Looking Six Feet Under with Chris Barnes
Looking Six Feet Under with Chris Barnes
Okay, I REALLY liked this interview. I LOVE all of my fucking interviews, but this one was a little different. ĖChris Barnes is the front man for Six Feet Under, a band that is SHOOTING up the charts.
I found out why too. Chris lays all of his cards on the table during this interview about his writing style, life with Cannibal Corpse, his music, and Chuck Schulder. Chris will explain everything to anybody who takes the time to listen. He is a straight shooter, he is honest, and he is raw. Take a look.
MI-What is your birth date?
Chris-December 29th, 1967.
MI-Describe the music of Six Feet Under.
Chris-Dark. Heavy and in your face.
MI-What is the most violent, fucked up thing you have ever seen happen on tour?
Chris-That was very recent on this past European tour. I think it put me in a state of shock. I woke up early. We were in Amsterdam. It was a day off-we just stopped off there between shows. It was this past July, and I was walking down my favorite route to get to my favorite coffee shop. As I turned the corner, I hear this HUGE crashing sound. At the same time I am hearing thing, I look and see this fucking guy fall through a plate glass window. It was at street level, and he was laying on foot high shards of glass. He was impaled and blood was pouring out of this guyís arm. ĖSome guy picked him up off this thing and laid him on the ground and blood was pouring out of him. I had never seen anything that violent. I was just like-HOLY SHIT. That was just incredible. I was just blown away with it. Whoa-that guy just fucking died right in front of me. ĖIt was like around ten in the morning. It looked like he just passed out on his barstool and fell through the window. The window was probably about two feet behind him. He was a big guy-probably about 210 lbs. He was 6í3Ē. He was just bleeding all over the place. It was wild. ĖProbably about two months before that, I was coming back from the studio in Miami crossing Alligator Alley, and it was probably about one oíclock in the afternoon. I was heading west and on the opposite side I saw a guy cut across that middle center strip-that big ass strip in the middle there-that median. I thought they were just going to make a u-turn and blow across. It looked like the guy just fell asleep doing about eighty miles an hour coming across the median. He woke up and jacked the wheel, and I witnessed and SUV tumbling seven times. That was just wild.
MI-I wonder whoís going to be next, everything happens in threes.
Chris-I know man, everything happens in threes. I just hope I am not fucked in a couple of weeks.
MI-Who are the members of your band, what do they play, and tell me something you think everybody should know about every one of them?
Chris-We will start with Terry. Terry Butler is our bass player, and he has been with the band since day one. He is formerly from the band Death and from Massacre. Terry is a big guy man. If the term in the dictionary gentle giant every applied to anyone, it is Terry. He is definitely the nicest person, and he has one of the driest senses of humor that you will ever come across. ĖWe will go right to Greg Gall and get that guy right out of the way (laughing). Greg is out there man. His sense of humor is just outrageous. Letís put it this way-the first time I met Greg, Allen West brought him to a show I was playing in Orlando when I was with Cannibal Corpse. I was setting the band up while I was on that tour-getting some people together and jamming, and he walked up to me with Greg. Greg looked right at me, shook my hand, and said Ėohhshooohhshoomoo. It was the line from Ace Ventura, Pet detective. He did a Jim Carrey impersonation, and I looked at him and I was like Ėoh my god. Alan was like-I want you to meet our new drummer. I took Al aside, and I was like Al-are you sure you want this guy playing drums for us? He is a little off base isnít he? Al was like-oh donít worry about it. Thatís how me and Greg met, and we still talk about it to this day. I guess first impressions really make your judgment (laughing). He is just out there. Anyone that knows him-heís just out there, and he likes his Budweiser too. Heís been with the band ever since. Steve Swanson plays guitar. Heís been with us for about six years now. Steve was with Massacre. I canít say anything other than that guy is just the greatest guitarist I have ever played with. No doubt about it. I definitely hold him back a little bit because we work so much off of the rhythm. I donít want to get too crowded with too much technical guitar stuff, but I think he is probably the most underrated guitarist in metal. He holds his own with Zakk Wylde, and thatís not an overstatement. I have seen this guy play.
MI-So this is what brought you all together?
Chris-Well, you know we all came together and just felt comfortable. We have all been together since day one, and as soon as Steve got into the band it felt like that was how it should have been since the beginning. There was an uncomfortable feeling when we had Al in the band that immediately went away when Steve came in.
