Macabre Discusses Old, New & Future Material
Macabre is a musical entity all of its own. Sure, the Chicago-area group pens songs about the most notorious killers in history. Their music often shares characteristics of death metal, and they often tour with death metal bands. However, death metal is an erroneous tag. Aspects of grind and thrash are also apparent in the band’s music, but their use of other genres besides rock music has resulted in a black-humored concoction known as “murder metal.”
Obviously, the murder metal tag became most apparent when the group named their album that in 2003, but the idea of utilizing other forms of music to accentuate their metal songs goes back much further. The “Sinister Slaughter” album from 1993 featured saloon-style piano notes (“Vampire of Düsseldorf”) and a campfire, sing-a-long acoustic (“Mary Bell"). The group took it even further on their follow up full-length “Dahmer.” A musical based on the life of convicted cannibal killer, Jeffry Dahmer, said album featured the Blues (“Jeffry Dahmer Blues”), a parody of the Umpa lumpa song featured in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (“Jeffry Dahmer and the Chocolate Factory”) and several nursery rhymes like “Grandmother’s House” and “Scrub a Dub Dub.”
The contrast of musical styles—metal meets nursery rhyme and so forth—gives Macabre comic qualities. Even though they write songs on taboo subject matter, their songs guarantee sing-a-longs. The group’s latest album, “Grim Scary Tales,” offers more necromantic nursery rhymes. Guitarist/singer, Corporate Death chatted with Metal Underground about his sordid subjects, using non-metal forms of music and a new album in the works.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): Macabre has embarked on several tours in support of “Grim Scary Tales.” Is this the most the band has toured?
Corporate Death: Actually, in ’94 we did a two-and-a-half month tour through Europe and through Israel. We’ve toured quite a bit, now. In November and December, we toured with Napalm Death. We did six weeks in Europe. Then we did three weeks in April and May. We toured ten shows in Canada, and then went back to Canada for this tour. This year is probably going to be our most touring year.
DC: You just finished touring with Exhumed, and now are headlining your own tour.
Death: No, that was part of this tour. For two weeks, we were direct support for Exhumed. Now, we are doing the last, I don’t know how many shows, as headliner. All together, I think this tour lasts for three-and-a-half weeks. It was good with Exhumed and Cephalic Carnage. We played good shows in Canada and some good shows in California. It all went pretty good. I can’t complain.
DC: You recently played CIM and are scheduled for MDF 2012. Do you enjoy playing festivals or do you prefer a more intimate setting like the one you’re playing tonight?
Death: I like them both. I liked the amount of people at festivals. There is a big party atmosphere there, a lot of people. We’re kind of rushed, though, for sound checks at the festivals. It’s hard to say, but I probably like the festivals better when you’re doing a big one because you get to see all the bands. The intimate shows are cool; too, you get to be closer to the crowd. I like it all.
DC: Will next year be your first time playing Maryland Death Fest?
Death: No, we did a couple of shows before. We played when they first started it. I don’t know how many years ago, it must have been about five years ago when we played. Yeah, we played a couple of times.
DC: How do you like playing there? Usually, MDF features a lot of great acts.
Death: The last time we played it wasn’t that big of a festival. I don’t know what it will be like this next one, but it was fun. I was carrying stuff in when we got there. There was a stage that broke off into this step they have and I think I may have broke my arm on it. I played, but my whole arm was bruised. I got some painkillers right away and I was like, “Give me some pain killers, dude, I don’t know if I will be able to play!” He was like, “Alright, I’ll see what I can do.” He said, “What can I do for you right now?” I said, “Give me a double shot of Makers Mark and find me some Vicodin.” He found me some Vicodin. I made it, but I still had to do seven shows after that. My whole arm was bruised. I think I broke it. I never went to the doctor for it. My elbow still cracks from that (illustrates by extending elbow).
DC: “Grim Scary Tales” features many murderers that have gone down in history as myths, which you covered on songs such as “The Big Bad Wolf,” “Dracula” and “Lizzy Borden.” Did this start on “Murder Metal” with songs about the werewolf Peter Stumpp and Jack the Ripper?
Death: They aren’t myth. They are real.
DC: Yes, but songs like “Lizzy Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks” and Blue Beard became myth-like characters.
Death: Lizzy Borden was a real killer. She was never convicted. I think she probably did it. What you’re probably talking about is more like legends, like these guys changing into werewolves, vampires and stuff like that. These guys were real-life vampires and drank blood. Did people really change into werewolves? I don’t know. I think they probably tore their victims apart and ate them like a werewolf would do. That’s probably what you’re talking about—legends, because these characters were real people.
DC: Yes, I didn’t mean to say they aren’t real.
Death: Death: You said “myth.”
DC: I meant to say, they became myth-like. Like take Dracula, for instance. He was a real person, but he became a legend in Carpathia. Then he became a legend in Hollywood based on a supernatural theme.
Death: The movie guy is a myth—the guy who flies around as a bat and sleeps in a coffin, but that’s not what the one of legend did or Countess Bathory, although they did other things that were bad enough. They weren’t myth. There are a lot of legends around them. Media back then didn’t have the recording stuff to record or spread the information like they do today, so you get a lot of legends in there along with the facts.
