Since Cannibal Corpse relocated to the warmer regions of Tampa, Florida and joined up with vocalist George Fisher in the mid ‘90s, the trajectory for the death metal quintet has been nothing but upward. Arguably the most successful and longest-running band in the now-crowded genre, this gore-obsessed group have garnered the kind of following and reputation that any other act would kill for (let’s hope figuratively, not literally).
Since starting their self-imposed obsession with all things bloodied, defiled, smashed, or violently coerced, the group — Alex Webster bass guitar), Paul Mazurkiewicz (drums), Rob Barrett (rhythm guitar), George Fisher (lead vocals), Patrick O'Brien (lead guitar) — have helped countless other smaller, like-minded death metal acts by either endorsing them publicly or bringing some on tour as support. Unlike the many bands now embracing the death metal aesthetic, their sound was created in 1988 and continues to be fresh and vital, in addition to nauseating and thoroughly disgusting.
[jump] For those who've never heard of the band, the group gained notoriety after a brush with Senator Bob Dole in 1995 who accused them, in addition to artists like Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew, of undermining the national character of the United States.
After intensive touring and hammering the United States' club scene, the quintet have achieved well over 2 million sales of their entire catalog and now draw one of the biggest death metal crowds in the United States.
SF Weekly caught up with a quite cheerful George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher just before the band’s show in Salt Lake City, Utah. The stocky singer, best described as the equivalent to Nathan Explosion's character on the Adult Swim show, Metalocalypse, was unexpectedly garrulous.
Everyone must be exhausted. The band's road regimen is in full-swing and you're still touring to support A Skeletal Domain (2014) release. How are things?
Pretty damn good. We've done about 18 or so shows so far. The crowds have been crazy and so have our fans. We're really looking forward to playing San Francisco again, as well. You know, we've been around so long, we know how to get along on the road and stay there. It's like we always know when we've gone too far. Of course, we still like to break each others' balls now and then, and love to push buttons once in awhile, but we always stop before shit happens.
You replaced Chris Barnes (the original lead singer) in 1995 and delivered a slam-dunk album called Vile in 1996. Fans were instantly on-board even with a new singer. Were you expecting that?
Not really. It was pretty cool to see the reaction, though. When Vile came out, nobody really knew who I was. Of course, my former band Monstrosity was known in the underground, but the rest had no idea who I was. We had to come out punching our listeners in the head. From the moment the album launched into the first song (“Devoured By Vermin”) with four drum hits, the album really just took off.
The band has released 13 records to date. You could practically play just these records and extended plays from here to eternity and never hear the same set twice. Why do you feel a new album is important every couple of years?
Honestly, we like to record and put out records. We're not one of those bands who sits down and says, 'We don't need to do anything else.' That's not our style. We do tour a lot more than other bands, so it ends up taking longer, but that's what our fans expect, as well. We don't have a working title for a new album and have anything special planned yet, but we will get to it. We're gonna take some time off soon, but we don't really have a time table for this stuff.
Corpse's lyrical content has spawned thousands of imitators, but it seems like you've got a great bunch of twisted minds helping you with your lyrics.
I've written a few here and there myself. It doesn't really interest me to write lyrics anymore, though. Alex, Paul and even Rob now do all the writing and it works out great. When they send me stuff for vocals, I tweak 'em and offer my own input to help bring my own influence to a song. That works great for now. If I feel like writing again, which I don't right now, I may do later down the road.
Does it strike you as odd to be blurting out lyrics to songs with titles such as “Fucked With A Knife” or “Icepick Lobotomy” at the age of 46?
I don't really think of it that way. This is what I do. Also, these are just words I'm singing and they only help to tell a story. We have a bunch of songs that are really challenging to sing live. “Make Them Suffer” (from 2006's Kill ) is pretty hard and is probably one of the most difficult to get right. Some of the songs are just really fast which is also a pain. Once we're a few shows into a tour, I feel like I can do anything in the set.
What do you do with yourself when you're at home and not on tour screaming and grunting out lyrics about being buried in cement ?
When I get home and I have two weeks, I just want to hang with my kids and my wife. I love playing World of Warcraft a lot. I am also crazy about Target. There are times when my wife and I don't even need anything and we'll just go there to hang out and walk around. Honestly, and I am not shitting you, it's really just a happy place for us. I'm not trying to be a spokesman for them or anything and I know it sounds weird and shit, but I just love Target.
Metal Blade has been the band's label since 1990. Are you looking elsewhere?
No way. We have a great relationship with Metal Blade. Brian Slagel (label honcho) has treated us awesome from the beginning and it's been a super run. We plan to keep on going until we stop. In this day and age, it's true most bands like us and smaller bands as well make their real money from merchandise and tours. Everyone knows record sales have really hit the shit. Even when it was at its worst, we never lost the support from Metal Blade. We're really just happy to still be doing it this long when so many have stopped. Everybody has sacrificed a lot of stuff to be out here and we'll continue to do so. I will say it's not getting easier, but in the end, we're always gonna be very easy and approachable to our fans who made us who were are. I'm always down to say hello and take a picture. And we're living our dream making a living doing what we love.
Cannibal Corpse play at 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 7, at The Fillmore. $25.