MI-So hereís the big question, what about Chris Barnes?
Chris- (laughing) I am not very good at that. I am probably the most stressful person that people around me know. STRESSED-OUT. I guess thatís being fair. I definitely take a lot of things on myself. Still, I try to be able to take everything with a grain of salt too. I work things out in my own way. I do tend to isolate myself a lot; because thatís the only way I can handle what I have to take care of physically and mentally. So I think those are probably my worst attributes, but my best attributes are consistency and longevity. I plan on being around for a long time. I have been around, and I am proud of what I have done.
MI-Why did you leave Cannibal Corpse?
Chris-Those guys, I had less respect for them at a certain point in time because of how I felt I was being treated. I felt like I was being alienated almost, and not really respected for what I had accomplished within the band. I felt they were jealous of me, and those emotions came out in our personal behavior towards each other. I think that they wanted more say in what I was getting credit for. ĖI didnít go at it to get credit for things. I went at it to create something on my end of things that was just as good as what they were creating with their music. It wasnít my fault that people wanted to talk to me about things, but I think they took it like that and it they took it on themselves to really want to tell me how to write things. They wanted to make me feel like I wasnít good enough, and I felt like I was writing good music. ĖWe would be in the studio, and they would decide that they didnít like what I had written. I was adamant. I felt that it was better than they could ever write, and over the years my stuff got way more respect than what they thought I could do-but what they thought I could do is what they wanted me to do so I have to respect that. Thatís my whole circle.
MI-And meanwhile you have created your own home.
Chris-I am much happier. I am not stressed out about the people I am with. I am never stressed out about that. I am more stressed out about being able to get this band to overtake the world. To make the mark.
MI-What inspired you to become a death metal vocalist? Is it just something you are born with?
Chris-I had to find my own thing, because I learned early on that I couldnít sing like Rob Halford. Goddamn, I tried. It wasnít how my vocal chords or hearing is built in my head. When I learned that, I felt well-since I am not a melodic singer, what am I? -I found my thing and I just built and built and built upon it until it sounded right in my head. It is my music, and I am always learning what I can accomplish through my voice and the rhythm that I feel in my body. Thatís how people write lyrics and vocals-from that rhythm, and thatís what my rhythm is. Thatís how blues and R&B singers work-they just take it from there. They donít really think in a technical way. I am definitely not a technical guy. I have no musical technical skills. It is all self-taught, and I just found my way through it. ĖIt is just how I feel when I open my mouth and I put it to music.
MI-Who are your influences as a musician, and what inspires your lyrics?
Chris-There are a lot of people in music that I look up to, and I aspire to what they have done. I admire their craft, but I donít know if they directly inspire what I do. I think I am directly inspired by the music that is presented. For some reason, and that has just been recently, I have been made to analyze this. I really think that I just hear words in music. I donít know why, but when I hear something that Terry, Greg and Steve give me-a tape or new song that they are rehearsing, I pop it is and start putting the pen to paper. It just all comes out. I donít know how. I donít know why, but I think it is just the music showing me a path in my head. I think that people that I enjoy seem to put that across in their music. They are really deep in thought about what they are saying. I really like Ice-T a lot, because he has said things that have really spoken to me on some level. I just see that he made his mark in history. I respected a lot of those things-it may sound stupid to some people, but we all have our own things that we link in to. I have always had respect for him. He has probably been my biggest idol in music.
MI-Other than Six Feet Under, who are your favorite current bands?
Chris-I really like Queens of The Stone Age a lot. I like that kind of music a lot. I have always been a fan of bands like Sleep and Primus. I like that stoner rock kind of thing. To me, current bands like that. ĖI like other stuff too, like that band The Black Dahlia Murder. We were trying to get them to come on tour with us. That band, to me, sounds like what Cannibal Corpse should sound like.
MI-I thought they were going on tour with you.
Chris-Yeah, they were but their singer backed out so their not going to be able to do it. We are going to try to get them out with us in January on the second leg. As I Lay Dying has their spot on this part of the tour.
MI-Have you ever inhaled?
