Goatwhore’s Ben Falgoust on New Album, Vocal Influences + Memories of GWAR’s Dave Brockie
Goatwhore constantly keep the machine turning. As true workhorses and road dogs in the metal world, the band always have something to offer. Such is the case with Goatwhore's new album 'Constricting Rage of the Merciless.'
In this exclusive interview with vocalist Ben Falgoust, the frontman goes deep into 'Constricting Rage of the Merciless,' harnessing the influence of two of the greatest singers of all time and describing the unique genius of late GWAR mastermind Dave Brockie.
Check out our full interview with Ben Falgoust below!
For 'Constricting Rage of the Merciless,' did you go back into the studio with Erik Rutan once again?
Yeah, this is basically our fourth time with him. We pretty much started with him with 'A Haunting Curse,' our first actual release with Metal Blade. Now we're at our sixth release and we've done the last four with him, so everything's been really good. He's a great person to work with and we just kind of created a really good relationship together. He and Sammy [Duet] get along really good because they're both guitar players. They're both playing extreme music, and so they hit it off really well with things.
It's kind of like that idea that if it isn't broke, don't fix it. At the same time, we want to be happy, too. Sometimes you can deepen that situation and things will get stagnant and then things kind of teeter off, but I think every record is kind of improving.
The album cover for this record really captured my attention. I really love to look at it; crazy serpents, opening up the stomach of a heavenly woman. How does that art represent the music and the themes in the record?
Well, I think on each record, we try to capture the whole idea of it, in general. We had a good friend of ours, Jordan Barlow; he did all the art for 'Blood for the Master,' and he did all the art for the new record as well. I can't really draw that well. [Laughs] I go to him and I draw these little stick figures, and he's laughing at me, and he's like, "No no no, I understand." We sit down, we talk and I explain things, and we kind of throw ideas back and forth, you know? Me, him, and Sammy will sit down and draw these things together and they're just kind of like pencil sketch stuff.
The art for this record, especially with the title, 'Constricting Rage of the Merciless,' we wanted something more ruthless and brutal to represent all the music that was going on with it as well. So, intertwined with the lyrics and the layout of visions behind the record and stuff like that, sometimes you want to capture an idea and have it portrayed not in a simplistic, old, traditional, cliche' satanic thing.
I think that there's so much more knowledge and things behind elements in metal nowadays. I mean, look at all the bands and all the things that they're doing and the concepts that are going behind and everything like that. It's so much more thought provoking, it's deeper, and there's some simplistic elements to it, but there are also deeper elements to it, and I think that's a big thing. Especially nowadays, where digital is a big thing.
I'm really digging the lyrical approach to 'Baring Teeth for Revolt.' From whose perspective are those words coming from?
It's pretty cut and dry in a sense, but overall too, it could have different meanings for every person. For me, writing it, it was kind of like, no laws, no rules, no following some kind of grid to things, and just anybody that's trying to push you into some kind of oppressive format, whether it be religious, or social, or anything like that. It's just a fight against that. It's almost kind of like an anthem in a way. I was never really into writing lyrics as far as like an anthem-style thing, but I started writing and it all just started to tumble out and flow, and I was like, "Wow, this is neat." Within our writing, I never do chorus / verse / chorus, you know, things like that. Everything's kind of really goes through, and they don't really repeat much at all, or pretty much never, most of the time. So it was kind of a unique experience to kind of do it.
It's not really a chorus / verse / chorus, but it's got the "We are, We are." It also ties into the title 'Constricting Rage of the Merciless.' At one point you're pushed into this corner too far, and there's only two things I'm going to do. You're either going to curl up and give up, or you're going to lash out, you know? It's like an animal force in that, and with 'Baring Teeth for Revolt,' it's that same kind of essence too.
I really love that you guys have put an old-school heavy metal riff to it. Did any older influences come into play for a song like that?
Oh yeah, I mean, we're influenced by a lot of traditional metal. Things like Judas Priest, AC/DC, Venom, Celtic Frost, Motorhead, Accept. So those elements always come back into our writing style. I know for a while we got painted into a black metal corner. I mean, that was a big influence. When we first started, Celtic Frost and Venom were the basis of the band, you know? And we were more in that traditional aspect, but as we evolved all of our other influences started to rear their heads as well.
We have thrash metal influences, we have death metal influences, we have very traditionally heavy metal influences, we even have some crust punk, grind influence on our stuff, as well. So, we have all those elements, and each time we write a song all those elements twist and further that in a different fashion. And they all fit certain ways. And sometimes you'll see more of one influence than the other, and that's just how we write. It's just kind of how it unfolds and how it flows out with us.
