Cannibal Corpse: Interview with drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz

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Cannibal Corpse

Two months ago, Cannibal Corpse were on possibly their biggest UK tour of their distinguished career alongside Devildriver and The Black Dahlia Murder. Rocksins were lucky enough to go along to the London date of the tour, and even luckier to be granted some time to talk with Cannibal Corpse’s drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz. Paul was very open and engaging on a number of issues relating to Cannibal Corpse and his own playing, so please read on for the good stuff!

How’s this tour been going so far?

It’s been going really great man, we’re almost done here, got four more shows. Probably be the biggest show tonight, here in London but the tours been great so far and we’ve played some great shows, great countries and had some awesome turnouts, a lot of fun so I would say it’s been a successful run that’s for sure.

Have you got a favourite show that you’ve played this run?

I don’t know, there’s been a couple of good ones, but they’re all good. For me it’s hard to pinpoint these days as I’m just sitting back there doing my thing so I don’t even know what’s going on out there half the time I mean there could be riots happening and I wouldn’t know, or there could be just ten people watching. I don’t know anymore! So If it comes down to personal satisfaction when I walk away from a show, going “man I felt like I nailed it,” and I know that’s happened a lot on this tour but like I said, realistically, tonight’s going to be the biggest show of the tour and we’re talking about almost 2000 people, so it’s gonna be a sick show. Everytime we’ve played London it is one of the best so I think probably when it comes down to it when we can sit back and look at all the shows at the end of the day this is probably going to be the one that we’ll be going “that was the best show.”

Do you sort of have a post-show breakdown?

Sure, sure for me it comes down to my personal playing, sure you always want the fans to be going crazy and y’know going slam dancing crowd riding and all that, you want it to be loud so when it comes down to it, even if that happens, I still want to walk away from it feeling that I performed. You are your own worst critic so theres gonna be shows that I walk away when there’s going to have been some problems, maybe some technical issues maybe something happened – we’re only human and I might be more displeased with my performance in general and then the next night I might go “yeah! I felt really good with that show” now was the crowd better the night before? Maybe, maybe not but y’know like I said, it just comes down to my personal view on how I played.

You’ve mentioned that its kinda hard to tell about the crowd, but do you have a favourite country to tour through?

They’re all great, they’re all different. If you’re talking about shows in general then in the sense of the fans anywhere down in Mexico, South America I mean, the fans really are just rabid, they’re really rabid for death metal and just extreme music. So when we play there, its like the electricity is just amazing with the adrenaline and the atmosphere. Y’know but theres some great countries that we’ve played, everywhere in the world we’re happy to get anywhere – it’s so different from America and y’know if we can see the world we’ve been all over the place so I don’t think I’d have an actual favourite per se but I mean, theres just ben a lot of great ones that we’ve played but I would say definitely for the show aspect, for how the fans react, for how nuts they go usually its like Mexico and South America that are going to be our most intense shows.

So how do you go about structuring the setlist and what do you think about when doing so.

We just really think of y’know the songs we know that we HAVE to play, theres a handful of staples in our set that we know would be tough to take out and then its just really trying to make it different every other tour kind of thing. Y’know but we really don’t go into it looking at where we’re playing, no its more just going y’know we played this song for the last six tours maybe lets just get rid of that one and bring something back we haven’t played awhile. We’re just trying to keep it fresh and it just ends up being wherever we end up playing – s0 be it.

How do you try and balance material? You mention you’ve got the old ones that people would flip out if you didn’t play but how do you balance that old stuff with  material from the latest release?

And that’s what we do, we just balance it out exactly. For instance, I think we’re playing fourteen tonight, try to represent every album if possible since we’re not closing the night tonight and its not our own headlining tour, if we played our own headlining tour we’d play about twenty songs. Tonights an hour, so we get fourteen which is still a good set but we always try to represent every album. Not every album may get represented  because yes we want to promote the new record, like tonight for instance we’re playing four songs off the new record, so that leaves us ten other songs and then you’ve got a couple off evisceration plague, a couple off say, tomb of the mutilated or something then before you know it you’re running out of songs here and out of albums to choose from. In a perfect world when we get our own headline we want to get at least one song per album if possible. But tonight I don’t think that’s going to be possible unfortunately.

Are there any concepts for a song where you’ve thought up lyrics and thought that its just way too extreme.

Not really, not myself personally, I’ve been writing lyrics for a long time now and usually I don’t work that way y’know I work in the opposite way. I really like to have like a title first before I actually get the subject matter going, so that’s how I usually base whats going to end up happening or what the story might be is off the title more or less. So usually no I haven’t, I guess I wouldn’t just think about it. If I didn’t want to think about it I wouldn’t come up with something and think it’s too brutal

Do you know if any of the other guys have thought of something and thought it’s too extreme?