Chris-(laughing) I just inhaled a few minutes ago. It gets me in trouble sometimes too, inhaling. In Atlanta, specifically, at The Masquerade a couple of years ago-in fact, it was right at the stroke of midnight on 4/20-I had to break out a joint and fire it up right on stage and I was passing it to my friends in the front row. One of the bouncers got a little bit over anxious and started taking the herb away from my fans out there. As I was walking by one of the monitors onstage, I accidentally tripped on it. The monitor fell directly on this persons back. Little did I know that this person was an off duty police officer. So-we had some big talking to do that night, and I was a lucky dude that I didnít go to jail that night. So I would say that accidents happen. Sometimes joints get passed around at a Six Feet Under concert.
MI-What is your opinion on legalizing pot, or any other drug for that matter?
Chris-I think every person that has been convicted of a non-violent drug offense needs to be immediately released from prison. I think it is time that it is time that the country starts voting its conscience, because thirty million people-not everyone, but a big chunk, takes some kind of drug. More if you count legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco. Everyone escapes reality in their own way through a substance in their daily life. Whether it is caffeine, nicotine, alcoholÖeveryone likes to make themselves feel good if life isnít feeling good for them. And it is not feeling good lately, so I propose that the California deficit can be solved with one simple thing, legalizing Marijuana. They will be able to create a huge inflow of tourists to smoke legally. If they had coffee shops, they could tax the people, they could tax the growers. They can gain money from that. They can release all of these people in California that are in jail for drug offenses and empty these fucking prisons and cut down on all that expense of putting people in jail for nothing and having to house them for nothing-and then turning them out into worse criminals because they have been brutalized in prison. So they can bring in money, solve their fucking tax problem, and make a lot of people healthy and happy in California.
MI-We could do it nationally too.
Chris-I think it should start there because the west coast is a lot more progressive and liberal. That is why it has come up on the ballot in California and Washington State. ĖThere are only a few places on this side of the Mississippi like Maine and a few other places. Everything needs to be legalized, but I think we should start with the least demonized. I think there is absolutely no scientific basis behind the propaganda that we have been fed over the past fifty years. It is racially motivated. Why is marijuana illegal? It has nothing to do with dangerous effects of the narcotic. THC-there is nothing dangerous about that at all. That substance works in harmony with the human body. There are actual receptors before the liver that are only there to digest THC. It goes much deeper than people want to address. It is all wrapped up in racism and pharmaceutical companies not being able to make the money, so they lobby against it.
MI-Maybe we should make you governor of California.
Chris-Hell no (laughing). I donít want to be governor. Iíll leave that to the Terminator. He does want to legalize weed, so I will give him that. For a Republican, he does want to legalize weed. That was one of the things that I saw that was positive about him.
MI-Tell me about your history as a musician-how did you get into it?
Chris-I am a victim of the air bands (laughing). I am serious. Me and my friends were so into underground music. My favorite bands were Slayer and Metallica, Man Oí War and stuff like that in the early eighties. I am talking 81 and 82. We would be air banding to Iron Maiden, and really just loving that heavy music man. We went out and actually won a few air band contests in Buffalo. Then we said fuck this, we are going to actually pick up some instruments. We are so good at faking it, we might as well actually try to do it.
MI-What is your favorite horror movie of all time and why?
Chris-There have been a few. I think that my all time favorite horror movie is Friday the 13th part two. I went to see that at the theatre. I was definitely not of legal age to see that, but they let us in. I just remember the end of that movie, when he comes crashing through that window, for about two seconds I was about three feet off my chair. To me, that was really frightening.
MI-Did you get a chance to see Freddy vs. Jason?
Chris-I will definitely get that one on DVD.
MI-Who do you think the greatest rock star of all time is and why?
Chris-Jim Morrison. He is the epitome of what it is. Do it. Say it. Believe it. Die for it.
MI-Do you believe he is dead or alive?
Chris-There is something fishy about that whole thing you know. If he didnít die then, he might be dead now because he had such a good time way back. I think it is a possibility that he is alive. I think that the other guys in the band should be killed. Especially Ray Manzarek for fucking rehashing that with Ian Astbury. That right there is a cardinal sin. That would be like the Rolling Stones going on after Keith Richards died.
MI-Do you think any of your lyrics are inspired by Jim?
