One look at Six Feet Under’s Chris Barnes and its apparent this man is not spending 40 hours a week in a cubicle. Sporting dreadlocks well past his knees with earlobes stretched, his exterior reflects a soul that seeks to explore and interpret the extremes and shadows lurking throughout the human experience. A devout fan of heavy metal, a young Barnes sought to find his place within this fresh and emerging style of music. His guttural low vocal style helped define the genre of “death metal” with Cannibal Corpse in the early 90’s, and since with Six Feet Under, originally a side project started with Obituary guitarist Allan West. Now much more than a side project, Six Feet Under prepare to release their 12th album entitled Torment on February 24th with Metal Blade records. WTSR/Trenton NJ DJ El Prezidente recently spoke with Barnes on the behalf of Metal Insider to discuss the new record, his longstanding relationship with Metal Blade, clean vocals, and the possibility of a joint tour with his former band. You can hear the full interview below.
Hey Chris, How you doing man?
Good, Doing good, how are you doing?
I’m alright, dealing with a little neck pain right now. Tweaked my neck at the gym.
Fuck man that sucks, I know that feeling. Best thing for it is heat for 15 minutes, cold for 15 minutes, no more no less and that’ll take that outta there and hopefully loosen it up.
I was thinking you probably know a thing or two about neck pain…
(Laughs) Yeah, my neck’s fucked up. I need to go to a chiropractor, but I’m too nervous about it cause I know I’ve got a few real bad problems… It’s not from only stage stuff, I had a couple bad ATV crashes about 7 or 8 years ago and that messed me up. One of them is just I took off too quick and I had a helmet on and all the weight of my hair just snapped my neck back like a whiplash thing I haven’t been the same since.
Yeah you’ve got a lot of dreadlocks going on man!
(Laughs) It’s heavy man, a couple pounds probably.
So the new album Torment is out February 24th on Metal Blade Records.
Finally it’s starting. We had this album done, not mixed but we laid down all the tracks in August so it’s like sitting there and I know this album’s awesome I want people to feel this thing… So its pretty cool getting this thing out there to people.
Did you change your approach to how you recorded your vocals this time around? You always have a way of making subtle changes in your voice.
Yeah, I let that happen by following the song and the music itsself and that’s what concentrates my imagination for a story line or how I present the lyrics with my vocals. I don’t like to blanket and say this is death metal, I’ve got to sing every song this way, this tone to it or this presentation to the rhythm. I just follow the music and where it takes my imagination on all levels. I keep myself open, every song I write is like the first song I’ve ever written, I treat it like that. Those adjustments come natural because I don’t put the brakes on anything. I let myself experience it all and write what I’m hearing in my head and what’s being told to me.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding the new Suicide Silence song, they caught a lot of flack on the internet for introducing clean vocals on their latest track. Does it deter you from using clean vocals in your own music? Would you ever do that?
No. I mean myself its just not me. I don’t know, I’m just not that guy. It’s hard to say.
I was thinking Mitch Lucker passing away and the diehard fans just not being comfortable with the new guy might have played a role in that a little bit.
I don’t think so Eddie’s a great guy, Ed’s a good friend of mine. He’s a nice guy and he’s a great vocalist. I’ve heard the song and I think people are being a little harsh.
I don’t understand it, cause it’s not like a generic metalcore singing vocal or anything, it makes sense.
I don’t want to critique art dude, they took it where they wanted to go with it, so what? People have critiqued me like crazy. A lot of critics didn’t like the last Graveyard Classics, a lot of people didn’t like Graveyard Classics Two, but that doesn’t make me like it any less and I’m sure that’s how those guys feel. It’s like yeah that kinda sucks man that people wanna make you feel like something’s not as good as you think it is, but it is as good as they think it is.
It’s a hard time right now with fans, so called fans and critical thinking. One thing I’m proud of in my career, in my life as a fucking metalhead, in 1983 when I went to the record store, that took me 20 minutes to get there and two rides. I had to save up for two weeks to spend $30 of my hard earned money, or beg my mom for $30. At age 15 or 16 I was washing dishes. I’d get driven to a record store and I’d get three albums with my hard earned money. I didn’t have the internet or some critics trying to sway me, or massive amounts of peer pressure. I hardly had any magazines to base what I was looking for. But I’d buy three albums and maybe one wasn’t as good as the other two.
What I’m proud of the most is I never fucking sent a letter to that band reaming the shit out of them telling em how much they fucking suck, how much their last album was better, how much these other two bands are better than them. And if I woulda done that, my friends would’ve kicked my ass because it wasn’t even thought of back then. Those fans, even from back in 1991, the ones I saw from onstage in the pit, they’d come into the future right now if they could and they’d kick all of those shit talkers on the internet right in the fucking teeth, or the ones holding camera phones at the shows instead of being in the pit feeling the music. They promoted the scene back then so these entitled fucking babies could sit there and cry about shit on the internet you know? Fuck that! Be real about it or go somewhere the fuck else man! Because this is art and people like that are destroying a fucking industry that promotes freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and artistic fucking expression, and its being destroyed right now.
