San Diego + Death Metal = Disgorge. Right? Actually, the equation lacks an important variable. Enough with the math bullshit, I?m talking about Cattle Decapitation, whose ?To Serve Man? has been well received by critics and fans alike. For those craving the incorporation of intelligent lyrics and melody into their sick-minded death grind, look no further than Cattle Decapitation. Travis Ryan, who can belch as inhumanly deep as the best of them, spoke with Jay Gorania about the difficulty in rising from the dormant San Diego ?scene?, his long-lived passion for writing unique death metal lyrics, and his appreciation for the bizarre and seemingly contradictory phenomena.
The Gauntlet: Even though you?ve been around for a while now, you?re still relatively new in the eyes of many, myself included. Could you provide a brief overview of the band?s history?
Travis: We?ve gone through a couple of member changes. They started in ?96 as a three piece, and one of those guys (the guitar player/singer) disappeared. I was Gabe?s friend, who at that time was the drummer, and he asked me to come do vocals. I told him I could do guitar to. Well, that didn?t work out because I really sucked. So I just ended up doing the vocals. Gabe switched from drums over to guitar, and our bass player, Dave, switched from bass to drums.
The Gauntlet: It sounds like you were playing musical chairs, then.
Travis: Yea! Ha! Ha! Dave is way better on drums. And Gabe is actually just a good drummer and a good guitar player, so it totally worked out. And we didn?t have a bass player until a couple of years ago (when) we got Troy. And ever since then our sound?kind of changed drastically. I think it still has the same kind of energy and feeling. You can tell that it?s the same band. There?s just a lot more death metal in it, a lot more melody, more of that feeling.
The Gauntlet: What was your sound like early on?
Travis: We had just really short and quick half-minute songs. I guess more grindcore, if you will. The album was, like, 17 songs mixed in 13 minutes. So it was pretty cool.
The Gauntlet: I understand that Dave and Gabe initially formed Cattle Decapitation as a side project to their main band, the Locust.
Travis: Yea. Dave quit playing drums with them. He used to be in that band, but he quit with them because we had a lot of stuff going on. We were talking to Metal Blade. And Gabe had to end up quitting because there was so much stuff going on with the Locust, like touring, and we wanted to concentrate on this. So we were just trying out this guy Josh, just jamming with him once in a while. And then we got him as full time guitar, and it?s worked out really good. He adds a lot to the melodies and songs that Troy comes up with. He adds all sorts of stuff to our sound.
The Gauntlet: Do you utilize your experience as a guitarist and drummer during the song-writing process?
Travis: No. We do pretty much everything fairly. So they write all the music, and I write all the lyrics and pretty much come up with most of the imagery and stuff to. We keep to our respective positions in the band.
The Gauntlet: The only band I?ve heard from San Diego, your hometown, is Disgorge. Have you played with those guys before?
Travis: No. I used to be in a band called Strangulation with a couple of those guys. It was me, Diego, and Dan from Disgorge. And they eventually kicked me out. They tried going on, but they couldn?t find a good enough drummer. Eventually, they just hooked up with Disgorge, and that?s what you hear now ? ?She Lay Gutted? and the new one (?Consume the Forsaken? - JG).
The Gauntlet: Do you get along with those guys?
Travis: Oh yea, yea! In fact, I just started talking with them close to a year ago or so, when we see each other at shows or whatever. They came out and saw us one night. So, it?s pretty cool now. We?re trying to play shows sometime soon with them, but it?s just (a matter of) getting something hooked up. But they don?t really play around here much and we try not to. We haven?t played around here in a while. We just play too much around this area and in southern California in general. Now, we finally have an album to push us as a band. We can finally get out there on the road.
The Gauntlet: How is the San Diego scene? Is it not worthwhile to play around, or have you simply done it so many times that you want to play elsewhere?
Travis: It?s not worthwhile, not really. There are bands who make there own scenes. I think we?re definitely one of them. We definitely work hard. It?s just (that) there?s not much metal in San Diego. And as far as local metal bands playing, I don?t think too many people come out. But everybody?s trying, especially in San Diego. It?s hard (and shows are) scarce. But it?s finally starting to look a little promising - slowly, inch by inch.
The Gauntlet: Your press release name-drops several influential and genre-pioneering bands, including Carcass, Napalm Death and Autopsy. Were these bands merely listed due to a publicist?s assumption, or do they truly represent your influences? I definitely detect traces of old Napalm Death?
Travis: They definitely have influenced us, but it?s not so much other bands (as it is) other styles. For example, Troy?s really into power metal, Josh is really into black metal and Dave?s really into newer death metal. I?m into all of it. We?re all pretty much into that kind of stuff. But as far as our specialties go, you can kind of tell who wrote what by what we?re playing. We love old Terrorizer. I see us get compared to Cannibal Corpse a lot, but I don?t really see that.
