After forming in Denver, Colorado, twenty years ago, death grind mainstays Cephalic Carnage laboured in relative obscurity in the American extreme metal underground until their 2000 Relapse Records signing and subsequent release of their sophomore album, death grind masterpiece ‘Exploiting Dysfunction.’ The band, often hailed as the most inventive band in metal, strives to marry genre bending oddness with brutality and, most importantly, stellar songwriting. Earning major accolades in the metal press for their every output, the band nevertheless remains tongue-in-cheek as it attacks genres as varied as black metal and metalcore with musical parodies while adding features of every musical style from jazz to doom. Nökkvi (Gone Postal, Svartidauði) and I sat down with two of these of self-proclaimed potheads to get the straight scoop.
Bogi: I saw you guys play seven years ago and the show was pretty ferocious. Is the band still that powerful on stage?
Steve: It definitely is.
Leonard: We’ve turned down the craziness but we still retain the energy. We don’t have the same members now so it’s a different kind of energy. You twist your ankle a couple of times you stop jumping around as much. But it’s what it needs to be, you know.
Bogi: There was definitely a big leap between your debut album ‘Conforming to Abnormality’ and sophomore record ‘Exploiting Dysfunction.’ What was it that happened during that time frame?
Leonard: I always thought of ‘Conforming…’ as our first real demo. It was just a stepping stone to get there, but you know the songs we were just writing with Steve and John at the time…
Steve: ‘Conforming…’ was like me and John the drummer came from a band and Leonard and Zach were Cephalic and we just kinda wrote and meshed our style and their style but not really together yet, they had their individual songs and our songs. They were already kinda pre-written songs for the other bands and the ‘Exploiting..’ were all of us together and that were we started…
Steve: Yeah that was the first song that we wrote together actually. And then there was “Hybrid”.
Bogi: Why is “Hybrid” not on the set list tonight, or any other songs off of ‘Exploiting…’?
Steve: It’s the member changes. The people we have playing with us don’t know so much. They had to learn what they could in a quick time. We focus more on the ‘Anomalies’ and ‘Lucid Interval’ era and, you know ‘Misled by Certainty’ as well.
Bogi: And just one song off of ‘Xenosapien’?
Steve: Yeah, “Endless Cycle of Violence.” That’s a song people like and they’d be pretty bummed out if we didn’t play it…
Nökkvi: Do you guys agree on the best Cephalic album, or is it always the newest one?
Both: Mine is always the latest one.
Bogi: Do you often come up with tracks that are just too far out there and you have to throw away?
Leonard: No not yet.
Steve: There’s riffs that get that get rejected for sure.
Bogi: Nothing that is just too wild?
Steve: No, no. The only thing we ever did that was real weird is that we recorded some covers, among them a Faith No More song that never got released. It would have been really cool but it was taking too long and we were recording our album and trying to focus on not just making this a FNM song. It takes all this time and production to make it sound like that.
Nökkvi: What I really like about Cephalic Carnage, and this is gonna sound a bit cliché, is the variety and the mix. Not a lot of bands mix genres like that.
Steve: Not a lot of bands listen to Mr. Bungle either. Mr. Bungle are the kings of transition. Otherwise you just have a lot of riffs, but if they don’t connect to the riff that it goes after…
Bogi: Then you just have Origin…
Here Nökkvi and the guys enter a long conversation about Mr. Bungle….
Bogi: Will we be seeing a new album in 2013?
Steve: I think so yeah.
Leonard: It should be our funnest record yet.
Bogi: That guy on the answering machine (a lengthy sample on ‘Exploiting Dysfunction’ with a pissed of guy going on about money the band owes him)?
Steve: That was on my pager. Not something we could even answer, that’s how old it was. He was going on about a CD that was out of print on Headfuckers Records. We met the guy and he was big, like 6 foot 8. If you notice in the conversation he was talking lots of shit but when we met him he was all like “I wasn’t really saying anything…”
Bogi: Do you usually get high before a show?
Leonard: We just get high whenever. Being stoned is fun; it gets you numbed to the situation. If you sit there and go “Oh jeez, there 1,300 people out there tonight, man we have to play amazing,” you’re gonna kill yourself mentally, you’re gonna beat yourself up and when you go out there on stage you’re already gonna be mentally tired and it may hinder your performance…