Interview: Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation

Interview by Steve Jenkins

One of the most devastating, blistering and sonically brutal tours of 2020 will hit Australia in February, when death/grind masters Cattle Decapitation return to pulverise audiences. Fiercely uncompromising, confronting and utterly annihilating, Cattle Decapitation are one of the most significant forces in extreme metal’s broad spectrum. Consistently delivering genre bending releases since 1996, this band are emissaries of inconvenient truths, a constant reminder of the awfulness wrought upon the natural world by the human race. Touring in support of their forthcoming slab of brutality Death Atlas, their bleakest release to date. The cover art says it all, a stooped, skeletal Grim Reaper carrying the burnt-out husk of our planet on his back. "The core concept of this record is humanity's insignificance despite what we've convinced ourselves," explains vocalist Travis Ryan. Live, Cattle Decapitation are an unrelenting cacophony of savagery, a frenzied maelstrom of pure deathgrind carnage, suffocating all in their wake. Expect nothing less than the absolute pinnacle of extremity. We spoke with Travis about Death Atlas, climate change, touring Australia and plenty more.

Was there a clear vision going into Death Atlas in terms of how you wanted it to sound before you even began recording?

Yeah, we pretty much knew what to expect with our producer Dave Otero, we were keeping him in mind while we were writing and stuff like that. We pretty much knew what to expect but we also wrote the album to be pretty epic stuff you know, very somber I guess you could say. Kind of depressing, which is some of my favourite shit to be honest with you. We knew we had our work cut out for us after the last record and same with Monolith as well. It all pretty much just came together and we work as a team now in terms of Otero is basically like another member of the band, we've gotten adjusted to his work flow and stuff like that. It's a game changer to have a producer, it's a lot different than just going in there and recording stuff and putting it together yourself, which is what we've done in the past. It's totally different.

Did you have the intention to write the album as a culmination of sorts to accompany the previous two releases?

Yeah, you know people are like "What are you gonna do after this record?" As far as Anthropocene goes, it seemed like it was the end of the world at that point, but it just seemed like the next logical step conceptually. I even have the next one pretty much ironed out conceptually also, and I'm fucking actually looking forward to start writing that one, but it's going to be a while before that happens. I have to keep all this shit in mind for a good two years at least before I have to start worrying about that shit. We'll see what happens.

Other than a global shift in awareness towards climate change, was there any personal or first-hand experiences that you identified with that also inspired your lyrics and theme for Death Atlas?

I mean, first hand account? Not so much. Just you know, looking around, observing. We travel all over the friggin' world doing this so we get to see how other people live and the differences between life in the United States and everywhere else. You kind of realise how much fucking energy we use and how much trash and shit our country goes through. How are programs match up to other places, it's pretty eye opening man.

Is there a country that stands out as being ahead of the rest in terms of those types of programs and the way they live?

Germany. Pretty much any Scandinavian country it seems like. But Germany seems to have it down, they pride themselves on their ingenuity as well and it does show from what I've seen at least. Recycling programs and renewable energy, all those types of things. They've got it down. Denmark is another one. Places like that and most European countries, they use far less electricity than we do. It's just like the land of convenience pretty much is the best way to describe the United States. We've got our FREEDOM! *laughs* and capitalism. A lot of conveniences, that's kind of where we're at here.

You’re returning to Australia this month for a run of shows, it’s a big continent with very few major cities, do you enjoy the travelling aspect of touring?

Oh totally, you know to be honest with Australia, you know like five, six, seven, eight, nine hour drives or however long they are suck. But Australia is one of those places where I don't really mind it, because usually I just kind of stare out the window the whole time and look at the scenery. Usually I'm just trying to catch up on sleep as well, because it's just so fucking boring, but I love Australia so much and I've always wanted to go there ever since beginning of the band, and we have done a few times since then. I've always been kind of enamored with just looking around when we are there. It's funny because to me, Australia looks like Southern California just broke off and floated out there, it's very similar. I think it was in the late 1800's these guys came over and planted eucalyptus everywhere in Southern California, so there's a lot of eucalyptus trees and shit here now. A lot of places in Australia, especially the East Coast, remind me of this town just north of where I grew up. I think it's where Carnifex is from, it's called Temecula, and a lot of it looks just like Australia. It's just cool to know, looking out there and thinking about all the cool wildlife that's in the trees and stuff. I just really love it there. I fucking love koalas, they're the cutest man.

