Writing about Goatwhore objectively is an impossible task for me, as they are one of favorite metal bands of all time. Luckily, I had the honor of interviewing vocalist Ben Falgoust when the band rolled into Detroit last Autumn. So I’ll let him do most of the talking.
MM: First off, are you guys ever not on tour? I feel like you’ve rolled through Michigan at least 4-5 times in the last three years. Do you ever get any time to yourselves?
BEN: Yeah, we do. But we’re still on an album cycle for Vengeful Ascension right now. It’s only little over a year and four months, so it’s still kinda fresh, so we’re still doing stuff. And also, we always go out… like we’re always out with somebody. This tour we’re actually the headliner, so we can play a long set. Everybody asks us about playing longer, so this way people can come out and see us play for over an hour, where usually we might play for 30 minutes, 40 minutes as a supporting act.
MM: Is there is formula you guys use to determine a headlining tour vs going out as a supporting act? Is it 50/50? I would assume you prefer to be the headliner.
BEN: It’s all in how everything lands really. Sometimes you just get offered a lot of really cool support tours and you gotta do them. Originally before this tour, we were supposed to go out with Arch Enemy, but the whole tour kinda fell through. But luckily, we had this in place afterward. Metal Alliance got in touch with us about headlining, so we figured it would be a good opportunity to get out there and play a full hour set for people who have always seen us playing shorter sets.
MM: Well you guys have been through headlining a few times. You headlined at Mac’s in Lansing about six months ago. And I saw you guys at Small’s in Hamtramck, not far from here, I wanna say about two and a half years ago.
BEN: Yeah, something like that.
MM: Those were great shows.
BEN: Yeah, that was awesome. We played up in Grand Rapids, too.
MM: With Amon Amarth. I shot that show.
BEN: Yeah. We were out with Satyricon in May, but this year we focused a lot on Europe, so we were there for like two and half months in the early part of this year. And February into march we were out with Sepultura, Obscura and Fit For An Autopsy, and then we did some summer festival stuff, in between we did some shows with Dying Fetus and Toxic Holocaust.
MM: I feel like I saw you with Dying Detus here, I wanna say within the last two years – in Pontiac…
BEN: Oh yeah, it might be the Summer Slaughter Tour with Morbid Angel headling.
MM: Yes. That’s it.
Vengeful Ascension has been about for almost 18 month now. Is it too soon to start thing about the next record? Is there material written?
BEN: Sammy’s always fiddlin’ around with riffs and throwing us ideas he’s working on. He’ll be at home and he’ll lay out stuff in a little program and he’ll send little sample out. He’ll send it Zak who has a set up in Arizona with his drum, and he’ll (Zak) play some stuff over it and send it back. And then we’ll kind of build it from there. Little skeleton structures of stuff. We have two songs that are in good works right now. Becauase when we’re on the road we really don’t focus it on it a lot. But then when we get home and we’re home for a long time, we get together and start bouncing the ideas off each other and going into it a little bit more.
MM: You’ve covered a lot of dark territory in your lyrics, from Satanism to the occult. We seem to be living in darkening times in this country due to intense political divisiveness, growing racial tensions, mass shootings, the alt-right kooks coming out of the woodwork like cockroaches… Does any of our current societal unrest worm its way into your lyrical content more than it did when you were younger?
BEN: Well, I think for everyone… on a subconscious level you’re influenced in some sort of way, and it might come out in something. We’re not necessarily a political band, so we don’t chase after ideas like that. And it’s not like we’re afraid to discuss it. I think everyone is an individual and what they want to believe in and what they want to move toward is their thing. All the stuff I write about too as far as like the dark arts and occult and Luciferian type stuff… it’s all based off of literature and books I read. I mix it all up, so it’s a bunch of different ideas I kind of blend together. I find a lot of human nature in the Luciferian idea. Especially from Milton’s Paradise Lost … being cast out and having to work your way back up. The ascension back up and the emotion and everything that goes on on the the way back up, and everything you confront on the way back up. You’re dealing with so many different emotions, from being angry to happy – to everything just trying to work yourself back up. It’s human nature. Like when someone fails in life, and they have to rebuild themselves again, you know? So there’s a lot things like that in the basis of it. And I think people… some people hear Satan or Lucifer and they get turned off. But it’s like, come on man… People watch horror movies… so what? Are you writing people who write horror movies saying “you’re a depraved individual. I can’t even believe you exist. You’ve to have some sort of imagination too involved in that. You can have the things you believe in, but you’ve gotta have an imagination too. So you have to have this blended idea and let things go.
It’s like you we’re saying, time are little tough right now, but on the other side when you’re looking at things, there are a lot there are a lot of things actually really open. And a lot of people are starting to come out more about who they are. Whether it’s bad or it’s good, they’re showing their true colors. But it’s also opening up a religious aspect too, where that was such a taboo, hidden thing – and more people are coming out and being like “I’m not into this religious structure. I’m not into these things.” And revelations are coming about their church from way back when… All these different things that people want to bring up. If everybody want to complain, they should hate the church. I mean like look at the Malleus Maleficarum and things like that. They were witch trials. They were killing women because they thought they were witches.
MM: It’s like the history of the Papacy, which is unbelievable. And no takes the time to learn about it.
BEN: Yeah, so it like all that shit is unfolding and coming out more, so it’s opening up a lot of things. And letting people see the history that world. Yes, they were bad things. Bad things happen. I don’t think there’s gonna be this Utopian thing, because you have people, and the things in their heads like the ego. And if the ego rises up, there’s gonna be someone out that wants to run things, control things and force their own ideas forced upon everybody. So you need this structure of people that are calm and collected, and the people who fights to control when this shit gets out of hand. So you gotta have this swaying balance of all these differend things going on.
