Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Interview: Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer have been pumping out some of the some of the most brutal grindcore since their creation in 1997. The band has just put the finishing touches on “Book Burner”, their newest record which drops October 23, 2012 on Relapse Records. I’m sitting in the control room of Visceral Sound in Maryland where I have in front of me vocalist JR Hayes, guitarist Scott Hull and sampler Blake Harrison. While newly-appointed drummer Adam Jarvis, also of Misery Index, shoots drum endorsement videos in the next room, we get to talking about the new record, studio, drummer and more. 
Photo by: Nick Martin

Cha: We had short straight grind on "Prowler in the Yard" and "Terrifyer", slightly longer songs on "Phantom Limb", straight up ambient doom on "Natasha". What can we expect from "Book Burner"?

Scott: Shorter grind. It’s a mix of a lot of different things but definitely a lot more shorter grind on "Book Burner" then there was on "Phantom Limb".

Blake: When Scott was starting to write and get some ideas, he asked JR and me what we wanted and we were like “lean, mean and stripped down”. Let’s just make it raw. I think the longest song clocks in at 4 minutes. The rest are about a minute long.

Scott: We got some new blood in the band and that blood wants to grind a little more so we’re trying to play to that strength.

Cha: Speaking of which, this new record is your first with Adam Jarvis on drums. Can you discuss the events surrounding the exit of Brian Harvey, the brief involvement of Dave Witte and any other drummers you had in mind, to Jarvis being a full time member?

Blake: Brian left. Let’s just leave it at that.

Scott: He had other issues in his life that sort of diverted his focus. He was our brother for 13 or so years, but I think the effects of the bad economy and his home life and work life kind of prevented him from being able to push forward with the band and we sort of let that situation dangle. 

JR: There was a little while where we thought we could work it out like we have in the past but it just got to a breaking point and we had to move on.

Cha: Ok, so Harvey is out. Where do you go?

Blake: We had practice, and there were some dark days in there where one of the three of us would get discouraged and that would move around.

Scott: I thought that once we made the decision to move on, it happened pretty quickly.

Blake: We tossed around a couple names; Dave Witte was one of them. The three of us have known Dave for a long time, Scott and JR a lot longer then me.

Scott: I actually played with Dave when we were going to do the Agoraphobic Nosebleed stuff live so I’ve known him for quite some time so I asked him pretty much immediately and he said “yes”.

Blake: JR and I went down to Richmond to hang out with him for a weekend. Personality, which we knew would be there, was there. He started learning songs and came up to jam.

Scott: It was a pretty easy transition. Almost too easy. We hit the ground running and we practiced every weekend and we got to working on some new material. We booked some shows even for the last part of 2011. I’d say towards April or so it fell apart. Dave has an existing injury that kind of got aggravated by doing the blasts cause he’s sort of been away from it for a while. He hurt his wrist on tour with Burnt By the Sun and he said he either needed to get surgery, which would not guarantee him the ability to play drums at all after that, or he had to cut out doing all the blastbeats. 

Blake: To be fair in his defense, he told us he really tried to muscle through it and thought it would go away. And he said it just kept getting worse and worse. So he bowed out after that. And Municipal Waste is constantly on the road and we were kind of worried about that. One of the names we tossed around was Jarvis. We talked about Kevin Talley, Jake Cregger. That’s pretty much it.

Scott: I think Jarvis was pretty much the next one on the list.

Blake: When I was in my other band, we practiced in the same spot as Misery Index. I saw Jarvis there and had told him that Brian didn’t work with us anymore and that we got Dave and he said “What the fuck?” I said, “You’re next on the list”. And literally like a week later, Dave quit and Scott talked to Jarvis when he was in Indonesia. 

Scott: He was definitely down for it. So once he got back, I gave him demos of the new material and he loved it.

JR: Right from the first practice we knew it was a good fit. He pretty much owned it from the get-go.

Blake: He got right to fuckin work. He came home from Indonesia and started learning songs on his own.

Scott: He’s like a machine man. He really came in and nailed everything he was given to work with. Technically, he’s been fantastic of course. Everyone knows how well he plays, but personality-wise he fits in with us just like anyone else ever could.

Blake: That’s a big concern with us.

JR: No drama.

Scott: Right, no drama. Everyone’s on the same page. There’s a little adjustment because Adam is more in the mode of touring all the time and we’re not. But he’s sort of geared down a little and knows we don’t play out as often as Misery Index. Outside of that, it’s been a painless transition. 

Cha: How much did Adam have to do with writing any of the new stuff? Or was that Scott programming the drums, at least in demo form?

Scott: It’s been a process to get this material written over the course of now three different drummers. The writing process started before Brian ever left the band. There are songs written when Brian was in the band, songs written when Dave was in the band and there were songs written of course, when Adam joined the band. So they’re all written to the different strengths of three different drummers. In fact, most of my drum machine demos are intended as a rough sketch but to Adams credit he really came in and just learned the drum lines verbatim, which blew me away because I wasn’t expecting that. So even the little drum fuck ups that I would program, he learned those and he would actually do them in the studio. He was actually ready to play some of these songs without any accompaniment. We just point the mics at him, get the sounds and he would actually just play by himself. I would just overdub guitars later. So he was a professional about it. 

