GOATWHORE’S BEN FALGOUST II SUMS IT UP: “METAL IS ABOUT THE DEVIL AND HEAVY-ASS GUITARS THAT ARE LOUD”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. I’ve been head-over-heels for Goatwhore ever since I first saw them on the stage. Dimmu Borgir might look a bit silly in their assorted armor and spikes, but these Louisiana boys strutted straight out in the lights decked out for battle and with such confidence it was frightening. I’ve rarely seen a band before or since so sure of themselves in their own delivery, and it’s no doubt a direct result of their relentless touring which is due to pick up again next week and end… oh, probably never. I’ve been so excited about their newest release, Carving Out the Eyes of God, that I was willing to brave a phone interview with imposing vocalist Ben Falgoust II (also of legendary forward-thinking Southgrinders Soilent Green) at the shockingly early time of 8:30 a.m. My groggy head was soothed, however, by the talkative monsieur’s charming Louisiana accent as we discussed strippers, New Orleans and SATAN!!! The first question I have for you is something I’ve been really curious about for a while. The story about how Goatwhore got it’s name, with the stripper, is that totally true?
[laughs] Yeah, it’s pretty much true. There’s different things explained, but that is the most popular, rumored, cult story as far as the name of the band goes.
Where you there when it happened?
I wasn’t there. Sammy [Duet, guitars] was out with some friends at this bar I think it was out near Baton Rouge, possibly. It was a friend of ours with them, from just outside of Lafayette, Louisiana and he was fairly well known for getting fucked up and spouting off at the mouth with different phrases at night. So they were at this strip club and he kind of went a bit overboard. And this stripper, she had pigtails and a sort of long face, so he jumped up from the table and called her a goatwhore.
That’s pretty funny.
Yeah, so that’s a partial truth there.
More importantly, you guys have a new album out on June 23rd called Carving Out the Eyes of God. Now, I listened to it and I really dig it.
Awesome, awesome. If you didn’t really dig it, would you be honest, too, and be like “Well, y’all kind of suck actually?”
I’d probably ask some different questions to be honest.
Oh! So the questions would be different? More in the frame of a negative kind of area?
Yeah, maybe more of an inquisition.
[laughs] Well, that’s awesome I appreciate it, man.
The album sounds like Goatwhore, but it also sounds different from the last album, A Haunting Curse. Do you agree with that?
It does and it doesn’t, if you know what I mean. It has elements still of what Goatwhore is, basically like you said, but it does have a more like… we call it black n’ roll. Where you take the rock and roll and put it with black metal. It’s kind of like AC/DC actually does meet the devil on the highway to hell and not just playing rock and roll, thinking about it. It’s also has the element of us not trying to be the fastest band, but just playing rock instead of being speed orientated like we were on A Haunting Curse. We still have our blast parts and things like that, but it seems like it’s a little bit more focused on having a goddamn good time. We’re bringing the devil back into metal!
There’s so many of these… there’s Christian bands and they’re all blowing it up with everything, but metal is about the devil and it’s about really heavy-ass guitars that are loud. With the new record, too, that was a big focus: we brought the guitars more up front. It seems that there are so many bands nowadays that put out records that are doing extreme music that are mostly drums and vocals. The guitars are sort of back in the mix and we wanted the guitars up front. That’s where metal came from. If you go back to Ride the Lightning and Reign in Blood, the guitars were pumped and they were coming out. They didn’t bury everything, but you could definitely tell that that’s where the idea of metal was created, with the whole metallic guitar sound.
Well, I think you accomplished that. The guitars sound awesome in that album especially.
They’re ripping, man! I’m not gonna sit here and go “This is the best Goatwhore record ever.” I think it’s the Goatwhore record that we’ve been looking to achieve, and have our live presentation come across even more. Live the guitars are loud, they’re just monstrous. We wanted to come across with that. We don’t bury anything else, you can hear everything else fine. You can come with that happy medium where you bring things out more but it doesn’t destroy everything else in the music.
You produced the record with Erik Rutan [Hate Eternal, ex-Morbid Angel]?
Yeah. This is the second time, because we did A Haunting Curse with him as well.