The Gauntlet: I?d have to agree with the Cannibal Corpse comparison, considering that you employ similar guitar effects (What are they called? Harmonic squeals? - JG) as they have in the past.
Travis: Maybe. Yea. Some of that stuff is there - maybe some of the guitar. But we don?t really pay attention to our influences too much.
The Gauntlet: What is the thought process when you?re writing lyrics? I can tell that it?s driven by traditional death metal, to an extent. But there also seems to be a socially conscious slant at times. Regardless, it?s refreshing to see a death metal band put time and effort into its lyrics.
Travis: Thanks, man. This is kind of how it happens. I like to use a lot of ideas that nobody really talks about, a lot of details that people usually wouldn?t think about or focus on that are gory and disgusting. I?m basically just exposing everyday life. And just having a big vocabulary helps. I?ve taken (classes at) school, like medical A and P (anatomy and physiology) and terminology.
The Gauntlet: You?re just like the boys from Carcass!
Travis: Yea! Ha! Ha! Sort of. But they never did any of that stuff. My lyrics are a bit different. I got turned on to that kind of stuff from always being into horror movies and gore, the more extreme the better. And when music came along, it was Death and Carcass. I got really into that stuff. But I decided to actually learn about it, learn about what I was reading. That?s kind of what drove me. In my freshman or sophomore year high school picture, I?m sitting there in a Carcass long sleeve. So I started trying to write those gory lyrics back then. And I?ve been doing it ever since.
The Gauntlet: If you were telling someone what kind of music Cattle Decapitation plays, would you call it death grind?
Travis: Yea. It is death grind. And I understand that people need labels to know what they?re getting. But I?m just more into the extreme music. If you are going to label it, just call it extreme music. Because death metal is an extreme art form, and so is grindcore. I think we?re a perfect mix between the two, with a lot of melody and actual songwriting in there.
The Gauntlet: Are there any bands, heroes from the past, perhaps, that you?d like to go out and gig with?
Travis: Well, it looks like Suffocation?s coming back. So that would be kind of nice.
The Gauntlet: I?m hoping so. But I think it?s nothing more than a rumor, as it stands.
Travis: I?ve seen some little details. But you?re right; it?s still kind of general and vague. But, I don?t know. Carcass will never get back together again. Napalm Death would be fun to go out with. I?m just stoked that we get to go out with Gwar and Cannibal. That?s just like blowing our load right when our album comes out!
But I don?t know, dude. It would have to be a bunch of reunions, because I think we?re into a lot of old defunct bands. There aren?t too many bands that we would really freak out about playing with.
The Gauntlet: Your website?s links are diverse, to say the least. There are bands, organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Rotten.com (a celebration of the gory side of life?and death), and the Church of Euthanasia (whose four pillars are: suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy - viewer discretion is advised!). There?s something for everyone.
Travis: Well, it?s all about (revealing) one extreme to another and just exposing the cool, disturbing and sick information that?s out there. Why not be a part of it? Why not indulge yourself? Ha! Ha! We?re just introducing people to other sources of information: everything from loving a kitten to disgorging an unborn fetus.
The Gauntlet: Ha! Ha! Like I said, there?s a treat for everyone! Can you tell us more about the Church of Euthanasia (sure to ruffle the feathers of conservative diehards everywhere)? Whether taken literally or with a grain of salt, as satire or otherwise, once one gets past its shocking and disturbing nature, the concepts discussed are quite interesting and thought provoking.
Travis: It is very interesting. There?s a lot of really weird stuff in there. I?m still trying to get a grasp on it. We?re bizarre, so if a site is bizarre and weird, I?m going to try to link to it. We don?t really pay too much attention to our links. I should probably go out there and find something worse - even weirder stuff. I like their banner that we put up. It changes every time, and it?s usually something twisted or true. There?s a lot of truth to the stuff that?s on there. It?s just a warped view of reality and lifestyle.
The Gauntlet: You seem to have a hand in the site?s activity. Are these links provided as a personal resource, then, or do they serve as a vehicle to bring awareness of certain causes to your fans?
Travis: Yea. We want our fans to be aware of things we?re into. Like, the link to PETA is there to raise awareness. And when you put that link next to something that you would think to be totally opposite, you can actually see the correlations between the two. Basically, though, life sucks, and that?s kind of what most of those links expose.
The Gauntlet: Wes Benscoter, one of metal?s renown cover illustrators (whose r?sum? includes Slayer, Mortician and Broken Hope), was responsible for creating ?To Serve Man?s? grotesque cover art. I?m sure you?re stoked about that.
Travis: Yea! Totally! He was super cool. He was really open to it. He hadn?t done anything brutal in a long time. That was what was cool about this whole thing. Metal Blade hadn?t done anything really, really brutal in a long time. They were looking for something new, brutal, fresh, weird (and) fast. And then they got us in touch with Benscoter, and that was the same thing he had to say. He was like, ?man, I haven?t done anything brutal in a long time. I totally want to do this.? So it worked out really great.