Curse You All Men
CoC chats with Ben Falgoust of Goatwhore
by: Jackie Smit
The last time I caught up with Ben Falgoust, the enigmatic screamer was celebrating the release of Soilent Green's blistering _Confrontation_ platter. Twelve months later and he's back -- this time teaming up with long-time partner in sensory misdemeanours Sammy Duet to deliver Goatwhore's follow-up to 2003's _Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun_. Like _Confrontation_, the birth of _A Haunting Curse_ hasn't been without its hiccups. Falgoust may be back on his feet following a horrific car accident three years ago, but this time round the New Orleans foursome had to contend with the fallout from a little disaster you may have heard about called Hurricane Katrina. Still, Ben remains in good spirits.

"It really seems to be the story of my career", he laughs. "It's an amazing thing to be able to do this, but I do wish that something would open up and go somewhere after all this chaos. I guess that's what kind of builds us though; this chaos surrounding us helps us build something that makes sense, I guess."

CoC: You were on tour with Soilent Green when Hurricane Katrina happened, but how badly were you and the rest of Goatwhore affected by what happened?

Ben Falgoust: We had actually done about half of the new Goatwhore album when I went on the road with Soilent Green to start pushing the _Confrontation_ record. Then Hurricane Katrina hit. I was up north in Iowa somewhere, and from that point everybody who was from New Orleans or from the surrounding area just kind of lost touch with each other. Soilent kept doing shows and we basically held out until we could finally speak to people we knew and sort out getting home. In the meantime there was obviously a lockdown on anything to do with Goatwhore. All of our equipment was trapped in the city, no one knew what was going on, and we weren't going to be allowed in the city for at least a month and a half anyway. So Metal Blade kind of stepped in and told us that they knew what our situation was, and that we didn't need to worry, and that if we needed to put things on hold then that was okay. We wanted to try and make the best of things, so once we were all back in touch with each other, we decided that once we could get the equipment back we'd all go to Phoenix (where our drummer [Zack Simmons] is from), get a practice room and finish writing the record. So in a way it was a disaster, but in other ways it worked out fine. I mean, I had family who had their houses flooded and just recently their houses have been finished. So you might not have gotten hit personally, but somebody close to you was and you try and help them out. But like I said, when we finally got together, we were all decided on getting together and getting this record done. In a way the situation was almost beneficial. I suppose we could all have decided that we'd split and take some time off until all the shit back home was sorted out or we could use the time beneficially and push this thing forward and get the album done.

CoC: So, ironically, being able to concentrate on the task at hand without any distractions in the shape of a job or anything else ended up helping you.

BF: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, a lot of us didn't have jobs to go back to at that point anyway. Of course the government was giving out funds at that point, because you weren't living in your home and you weren't allowed to go back. We used whatever little money we had to make sure that we were fed and that we had enough to get us by while we were staying somewhere else. It was also a good thing in the sense that it helped get us all together and in one place, because after the Soilent tour, everybody in Goatwhore was kind of scattered all over the place. It was really tight with money, but in the end it all worked out really well.

CoC: Using Erik Rutan to produce the record: was that a decision from your end based on your experience of working with him on the last Soilent Green album?

BF: Partly. We're really good friends with a guy who actually worked for Morbid Angel for several years, and I've been really close with him for a long time. He was actually the guy that got Rutan involved with Morbid Angel in the first place. He initially brought up the idea for us to use him for the Soilent album, and he did such a fantastic job on that, that we thought it would be a great idea to use him on the Goatwhore album as well. I mean, the guy is a really amazing person to work with, and he has such a solid background from having played with so many of the great metal bands. He has a real knowledge of this music, so going into the studio with him isn't like somebody telling you to go in and do some crazy stuff and that's it. He's been there and he's done all that; he's done Morbid Angel records and he's done Hate Eternal records and he knows what bands are looking for. He's also really open to ideas and you can always bring things to him and ask him to try them out, and even if he has never tried it himself he'll always be up for experimenting -- or he'll throw something at you based on his experience.

CoC: Rumour has it that he drives bands pretty hard in the studio though.