Yeah, that’s right and you also recorded the Soilent Green album with him last year as well?
Yeah, the last two Soilent records actually. Confrontation and The Inevitable Collapse in the Presence of Conviction.
So you must be pretty comfortable working with him now?
Yeah, that’s one of the reasons we went with him. Other reasons, too: He’s really good. He’s got an amazing ear for things. He’ll hear things that no one else could pick out. You could be doing your track he can immediately pick something and be like “That’s wrong, let’s go back and listen to it.” You listen to it and you’re like, “Damn, that is wrong. How the hell did you hear that?”
We butt heads. You’re always going to butt heads when you’re doing something with people and it’s your project and people have different things to say. That only comes naturally, that you’re going to have that situation come out. Usually we work out a compromise and we try different things until we come across something that pretty much everyone is happy with.
The comfort level helps out a lot, too, because the studio is a very stressful place. Some bands might say they love being there, but I don’t really like it. I love playing in a live setting and being in the practice room, but it just seems like when you’re in the studio ,there’s a huge magnifying glass. Everything changes, and everything sounds so different because everything is cleared up and you have to be perfect at that point. If you make any mistake, it is very noticeable. In a live performance, you can risk a little mistake with all the madness going on. Being comfortable with someone that you work with makes that [pressure] easier. Then, if you fuck up, you can goof off about it. Whereas if it was a fresh person, you don’t how the guy will react to [the mistake], how strict he is. Rutan is a strict guy, but being in that comfort zone between us all, it’s that much easier to go through the whole process. It makes everything run a little smoother and a little faster because everyone’s on that same page.
You were finishing off doing tours with Soilent Green around the end of last year, beginning of this year, correct?
Now you’ve moved on to work with Goatwhore. Do you ever feel you have to switch gears from when you’re working with each band?
I have to switch gears because the vocal style and the lyric style are totally different. Soilent’s lyrics reflect more upon everyday personal vendettas. Goatwhore is more the wicked, darker things in life, so there’s a lot of separation there. What’s really good about it is that they’re two totally different bands, so it’s kind of refreshing when I’m jumping from one to the other. It’s not like I’ve jumped back into the same kind of thing. Each time I jump back and forth it’s almost like “Ahh, here’s something new again!” I’ve been practicing the last week and a half with both bands because Goatwhore is about to put the new record out with a lot of touring, but Soilent is actually leaving Wednesday [June 17th] to do Hellfest in France. So I’m working during the day, and in the evenings I’m jumping to both practices. I’ll be working all day for eight to ten hours, then go in to practice, and when I’m going to the second practice I’m tired from the day but it’s like BAM! Something different. I’ll go to play something old, like, we’ll play something from the Sewn Mouth Secrets record, which are songs I’ve played for years now, over ten years, but it seems new in a way because I’ve been jamming with the Goatwhore stuff, or writing new Goatwhore things. Sometimes the shift really takes place when the writing structure happens. I have to kind of pull myself from the evil Goatwhore terrain into the Soilent Green terrain or vice versa. When practicing, it’s just really cool because it keeps that freshness all night.
Do you plan on dividing your time between the two projects from now on?
I try to do it as equal as I possibly can and I try to give both bands a hundred percent as much as I can. It doesn’t always fall into place, for instance, you have the new Goatwhore album coming out June 23rd. So everything does have to shift to that mostly. It would take precedence. It’s the same thing I did when Soilent put out Inevitable: Shift to that, tour as much as you can then shift back to the other. I just think that when a record comes out it’s time to focus on that band and push it as much as you possibly can. It’s hard sometimes but it’s a balancing act in the end.
Do you have any other projects you might like to tell us about?
No. I think working forty-plus hours a week, plus those two [bands], is well enough for me at this point.
Definitely. In terms of influences on Goatwhore, I’ve noticed that on the new album the Celtic Frost feeling is stronger than ever, and I’ve heard you say as much yourself.
