INTERVIEW: Travis Ryan – Cattle Decapitation

CATTLE DECAPITATION released one of the extreme metal albums of the year in 2015 and further stamped their image onto its face in this decade, with their bitingly misanthropic environmentalism and their spine-chilling fusion of death metal, grind, and just about any other nasty sounds that come their way. At the London stop of their current European tour, we caught up with frontman and gurgler extraordinaire Travis Ryan for a chat.

It’s been nearly a year since the release of The Anthropocene Extinction. How’s it been for you?

Travis: Awesome. Our touring is a little lopsided, we just kinda started going. We did a tonne of US touring for about two and a half months, and right before that we did Summer Slaughter, so we’ve done about four months of touring in the States already. Now we’re making up for a couple of European tours which we had to cancel two years in a row and hitting Europe like crazy. We’ve been wanting to do a full UK run and maybe throw in Iceland or something cool like that, but we never get to do more than one or two dates for some reason. We’ve never done any UK festivals. They had a petition for us to do Bloodstock but it didn’t go anywhere. Over here, I don’t know what the fuck’s going on, especially today with the EU referendum result. It’s been fairly cheap for us to get VISAs and stuff, but when you hear “VISAs” it’s terrifying as someone from the States because I know it can cost bands $10,000 or something. There’s always news of bands not being able to get in and shit. The US border is one of the most restrictive and they’re assholes, even to us sometimes and we fucking live there! We’ll see though how it goes.

The general consensus has been that the last couple of CATTLE DECAPITATION albums have been hitting a new plateau for you guys. Why do you feel that while a lot of bands who are seven or eight albums in are stuck in a groove or treading water, you guys are still pushing things and getting better?

Travis: The only thing I can say from personal experience is that they’re all the same. In the 90s and the 80s with METALLICA or IRON MAIDEN, MEGADETH, all of them, it’s your first three or four records that are your best. But then they start paying attention to what they think people want, instead of what they want, and the quality starts going downhill. At least for me, I hated the Black Album. I know that was their #1 amazing seller or whatever but to me that’s where they started going downhill. We did the opposite. We took chances and risks. For me personally I’m getting older so I felt like I had less and less to lose, though now it’s like I have more to lose because of how things have ramped us for us. I think that taking chances is a good way to move forward and a good way to fuck yourself as we’ve seen with other bands. We’re trying new things and not experimenting for the sake of experimentation, but thinking about it.

What do you guys listen to on tour which might feed into what you write?

Travis: Everyone asks us that and I personally don’t. I bring my iPod every time, and I never listen to a goddamn thing. If I would be to it’d probably be something electronic or weird indie rock or some shit, 70s prog, no metal. Josh sits here all the time and plays air drums to black metal.

How do you view some of your past material like Human Jerky or To Serve Man now that you’ve evolved so far past that?

Travis: It’s funny because my favourite stuff was always Human Jerky and whatever we were currently doing, since forever. To Serve Man, I don’t like that record at all. I don’t want to talk shit but it has certain people on it. I’m trying not to be that guy anymore, I used to be all “fuck this guy” all the time but I’m trying not to be that way anymore, not throwing anyone under the bus. There’s just certain aspects I didn’t like. Humanure was a little better. We worked with a legendary producer and I love him to death, but that didn’t work. I think things starting coming together on Karma.Bloody.Karma. It took a couple lineup changes. When Dave came in it really started ramping up and then Derek too. I think it has a lot to do with new blood, and willingness to push forward, alongside experience too because Josh and I have been doing the band for so long. All of us are from drastically different backgrounds, and I guess whatever we’re doing has been working.

Do you think your audience has changed as the band has?

Travis: We’ve always been blessed with this weird crossover potential while a lot of bands have never gotten that gift. I don’t know what it is. We’ve got crust and grind people who like us, we’ve got indie rock types who like us who wouldn’t listen to any other metal, maybe from the vegetarian angle or certain lifestyle aspects. We’ve always had a very diverse fanbase which I think helps, especially in the internet age with the internet being so vast and so chaotic helping to shape and warp even people’s minds, because if you can make it diverse you’re always going to have someone there. If you’ve only got a punk crowd but THE TOY DOLLS or someone are playing down the street you’re screwed. We can go and play and SUICIDE SILENCE or whoever will be down the street and we’ll still have a decent crowd.

In an era where the music video maybe has less importance, CATTLE DECAPITATION videos still seem to matter and make an impact. Why do you feel that that is?

Travis: Forced Gender Reassignment is the obvious one, but Kingdom of Tyrants is actually my favourite. I don’t want to sound like a total asshole, but maybe we pay a little more attention to the content than some other bands do, whether it’s lyrics or artwork or whatever. People tend to just do whatever, whatever looks or sounds cools, but that’s a one-dimensional way of doing it. You’ve got to be talking about something. One thing that also helped is we found a director in Mitch Massie who was willing and able to take that shit and put it on the screen. The Forced Gender video specifically was literally taking the lyrics and putting them on screen. It wasn’t meant to just shock, there’s a message somewhere in there… The fucking band’s called CATTLE DECAPITATION though, it’s extreme metal, what do you expect? We got a lot of shit for that video to be honest. For the recent one for Clandestine Ways, Mitch said it was gonna be his last video not just for us but period. I don’t know if that will be the case but he wanted to make it his finest moment. The thing is he makes all this stuff in his basement. Obviously not the ones where he’s out in the snow or whatever but Kingdom of Tyrants was shot in the same basement as Forced Gender. I think he’s a damn genius. Cinema is really smoke and mirrors, and he’s just fucking good at it.

Any more videos coming up for this album?

TRAVIS: We just had a guy send us a treatment for one but I haven’t really looked at it. I don’t know what’s going on but we probably will.

Do you ever get frustrated when people see your name or something like the Forced Gender Reassignment video and think you’re just a goofy gore band when you have something more to say?

Travis: Yeah but I can’t blame them. If you dig it’s there. Even the new INFANT ANNIHILATOR video, as ridiculous as it is, has a message. It’s fucking hilarious, I laughed my ass off the entire time. Really, that’s their problem. I think some people will come around if they see other people giving a shit and paying attention. The name was always something that was gonna make people think we’re stupid, and still to this day I see people say “Seriously? CATTLE DECAPITATION?” It’s fucking extreme metal though, you have names like that in this genre and it should not be a surprise to anybody.

To round things off, what’s coming up in future for CATTLE DECAPITATION?

Travis: We’ve got another leg of this tour which will be huge, a month in Europe basically next month. Maybe the States, and then more world touring like South East Asia, just a lot of touring really. We’re starting to write but really slowly.

Also you’re wearing a MURDER CONSTRUCT t-shirt today, any news on anything with that band?

Travis: Oh I don’t think so. I shouldn’t say that actually because the other guys are the ones who write it, but Leon moved to Portland and he also just joined NAILS on second guitar and that band is blowing up. I don’t know what we’ll be able to pull off but we’ll see.

Anyway, lovely talking to you Travis, thanks a lot!

Travis: No problem.

The Anthropocene Extinction is out now on Metal Blade Records.

For more information on CATTLE DECAPITATION like their official page on Facebook.