Goatwhore: The Force of Black & Roll – An Interview with Ben Falgoust of Goatwhore
Interview conducted in August 2009
>New Orleans, Louisiana, the town black and rollers Goatwhore hail from, is a heavily Catholic town. And if you've even been there during their summer-time (about six months out of the year as opposed to the two and a half months that most U.S. cities have) then it will all become clear why because that immense heat and humidity will make almost anyone begin to pray for relief.
Goatwhore, however, have their own ideas. Having just released their forth studio album, Carving Out The Eyes of God, it's obvious they're not too worried about religious rituals or beliefs.
While on the road in support of their new release, Goatwhore vocalist Ben Falgoust had the opportunity to chat about the new album, all things Goatwhore, and that Louisiana heat.
"I guess you just learn to deal with it. Like when I'm at home I work in a warehouse and it gets pretty fucking hot in the warehouse - but you just go with it, that's how it is. Just like the people that live in Canada who deal with the snow everywhere."
On this particular day on their tour the guys had just crossed the boarder from Canada back into the U.S. and - as usual - had to deal with a few raised eyebrows when they gave their band name to the boarder officials. How exactly did the name Goatwhore come about?
"It was kind of something that Sammy [Duet] fell on it like when he was out one night with some friends at a strip club in a little town outside of Baton Rogue. And one of our friends that he was out with that night, he gets a little boisterous when he gets drunk, you know - we all have friends like that. He gets a little out of control and he speaks his mind when he shouldn't and sometimes it turns out good and sometimes it turns out bad," Falgoust laughs. "Well, in that case there was a stripper and she had her hair in pigtails or something and she had this weird like elongated face, they said. And when she came around for her tips, and this guy jumped up and screamed at her, 'Get out of my face, you goat whore!' And Sammy was like, 'I am definitely using that a band name.' And there are other little elements about it too but that's the main - I guess - cult story idea."
And because of the crude sound of the name, some publications have refused to print interviews or reviews of the band. Is that something that Falgoust and company anticipated when deciding on Goatwhore as their band name?
"I mean, it's a given. You put 'whore' in something it's definitely going to be risqué to somebody. So essentially too - 'goat whore' - you've got people who are touchy about it. We've run across venues where they use asterisks or whatever. We knew we were going to get slight slack for it from the sensitive folks but I guess we took it on, and we need to move forward. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not. And you know, when you start a band you don't really think about that kind of stuff anyway - you're just like, 'Whatever, let's do this, let's do these things...' And then down the career things might shift, things might get a little more popular, and then you're confronted with little things like that. But whatever, it kind of balances out - sometimes there's bad positions because of it and sometimes there's really good positions because of it."
"It's funny because when we crossed the border today the guy was like, 'So you all in a band?' 'Yeah.' 'What's the name of the band?' 'It's Goatwhore.' 'Uh, excuse me, what was that?' He goes, 'Don't feel heartbroken about this, but I have to admit to you I've never really heard of you before.' And I said, 'Probably not, you probably don't listen to metal or anything like that so obviously you wouldn't really come across us,'" he chuckled. "But usually you get a 'what?' every time you say it, at a border office or something like that and a double-take. One person in the back will be like, 'What did he say?' And they go, 'I don't want to repeat it really, can you repeat it for him, or her?'"
Having a reputation for incessant touring, the Goatwhore guys aren't doing anything different this time around either having begun early in 2009 and with a slew of shows ahead of them throughout the rest of the year.
"It's a little bit of everything, it's work ethic, you know, it's the idea of promotion - it's the best promotion tool for a band when you can get in front of people. It's better than any magazine ad, any internet ad, anything like that because if you can get on a substantial tour and get in front of people that had never heard of you or seen you before - like the tour with Amon Amarth that we did, you know, or like the tour that we've got coming up after this tour that's with Obituary. It's going to be in front of people who have never seen you or heard you before and that's the best possible promotion, completely, with anything. I mean, unless you can get billboards around fucking cities, no one's going to toss that up for any heavy metal band but especially with the name Goatwhore. A big billboard across the sky - but money can buy you anything so I guess if we did have the money we could actually do it - purchase one of these billboards in every city on the interstate or something like that," Falgoust laughs.
