Pig Destroyer Talk ‘Book Burner,’ Nihilism, New Agoraphobic Nosebleed Music + More
Pig Destroyer are one of the most celebrated grindcore acts in modern metal. Having released definitive masterpieces of the 21st Century such as ‘Prowler in the Yard’ and ‘Terrifyer,’ fans salivated over a new Pig Destroyer album for over five years before ‘Book Burner’ dropped in Oct. 2012.
Pig Destroyer also leave fans rabid for live performances, as the band almost never takes the stage for a concert, but thanks to MetalSucks, Metal Injection and 1000 Knives, the band turned up for an incredible performance in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Oct. 18. We got a chance to speak to the entirety of Pig Destroyer for a rare interview, where we discussed ‘Book Burner,’ the label of ‘nihilism’ following the band throughout their career, upcoming music from guitarist Scott Hull’s other project Agoraphobic Nosebleed + much more.
Check out our exclusive interview with the grind-masters of Pig Destroyer!
‘Book Burner’ seems like a very different type of album title for Pig Destroyer. How did you end up choosing that for the title?
J.R. Hayes: I had a song called ‘Book Burner’ on the record and there was a couple of references to that in the story that I wrote for the record. We went through a million titles trying to find the right one, and that was one we felt good about and we just went with it, probably mostly because we were sick of trying to come up with other titles.
Scott Hull: It’s difficult to try and agree on titles. We go back and forth about that or what the artwork is going to be. You just sort of relent and go, “Yeah that’s good!” and if we have one better, “No that’s it,” but it doesn’t have any particular significance other than it shows up in his story.
J.R.: There’s a couple of different ways to tie it in.
You guys don’t tour all that much. What is it about tonight, here in New York, that brought you all the way here?
Blake Harrison: We wanted to do a couple of shows for our record when it came out. I mean, it’s been over five years since we put a record out and MetalSucks, we really love the website; they asked us and it coincided with the time the record was going to come out. So we’re also doing this in Baltimore.
J.R.: And it’s New York! Right up the street.
Last time you were in New York, you guys played on a boat. What was that like?
J.R.: That was one of my favorite shows of all time, actually. You get to get on a boat with Eyehategod and Goatwhore and a bunch of crazy fans and drink and just be merry. It was just a really rainy, nasty night too, so the fact that everybody managed to have such a good time I thought was really impressive.
Harrison: I think that was one of our better shows as far as crowd energy and wildness goes, but I get horribly f—ing seasick.
J.R.: Talk about having a captive audience though. [Laughs] We had them quarantined.
The production for ‘Book Burner’ is interesting because again, with your other records, no two albums sound alike in its production. How did you choose this style of production for this record?
Hull: For me, I wanted something that was very, very natural sounding. Not unproduced, but just very, very natural, sort of like the early Black Flag records or the early Melvins records; something that was just very honest and you can hear what the drummer’s doing, you can hear what the guitar player’s doing, and not oversaturate it with a huge wall of guitars. I just kind of wanted it to be rather ‘bare bones’ and let the music speak for itself in the performances as well. I wanted it to sound good and clean, somewhat, but I also didn’t want to overproduce it by putting in a bunch of triggers and stuff like that.
There are no drum triggers?!
Hull: There are some drum triggers in the kick to make them a little steady sounding rather than being overly dynamic, but no, there’s no triggers on anything else. It’s all this dude (Adam Jarvis) right here. The kick has a little bit of trigger mixed in but other than that it’s as we played it in the studio.
With Pig Destroyer, the drumming has always been so focused. There’s always been a big spotlight on the drumming. Is it difficult to fill the void of Brian Harvey’s departure?
Adam Jarvis: Yeah, learning all the new material plus learning all the old material … because when I first joined, we basically just started jamming on all of the new stuff immediately, but then we had to play a couple of shows so then I had to start learning all of the old stuff and just intermittently go back to the new stuff, so it was definitely a challenge.
J.R.: We wouldn’t been doing it if it wasn’t a challenge.
What has Adam brought to the band?
Harrison: I think a nastier energy, man. It’s almost like a new band in my eyes. It seems like with the crowd reaction, they feel that way too.
Hull: We’ve got another person in the band who’s pushing us forward, driving us and not to mention the fact that he has a different particular set of skills that we can capitalize on and move forward in areas that we haven’t been able to in the past.
Jarvis: Scott was like, “So how fast can you blast?” I was like, “Uhhh … fast?” And he’s like, “Check out this song, it’s only at 300 beats per minute.” [Laughs]
You had some of the Agoraphobic Nosebleed members come and do guest vocals on the record. Why was this the right time to experiment with those other vocalists?
J.R.: I really wanted to have some people when we did ‘Phantom Limb,’ but that just didn’t happen so I ended up being the only vocalist on that record. So for this record, I wanted to bring in some other people just for fun. Just to try and mix it up a little bit because I don’t have the biggest range in the vocal world, so just to give it some dynamic and just to have some friends in the studio, you know? They’re all very close friends of ours so it was more of a family affair.
