The heart of every Death Metal fan started to beat a little faster when the news spread a few years ago that the legendary AUTOPSY was resurrected from its grave. Originally, AUTOPSY came to life again for a new single - "Horrific Obsession" (2008) - and a few gigs at rather big festivals. The reunion was very successful and with the demise of ABSCESS, nothing stood in the way for a new AUTOPSY record. "Macabre Eternal" (2011) was a great comeback album which can easily compete with their classics from the early nineties, "Severed Survival" (1989) and "Mental Funeral" (1991). With a new record - "The Headless Ritual" - in their backpocket, the knife was sharpened again. We hooked up once more with frontman Chris Reifert.
"Macabre Eternal" was received very well when it was released in 2011. Everybody seemed more than happy that AUTOPSY was back. How do you look back at the album nowadays, 2 years later?
"Still love it of course! We've never put out a record that we didn't stand 100% behind. It got the point across and them some. Nostalgia is not the name of the game and "Macabre Eternal"' proved that."
You already stated several times that you think the new AUTOPSY album "The Headless Ritual" totally crushes "Macabre Eternal". In which way do you think?
"In every way, if we do our job right. Not to take away from anything else we've done, but let's face it … if we aspire to make an album that's as good or almost as good as the last one, we're not trying hard enough. In hindsight I think we've achieved that every time and will continue to do so until we fall over backward frothing at the mouth."
"The Headless Ritual" was once again recorded and mixed at Fantasy Studios in California with Adam Munoz. "Macabre Eternal" was the first AUTOPSY album since your reunion. So, did you approach the songwriting and the whole process of recording different this time or did you stick to your formula?
"Yep, good ol' Fantasy again. Love that place! Songwriting is the same as always, no rocket science involved. Things went smooth as always too. At this point we should know what we're doing, you know? We plug in, get the sound we want to start with and fire away. The studio is great. We don't know if it's day or night outside but that doesn't matter."
"The Headless Ritual" lasts exactly 44 minutes - ideal for the cassette maniacs who may still be around there :) - and sounds in that way maybe more compact than "Macabre Eternal" which was a very long album (although I never had problems with its length to be honest). How do you see this?
"We did indeed strive to make a normal length album this time. It was cool to cram shitloads of Death Metal on the last one, but this time we catered to the cassette maniacs exclusively. Haha! Ok, maybe we just wanted to make more impact with less time? Or maybe we just wanted to go out for hamburgers instead of recording more stuff. Can I blame the greenhouse effect in some way? At any rate, we are totally stoked with the results, whether it's 44 minutes or 144 minutes. The material within is what matters at the end of the day."
Some of the songs are really remarkably melodic again, which is a good thing in my opinion. Take a song like 'She Is A Funeral' for instance.
"Glad you dig it. What else can I say? We're a humble Rock'n'Roll combo from Oakland, California doing the only thing we know how to do well. Crank it up and see your worst nightmares coming to life, clawing at your poor quivering brain!"
The guitarwork and the sound of the guitars in tracks like 'Slaughter At Beast House', 'Coffin Crawlers' and 'Arch Cadavers' remind me a lot on the first PARADISE LOST album which should be seen as a very big compliment. What's your secret in getting this sound?
"I would have never picked up on that and don't really see it, but hey… whatever works for you is fine by me. Our secret involves several forbidden and highly flammable items that may or may not cause serious harm or fatal events in certain areas of your nervous system. Thanks for the nice words at any rate."
The intro of 'Coffin Crawlers' could have been taken from an old horror movie, it sounds excellent! The same goes for the atmosphere of 'When Hammer Meets Bone' or the instrumental title-track.
"Yes, in 'Coffin Crawlers' there are subliminal messages that actually cause wormlike creatures from another dimension to appear in your ear canals so they can lay eggs in your mind. As for the other tracks, they are awful, horrible and will do nothing good for anyone. Turn around and run while you still can! Aaaarrgghhhh!!!"
The last time I talked to you, you said that you didn't really follow what's going on in the world of horror movies of nowadays and that the only movie that recently came out and impressed you was "The Human Centipide". Did you check out any new movies in the meantime that you could recommend or that were maybe even an inspiration? Have you already seen the "Evil Dead" remake and what did you think about it (I personally thought it was quite good)?