Cha: This album is also the first one you recorded here at Scott’s Studio, Visceral Sound. Was it easier then going to a real studio like Omega Studios where you recorded Phantom Limb?

JR: I mean, for me it was great. I thought the vocals went pretty easy.

Blake: Not just that. There were times at Omega where we felt we didn’t deserve to be there. Like it was almost too nice. We would leave the place trashed and then interns would come in and clean everything up.

JR: I think it wasn’t necessarily the atmosphere as much as it is we’re just not used to being out of our own element. 

Blake: I’m not gonna name any names, but Scott mixed "Phantom Limb", and it was because the people we were working with didn’t really “get” what we were trying to do.

JR: It would be like we brought in Babyface to produce the album.

Scott: Well, it was a great experience instead of writing every song and recording it piece by piece; going in like a normal band does, preparing the whole CD, going into a studio, tracking everything and getting it done in 4 or 5 solid days of recording. So that was a great experience for us and we wanted to repeat that, but we wanted to maintain control over getting the sounds and our environment and stuff so in that sense it was a lot easier for us to record here having built the studio, having the equipment and making sure that everything sounded the way it needed to sound. We can maintain our pace which what we kinda need.

JR: Which is too slow for everybody else but… (laughter)

Scott: But perfect for us. There are plenty of bands out there for people to listen to. They can hang out and pop a squat until we get done with our CD and then they can hopefully enjoy it. This CD we probably put a little more of an expectation on our heads so the recording process was fairly difficult. 

Cha: I have to ask, is this CD the first thing that you have recorded here besides the Agoraphobic Nosebleed stuff? Was this the first full-band recording?

Scott: Yeah this is the first full-band thing. I passed up a few requests to record stuff just because I wanted to make sure we recorded Pig Destroyer here first and vet it and make sure everything worked out and there were no major issues with the studio. And it sounds great. The new CD I think sounds fantastic. I can’t wait to get in and record some more stuff. That being said, I’ll probably record some other bands here and there but I don’t 

want to do a full-time studio thing.

Cha: Jumping off topic, as recently as last week, Pig Destoyer was confirmed for 2013’s Maryland Deathfest. Will you be playing in the States anytime before then?

Blake: More then likely. We really can’t confirm anything, but more then likely we’ll do some record-release shows. Probably not a lot though. 

Cha: As a grindcore band, what do you think the best-selling format of the new record is going to be? CD, vinyl or download.

Blake: Vinyl I think.

JR: Yeah it’s probably going to be vinyl, I would hope. Maybe download. I mean I don’t know. I don’t think it really matters. I think you just put it out on whatever formats you think or going to sell period.

Scott: I think people are going to download it more then anything else. Either through legal means or not.

Blake: The CD will still sell.

JR: We tried to make the packaging pretty cool and add enough extra stuff to make it worth buying if somebody wants to. I don’t think it’s good to worry about stuff that you don’t have any control over.

Blake: Not just that. We’re just not Lars Ulrich (laughter).

Cha: You’re about to hit Japan with Nasum and Napalm Death. You couldn’t book a better grindcore bill if you tried. I’m going to make you. If you could add any band to these shows who would it be? Living or dead.

JR: Probably Anal Cunt. They were with us the last time we were over there with those same bands.

Blake: That’s true. It’s be like “Part Deux”.

Cha: How about living?

Blake: Rotten Sound would be a cool addition to that.

JR: Assuck. My vote would be Assuck.

Cha: Are there any new grind bands you’re listening to these days?

Blake: There’s a lot. Cloud Rat is one. Afternoon Gentlemen. 

Scott: Bastard Deceiver. These are all bands you can get on Bandcamp and they’re pretty fantastic.

JR: I’m all about the Nachos. Weekend Nachos.

Cha: Last question. About 2 years ago, there was talk of you doing a ton of splits with a bunch of bands, like Rotten Sound and Coffins, to name a few. I know you’re about to release a fucking full-length but are there any splits or releases you’re planning? Are those splits ever happening or is this just shitty timing?

Blake: Honestly I think that whole idea was very grandiose on our part. 

JR: That was just one of those ideas. It probably started as one innocent little split with a band and then it got blown completely out of proportion.

Blake: Out of control. We were like “alright we’ll do that and we’ll release these two tracks at a time and then collect them and put them as a CD that’ll be the new record”. I don’t have high hope for something like that ever happening.

Scott: Well with the new studio, the process for coming in and tracking new material is a lot easier then it has been in that past so it’s possible, once we get over the hump of getting the new CD out then we can do that. We’ve re-upped conversations with Rotten Sound and Black Dahlia Murder to do those two splits. I’d like to still do those splits, maybe not nine of them, but I’d still like to do them.

Blake: Plus we’re doing a Decibel Flexi. And maybe something for Record Store Day.


~Alex Cha


  1. Not to nit-pick but you tend to write "then" when you mean "than." Good interview though.

  2. fucking great interview, I can't believe we almost had David Witte do the drums on the new one

  3. shame about the drummers. prowler in the yard and all those old splits were one of my biggest reasons for getting into the drums.

  4. This interview is nice as fuck. And I echo Childers' sentiment completely.

  5. Folks- Thanks for the kind words about the interview!!!!!