L-R: Carroll, Perun, Kuizin
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Cianide‘s new album Gods of Death (Hells Headbangers, 2011) is essential listening for fans of Massacre, Asphyx, and, well, Cianide. Cianide have been stalwarts of Chicago death metal since the late 1980s. Although not prolific, the band has been remarkably consistent in producing crushing, mid-paced death metal. As a Chicagoan and a death metal fan a generation younger than Cianide, I was excited to talk to guitarist Scott Carroll on the phone.
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I would describe your music as particularly primitive and heavy. Where does this come from?
It’s basically just who we are. We are kind of primitive, and we are kind of heavy. I think it’s always been [that] we wanted to be heavy. I’d never played guitar or anything like that. I picked up a guitar when I was just out of high school, and by listening to Hellhammer and Venom through my high school years, I was like, “That’s what I want to do”. We were fans of this insanely heavy shit, and we just figured, “It can’t be that fucking hard to do”. So we just went with that, and we ended up being really heavy.
As years go on, we just retain this same style because, honestly, we’re just not really that good of musicians, other than our drummer, Andy [Kuizin]. Andy’s an awesome drummer. Mike [Perun, bassist/vocalist] and I, we basically don’t know how to play. I never practice at home. The guitar at home could really be an ash tray for me. Or a beer stand. Could that guitar stand hold a beer for me, please? Because I have no interest in playing guitar at home. It’s boring to me. I love when we get down to Mike’s house in the basement- you know, down in the dungeon. But, honestly, I put that primtive shit down to the fact that we don’t have any fucking idea how to play anything else.
I couldn’t play you a Dream Theater riff, and I couldn’t play you a Sonic Youth riff. I don’t fucking know how. I just know how to play a dumb-ass death metal riff. We’re cavemen, basically. I don’t even have a fucking cell phone. And neither does Mike. We’re just neanderthals. I’m cutting my lawn with a Venom shirt on, just sweating. Total neanderthal shit, man. [Laughs]
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What do you do other than death metal? What’s your job?
I work down at the Chicago Board of Trade. I’ve worked down there for 20 years now. I’ve been with my girl for 20 years. I’ve been with my band for 20 years. I’ve been with my job for 20 years. It all adds up to some sort of 666, I think.
Well, three times 20 is 60, right?
Something’s gotta give. Either I’m going to hell, or I’ll just keep doing exactly what I’m doing. Be a normal person and get on with it.
Yeah, I’ve worked down at the Board of Trade for 20 years, being a clerk and working for the wealthiest people in America and watching them fucking bitch about how much money they don’t have. And meanwhile they’re making 30,000 dollars a day. [Laughs]
But the guy next to them is making $31,000 and it pisses them off.
Oh, it pisses ’em off to no fucking end! That’s exactly what it is! “And that motherfucker, he made $35,000! I’m losing!” [Laughs]
At this point, I’ve been there so long, and it’s not what it used to be. I used to be out there on the floor, in the pit, in the action, but now it’s just all computers. And I’m just disgusted with everything! [Laughs]
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What makes a song heavy?
That’s simple. It’s just feeling. You have to have that gut feeling of complete heaviness. It has nothing to do with technical ability – and technical bands can be fucking heavy as shit, too. In my eyes, it’s just simple, just bottom-heavy, simple riffs, catchy choruses.
People say death metal can’t be catchy, [that] it’s all just barking. That’s ridiculous. Honestly, you just don’t understand the music if you say that. Death metal is some of the catchiest, heaviest shit out there. When you hear fucking Massacre and Death and Slaughter, it’s hard to say that’s not catchy.
The bottom line is, it’s simple. Simplicity is the easiest way to put it. If you’re like, “Well, what do we need to do?” then you’re already overthinking it. It should just come from the heart.
As soon as you question anything, then you kind of lose it. We question shit when we’re writing, and then we’re like “We’re overthinking, this is fucking gay, what are we doing?” Then we’ll just stop thinking and have a beer, and all of a sudden shit starts pouring out.