"I haven't been following up on recent horror flicks honestly. I'm a bit sick of remakes and CGI riddled stuff with no atmosphere. There's probably some good stuff I'm missing out on out there, but maybe I'll catch up at some point. Right now I'm happy watching the twisted films that saturate the dark recesses of the back of my mind. Not for children or the weak of heart!"
The artwork of "The Headless Ritual" was done by Joe Petagno, mostly known because of his covers for MOTÖRHEAD. How did you end up with him?
"Joe contacted us and what a thrill that was. He let us know he was into the band and was interested to see if we wanted to work together. The answer was an instant and massive 'Fuck yes!'. Joe is insanely talented and a cool mutha as well. Hail to the master!"
You have released a new song of the album already through the internet and so far, the reactions have been overwhelming. AUTOPSY has always been a band which received a lot of credit - especially from people who've been around in the scene for over 25 years - since you've never done really 'weird' things with the band throughout your career. Do you think weird experiments should be avoided? And in that retrospect, how do you personally see an album like for example MORBID ANGEL's "Illud Divinum Insanus" which was hard to swallow for many (I must say that I really like that album)?
"Hey, we pretty much stick with the original vision for the band. We play Death Metal and if we got too experimental or whatever, we'd have to call the band something else. A beast called AUTOPSY can't go too far into regions of weirdness, even if we are weird people. I haven't heard the aforementioned MORBID ANGEL album to be honest, so I can't comment on that one. We do what we do and they do what they do, simply put."
Eric Cutler has been diagnosed in 2008 with avascular necrosis, a disease which interrupts blood flow to bone causing it to die. He had his left hip replaced twice since. Can you give an update on his condition?
"Eric is doing fine actually. Nothing he's been through has slowed him down and I don't see him slowing down any time soon. He's getting around well and slaying the guitar with a die hard attitude as usual."
Eric has been selling a lot of really rare AUTOPSY items on Ebay the last few months, in order to pay his medical bills. Now, I'm not exactly up to date with how medical insurance in the U.S. works but I always find it extremely weird when I read such stories (that people have to sell their own stuff in order to pay their medical bills and see that people are totally left on their own and insurance doesn't cover their bills). It also reminds me on the situation Chuck Schuldiner had to face when he was ill.
"Yeah, that's a big problem in the US… if you don't have money or a job that covers medical insurance, you're pretty much left to deal with it on your own. Crazy, eh? Now, maybe if we would put more money into health insurance and education instead of weapons and crap like that, we would be better off. Same old story though. All we can do is do our best and keep rockin' despite whatever obstacles get in our way."
Eric has also just started up a new band, NECROSIC. Can you tell a bit more about that band and the plans in the future? Is there already much material written and is NECROSIC looking for a record deal or does Eric want to keep the band low profile?
"Hhmmm, good question. I don't really know what's up with that at the moment. I'd just say keep your eyes and ears open for news. I hate to give a boring answer but that's all I know to be honest. I'm sure whatever Eric has in mind will be sick and heavy though."
The bassplayer of NECROSIC - Erika Osterhout - has a very Dutch sounding name. So, is she originally from the Netherlands?
"As far as I know, Erika has always been from the US. She's super cool though and a killer bassplayer as well. Erika also plays in a band called SCOLEX who jam in the room next to us in our rehearsal building. They are heavy as fuck and definitely worth checking out."
Since your re-union, AUTOPSY have been quite in the picture. First, there was the album "Macabre Eternal" and then there was the compilation "All Tomorrow's Funerals" which compiled all your old EPs ("Retribution For The Dead" - 1990, "Fiend For Blood" - 1991, "Horrific Obsession" - 2008, "The Tomb Within" - 2009) as well as many rare old tracks. What went through you when you listened again to all these old recordings?
"They still sound great and are now deserving a better treatment than getting dished out here and there as bonustracks on various re-issues. This compilation is something I've wanted to see happen for quite a while and I think that all the stuff goes well together."
You also released "Born Undead" last year, a DVD with your history and a couple of live shows. To be totally honest, I was a bit disappointed by this DVD. For example, the history was very hard to understand sometimes (due to the sound of soundchecks or background music), English subtitles would have been a big help there. And also the footage of the gigs could maybe have been a bit better (the footage of Party San was very convincing but also here, the rest of the footage could have been better). How do you see this?