Do you have any fond memories when it comes to playing here in Australia? Any cool stories that you could perhaps share?

You know dude there's really nothing like just being able to sit down or lay down with some kangaroos. We went to the Lone Pine sanctuary, one of those places where they take us tourists right through and you get to hold the koalas and just hang out with the animals. I'm sure it's like old hat to you guys or whatever, but it's just so cool to be able to sit there and interact with them. That's my favourite thing that we've done there so far. But I also love the beaches. Going to the beaches in Perth was amazing, I remember we were swimming around and just laughing and having a great time, and I said "Can you guys believe that extreme metal brought us here?" *laughs* and we still just pinch ourselves sometimes and are thankful that we're able to do this. It's funny also because I grew up next to the beach but there's something about Australia's beaches, dude, the Pacific Ocean is fucking freezing. I mean, it's fucking cold. You think of California, the sun, Baywatch, babes, bikinis and bullshit like that. But dude, it's fucking cold *laughs* it's cold and it's green and it kind of sucks. That's one of my favourite things to do, when we're touring, if there's a coast we just go straight to the beach. Well, I try to at least.

We’ve obviously had a pretty devastating Summer so far with these horrible bushfires that continue to burn, half a billion animals have been wiped out, thousands of homes destroyed, human lives lost. What do say to people that still don’t believe in climate change and blame all of this environmental destruction on stupid things like God punishing us instead of facing facts and reality?

Well, that's what's so funny is it's the same people that don't believe or don't think that climate change is real, are the same people that believe a big fucking hand in the sky just snapped his fingers one day and created life, created everything. So I have to think who's the bigger idiot here? I mean for me personally, I'm pretty anti-religion mainly because of shit like this. A lot of people say it's not the religion, it's the people that follow it. But we all know it's the source, it's the beginning of it. It's humans always trying to control everything, whether it's people's thoughts or their own thoughts, or what's going to happen after they do and all that shit. All of it is human construct, it's all man made, as far as climate change goes there's many factors even more so than just human interaction. But I think if you look at the timeline and you realise as of 150 years ago when the industrial age began, that's when you start noticing significant differences. Scientists have known about this for years and they're trying to warn everybody but nobody seems to give a shit because it's too tied to politics, policy, money, and of all fucking things, of all the bizarre things you can think of, religion. I mean, come on. If you can't see that we're just so self destructive in nature then I don't know. I just don't think there's any talking to them or convincing, there's no reasoning with them. They believe in a fucking fairytale. How do you reason with somebody like that?

Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat about your new album and upcoming Australian tour. It’s been an absolute pleasure and myself as well as many others are looking forward to seeing Cattle Decapitation tear it up on stage in just a couple of weeks. Do you have any words for your Aussie fans?

Well actually we're going to be announcing some charity stuff, basically we're going to be doing a few different things. We've picked this wildlife sanctuary, the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary, it's a husband and wife team that just lost everything in the fires. We're going to be donating 100% of the profits from a meet and greet ticket upgrade which we're going to be announcing. This tour has been in the works for a while now and tickets have been selling for a long time before the fires even. So, we knew if we were coming over there it would be weird to not do something to help them, so we organised the meet and greet package that you can add to your existing ticket or you can purchase separately. I think there's about 50 per show and you get to come in and watch our sound check, then after that we're going to hang out with everybody for a little while and say hello. All the profits from that will go to Cobargo. We're also going to be doing a t-shirt sale, 100% of the profits from that will also go to Cobargo, that's going to be done through Make Merchandise. We have a pretty cool design, it's a one off, never printed again, just for this. It's a pretty somber image related to what's gone on over there, and yeah, we will donate 100% of the profits made from those things to a good cause. We don't usually do this meet and greet stuff, it's not our thing. We're the kind of guys that will say "See you at the merch booth." But this time, we're just trying to do something to help. So I'd like to get the word out about that. We're also doing the t-shirt thing over in the States as well through Indie Merch, because a lot of Australian's buy our stuff from there and the shipping is crazy expensive. So we worked out this deal where you don't have to pay all the fucking shipping because I know that shit's expensive over there anyway. People in the States can also help by buying this shirt or anyone in any other countries out there. It all helps. It's just really sad, so you know, hopefully you guys can get together and come out to the shows, take your mind off it for a while and enjoy some extreme metal.

PURCHASE the Cobargo Charity shirt here:

Get your tickets to the Cattle Decapitation Australian Tour HERE.

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