Chris-That is a good question. I think that sometime I will have to go back and look at that a little more carefully. I think possibly when I look at the way I go in to what I have to say in my stuff. I think that may be where that comes from, my respect for that. Jim is one of those people that I was talking about that had real credibility.
MI-If I could wave a magic wand and make three things happen for Six Feet Under RIGHT NOW, what would you want those three things to be?
Chris-I donít even know one (laughing). I donít ever want to change anything. I feel good about stuff. Barbara, I donít know. Thatís a tough question. I could say fame and everything like that. Fame and a Ferrari for each of us. Not having to worry about what people think about us or our style of music. But nothing is easy, and I donít ever want it to be. If something is to easy, I just feel like it is not mine. So thatís a fucked up answer to that question.
MI-Do you believe in psychics and the paranormal? If so, have you ever had a psychic or paranormal experience? If you have, tell me about it.
Chris-Yeah, I do. Yeah, I have one everyday. I am one of these people that know when the phone is about to ring. Sometimes, I think that I can feel people thinking about me. I definitely have a different spirituality about me. I subscribe to the Carlos Castenada Book of Dreaming and thoughts on what we donít know. Really, I think that is what a lot of death metal is-looking at the unknown. I definitely feel that there are spirits surrounding me at every minute. I have a few spirit guides in this life and thatís the truth. As I say that, I feel a shiver up the back of my fucking spine like there is someone behind me right now. I 100% believe that.
MI-Well, if you ever want a reading darling-please give me a call because I am a professional psychic.
Chris-Are you really?
MI-The magazine is a psychic/metal magazine.
Chris-Oh shit Barbara, I didnít want you to feel like I was a freak or something.
MI-We have a perfect psychic connection. You hit all my buttons. Jim, Pot, The Masq, Friday the 13th Ö
Chris-Thatís what I am talking about right there Barbara. This shit happens to me all of the time. I will sit there and think about things and break down in tears over stuff. I donít know what the hell it means, but I know that I am being helped by somebody. I have a feeling I know one or two of them. ĖWhen you open yourself up to believing that there is more to life than this fucking rental shell that you are inhabiting, I think good things happen from that.
MI-Do you believe in reincarnation?
Chris-Yeah I do. I think that if you want to be reincarnated that you have that option. ĖDid you know that my idea for this record-the beginning of this was that I just saw a tarot card in my head.
Chris-The death card was what I really saw. Believe this. This is how I found this artist for this cd. I went on Google and did an image search. I punched in Tarot. I saw David Erinson. He did a tarot card series. The death card came up, and it freaked me out. I was like Jesus thatís the guy. I emailed him Barbara, and twenty minutes later he emailed me back. He said I want to do this-email me your fucking lyrics right now. He got the lyrics, and he did an image for each lyric in the booklet.
MI-Get the Vertigo deck. It is really dark. I think you could work with it.
Chris-I am afraid to go see a psychic. The past three years I have been wanting to, but I am afraid of what they will tell me.
-My mom freaks me out, because she will go to the Ouija board and talk to that. There is something there
MI-Have you tried it?
Chris-My aunt just died suddenly of a heart attack. It was right on Motherís day, and my mom went to the Ouija board two months later and got the message. ĖWe are all connected by something. There is no doubt in my head.
MI-I get a lot through dream interpretation.
Chris-My best fried passed away in 1995. I hadnít seen him for about a year before that. He died of a heroin overdose, and him and another friend both died at the same time. His name was Mark. Probably about two weeks after he died, I had a dream that the phone rang and I picked up the phone and he said hey, and it was my buddy Markís voice. I was confused. I was talking to him and I said I thought you were dead man, and he said I am. I just broke down and asked him if I was ever going to see him again-and he was like yeah, you will see me again. A month later I had another dream with him, and it was so real. We were driving around the neighborhood, and I was sitting next to him in the car. The other guy that died was in the backseat, and we were driving around the neighborhood. We were talking and stuff. He said you gotta let go dude. The only thing I can tell you is donít die addicted to anything, because you canít get it here. ĖI just broke out laughing. We were laughing our asses off. I woke up and had the biggest smile on my face, because that is just something that Mark would have said.
MI-There is another Tampa based band called Hell On Earth that wants to stage a live suicide for Euthanasia reasons at a concert. What do you think about that, what are your thoughts?
