Originally published in ‘zine issue #24, 2000
If the Dillinger Escape Plan is the most well-manicured band in hardcore, then certainly the best-dressed band is Cattle Press. I’ve been listening to Cattle Press for years, so I was delighted when Eddie Ortiz, founding member and guitar player, agreed to be interviewed. The band is a crushing mix of hardcore, rhythmic grooves, tortured vocals, and varied tempo destruction. Cattle Press has toured the States with Today Is The Day and Dissassociate as well as Candiria and the Dillinger Escape Plan and has an album on Hydra Head called Hordes to Abolish the Divine. Recently they’ve signed with Earache.
“Fuck all of this dark and evil shit.”
D.U.: Cattle Press’ lyrics have long dealt with the so to speak spiritual and/or contemplative side. There are many bands that at least touch on those types of general subjects, but it’s perhaps safe to say that only 1 percent of them actually believe and practice what they’re talking about. At the risk of getting too personal, is Cattle Press a spiritual or religious band?
Eddie: Cattle Press has always dedicated itself to the lost arts of self-realization and empowerment. It has become a method of teaching us individuality about discipline, transcendence, and release. Paying homage to what we could never understand and at the same time acknowledging the power of science––the true occult. It is through this study of a thesis and its anti-thesis do we come up with something altogether different but not entirely new. Joseph Campbell said artists and musicians are the creators of the new myths, hereby creating in a sense its own religions. The song becoming a myth, combined with the listener’s experiences to base his interpretations of the music, creating a sort of out of the body experience. One transcending his or her present state to one created by the listening experience. Question and experience: that is our religion. There isn’t a single book that I have read that I can say I agree with entirely. Not one. The same can be said about anybody. So how can one bow before one god and one book? With faith, an act of cowardice and conformity. Governments and religion go hand in hand. They work together and are inseparable. Question the question. So we can say we celebrate the spirit and the mind; the essence of our totality or spirit and the reaction to this totality or mind. The spirit can be an amalgamation of our organs, skin, and bone, thus creating a reaction into a form we call our mind. So I could say we sing to ourselves, a celebration of the flesh and the end result of our bodies evolving for billions of years. It is through this evolution that man has drastically separated himself from what was his ecosystem, hence him thinking he is above everything placed in this Earth and in our universe. Here is the paradox which governs our universe. It allows us to survive, and it is this dominance on this Earth that will eventually lead to our demise. Every dynasty has crumbled. We raise our chalices to both our rise and fall.
While lyrics are of course interpretive in different ways to different people, is it safe to say that Cattle Press’ lyrical direction over the years has in part been inspired by a personal backlash against Christianity?
In order for something to begin, something must end. We, under these present conditions, have been force fed rhetoric which says everything that is instinctual and natural should be controlled and suppressed. This gospel also blames women, bringers of life, for our mortality and denies them priesthood. Obviously, I am speaking of the dreadful Christian power which is literally peppered into every facet of our lives. We believe that Christian ethics and customs should be destroyed and denied. On the same hand, we do not agree with a good amount of the so-called “occult” community. Magic exists on all levels, for every action must be preceded by another and has nothing to do with hocus-pocus shit. “Occult” is of or relating to supernatural agencies, their effects, and knowledge of them. So since the dawn of this movement of those seeking something other than what was handed to them by tradition, it has always been about finding answers to questions we all have asked in one way or another. Magic is the mother of science. The golden dawn spoke of quantum mechanics long before it was “discovered” and documented by modern scientists. A lot of these so-called “occultists” or devil worshippers have no clue about what any of the icons or belief systems they wear so proudly on their sleeves, or if they do know a bit of history, they miss the whole point altogether. Fuck all of this dark and evil shit. The real evil is people wearing crosses in honor of their messiah’s suffering and not really paying attention to what he said. And no one can even come to any agreement on what he said anyway.
On the new album, Joey sings a few songs and shares vocals with Matt on others. Is this because these are older songs that don’t sound right with your new singer, with all due respect to him, or is there another reason?
