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Pat O'Brien (Cannibal Corpse)

Interview with Pat O'Brien from Cannibal Corpse
by Phillip Lawless at 11 June 2012, 1:46 PM

CANNIBAL CORPSE… the band, the myth, the legend. After 24 years on the Death Metal scene and after 12 albums, there’s little new ground to cover when it comes to writing an introduction for this ground-breaking band. Fresh off the release of “Torture”, guitarist Pat O'Brien spoke with Phillip Lawless about the recording process, MORBID ANGEL's last album and O'Brien's brief stint as a replacement guitarist in SLAYER.

The new album just came out, and it seems to be a little more aggressive, if that’s possible. Tell us a little bit about how you guys put it together.

It just pretty much just came together. We got together like we normally did at the end of the tour. We started writing; you know for the album … I mean writing tunes for the album. I don’t know, it just came together. We made it kind of a point for everybody to get more involved in the writing process. So maybe that has something to do why it might sound a little different. I wrote a few more songs, and Rob wrote more songs, so it kind of added something I think to the album. Other than that, it just … I don’t know, just a different time period for CANNIBAL CORPSE I think.

It’s obviously challenging music. How long do you guys normally rehearse before you head into the recording studio?

Usually, it’s about like six months to write the album. That’s usually about the time frame. This time it got pushed back a little bit, it got a little bit delayed. So we had a little more time. But yeah, usually it’s like about six months.

You worked with Erik Rutan again for “Torture”. He’s produced some amazing releases with you guys and for other bands. Why did you decide to work with him again?

Yeah, he’d done such great work for us before; there was just no reason to go to anybody else different. We went out to a different studio this time, did the first half out at his place out Tornillo just outside of El Paso. And it’s called Sonic Ranch Studios. We went out there. We added different elements into the recording process, and it just made sense to use them. You know, we’re just used to the way he works, and, you know, he’s really good at what he does.

Why did you guys decide to record in Texas? What was the motivation?

We just basically did it for something new. It was something different. Just because we could, you know. It was kind of a little bit of a break to get out of Florida. Because we’ve already done the last previous albums in Erik’s place. And it was just the idea of being able to wake up there at the studio and being able to walk there and be right there. You know, it’s just something about that that’s very appealing to me. Having to get in your car and drive for 45 minutes to get down and start recording, you know. So it was just … plus we had done already a few albums out there already. We had done “Wretched Spawn”, “Bloodthirst” and “Gore Obsessed”. We already did like three albums out there in Texas before. So we were, you know, quite familiar with the place. And, you know, we just wanted to go back.

It seems weird to me, Tampa, FL, is such a gorgeous place with beautiful women, yet there’s all these Brutal Death Metal bands from the city. What do you think it is about the city that kind of spawned that scene? Is there something we don’t know about?

It’s probably called the Florida heat. That’s about the only way I can describe it, you know, it gets hot down here in the summer.

Were the guys in the CANNIBAL CORPSE camp aware of the response to the new MORBID ANGEL album?

Uh, yeah.

Is that type of response something you worry about, or do you just write for yourselves and record for yourselves?

Well, you know, I mean you’ve always got to be I guess … we always have to kind of be a little on guard for something like that. To where we put out our new album and we think it’s one of our best. And if for some reason, you know, it’s not. For some reason, no one likes it or whatever. But I think we pretty much stayed true to what we do, you know, we didn’t really stray away from being CANNIBAL CORPSE. You know, I think MORBID ANGEL, I think they went a little out there on trying some different kind of things. Which I don’t really mind if a band does that, but I think they should have taken … I think they should have maybe saved songs that they put on their new album maybe and done a side project and just did a whole different band or something. With different kind of songs like that.

So no techno on CANNIBAL CORPSE albums?

No, no. No, I mean that’s what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a CANNIBAL CORPSE album. There’s going to be a few little surprises here and there, but, you know, it’s like if you go buy an AC/DC album, you’re going to expect to hear AC/DC. You know, you don’t want to go buy an AC/DC album and all of the sudden it sounds like RUSH. Cause that’s not AC/DC anymore.

I had forgotten until I was doing some research, but you filled in on guitar for SLAYER for a few dates. I wanted to get your impressions. How was that for you?

Oh, that was intense. That was hard, actually. I didn’t have very much time to learn the songs, so I had to really bust my ass, shall I say. And I had like a week and a half to learn all the songs. It was intense. It was a very surreal situation. Yeah, it was cool though.

