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Cannibal Corpse

by Bryan Bardine

Cannibal Corpse has been a leader in the Death Metal scene since forming in Buffalo, New York in 1988., Less than a year later, the band was signed to Metal Blade Records, a continuing partnership of nearly 35 years. The band is working its way on tour covering the U.S. and Canada, promoting their 15th album Violence Unimagined. This album, along with the tour have gotten rave reviews, Drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz spoke with me about the band’s history, the album, and the tour.

SFL Music: Can you tell me a little about how the band got started and how you keep it going more than 30 years into your career?

Paul Mazurkiewicz: It’s been crazy, you know. We were kids from Buffalo, NY and we had dreams like everyone else. We just loved the music, we love to create music, we formed a band to see what would happen. We had no expectation that this would last as long as it has. We love doing it.

SFL Music: You’ve played 1000’s of shows over the years what is the secret of your longevity?

Looking back, we just try to write good songs, catchy, different than the last song. We’ve been fortunate that fans really dig our music and we’ve persevered.

SFL Music: Violence Unimagined has been getting great reviews, did your writing/recording process change at all for this album than from previous ones?

“When we first started, we didn’t have much time, so we had to get done much quicker. The first three albums were very collaborative. Someone would have an idea for a song, they were very pieced together. During the recording of The Bleeding Alex asked to write a whole song by himself, and since then for the most part songs are done individually. There’s little collaboration on individual songs. Also, now we have more time to write and record so we can do more things and spent more time. Whereas in the past we would record the whole album in 10 days, now we have several months to work on them.

SFL Music: What can we expect on this tour? With 15 albums how do you decide which songs to play—It must be very difficult.

It’s become a little more difficult because we do have so much, we can play. It is unfortunate that we can’t play more songs live, but we are lucky that we don’t have to rely on just a few. Obviously, we want to promote the new record so we will play a few from that and there are a handful that we feel we do have to play each night.

SFL Music: What is your favorite song to play?

“Hammer Smashed Face.” We know the energy of the crowd will be top every night when we play this song. It is electrifying.”

SFL Music: You guys are one of the defining bands in Death Metal. What brought you to this kind of music? What was it about this genre that you were able to connect with or build on?

Being products of when we grew up in the 80s, we were young teens then. We were into metal, but there wasn’t much else in metal—we were listening to Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden—it stemmed from there, whatever the time frame you grow up in. In 85-86 thrash ruled our world—Possessed, Slayer, Dark Angel. These bands were influential for us because there was no real Death Metal yet. Then we heard Death which was even crazier; the songs were becoming more dark. That was really appealing to us.

We were growing with it. Eaten Back to Life has such a thrashy vibe, that’s what were into then. We were still trying to find our identity. It was a great time to grow up—an awesome time.

SFL Music: How have you seen Death Metal change over time? Do you think is growing? Staying the same? Getting smaller?

It is growing. I think it is getting more popular. It is going fine. For a time, it was much more intense, but I like that many newer bands are going back full-circle to the early sound from the early-mid 90s. It is here to stay—it is evolving. As long as fans are there to support it. It will be here forever.

SFL Music: What do you guys do on the road to stay motivated/focused? Death Metal is an incredibly draining type of music to play, plus you are on the road and away from your families.

It is our job. We have to focus on that—do proper things like after a gig get a good night sleep. The basics—stay hydrated, eat well. You just have to make the most of it. You don’t get much privacy, so when you get a chance and if the weather is nice go outside take a walk or if you are in a cool city look around. We just have to focus on what we are doing, doing those things each day. Before the tour practice, be prepared—which we are. It is a different mindset on the road. You have to stay focused.

SFL Music: What do you listen to when you aren’t listening to Death Metal?

I don’t listen to much Death Metal these days. I am a product of rock n’ roll and I love those bands from the 60’s, 70s, and 80s. Rock and roll is in my soul more than anything else. In fact, myself and some friends formed a rock band Umbilicus, which is pure rock n’ roll. Our first album, Path of 1000 Suns was just released on Listenable Insanity Records.

SFL Music: The band has had pretty consistent members over the years, Erik Rutan was the first new one since Rob Barrett returned about 15 years ago. What do you guys do to stay together?

We all have a common goal. We get along well. It is a 5-person relationship—it’s never perfect, and sometimes things are harder than others. I guess you could say we have a type of camaraderie. We’ve been cohesive when we’ve had changes in the lineup. We’ve been very fortunate and lucky. Also, we’re never on the road for more than a couple months at a time. It can be more difficult on the group when you go out longer than that, it helps us maintain better relationships when we go out for a month, come home for a month.

SFL Music: Can you share a funny story from the road?

I don’t know if it’s a funny story—it’s a scary or odd story. We were on tour in Holland and after the show these 5 or 6 drunken hoodlums started messing with the guys in the band. I walked out of the bus to see what was going on and I feel this sharp pain and I look down and I’m bleeding. I said, “Oh my God I’m going to die!” I went to the hospital and the doctor said it was mostly superficial. He said it was probably a blunt instrument like a key. It was just the second show of the tour, but I was able to play and there was no long term damage. It is a cool battle story more than anything though.

Sure thing, see you there.

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