Interview: Adam Savage (Cemetery Piss)
Of all the bands to play the opening day of Berserker IV, few generate the same kind of underground hype as Cemetery Piss. Their debut full-length, Order of the Vulture, was released last year to rave reviews from Perfect Day Zine and a spot in the top half of Noisey’s top 100 list. This year, they’re on the bill for Berserker IV as well as the Decibel Metal & Beer Festival. Next year, they’ll be pissing on our graves. I caught up with frontman Adam Savage to talk punk rock, the band’s origins, and the baggage of black metal.
So you’re a big Iggy Pop fan?
Absolutely. I was in a Stooges cover band, too, and Dirck [Ober], who is the guitar player in Cemetery Piss and I used to be in a band called Vincent Black Shadow that was very Stooges-influenced as well. Ann Arbor. I’ve never been there, but it makes me feel good when I hear it.
Well that’s good. Unfortunately, I don’t think the music you’re playing tonight would go over very well in Ann Arbor these days…
Oh no? It’s like a college town right?
Yeah, it’s a college town alright, but they’ve left the heavy metal behind. I’ve tried to be in metal bands in Ann Arbor for a long time… you play in Toledo, you play in Detroit, but you don’t play in Ann Arbor.
This is the first time I’ve been to Detroit, even though I guess we’re not actually “in” Detroit.
Have you had the chance to get any impressions?
We haven’t really been able to walk around Pontiac much, but this club [The Crofoot] is really nice.
Yeah, it’s a cool venue. I’ve only been here a few times and they were all one-stage shows; I’ve never seen it all opened up like this.
It’s quite a complex, it’s crazy.
What’s your experience being a metal band trying to play shows in Baltimore?
That’s a good question. There’s definitely a lot going on, but it seems to be more punk and grindcore stuff. Metal? I don’t want to diss any other bands, but there’s only a few who are really busy. And when we play in Baltimore, nobody cares that much.
When you do play out, where are some of your favorite places to play?
We did really well in D.C. and we did really well in New York. When we played in Brooklyn, we played at St. Vitus and it was awesome and it was packed. People knew a bunch of our songs, like singing the lyrics back at me… that was crazy. I never expected anything like that. We’re very stoked to play tonight, I think we’re gonna have a good crowd, and it’s exciting for us when people are excited to be there to see us.
Let’s talk about the “fun-club” in extreme metal. There tends to be this sort of “we mean it, man” kayfabe attitude in black metal, but your band seems to be much more tongue-in-cheek and self aware. What’s your mentality on that?
Great question. Black metal has a lot of baggage. I feel like that’s especially true in this country. There have been many times where we’ve been invited to play like “kvlt black metal” festivals and I don’t want to do it; I get sketched out by it. I don’t want anything to do with any of the racist or hateful or elitist mentality that goes with it, so any step of the way, I try to distance ourselves from that. It’s so serious and the sort of stance is very off-putting to me. Surely, I’m a metalhead, but I’m into many other things, too, and I think that’s sort of the worst part about it. I like a lot of old black metal and that definitely comes through in the music. And I always thought that the original black metal bands were sort of tongue-in-cheek. I mean, there was a reason they were hanging KISS records all over Helvete in Norway, and Carpathian Forest was, listen to that, it’s punk rock at its heart. And if you talk to Fenriz from Darkthrone, all he wants to do is talk about punk and stuff. I think that black metal doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it means to a lot of people.
It’s been interesting for me to see how black metal and punk scenes tend to mingle, especially in the crusty and punk-house communities. How does your love of the Stooges and punk rock influence the band?
Well, I can’t speak for Dirck, who does a majority of the songwriting, but knowing him, I would imagine that yes, he definitely thinks about that. When I’m writing or I’m performing I’m definitely thinking about putting on a punk rock show. My lyrics are important to me, but at the same time they’re more left open to interpretation. Certain things I definitely avoid, like we don’t talk about religion or something like that, it’s very boring to me. Most of our songs are more about cosmic things/the universe, death, life, sex.
On that note, who in the band is into watersports? Because there’s an awful lot of peeing going on in all of this.
I don’t think that is necessarily something we thought about. The band name was something that originated out of something very different. I was making a short movie with a couple of friends who ended up being in Vampire Weekend, and we were making a movie which involved us pissing in a cemetery, which we did. And we made this movie and I thought that was such a cool band name, I actually started a band called Cemetery Piss with a totally different band. It was really like a Kahante-worship band and it totally fell apart like ten years ago. And then Dirck and I started this band and it was just him and me and a drum machine. That name just came up again and I was like “fuck it, let’s take it.”
There is this pervasive biological theme in the music; you find the filth not in religion or political corruption, but within our physical selves.
I’m definitely interested in that horror movie macabre shit. Clive Barker definitely creeps in a lot and some of the stuff like ‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris. And I think about what you were saying about filth in our bodies.
How do you feel about going from playing around your local area to playing a big festival like this?
This is very exciting for us. It’s hard for us to tour properly, because of our schedules and lives and stuff, so to get to come and do something like this is amazing. We really want to try to do more stuff like this and hopefully we can work out doing more festivals like this one. I’m more interested in seeing other people we can’t normally get to. And next week, we’re going to Philly for the Decibel Metal and Beer Festival; couldn’t be more excited to get invited to play with Sleep and that’s really exciting and totally a dream. Definitely much respect for the Decibel people.