Chris Reifert first appears as the drummer on the legendary DEATH album “Scream Bloody Gore”, before starting his own band AUTOPSY, whose first albums have reached nearly iconic status in the history of American death metal. His next group, the more punk/hardcore-influenced ABSCESS, renders him the status as one of the founding fathers of doom metal. The band however calls its quits in summer 2010. At the same time, surprisingly, the reunion of AUTOPSY is announced.
I call him up for a chat about the upcoming album, the importance of cool covers, and why basically any other genre tags than “death metal” are unnecessary.
How has it been since you announced the reunion of AUTOPSY?
Everything’s been really good, better than we thought, you know, with the reactions and everything. So were definitely quite pleased with things!
You said for years that AUTOPSY wouldn’t be reanimated. What caused you to change your mind about it?
Uh, I know, I’m kind of a liar now aren’t I! It’s kind of a combination of things I guess, we did record a couple of songs in 2008 and didn’t think anything would come out of it, but it seemed to cause some kind of spark or something like that. Not only between us, but there were a lot of people out there who thought it was real nice and we started actually getting interest in the band reforming. And around that time, Clint (Bower), the guitar player from ABSCESS, was kind of losing interest, I guess, in the band, and so these things all kind of happened at the same time, so we decided to go ahead and make an agreement on a show, which was Maryland Death Fest. Right around that time, Clint was leaving ABSCESS, and seeing how we can’t do the band without him we decided to quit – and that’s pretty much how it went. I think us recording those two songs a couple of years ago definitely had a bit to do with it, it kind of planted a little bit of a seed.
How does it feel playing with the band again?
We’re definitely having a great time with it, just enjoying every minute of it. It kind of feels like the old days in a way and yet it’s kind of fresh at the same time, so it’s really great! We’re inspired and writing lots of songs.
You’ve been working with the band mates for quite a long time, especially you and Danny Coralles…
Oh yeah! I’ve been in bands with him non stop since 1988 and with Eric (Cutler, guitar) since ‘87… And our bass player Joe Trevisano, he was in ABSCESS – although he was known as Joe Allen then – I’ve been working with him for a good 12 years or so. So we’re all old friends, and we all exactly know how each other play our instruments so it works out really well.
How do you work; do you write the lyrics yourself or do you write them together?
I’ve pretty much been writing the lyrics, but anyone is welcome to throw in ideas – Eric has thrown in lyrics before, so anyone is welcome to contribute, lyrics or music, as much as they want. I just usually end up doing the lyrics. As far as the music goes, the way it works is we normally write at home, individually, even though we always say we should get together and write, it rarely happens, ha ha! Everyone is so busy with their own personal lives and that, so everyone shows up and if someone has a new song he says “Hey, I got a new song” and show it to everybody and we play it. Not a very exciting explanation but that’s how it works nonetheless.
Speaking about the lyrics, that’s one thing I really love about your bands. I feel this thrill of pleasure every time I hear “Disembowel” with AUTOPSY… they’re all so nicely sick and twisted.
All right, that’s great, thank you! That’s the best thing I could hear.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I don’t really know, a long time ago we did a few songs when we would write about a certain horror film or such, but that didn’t last too long. We just started kind of thinking about or own ideas – for me, all sorts of different things that can happen: sometimes, there’s just a cool sounding title that appears and I think “Oh, I have to write something around that!” and I go running for a piece of paper; sometimes some random lyrics appear. I don’t know how it works for the other guys but for me it’s rare to sit down and try to come up with something. It’s just made up stuff, really, I’m not inspired by anything specific.
You’d think you watched a lot of gore movies.
Oh yeah, we’ve definitely done a lot of gore watching! I guess it’s ok to be inspired by things, but these days you don’t really write about them – maybe there’s some film, or if you read a really brutal horror novel, it might kind of put a little something in your head, and you mutate it into something else, inspired by it.
It’s funny, I bought “Severed Survival” only because of the album cover; I thought it was so cool and horror inspired. That’s what got me into metal, so thank you!
Oh that’s cool! I think that’s the way we all used to buy records before we knew who the bands were – that was my criteria when I was a teenager. I’d look at the record cover and if it was cool you’d turn it over to look on the back and think: “Ok, the band looks cool, and there’s no keyboard player, ok that’s good – I’ll buy this record”! Or go “Ooh a keyboard player, I can’t buy this!”, ha ha! That was a long time ago and there are more exceptions, but I know what it means to be attracted to an album cover, I had plenty of those in my life for sure…
Any certain ones?
Oh man, just all the old classic metal covers… now everyone knows who every band is, but the old ones, like VENOM and… pretty much everything that looked cool. One of my exceptions, in ’84 or something, was the cover of the SILVER MOUNTAIN album “Shakin’ Brains”. I saw that they had a keyboard player, and I bought the record anyway, ha ha, because they just looked so cool and it turned out to be awesome! That’s a great cover, but there are so many old favourites…
How do you feel about today’s music industry? So many people don’t buy records anymore, they just download the music.
