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Metal Monday: Interview With Travis Ryan Of Cattle Decapitation and Murder Construct

2012 has proven to be quite a year for extreme metal vocalist Travis Ryan thus far. With the latest Cattle Decapitation album, Monolith of Inhumanity, released back in May and the debut full-length of his side project/pseudo-super group Murder Construct ” Results ”coming at the end of August, ‘busy’ doesn’t begin to describe Ryan’s year in full. His work (and that of his respective bandmates) on both Monolith of Inhumanity and Results, will likely doubly cement his place on many year-end metal lists, and rightfully so. We had some questions for Travis about how things worked with the two bands, seeking to clear the air of things circulating on the rumor mill, and he was kind enough to give us all of the dirty details.

OS: First off, you must be one busy guy since you have two bands putting out huge releases this year. How is the year working out for you so far?

TR: It’s been a whirlwind of activity but kinda just hit a dead spot because the Shockwave tour Cattle Decapitation was supposed to be on got canned at the last minute. [This] was kind of a blessing in disguise for my personal life because I had proposed to my girlfriend like two days before I was supposed to leave, so we’ve been able to hang out instead of be apart, which is cool. Got to go to Comic Con, party with Dethklok and various Adult Swim TV personalities, and was miraculously able to shoot a Murder Construct and Cattle Decapitation video with director Mitch Massie from Indiana. He came through on tour with Retox so both bands seriously lucked out. With him in Indiana and us in California, it’s a nightmare trying to come up with enough elbow grease to make it work. Last year was a brutally busy point in my life writing both MC and CD full length albums’ worth of lyrics as well as busting my ass off hustling to pay bills and take care of business.

OS: How much of a struggle has it been to divide time between Murder Construct and Cattle Decapitation?

TR: It’s fairly safe to say that all our main projects come before MC, which makes the time we spend with MC on the stage ” the very few times that happens ” all that much more special. We went into it saying, OK, Intronaut, Cattle, Bad Acid Trip ” these bands gotta come first or else there will most likely be drama, and we aren’t a drama band at all. Meaning when you don’t put 100% of your emotional stock into it, it becomes much more fun sometimes. It’s a shame we’ll probably never tour but we all have jobs and other bands that take up the majority of our time. We’re totally down to do one-offs, fly-ins, and other countries, I’m sure because those don’t take up hardly any time. So there hasn’t been any struggle at all, honestly. The struggle is more trying to find time to even do ONE show, let alone a whole tour, for Murder Construct. Just remember, kids, if you like MC and you hear of us playing somewhere, you might want to try to do your best to go because unless you live in L.A, your chances of ever seeing us are almost non-existent. At this point anyway¦ who knows what the future holds!

OS: How much difference is there between the way that Murder Construct and Cattle Decapitation write songs?

TR: Well, there’s more people in MC than CD and from what I can tell (since I’m not there to actually witness any of this) it’s different because at least this album, anyways, is made up of songs from different members. For instance, Kevin [Bernier] has a song or two and so does Caleb [Schneider] and so does Leon [del Muerte]. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t as much collaboration as there is with Cattle stuff. With Cattle’s songs we kind of all have our input individually. There are exceptions, such as “Kingdom of Tyrants” was solely written by Derek [Engemann] and myself. I contributed, like, two riffs and that’s a first for me with Cattle. I’ve always just held down the lyrics, imagery, and all the vocals. With MC, Leon, and I collaborate on the lyrics, which is a first for me. I think his brother had a hand in some as well!

OS: Do you find that there’s a lot of crossover in content and themes and such between the two bands, especially considering the new albums were created in such a small timeframe?

TR: No, not at all. They’re two completely different things. I focus a lot on Cattle’s stuff and didn’t feel compelled to do that with the MC stuff. I wrote off a lot of what Leon handed me for some lyrics. Some I wrote completely by myself such as “Under the Weight of the Wood,” which is straight up stolen by an old Catholic standard that they made us sing when I was in Catholic school ” it’s safe to say I completely bastardized it and [it] is very much an anti-Christian/Catholic tune for damn sure ” and “Compelled by Mediocrity,” which is my stab at the boring down-tuned deathcore garbage that was plaguing metal for the last few years. Not “djent,” which is equally as stupid but that’s not what it’s about, like kids think, simply because I mention nine-string guitars. It’s about incestuous, uninspiring, and monotonous crap that the sheep, for some reason, drool over. It wouldn’t make much sense for Cattle to sing about such things, we have other issues to deal with, so this was really fun for me to just fuck around with.