I think just being as honest as you can with your band and your music and what you love doing is the way to go. There’s no trying to be heavy. You either are or you aren’t. We don’t set out to be heavy. This is the only thing I know how to do. People questioned the Ramones, like, “Why do you guys play so simple?” They’d say, “That’s the only thing we know how to do”.
“We’re just simple guys”.
Right, we’re simple-minded, and we’re simple guys. I like fucking AC/DC, and I like Black Sabbath, and I like Hellhammer. I like drinking beer, and I like tits. Call me crazy! And I like a good hot dog. And a beef sandwich.
It’s the American dream, right? [Laughs]
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So, speaking of songwriting, how does the process work? Does one of you write whole songs, or do you guys just jam it out or what?
Basically, we just get in the basement and fucking rock. Sometimes, I might have a riff at home – if I actually decide to pick up a guitar at home, which is very, very, very, very few and far between – but, if I have a riff, it’s more in my head. I’ll come down to practice, then I’ll play it down there.
It’s 90 percent down in the practice room, us just banging shit out, arguing, fighting…I mean, we fight a lot. It took us six years to write this new record. And people will be like, “It’s the simplest record! I can shit these riffs out!” Well, it took us six years! Sorry, we’re not exactly Jaco Pastorious over here! We struggle with this shit!
You can like it or not, but it took us a long time to write this simple shit! We’re trying to figure out how we can put this riff with that riff, and we’re just like, “This sounds like shit!” Next thing you know, it’s six months later, and we’re still working on the same goddamn song! And when the songs done, it’s only like four riffs! We really need help in the fucking mental department. [Laughs]
That’s how we work, man. There’s no elegant way to put it.
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You’ve been in the same band for 20 years. From my perspective, things are much different now than they were 20 years ago. Does your music relate to the changing times?
That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t know how it relates to people now. Take someone who’s 23 now. We’ve been playing for 20 years, so I don’t fucking know how our music relates to him. If a 23 year-old kid gets into it, that’s kick-ass! But I don’t know.
I would think that it’s all kind of the same idea if you’re a metalhead. Like, “These are crushing riffs. These are fucking great songs, and it just makes me feel like I’m different from the guy across the room from me when I’m sitting at McDonald’s”. You know? It’s like, “Fuck that guy!” [Laughs]
I know where I came from. I know what that’s about. But I don’t know how it relates right now to somebody younger. Sure there’s a bunch of old fucking farts listening to us. I’d love to hear someone younger be like, “You guys kick ass!”
Well, I’m 26, and I love Cianide, so there you go.
Well, then I hope you feel the same way that I felt when I was listening to Morbid Angel when they were putting out demos. Like, “This just annihilates everything around me that’s coming out. It’s honest, and it’s pure. And when you look around, no one even has a fucking clue. This is some of the best music ever, and it’s completely underground. People don’t even know”.
It’s kind of strange, but it made me more of a confident person as I grew older. I really cared less about what people thought. I understand that you gotta get a job and all this shit, and that’s fine, but that way of thinking never leaves you when you get into this kind of music. And that type of thinking is that you’re truly free because you feel that fucking power of the music. It’s hard to put into words, honestly.
I know exactly what you’re talking about. You listen to tons of music, and some of it has that quality to it, and that’s the stuff you come back to.
Exactly. It takes you somewhere else. It makes you feel good. And you want to play it for somebody else, and when they don’t hear it, you’re like, “Why don’t you hear how good this is? Are you retarded?” [Laughs] “What the fuck, man? This is one of the best things I’ve ever heard!”
It makes you who you are. It makes you a stronger person. I’m a 43 year-old dude. I grew up with this shit. I saw fucking Celtic Frost at The Metro with Voivod and Megadeth opening up.
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How was playing Maryland Deathfest for you guys?