A lot of people do that, that’s for sure. I don’t suppose it’s anything wrong with that – it’s not that much different from taping a record onto a cassette for a friend, just a quicker version of that, a little more convenient. But I still think it’s important to have the actual record; to see the band picture, the lyrics, the thanks list… I still like to see all that stuff, I definitely prefer the full package, especially if there’s a really cool album cover, that makes it even better. So I think people are missing out if they don’t go full board and buy the actual album. But that’s a lot of people’s choice. Some people don’t think that the rest of the stuff is important, but I question how important the music is to someone who doesn’t care about the album cover and all that. But whatever gets you through the day, I guess...
I’ve listened to your new EP “The Tomb Within” and I really like it! Could you tell us something about the upcoming album?
It’s going to be pretty much more of the same, more AUTOPSY music. We’re not trying to get modern or change things or appeal to a different crowd or anything. We’re just going to do the only thing we know how to do, and if we’re still going to be named AUTOPSY we need to live up to that. I’d say it’s along the lines of the EP, but I think we saved the best stuff for the album. We’re always trying to get better, so we’re working on it...
How did it all begin? What bands were really influential to you?
When we first started, the bands we were listening to the most were probably DEATH, SLAYER and REPULSION… TERRORIZER, lots of doom stuff like TROUBLE and CANDLEMASS… and sort of rock stuff like Alice Cooper, CREAM, MAHOGANY RUSH, things like that. Again, trying not to copy anybody and sound like anything, but that’s what we were listening to the most when we started AUTOPSY; Frank Zappa, too – kind of an interesting mix of what we were listening to, but just trying to sound like ourselves.
You’re one of the persons who took part in developing the genre, first by recording “Scream Bloody Gore” with DEATH, and then kind of developing the scene with the start of ABSCESS. Do you see any certain differences or similarities between the metal scene of the 80’s and that of today?
I don’t think it’s different, it’s just bigger – it’s so many new bands, and literally a new generation of kids, teenagers that weren’t even born when AUTOPSY were around the first time, and now they have their own bands, it’s really killer. Things happen so fast now with the Internet: you really appreciated things that used to take weeks to get to the mail, like getting a record; that takes two minutes today, but that’s kind of cool, too.
But I think the feeling people get from metal today is the same: when you hear a band and go like “My God, that’s so cool!”, whether you’re my age or a teenager. I still get that feeling when I hear something that fucking knocks me out. That’s something that no matter what, it will always be there, the feeling you get when you hear a band that just kicks your ass. That’s kind of the heart of the scene.
Any bands you’ve been listening to a lot lately?
Besides the old bands I’ve always liked? MACHETAZO from Spain, BLIZZARD from Germany I really like, they’re dirty, filthy, VENOM and MOTORHEAD like rock’n’roll metal … DESASTER from Germany has been around for like 20 years… but brand new stuff, I have to think about it… it’s always new stuff that is good coming up, always new.
That’s kind of the charm of it, that the genre is always developing itself and a lot of new bands popping up all the time.
I don’t really pay attention to that stuff too much because there are so many tags and categories now, it kind of gets silly sometimes with all new things. I just look at it as “metal” and just add a little bit of a reference like “death metal” or “doom metal”… I don’t worry about that too much.
After quitting AUTOPSY and forming ABSCESS, some people didn’t at all like the way things were going, they called it doom metal and found it quite different from the old sound… How did you think when you formed ABSCESS; did you want to develop the genre?
Yeah, we just wanted to play music that we liked. It was pretty much death metal and we threw in some punk stuff too. We just wanted to entertain ourselves really. Then there were some people who didn’t really like it. Many people wanted just death metal without anything extra to it, but we wanted to keep playing what we liked and just as long as it was heavy we could throw just about anything into it – it’s got to be heavy, that’s number one.
Because of an incident regarding a “shitty cell phone”, the connection was broken and when I a couple of minutes later called back, Chris had no problems reconnecting to the last question – being a real gentleman towards the now somewhat confused reporter.
What about touring plans for AUTOPSY? It would be really cool if you came to Sweden!
We won’t be doing any real touring, that would probably kill the band. It’s just too much, we leave it to bands that enjoy doing it. But just because we don’t want to go on a tour, it doesn’t mean we can’t do a few random shows. We actually played in Norway, in Bergen, on the Hole in the Sky-festival just a couple of weeks ago. But we never were to Sweden. It’d be nice, and as I said we’re working on it. Hopefully we’ll be doing some show in Northern Europe quite soon.
That would be awesome. Thank you so much for doing this interview – any last words?
Thanks to everybody that wouldn’t let AUTOPSY go – we have more coming!
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