A 2014 statistic shows that there is an average of about 20.3 million cruise ship passengers a year. I know what you are thinking: What do cruise ships have to do with anything? And why are you even bringing in statistics on cruises in a piece about a metal band? Is there really some correlation? Well, not really. Except that a fraction of that average has been hopping on a cruise ship every year since 2011 to see some of their favorite metal acts perform live. The 70,000 Tons Of Metal festival has been gaining popularity amongst bands and fans since its inception. And on Jan. 22, about 3,000 metalheads boarded the “Liberty of the Seas” cruise ship in Florida to witness 60 of today’s top metal bands perform.
With the capacity and amount of stages and performers increased, the 2015 event was sure to kick off the year in a big way. Over the course of four days, these acts performed on four separate stages on the ship as they cruised throughout the Caribbean. One of the bands that took part was the ever-so-brutal Cannibal Corpse. I had a chance to catch up with drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz and discuss his expectations for the four-day cruise.
We chatted for a while and discussed the band’s continued promotion for their 13th full-length, A Skeletal Domain, their co-headlining tour with the extreme metal outfit, Behemoth, VIP Meet and Greet packages available for fans, and more. Take a look at what Paul had to say below:
Your latest record, A Skeletal Domain, has garnered lots of recognition as one of the best metal albums of 2014. Has your approach to writing in terms of achieving a heavy, brutal song changed over the years?
We have been around for about 26 years now and have released 13 records. I think if you play all of our records back to back, you will notice that every album sounds like Cannibal Corpse and yet it doesn’t sound the same. I think we have always tried to maintain and retain that Cannibal quality and sound while still mixing it up a little bit here and there. I think that just comes with us becoming more mature, better songwriters, getting better at our instruments and all of that kind of stuff.
And it comes with the way we approach writing our songs. We are always going to want to write dark, evil sounding riffs. That is just what we are all about. It is not about being happy in any sense of the chord progressions and notes that we are choosing. It comes down to arrangements and the different time periods. I’m sure now we wouldn’t write songs that were on our debut album because we are different people these days. We are always going to want to be a brutal, in your face, evil sounding death metal band. I think we have been doing a good job of it and hope that is why we are still around today (laughs).
Absolutely. And the record did great on a lot of the charts including Billboard and iTunes. It seems like metal, no matter what subgenre, is more accessible and accepted by audiences nowadays.
Right. I completely agree. And you can see that with the success of all of these festivals.
And that brings us right into 70,000 Tons Of Metal. In a little over a week, you will head down to Florida and board the cruise ship. What was your first time like, doing the event back in 2012?
The first time we participated was about two or three years ago. It was amazing. It was also the first time a few of the other guys and myself have ever been on a cruise ship, rather, a boat that large. It was a lot of fun and a whole new experience. Yeah, you have to play a couple shows, but it just has this relaxing, on a cruise kind of a vibe to it (laughs). It was a fun time and we knew we had wanted to do it again. We wanted to wait a couple years until the timeframe was right and it just so happens that it worked out this time around. We are really looking forward to that. I am sure it is going to be a lot of fun. That is pretty much kicking off the second leg of our tour here as well.
And do you approach this like any other festival, or because the environment is so laid back, the preparation is a bit more relaxed?
Yeah, you know, even though it is a laid-back atmosphere like I was just saying, you kind of have to prepare like any other festival. Show day is still show day. It just so happens to be a floating festival (laughs). I mean, you are going to give it your all no matter the venue, but the fact that it is such a laid-back environment makes it a really cool experience and a great time.
What’s so crazy about it all is that with fans and bands all on this ship together, it does seem more like everyone has a backstage pass. What do you look forward to most for this event?
Yeah, so this year it is a little different. Last time we did it, I believe it was just three stages and now there are four. I believe they upped the number of participating bands as well, from 40 to 60. And they might have even upped the capacity as well. With all of this in mind, and from what I am gathering, this ship is bigger than the last one and this one might even have a skating rink. There is a possibility of a hockey game of some sort. If this happens, I will certainly try to take part in it. I play hockey and still skate, so I am looking forward to the very idea of that happening. If it does, I would certainly bring my skates and get involved.
Other than that, the entire event is a good time. It will be great to enjoy the weather and the food and all of that. And on top of that, we even get to hang with some of the guys we are all friends with.
You are also playing a few festivals in August and June with shows like Copenhell and Bloodstock. And I assume, like you just mentioned, being able to see these different guys and hang out with them must be a nice break while on tour. And different lineup changes also help keep life on the road fresh.
Absolutely. When anything is changed in any way, it certainly keeps things fresh. If we visit a country for the first time or we play a city that we haven’t been to in 20 years, it certainly keeps things exciting. It’s really great when you play festivals to see who else is on the bill and who is playing on the same day. It can be bands you have never played with before or have never seen. And that gives you the opportunity to check them out. It certainly is more eventful than the same old, same old. We will be hitting up a good number of solid festivals in Europe where I am sure we will experience what I was just saying and get to check out some great acts.
Now, I have touched upon this with some other metal musicians, but is there a noticeable difference in terms of playing a festival over in Europe and in the U.S.?
Certainly. I mean, come to think of it, we have never really played anything huge in the U.S. besides something like Mayhem Fest or in a few specific markets where we might be playing in front of a crowd of 10,000 people. And that could still be significantly smaller than some of the minor festivals in Europe. But when it gets to be that big, you can be basically playing anywhere. You kind of lose that feel of what death metal is supposed to be about anyway. With a bigger stage and the fans going so far back, it might not even matter where you play.
So, yes, the magnitude of some of these European festivals outweigh anything that we have going on in the States. And at times it is fantastic, and it would be great to have something of that size in the States. With what we were talking about earlier, and the accessibility and popularity of the metal genre, maybe it will head in that direction sooner rather than later. But who knows?
After the cruise, you will go out and continue support on A Skeletal Domain. On this leg, you will be co-headlining with extreme metallers Behemoth. What can fans expect on such a massive tour?
I think a night of utter, sheer punishment and brutality. When you have us two, Tribulation and Aeon, it will be crazy. This is what death and extreme metal is all about. We are hoping for some good turnouts and it should be incredible.
Is the setlist creation any different on a co-headlining tour like this?
Yeah, you have to downsize it a bit. If we are playing a co-headliner, we will maybe play about an hour or so each. So, yeah, we will shorten it up a little bit. But instead of playing about 19-20 songs, we end up doing about 15 or 16.
You guys have some great VIP packages available for some of the fans on this tour. The VIP packages include a GA ticket, exclusive print poster and VIP laminate. Also available is a meet and greet with both Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse. Does this add a personal touch to live shows?
For the fans, I would say that depends on them. As long as they aren’t getting ripped off, we are cool with it. We love meeting fans and we feed off of their energy when they are excited to meet us. That pumps us up for the shows. It’s a good experience for everyone around.
Anything else planned or in the works that you could talk about?
We are doing a show in South Africa, India, and Israel, which will be happening in April in between the Behemoth tour and the festivals in the summer. We will be touring and supporting the new record. That is basically all that we are trying to focus on right now.
Cannibal Corpse will take their co-headlining tour with Behemoth to Webster Hall in New York City on Feb. 28. They will then make their way to Philly on March 1 and perform at the Theatre Of The Living Arts. A Skeletal Domain is available now through Metal Blade Records. For more information, go to cannibalcorpse.net.