Kat Katz is on the record and I’m a big fan of hers from Salome and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. I interviewed her a while ago, right before ‘Agorapocalypse’ came out, and she told me that in the studio she makes a “war face,” but she wouldn’t tell me what it looked like.
Hull: [Laughs] Yeah, we push her. We just did a track for the Christmas flexi for Decibel. We did it last year and we’re doing it this year as well, and she came in and did vocals for that, and yeah, she brought her war face.
So what exactly does the war face look like?
Hull: When she’s gotten to that stage, when she’s ripping it, when you see her in the studio, she means it. You can definitely tell that somebody stepped on her d–k and she’s definitely not happy about it.
J.R.: We try to get her to think about the B she got in Chemistry. That got her all worked up. [Laughs]
Oh, right, she’s in college now. She got a B in Chemistry?
J.R.: Yeah, that’s not acceptable for her. [Laughs]
One term that has followed Pig Destroyer throughout your entire career is the term ‘nihilist.’ The term ‘nihilism’ has definitely followed you. What do you think about being associated with that term? Do you find yourself to adhere to that philosophy in any way?
Harrison: Thumbs up! [Laughs] Wouldn’t a true nihilist have hated that?
J.R.: I feel like I’m more of a cynic than a nihilist, but I don’t think those two things are really all that different sometimes.
Hull: All the intellectual property of the band is definitely coming through him (J.R.) and the visuals and all that, so he tends to channel a rather dark side and that comes out as the face of the band. It’s an interesting and unique aesthetic and I think that fits us pretty well.
I wanted to ask about the use of samples in your music. It seems like the samples are perfectly placed. There are so many metal bands that use samples and I think you do it really well. Is there ever a point where you are watching a film or you hear something and you think, “I need to use that line.”?
Hull: Sometimes. Sometimes I hear other bands that use samples and I hear the sample and recognize the movie it came from. You would never have thought to take that thing out of that context because when you’re watching a film, you’re kind of engrossed in the story. So you have to step back from the movie a little bit and be looking out for stuff. But yeah, there are times when things pop out and I go “Oh, that’s pretty interesting.”
J.R.: We try not to use anything that’s too obvious. You don’t want to drag all the other baggage that comes along, like if you put in a ‘Taxi Driver’ sample, you know what I mean? We want to use things that are a little more obscure that we can kind of appropriate.
Harrison: A lot of it to me is that I like to listen to overdub stuff because the way the dialogue is delivered, it’s more stilted a lot of times. I try to take the piece of what it is and take it out of context. So like, I’m not using a James Earl Jones quote because you’re going to know it’s James Earl Jones and think, “Oh I love ‘Conan the Barbarian!” It adds a tacky layer to it.
Hull: You remove the layer; the suspension of disbelief. You pull it out of the movie as it were, so a lot of the talky samples we really don’t get from movies so much as things like preachers and sermons that we find online, books on tape; things that come from different sources.
What about the ‘Jennifer’ samples?
Hull: That was a story he (J.R.) had written and I was trying to figure out a unique way to deliver that on the record and the way we figured out we were going to do that was to put it through a text-to-speech utility for people who are blind and want to use computers; they can just pump the text into this thing. So I just dialed in the right voice and that’s it.
Harrison: I think it adds to the tension too. When we do that live, as boring as that is for us to sit through for the 800th time, it gets the kids f—ing wild; its crazy. It’s always good to see that explosion right after that happens; its killer.
Are we going to get any new Agoraphobic Nosebleed stuff anytime soon?
Hull: Yeah, that’s the next thing I’m going to work on. We got a little bit of relief from the flexis we had to do for Pig Destroyer, so I’m going to go back and start working on the ANb stuff. The next Agoraphobic thing isn’t going to be a single full-length CD, it’s going to be four separate EPs, each one based on a different theme from each member. One is going to be a Black Flag-type of hardcore record, one is going to be a Godflesh-type of industrial record, one is going to be a doomy record and I think the fourth one is going to be a proggy jazzy thing. So they each reflect the different aspects of each of the members. It sounds like a bit of an alarm at first, but I think that’ll sound good.
Are you going to be releasing any more of those ‘Audiofilm’ three-inch CDs? I really liked that.
Hull: Oh cool, thank you. I don’t know. I want to do more stuff like that, but it just depends on whether I have time. I have to juggle a few bands, a family and a job and stuff. I want to because I very much like that but we’ll see.
When you guys released ‘Natasha’ it was definitely very different for you guys. It was real sludgy and I was kind of expecting that to be a bridge to ‘Book Burner.’ Was that ever something that was on the table?
Hull: That was actually released with ‘Terrifyer,’ that was a bonus disk with ‘Terrifyer,’ but it was in a quirky, weird format so nobody really listened to it. The label figured we were going to take a long time with the next record, so they wanted to go ahead and release ‘Natasha’ on its own, so that was really kind of a bonus experiment-type thing. We do have some more material like that; that we’ve recorded that we’re actually going to put out at some point. We just don’t know when.