Chris-To me thatís amazing, unless this is just a publicity stunt. It is amazing that they are taking such a stance on something. This is the real thing, and this is just something that this guy needs to do to bring attention to this. It is horrible, but it is positive.
MI-What do you think of George W. Bush and the state of the
Chris-Evil. He is definitely an evil person and you can feel that. It seems like we are in a big downslide right now. We are just sledding down a mountain of shit that he has caused. I think that there are a lot of weird things that we have been told in a certain way about him and this country that doesnít seem natural. To me, it is like it is being fed to us. It is almost as plain as day to me that these are things that almost remind me of a plan. This is a New World Order plan that they have implemented. I donít even really know who was behind those towers coming down. I wonder what this all means for real. I donít really find any truth in anything that we are being told.
MI-Where were you when 9-11 happened, and how did it affect you?
Chris-I had just woke up. I am a late sleeper. It was just before the second one went down. I was like-this is too fucking easy. Immediately, I thought no one can plan this like that. It is not possible to get past our defenses.
MI-What blew me was they fired that FBI agent who sent out the memo six weeks before.
Chris-There are a lot of funny things that happen behind the scenes. I donít want to say that it is a government conspiracy or anything. I know that they have used that happening to take away some of our freedoms. Also it has been used to make people feel bad about thinking their own way about things. When people do speak up, fingers are pointed at them. Like they were back during the Communist thing. It almost seems surreal. People donít see that we are just being kind of told a bunch of things to be rounded up like fucking cattle.
MI-You have lived overseas and have lives in the States. Who do you think is more honest with the news?
Chris-It is hard for me to catch anything but pictures and stuff like that, because I donít speak the language when I am over there. The thing I see now is CNN is everywhere. That is really the news over there too, and it is like they are trying to homogenize the planet. When I do catch some blips of like-I was over there when Bush was getting elected. There were riots. People were not happy that George Bush was becoming president in this country. I just find it funny that all of this terrorism stuff took place as soon as he got into power. We were riding a good wave there for a long time. There were some incidents here and there, but it didnít really take over the country like this. This is like a dangerous thing I think.
MI-Do you think he is going to get re-elected?
MI-How would you design a memorial for the victims of 9-11?
Chris-I think I would rebuild those fucking towers. I would rebuild those fucking things. The World Trade Center was the epitome to whoever knocked them down as the biggest thing in capitalism right there. I think that we should really just rebuild them as what they were. Thatís what those people believed in. It is like-it wouldnít be like a shrine or a church. It would be more suited to ĖFuck you, you canít knock down our shit. This is a part of our country. This is what we are built on. Money and free enterprise. ĖTo really commerate them. They died doing what they believed in, and that was their way of living. So I would build it the way it was, and say fuck you it is still there.
MI-What is your favorite track off of Bringer of Blood and why?
Chris-There are so many.
MI-The first one off the top of your head.
Chris-Bringer of Blood, the title track. I think the lyrics are sparse, but it is very poignant. It is able to be interpreted by the individual and how they see it and what it means to them. It is important to me and how I write that people are able to do that. ĖProbably the favorite track that I will never play live is Escape From The Grave. It is the last song on the cd.
Chris-That one came about-I had a vision about that whole thing. After Chuck Schulder from Death died from a brain tumor-we were real good friends for a while. We lost contact for about four or five years. We were really good friends, and I had this thing with him onstage when I was with Cannibal-back years and years ago. I just always remembered that, and when he died I was just sickened by the whole thing. He died because he didnít have insurance. They could have helped him if he would have had money or insurance. It was sad to me, and I felt stuff about him from that by reading a lot of the things with his mom talking about him online and just remembering Chuck and seeing that. I listened to his music for awhile after that, and I said to Terry-Terry you wrote a lot of this stuff with Chuck when you were in Death about spiritual healing, and would you be able to write something closely styled to that, because I have a feeling about something. He wrote that song, and it sounded like what I asked him to do. I sat there and I tuned into something. Either Chuck was with me when I wrote the song, but I felt like I had to interpret something like he might have interpreted something through his voice in that song, and I did my vocals in that way and really let myself go in my writing. The lyrics in that are not speaking specifically to him. I got this vision in my head when I wrote this one lyric, because I knew how close he was to his mom-it was almost like I felt his last realization. I just felt a chill when I said that. One lyric just screamed for mother she canít save you. Only God hears you, only death awaits you. It just came out of me. I donít know where that came from. It felt really sad. It really felt like we were together writing that song.
