Even by death metal standards they don’t come much heavier than San Diego’s Cattle Decapitation. 17 years strong, the band finally makes their maiden trip down under for a run of shows with Thy Art Is Murder this June. Killyourstereo.com caught up with frontman Travis Ryan recently to discuss music, touring, and wanting to hug a koala bear.
G’day Travis, how’s it going?
Pretty good, how are you going?
Not too bad thanks, appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today.
No problems at all.
First time coming down to Australia soon, what are you looking forward to about finally getting down here?
Finally just getting there. It has been a long time. We’ve had a lot of people hitting us up – fans saying they wanted us there. Pretty much more so than a lot of other territories in the past five years or so. We are just looking forward to finally coming to play and seeing how the shows are, and hopefully going and meeting some koalas or something (laughs). That’s one of my main objectives for going out there to go visit a koala bear somewhere (laughs).
That was going to be my next question – things you might’ve put on the itinerary to do in between shows. Obviously you said hugging koalas is high on the list. What else is there?
I’m not sure, we’ll see. I know we have two days off right in the middle of the tour. Hopefully we’ll be able to do something and have some time off to go to the zoo or some shit (laughs). I’m not really sure what else there is to do out there. Hopefully we’ll be close to some water and it will be nice to go and put our feet in the ocean. We’ll see what happens.
That’s the other thing, because it’s your first time here, have you talked to other friends bands that have toured Australia before to get an insight into what to expect?
Everybody just says it is a lot of fun and everyone is really nice. I already knew that about the people. All the Australians I’ve ever met were beyond cool. Actually I’ve run into a lot of them over the years. We were friends with a band called Devolved who moved out here. We’ve toured with Beyond Terror, Beyond Grace and Alarum, and bands like that. Everybody we’ve ever met from there is cool as hell to get along with, so we are looking forward to that as well.
Speaking of bands and touring, obviously the band you’re touring with when you come down here, Thy Art Is Murder. I was speaking to CJ the other day and he talked about when he toured Europe he had a bad experience with a few fans coming up and saying how they were disrespecting death metal because they have breakdowns in their music. Today, there seems to be over-excessive genre labelling. For someone that has been around for a while, what’s your opinion on this?
What’s weird is how everything is getting sectioned into micro-genres. Like this whole djent things is one of the weirder ones. It’s a form of music based on onomatopoeia – that is just fucking weird?! The fact that kids are growing up with that as well. When I was growing up there really wasn’t that much. The new genres were fresh and exciting because there wasn’t 50 million of them a week. Everything was not as sectioned off. Then again there wasn’t as much stuff as there is now. Not every motherfucker was in a band like they are today. That’s the thing, the shittiest part of all this is everybody thinks they have something to offer and they can do it. There are no fans anymore. Everybody’s in a band. It’s all bands, no fans, which is cool if you want to play, but there was a huge section of my life when I wasn’t playing music. I guess everybody’s got to start somewhere. There’s got to be bands in the world, but it just seems like everybody is in a band now. The Internet has provided a platform for everyone. There is no filter because the labels are just signing what the kids seem to gravitate towards. A lot of people listen to a lot of weird stuff (laughs). I’m an old dude – well not really – I’m in my late 30’s and I listen to stuff from the early 90’s and stuff I grew up on. There’s not much new stuff that really floats my boat.
Speaking about stuff you listen to, when I was doing research for this interview I came across a video interview you did and I know it’s a bit of a cheeky one, but it would be remiss of me not to ask – you were talking about how you liked Britney Spears and the production on that. Are you able to elaborate?
Well, you know, basically the question that was asked to me and I don’t think it was even caught on the video was, ‘is there anything I listen to that might freak people out or stuff people wouldn’t expect me to listen to?’ That was one of the things. But, my whole life I’ve listened to rap and other forms of popular music. I don’t understand cutting off any form of music as long as it sounds pleasing to you. But, the music has to come first. The fashion can’t dictate what you listen to…at least in my world. I do think that anybody that bases what they listen to and pays attention to on what their friends do or treat it more as a fashion sense, that is what I call a “poser.” It has never attracted me to doing anything music-wise – it is not about what other people are doing. I find out about stuff through other people and everything, but there’s got to be some sort of own identity [too].
Another side of being in a band, a lot of neutral observes are probably naïve to the fact that they see bands playing and touring the world and think it’s the best life ever, but the fact of the matter is you almost have to keep your day jobs to survive. For you guys has it become easier or harder over time?
In certain ways easier, but as I’m getting older it’s getting harder on the body. It’s getting a little bit harder to do it. But [also] with ‘more money, more problems.’ It’s not like the bigger you get the less problems you have. I mean if you get really, really big you can just drive around in a tour bus and somebody holds you a guitar every night and takes care of everything for you. Then still, you’re paying for that, it’s not like money is going to change anything (laughs). Unless it just rolls in and there’s not much overhead, but there always is (laughs). We’re grown men trying to make this work while trying to keep some sort of job or business whenever at home. That part is getting a little more challenging, but then again we have done almost 30 US tours, it’s time to do more international stuff and try and make what we’ve done in the past work a little more for us. We’ve got a manager now too, which is helping out a lot.
Obviously the touring is one side of it, when you get home and you’re not in band mode and have some time off, what do you like to get up to?
I hardly do anything. My wife and I hang out a lot and entertain each other (laughs). That’s about it (laughs). We all have our own jobs, so there’s a lot of working. We’ll jam once in a while. We don’t really have any hobbies that I know of? Most of us just work and bust our ass doing that. My wife and I watch a lot of movies and documentaries (laughs).
By death metal standards, your vocals are quite versatile. How have the vocal chords and voice box held up over the years?
The only thing that sucks, every tour somebody always gets sick. I get sick majority of tours – four out of five of them. That’s the only part that sucks when you’ve got a sore throat. But, it’s not caused from the vocals. Sure, the upper respiratory system being the instrument, it’s going to be abused a lot more and it’s not a very good environment for wellness, but I just do my best in that aspect. I’ve only ever lost my voice once and that was from getting sick and then hopping on a plane – I think I actually got sick on the plane. I had to do like three plane trips in a row and I don’t know what it was, but it seemed to stretch my voice and I just lost my voice, it was really bizarre. I’ve actually wondered what damage I’m doing (laughs).
I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today, I’ll let you go because I’m sure you’ve got quite a few more interviews lined-up, but I know our office is quite excited to be presenting the upcoming tour, I’ll catch up with you guys when you hit Melbourne.
Awesome man, thanks.
Have a good rest of the day Travis.
You too, take it easy.
Killyourstereo.com presents Cattle Decapitation as they tour with Thy Art Is Murder as part of ‘Hate Across Australia‘. Dates and details here.