Grindcore icons Pig Destroyer have been kicking out gnarly bursts of minute-long blastbeat goodness for a decade and a half. After building their own studio in guitarist Scott Hull’s basement, the band wrapped up recording their fifth full-length, Book Burner, due out October 23. AP caught up with electronic mastermind Blake Harrison to talk the band's new album, their thematic violence and newfound political leanings.
For this record, you built your own studio and self-produced the entire album. How did having all that freedom affect the process?
It was a lot easier. We didn’t feel the typical time constraints due to a set amount of studio time, like, “You’ve got to hurry up and get this done.” It really let us focus more. It was a little more of a well-honed machine. The songs were well-practiced when we stepped in.
It was also a lot easier on Scott [Hull, guitar]. Scott has a job, wife and two kids. The studio is in his house, so there was no “he’s not going to be home until 3 o’clock in the morning” [situation]. It was more like, “Yeah, we can [stop recording for a bit] so he could go see his family” when we need to.
That reflects well on the ethos that Pig Destroyer put out. You’ve always been a band that creates solely for the love of music because while you do tour some, you all hold full-time jobs and make Pig Destroyer fit around them, instead of the other way around like most bands.
Let’s be honest: [Grindcore] is a not a very financially lucrative genre. And we’re not getting any younger, so we definitely do it because we love to do it. I think we’re very fortunate to be in the position that we are because we don’t tour—a lot of bands would be forgotten about.
Pig Destroyer's popularity and influence is a phenomenon in itself because the band only play a few shows a year.
In the past couple years, you’d be right. And don’t take it the wrong way—we do love to play out. It’s just not very feasible with our schedules. We do it when we can, and [then we don’t] end up with our hands at each other’s throats because we got stuck in a van with each other for six months.
This is your second record with the band, but this is the first one where you were present before the writing process happened. How did you end up in the project, and how are the electronics shining through now?
We went on tour and there was a noise project that opened up called Secret Diaries, and they did some stuff with Pig Destroyer that night. It was kind of impromptu, and they just knob-twiddled all over the place, but it was cool. Then Scott was like, “I really dug this and want to add somebody.” I kind of jumped up and down and said, “Me! Me! Me!” I’ve played guitar and sang in bands before, so this was actually a new experiment on all of our parts by involving me for electronic stuff. It’s been an ongoing progression. This time around, Scott definitely wrote more with me in mind. I’m not going to say that I’m all over the record, but I’m there, and it’s a constantly changing thing. The sky’s the limit.
What sort of sounds are coming out this time? In what way do you add to the music that’s new for Pig Destroyer fans?
I’ve kind of always thought of Pig Destroyer as more on the arty side of grindcore, and kind of letting that space breathe. I try to focus on setting more of a mood to the music. I take noises and sounds, maybe samples, and then I compose stuff.
What’s interesting about your role is that it’s so vague, it gives you a lot of room to breathe, but it’s also difficult to define.
It is, and that seems like a cop-out, but it’s really not. And hopefully live, I’ll get to do really cool new stuff that we’re working on. Like, we’ve got a travel guitar, and I’m going to try to grind sheet metal onstage. That’s more of a visual aspect, but I want to do more physical stuff.
Everyone says this record is going to be short, fast and loud. What other adjectives would you ascribe to it?
I think it’s very lean. This is a little shorter and to-the-point. I think the longest song is slightly over three minutes, and most of them clock in at only one. It’s definitely a Pig Destroyer record—there’s definitely tempo shifts and time shifts and the sense of hookiness that Pig Destroyer’s always had.
As a band without a bassist, on Phantom Limb, Scott pitch-shifted a guitar track down a notch to fill in that bass. What did you guys do this time for that section of the mix?
When we sat and listened to Phantom Limb, we could actually hear that [pitch-shifted guitar]. I’m not saying a lot of people can. We talked about it and we didn’t really like that. There is a low end, but he didn’t shift his guitar down this time. I think more of the bottom end is just some of the stuff I’ve done and the more sub in his guitar.
Pig Destroyer have always had a consistently violent and creepy vibe. Where on that spectrum is this record landing?
Yeah, it is definitely violent and creepy, but not necessarily in the same manner. J.R. [Hayes, vocals] is a little more expansive. It’s not just typical of what a lot of people would say about girls and creepy stuff. That’s still there, but he’s definitely got some songs that [are] a little more politically minded or personal.
Politics is definitely new for lyrics. What’s going on there?
We keep our band away from that, in general. We get a lot of political questions when we do press in Japan, and that’s cool to ask our opinions on something, but we don’t consider ourselves a political band. Conveying a political message is not something we want to do. But, there’s a song titled “The Diplomat” and there’s definitely a song about the Americans that got beheaded.
Any closing remarks about what is going on with Pig Destroyer and this release?
We are planning on playing more in the future when the record comes out. We’re trying to go places we’ve never been. We’re trying to get out a little more for the fans and for us.