Thou Shall Kill
CoC chats with Chris Barnes of Six Feet Under
by: Jackie Smit
Six Feet Under's Chris Barnes isn't exactly known as the most verbose character, at least not when it comes to giving interviews; and it could be argued that there's really no reason for him to be. A veteran of the death metal genre with a resume that boasts two of the style's most prolific names, his relationship with the press has always been somewhat precarious -- hardly a surprise considering the critical flack that particularly Six Feet Under has all too often been at the receiving end of. Their latest effort, _Commandment_, has proven to be no exception and Barnes is proportionately un-phased.

"We've never been a band to follow a particular formula, you know?", he quips when asked about the album's return-to-the-roots style. "_Commandment_ was a natural progression for us in the same way that the last record was. We didn't consciously decide to do something similar to _Haunted_ or _Maximum Violence_."

CoC: _Commandment_ was written in the studio, which is also something that you've done for previous records. Why do you think this approach works for Six Feet Under?

CB: Well, I think that there's a misconception out there that we write and record an album at the same time. What we do is to basically block out studio time about three weeks before we actually start recording, and then we use the time and the facilities to rehearse and to write the songs.

CoC: So how much of _Commandment_ was ready by the time you went to Eric [Rutan] to start tracking the new material?

CB: The whole thing was ready before we actually started recording, but we did everything in the three weeks we had in the studio before that.

CoC: What made you pick Eric as the man to oversee the recording the new album?

CB: I actually had him do a mix of the song "Torture Killer", and we all really liked him. His job on _Commandment_ was really more to mix it and record it. I laid my vocals down and the rest of the band did their thing, and we kind of put everything together ourselves. Eric's job was pretty much just to help us get the right sound and turn the knobs, basically. We also used his studio because it was relatively inexpensive and we could spend quite a bit of time there.

CoC: So in other words, you never quite got to experience the feared Rutan studio-regime that he's put other bands through?

CB: <laughs> He tried, but I put an end to that real quick.

CoC: As far as the actual material is concerned then, you've been quoted recently as saying that you took a slightly different approach to writing the lyrics because of certain life experiences that you had had prior to doing it. Given how comparatively less graphic your recent lyrical stylings have been relative to something like _Butchered at Birth_ and _Tomb of the Mutilated_, would you say that you're mellowing with age?

CB: No, not really. I actually remember that article you're talking about, and I think that the writer in question probably took things out of context slightly. For the most part, I've always been interested in life and death, and the idea of mortality has always been something that's fuelled my writing. For me, that's what death metal is about lyrically; it's about death. You've got to really dive into that whole thing if you want to write lyrics for it. I still write stories, and I still write about ripping people's guts out. So I don't know how mellow that could be regarded as being. <laughs> The stuff on the new album isn't really that much different to what I've done before -- at least not lyrically. Then again, it's hard for me to analyse it properly, because I'm on this side of the fence, you know?

CoC: You definitely get a sense, particularly on this latest record, that Six Feet Under is really driven by spontaneous ideas more than anything else. Do you ever have a preconceived idea of what you'd like a record to sound like before you head into the studio?

CB: Not really. I try to keep things as interesting as possible, and probably the most important thing for us as a band is that whatever we do is something that we'd listen to ourselves. I also don't look back much on things we've done in the past. Once something's done, it's done. I don't like to think about it again.

CoC: Prior to _Commandment_, you were involved in doing the _Swarm_ album with Torture Killer. Out of all the bands out there, what made you pick them as an act that you wanted to get involved in and help out?

CB: I really liked their approach. I liked the way that they played with rhythms and I just liked their whole style, basically. I thought that they do something that's far more interesting than a lot of the stuff in death metal right now, which really just bores me. Plus, they were a great bunch of guys, so I just wanted to help out.

CoC: You just sort of alluded to it, but with so many bands in death metal concentrating on speed and aggression rather than rhythm and groove, do you feel like a large part of the genre is missing a trick at the moment?

CB: Well, the scene right now is what it is, you know? It's pretty boring, as far as I'm concerned. There's a lot of the same old stuff being re-done, and there's very little creativity. A lot of the new bands I hear are just really generic, and I'm kind of glad that we're a little bit different to the norm of what's out there at the moment. Personally, I'm just happy to do my own thing and not really worry about anyone else. It's definitely not the same scene as it was in the Nineties, that's for sure. A lot of what's being signed right now... back in 1993, a record label would have just laughed at those bands. But it's like everything: it follows a natural cycle and the scene will get better. Right now, I just find a lot of what's coming out quite boring.

CoC: Having been in the scene virtually since the beginning now, what do you think has caused it to lose its way?

CB: I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's lost its way, but it's definitely lost a bit of its bite, and I don't know if the reason for that is because it's being aimed at an audience with a shorter attention or if its something else. Either way, it doesn't really bother me. We've always done our own thing and we've always done pretty well.

CoC: Looking back over your own career thus far, what stands out for you as the record or the project that you're most proud of?

CB: I'm really proud of everything I've done, to tell you the truth. There's not one specific thing that stands out to me. My longevity in the scene is something that I'm very proud of, and I'm really fortunate that I've been able to do this for so long. I just want to be able to go on and continue to make good music and satisfy my own hunger for writing and producing.

CoC: Having already achieved a considerable amount with Six Feet Under, what do you feel is still left for this band to conquer?

CB: I still don't think that I've written the perfect song, and that will always be something that will drive me: to be able to do that one perfect song. Apart from that, it's just a case of taking everything as it comes, and when I feel like I've come to the end of the line, I'll hang it up.

CoC: So, what's next for Six Feet Under?

CB: Well, we don't have any festival dates booked yet, but we're starting to consider our options for that, and we're also looking at maybe doing a couple of tours. It's a case right now of getting into that mode -- being on the road and playing shows and letting our fans hear the new material.

CoC: Thanks for your time, Chris. Is there anything else that you wanted to add?

CB: I'd like to thank all of our fans, and I hope that they check out and enjoy the new album. It definitely sounds like Six Feet Under and I think that they'll dig it.

(article submitted 8/5/2007)

12/13/1995 A Bromley Six Feet Under: Six Feet Above the Rest
3/7/2010 J Smit 1 Six Feet Under - Graveyard Classics 3
11/19/2008 J Smit 4 Six Feet Under - Death Rituals
5/1/2007 J Smit 5.5 Six Feet Under - Commandment
11/23/2003 J Smit 4.5 Six Feet Under - Bringer of Blood
1/10/2001 A Bromley 2.5 Six Feet Under - Graveyard Classics
7/7/1999 A Bromley 9 Six Feet Under - Maximum Violence
10/16/1997 A Bromley 9 Six Feet Under - Warpath
11/8/1995 G Filicetti 7 Six Feet Under - Haunted
7/20/2003 J Smit Six Feet Under / Obscenity Unleashing True Carnage
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8/12/1999 D Rocher Six Feet Under / Mayhem / Vader / Enslaved / Cryptopsy / Nile / Thyrfing / Darkseid Facing the Breton Storm Season
8/12/1999 M Noll Six Feet Under / Vader / Enslaved / Cryptopsy / Nile / Thyrfing Pig's Feet and All Things Yummy
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