BF: <laughs> Oh, absolutely. He's a ball-buster. But you know what? It's a hard task being in the studio with him, but it probably wouldn't have sounded as good as it does without that. This guy is genuinely concerned about the record -- both for his own good and for the good of the band. He doesn't want bands to put out half-assed shit just for the sake of being heard. And it's amazing -- he may not have been there during the writing of a song, but he knows when something doesn't sound right. We'd start making jokes about it after a while -- he'd be sitting behind his two monitors, and when you'd done a track and you saw his eyes come up from behind the screens and he gave you a certain look, you just knew that you'd have to do it again, and you wouldn't even ask questions. He just has that way about him, but he's a solid person and he's fucking down to earth. He's just a hardcore worker, and if you come to the studio and you're not prepared, he'll tell you: "Look, you're not ready, you're wasting both of our times. Work this shit out and come back when you're ready." I've worked with him twice now and I really hope I'll be able to work again with him in the future.

CoC: How much of an input did Erik have in how the material for the new record eventually came out then? Because one thing that is striking about some of the new songs is the definite tendency toward some of the heavier, more death metal-orientated music that he's known for?

BF: Well, we're really influenced by a lot of early Morbid Angel stuff; we're influenced by a lot of classic stuff, I guess you could say: classic death metal, black metal and stuff like that. I guess with Rutan being involved and him having had a hand in working with some of those bands, it was just natural that you'd hear the influence. He didn't have a hand in writing anything, because everything was done and laid out before we went into the studio. So he never suggested anything in particular and he didn't change anything. But I think it's a case of some of what we do sounding in the same vein to what he's done in the past, and to be honest, a lot of newer bands we just aren't in focus with as far as being a major influence on us. The newer forms of black metal like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and stuff like that doesn't really mean anything to us. We're influenced by Venom and Celtic Frost and stuff like that, and then we mix it up with the grindcore and the death metal and the punk stuff as well.

CoC: Now that you mention your influences, something I mentioned in my review that I think is probably the biggest characteristic of the new record is how well everything has gelled this time round. With _Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun_ those different styles were often separated from each other and the songs sounded slightly disjointed. In light of this, would you say that _A Haunting Curse_ is the sound of Goatwhore defining its style more clearly and becoming more comfortable with its own sound?

BF: Oh yeah, I'd say so very much. I think for one, this line-up of Goatwhore is more solid than it's ever been. Everyone gets along and everyone is on the same path. I mean there were points on the earlier stuff where people were way off the page, and it became quite a struggle internally to keep things going in the direction that they needed to go. We feel a lot more comfortable now, and this new record has elements of the first and second record, but I think it has a character of its own as well and I definitely feel like we've become what we wanted to become. We've definitely made a conscious effort to move away from writing things where you can hear the influence to easily, like: "There's a Celtic Frost piece", or "There's a Darkthrone part" or whatever. You still hear them here and there, but now we've evolved to the point where I think we can make it sound more like our own stuff and our own style.

CoC: In terms of the line-up changes that you mentioned, how did that affect the outcome of the new record?

BF: Well, the two guys we have now (Zack Simmons and Nathan Bergeron) are a lot younger than the guys we were working with previously, and I think that they're much hungrier, which in turn adds to the flame in the band. I mean, in the past some of the people that Sammy [Duet, guitarist] and I worked with didn't want to tour or didn't want to do this or that, whereas we were always really wanting to move forward with everything as much as possible. That happens to all bands -- when some members just don't feel the vibe for it anymore and don't want to accept all things that being in a band brings. These two new guys are hungry and it means that all four of us are moving forward. There's less tension, we're all getting along and we're all headed in the same direction with the band, where before there were always questions about the future of Goatwhore. With saying that, the two new guys were really enthralled with being able to be part of the writing and sharing their angle, and so instead of it being only myself and Sammy coming up with new material, you have two new minds who had seen the band from the outside on earlier records and could help us create something new. I mean, you never want to jump too much ahead and go into a completely new direction, but we were all working together and we all understood each other and it was just beneficial to us in so many different ways. It will definitely be interesting to see what the total outcome is with this record as far as how people perceive it, and what we're really interested in this time is to see what we can do in Europe, because that's an area where we've never had much of a presence. All of our older records have always only been available on import and mail order, which is a shame because I think that Europe would probably be more appreciative of what we do. So we're definitely looking forward to seeing what the response is like for the new record over there and hopefully doing a couple of tours there as well.

