Legendary death metal band Cannibal Corpse recently issued their retrospective triple DVD Centuries of Torment, a seven hour mastodon that is well worth seeing if you're a fan and have an interest in the history of the band. I happen to fit that category so when presented with the opportunity to ask bassist Alex Webster some questions there was no way I could say no.

Alex Webster interviewed by PSL

Where did the idea to do this DVD come from?
It was actually the film maker Denise Korycki who came up with the idea of doing a history DVD. We knew of her video skills from previous work she had done, so we initially contacted her with the idea of doing a DVD covering our most recent album Kill's tour cycle. She came back to us with the history idea because she said it would be much more interesting and we were one of the first bands she had worked with that had such a long career. Since 2008 is our 20th Anniversary, we decided to go with her idea and make the DVD a celebration of our 20 year history.

How long did it take to put the whole thing together?
Denise began work on the DVD in August or September of 2007 and finished up in the spring of 2008. She worked so hard on this project that it was basically her full time job for that whole time. She did everything: editing, production, filming, interviewing, organization… she did an amazing job and we are extremely grateful. We had no idea she was going to put so much effort into our DVD.

The documentary is long. Was it difficult to pare down 20 years of history to three hours and how much did you have to leave out?
Denise did an excellent job working together with us to determine which facts and anecdotes were the most important. Of course there is a lot of stuff that didn't make it, she had hundreds of hours of footage that she shot, and we've been around since 1988, so it had to be a difficult task for her. We feel she did a great job of getting the important elements of our history across to the viewer.

It's nice to see Chris Barnes being a part of the DVD. Was it easy to get him to participate?
Actually, yes. Denise asked us what we thought about having Chris be in the DVD, and we said "sure" since it's a history DVD after all, and when she asked Chris about participating he said was happy to. We are also happy he participated, because even though things didn't work out between us, he was a huge part of our band in the early days and the history DVD wouldn't have been as good without him.

With both Chris and Jack being a part of the documentary it's kind of hard to ignore that Bob Rusay is not a part as well. Did you try to persuade him to be a part of the DVD?
Bob did not respond to any messages that were left for him asking him to participate in the DVD. We have heard from mutual friends that he wants to leave his days in Cannibal Corpse behind him.

Cannibal Corpse has made music for 20 years. Do you see any limit to how long you can keep doing this?
The limits would only be physical ones. Death metal is a very athletic type of music; you need to be in good shape to play it, especially during stage performances. As long as we take care of our physical condition, we will be able to play death metal for many years to come.

Many bands tend to get low on ideas after a couple of CD's and start using the same ideas again and again. How do you avoid this in Cannibal Corpse?
We have several songwriters in Cannibal Corpse, and I think that helps a lot. When a band has only one songwriter, keeping things fresh can be more difficult. We also consciously avoid writing riffs and lyrics that are too much like something we have already done. We want to stay true to our sound, but we want to find new musical ideas within that sound, if that makes any sense.

The way you write music today, is it different from how you did it on Eaten Back to Life?
Yes, today we have a more organised approach. Most of the time each note we play is considered carefully. In the old days, we were less experienced so we just sort of wrote the music without any sort of plan. I think you can hear that in some of the meandering song structures of the older material. Another big difference is that now we generally write songs individually, meaning that each of us write our own songs at home before showing them to the rest of the band. For the older stuff, we collaborated quite a bit more. We still like to collaborate from time to time though. On the new album we will have a song like that, a song that was a spontaneous collaboration at the practice room.

Do you find the gore and horror just as fascinating today as you did in 1988 and is it the same things that inspire you?

It's a bit different now, but we still enjoy horror. I recently saw a few newer horror movies that were very inspiring: The Girl Next Door, Them, and Inside. Randy from Paths Of Possession loaned me these movies, he is a big horror movie fan, and he likes to keep us up to date on the best new horror. Well, those movies he loaned me are fucking killer, just incredible horror. So, I still find horror interesting if it is done well. As far as lyrics go, we are still inspired by horror movies, but also any type of violent movie, as well as the news and books. There are a lot of resources for inspiration if you are interested in writing violent lyrics.

Cannibal Corpse and bands like Suffocation and Deeds Of Flesh helped fertilize the soil for what is known today as brutal US styled death metal. How do you feel about this and do you pay attention to what is going on in the underground?
We are very proud that we helped define the American death metal sound along with many other great bands including the two you mentioned. There are a lot of bands that are up and coming in the death metal scene, and while it is difficult to follow all of them, we are always looking for anything new that is extreme and brutal. Some recent favourites of mine include Brain Drill, Aeon, Spawn Of Possession, Necrophagist, Origin, Hour Of Penance, The Ordher, Lecherous Nocturne, Dominion, Ontogeny, and many others. The death metal scene might never become hugely popular, but death metal music continues to improve in the hands of these talented musicians.

Looking ahead a little, what next is in store for Cannibal Corpse?
We are entering the studio to record our 11th album in September. We are returning to Mana Studios once again to work with Erik Rutan. The album should be released in early 2009 and lots of touring will follow.

Anything you'd like to add to conclude this interview?
I'd just like to say thank you for the interview, and thanks to all of our fans reading this and for the support. See you on tour in 2009!

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