I don’t know, I don’t think so. We’ve went through a lot of subject matter in our career, obviously our old singer wrote a lot of that in the early days and he wrote some pretty blunt, brutal lyrics so there might be stuff I may not write about now and it’s not like I thought about it and had a story and just went I won’t do it. Its more I just won’t even think about it, like certain subjects that I might just go no, it’s not me, it’s not cannibal. That’s more or less what would end up happening than someone actually coming up with something and going I don’t think this can be done.

Have you got a personal favourite song, musically or lyrically.

There’s a lot of them, y’know I like the new album a lot. I really do feel that its our best the new album – Torture I mean, I like playing a song like ‘Make Them Suffer’ off Kill is a really cool song, I like that a lot, I think it turned out really well, its fun to play. Then I got a lot that I look back on that I wrote lyrically going man, I forgot about songs and then I might read some lyrics that I wrote from Gallery of Suicide and go wow I forgot about that, they’re some pretty cool lyrics there. I like the song Psychotic Precision I wrote and To Decompose, I really cherish all the songs I write too I obviously try and do the best I can do lyrically and like I said maybe some turn out better than others but its kind of hard question to answer cause there’s a bunch of them. But ‘Make Them Suffer’ to me is one of my favourite songs.

How do you feel about bands like Cannabis Corpse taking your legacy in a very direct way and doing their own thing with it?

That’s flattering you know, its pretty cool that someones gonna want to parody the band in a sense albeit just using the title but they actually did contact us first to before they did that, because they were big cannibal fans and that’s why they did it, they didn’t do it for reasons of making fun of the band or anything like that. So when they contacted us and asked if it was OK that they did this so we said “ yeah man!” Its killer, a great flattery that we they’d wanna use our name for the most part and some song titles and all that, so it’s pretty cool

Your last UK tour was noticeably more extreme with Triptykon and Job For A Cowboy have you been noticing a difference in audience between that tour and this tour?

I mean, its been a great tour we get fans out I mean, if anything this tour may be a little bit bigger, we only did that Triptykon, Job For A Cowboy in the UK so we can’t really make an assessment because what we did on that last run, yeah, we ended up just going to England with Triptykon and Job For A Cowboy, the rest of mainland Europe was a different package so this time it’s the same package coming over here as opposed to just us coming with a different package, but like I said, from what I’m gathering already the numbers are supposed to be bigger for this show in comparison to the Triptykon/Cannibal show last year, so right there, if theres more people today well then maybe this package is a little bit bigger, but we’ll see with the next three shows after today to find out if that’s the case.

Have you been playing in the same order every night, or mixing it up with Devildriver?

It’s a coheadlining bill but we were closing the night every night in Europe they’re going to close the night here in the UK. They closed the night one night in Europe – in Berlin, they did a video so they closed the night but these shows we’re going to be playing before them for these four shows?

Do you think there’s more appeal to co-headliners like this one as opposed to just a Cannibal Corpse – because Devildriver are more groove orientated, you’remore from a death metal background.

It depends really, some work better than others, I mean, we ourselves love brutal packages, having like more of a death metal package y’know we love that! But hten at the same time its cool mixing it up a bit, like I said, that why I think tonight might be bigger than the last one because we’ve got two big headlining bands and they’re different bands which will have maybe a different audience so maybe we’ll be playing in front of some Devildriver fans that have never seen or heard us before and it’ll be the same with Devildriver they’ll be playing in front of fans that are more Cannibal fans that maybe wouldn’t have come to see Devildriver if they were headlining their own thing. IT works both ways, I think we prefer pure death metal packages, but these sort of tours work well too.

I know you were saying about how you’re stuck at the back most of the time but are there any differences between UK and American or European fans?

