Published May 23, 2012Who knows what death metal vocals would sound like today if it not for Chris Barnes. As the original Cannibal Corpse vocalist, Barnes introduced low growling and continued with his violent gutturals after forming Six Feet Under in 1993. Undead is the Florida band's ninth studio album and although Barnes enlisted a new line-up, replacing original members Terry Butler and Greg Gall, the music is consistent and distinctly Six Feet Under. As the first new material from Barnes and company since 2008's Death Rituals, Undead has proven to be well worth the four-year wait.
Going into the writing process for Undead, was there a specific musical direction that you wanted to take?
Barnes: I just wanted to make the album the best that I could make it. That was my idea: just get the band back to where I wanted it to be and create some really memorable songs. Early on, I had to do that with some different people.
What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Rob Arnold and myself wrote the whole album, so that's how it's different in itself. We basically wrote the album and recorded it over about a year-and-four months or so. It was a lot of fun and it was just exciting working with someone on Rob's level of musicianship and enthusiasm.
Lyrically, is there a specific theme you've tried to maintain throughout the record?
No, not really. I just write each song the way I hear it in my head for the storyline of the record and what the music speaks to me about.
Where do you find the inspiration for your lyrics?
Just the music I'm presented with, really. That's what I get into and feel and that kind of poses a story to me within the riffs and the music.
Is there a more specific meaning behind the title, Undead?
No, I just think it represents the album and the music.
Compared to the length of time between previous Six Feet Under albums, there's a big gap between Death Rituals and Undead. Why was that?
We were doing a lot of other things, We were out there touring and we put out Graveyard Classics 3 and we put out a live DVD, Wake the Night! (Live in Germany). Like I said, we were touring a lot in support of Death Rituals, so that really was it. It wasn't like we weren't doing anything; we put out a couple of releases. We just didn't put out any new material.
How are you feeling about the current line-up?
I feel great about it. I think we came up with a great album and I'm looking forward to doing a lot of touring with the band.
What happened with Terry and Greg? Why did you decide to part ways with two of your original members?
I don't think that they wanted to move the band forward. They had interests in other areas of their lives that they wanted to pay more attention to and I felt that. I guess they weren't really happy in the band, so it was time for them to move on.
Has the line-up change had an impact on the sound of the new record?
Oh, yeah, 100 percent. You know, that's what I was hoping for. That's why I started working with other writers before they had even decided to leave the band. I wanted to improve the music and the level of musicianship in the band, and as far as the writing went, that was really what I was aiming to do.
Has the writing process in the band always been a collaborative effort?
Well, I just have someone write the music and then I write the lyrics, so I guess that's collaboration.
You first started the band in 1993. How do you feel the band's sound has progressed since then?
I don't know, I don't really analyze my music; I think that's what you guys do out there in the press. I just write it and if people like it that's cool with me, if they don't, that's cool with me too. I just dig it myself. However people want to interpret our sound is cool with me. I was just trying to make sure we wrote some killer songs on this new record and had some people that were really enthusiastic about writing with me. It shows on the record; I think we accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish with it.
How do you feel about being considered one of the first death metal vocalists to introduce low growling?
I'm really proud of what I've done through the years. That's great if people want to look at it like that. For sure, that's all right with me.
Does it bother you when people refer to you as "the original Cannibal Corpse vocalist" rather than the frontman of Six Feet Under?
No, that doesn't bother me. I'm really proud of everything I've done, especially Cannibal Corpse.
It's no secret that you're a big fan of marijuana. What role does that play in your writing process?
Oh, it's the number one thing in my writing. I mean, without cannabis I don't believe that a lot of the songs I've written could have been written. And some of the lyrics tie in with that. There are songs that I've written that are about freedom ― freedom of choice. The lyrics are up to the listener to look at and kind of take in.
Read a review of Undead here.