Brevity is Murder - A Conversation with Pig Destroyer
Pig Destroyer. In a matter of about thirty minutes or so they have the innate ability of tearing you apart limb from limb only to piece you back together for another listen. They’re a grind band. They’re a metal band. They’re a lot of things that don’t match up with the old “genre” term, and it suits these guys just fine. Their latest release, Book Burner, is an exercise in pure vitriol - spewed from the throat of vocalist Jr Hayes and backed by the wrecking ball of the other three members: Scott Hull (guitars), Adam Jarvis (drums), and Blake Harrison (pan flute/accordion/keytar/noise). I love it when an obviously hugely influential band is utterly oblivious to the fact. They simply do what they do and don’t really pay any mind to the legions of followers and fans and critics alike who try to mimic, appreciate, or understand the sound. That’s Pig Destroyer. I had a chance to talk about just that with Blake Harrison and gain his succinct insight.
Blake, first off, thanks for your time, man. I appreciate it. I hope you’re doing well. I just have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind. Just thinking about the kind of clout Pig Destroyer carries with it in the metal/grindcore world, how do you guys deal with the ever growing cult following you’ve amassed just in the last few years?
I didn’t know that it was ever growing hahaha, you know we have very loyal fans, and it’s very flattering to us. Sometimes the outpouring of support that we get is shocking to us, we still look at ourselves as just a grind band.
One thing I think makes Pig Destroyer so accessible to so many fans, Blake, is that you guys have such an array of genres that pour into the sound you create. What’s the process for you guys going in from a compositional standpoint? Specifically, with making Book Burner, what was the approach?
Well, Scott kind of just writes what he writes, but for this record, we made a more concerted effort to be a little bit more lean and mean. We wanted a more stripped down kind of approach, more grind oriented.
The band’s been together since 97. During that time, there’s been an immense change in how music is marketed, sold, and even produced. How has that change affected you guys in terms of your fanbase? Going further, how do you personally view the effects social networking and the social media age in general has affected metal/punk/hardcore?
If anything I think it’s helped, I mean underground music is so much more accessible than it used to be. You used to go record shopping for hours to find something, or it was by word of mouth, if you trusted someones opinion, if they recommended a band, you usually checked it out. Now, you can just cruise some bloodspots, or check out things online. There’s less work involved, but that doesn’t mean the fans like it any less. If anything in the social media age, the music is easier to come by and I think that’s a great thing.
You guys obviously don’t live or operate in a vacuum, so you can see the recent trend of metal/hardcore/punk becoming insanely popular and, dare I say, even trendy. What’s your take on the hype, Blake? Especially given the fact that these genres were kind of born from the very antithesis of “popularity” or being trendy.
Yes it does seem that those genres are becoming more popular, but again, I think it’s mainly due to the social media age. Trends come and go, and hype is hype, the bands that are good or interesting will stay around and the “trend jumpers” tend to fade away.
There’s a certain urgency with Pig Destroyer’s sound, and that holds absolutely true on all 32 minutes of Book Burner, yet you guys provoke thought amidst all that controlled chaos. What is it about the metal/punk/hardcore genre that you, personally, feel is the best outlet to access the emotions that Pig Destroyer does, Blake?
Well, I’ve always wanted more danger, and anger in my music. It’s gotta have some smarts though or it’s just mindless banging on instruments. I guess I was that “disaffected youth” that never really grew up. I still like my music to have some balls, to have some sort of emotion.
You guys are playing the UK for the first time in 8 years coming up in November. I can’t imagine how stoked you are for the show. My question is how do you see the differences in the audiences and, hell, even the venues from here in the states to overseas? For Pig Destroyer, what’s the perfect venue and why?
We are excited, the UK crowds are great. There’s not much of difference in the crowds overseas versus in the states, the venues we like to play are small, intimate. We really like to feed off of the energy of the people in the audience.
As you well know, so much of the metal genre is written off as this non-thinking kind of meathead music. I think a lot of that attitude is changing thanks to people’s awareness that, in fact, much of the genre contains a viable and tangible cerebral quality. Granted, Pig Destroyer’s political leanings have become more obscure throughout the years, but I’m curious as to how the band approaches the songs from a lyrical standpoint.
JR writes when the mood strikes him, he’s got tons of lyrics that he hasn’t used or he has been working on for years. He gets an idea in his head and he develops the lyrics from there. I’m not too positive that anything’s really planned out in advance. He just kind of goes with what works.
What’s been your journey as a musician, Blake? What brought you to the point you’re at currently as a musician?
I’ve played guitar in bands, screamed in bands, played bass in bands. For a little over 20 years, some of those will never see the light of day and that’s a good thing hahaha. I met the guys in the band when I was in a band called Daybreak and we played some really early PxDx shows, and I became friends with them. There was a group of shows that PxDx played with Whitehouse and Wolf Eyes and Scott came up with the idea of adding another member doing noise and samples. I feel that I was an obvious choice because I got along with the guys and my familiarity with the music and here we are.
When you’re not touring or writing or basically doing all things Pig Destroyer, what do you typically do in your leisure time, Blake?
I’m an audio engineer by trade, so I work a lot. You know I like to read, watch movies, go see bands, all of the things normal teenagers like to do.
Many thanks to Blake for his time and to Pig Destroyer for putting out yet another album that hones in on the most primal components of our nature as human beings. If you haven’t listened to the new release yet, then stop dicking around and do it here.
Worth a read!