Did you guys compose the orchestral part on 'Cold Earth Consumed in Dying Flesh'?
Yeah, Sammy put together all of that. We had the whole song structure, and then he was like, "I'm working on this like really dismal, kind of creepy, intro thing. I'm thinking of connecting it to the beginning of that." And then so we started laying that out, and then he got into the studio with it and he got to be able to add more atmospheric stuff to it and open it up even more. It all sits really well. The song from beginning to end just like, it just drags you in, drags you in, and then finally at that point where the whole shift changes, it's just like a pummeling bulldozer. I just like the whole aggression of it. It's definitely a different aspect than we've done in the past, but it is still Goatwhore, you can still tell it's Goatwhore.
There's a lot of growth in this album. You've been exploring your vocals from super low gutturals to really high shrills. Can you tell me a little about those dynamics and the evolution of your voice?
Yeah, I have a lot of different vocal influences, but not necessarily an influence I can duplicate or sing like. Rob Halford is an influence, but I'll never be able to sing like Rob Halford, you know what I'm saying? Or like Freddy Mercury from Queen and his uniqueness and how he did stuff vocally, but I will never be able to sing like Freddie Mercury. But I can be influenced by aspects of how Rob Halford really lays out lyrics, his patterns to his songs, the same thing with Freddie Mercury.
When I was growing up I was in a band called Paralysis. It was like a death metal, kind of 'cookie monster' death metal band. Sammy would always bring it up. He was like, "Remember when you were in Paralysis, remember you did those lows and stuff? And I always tell him it's kind of hard to do them. I blew my throat out at one time, but then I started working on it. You learn it, you adapt. I mean, I'm definitely not schooled in the art, but over time I've learned to not blow out your throat. Even if a place doesn't have monitors, you know your level of when you're pushing in it, because you know it's coming out alright. So you kind of teach yourself that, you teach yourself the elements. A big mistake vocalists do is drink cold beverages on stage and before they play, because the cold tightens it all.
You guys will be playing this year's GWAR-B-Q. Do you have a mental picture of what the festival will be like and do you have any fond memories of Dave Brockie?
Oh, definitely. I've toured with GWAR numerous times. I've toured with GWAR with Goatwhore, I've toured with GWAR with Soilent Green. At the end of last year, we did that Housecore Horror Festival and GWAR played the same evening we played. It's always good to see those guys. It's always been real unique. I think a lot of times people kind of overlook that band because of the whole theatrical thing, which I thought was f---ing unique in itself, the s--t they've done over the years with it and the idea behind it and everything. And I think a lot of people overlooked them as musical talent as well, because I thought they were really talented with their characters. What Dave Brockie did on vocals, with Oderus, it is all so f---ing unique.
They used to come here [New Orleans], before they put out 'Scumdogs,' they used to come here and play Mardi Gras night and basically after Mardi Gras was at the ending point, they played at some little place. The first time I ever saw them was at this little bitty place, and man you see these costumes on this little stage all jammed in and the place was all jam packed and it was unique. And I saw it evolve, and then you know, 'Scumdogs' came out, they started getting a little bigger, a little bigger, and I saw them at a tattoo convention. It was at hotel in the city of New Orleans, and I remember all the people that worked at the hotel were like, "Holy s--t! This band spraying blood and s--t everywhere!"
It was really unique, the way they worked together too as a unit, behind the scenes, when they're not in costume and they're breaking down all the stuff and all the guys they call slaves or whatever, in the slave pit, and they're all hanging out, and they all worked as a big family. Every single person, from David Brockie, to all these other people in the band and the people on the road crew all worked together, they get everything packed up, put away, and the next day they get to the show and they all work together, they get everything out and everything set up. One time I think Dave went off and he was going to have some fun and he wasn't there to load out or whatever, and I remember him sitting there the next day, he was apologizing to everyone in the crew, and I was like, "You know what? This band is amazing."
Now it's like, what do you do at this point? It's devastating. To play it [GWAR-B-Q] is awesome, when they asked us to do it, I was like. "Yes, yes!" It was awesome and at the same time it sucks, because Dave's not going to be there, but everybody is doing it for the honor and the memory of Dave, which is awesome. So I think the whole thing is going to be a serious, immense moment definitely memorializing him, for sure. It's bittersweet, because at the same time, you're like, "F---, I wish he could be here." I wish he was up there as Oderus doing this tricks, but at the same time, all these bands came together. Some of those guys had such great things to say about him from all the times they toured and things they learned from GWAR.
Goatwhore's sixth album, 'Constricting Rage of the Merciless,' is available now! To grab a copy of the album, click here.