Could you tell us a few words about the origin of the band name?
Guy Kozowyk (vocals): In college, in the “History Of Music” class, I learned about a composer by the name of Berg and a play named “Wozzeck” where some schizophrenic guy cuts his woman’s throat but doesn’t realize he did it and says: “My love, what’s that red cord across your throat?” Then “cord” became “chord” somehow and we just kept it like that.
A band with such an unusual name and such an extreme & complex music is supposed to have quite abstract or symbolic and meaningful lyrics. Do you agree?
Guy: I don’t know. I read about and watch some random shit. It’s definitely different than most other bands. Very different subject matter. There will always be band writing about things like “stay true to this”, “do that” and stuff, while we write about retarded people and all that fuckin’ weird ass shit. We’re not necessarily the most weird, there are definitely bands that are more vague. I try to put stuff out there to appoint that it’s accessible to a point that you can recognize that it’s not about the same old stuff but you might be actually able to form your opinion on it. In the end of the day, anything that gets people thinking is sort of propelling my whole point. So, we want people to use their imagination and to put some thought into it. I guess you need to have some sort of patience to get into our band anyway ‘cause it’s so busy…
Otherwise, are you all into arts and literature?..
Guy: We all enjoy reading although we’re probably more creatures of the Internet and movies than books. But I think all of us enjoy reading on some level.
Your latest album came out in 2007. Yet, you’re still on tour…
Guy: We came over for the Hell On Earth Tour in the end of last year. After that we took off some time to write but it ended up a little bit longer than we would have hoped. So, we have a new record that’s all written and recorded. It’s on the calendar for October 27 or sometime that week. It’s called “Fed Through The Teeth Machine”. Technically, we’re either at the very end of the “Prey For Eyes” record cycle or at the very beginning of the “Teeth Machine” cycle because by the time that we’ll get back here again the record will have already been out. So ideally, we would come back in the end of this year or in the very beginning of next year. That would be the first European tour on the new cycle. We started playing some of the new songs to make sure people won’t forget about us and to let them know that we actually have a new record coming out. I think it’s always difficult to hear a band’s new songs live unless it’s really straight ahead and catchy and our material is so busy and really dense. We’re not as accepted in Europe as we are in the States and I think it’s because you really have to know the material before you fully wrap your head around it. There are definitely a lot of bands that have made a really interesting and illustrious career in Europe and haven’t had the same sort of success in the US. Machine Head went down that road at one point: they were enjoying a lot of success over here, while it seemed like they’ve slowed down a little bit in the US. Now it’s come full circle for them, thery’re really popular eveywhere. We’ve been really fortunate that for the most part, we haven’t blown up to a point where we got thousands of people coming every day. I would say it’s been a fairly consistent porcess. There are some of these bands that are overnight sensations: they get really big and then they just disappear right away. We kind of came from nothing and really slowly built it up. At some points of time, we were more popular than others but it seems it’s levelled up a little bit. I hope things get really big but even if thy did or didn’t I think we’re all ready to handle whatever gets thrown at us.
With which genres of extreme metal can you associate yourselves?
Guy: I would probably put us more on the death metal side. As for me, I would say I was more into hardcore and mathcore and I would associate us with that a little bit more but I don’t know if we thrive in this scene quite as much as we used to. You can only do so much within that lake – before they stop embracing you. As soon as you’ve passed a certain point they’re looking for a new underground band to be excited about. And I don’t know if it’s ideal for us to play with hardcore bands but to me, it’s never much of a distinction. I grew up with a lot of hardcore, a lot of our stage presence is probably brooded in hardcore but somtimes the crowd isn’t ideal for us although I’m happy to play with anybody. A tour with Machine Head, Suffocation and Converge or Mastodon sums it up a little bit for us. I’ve always wanted to do a proper tour with Suffocation but it never happened. They were my favorite death metal band and they still are. But honestly, we’re sort of happy playing with anyone right now, there is no real ideal tour anymore.
What do you think the future of extreme underground metal will be?