It all derived from my decision not to sing anymore. We got Matt to replace my vocals while letting Joe sing his songs. We are kind of like The Beatles: we each sing our own tunes. So basically, Matt sang on my tunes except for “The Gift,” in which I share vocal duties with Joe, and the last track, “All of the Way Down,” which was me entirely. Matt had just joined the group while we were recording. If he could have learned both of those songs, I would have rathered not sing at all.
The band’s lineup for a certain amount of time in the past has had two guitarists, a bass player and a drummer, with the guitarists sharing vocals. Joe moved over to bass at some point, and instead of getting another guitar player you got a singer instead. Would you agree the biggest effect this has had is in the live setting, or are there other differences?
For the past three years, the Cattle Press has withstood countless lineup changes due to the fact that cats simply don’t want to tour, period. So the crazy changes in instrumentation have been as a result of necessity. No matter what comes in our way, the Press must continue. But when Joe switched over to bass, I couldn’t think of one person who could pull off doubling my guitar parts. I mean, there are players out there that I cannot fuck with.
How much of a metalhead audience does Cattle Press have?
Surprisingly enough, we have done very well with the few metal shows we have played. I could count the death metal shows we have played, and that is why we will have to go out with some metal groups in the future, first being Morbid Angel. We have been talking to their management lately, since Joe has been cool with those guys for years. Every time we play, the cats wearing unreadable death metal logo t-shirts always dig us. Our style has kind of fucked us: metal cats think we are too hardcore and hardcore cats think we are too metal. Go figure. But in many ways, this is a good thing. Devoid of a single path.
The newest album has a very loose feel in places, almost to the point of seeming improvisational. How much are these parts worked out in advance, if at all, and how close to the recorded version do you try to come on stage?
The record was recorded 98 percent live. Joe and Donato, the old drummer, were in one room while I watched them in a separate room. Besides the vocals and a doubled guitar, everything was recorded at once. Steve Evetts, our producer, felt that jazzy, loose feel of everyone feeding off one another. He decided even when the drums were tight, everybody had to be on. We could have overdubbed like crazy, but we didn’t. The middle of “Before the Shrine” has a few bars that were written on the spot. “And the Sea” has drum parts that always changed and were completely improvised. That is why the guitar parts had to be so simple, because in the live setting I improvise along with the drums. “All of the Way Down,” which at the end we go nuts for about eight minutes, all of it was written on the spot, including my second guitar which was nailed on the first take. The almost hidden track 13, “The Continuum,” was also improvised, recorded after mixing the whole record. Joe and me each grabbed an acoustic guitar and Donato hit random shit. There was a few times live which we went ballistic with the improv, but it went over too many heads. We will always experiment and try new shit without alienating our crowd.
How are bandmembers who are leaving the group treated, as far as severance for their time and effort put into the band during their inclusion, and does this depend on whether they quit or are “fired”?
The Cattle Press is a totality, an army. If you are not in the band, you ain’t getting paid besides gettin’ a few copies of the shit you played on. The money we make goes back into the band. Only on a few occasions have we gone home with loot for ourselves. We are cool with most of the old members. No bad feelings for the most part. We had serious beef with our old singer, Lino, who is in Hemlock now, but now he is one of my roommates, so you can say that beef has been squashed.
Are newer bandmembers sort of handled as “hired guns,” as the core of the band, at least from the songwriting standpoint, seems to be you and Joe?
No way. The core of the group has consisted of those who are dedicated to our cause: the rock! At the end of the day, we love music and love to meet beautiful women and cool cats who dig this shit as much as we do. In the past I wrote most of the shit, but now our singer is also a drummer who plays guitar. Our new shit so far has been completely a group effort, everybody putting in a part here or a part there. For the first time in this group’s existence, everybody has had important input in composing, arranging, and lyrics. In the past I or Joe would have a complete idea, and this gave the individuals space to put their own trademark shit in there. We are excited as hell, for the new stuff is both primitive and complex. Fast shit as well as real, real slow shit. Variety is the key. ■
Photos: Cattle Press (courtesy Ralphyboy, top, and Justin Jarboe, bottom)