Were the dates larger festivals or smaller festivals in Europe? What types of shows were you playing?

It was like a, some of it was like arenas and some of it was like really big clubs. Yeah, it was SLAYER and MEGADETH, actually.

In the time you’ve been in CANNIBAL CORPSE, have your label, Metal Blade Records, ever stepped in over artwork or lyrics and said, “Whoa, you guys are maybe taking this too far.” Or have they always been in your corner?

They’ve always been in our corner, pretty much. I mean they’ll make suggestions, you know, like putting a sleeve maybe over the top of some of the graphic work, but then still leaving the good artwork in there. Just so they can get it in the stores, because they’ve had problems in the past like getting some of our album covers like in let’s say one place like Best Buy for example. So we’ve had to have some censored artwork. But it’s not been a big deal. They’ve pretty much been in our corner the whole time. They know what we’re about.

When it comes to album artwork, do you guys choose from multiple pieces of art, or is the artwork created specifically based on CANNIBAL CORPSE’s ideas?

Well, we have the same artist; he’s been doing the album covers since day one. His name’s Vince Locke. And what happens is he’ll come up with a rough sketch, and then we’ll maybe throw some suggestions here and there. Then he’ll go forward with the sketch. And it kind of just goes further and further until we’ve pretty much got what we want. Then he actually makes the actual painting.

You guys have a big tour with EXHUMED and some other bands coming up. Tell us a little about it.

Well, we’re going to be doing the “Summer Slaughter” tour, coming in the summer. We’re going to go do the major markets with the “Summer Slaughter”.

What’s the typical day on the road like for CANNIBAL CORPSE? Is it more low key, or is it horror movies and Heavy Metal all day?

I’d say it’s pretty much low key. Yeah, I’d say pretty much. Our singer, I don’t know, he likes to stay up and drink all night and listen to Hank III. That’s his new thing, drinking Jack Daniels and listening to Hank III. But other than that, it’s pretty mellow.

Going back to your earlier band, were you in MONSTROSITY at the same time as George?

No, I was not. I was actually in MONSTROSITY after George had joined (CANNIBAL CORPSE) for the “Vile” album. I came in and did a tour when they had just put out the “Millenium” album with George’s vocals on it. George left to join CANNIBAL CORPSE I think right before that album came out or something.

How do European audiences respond to American death metal, and how are they different than U.S. audiences?

Um, it seems to be really close to the same at this point. Yeah, I don’t really see that big of a difference. I mean, the European fans are very dedicated though, you know, very dedicated. There’s a lot of dedicated metal fans in Europe. But, you know, there’s a lot of them in the States too. It’s about the same, it really is.

Are you all headed to Europe for some bigger festivals this summer? What’s the biggest one looking like for CANNIBAL CORPSE?

I think we’re playing … I’m not real sure honestly. I think we might be playing Grasspop, but I’m not sure. That might be the biggest one. I still haven’t even; honestly, I haven’t even looked at all the dates. But we’re doing Hellfest, I know that’s a big one we’re going to be doing. We were supposed to be doing some of them with the original BLACK SABBATH lineup. But then Tony Iommi came down with his cancer, so it’s going to be like OZZY and friends, I guess. The original BLACK SABBATH, I’m kind of a little bummed about that because I was … well, I’m a guitar player and Tony Iommi is probably one of my favorite all-time heroes of guitar so.

Thinking back over your time with CANNIBAL CORPSE, what’s the strangest gig you’ve ever played with them? Where have you been on stage and thought, “What the hell is going on?”

Well, it was actually probably with SLAYER. I standing up there, I’m looking over and there’s, you know, Tom Araya and then Kerry King. I’m looking over there, and I’m like, “What the fuck? What the hell am I doing up here?” You know, looking back there and seeing Lombardo. And it was just … wow, that was just weird. That was the weirdest for me. Because it all went down so fast, I was like, “What the hell am I doing up here?”

Did it make it hard to enjoy playing with SLAYER?

Well, it was just … there was just so much to learn and so much stress that there really wasn’t time to really … there wasn’t really time to, time to enjoy it. See, I had to just focus on doing the job, you know. But that was probably the weirdest for me. You know, as far as a CANNIBAL gig goes, the weirdest CANNIBAL gig we’ve ever done, I don’t know. I’d have to think about that one. There’s so many of them.


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