I’m proud that I never sent that letter to that band because it happened. I’m not gonna name what band it was, but 25 years later that album is one of my favorites and I like it better than the other two. So that goes to say something too that you might not know what the fuck you’re talking about, because you don’t even know what the fuck you’re listening to, because it’s too fucking advanced for your ears right now, so why don’t you shut up and listen and think a little bit about things?
Your new album Torment comes out on Metal Blade records, who are celebrating 35 years this year. Were any of those albums when you were a kid Metal Blade releases?
Yeah, I’ve been on Metal Blade 28 of those 35 years.
Your whole career right?
Yeah my whole career. One of the reasons that I’m proud of it is because when I was getting a ride to that record store when I was a kid, I didn’t have a guide, maybe a couple magazines here and there like Metal Forces or Kerrang!, but you didn’t have much to go on. But if it was on Metal Blade Records and if it was produced by Brian Slagel, if I saw his name on the record and it was a Metal Blade release that’s what I bought. I could’ve had like three other choices, but if that one was there and if I saw that black on red man I bought that. [If] Slagel or Bill Metoyer mixed it, that was my guide. And seven years later, I’m in a band and I have a press package and I send it to Metal Blade Records, and the record label that I was a fan of that guided me through my metal years, they end up signing me. It was like a dream come true and me and Brian became friends over the years, and he’s one of my greatest friends.
They’re a quality label, so it’s no accident they lasted this long. I even read that you let Brian Slagel pick all the songs on your last Graveyard Classics with the Maiden and Priest covers?
Yeah Brian picked all the songs for that one.
Were you mad at him for picking “Murders in the Rue Morgue?”
(Laughs) Yeah I was, and “The Evil That Men Do,” I was pissed off at that one, and “Stranger in a Strange Land.” He didn’t make it easy on me. I think that was his revenge for Graveyard Classics 2 when I didn’t tell him what songs we were doing until it was done.
That was the “Back in Black” one right?
Yeah (laughing,) so I don’t know, its always been a fun type of relationship in the studio and on projects with him. But yeah, I mean “Murders in the Rue Morgue” is a very fast song, “Prowler” too. “Prowler” was fun we played that one live. I wasn’t gonna do “Murders in the Rue Morgue” though, I’m not stupid!
Can you tell me anything about your touring plans for the year? Are you guys gonna headline? Are you gonna join a package or what?
We’re gonna split it up into two legs. One’s gonna start late spring/early summer, and the next one early fall in the U.S. and we’ve got some festival things, hopefully in Europe, in the summer. At the end of the year our annual German Christmas tour and a couple Canadian things too I think. We’ll hopefully have some South American dates in there somewhere, but its a very delicate situation for us, cause we fall in between the cracks. We’re not a real small band and we’re not a real big band, not even a medium band really, we’re somewhere in between and expenses and safety come into play and it gets crazy. We can only hope that this album does well in the first week so it makes it a lot easier on everybody with all that stuff.
Can I pitch a tour to you?
Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Six Feet Under!
That would be a tough one to put together, my friend (laughs). I don’t know, you wouldn’t have any problems from my side of things but I don’t think other people would be agreeable to that.
Is there still a little animosity you think?
I don’t think there’s animosity I think there’s just protecting other people’s feelings. I think everyone knows certain things about everything and they’d like to see things a certain way and that would portray things a certain way that they would want to portray them. I’m being very general, I’m trying to be diplomatic about it but yeah…
In the Cannibal documentary it seemed like they were caught off guard but that you guys were just going in different directions, that’s the way they painted it anyway or how I remember it.
No, I just didn’t like being around them because I was being ridiculed and then I just didn’t feel comfortable being in the same room with people that weren’t very nice to me personally. And I was part of that too so we had all of our own type of differences personally, and I don’t think it was going to be able to be worked out and mutual respect goes far away when it comes to being in close quarters with people.
It’s tough, especially when you’re young guys dealing with that kind of popularity.
Yeah and I’m sure we’d do things differently. I know we would, because it’s just the way things worked out and I don’t have any animosity towards those guys at all and I don’t think they do towards me. Its just that it’d be too confusing for things I think from their perspective. I’d do anything, I just like to see a lot of people out there with smiles on their faces, that’s the only thing that’s important to me. If I see a big crowd of people smiling like, “yeah this is what we’ve been waiting for,” then I’m ready man! If I see a small room of people that are just fired up to go, it just gets me going on stage. That’s all I’m there for is that feeling, that sharing of energy, and I’ll go to get that any which way, with any person I can get it with and if it gets to that means to an end that’s all that’s important.
One last question. Have you ever incorporated the death metal voice during sex? A little demonic dirty talk, you don’t have to go into detail too much?
(Laughs) You’re getting very personal now! (Laughing) We’ll just a a a . . . no comment!