DC: Plus, people couldn’t explain child killers back then, so they must have been werewolves or vampires. Vampires were also people who were buried while still alive. I forget what disease they had (visible results from not embalming the body) but their finger nails grew after death and blood spewed out of their mouths. When people opened up coffins a couple of days after burial, they thought these people had come back to life.
Death: The two werewolves that I wrote about (“Werewolf of Bedburg” and “The Big Bad Wolf”) supposedly made deals with the Devil to get these powers. There might have been some sort of demonic thing going on there. I don’t know. I’ve seen some video footage of actual exorcisms where the possessed physically changed. It was pretty scary. This was real documentary footage. It could have played a part in it. We’re talking 500 years ago, so we don’t really know all the facts.
DC: “The Unabomber” EP featured a song about the terrorist, Theodore John "Ted" Kaczynski. It seems like the ‘70s and ‘80s were the best time for serial killers, while terrorists seem en vogue today. Do you have any ideas for creating another terrorist-based song? There is the mass murder that just happened in Norway.
Death: Probably not. The Unabomber was kind of a goofy character, sending letter bombs. We pretty much stay away from terrorists and stuff like that. We pretty much stick with cannibals and sick killers like that. So no, no terrorist songs. The guy in Norway killed around 100 people. That’s pretty crazy. It’s probably the biggest shooting from one guy at one time in history. It’s probably the biggest mass murder, killing spree or whatever you want to call it. I thought about doing a song, but I don’t know, I probably won’t do it. I already have so many on a list of songs to do that I’m pretty backed up on writing. I have a lot of songs for a new album that we’ll have coming out next year, hopefully. Part 2 of “Grim Scary Tales” will have more of the modern killers—from WWI to modern times.
DC: One interesting aspect of Macabre’s music is you try to convey the period or culture of the killer featured in each song. For instance, you played a German period piece on piano notes that conveyed Peter Kürten’s German background on “Vampire of Düsseldorf.” When did you first start flirting with humorous songs from different cultures?
Death: I think this probably started sometime after the “Sinister Slaughter” album. At that time, I started using English accents. Maybe it was “Murder Metal.” I don’t know. I would do an English guy; throw in an English accent and maybe music from that country. I wasn’t really doing it in the beginning. We always have this sing-a-long stuff. ““Vampire of Düsseldorf” wasn’t German music. It was more like old-time, sing-a-long stuff. It makes the song more crazy. It makes the lyrics even crazier. It’s not something you would expect.
DC: It seems like you took that to another level with on “Dahmer.”
Death: Yeah, I like a variety of music. I get bored doing the same styles and vocals all the time, so I try to switch it up a lot. It makes it more interesting for me. People seem to like the variety in there, too. I think I’ll stick with that, and try to get more diverse as I go on in writing.
DC: The new album contains plenty of songs that match the time period and culture. “Nero” has an Italian opera vibe and “The Bloody Benders” is almost like a country song. Were you trying to make a country song?
Death: Yeah, for sure. We tried to make “Nero’s Inferno” sound Italian. I tried to sound like an Italian guy. We tried to make “The Bloody Benders” sound more country. I’ve been doing that more with our newer stuff. I’m probably going to take it even farther in the future. I have a song about Andrei Chikatilo that’s going to be Russian music. I might take it a little bit farther. That’s just the way I write. I never really plan anything. It just kind of happens.
DC: So you didn’t think about the Emperor Nero and say, “I want some pizza?”
Death: No, I just start playing around with things and it just happens.
DC: Where did you find the opening rhythm to “Dracula?” I can’t put my finger on where I’ve heard that piece.
Death: I don’t know.
DC: Is that a classical piece?
Death: I don’t know. I might have heard it in old horror films. I don’t know where I heard it. It was just in my head from past movies I’ve seen or whatever, that old melody. I don’t know exactly where it’s from. I think it’s from old Dracula movies, maybe. It has to come from horror movies. I’ve heard it before, had it in my head, so I just figured it out.
DC: It’s reminiscent of an old “Scooby Doo” cartoon.
Death: A “Count Chocula” commercial for the cereal, which is probably where I got it from.
DC: Can you tell us about some of the killers featured in the songs you’re working on for the new album?
Death: I have maybe six or seven songs written for the new album. There is a list of about 30 guys I’m trying to write songs for. I cut it down to around twenty or something. I can’t remember all of them that I have written down. I have songs about Leonard Lake, a new Ted Bundy song, a new John Wayne Gacy song, the Chikatilo song. I did one about a witch from Spain. She was a cannibal who would make love potions out of boiling babies. Stuff like “Hansel and Gretel,” which was actually before that, was based on real people. “Big Bad Wolf” was also based on a real person. I try to blend the children’s stories in and it all seems to work. Going into the studio for the last album, I was really surprised at how it all came together in the end. I was surprised we actually pulled it off. The new album will feature around 20 songs based around modern killers. Some of these we haven’t written songs about and some of them we have.
DC: Do you have a rough release schedule?
Death: It will come out sometime next year. I have a lot of writing to do still, so it just depends on how motivated I get…how creative I get. I need to go to my office—a Mexican restaurant by my house—with my books and note pad, drink some margaritas and have a shot of Tequila for inspiration, and then it will all come together there. I write my lyrics there. I did the whole last album there. I call it my office.
You can also read Macabre's show report here.
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