OS: There’s a lot of chatter on the rumor mill about the lyrics for “Compelled By Mediocrity” from the upcoming Murder Construct album. Can you give a little insight here, maybe set the record straight?

TR: Kinda just did. Hahahaha¦ Again, its not about “djent.” As much as I can’t stand that stuff, at least the players are super good at what they do¦ I just wish they didn’t all sound the same and at the end of the day they are just trying to rewrite Meshuggah but at the same time calling themselves “progressive?” PLEASE. You want “progressive,” look up bands like Magma, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Koenjihyakkei, and Mats Morgan and tell me you still think this worshipping of other bands and ripping them off should still be deemed as “progressive.” The term means moving forward, doing something new¦ not sitting at home on YouTube filming yourself trying to rewrite Messhugah because that’s what everyone else is doing.

OS: It appears that vocally, you’re expanding your palette on the new Cattle Decapitation record. What has the process been like, trying some new vocal approaches in this material?

TR: Honestly, I’m bored. Not with these bands, just with the scene in general. I’m getting older and just feel I have less and less to lose sometimes. That makes me just want to try new things and branch out and expand. I’m not going to go throw some full-on mallcore part in there or some shit, but I am trying to find the melody within the rasp and use that and have actually been doing so for years, mostly in the live scenario. I received a lot of feedback regarding the vocals on The Harvest Floor and found that kids wanted to hear more of the melodic high vocals I’ve been slowly integrating since Karma.Bloody.Karma. I just kinda went full-bore this time. It’s seemed to polarize our audience¦ I’ve [heard] a few people say they hate it, some say they don’t know what to make of it, and some are really stoked on it. None of these opinions mean much to me, not much of the vocals I laid down sound too incredibly lame to me or I wouldn’t have done them. If you’re not making music for yourself, you’re most likely doing it for the wrong reasons. I’m going to do what I want as long as the producer or my bandmates don’t object.

OS: What was some of the inspiration to decide to branch out with your vocal style a bit more?

TR: Fans’ feedback, the willingness to branch out, and like I said, boredom¦ haha¦ I get bored quickly because I’m ADHD+ and need to change things up constantly, at least when it comes to creative outlets. I really want to push the boundaries of what I find acceptable in the realm of extreme music. There are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed and it’s fun discovering them.

OS: What are some musical acts that have had a big impact on you as a vocalist throughout your musical career?

TR: The Jeff Walker/Bill Steer combo made a huge impact on me as did the first three Cannibal Corpse records. I got into them when I was 15 or so and started doing those kinds of vocals right away so I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing these “death metal vocals” for about 22 years now. This may sound strange but Bjí¶rk, Diamanda Galás, Karen [Dreijer Andersson] from Fever Ray/The Knife, Eminem, early U2¦ all sorts of weird things have influenced me over the years. Sounds so cheesy but you’d be surprised how much Eminem’s last few albums have had an impact on the way I view lyrical cadence and rhyming schemes. I’m sure kids will see these names and think I’m crazy… well, remember: I’m getting older. I don’t put as much stock or value/devalue on things that are your day-to-day bullshit. I’m far removed from the hip-hop scene and thus Eminem sticks out as one incredible wordsmith ” I’m sure there’s hundreds that blow him away and that’s cool. The dude can put some fuckin’ words together, that’s all I’m saying. There IS application for these outside genres in extreme music. You just have to find a way to make it work. Not too sure that kids today want to put in that much effort, vocal-wise that is. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Pick up Cattle Decapitation’s Monolith of Inhumanity if you haven’t yet, and also preorder Murder Construct’s Results as well. Check out the extended video of “Kingdom of Tyrants” from Monolith of Inhumanity below.

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