"At times, it gets hard with America sometimes because you start going to the same venues. It's cool when you go to a town to maybe a smaller venue and then you come back with a bigger package at a bigger venue so it kind of makes a shift. But then when you do consecutive tours, say you do three tours in a year in the U. S. and it's all at the same venues. And there are some venues that you come across that you can't stand - and it's not necessarily the size or that it's dirty or not because people play little rat holes and those shows are just as fun and good as playing the House of Blues. Sometimes it's the people who work there, the promoter you have to deal with, you know, and that becomes a thing where we're like, 'Oh no, you're playing that place and that dude's fucking running the show - great.' Because I mean it's already tough out here and sometimes you get to a city and you do the show and there's some guy who did the show and he's just a complete ass about everything. He's like, 'Well, you decided to be in the band!' and it's just like, 'That's not the point, man, we're already doing music you don't have to be a prick about it. You get to go home to your bed and whatever after the show, and we're going to go try to sleep in the van and drive to the next show.' So usually we'll get into arguing matches with promoters and things like that, but there are a lot of great promoters - that's what's really cool too. They understand what the band does and everything and they go out of their way to take care of the band and make sure that everything runs smooth. But that's life though, even when you're home you go to the supermarket and there's some prick there that makes your day miserable because he backs into your fucking car or he blocks you in because he's a fucking moron. It's everywhere around you but I guess we run into it more because every day we're in a new city, new city, new city, new city, back here, back here again and again - and you run into the same person again and again."
So how does Falgoust handle the almost constant touring regimen?
"Personally, I adapt to it fairly well. Some people don't, touring isn't for everybody. And I can't really speak for everyone in the band but they deal with it pretty well, some days they might not and be a little grouchy. I do have a shift though like when I leave for a tour, my body and everything goes thought a shift for the first week or so and then when I get home it goes through a shift for the first week. Like when I get home I can climb into my bed and it's uncomfortable as hell - a bed, this comfortable bed - is uncomfortable because I've been sleeping on a bench seat for seven weeks, you know, and my body basically adapted to the bench seat. Like Sammy also said one day, we got home from a tour and I talked to him a few days afterwards and he was like, 'I just can't sleep, I'm so used to being in the van and it idling then I get home and I lay in the bed and it's quiet and everything's perfectly silent and the bed's still and I just lay there and my eyes are open - I can't sleep.' You get into these modes and adapt to the situation and then when you get back to the other way you have to kind of mold back into that again, it's just like the same way when you get back in the van and you sleep in the bench seat for a few nights and think 'this if fucking uncomfortable!' But then all of a sudden you kind of sink back into it."
Does having the release of the new album while in the process of touring offer a sort of second wind?
"Definitely! Right now we play six songs off the new record in our set, that's pretty hefty. A lot of bands usually don't really jump into that many new songs. But we all feel pretty confident with the new stuff that we're just going straight forward. We're going for it and putting it out there live, and like we're playing about 13 songs live right now. So seven of them are all mixed from the other records and six of them are from the new record but it gives you that refreshed thing, it makes the set pumped up because it is new, it just came out, and it's new to us still. And mixing that in and playing the old songs it's real good, it's got that flow to it. And say there's nights, because this is a five-band tour, and sometimes sets cut down a little bit. If our set cuts down, we still play the six new songs and just play two old songs, one at the beginning and one at the end. We're just trying to play more for the people who don't have the record yet or don't realize that the record came out yet - then we have to force into it, we have to force them into what we're doing now. So it's real refreshing, and it adds to the energy too - it makes you more pumped in playing everything."
After the 2006 release of Goatwhore's album A Haunting Curse, Falgoust had commented on how he was satisfied with the musical progression the band had accomplished. And again, withCarving Out The Eyes of God Goatwhore has satisfied the artist's need for growth as well.
"I think I feel that even more about this album. It seems like this album everything as a whole went smoother in the way everything came across and the way it feels. Like Sammy and Zack[Simmons] and those guys write the music, I come in and I put the vocals over everything and I write the lyrics, but it's cool because when I listen to them put the songs together and then I hear a whole song it's almost like with the newer stuff I'm a fan of it in a sense, not the lyrics just the music in general. So it's cool that I got to put lyrics and vocals to it and then when I play it I'm like 'Wow, this is fun!' because I'm really pumped about this stuff. I'm pumped about the other stuff as well but I guess there's just something more complete in feeling-wise about the new stuff. I grew up on AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Maiden, it's that whole rock and roll element that's in the newer stuff that we have where we've kind of taken that approach instead of being speed demons, we kind of step into the progression that we did - we like to call it 'black and roll' - it's like black-metal and rock and roll. And it's just got that feeling, there's just something fun about it and people have a good time when they're at our show and that's what we want. We want everyone to enjoy it and have fun, and we also have that old-school feeling, something that we grew up on that gives you that eternal youth again."