I think the Celtic Frost influence is always going to be strong as hell with us. With the majority of the band, it’s the main influence. When we’re in the room practicing, in between practicing the songs, we’re playing Celtic Frost songs! We’re jamming out to “Dethroned Emperor” or anything like that. It’s funny, it’s kind of like mockery in a sense. We’re kind of just ripping them off in a way, or just really really influenced by them. It’s definitely a major influence within us.
What other music might you count as an influence on Goatwhore?
Venom, Bathory, Discharge, early thrash metal stuff from Exodus to Sodom. You have Celtic Frost at the top of the tree and then the branches just run wide open all over the place. We’re influenced by everything from traditional black metal to modern black metal. Anything from old thrash metal to bands that are reinventing thrash metal right now. After you leave the Celtic Frost bracket it just opens like a huge fan.
What personally inspired you to become a metal vocalist?
In my younger years I was really influenced by Lee Dorian when he was in Napalm Death. I followed him into Cathedral a little bit and he just went off completely in a different style but it was still cool. He just went into his own kind of direction. Chris Barnes in the early Cannibal Corpse days and George Fisher [“Corpsegrinder”] when he started singing for them. Not that I can sing like them, but I love their variations and the way they lays things out: Rob Halford from Judas Priest, Freddy Mercury from Queen and Bruce Dickinson. We’ll put those three in a pocket. I’ll never be able to sing like them but the way they laid things out in a song and the way they come across. Sometimes with a band the music isn’t everything and when the vocals step in they add to the music even more, and those three bands were like that. Not saying there’s nothing for the rest of the band. You can’t take the music away from Freddy Mercury and have it sound good, it’s all one unit. Freddy, Rob and Bruce add to the music whereas if another vocalist comes in they don’t quite touch it. I’m inspired by their eclectic edge and how they lay things out within songs.
I had a more general question. I was wondering if you could comment on if there was anything about the city that makes it such a great city for music – from Eyehategod to Acid Bath to Goatwhore and Soilent Green…
One, because of its strong base of blues and jazz throughout the years. I think that’s one element, because if you’ve grown up here you have that kind of feeling in you, whereas if someone maybe tries to rip off a band from here they don’t pull it off quite well because they didn’t grow up with that feeling or that “it.” I think the negativity of this city plays a role as well. There’s different aspects: the hurricanes constantly, and our state has always had this political awkwardness to it. Ever since the creation of this state it’s been run by pirates, even today in the political structure. There’s kind of the negative angle and the positive angle that butts heads in the scene in here. As far as the bands go, I really do like that when you bring up each band from New Orleans, you can’t really compare them amongst one another because they all really hold their own game with it. Acid Bath had their own thing, Crowbar has their own things, Eyehategod had their own things, Soilent Green has it’s own thing, Goatwhore has it’s own thing, Exhorder had it’s own thing. You can never take one and say they sound like another. It’s not like when the Tampa, Florida death metal scene came out and a lot them sounded similar, or the Bay Area scene where a lot of bands sounded similar. Everyone of the bands in this scene strives to be different from the other. Members even share bands, but that influence doesn’t really come over into the other band. Everybody is so unique, too. All the different people involved are so unique in their own way, and that adds to the structure of writing as well.
A lot of bands in the scene share members…
Within Eyehategod you have Jimmy [Bower] who plays in Down and played in Superjoint Ritual. Brian [Patton] who plays in Soilent Green and Outlaw Order. You have Sammy, he played in Acid Bath, played in Crowbar at one time, and he has another band called Ritual Killer. There’s a staggered weird tree that shares numerous members at times.
Is there a strong scene or an audience for metal in New Orleans or is it mostly…
It’s funny because everyone looks at the scene sometimes and they’re like “Wow, that must be cool!” But shows fluctuate here, man. We don’t get a lot of tours here either. When I was growing up I used to drive to Texas to go see shows because we always got skipped and just throughout the years it’s been like a rollercoaster. There’s been points where you could do a show one month and there would be 400 people there. Next month and there would be 60 people there. And then they’ll have a tour that’s going through the US and it’s a huge tour and it just so happens that they have a show in New Orleans but that date is the smallest crowd of the whole tour [laughs]. It shifts a lot. Its kind of an emotional scene, not like an emo music scene, but it’s there and it’s not and it’s there and it’s not. It has an odd thing to it.
