Brutality and Spirituality: The Duality of Six Feet Under’s Chris Barnes [Interview]
Six Feet Under vocalist Chris Barnes was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. He discussed the new album Torment, teaming back up with his ex-Cannibal Corpse bandmate Jack Owen, his personal relationship with marijuana and preparing new vocal styles on each album. Check out the chat below.
How are ya?
I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.
We're celebrating the release of the new Six Feet Under album, Torment, which seems like more aggressive and technical, which has been attributed to your bassist Jeff Hughell and your drummer Marco Pitruzzella. What made their ideas for this album so appealing to you?
Well, Jeff just wrote some great songs. He wrote the entire album, all the music and mapped out all the drum parts and Marco just added his own flare to it; the guy is amazing. I think that Jeff just has a real good idea of what death metal is and he is very proficient in his instruments. He plays all of the guitar on the album, too. His vision for this album was really intricate and totally interesting to me. That fueled where I came from for sure.
You go way back with Jack Owen — back to the beginning of Cannibal Corpse. What's different now when you’re together with Jack?
Wow. A lot. A lot of time has passed. For both of us, we've had a good run on our own and I'm working with other people. I think, as far as I'm looking forward to all the things I enjoyed working with Jack from years ago again -- his songwriting, his stage presence; I just love goofing around with him on stage. He's just a real good dude. I don't think anything has changed personally. We were always good friends. I mean, even when things were kind of weird in the band for myself, Jack was the only person I'd never had an issue with. And I don't think he had one with me, so it was cool that we're finally able to do this and get back to working together again.
Chris, between studio albums, EPs and live albums, Six Feet Under has released almost 20 albums. What's most fulfilling about the process of recording?
It's all an adventure. Everything's got its own little nuances and fun to it. I love writing a new album. From my side of things it’s just pulling something out of nowhere and making all the puzzle pieces to fit with the lyrics and the music and the rhythm. Studios are kind of like the next step for me to try to make sure that initial work is represented well. It's a little more stressful than the writing side of things. But it's always an adventure. I have always loved the recording process. Even when I was younger, before I was in a band professionally, I wanted to be an engineer and work in the studio.
There's sort of this disconnect between the aggression of the music you make and the relaxed aspect of your personality. How...
Well, I'm highly medicated, Jackie.
That can explain it [laughs].
Cannabis has been my best friend for my entire life, pretty much. So, everything I create and do is with the use of medicinal and spiritual use of Cannabis. So, I tend to keep a pretty even nature, unless someone pokes the bear. You know? [laughs] Stirs up the snake a little bit, I'm alright. I've been know to have some pretty nasty bites. But, yeah, I try to keep it pretty cool.
Between the two different aspects, how do those differences enhance each other?
It's something that I've always been interested in without knowing what it really was and that's duality -- the idea of human nature, the idea of existence, what we like to call reality, and the idea of good and evil, dark and light, positive and negative. Those things have always interested me and I guess that's just -- I've learned that's just a part of myself as well. We're all a part of light and darkness. To me, that's all a singularity. So that's how - what my '6' logo is. It shows kind of the yin and yang idea of positive and negative. But my idea is that it's all one. And I've always thought that and that's how I represented it in that '6' logo. I've always kind of been interested in that and I don’t think there can be one without the other. It's just all in one to me. Just accepted that and have tried to understand it more.
Let's talk about your lyrics. Lyrics are stories. How is the way you approach the vocal delivery of any given song similar to an actor, like a theatrical technique?
Well I guess in that way it would be like a famous actor you love or something that you really like a role that he plays, but that actor isn't going to into his next movie with that same technique or feeling towards the role he's approaching. So for me, representing the music with lyrics and a vocal tone and a vocal structure comes from the work itself that is presented to me to accommodate.
I don’t look at it from a perspective from before because everything is different than it was before. Every piece of it. I look at every song as though it's the first song I've ever written and accommodate it like I've ever had, which is listen to the music. The storyline is a weird thing because I might have an idea or something but I don’t have a preconceived notion or storyline outlined. It's kind of written and comes together in a very odd way that I've never been able to understand on that level. I just kind of work that way, I just let the music speak to me on all levels.
I understand when people say, "Oh he doesn't sound like he did on that album or song." Well yeah, that's how it's always been on every album. I've had a different vocal sound and that is purposeful. I wouldn't want it any other way. I don’t like to blanket a specific sound over everything. To me it sounds stupid if it sounds like you had no imagination and you had no understanding of what music is and basically just a robot, just going through the motions. That's never been what I do. I've always kind of wanted to reach out and find more out about music than myself through what I do, what I explore through this strange form of art.
Chris, what can you tell us about what we're looking at in terms of any kind of tour plans?
Our guys are working on it now. It's gonna be interesting. We're gonna do a U.S. tour here in late spring, early summer and probably break it up into two legs. Do the West Coast first and then Midwest and East Coast towards the fall. Then we've got some European tour dates at the end of the year. We're looking forward to some South American stuff too, it should be cool -- the new lineup onstage with a big new set list with old and new songs. Cannibal Corpse songs and all that.
Thanks to Chris Barnes for the interview. Grab your copy of Six Feet Under's 'Torment' through Amazon or digitally through iTunes and follow the band on Facebook to stay up to date with everything they're up to. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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