CoC: During our last interview we discussed touring and how your accident had affected that. Subsequently I know you've done a lot of shows with Soilent Green and with Goatwhore, so how are you feeling at the moment? Has the accident had any long-term effects?

BF: Well, I have arthritis in my joints and every other day they start acting up. But that's always going to happen when you've been in an accident like I was in, and it's kind of hit or miss right now. I can go a month without feeling anything and then suddenly the motherfuckers are killing me. Like I said though, when you break joints it's inevitable, but I can deal with it and it's not really that bad. If there's a night and it hurts like hell, I'll suck it up for the performance and just go sit in the van and prop my legs up if I have to. I don't want it to interfere with my performance and the chaos of our live set. I don't drink or smoke or anything like that, so usually I just try and get pumped up on some sugar or candy and just take off and go do it, and if it's bothering me then just chill out for the rest of the night. It comes and goes, but I'm definitely not going to let it stop me.

CoC: Something that stands out for me as a highlight with this band so far is when Goatwhore was announced as the main support for Emperor's two farewell gigs in Los Angeles. Did that hold any significance for you as well, and did it make you feel like you had some additional momentum going into the touring cycle of the new album?

BF: Definitely. Dude, at this point to see that we're currently on tour with Venom in the States and then straight after that we're on the road with Celtic Frost... In a three month period we've played with three bands who have all been major influences on the scene that we're involved in and the music that we play. I mean, when I was a kid did I ever think when I bought _Morbid Tales_ that I would open for Celtic Frost? When I was playing _Black Metal_, did I ever think I'd open for Venom? Or even Emperor with _Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk_? Fuck no! But now it's a reality, and the shows that we played with Emperor -- they're great guys and they're all really down to earth. They hung out with us like they've been living down the road for years.

CoC: How did you feel about the response at those shows, particularly given how partisan the audience was likely to be given the significance of the performances?

BF: The response was amazing. Before we played on both nights, I was still worried slightly because they were both sold out shows, and on the first night you had all the hardcore motherfuckers who bought their tickets as soon as they went on sale and all they want to see is Emperor. On the second night there's all the trickle-down fans who were just glad to have another date announced so that they could see them as well. So you had a crowd that were really there to see Emperor, and I just felt like I had to do the best I can. But they treated us well, we did really well in merch -- it was amazing.

CoC: So in terms of plans for Goatwhore across the next twelve months, is it going to be a case of touring and more touring pretty much?

BF: Oh yeah. We're talking to promoters in Europe right now and we definitely want something to happen in the early part of 2007, so we'll see how they're going to put us on, and then we'll go out there and just play our fucking asses off. We're touring in the States for the next three and a half months, but hopefully we can tour in Europe just as much. Hopefully this new record will also do well enough so that our earlier stuff can be released there finally. We're just excited as hell with all the possibilities for us right now.

CoC: And what about Soilent Green? _Confrontation_ was your last record for Relapse, so you're free agents right now?

BF: The guys are at home working on new stuff, we have about four new songs written and we're just talking to new labels. We've had a lot of interest from places like Earache, Century Media and Metal Blade, so we're getting that sorted out, and then the writing process is continuing while I'm out here with Goatwhore.

CoC: Ben, thanks very much for your time. Do you have anything else that you'd like to add?

BF: Not at the moment, but it's been a pleasure speaking to you and I really appreciate all your time.

(article submitted 12/9/2006)


CHATS
7/15/2009 J Smit Goatwhore: Pedigree Butchery
ALBUMS
5/6/2012 A El Naby 8 Goatwhore - Blood for the Master
6/15/2009 J Smit 10 Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God
8/22/2006 J Smit 10 Goatwhore - A Haunting Curse
10/19/2004 T DePalma 5.5 Goatwhore - Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun
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