MM: A few years ago, the Temple of Satan erected a huge Baphomet statue in here Detroit without incident. In fact, it was a pretty tame event. There were no riots or fightsCan you imagine that happening 20 or 30 years ago in this country?
BEN: On, no. People would’ve had a fit. But you know, when you look at America and you look at Europe… eventhose European areas that are still held close to the Church, you know? American seems like we’ve brushed it away a little more. We’ve still got those crazies that come out now out of the woodwork, especially with politics – and they feel like religion needs to run everything along with politics. But when you go to Europe, you realize that a lot of those old ideas are still in place there.
When you take a band like Behemoth, and the guy’s going to court over tearing a bible because of their law structure. You realize that we might be advancing, but there’s other countries that haven’t moved ahead with that kind of idea. But then they’re advanced in way we’re not advanced.
MM: In the last five years I’ve discovered more metal bands from the suggestions on YouTube, than I did in the previous thirty. I know the digital age has been hard on bands in a lot of ways, but do think because of avenues like and Spotify that it’s easier to reach a broader audience?
BEN: Yeah… I believe there are two channels with that. I feel like there’s a lot of bands out there like that – tons of bands. You go on Bandcamp and listen to a band and it’s like all these bands sound like that. I can go on Bandcamp and find myself there for three hours, cause I go down all these rabbit holes. And it’s really cool, but at the same time there are still people that hear of a band and then somebody says “Oh they’re kinda like death metal, or black metal. And a person might not be into that style really but think of it a certain, and just shut it out before even going to listen to it.
So you kinda have two avenues. You have the people that won’t even go to the internet when it’s all readily available for everyone to check out.
It’s like when I go on tour and there’s bands I’ve never heard of on the tour, and I’ll go check ‘em out and see what’s it’s like. I haven’t heard it. I want to know what it’s like before I got out there on the road. A lot of people just something down, because someone else calls it this or that, and they say “Well, I don’t like that fucking stuff.” It’s like why don’t you just go see, because the blend of music withing extremities now is so different that black metal today isn’t necessarily the black metal they think it was. Black metal has changes throughout the years. It’s a whole different thing, so there’s variations. In Goatwhore we blend a lot of styles within what we do.
Goatwhore is often categorized as “Blackened Death” metal, but to my ears you guys transcend that label. I hear plenty of the death and black metal influences, but there is also for lack better words something almost bluesy and soulful in your sound. I don’t mean in a Motown or Delta blues kind of way, but it’s in there somewhere, buried deep in your DNA. Especially in Sammy’s riffs. Would you agree with that?
BEN: Like a Rock N Roll kinda way.
MM: Yes. There’s a groove that you won’t find in lot of metal these days.
BEN: We’re a Rock N Roll band Well, we have a lot more roots in that earlier style of heavy metal… like Judas Priest, AC/DC things like that. And also, where me and Sammy are from, being down by New Orleans, you have that kind of subconscious influence. Like I was sayin’ earlier, you have this natural influence of growing up around things, and it kinda instills itself in there. It’s a little magic here and there.
When I got in the band with Sammy, we were big Celtic Frost fans and stuff like that. But you listen to Celtic Frost, and that stuff had a bunch of fuckin’ grooves in it. I read this thing online where someone said “That Sepultura cover of Celtic Frost has some much groove,” and it’s like… it had fuckin’ groove before they covered it. Even like Motorhead and all that kinda stuff is in what we do.
There are so many bands that come out now, and everything is so calculated. Everything is like a machine, that people have lost the element of the flow and the feeling – and that what makes the groove and element of the music.
MM: What was the first band that scared the shit out of you in your youth? Mine was Venom.
BEN: I don’t know that they scared me, I just thought it was so intriguing. Like, I remember when I bought Morbid Tales (by Celtic Frost) on tape. I was this record store in Texas, and when I was a kid I would just look at the album covers… You would look at the picture of the band members and see what shirts they wore, you know? You didn’t really have too much information like you do now of what something was. So, it was always a little risky. But I remember looking at that cover and thinking, “if this isn’t good, this cover looks amazing and I don’t even care. I’m just gonna cut the cover out and stick it somewhere [laughs]. And like Slayer Hell Awaits. You saw that album cover and was demons tearing people apart . I don’t know what it was when I was younger, but dark things like that always interested me – from horror movies to music. I guess like the about the aspect of those things.
It’s funny… My parents were parents were pretty cool about it all. They thought is it was just a phase. But clearly it wasn’t a phase (LAUGHS)
MM: Lastly, There are a lot of music industry biopics coming out these days – you’ve got Bohemian Rhapsody, there’s an Elton John movie down the road. There’s a movie called Lords of Chaos about the black metal scene in Norway during the 90’s… When the Goatwhore story is finally brought to life on the big screen, what do you think the film will be called, and who will play you?
BEN: [laughs loudly] I’m just gonna take the AC/DC song Highway to Hell… just because of everything we’ve been through as a band. And then as far as me. I don’t know… That dude that plays Aquaman [laughs].
MM: That’s a good choice [laughs]
BEN: Cause somebody a couple days ago told me I reminded them of him when he was in Game of Thrones or whatever. His character in that. And so that made me think of it. Okay, maybe so. Whatever [laughs].
MM: Well somebody mistook me for Ron Horward once, so I’ll take your comparison any day.
MM: Well, that’s it, man. I really appreciate your time. Good luck with the rest of the tour.
BEN: Thank you.