal bands, such as Necrophagist Dying Fetus, and Unmerciful, what do you think of their styling of the genre you helped to create?
Paul: It's killer man! It's great that there's younger bands obviously just coming out and being influenced by the older bands. You got to keep the music going, obviously there's going to be a day when we're not around, or when Morbid Angel or Deicide, you know, the bands that have been around for twenty or more years and somebody's got to keep it going. So, it's great to see a lot of young kids getting into the music and doing well, you know the music is crazier and there's more speed and aggression than when we started. It's a great thing, you just need that to keep that scene thriving and keep that metal going, you need new bands coming out and that's good because there are a bunch.
Savagebutcher: How do you perceive the future of death metal and are there any other new bands or types of music that are out there that you like right now?
Paul: Well, I think death metal's here to stay and relatively speaking, it's a form of newer metal in whole scheme of metal or music or whatever. I think it's going to be around for a long, long, long time because it's the most brutal and extreme music form there is. I think there's just always going to be an audience for it, there's always going to be some kids that really want it. So the band that's really kind of freaking us the most is the band Aeon from Sweden. We just did a tour with them over in Europe a couple of months back; I believe they just signed with Metal Blade Records. They are just an incredible band, incredible death metal, and are to me, what Death Metal's about, just brutal and all that real precision and real memorable songs. An incredible band, I highly recommend them for any fan of the band.
Savagebutcher: Having been on the Metal Blade record label for the past 15 albums, what has set Metal Blade aside from all the other labels that has kept you there?
Paul: Well, we've had a great relationship with them. Of course, we became friends with all the owners and everybody over the years. The owner, Brian Slagel, is pretty much a good friend of ours now and they've always let us do what we want to do and promoted the band well so it's kind of not like if it's not broke, why fix it? Maybe there was an opportunity or a time in the past where you can change a label or like "oh, let's try to get on a major label", but why, it's death metal, it's what it is, it's not going to work in any other way I think. Some of the death metal bands in the 90's did try that I think and only went back to these kinds of independent labels. So we've had a great record with Metal Blade and it's been smooth going, so why not stay with Metal Blade?
Savagebutcher: Having released your 15th album correct?
Paul: Well, we released our 10th full length CD and then we have a live album, a couple EPs, so I guess technically it's our 10th full length, then we have 2 EPs, a live CD, and two live DVDs. So, yea, technically, this is our 10th full length studio album.
Savagebutcher: Ok, so having released your 10th album, "Kill", what were some of the challenges creating the album and how do you feel after releasing your 10th album?
Paul: It's a great thing. There's always going to be changes, I mean I guess the good thing about it is we've done it before, so it's not like we're going and making our first album. That's of course going to be challenging of course because you've never fully done it and here we are we've been in the studio before. We know what to expect, we know what we need to do, so all you can really do is just prepare as well as you can. Make sure you have the songs and when we go in we're not wasting any time. We're really working on just getting the songs recorded, but its work, you're really trying to make the best songs possible and to make the best product possible. So, it's just a lot of work. Your there every day working 12 hour days, so in that sense, it's a little more tedious than practicing for a couple hours here and there, or when we come up with and write songs, or when we're just practicing to do the set live, that's not like it is in the studio. In the studio, everything's more meticulous and more "nose to the grind", so we know what to expect and it's an awesome thing, we never would have thought we'd be releasing our 10th album. Looking back, the band was born 18 years ago next month; we would've never expected this. I mean our expectations for the band early on were we just want to play music we love and sure, it'd be great to release a CD or go on a tour and then ended after that. I mean at least you made your make, you did something, but here we are, we've done a countless amount of tours, released our 10th CD, and it's doing better than ever, it's unbelievable. I mean we're really pleased with the way things have gone over the years and especially with this CD, its crazy, so you know, we're happy.
Savagebutcher: Cannibal Corpse has helped create, I think, a sort of medium, for grotesque lyrics and extreme music, why do you think that the lyrics are so grotesque and how do you keep them so grotesque over 10 albums?