It’s kept alive by this core group of individuals that play in all these bands then?
Pretty much. Goatwhore just played in the suburbs like two weekends ago. We’ve just been doing some Louisiana shows recently because when you get on the road, because a lot of tours don’t come through here, we miss our home area a lot so we try to fill in whenever we’re around. It was cool because we hadn’t played in a while and I saw a lot of new, fresh faces that had got into the age of drinking where they could get into venues that are 18+ or 21+ now. That makes a shift, too. When the younger audience has made the shift up to where they can get into places that they couldn’t have before. Then you see the expansion of a crowd as well.
Goatwhore has always been a roadwarrior band. How the hell do you manage to tour so much?
Save a lot of money [laughs]. When I’m at home I work a lot in between practices. A lot of people think that just because you’re in a band the money is just coming out of everything. We’ll come home from the road sometimes and we’ll have money that can cover bills for maybe a month or two, and sometimes we’ll come home and we’re in the negative and we have to get back to work and rebuild and reorganize as well. It’s like, I bought the van and the trailer for the van and then when we were on tour we try to pay for the van. Unless things come in the negative, when I come home then I just try to work a lot to catch up. That’s what I mainly do, when I’m at home and I work I try to put the money ahead and pay for bills and things. That way when I go out, I can be out there and not have this idea that “Oh man, this is gonna screw me when I get home.” I fell back a few times when we were on tour to the point where it was hard to get back out on the road again. So I decided to take my money and push it ahead and keep myself ahead instead of working til I get even and then all of a sudden falling way back behind. The U.S. is pretty brutal. When European bands talk about the drives and things, U.S. bands say whatever, we’ve been doing this in vans and trailers for years. We pull off at rest areas and we sleep in the van. We pull off at truck stops and we sleep in the van. We take showers at truck stops. We sleep at people’s houses that we meet on the road. Anything just to get everything going and get by. Everyday is so quick, too. You’ve got everything from a two hour drive to a ten hour drive to the next venue. You just get in the van and you go. Thankfully with modern technology everyone’s got ipods, dvd players, laptops things like that. I remember when I first started touring with Soilent Green we didn’t even have cell phones. You’d have to stop at the pay phone to call the promoter to find out directions of how to get to the venue. Now we have GPS and everything so touring is simplified even more. There’s a lot of people that don’t want to be involved with it. When I get home sometimes I have a problem sleeping in my own bed because my body kind of conforms to that bench seat in the van and sleeping in the van. Sammy even told me that he’ll get home and for weeks he can’t sleep at night because he’s used to the idling of the engine at night putting him to sleep after a show. He’ll be at home and everything’s calm and nothing’s moving and he can’t sleep because there’s no idling of the engine. I guess you just try to work it out as best as you can and make it happen and do what you enjoy. It depends on how much you really want to go over that line and how much you really want to do it. It’s not just gonna be handed to you, you have to do what you have to do to go out there and make it happen.
I imagine having that kind of financial security when you’re out on the road let’s you enjoy the tour more.
Definitely. It takes a lot of weight off your back. You’re not out there think you’re gonna go home and get screwed and have to work 60 hours a week just to get ahead get things situated so that it doesn’t affect the next run. I plan ahead as much as possible. It’s funny because when we get out on the road I pretty much take care of the money angle of the band and I try to work it out so that we can come home and have a little money. Depending on our guarantees and what’s going on with merchandise. So I try to be as tight as possible and they [the band] make fun of me for being tight but in the end they’re like “I don’t know how you finagled it to make it work like that, but it worked really well.” It’s the idea of making it so that everyone can come home and be a little comfortable for a little while so that we can get back out on the next run as soon as possible and not have any things delay us.
I guess that’s about it. Goatwhore has the tour with Abigail Williams and Daath starting in July?
Yes, it starts June 24th in Atlanta and runs all the way to August 9th.
Then you’re touring with Obituary afterwards in the fall?
We come home for three weeks after the first tour then it’s Obituary, Krisiun, Berzerker and Warbringer.