The following are excerpts of tangents that J.R. went on from the latest “Musical Darwinism” session, 2014.
Death metal vs. grindcore
Explaining the difference between grindcore and death metal to someone who doesn’t know anything about the two things would be next to impossible. You know, ‘cause you play them [Those Who Bring the Torture] and then you play them Side A of Scum or somethin’ like that, and it would be the same thing to them. But to me, what defines death metal has always been, like, the stiffness of the playing and the focus on technicality and precision. Not “technicality,” that’s the wrong word. It’s like focusing on the actual playing, whereas grindcore has more of that punk vibe where they’re not worried about exactly what the guitar tone sounds like and whether they’re pickin’ each note clean. And in fact, it’s like they want it dirtier, you know? Like you want that fudgy, Scott Carlson bass tone, where every time he plays by himself it’s just KKKKK, like he might as well not even be playing a riff, like Mortician style.
Did you hear the Evil Army record? That record rules, dude. That record rules. It’s like a bunch of punk kids just listened to Kill ‘Em All by Metallica and were like, “Let’s write a record right now.” You know what I mean? It’s just fuckin’ raw. It’s so good.
Note: J.R. has sung the praises of Evil Army in this column before.
When [Pig Destroyer] played Miami, it was 2012 I think, and we got down there and [the promoter] sent this girl [to pick us up]—I can’t remember her name, but she was, you know, a bunch of piercings and all dressed in a crazy black outfit, all gothed out. And we got in the car and this fuckin’ goregrind comes on, super loud, and I was like, “Is this Regurgitate?” She’s like, “It’s Cock and Ball Torture.” [laughs] When you just meet a girl at an airport and you get in the car with her and she plays Cock and Ball Torture, that’s a serious thing. That’s a situation right there. I mean, it’s just the most insane goregrind possible. It’s so funny.
Cock and Ball Torture … it’s an awesome name. They’re actually a really cool band, but that stuff’s even too much for me. Goregrind just gets a little too white noiseish, you know? They need to have some kind of form. It just can’t be complete chaos all the time.
How do [goregrind bands] tell their songs apart? It’s always two minutes of RRR RRR RRR; the riff is just one chord every other song they wrote, and everything’s so caked in distortion. It’s not like they could go back if they forgot it and listen to the record, [and] be like, “What the fuck is that …?” I don’t understand it. Goregrind, man. Goregrind. It’s a dark path to go down, the goregrind path. You start wading into all that really deviant sexual shit, and it just gets so … what’s the word I’m looking for—sad and gross—and you just feel sorry for … oh, god, I dunno. I love grindcore; I do. But the goregrind, man. One night we’re gonna have to walk the dark path of goregrind.
That was [Kurt Cobain’s] greatest strength, was being able to write so many different kinds of songs, and the ebb and flow of that record is really fascinating. I think on the first side, the second song is “Scentless Apprentice,” you know? And then the second song on the second side is “Milk It,” which is the other brutal, heavy song on the record. And then he’s got, like, the dark acoustic songs like “Pennyroyal Tea” and then the rockin’ songs.
The only thing I hate about that record is “Rape Me.” I just wish [that was a B-side] or something. It’s OK, but it just feels like more of a … it feels like it’s not even a song, you know what I mean? It’s just like a throwaway track, like a filler song that gained some kind of significance because of its title or somethin’. But I think it’s the lamest part of that record. Although I can’t listen to “All Apologies” anymore. I just can’t listen to that song at all. The rest of the record I’m OK with.
You remember how everyone wanted to sound like Discharge? There were just a million Dis-bands? Dis-this and Dis-that. There’s a thousand bands out there that want to sound exactly like Infest. That hyper-fast stop-start grindcore—we were talking about Chris Moore, and he excels at this kinda shit. Like, his transitions between blast beats and fast hardcore beats are just so seamless that he starts and stops on a dime, and the constant tempo shifting. Everything that makes grindcore great. Cool band.
I think that [Devourment] slam type of death metal is like, they basically scoop out everything in the middle of traditional death metal, and it just becomes super-fast blast parts and then ignorant slam parts. You just put those two things together and that’s the whole thing. But they take out all of the weirder riffs you would find on a Malevolent Creation record, you know what I mean? Like more traditional, um … It’s sorta like death metal with the thrash taken out of it. You take out all the mid-paced kinda thrashy parts and you’re just left with the blasts and the breakdowns, so it’s just super-ignorant death metal. ‘Cause death metal wasn’t ignorant enough; it had to be more ignorant.
That always used to piss me off with Testament: you know when the thrash metal band goes into the guitar break and they’re building up this totally amazing riff, and you’re just waiting for the drummer to come in and just fuckin’ Dave Lombardo the shit out of it. And then Testament would always come in with this, like, totally slow, underwhelming beat? They totally did that shit all over Souls of Black and Practice What You Preach. Yeah, the first two records are awesome, and The Gathering; you know, there’s a million amazing Testament records, but that Practice What You Preach, Souls of Black era—it’s infuriating, dude. It’s infuriating.
Photo: Relapse Records