Paul: Well, it all started from, we're growing up listening to bands like Metallica, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Kreator, and whatever, so those are our influences and we're reading the lyrics and looking at their covers and all that. Looking at the cover of, "Hell Awaits" and thinking, "oh wow! Look at that!" and "Pleasure to Kill" and it's awesome, it's what we want, it's what the music's about, that's our kind of sinister subject matter. When we were fortunate to be able to get a contract, we like, "wow, we can do this for our selves now! We can create what we want to create!" We always are fans first, we always look at it as "well, what would we want to see? What kinds of album would we want to go into the record store see, buy, and listen to?" That's what a Cannibal Corpse record was to us, over the top, and when we're listening to it, we feel it's over the top and obnoxious. So well, yeah, the lyrics should be that, balls out and as crazy as possible because we can and we have the power to do that now. So we did and we were always into horror and gore and that kind of thing. When we decided to name the band Cannibal Corpse it almost made sense, well what kind of heavy band are we? None of us are Satanists or anything, so it's like we don't really want to write about that, but we're really into gore and horror, so let's be that kind of a band. Then, of course, like I said, we then took it to the extreme. The fact that we've been around so long, call it what you may, we might have took it to the most extreme at that point. I'm sure there's more extreme now, but maybe we led the way or whatever and then we just kept doing it. We delve into the imagination and tried to come up with sick stories, I know it might be a little tougher now, but doing it over the past 10 albums and over 100 songs, on every song we're trying to be brutal, but if anything, we just mix it up a little. Maybe some of the lyrics if you read them now in comparison to some of the older ones, or even some the one myself and Alex wrote since we took over the writing duties after we kicked out our first singer, they might have become a little more psychological. Some songs are a little different, but we still always want to write some kind of horror story, but not everyone has to be in your face brutal gore. So we're trying to mix it up a little bit, but always really maintain the Cannibal Corpse vibe and have it to be dark and sinister.
Savagebutcher: What were some influences that led you to create Cannibal Corpse and what were some of your musical influences?
Paul: Well, I mentioned, some of the bands, we were always fans of heavy metal. Growing up, listening to heavy metal listening to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest those were the heavy bands of the time and this is when we were at the age of getting into the music. We are all relatively the same age, we are all in our late 30s or early 40s, so you have to think back in '83, Metallica's "Kill Em All", was just off the wall, like we had never heard it before, and that's the direction we went into. We always wanted to do something heavier and faster. So, we were listening to Metallica and Slayer then took off from there and listened to Kreator, Sodom, and Dark Angel, bands like that, the thrash bands of the mid and later 80s were big influences for Cannibal Corpse. Then when we were forming was our own identity, but you need your influences to mold you into whom you are. So it was really that kind of band that made us who we are and we took on our own style and identity over the years. So it was just a lot of the thrash of the 80s that made Cannibal Corpse what it is.
Savagebutcher: What are your thoughts on being considered by some as one of the most successful death metal bands and why do you think the fans initially were and still are attracted to your style?
Paul: Well, it's definitely an honor of course. Having been around 18 years and done all the things we have and all that is just unbelievable. You just kind of sit back and pinch yourself, then go "wow, I can't believe all we've done!" I mean we're a death metal band, wanting to play the music that we like, we never thought it would get to this point so we're definitely honored and flattered. It's really a dream come true kind of situation. I think we have the greatest fans in the world and we've changed a little bit over the years when you listen to every CD, but on every CD I think you can distinguish that it's Cannibal Corpse, be it that it's a different era, but it's still Cannibal Corpse. We've retained that quality and that's a main reason why our fans are so true, we've never disappointed them. Usually it's "wow! That was your best album! Then I got the next album and I couldn't believe you guys did better because that was the best I thought you guys could do!" So we're always pushing ourselves and trying to do better yet retain how we started, as a brutal death metal band. So I think exactly of how are fan base would react where if we release a new CD and there's an acoustic song, that's not going to fair very well with our fans. Unfortunately I think that's where a lot of our fans went, I never wanted to be one of those bands where it's like "you know, there first three records were amazing, all except one, then they sucked after that because they changed". And that's another story in itself, but I never wanted to be one of those bands, Cannibal Corpse is what it is. Otherwise we might as well quit now or be another band and change the name, so we stuck true to our guns and the fans now that and they respect that. I think our fans are the most loyal fans in the world so that's a great thing.
Savagebutcher: Most of my friends have gotten into Cannibal Corpse from the Ace Ventura movie, how much of your success do think is contributed to that movie?
Paul: Definitely a little bit, I mean it's crazy, because we think back, before we did the movie, we had 3 CDs out, we were doing pretty well. We were rolling, going on tour, selling records, and then we did the movie. Obviously so many millions of people saw the movie because it did so well, whether you liked it or not, everyone was subject to seeing Cannibal Corpse, so many people have come up to us since then with the exact same thing your saying, "man, I never heard of you guys or death metal, and I saw you in the movie, and now I'm into death metal". They go out and buy a CD and then they're into other bands and before you know it they're a fan of death metal. So, we have heard that quite often, it's really interesting, it's a good question, and it's an interesting analogy because really, how much does it and did it contribute? We'll probably never know, but what if we never did that movie? Where would we be, would we still be right here? I would hope so, but it was a great thing. Obviously very positive and I'm glad we did it and I'm glad that a lot of people did get into the band and death metal because of it.
Savagebutcher: What are some words that you would like to say that new Cannibal Corpse sucks compared to old Cannibal Corpse?