Falgoust continues: "When we wrote the record we didn't write for fans, we wrote for ourselves, we all wrote on things that we grew up on, things that we like, things that have influenced us - whatever comes out that's what we do, that's how we like it and if people like it that's awesome. But we didn't write necessarily for the fans, but if the fans dig it then that's awesome, it's moving in that progression. I think there are some bands that when they write they write with the fan in mind, you know, it doesn't come from the feeling - it's just kind of produced. Or they think, 'Ok well this is cool because we did something like this on the last record or let's repeat these things because people really dug that.' It's not like that for us, like on every Goatwhore record there's definitely a growth and an advance of what we do, but it's not anything huge. But you can definitely hear from this record and the last record the shifts we made from being speed demons to fucking being black and roll fucking kids. Or pulling in more of the hard core/punk/thrash metal edge of where we came from. When we toured on the last record towards the end of the cycle we toured with Exodus and me and Sammy went to see the Metals Masters tour and with Judas Priest, Motorhead, and all that - a bunch of bands that we hold close to us. Celtic Frost is like one of the biggest influences for this band."
So is there a goal of what to accomplish when heading into the studio, or does the creativity just take over?
"It's kind of a natural thing. Like Sammy works on a lot of riffs and he records them on a tape, so he's got all these tapes of riffs. And when we're working on stuff, sometimes he'll show up in the room and he'll just have riffs that came to him, whatever, in the last week or something. And when he doesn't really have things popping up he goes back to the tapes and they call it 'fishing.' They go, 'Let's go fishing for some riffs,' and they play through the tapes and they fucking pick out which ones they like and they try to put them all together and see how they flow. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, sometimes you got to tear the whole thing apart and start all over again. Sometimes they write a song in one day and sometimes it takes them two or three weeks to write a song. We can go through a whole song, write it, and a couple days later it just doesn't have that feeling, it doesn't move us so we tear it apart. Or this one riff sounds awesome but the rest of it just doesn't go anywhere, so let's tear it apart, let's use that riff for something else or put it on the side. So it's definitely not forced, because if it's forced it's thrown away. Maybe subconsciously we might try to force something together but then after we do it and sit there and listen to it we go, 'No, this isn't going to work,' and it gets tossed out. And you know it's funny too, people ask, 'It's been like two years or three years since the last record?' Well we're not going to just pull a bunch of riffs out the air to put a record out every year or every fucking eight months. We're not going to just throw things together, and the band isn't the only solid thing that everyone has in their life. Of course we don't make a shit load of fucking money; sometimes we barely cover expenses after a tour. But then we come home and we do things to make up for that, it's not like we're Metallica where we could just sit around all day in some studio for a year and work on riffs and do whatever. If the label was trying to rush us we'd just be like whatever, if that's what they want then maybe we need to go somewhere else because we're not going to do that, we're not going rush anything and we're not going to just throw a bunch of things together that we don't like and that has no feeling. And then when we played it live we just wouldn't be into it, and then that's a lack of performance and it makes everyone think we don't have it anymore."
What all is coming up for Goatwhore for the rest of 2009?
"Sometimes the tours get booked ahead and sometimes they take awhile. So we've got this and then we come home for like three weeks, and then we go out for that Obituary tour. And there's nothing solid but there's talk for like a week and a half with Municipal Waste in November. Some other things here and there. We don't have anything solid yet, but like I said sometimes a tour pops up like three weeks beforehand. We are going to still try to tour as much and hopefully things will pop up - and hopefully in the new year we can get to Europe, maybe some other things like that and expand a little more. Maybe Japan, maybe Australia, who knows - you know? That's the only thing about this business that's kind of lame - the anxiety of it because you never know, and then some things just fall into place at like the last minute. So you just learn to deal with it and whatever happens happens when things come along. And there are a lot of politics in this industry as well, you've got to get in and fight to get a spot or you have to be apart of some association or something else, there are all kinds of different variations for being in this industry and doing things and getting on the road and doing what you have to do."
The sad state of the economy has only made things more difficult as well, but Goatwhore just lets it all roll off their backs and keeps trekking along.
"Yeah, and like for us right now this tour is going to hurt because we have like two or three fest tours. You have the Mayhem fest, and Summer Slaughter, and kids are going to decide which to go to, and smaller tours are going to hurt. You battle that when you go through towns, some of our shows recently we were like two days behind Summer Slaughter. But it doesn't stop us, we're not going to be like, 'Oh maybe we should bump this and wait until things slow up,' we're still moving. We toured when gas was over $4, and we toured when gas was $1.75," Falgoust laughed,"We toured when gas was .98-cents. I guess you just adapt to it and you change and you try to work around things."