Its all kind of the same it really just depends on the country and the city you’re in we notice different regions y’know like here in the UK the fans are kinda very American very rabid, very aggressive then in places in certain parts of Europe. They’re into the music but they just want to stand and watch y’know that kind of stuff and it happens more so in America that thye go a little bit crazy kinda like the UK so it varies. Its interesting how cultures are different and as long as the people are there and they’re enjoying themselves is what it comes down to. Its hard sometimes because you sit there and we might talk after and those guys [the rest of Cannibal Corpse] might go “man they weren’t moving and they didn’t seem like they were realy into it” but theres still 800 people there and they’re there at the end of the night and they’re cheering you so you almost wonder well… what? That’s just the way they are, maybe its not that kind of environment when they’re all going to go crazy and be slamming and all that kinda stuff so to me as long as the people are there and they walk away satisfied and enjoying the show then that’s great. Of course we would love the mayhem and all the craziness happening every night but if it doesn’t then that’s just the way it is and like I said yo’ve gotta maintain what you do every night regardless fo whats happening out there, and that’s what I’ve learned to do over time in my playing I focus on my drumming. I could look up a lot I could see what’s going on, I could see whats going on if I really wanted to but I don’t want to be distracted either. I want to just play my stuff and know that I have to play the same if theres ten people or there’s ten thousand. I have to play with the same intensity because this is what we do, sure’ you’re going to get more maybe adrenaline off the fans if they’re going crazy but I don’t want ot have to rely on that, I want to have to rely on what’s inside of me going alright I’m going to play the stuff that I need to be playing and get excited to just be playing the music myself.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Well we’ve got a few more dates on this tour, then we’re doing a few dates in south-east Asia, then we’ve got the Decibel tour with Napalm Death and Immolation and that’ll take us up to the end of July and then we’re just going to be doing it all again. Starting writing and that kinda stuff.

With so many albums how do you try to make each new album unique?

Well, we just do something a little bit different than the last time. The way I like to describe it is as we’ve been around 25 years we have twelve albums out, you get what we created at that moment in time. People are constantly changing, we’re progressing, we’re maturing we’re getting better at your instruments y’know, you change so from two years, three years later or earlier you’re going to be a little different. So to me its what comes out of us at this given time and I don’t know if we do anything totally conscious to do things differently but we’re Cannibal Corpse. We’re brutal death metal so its gona be kind of in that constraint and we’re limited in a sense, but we don’t mind that. We like trying to make brutal songs I guess, I don’t know its hard to explain. It comes out of us when we have to. We’re definitely more mature and better at our instruments these days than we were 25 years ago y’know so things are going to be a little different in that way so maybe we will be doing things maybe a little bit better, a little bit different. You learn some new scales, you’re trying something different. All minor, but probably a little different from what you did in the past.

So you find that you’re still progressing on your instruments?

Of course, oh yeah you’ve gotta always be doing that, or trying to anyway. I think that’s not a good thing to be getting complacent, getting stale going “oh yeah, I got I, I’m great!” No. No we’re not! I have to get better I’m constantly doing things different. For example, on this tour I did a lot of changes to my drumkit a little bit, on the fly, just to better my playing had some suggestions and stuff. Its kinda crazy to do it in the middle of a tour, but if its going to make me better then lets do it! I think you’ve always got ot thrive and strive to be better.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure artist to listen to?

Uhhm lets see, I love The Presidents Of The United States of America. I love that band. I love them. I know they’re pretty big in the UK too, I love that band, I love them. They’re so amazing.

Now we’ve got some questions from our twitter and facebook:

Have you got plans to tour more further afield, territories like Asia and specifically, Hong Kong.

No we don’t. We just played in china actually we were just there so we played South Korea, we played in china, we played in Taiwan we played, Thailand, we played indonesia. Those were the first time getting to those countries and this was just a few months back. So we were just shocked we actually made it into china and we got to play China, that was remarkable. We’re coming to find there are certain cities, certain countries, that doesn’t look we’ll be able to go to. Like, hey! Lets try going into Singapore he just went “you guys won’t be able to go to Singapore” its not gonna happen for you. So unfortunately ther may be some certain countries we won’t be able to go to ever like he was teeling us that we wouldn’t be able to get to Malaysia either so Hong Kong I don’t know but you never know. Right now, other than Jakarta and Manilla that’s all we’ve got lined up in the immediate future

Have you ever made love to a Cannibal Corpse song?

No… I don’t think I have. If I did, it would have been so long ago I wouldn’t even remember if I did. I might have, I don’t know I can’t remember [laughs] it would have been a long time ago… So I don’t know.

Thanks for chatting, I’ve just got one more question, kind of in the same vein as the last one: Could you deck a horse with one punch?

Probably not, I mean, I’ve got three horses, well I’ve got two hroses and a mule at home and I lok at these horses and I look at the mule and they’re huge animals! They are gigantic, strong, animals and its funny you mention that, I’ve got a mini horse and he’s a fairly big mini horse and I’m thinking y’know he still stands fairly tall and he still weights 400 pounds so I’m thinking yeah, it’d be tough even to knock him down I would never attempt it. But it’d be pretty tough, you’d need a really small horse I think.

Cannibal Corpse’s most recent album “Torture” is out now on Metal Blade Records.

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