Guy: I’m not really certain on what the future is going to be. I’ve looked at what a lot of bands have been doing, especially deathcore stuff, and I said to myself: “That can’t get any bigger”. Yet, it keeps getting bigger and bigger so eventually it has to collapse. But I just don’t know where the ceiling is or what’s going to happen or how the scene is going to be after. On the other hand, there’s a lot of bands now that grew up with The Dilligner Escape Plan, The Red Chord or Nile and these young kids are just playing ridiculous stuff. I remember the first time I’ve heard Mastodon when we’ve played a show together. I was like: “Holy shit! This is really ridiculous! Sounds so amazing!” I haven’t heard anything quite like it. And Mastodon was taking influences from a lot of older rockish bands that were on-edge for their time and, combining it with their influences, having this musical juggernaut! And now you’ve got all these kids who are about seventeen years old that have been spoon fed of this crazy stuff. A band like The Faceless are pretty young but they’re cranking out this ridiculous technical metal. It’s hard to imagine what the next generation of that sort of stuff is going to be. It’s got to be pretty outrageous. I don’t know how much faster drummers can get, how much faster guitar players can be… But I’m sure people will be able to do it …
Or perhaps everybody will slow down instead and play some kind of doom influenced stuff…
Guy: Yeah, you might get that, but there’s got to be somebody out there who might be able to push the extreme bounds. When we start touring we come across new CDs now and then: the lowest vocalist ever… And then we come across the next band where the vocals are a bit lower than that… I realize that I’m not the lowest guy ever, I’m not the highest guy ever and we’re not the most extreme band ever. We’ve taken ourselves out of that game a little bit. We try to just be us and try to work on the best songs possible. The less is more sometimes – you don’t go super low just because you can. You put whatever is appropriate for the part. And if you can sing clean, that always impresses me more than just yelling and screaming because at this point, so many guys and girls and everyone else are able to do the death growls and stuff… I’ve been doing this for almost ten years with The Red Chord and I was almost fifteen when I joined the first band I’ve ever been in. I’ve had some points in time when I started losing my voice because I did something wrong and I just had to figure out how to curb the habit. I don’t know if I do it right nowadays but people still say: “sing with your diaphragm, sing with your stomach” – fuck that! There’s always going to be some throat in what I do because it’s a brutal and crazy sound that you are not supposed to be able to make otherwise. You can only worry about it to a certain point. I’m not losing my voice as much as I used to, I’m able to go on tour for six weeks. In some cases, we even played almost 300 days in a year. I’m not killing myself with it, so I’m just not really that worried about it. It’s all about condition. The big things that fuck me up are not getting enough sleep and not eating right. As soon as you start not sleeping and not taking care of yourself forget it ‘cause you’re not going to last.
Correct me if I’m wrong (and I know it’s a matter of personal taste) but probably many people think that there is no place for humour in death metal / grindcore / hardcore…
Guy: I strongly disagree. I think you can watch our band, we’re kind of a the testament of that. I mean, our band is not the biggest of the big so maybe people just want us to be yelling, swearing and being serious all the time. But the reality is that a lot of people give me a bunch of shit because I smile the whole time I’m on stage because I’m happy and enjoying what I’m doing. I enjoy performing. If there’s no place for it then I guess that’s why we’re kind of on the outskirts…
To what extent you think a band should transmit humorous messages without becoming a parody of itself?
Guy: I don’t know but there’s a lot bands out there right now that are parodies of the genre –but they’re very serious about it. There’s a lot of stuff I come across that I’m sure a lot of other people feel the same way about. You hear the stuff and you’re like: “Are you fuckin’ serious? It’s such a joke!” And the only thing funnier than that is the fact that people actually like it. I really enjoy Horse The Band. Those guys do their video game thing. There’s a lot of bands that are doing video game metal that are just playing cover songs. I think it’s interesting that Horse The Band took video game content and subject matter and put that into their lyrics, use keyboards – and they do something real out of it! You can look at them and say they’re not the best band in the world and they’re not your thing but they’re pretty amusing and I think there are a lot of people who are legitimately fans of what they do ‘cause it’s interesting how they package it… Cephalic Carnage goes over a lot of people’s heads, I know, but at the same time they have some of the most brutal and outrageous stuff out there. Some people get it, some people don’t… But at the end of the day the term “extreme metal” implies that it’s not for everybody.
