Pedigree Butchery
CoC chats with Ben Falgoust of Goatwhore
by: Jackie Smit
"I listen to a lot of metal these days and I wonder: what the hell has happened to the guitars? I'm talking about big-name bands here like Slipknot, Lamb of God -- guys like that. You listen to it and it feels like the vocals and the drums are really in your face, and the guitars are sat in the background. I hate that. It might be the wrong thing to say as a singer, but I want huge-sounding guitar. I love the way albums like _Ride the Lightning_ sound."

When Goatwhore's Ben Falgoust (or more specifically Louis Benjamin Falgoust II, as he's currently billed on the band's MySpace page) airs his verdict on the state of modern-day metal, you'd be well advised to pay attention. As passionate a scholar of extreme music as you're likely to meet and easily one of its most under-appreciated talents, Falgoust and his cohorts have delivered another thrilling exercise in successfully marrying old to new, vintage to contemporary in the shape of the not-so-subtly dubbed _Carving Out the Eyes of God_. An album that's bound to have hardcore fans snapping their necks in approval, while snapping up a few new converts along the way, it's a noticeably more assured effort than its predecessor -- due in part perhaps to the fact that this time round the New Orleans quartet didn't have the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to contend with. Always the consummate gentleman, it's hardly surprising that Falgoust can barely contain his satisfaction at how things have turned out.

Ben Falgoust: Right now, we're all so happy with the new album, I can't even begin to explain to you. You know, you generally do a record and come out and think about what you could have done differently or what you should have changed, but with this one there's a really good vibe about it and to be honest with you, there was a really good vibe going into it as well. I won't do the whole 'this is our best record yet' trip, but when we went into the studio for this one we were really well prepared and we were very clear in that we wanted to stick closely to the 'black 'n' roll' elements. _A Haunting Curse_ was more about speed. This one is more about metal, and that comes from the touring cycle we were on where we hit the road with guys like Celtic Frost, who really brought back that whole traditional influence to our writing and our music.

CoC: It's interesting that you should mention those influences, because one of the criticisms that Goatwhore have had levelled at it is that you wear those influences on your sleeve a little too proudly. Do you feel like on this record you've managed to put more of your own stamp on things?

BF: Definitely. I think we're like a lot of bands who start up with a certain set of influences and get to that point where they're able to mould themselves around their influences, but with their own twist on things. You'll always hear that Celtic Frost influence in our music, but now there are a lot of other things to contend with as well; lots of Motorhead, traditional metal, thrash. That's due in a large part to Zack [Simmons, drums] and Nathan [Bergeron, bass], who really contributed a lot of their own ideas. When _A Haunting Curse_ came out, they were new to the band, so that wasn't the case. It's very tough to get new members, you know, especially because you never really know whether someone is right for the band until they've really spent a fair bit of time with you. I think that between the last record and this one, both of those guys really gelled with Sammy and myself to the point where they were coming up with ideas that were blowing us away.

CoC: This album definitely sounds a lot more confident and that's due to the new members being more settled as you said, but this was also your second time working with Eric Rutan. How did that influence things?

BF: Well, with Rutan I think we found that we'd become comfortable on both sides, and that's very important. The studio is already a stressful environment to be in, because it puts a huge magnifying glass on everything you do and shows up your flaws. So when you're in a studio and you're with somebody you're not comfortable with, things can get edgy because you don't know how far you can stretch that person and you don't want to test the limits too much. Because of our relationship and because of how open we were with Eric and him to us likewise, things just flow much better. We can be sarcastic with each other, get pissed off at each other -- we're all working in the same direction and we're all confident that the other person is trying to put together the best product they possibly can. I'll be honest with you as well; we weren't going to go back to Rutan at first.

CoC: Seriously?

BF: Yeah, I'll be really honest about that. Rutan is a cool dude, but sometimes when something small goes wrong with an album people take that to heart and they hold it against the producer. It might not be his fault, but he gets the blame for it. And Sammy [Duet, guitars] wasn't happy with how his guitars sounded on _A Haunting Curse_. We had a lot of issues while we were recording, actually; Sammy's guitars wouldn't stay in tune, he wasn't happy with the tone he was getting and so. Anyway, Rutan found out about it and he called me up and told him the situation. He called Sammy right away and basically: "I want to do the next Goatwhore record, and we'll make sure that we get a guitar sound you're happy with even if we have to be in there for a month." He was really committed to it, and I think that by the time we went in all those issues were long forgotten. Sammy's guitars sounded great and things just came really easily.

CoC: Was Rutan as hard a bastard in the studio as he was last time?

BF: <laughs> Oh always, man. He's an intense person, and don't get me wrong -- he's intense, but you've got to see it as he's looking to put out a good product for your band and for his name. What comes out of his studio is a reflection on him, so he wants you to perform at your best. Sometimes you argue. I mean, you have your own ideas and he has his, but he's also really pragmatic and if there's a difference of opinion he will usually end up recording both and going with the one that sounds best in the end.

CoC: Tell me about your relationship with Sammy and how that's evolved. You've been through some major ups and downs in your personal lives and have stuck together as the core of the band since it started. How has your relationship developed over the years?

BF: Me and Sammy still get on really well. I mean, I knew him from way back when he was playing in Crowbar. Whenever those guys toured in the US I would drive for them or I'd help sell merch or whatever. He's a really good friend. He's a great guy. Within Goatwhore, he's the Satanic edge. When I write I prefer to stick to darker stuff; I'm interested in the occult, but I'm not a Satanist. We complement each other really well in that way and he never shuns any ideas that I might have, and we work together on everything -- whether it's a song or a t-shirt design.

