Grindcore 101 with Pig Destroyer’s Blake Harrison

When it comes to music, my opinion is based on a binary system: either I like it or I don’t. Pig Destroyer is a band labeled as grindcore that I had heard many people mention, but I had never checked them out. I didn’t know if I liked them or not.

As far as grindcore goes, Misery Index, Napalm Death, Godflesh, Bolt Thrower, and As I Lay Dying are all bands labeled by someone as grindcore, and all bands that I have been caught listening to between long stretches of death and black metal.  And I love Dillinger Escape Plan, but I am not sure they are grindcore. They are core-something though.
In my world (that is, this made up world of blogging about music), genres and subgenres matter. I appreciate the not-so-subtle differences between melodic death metal, technical death metal and blackened death. But grindcore? I wasn’t sure. So I asked the experts. 
Blake Harrison provides “noise” (read: sound samples) and some vocals for Pig Destroyer. He’s been providing the band with appropriately disturbing sound bites since 2006. Blake schooled me on the dark ways of grindcore , discussed their new recording, Book Burner, set to drop on Oct. 22 and talked about the short story included in the liner notes called, The Atheist, written by vocalist J.R. Hayes.

I was fortunate enough to preview Book Burner in its entirety. Even though grindcore is not my go-to subgenre of metal, there are several of the 19 songs included in the standard edition that I really liked and had to play repeatedly to appreciate the full impact of. I mention a few of my favorites below.

If you buy the deluxe edition of the recording, you also get seven more tracks: all covers of songs by seminal punk bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat and Negative Approach. I love punk, so I am curious to hear those.

Here’s my email Q&A with Blake Harrison. Enjoy!

I have listened to Book Burner and several of the songs are real stand outs for me (“The Diplomat,” “Iron Drunk,” “The Bug,” and “Baltimore Strangler,” for example). But grindcore is a subgenre of music that I probably know the least about. How do you describe grindcore and what about it do you think people (some people) find so appealing? Why does it appeal to you?
B- Grindcore is subversive, it’s the extreme of the extreme, it borrows from both extreme metal and hardcore punk. It appeals to us because it’s something we grew up on, we love grind and play it because we love it.

Grindcore seems pretty challenging both thematically and structurally to write. Any writer will tell you that it is HARDER to get your point across in a short story or article. How do the typical earmarks of this subgenre (short songs, haiku like lyrics) affect how you compose the songs? How difficult is it to write lyrics for this type of music? What is written first: the music or the words?

B- The music, it’s not done intentionally, I mean when we dig into a riff and feel that when it’s time to be done, it’s time to be done. The songs aren’t short because of any reason per se, it’s just we feel we’ve said what we’ve said.

What is the message that you want people to take away from your lyrics?

B-Desolation, loneliness, isolation, despair, you know upbeat, fun themes like that.

Why was J.R.’s The Atheist included with this release?
B- JR approached us with the story as a companion piece for the record. We read it and thought it was amazing. It’s not a part of a greater whole for example there’s not really a “theme” to the record.

When I began reading The Atheist, I first thought that it was going to be a personal essay. I quickly realized it was a work of fiction, a fantasy. But what can you tell me about how much J.R. (or any of you) identify personally with the protagonist? I know that I did. I have felt and thought these things about religion many times.
B- I can’t speak for everyone in the band, but sometimes yes. Religion is a personal thing and can get to the core of many people and one of the things about this, is it strikes that chord in me. I’m sure there’s SOME part of JR that identifies with it, I mean, he wrote it, but I can’t speak personally for him. Personally, I think that religion is responsible for most of society’s ills.

Will The Atheist story continue?
B- Hahaha, who knows, we just finished the record so we don’t really have too much in the way of what we’re going to do in the future. I can say that if JR feels he wants to continue the story, he will.

What does Adam Jarvis (also drummer in Misery Index) bring to Pig Destroyer’s performances and to this recording? He is among the fastest drummers I have ever witnessed!
B- Adam is an amazing talent and a great guy. He really stepped up to the plate and brought his “A game” on this release. I think he brings a great energy to the band and makes us faster and more fierce.

All of you seem to be involved in multiple projects. How do you manage that, and how does it impact Pig Destroyer?
B- It can be a juggling act at times, but we don’t do the band full time, I mean we all have jobs, relationships, families etc. It takes some careful timing and a lot of communication to get all of this together and make sure that we have the time to do what we do.

Why has it taken nearly four years to put out this new recording since Phantom Limb and Natasha?
B- We had a lot going on, it may seem like we weren’t up to much, but we built a studio and practice space, we took some time to play some shows and support Phantom Limb, we had to work in a new drummer. I know to a lot of people it seems like we were being lazy, but we were working.

You’ve got a slot for Maryland Deathfest! While you are there, what other bands playing are you hoping to see? What do you think of the additional punk/hardcore stage scheduled for Baltimore Soundstage?
B- There’s a lot, Infest, Asthma Castle, Integrity, Loss, Necropsy, Repulsion, TOOH, Down, Ilsa, Iron Lung, Magrudergrind, Rotten Sound, Weekend Nachos. I think the addition of the other stage is great. I just hope I can get to see everyone that I want too.

I am looking forward to the Oct. 19 show at The Ottobar. What specific items will you have for sale there?

B- Hopefully our new record hahaha, new shirts, some hoodies, new cds, hats you know, normal stuff.

After the Ottobar you are headed to the UK. What is the grindcore scene like there and in Europe in general? How do people react at your shows?

B- The grind scene in Europe is hit or miss, much like the states, but we’ve gotten great reception in the UK. Most people only come out if they are fans. It’s really great, and the outpouring of support has been amazing.

What else do you want people to know or understand about your new recording or anything else at all?
B- We just hope that people like it and understand it, I mean ultimately, we do this for us, but it’s nice when people get it. I’d also like to say thanks to the fans for bearing with us, it’s been a long road, but we’re here and back again, and the fact that people still want us to be is incredible.


Pig Destroyer’s Facebook page.

Buy tickets to Pig Destroyer’s Oct. 19 CD release show with Ilsa here.

Check out the title track from Pig Destroyer’s new album, Book Burner below:

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