Paul: Well, I say it's an opinion I guess. I mean that's the weird thing about music, you can't please everybody. We're playing for ourselves first, that's how I think every band is, you have to please yourself first, and otherwise you shouldn't be doing it. It's an art form, it shouldn't be just going "well, what's going to make us money?" It should be what makes me happy playing because I want to be happy playing? So, in that respect we are always happy, we feel that we always release the best product possible and are always writing the best songs for that given moment in time. Everyone's going to have their opinions, I think that might be a good thing because it's not like we're saying this is by far, the best album and no one ever cares about the other albums. So many people say, "Well I love the first album" and before you know it everybody has a different opinion of what's the best album. That makes us feel good because we never feel like we're just going through the motions, every song we right we give it 100% and every release we're trying to make the best product possible. So there's no filler anywhere, so it's just going to be opinion and opinions change and why people have certain opinions, who knows? Like why do I love what I grew up with and a reason could be because those special albums are the albums that you grew up with and maybe you don't like the band now because they're newer, or who knows? It's weird, there's always going to be some difference of opinion, but all I can say is where doing our best. If you really don't like something, it's unfortunate, I hope you still like the band though, but if you're not a fan of the music, well then who cares what your opinion is because you're not a fan anyways. If you think we suck or we're terrible, we don't need you regardless. If it wasn't for the fans then we wouldn't be on tour and selling albums, so that's the key to success I guess. We just have to do our best and hope that most of the people like us.
Savagebutcher: So when you're at home relaxing, what do you do?
Paul: Well, now days it's a lot different because we're older and all married. I have a 10 month old daughter, George is married and has two daughters, and Alex is married. So, we're all settled down in a lot of ways, but we have lives outside of music of course. I'm an ice hockey player; I grew up playing ice hockey, so I play when I can, when I'm home. Now a lot of my time is taken up with my family, my wife, and the baby, but I think we listen to different kinds of music to. Of course, we all love death metal and metal, and love to play, but we don't just listen to that. Everybody has different likes, personally, I really love late 60s early 70s rock and roll. That's what I seem like I kind of reverted back to and might have heard songs on the radio, but I never listened to albums, like the James Gang, or Grandfunk Railroad, that stuff is just incredible and is just pure rock and roll, pure music, so that's what I listen to these days.
Savagebutcher: How does the Cannibal Corpse lifestyle affect your family?
Paul: Well, it's obviously tough when you're gone. Here we are, we have to leave our families and it's a tough thing to do, but what are you going to do, that's life. This is our profession; this is what we make a living off of, if I'm not out here, then what am I doing? So we all have to take the proper prospective, I can say really didn't want to leave, but I know I have to leave and this is my job. Then, I have to have the mindset that as much as I miss my wife and I miss my daughter, I never want to be away from either of them for a second, what am I going to do? I can't beat myself over the head going "oh, I'm missing so much", then I'm going to be depressed all day and the whole tour. Then, that's going to affect my playing; you just have to put it all in perspective. It's tough, but this is what we've been doing for so long, this is our job, and you just have to suck it up and go on.
Savagebutcher: With that said, is that some advice you would give to anyone looking to get into the business? Is there any other advice you would like to give anyone looking to get into the business?
Paul: Of course, you have to be ready to just be on the road. You have to travel, if your band does well, you're going to have to in support of your product and get out the masses. We wanted to do this since we were little, so it's not even a thought, it's just like "oh my god! I can't believe this is happening! This is incredible! We're going to be going to Europe; we're going to be on tour, oh my god!" This is what you dream of, even though you've never done it, your like, "this is what I want", and some people have the adverse affect. Some people, they're on the road and their homesick, they're sick, and they have to go, it's like why are you here then? Didn't you expect that if you want to be in a band that this might end up happening? Maybe it's not for them I guess. I think if you're really true to yourself and this is what you want to do then you're going to do it, but don't get any easier the older you get. We were fortunate to be in our 20s when we started and none of us had ties, none of us were married, none of us had kids, none of us had anything that was going to hold us back. I'm sure if I was starting now and I'm 38 years old, and I have a kid and everything, I probably would not even attempt to do it now because it's very impractical.
Savagebutcher: After this tour what are the plans for Cannibal Corpse and when is a new album expected?
Paul: We got a little ways for a new album since we just released "Kill" a few months back and done minimal touring for it. So we plan on doing a bunch of touring for this, after this tour, which takes us up until the first week in December. Of course we have the holidays, we'll take of January, and we're going to Europe at the end of February for a month long tour, then some South American dates and some festivals like the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany over the summer. Then maybe another quick 2 week stint in the states somewhere in April/May, probably another full length tour in September, and in that time, we'll maybe get some songs written. Realistically, we probably won't be in the studio until maybe late 2007 or even early 2008 and a new CD no earlier than mid- 2008. We wouldn't want to go any later than that, but we definitely feel that this album needs to be supported properly because it is selling great and the fans really seem to dig "Kill" and we want to make the most out of it.
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