MI-So you have got him watching over you?
Chris-I felt him around me, definitely. I still do. It makes me really sad when I think about that because he was someone that died from not having health insurance.
MI-What did he die of?
Chris-A brain tumor. He just didnít get the treatment he should have, because he didnít have that insurance card.
MI-What is the worst job you have ever had and why?
Chris-At the time, I thought it was the worst job-but it was probably one of the best jobs looking back on it. I was a teenager coming down to Florida in the middle of August-cutting lawns and painting houses in the middle of August. At that point in time, I thought that was torture, but looking back on it now I feel like that will probably be one of my final memories. One of those things that pass in front of you.
MI-If you could pour a bucket of flesh eating ants over someone, who would it be?
Chris-That would be DEADLY I think (laughing). I really donít wish anybody anything that bad, but I feel like I would to dump a bucket of ants over myself from time to time.
MI-If you were stuck on a desert island, and could bring one book, one cd, one person, and one bottle of liquor, and your favorite drug-who and what would your bring?
Chris-One book would be Carlos Castenadaís Art Of Dreaming, One Cd-I would probably bring Ice-T, Original Gangster, because I could listen to that nonstop forever. The person-I would bring my brother. The bottle of liquor, I would have a nice bottle of French burgundy with me, and the drug would be white widow or something (laughing).
MI-Tell me how you came up with the name for the band.
Chris-It just felt right. It was one of those things that just appeared in my head. I was looking at a piece of paper thinking what do I do and what do I talk about. I think I wanted to find a colorful term that encompassed life and death and what goes beyond. I think that the term Six Feet Under in our language is known for having to do with those three things.
MI-Tell me how the band got together.
Chris-It was very strange. Like I said, I think someone has put me on a path and pointed me in the right direction. Things that appear to be familiar I just jump at. One night, it was 1993 in December-I had just put down the last song for the Cannibal Corpse record The Bleeding. The phone rang and it was Allen West from Obituary. We become really pretty good friends. We sat around and did a lot of drugs together and talked and stuff. ĖHe called me up and asked me if I wanted to sing on a side project he was putting together. He put a few songs on a four track and wanted to send it to me. I said do it man, I want it. I want something different to try. At that point, the guys in Cannibal were really getting on my nerves. So I wanted to go and at least try something and do anything. I had nothing to lose. He sent me the tape, and I started writing the three songs. As soon as I wrote those songs, I knew people would be listening to those three songs. I knew it. I saw it. ĖAs things deteriorated with Cannibal, I just kept getting more and more positive about what I could do with Six Feet Under. It took over.
MI-If you were god for a day, what would you change?
Chris-I would take away a lot of the concrete, thatís for sure-and replace it with what was originally there. I would want people to live in harmony a little bit more with each other-but I donít think that is really our human nature. I would legalize herb, that would be for sure.
MI-What comic book hero would you be and why?
Chris-I always liked the Invisible Man the best. I feel like I an invisible anyway.
MI-If a movie were made about your life, what would the theme song be-and who would you want to play you in the starring role?
Chris-Zero to Hero would be the theme song, and I would want Brad Pitt to play me.
MI-Where do you see the band and your music in five years?
Chris-Hopefully not six feet under (laughing). I just want to keep doing what I am doing and stay with it.
MI-Tell me your wildest fantasy.
Chris-To be Caesar (laughing). You know that would be about it-to own the world.
MI-Who is your favorite poet?
Chris-I probably am my own favorite poet. I am so self-indulgent when it comes to that. I am my own worst critic and my own biggest fan.
MI-What is the band going to be doing once it gets off tour?
Chris-We are going to be hitting a couple of bong hits (laughing) as soon as that bus pulls into home. We will just be playing and playing to keep this thing alive.
MI-Do you have a message for your fans? If so, what is it?
Chris-Always keep an open mind on everything, on every aspect of life. Donít close yourself off.
Thanks Chris. This interview blew me the fuck away. I canít wait to see you at the Masquerade in October. You are a GREAT fucking interview, and Bringer of Blood will rock the soul of ANYBODY that listens to it. Anytime you want to talk, give me a call.
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