Published Jul 29, 2013Billed as a "hateful unification of musicians" in their press materials, which, for some twisted reason, really piques our interest, All Pigs Must Die are a combination of members from such Boston hard-hitters as Converge, the Hope Conspiracy and Bloodhorse. Their second full-length, Nothing Violates This Nature (on Southern Lord Records), is another completely chaotic combination of D-beat hardcore, death metal, black metal and hardcore.
The unmistakable, headshaking drumming of Converge's Ben Koller drives the band as the Hope Conspiracy vocalist Kevin Baker spits hateful bile. But that's just the beginning of their arsenal, as All Pigs Must Die bludgeon repeatedly with frantic riffing and brutal mosh parts from the seemingly poisoned minds of Bloodhorse's Adam Wentworth and Matt Woods. Exclaim! recently caught up with Koller to talk about making sense of the world's atrocities, channelling negative energy into something positive, conspiring with friends Kurt Ballou (production) and Aaron Turner (artwork) and annihilating really small drum kits.
How did All Pigs Must Die come together?
We've all known each other for a pretty long time from other bands we've been in, and Kevin was always mentioning starting an angry band just called Pigs, and I was way into that but we never got it together. Then a few years ago we were just hanging out at the Deathwish Inc. Christmas party and we all just stood together in a circle and decided to start a really angry, mean, hateful, aggressive, crazy band.
So it was like an instant band?
Yeah, pretty much. We were all on the same page about it and all had a similar vision about what we wanted the band to represent and sound like, so we just went for it. The chemistry is definitely an important thing. If you have three guys wanting to be in a pop-punk band and one guy who wants to play death metal, there's obviously going to be some butting of heads, but we've always written songs pretty smoothly and there hasn't been a whole lot of disagreements musically, and that's definitely a big part of making a band sound cohesive.
You guys have always been up front with your Entombed worship, but it was a bit surprising to hear that you were referencing hardcore bands like the Cro-Mags…
We've always liked to have just a little bit of ignorant hardcore in there, a little homage to our hardcore roots. It's not like we really listen to a lot of hardcore these days, but it's definitely a part of where we all came from. At some points during the songwriting process we would just look at each other and say, "I think it might be time for an ignorant mosh part, maybe let's get a bit of Cleveland here, a little Connecticut in here, and throw some mosh in for the kids…" [laughs]
What's the meaning behind the album title, Nothing Violates This Nature?
The overall theme of our records has always been about humanity being gross, and there just being a lot of people in this world that do really disgusting things and there's a lot going on in this world that's totally fucked up and wrong. It's really not that difficult to find lyrical content when talking about atrocious people and atrocious things and genocide and bombing — you open up any news source and it's right in front of you. There's chaos everywhere and that's we're trying to get across. It's, like, look at all of this crazy, fucked up shit that's going on.
Is it tough to not wallow in that? This kind of music can be really positive for people, and it can help. But is it hard to make sure that you are actually helping?
I like to think that people will listen and read the lyrics and not get angry and be a bitter person, but maybe think about all of the fucked up shit in the world and think maybe they shouldn't be like that, and what can they do to not be like that. It's hard not to get wrapped up in it, but at the same time you have to live your life and not wallow in that misery all of the time.
The band seems like a good outlet for you guys to channel these feelings and get them out. Does the band help you turn things into a positive?
Yeah, absolutely. You can take that anger and negative energy and put it towards something positive like music, or jogging, or kickboxing, or whatever can get that aggression out in a healthy way. That's really important.
The new album sounds quite similar to your first one. What do you think is the biggest difference between the two?
You can still tell it's the same band, but maybe it's gotten a little more, I don't want to say conceptual… our songwriting has evolved in a positive way. Our first EP was like, "Here's the fast part, here's the mosh part," and this new album's songwriting is broader in scope. And we've gotten more into the black metal realm on this one. Also, the slow stuff is a little slower and the fast stuff is a little faster, so we tried to make both ends of the spectrum more extreme.
What's it like being in a band with a different frontperson? [Converge vocalist] Jacob [Bannon] is such an individual and Kevin seems like a totally different animal up there.
Yeah, totally different styles, but I've always loved Kevin as a frontman, ever since the Hope Conspiracy. His style is really aggressive, really angry and I've always been a fan of him, so it's nice to be in a band with someone who you've always admired as a lyricist and a frontman. It's great.
How was recording with [Converge guitarist] Kurt Ballou, the dude from your other band?
Oh, it was really natural. I've been going to Kurt to record in bands since I was 15 or 16 years old. We've been recording together for so long it's just routine for us. He's on the same page musically, he knows what I'm going for and we have the same stupid sense of humour. He has great musical ideas to tie up loose ends and put in his two cents when he can.
What were your thoughts on Aaron Turner's artwork for the album?
I love it. It's a lot more abstract and textural than the other two releases, but it's really great. It's dark and evil looking and it fits the way the record sounds really nicely.
You've been compared to a lot of drumming legends, guys like Dave Lombardo and Bill Ward. What's your reaction to those kinds of comparisons?
I don't know about that. It's very flattering. Those are definitely two of my biggest drumming influences ever, so if I was ever mentioned alongside them it's ridiculous, but it's awesome. They're two of my favourites and they're legends and they have that crazy, loose style that I've been heavily influenced by; pushing and pulling the beat when necessary and choosing power and energy and feel over pocket playing and sticking to a steady pulse through the song.
One thing that struck me is that your kit is very small. Has that always been your style, to bang away on a smaller kit and make the most of it?
Yeah, that's just the way I've always played. It's what I'm used to and it's kind of a functional thing because with Converge we fly into a lot of shows and we use a lot of rented or borrowed gear. We just played in Umea, Sweden and it was a small show so we borrowed some kid's gear and most of the time it's a small kit, like a standard snare, rack tom, floor tom, kick drum and a couple cymbals. It would be weird to request a 12-piece kit when you're flying into a punk rock show.
Could you play a big kit, or would you just be lost?
Um, it would be interesting… [laughs] I think it would be really fun, but it would definitely be weird and take some getting used to, for sure. But I've always thought I could get what I wanted done with a small kit.
How do you fit All Pigs Must Die into your schedule? I know you're a busy guy and this band aren't the kind that's going to turn into a job.
Yeah, definitely. Well, we find time when we can. Everyone is busy with jobs and kids and wives and living their lives, so we just take whatever free time we all have and try to make it work. There's a lot of independent study, I guess you could say. We're all scattered across New York and New England, so we utilize technology and send each other lots of ideas by email and we do a lot of writing and arranging that way. The longest tour we've ever done is ten days, and I can't remember the last show we've done. So when we all have time to get together, we do and we make it work. And when we don't, we go about the rest of our lives and wait for the next time we can get back together.
You always seem to have a bunch of bands on the go.
Yeah, I'm always ready to start a new band and make my life completely insane and pop some new white hairs in the process. But it's totally worth it because it's what I love.