CoC: For me personally, something I've always admired about your vocal style is the way you phrase words and the way you pattern some of the bits you sing. Do you have complete freedom in Goatwhore to write those vocal lines as you see fit?

BF: Yeah, absolutely. There's the odd occasion where Sammy might feel that I need to do it differently, but it's really rare. When we were doing the new record for example, there was one song where he thought that if I did the lines faster, it would sound better and it turned out that he was right. Honestly, I'm not a really rhythmic person.

CoC: That's quite ironic that you mention that, because your vocals sound very rhythmic.

BF: No, I agree. Maybe I shouldn't say it that way. Maybe I should say that I'm a little slower. <laughs> I spend a lot of time with a song and I really take the time to feel it out. It's more of a feeling for me when it comes to writing vocal lines than anything else. There are a lot of death metal bands that when they write their lyrics, they do this whole syllable-based thing. I like stuff like At the Gates or Judas Priest where the vocals sound really flowing. I mean, if you listen to Rob Halford closely and you take a note of the way that he delivers his vocal lines, you know why he's so good. Rutan kind of trips out on that. He's so familiar with death metal and extreme music that he will sometimes pick me up on the way that I do my vocals. I just don't like how a lot of death metal bands sound. It's too mechanical. It's like a red dot jumping on each letter. I'll listen to a song over and over and over until it really opens up to me in a way and I get a clear idea of how the vocals should flow.

CoC: When it comes to Soilent Green and Goatwhore, both are obviously very unique entities in their own right, whether that be lyrically or musically. From a personal standpoint, which of the two do you identify with most?

BF: <pauses> I'd have to say Soilent, just because it's more realistic and maybe a little more personal. That being said, with Goatwhore I get to express myself in a different way. I have a severe hatred for organized religions, and I can get that out in the Goatwhore stuff. With Soilent, I talk a lot more about things I've been through, things I've seen my friends go through. I enjoy Goatwhore because it's not so personal and to me, it's more just about having fun. I could never put one over the other.

CoC: Rumours have been flying around that you're now a part of Suicide War as well...

BF: Yeah, that got blown out of proportion really.

CoC: What's the story then?

BF: Well, you know -- the Internet is a great invention, but it's also a big problem because when someone says something, it can very easily be blown out of proportion and then that shit just spreads around like wildfire. Suicide War are friends of mine who didn't have a vocalist, and they asked me to lay down some tracks on their demo. So I said: "Well, look, I've just put out the new Goatwhore record, we're going on tour; I'll do it, but I can't promise anything." All of a sudden there's a press release and people are posting it on Blabbermouth and sites like that and it just took off from there. The fact is that two bands are already more than enough. I still need to work as well, and I don't need the chaos of a third band. I'll help the guys out, but it can't be a whole new musical project for me. Who knows though? Maybe if I did it, something might happen and I might change my mind.

CoC: Let's get back to _A Haunting Curse_. We spoke about the issues that Sammy had with the record earlier. When you look back at it, how do you feel about the album now?

BF: I still think it's a really good record, man. I think if we could have done that record with the guitar tones we have on the new one, it would have been brutal. It would have been a tough fucking battle for supremacy between that album and _Carving Out the Eyes of God_. I will say this, I do catch myself listening to the new album more often than I ever did _A Haunting Curse_.

CoC: So, Ben -- for the benefit of all our non-American readers -- why have we not seen Goatwhore in Europe yet?

BF: That's a good question, man, and I'll be completely honest with you. Metal Blade has been great for everything with this band so far, especially from the last record going into this one, the support has been just phenomenal. We have the opportunity to get our music overseas and not just in the US. Where they fall short is giving us support to go and tour outside of the US. I mean, when we tour in the US, we own our van and trailer so they don't really need to invest much in us in that regard; we can fend for ourselves. Now when it's time to go overseas, we need support in terms of plane tickets, a touring vehicle and so on, and it's been an ongoing thing where they don't really want to spend the money on getting us out there. Unless it's a well-known band, they're fairly reluctant to let anyone go and again, I'm just being honest with you. Metal Blade have been great in many ways, but at times I question their position on things and our ability to tour abroad is one of them. You know, I believe that if we actually played out in Europe that it would actually benefit us in terms of album sales as well and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that with the good reviews for the new record, they do something to get us out of the States.

CoC: With the exception of that possibility then, what are the plans for Goatwhore over the next twelve months?

BF: Lots of touring. <laughs> I didn't mention anything a minute ago, but we are actually talking to the guys from Municipal Waste about going to Europe for a tour. They're a little different to us stylistically, but I think that there are enough similarities in our attitude that I think we'd go together well. It's the same sort of energy at the end of the day, I think. So we're hoping that everything falls into place for that one, but I don't want to get my hopes up too high.

CoC: Ben, thanks for your time. Always great catching up with you. What do you want to leave our readers with?

BF: <pauses> Okay, if you've never heard us, I would love for you to start off by listening to our first album and work your way forward so that you can see the evolution of the band. But I'd be equally as happy if you picked up the new one and treated the others like the "Star Wars" prequels. If you're a downloader, I'm not the kind of guy to tell you to stop, because I don't think it ever will. But if you download the album and you like it, then come to our shows and at least buy some merch and support the band a little bit. And not just us, any band. Show your support. Give us a chance, and if you're not happy with us, just pass us on to someone else.

(article submitted 15/7/2009)


CHATS
9/12/2006 J Smit Goatwhore: Curse You All Men
ALBUMS
5/6/2012 A El Naby 8 Goatwhore - Blood for the Master
6/15/2009 J Smit 10 Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God
8/22/2006 J Smit 10 Goatwhore - A Haunting Curse
10/19/2004 T DePalma 5.5 Goatwhore - Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun
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