We just played Maryland Deathfest a few months ago, and we were freaking out. We just got up on stage, and we were the first band on the outside stage. It’s like, “Ah, OK, we’re the first band. Might be a couple hundred people watching us”. All of a sudden, the fucking whole place fills up. And I’m looking at my drummer Andy, and I’m like “Andy, what the fuck are all of these people doing here?” And he’s like, “I have no fucking idea”.
Then we go out there and we play our fucking dumb-ass songs. Oh, my god. I’m playing a song from an album I wrote 20 years ago, and I’m like, “Are you kidding me? There’s 4000 people listening to this song I wrote 20 years ago”. And they’re headbanging. A whole fucking crowd of headbanging people. I was dumbfounded. I was like, “Maybe we’re onto something! Why couldn’t this have happened when I was 23!” And then I remembered that I was too stupid then. [Laughs]
A whole bunch of that has to do with the Internet as well.
Yeah, yeah. Take a band like Pentagram. Nobody gave a shit about Pentagram. The Internet just made them huge. And now they’re touring the world. I saw Pentagram last year in Ireland! I happened to be in Ireland, and Pentagram just happened to be playing, so I was like, “I guess we’re going to see Pentagram”. And the place was fucking packed!
The Internet is a great tool. Maybe even for a band like us, there might be a little bit of hope! [Laughs]
Since I’m a generation younger than you, the Internet is absolutely how I got into Cianide. You know, I was looking around like, “I love Celtic Frost, I love Morbid Angel”. I’d read the liner notes on my CDs and start downloading stuff from bands on thank you lists.
Yeah, and that’s how I got into fucking bands! The same way! I was reading Metallica thanks lists. Reading fucking Exciter thanks lists. The same exact way! So that’s honestly really fucking cool. That’s good to hear.
And it’s awesome that at this point in your career you can go play Maryland Deathfest, and there’s 4000 people like me who care about what you did 20 years ago.
In the end, we’re just total fans. We’re not like band guys. We’re just total fans of metal and hardcore and underground nonsense. All I do is buy records. I’m a record fanatic.
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As a band, you’re relatively inactive, but you’ve been consistent over the years. Do you think there’s a relationship between those two things?
Well, we’re inactive in the sense of playing live. If playing live means playing out for people, then, yeah, we’re inactive. But you know, we play every fucking week in our basement. So we’re not inactive in our heads. We’re kicking ass! The three of us go down there and just knock out songs and just go for it.
We’re always thinking and writing new songs, and it takes us a long time. I think our last record came out in 2005. So it’s been about six years. But, you know, we put out the split with Machetazo from Spain, and we put out the single with Coffins, and we did the Chicago Metal Hell single, and we put out a demo anthology. So it’s not like we disappeared and are coming back. We were always here.
Those two songs with Coffins and Machetazo, those are great songs, in my head. Those are better than the songs on the new record! [Laughs] And we’re actually going to make a release of those seven inches and all of that shit so somebody can hear ’em for a change. Rather than some bullshit fucking seven inch that’s like 200 copies. “Yeah, 200 copies! It’s super kvlt!” Ahhhh, fuck you!
I just want one for myself! Cuz I’m a fucking vinyl retard. “Ahhh, vinyl sounds so much better than CD!” No it doesn’t. CDs sound just as good.
Although I like vinyl because I will sit and listen to a whole side of a record.
It’s a commitment. With a CD, it’s too much of a commitment, because I only want to listen to five songs! I want to listen to five songs, then I want to play a song from a different band. After I hear “Number of the Beast”, then I want to put on “Balls to the Wall”. If I’m feeling crazy, I’ll put on side two! [Laughs]
Anyway, I’m done with the whole argument. Put on an .mp4! Ohhh, it’s one better than an .mp3! Good for you! You’re like Spinal Tap now with your digital format! Fucking iTunes!
This .mp3 goes to four! [Laughs]
No, shit does it!? You fuckers!
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