"I am actually pretty damn pleased with how it came out and I think it's much better than the previous DVD we put out, "Dark Crusades". We can't please everyone of course, so if you don't care for it, I certainly won't strap you down in front of a TV in a chair with your eyelids taped open. Unless you're into that sort of thing of course. Heh heh! Overall though, if you want a complete history of the band with tons of footage from various times and places, you'll get all that and more. I give it three twirling thumbs up!"
In the past, you've had several projects like THE RAVENOUS, DOOMED and EAT MY FUK. You also participated as a guest an various albums by for example MACHETAZO, MURDER SQUAD, IMMORTAL FATE and DESASTER. You also recently contributed on 'Cathedral Of The Damned', a track of the last CATHEDRAL album "The Last Spire". Can you tell a little bit more about how that co-operation came together?
"I got in touch with them after seeing them at the Hole In The Sky festival in Norway, which we played at in 2010. I let them know we were in the frontrow, digging the hell out of their show. It was heavy as bloody blazes! I heard back from Garry who told me they were working on their final album. I said something like 'If you need any sort of additional vocals or whatever, I'd be stoked to be a part of it!'. I didn't think anything of it but soon enough I heard back from Garry and Lee as well and they said they were definitely interested in that. Since I am a huge fan of the band I was and still am completely honoured! Fuck yeah!"
I recently bought "Feast For A Funeral" - a comic by Vince Brusio - which is based on the AUTOPSY-album "Severed Survival". Can you give a bit more details about the backgrounds of the whole thing and how that comic came together.
"Vince got in touch with us and told us about his idea to make an AUTOPSY based comic. We all dig comics, so his idea sounded great. All we asked was that he didn't have us as people in there. Heh heh! He came up with a great story and there's plenty of gore and cool references to songs and stuff. If I could go back in time and show the book to my 18 year old self, I'd probably shit my pants! In a good way, that is."
You played a couple of gigs with BOLT THROWER and BENEDICTION in the U.S. last month. Last year you also performed in London together with BOLT THROWER and BENEDICTION. Your relationship with BOLT THROWER goes way back till 1990 when you toured with them and PESTILENCE. How do you look back at these shows?
"Those shows were buckets of fun for the most part. That was our first tour and we had a blast even though the promoter totally ripped us off and ran away with the money. You can bet your ass we don't let that sort of shit happen any more. Live and learn, eh? Anyway, we had lots of laughs with those bands in those days… MORGOTH was on the second half of that tour and they were great as well. Really cool and friendly people and heavy bands as well. BOLT THROWER are fucking great. A killer band of course, but I consider them good friends and we always have a kick ass time together. It's been amazing playing gigs with them again in recent years. We actually played with them in 2009 when ABSCESS was around too. Woo hoo!"
AUTOPSY also played last September in Brazil - Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo - for the first time in the band's career. How did that go as we always hear stories about how fanatical the audience is in South-America?
"Those were awesome shows! And yeah, the fans there are insane! Fuckin' hell, they really live for Metal. I heard of a really good band called OFFAL from down there as well. Check 'em out! Overall we had a blast… hail, all you sick freaks!"
You already stated that you don't think AUTOPSY will do a lot of shows to support "The Headless Ritual", probably just a couple or a few really special ones. Why is that, family and health reasons?
"We are not equipped to be a touring band, honestly. Health has nothing to do with it, as we're all fit to kill despite anything anyone's been through. We all have obligations at home though and it's not easy to just head out the door and go away for extended periods of time. Plus, if we play too much, it could get to be routine and it's best if we treat each show as a special event instead of getting reactions like 'Ah hell, here they come again… I saw them last time so this time I'll just stay home.' or whatever. Know what I mean? If we make it to your area, just know that we will be ready to rip heads off of shoulders and it won't be something that should be missed!"
Any last words or anything you would like to add?
"Just the usual thanks for everything, Steven! We refuse to let you down, so expect nothing but the most punishing Death Metal that we can muster. Onward to oblivion, muthafuckahs!!!"
Interview: Steven Willems
Artwork: Gary Ronaldson
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