CATTLE DECAPITATION Vocalist Travis Ryan Talks About Author & Punisher, Politics, And More
As I stared at the Metal Blade Records 35th Anniversary tour admat for the first time, I became astonished at that actual amount of time for a business to simultaneously stay afloat in a financial sense, but also flourish and adapt to the ever-changing trends of the metal community. With a lineup including Whitechapel, Cattle Decapitation, Goatwhore, Allegaeon, and Necromancing the Stone, there is a clear diversity in style being showcased. While I was instantly sure that I'd attend the show to witness all of these bands live, I felt obliged to speak to the acts featured about the tour and their relationship with the label.
Cattle Decapitation vocalist Travis Ryan reminisced on his relationship with Metal Blade and spoke about other topics including the current political climate, Author & Punisher, future musical directions, an interest in other facets of the music business, and more.
Well let’s start off by talking about the meaning behind this tour. It’s the 35th anniversary of Metal Blade Records and you’ve been with the label for about 15 years now. Can you remember when you first got signed by Metal Blade?
Oh yeah, I mean, I thought it was weird that they wanted to be talking to us to be honest. We were talking to a couple other labels and someone in Metal Blade Records told us to wait because they were interested in signing us. And I was just confused and it didn't sound right because they seemed too big for us at the time. I was afraid they would chew us up and spit us out, but luckily that never happened. We've developed a relationship with them that I never thought we would have. There's a lot of factors at play, but we owe a lot to them.
I think the bands chosen for this lineup are not only impressive but there’s definitely diversity as well. Can you talk about your relationship with your tourmates and how it has been on the road?
It's been amazing. Yeah, it's pretty diverse though. Cattle Decapitation has always crossed over into all different territories, so we're used to it. Simply because we don't adhere to any format or genre. And we've toured with Whitechapel and Goatwhore before, so we know what to expect. It just ended up being a really fucking good tour. I think it's a testament towards how great Metal Blade Records is as an entity.
Late last year you were a part of the Make America Hate Again tour with Brujeria. Can you talk about that experience and if you’ve had any backlash because of the tour name?
There's real life and then there's fake social media life. As much as people are trying to marry the two, I think they're two completely different places. The same kid that will kiss our ass and give a shit about us in person will turn right around and call us cucks online or whatever the fuck social media new fangled terminology bullshit they come up with. I saw a couple people online talk shit and labeling us as "leftists," but they wouldn't have given a shit if it wasn't for the 2016 election. I wouldn't even consider us a political band. As for the tour though, Brujeria is one of my favorite bands of all time. I've been an insane fan since 1991 and we've been friends with them since about 2002.
The most interesting reaction I witnessed to Trump winning the election is this notion that the rebellious or perhaps underground side of music will flourish in response. Do you predict that to be true and are you personally inspired to an extent to write from all the events occurring?
That's not a good enough reason to have him be our president though. I had a joke side band that made fun of him and then he actually got elected. Any political turmoil like this will always create something decent art-wise. And I hate even talking like this, but now there's people giving liberals a bad name. My parents raised me as liberally conservative or whatever and made me go to Catholic school because they thought that was the right thing. My dad was rolling his eyes the whole time, while my mom was the one trying to believe in God and stuff like that. Things were just so loose then. Nothing is far-left and nothing is far-right. There's a gigantic in-between area where real life takes place. Ying and yang, you can't have light without dark. We'll see what happens though. What a weird time to be alive.
It has been about a year and a half since the last album came out. Any thoughts or progress on the eighth Cattle Decap record right now?
Not really, we've talked about it and I'm sure the other guys are writing riffs and stuff, but we have yet to sit down and put anything together. We just haven't had the time with touring. Probably all next year we'll be writing.
Maybe this is subjective, but I feel like the last two albums took a more progressive or melodic approach. Is this something you’d like to continue or are there other elements you’re planning on exploring on future material?
Well, I'd say we were doing that for a long time, but songwriting-wise we blossomed a little. I've been experimenting with vocals. People call them clean vocals, but they're definitely not clean. I'm sure we'll continue experimenting. Where most bands will find their sweet spot and stick with that, I think we've always been too experimental to do that.
There’s been guest appearances on previous Cattle Decap albums, but I think the artists selected for this past record was maybe the most interesting with Author & Punisher as well as Jürgen Bartsch of Bethlehem. Do you have any interest in further collaboration with any musicians you’ve worked with or do you have any in mind you’d like to work with that you haven't yet?
I've always wanted to get with Michael Gira from Swans. We've had Jarboe from Swans previously. But we really are looking forward to an actual full collaboration with Author & Punisher. We've been talking about this forever. I met him in 2007 or something and he lives in San Diego too. Our tour cycles are always flip-flopped. That's the same reason we never toured with Cannibal Corpse for so long, because of different tour dates schedules. But we've been kicking around the idea of a full collaboration with Author & Punisher this tour. We still have to run it by the label, but I'd really like to do something with him. People call it industrial music, but that term was coined by Throbbing Gristle, one of my favorite bands ever. And the term was used to explain music that was made in an unconventional way. Then came along Nine Inch Nails and all these other motherfuckers who bastardized the term and it became dance music somewhere. But Tristan [Shone, Author & Punisher] is making music in a completely unconventional way and that to me is true industrial music. I've always wanted to do vocals over his music. We're going to have to talk and figure it out, but it'll be something like an EP or one long song.
I’ve seen you a couple times at the San Diego Metal Swap Meet selling CDs. Do you have any interest in the business side of the music industry?
Oh yeah, I want to manage bands honestly. If our band ever ends up taking a shit, that's probably what I'll end up doing. As far as selling music, I was doing that for a long time, but that market is kinda dead. I bought a table this year at the swap meet for my wife because she makes jewelry that is really fucking cool. We'll be there again this year. I just love metal and swap meets, so it's one of the coolest things ever. I wish they would do it more often.