I guess it also depends on how you define extreme metal…
Guy: People got these bands that are perfecting the formula of what extreme is to the point where “Kids will like this if we have breakdowns every second. If you don’t have enough blastbeats and breakdowns you’re a nu metal band or a mosh band or whatever it is…” And suddenly you’re extreme but you’re really not extreme at all because you’re just giving people exactly what they want. It’s a part of being extreme to be pushing the boundaries of everything and not necessarily being the most easy to swallow. By doing what some of these new bands are doing, jumping on a trend – scratchy logo, combining death metal, hardcore and singing stuff and whatever –, you’re not an extreme band anymore. You’re taking something as commercially viable and regurgitating it because that’s what people are into. It’s a complete disgrace. Everyone is welcome to do what the hell they want but you’re definitely not an extreme underground band at that point. If you’re trying to say that you are you’re really fooling yourself because most of these bands are only influenced by whatever is hot at that moment and they’re not taking influence from some pure version of whatever… Well, I wouldn’t say pure version because everyone is ripping off somebody else in some capacity. It just seems that there are influences that might be considered a little bit less questionable than others. When your roots are entirely in nu metal and you’re pretending to be a detahcore band it’s… I shouldn’t have even said “questionable” ‘cause it’s not necessarily a bad thing… But you’re not the kid who was alienated for wearing a death metal shirt when you were in high school because you were really into Darkthrone and fuckin’ Gorgoroth or whatever the hell it is. You were the kid in high school that probably had a community around you because Korn, Deftones, Static X and Pantera were more widely accepted.
Speaking of that, do you think underground metal is socially more accepted nowadays than it used to be – or are you still an outcast for wearing a metal shirt?
Machine Head and Pantera seem to have transcended the underground genre and had some degree of commercial fame. On the other hand, you got a band like Job For A Cowboy (I think they’re a great band and great guys, we like’em a lot) that are blown up on the Internet. They have sold tens of thousands of records, they’ve got thousands of plays per day on their myspace and stuff like that. It’s now got to the point where young kids have communities that are embracing that. And there’s a lot of those bands right now. So, you’re no longer an outcast for being whatever, you’re no longer the weird kid… A lot of what we listen to, no matter if it’s straight edge hardcore, death metal or whatever, are bands that sold a couple of thousand records. Two or three thousand records. If you’re into Machine Head or something in the heyday, you’re talking more on the lines of a hundreds of thousands of records, maybe, and Pantera became platinum. Wearing a Pantera shirt is much more acceptable than going in Skinless t-shirts and things like that – our guitarist Mike (McKenzie) always wears Skinless shirts. That’s a whole different level of shit right there. That’s a whole different level of why people don’t really understand where you’re coming from. But you don’t necessarily have to be an outcast because you’re into some of that stuff. It’s just that death metal goes a little bit more hand in hand, while hardcore is a little bit more slick and stylish.
Could you tell us about the Black Market Activities?
Guy: I’ve been doing the label now since 2003. It’s been going really good. Some bands are doing really well, some bands don’t do well but at least I release stuff that I like and try to make it happen. Animosity has been over here two times and From A Second Story Window came over twice but they’ve since split up. I worked with Psyopus a long time ago and a real whole new batch of killer stuff is coming out right now. There’s a band called Sweet Cobra which is more like Mastodon, almost like Entombed sort of vein. Engineer is great, Architect is great, a band called The Network is probably coming back soon… I work with a lot of different extreme metal genres: a lot of really chaotic stuff, some death metal… I’m trying to take the philosophy of Relapse. I don’t just pigeon hole to one genre, I definitely sign whatever it is that I like.