PIG DESTROYER's Blake Harrison on Head Cage: "It's Not a Traditional Grind Record."
It has been six long years since Virginia's grindcore vets Pig Destroyer released their fifth studio album, Book Burner. Finally dropping their much anticipated followup Head Cage on September 7th through Relapse Records, this is a different and all-together sharper, more mature sounding group, and a record amplified through the addition of bassist John Jarvis, who joined the band officially since 2013.
"I always kind of say we don’t function like a real band," says band-member Blake Harrison. "We all have our own day jobs and families. Me, Scott and J.R. have day jobs and Scott has a family. And we incorporated the bass layer. That was a contributing factor. Book Burner was written before Adam (Jarvis, drums) joined. We kind of wanted to write with the ‘new team’ as opposed to just having something and saying hey man this is it and we’re putting it out and that’s how it goes down."
Breaking down the minutia of Head Cage, Harrison shares that thematically, the band delved into the plight of modern society, particularly present day news and headlines, and didn't necessarily model the album off of the medieval torture device of the same name.
"Scott wanted to have the record a little more nuanced, and I hope that shows through as far as the music goes. I keep seeing interviews and stuff where people talk about the medieval torture device head cage and that’s actually not what the title is a reference to really. It’s more, and this sounds kind of douchey, but modern society and things like that … It’s where we are as a species almost, but I definitely don’t want to say it’s a concept."
And politics? The shit that seems to be on the tip of every keyboard click of every journalist and on the minds and notepads of a fair amount of honest metallers these days? Yeah, there's some of that there too, though not as directly as one might think.
"It was definitely something that was on our minds when we were writing. If you look at "Army of Cops" just lyrically, it’s 100 percent about modern culture and kind of American culture, how everyone is with their phones. J.R. says we’ve become a nation of victimization. No one seems to take responsibility for their own actions. As far as politically goes, no matter what side of the fence you’re on it’s very tumultuous in the U.S. It’s a very polarizing time right now in our history. There’s not a lot of people in the middle right now. It seems both sides are very extreme, which could be good depending what happens. Personally, I don’t look at the band as a political band, but I’m not a huge Trump supporter, and that’s putting it lightly. But different strokes for different folks. Personally I don’t think he ever thought he’d win. He won and now we’re stuck."
Naturally, Pig Destroyer's sound and entire makeup has evolved since their early days of haunting clubs and bars in the mid 1990s. Are they as true-blooded grind as they used to be? That's up to interpretation.
"There’s a lot of people saying we’re not true grind and blah blah blah. That’s cool, we’ve always kind of been of the opinion that our music is not for everybody and if you don’t like it you don’t have to buy it," says Harrison. "We’re not trying to force it down anyone’s throats or anything like that. Genres are so well defined nowadays. I didn’t always think of us as a grindcore band, but it does feel a little limiting at times and we don’t want to do that to ourselves. I think the new record really speaks to that. It’s not a traditional grind record, there are blast beats and things on, but that’s just us. It’s a Pig Destroyer record."
Whether spotlighting our shitty social situation, acting as some fucked up allegory or metaphor deeper than the bulk of us combined, or just being a pulverizing metal record, Pig Destroyer have now and always will serve as a perfect outlet for fans to mosh their brains out. Counter-culture? You bet. The music we need in times of crisis? Absolutely.
"We use it as an escapism for ourselves," Harrison admits. "It’s very cathartic to us. At 42 I don’t know if that’s ever going to change. We look at it as an outlet too. I think that everyone in the band gets a little something different out of it."