There's no denying Pig Destroyer belongs in the pantheon of grind metal gods. Since forming in 1997, they've flown the genre's flag with murderous aggression. Relentlessly spastic and sincerely depraved, a Pig Destroyer album isn't just a record, it's a physical attack. After a five-year hiatus, the Washington D.C. quartet is finally ready to pry into humanity's deepest, darkest corners one more time.
I conducted an e-mail interview with noise sampler Blake Harrison about what it takes feeding such frenzy. Pig Destroyer's resident audio assaulter gave me the scoop on what it's like playing for one of extreme music's most ferocious acts.
Mark Hensch of Thrashpit.com: Thanks for writing to me Blake despite your hectic schedule. It's truly an honor.
You have an unusual role for a band member given you manipulate and sample sounds to add atmosphere to the rest of the music. In the context of Pig Destroyer, how do you approach that role?
Black Harrison (Noise/Samples): I guess I just try keeping my ears open. As you mentioned it's not a traditional role for a metal band, so I just try adding a mood or a vibe to the track while making sure I don't step all over the music.
For the most part, I pull stuff from various movies and field recordings. I tend to take those samples and then compose them to some extent. I am constantly listening to sounds, looking and subsequently planning them out in my head for later use. It's weird to people sometimes when I hear an air conditioner droning on and I pop out my recorder to capture it.
Thrashpit.com: Grind is a challenging subgenre of heavy metal as it usually focuses on extremely short, extremely fast songs packed with variety. What advantages and disadvantages are there to writing in that style?
Harrison: We don't really look at it like that. We play and write grind because it's what we love.
I would say that the advantages to us are that it's pretty satisfying writing and performing the music we enjoy. I guess the disadvantage is that it's not a terribly popular genre, so we'll never get rich off of grind. As far as I'm concerned, that's cool.
Thrashpit.com: Pig Destroyer's members are split between the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metro areas. How does residing in those kinds of environments impact Pig Destroyer's sound?
Harrison: Our guitarist Scott Hull and our vocalist J.R. Hayes are actually closer to DC, while our drummer Adam Jarvis and I live in Baltimore. I'm not too sure how these places affect our sound, but I think that living in an urban area affects a lot of bands' styles. I'm just not sure that there's a direct impact or something we could really put our fingers on.
hrashpit.com: You joined Pig Destroyer in 2006 and immediately helped them record their last full-length album, 2007's Phantom Limb. How do you feel about that release having had time to reflect upon it?
Harrison: Phantom Limb is a great record and I'm really proud that I was a part of it.
Actually, I'm grateful in general to have the opportunity to make and play music with some of my best friends. I think we're so close because we're all on the same page with common goals and common interests.
It's an amazing experience playing music with people you get along with. I've been involved in music for over 16 years and having the friendship element is amazing. I wouldn't change it. This band is for us – don't get me wrong, we're flattered with the outpouring of support – but we do the band for us.
Thrashpit.com: Relapse Records, your band's record label, has confirmed you have a new record coming out later this year. What details about the future album can you talk about at this time?
Harrison: The new album should be out in late October. It will have 19 tracks and we're calling it Book Burner. It's more on the side of shorter and faster songs, and it's a pretty fierce record.
Thrashpit.com: What themes or concepts are you and the rest of Pig Destroyer exploring on Book Burner?
Harrison: We'll explore the same themes of desolation and loneliness we've examined on earlier albums.
Other than that, it's not a concept record, but there is a companion story that goes along with the record that's not a direct tie-in. I'd rather not give too much away. I'd prefer for listeners to experience it alone. I can say that J.R. did an amazing job writing it and we're super excited to have it as part of our discography.
Thrashpit.com: It's been five years since the release of Phantom Limb. Why has there been such a gap between that record and the upcoming one?
Harrison: Where do I start? First, we built a practice space/studio and parted ways with our old drummer Brian Harvey. Then we had to get a new drummer. That's Adam. Some of this record was written with Brian, but most of it was with Adam.
Thrashpit.com: You used to contribute bass, guitar and drum programming to Hatebeak, a parody band with a parrot as the lead singer. Do you ever miss doing something less serious than Pig Destroyer, or had the joke run its course over the years?
Harrison: Hatebeak may do some more stuff – we've been talking about it a little recently. Basically, my co-conspirator moved so he's not really in close proximity any more. Plus, it's tough just scheduling playing time in general. All the same, you just never know.
Thrashpit.com: You've been involved in many different aspects of the heavy metal genre. What metal album would you pick as your favorite and why?
Harrison: This may be the hardest question I've ever been asked.
If I have to pick just one, I'd say Harmony Corruption by Napalm Death. That record changed my life. It's the record that made me want to play grind. When I heard it, it was my first exposure to grind, and it had elements of metal and punk all mixed into a fierce delivery.
As a younger kid in my generation, I liked both genres. It was total crossover, and Napalm Death had it all – the speed, the aggression, the politics, the visuals, all of it came together in one awesome package. We're playing Japan with them soon, and it should be a great time.
Thrashpit.com: What does the future hold for Pig Destroyer?
Harrison: Well, we plan on playing out more. After that, we might record a couple of split records. Who knows? Whatever it is, it'll be fun.
Check 'em out at www.myspace.com/therealpigdestroyer and www.facebook.com/therealpigdestroyer
Mark Hensch is the editor of Thrashpit. You can also read more of Mark's work in Heavy Metal Hensch at the Washington Times Communities. When not writing for the Communities, Mark serves as a digital editor for the Times' Times247.com.